Swine Flu, GOP Panic, Flip Flop

So we might have a pandemic of swine flu in our future? Rick Perry, who has decried help from Washington, is now wetting his pants and begging for help from. . . Washington. Meanwhile, who gutted the pandemic preparedness money from the Obama stimulus package? the GOP, led by Rove. But Rush Limbaugh is still a swine.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

It appears we may have the beginnings of a pandemic on our hands. the swine flu that has killed 86 people in Mexico is showing up in the US, with 8 cases in New York so far, and one in Ohio. No deaths here as yet, but this is definitely something the CDC is on top of. Still, it is early and it is good to keep the populace ready, aware, but calm. that’s just what the CDC is doing, it seems to me. From the Los Angeles Times:

Federal officials today declared a public health emergency involving human swine flu, warning Americans to prepare for widespread outbreaks now or in the future, yet urging them not to panic.

In a briefing at the White House, the acting head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Richard Besser, said that eight cases of suspected swine flu in New York had been confirmed and that another had been identified in Ohio, bringing the U.S. total to 20 cases.

“As we continue to look for cases, we are going to see a broader spectrum of disease,” Besser said. “We’re going to see more severe disease in this country.”

Canadian officials said this morning that four cases had been confirmed in Nova Scotia and another two in British Columbia, marking the first time that the disease has appeared north of the border. All six Canadian cases were mild, like those in the United States.

Mexico’s Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said five more deaths had occurred from influenza in that country overnight, bring the death total to 86. Two of the new cases were confirmed as swine flu, but it is not clear how many of the others were.

Janet Napolitano, U.S. Homeland Security secretary, said the government would release a quarter of its 50-million-unit strategic reserve of antiviral medications, which combat the disease in infected patients, to states where outbreaks have occurred. Besser said the CDC has isolated the swine flu virus and prepared a “seed stock” for the manufacture of a vaccine but will not distribute it to pharmaceutical companies until the situation becomes more severe. Manufacture of a new vaccine will require months.

The officials cast the moves as aggressive but precautionary, and they counseled calm.

Meanwhile, in Texas, Governor Perry, who recently talked about his state seceding from the United States, and who has tried mightily to turn back the stimulus money coming to Texas from the Obama Administration’s recovery plan, has decided that he now wants some stimulus in the form of vaccines. Yeah, Governor Rick Perry is both flip flopping and panicking. When he wants to score political points he’ll show all kinds of disdain about the Democratic-led government in Washington, but now that the piggy flu is coming, Rick screams for help. The extent of the swine flu problem in Texas is described here.

I think the only panic for the GOP should be political. They are the ones who ridiculed the beefing up of pandemic preparedness when it was part of the Obama stimulus package. Yes, led by Karl Rove Republicans in the House and Senate went to war over pandemic preparedness measures put forth by congressman David Obey, who now seems prescient compared to these GOP bozos who have threatened our lives, once again, by making sure we are not prepared. (Wasn’t Katrina a big enough warning for them?) From John Nichols at The Nation:

Rove dismissed Obey’s proposals as “disturbing” and “laden with new spending programs.” He said the congressman was peddling a plan based on “deeply flawed assumptions.”

Like what?

Rove specifically complained that Obey’s proposal included “$462 million for the Centers for Disease Control, and $900 million for pandemic flu preparations.”

This was wrong, the political operative charged, because the health care sector added jobs in 2008.

As bizarre as that criticism may sound – especially now – Rove’s argument was picked up by House and Senate Republicans, who made it an essential message in their attacks on the legislation. Even as Rove and his compatriots argued that a stimulus bill should include initiatives designed to shore-up and maintain any recovery, they consistently, and loudly, objected to spending money to address the potentially devastating economic impact of a major public health emergency.

The attack on pandemic preparation became so central to the GOP strategies that AP reported in February: “Republicans, meanwhile, plan to push for broader and deeper tax cuts, to trim major spending provisions that support Democrats’ longer-term policy goals, and to try to knock out what they consider questionable spending items, such as $870 million to combat the flu and $400 million to slow the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.”

Famously, Maine Senator Susan Collins, the supposedly moderate Republican who demanded cuts in health care spending in exchange for her support of a watered-down version of the stimulus, fumed about the pandemic funding: “Does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill No, we should not.”

Even now, Collins continues to use her official website to highlight the fact that she led the fight to strip the pandemic preparedness money out of the Senate’s version of the stimulus measure.

The Republicans essentially succeeded. The Senate version of the stimulus plan included no money whatsoever for pandemic preparedness. In the conference committee that reconciled the House and Senate plans, Obey and his allies succeeded in securing $50 million for improving information systems at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

But state and local governments, and the emergency services that would necessarily be on the frontlines in any effort to contain a pandemic, got nothing.

As John Nichols notes, this wasn’t the case that the GOP wanted disaster to threaten our country, but that the GOP wants to play politics, and it doesn’t matter what they play politics with. I think he’s right, but it is starker than he saays. The GOP has become the Party of “No” even if saying “No” will eventually harm our country, because they only want to win politically. Doing the right thing is not anywhere near their agenda anymore.

Of course none of this will show up in regular news stories. Olbermann might give it a ride, and maybe Maddow, but FoxNews and ABC and NBC will not remind us of the Republicans undermining our pandemic preparedness, nor will they emphasize Governor Rick Perry’s refusal of stimulus dollars until there’s a threat and he instantlly wets his pants and goes crying to Washington.

Sunday, April 26th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Clueless Army Researchers Urge Giving Brain Damaged Troops the Shaft

Knowledge about traumatic brain injuries is in its infancy, but two Army researchers think that it’s a mistake to screen and treat this condition. Don’t leave the troops to fend for themselves with this issue. Believe me, their problems aren’t going to go away with a scrip for an antidepressant and xanax.

Commentary By: somegirl

This is terrible news. As someone who has suffered from a “mild” TBI for over 10 years, unable to work and severely limited in my interaction with the outside world, I have been hoping that some new treatments might be developed, finally, due to this condition in the troops.

What many people don’t understand is that mild TBI’s often don’t have any “verifiable” symptoms – MRIs may be normal and many other tests too. Symptoms may seem more severe than the objective data can find, and the medical establishment will do their best to make you feel like a hopeless failure because of that. Testing is often not sensitive enough to detect abnormalities, and so it is deemed a mental health issue. Depression is the garbage diagnosis given when the docs don’t know what to do.

Mental health issues do pile on pretty quickly when your quality of life is severely eroded and no one believes you when you tell them your symptoms.

And don’t think because I can express myself well I can have a normal life. I have terrible light sensitivity and visual processing problems, and I can’t be around fluorescent lights because of the flickering. Extreme exhaustion sets in after a few hours of any activity – my brain just quits. My main “treatment” is staying home 90% of the time as it’s the only way I can control sensory input. The smallest bonk on the head results in a full blown concussion, intensifying all the symptoms. And don’t even get me started on the behavioral problems that can result, and the hopelessness that can set in when you’re suddenly acting like a 7 year old. And because you look ok, no one understands.

Ten years ago, hardly anyone, including myself, had heard of TBIs. It took me 4 months to find out there was a name for what was happening to me, and it wasn’t from a doctor. These researchers don’t even know the definition of TBI apparently, since they reason that most concussions clear up in a couple days, there’s no reason to screen for TBI. They are right about the concussion part, but a TBI isn’t a concussion. Don’t leave the troops to fend for themselves with this issue. Believe me, their problems aren’t going to go away with a scrip for an antidepressant and xanax.

Thursday, April 16th, 2009 by somegirl |

It is Time to Leave Bristol Palin Alone

It has long bothered me the way we feel free to talk about Bristol Palin merely because of choices she made. As I now parent an adopted child whose birth mother made some difficult emotional decisions, not unlike those Bristol Palin made, my attitude towards Bristol have changed. Blast Sarah all you wish, but leave Bristol alone.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

The bottom line is that Bristol Palin is now a mother, a teen mother, and that will make it tough for her. It is time for Greta Van Susteren to leave Bristol Palin alone, it is time for Rebecca Traister of Salon Magazine to leave Bristol Palin alone, and it is time for bloggers to leave Bristol Palin alone. Go ahead and comment, if you please, on Sarah Palin and her new tax problems, but it is time for us all to let Bristol Palin make decisions about her life and that of her son.

There. I said it. I said it not as a political commentator but as a father of an adopted son whose birth mother also had to make some very difficult decisions about pregnancy, childbirth, and whether to keep the baby or make an adoption plan. I’m personally grateful that my son’s birth mother made that adoption plan, as he lights up my life even as I write this short piece. (That’s my pride and joy right there on the left.) I just can’t imagine the difficulty of making a decision about an unexpected pregnancy, and that’s what Bristol Palin’s was. It just isn’t in me anymore to judge her. What we should do instead is try to understand the very difficult decisions young women, women of all ages, for that matter, go through when they find themselves unprepared for a pregnancy.

Today’s issue of Philadelphia Weekly gives us some insight into just this matter. The article is written by Jennifer Merrill, and she describes herself as follows. From Philadelphia Weekly:

I’m 18 years old. I recently graduated high school in the top 10 percent of my class with a 97 percent GPA. I was Student Council co-president and co-editor of the school newspaper, as well as a member of the National Honor Society, Student Advisory Council, National Latin Honor Society, Quill and Scroll Honorary Society for High School Journalists and the yearbook staff. I was even on the homecoming court and was named “Friendliest” in the senior class Who’s Who. As a freshman at Temple University, I’m majoring in magazine journalism. I’m just your average teenager–well, except for one thing: I’m pregnant.

Jennifer Merrill’s article is the cover story this week in Philadelphia Weekly, and surely deserves the cover. It is very much a first-person account, even moving through a narrative form through much of the article as she leads the reader through the difficult moments she lived through since finding she was pregnant last August. We find what happens when she found out she was prenant, and how both her mother and boyfriend handled it. We also find that while Jennifer Merril is pro-choice, she could not make the decision of abortion concerning the baby in her own body. To me, that’s truly pro-choice, that she chose, and had the freedom to do so.

Jennifer ends her article leaving us in the air. She’s evidently not decided whether to make an adoption plan or to raise the baby and try at the same time to continue her schooling. To that end I would just like to say that both decisions can have joyous results, and that many open adoptions will mean she has contact with her baby throughout the baby’s life. I might talk about the joys adoption has brought to my wife and myself, and how we imagine that adoption has set Jack’s birth mother’s heart to rest. I might let her knwo that an adoptive family will likely be more ready materially to care for her baby than she will, though I would continue to stress that I can’t hope to understand the mother love she is developing as she carries the child to term. But mostly I would tell Jennifer Merrill that whatever decision she makes from here on out it should be the interest of the baby and herself that she should be focused on, and not the expectations of those outside her immediate situation. But, you know, I think Jennifer Merrill truly understands all that, and I think she’s a remarkable young woman. Here are the words with which she closes the article in Philadelphia Weekly:

Regardless of what I choose, I know I’m making the decision out of love. I feel confident in saying that no matter which option I go with, the baby will have a good life. She will be given opportunities. She will have parents she can look up to. Most important, she will be loved. This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, and I can only hope that one day she will understand.

Yeah, Jennifer Merrill has her act together, and she’s going to make a fine decision in this very difficult time of life, and I’m happy she has the room to make that decision. That’s where we have all gone wrong when discussing Bristol Palin. We have not treated her as a woman, though very young, coming to grips with some of the most important and emotional decisions of her life. Oh, Rebecca Traister surely implies that those decisions are actually guided strongly by Sarah Palin herself, but even that I find to be distasteful to critique. Let’s leave Bristol Palin alone. Let’s let her choose how to live her life, and let’s also hope she has the support she needs for her choices.

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Match This for Stupidity: Taxing a House of Cards

Sin taxes are a favorite of legislators, and right now legislators of both stripes are looking very hard for more tax revenue. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that a tax on tobacco and fatty food and liquor is going to make anyone healthier. That is neither the aim nor the result.

Commentary By: Walter Brasch

by Walter Brasch

My wife is a smoker. Except for one year when she quit, she’s been a smoker since she was about 18. But she’s cut back, from as many as three packs a day to just three cigarettes. And, she now smokes outside the house.

At various times, she was asked to show an ID. When in her 20s she saw it as an annoyance. By her 30s and 40s, it was a compliment. Now it’s just downright annoying.

The law restricts persons under 18 years of age from buying or smoking cigarettes. My wife understands why she must be “carded.”

Yesterday she was carded when she wanted to buy two lighters. The sweet lady at the grocery checkout counter said that the chain store is carding everyone who buys lighters. Something about a juvenile who used a lighter and accidentally set his house on fire.

The law doesn’t say a person must be at least 18 to buy a cigarette lighter. But, the reasoning is that people buy cigarette lighters to–well–light cigarettes. Therefore, cigarette lighters–which can be used for many things other than to light up–also must be controlled. So, every adult, from the 20s to the gray-haired elderly, will also be “carded” when they buy lighters.

If this restrictive and selective enforcement continues, we might soon see stores carding people who buy cups, because they could be used to hold beer. Anyone who buys watermelons would be carded since plugged, spiked, and corked watermelons are a delightful summer treat. Jello, once promoted by all-American “dad” Bill Cosby, would be suspect, since there aren’t many college parties without Jello shots.

Unlike the sale of cigarettes and liquor, there is no age restriction on most foods. So, various health-nut organizations and not-so-bright legislators have decided to tax foods they don’t think are acceptable. Several legislators have tried, but so far have failed, to enact legislation that would tax high-calorie foods. New York Gov. David Patterson wants to levy a 15 percent tax on any juice or drink except diet sodas, bottled water, coffee, tea, and milk.

Eventually, we’ll see a special “obesity tax” placed against anything sold at a fast food restaurant.

When you break through the smoke and mirrors, governments really don’t care about anyone’s health. They do care about ways to generate revenue. Gov. Patterson readily acknowledges that the “obesity tax” in New York would generate about $400 million additional revenue. New York also leads the nation in cigarette taxes. A smoker in New York City pays about $9 per pack, which includes a 39 cents federal tax, a $2.75 state tax, a $1.50 city tax, plus an 8 percent sales tax on top of everything else. Chicago is second, with taxes totaling $3.66 a pack. States and the federal government collect about $26 billion a year in cigarette taxes, according to a New York Times report in August 2008.

Liquor taxes aren’t meant to make anyone healthy, except the state economy. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a five cent a drink tax that, had the legislature not tabled the suggestion, would have raised $600 million a year. Overall, the federal government collected more than $9 billion in taxes, while states collected an additional $6 billion, according to a comprehensive analysis published in June 2007 by the National Center for Policy Analysis.

With budgets being pumped up by numerous “sin taxes,” it won’t be long until someone figures out they need not only to card buyers of cigarette lighters, cups, watermelons, and Jello, but that there also needs to be special excise taxes upon these products as well.

[The assistance of Rosemary R. Brasch is appreciated. Walter Brasch's latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available at amazon.com, bn.com, and most bookstores. You may contact Dr. Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu, or through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]

Thursday, January 29th, 2009 by Walter Brasch |

Virginity Pledge Causes Amnesia

If you read FoxNews, you will conclude that teens who take the virginity pledge lose their memory. As usual, stellar journalism from FoxNews, but the real story is that the virginity pledge has no effect on premarital sexual behavior, except that Virgin Pledgers are less likely to use birth control. I call it the Bristol Palin effect.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Well, that seems to be one of the conclusions of the research by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, as reported by FoxNews:

Of those sampled, almost 60 percent had sex and more than 50 percent had oral sex five years later, and more than 80 percent of those who had taken virginity pledges had forgotten they ever did so.

OK, that’s FoxNews, which leads the article with the encouraging, if misleading, headline “Study: Religious Teens More Likely to Abstain from Sex.” The real news can be found in several other articles on the web, but I’ll quote from Psych Central News:

The study found more than half of youths surveyed engaged in sexual activity, regardless of whether they had made a pledge to remain sexually abstinent.

Researchers also discovered something not entirely unexpected – virginity pledgers were 10 percent less likely to use a form of birth control.

. . .

The findings suggest that “virginity pledges” do little to deter teenage sexuality. It also suggests that people who take such pledges are at a slightly increased risk for pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases when they do have sex, due to their decreased use of condoms or other birth control.

I suppose that explains Bristol Palin, eh?

To be serious, the abstinence-only education the Bush Administration has squandered $200MM on is bound to fail, according to scientifically-based criteria, and the reason it will fail is that it depends on a pledge to take over for any notion of rational thought. The girl or boy who takes the pledge is as likely as any other teen to end up in a “romantic” situation, whether on Prom night or while playing pool in the local bar. When the situation gets out of control, the next morning that teen can just blame the moment, and need not blame the lack of responsible planning. That’s the effect of abstinence-only education – it is a program that results in the abnegation of responsibility.

Aw, teens today! They’re not responsible about sex, and thus don’t use condoms, at least if taught the Republican way. No, none of us are surprised that Republicans do not advocate responsibility.

Monday, January 5th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

The Unraveling of the McCain Campaign

The McCain campaign can’t buy a break, and the failure of the Bailout McCain took credit for is part of that. The actions of McCain staffers, Palin, McCain himself, they make the campaign look like it is staffed by fools. They have not resorted to playing the blame game after claiming to be above politics on the issue of the bailout.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

As noted in today’s New York Times story, John McCain had just as much as the American people from a bailout passing yesterday. He desperately needs to get the subject of the economy off the minds of Americans. He’s falling further in the polls, both the FoxNews/Rasmussen and the LA Times/Bloomberg. Heck, there’s even a second poll joining the outlier putting Obama slightly ahead in North Carolina. No, it is not looking good for Mr. McCain, and everywhere you look the wheels are coming off.

McCain’s campaign, against the evidence, think McCain acted heroically this last week in the face of the finaicial crisis. As I note here, McCain’s words from Sunday through Monday, when the bailout McCain staked his campaign on failed, were all over the map. No central message whatsoever. It gets worse when one looks at the video of McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin defending McCain’s actions this past week. The guy sounds like Sarah Palin being interviewed by Katie Couric. (Hey, is that metaphor about Palin and Couric going to replace the example of the South Carolina Beaty Pageant contestant as an example of incoherence?) I’m betting Holtz-Eakin would love to quit his job and go back in time to think up new excuses for the failed reasons the Bush Administration chose for invading Iraq. That would surely be an easier job than defending the erratic behavior of John McCain.

At the same time the McCain campaign can’t seem to coordinate between John and Sarah. Sarah Palin goes off message, so McCain says it’s OK because she was only talking to a voter. McCain, meanwhile, wants to solve the healthcare crisis using clinics in WalMarts – a nice idea, but you just don’t SAY that people will get their healthcare at WalMart. He’s opening himself up to ridicule left and right. Ridicule? Ridicule? Time to note that Sarah Palin knows of no other case ever to come before the Supreme Court other than Roe v. Wade. That part of the Couric interview hit the cutting room floor. So there’s the reason the McCain campaign wasn’t slamming Couric, there was more out there showing Palin as unprepared.

So, what’s the main thrust of the last several days of action? It is the same as it was in the first debate between Obama and McCain. Obama is steady and Presidential, McCain is an unpredictable and angry old man. I sincerely hope this bailout gets settled later this week. While McCain surely deserves to lose this election, both for his performance and for the future of our country, it is a bit sad seeing him make such an utter fool of himself.

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Financial Meltdown: Math & The Myth Of Fiscal Responsibility

As we steel ourselves for the bail out of a failing financial system, it’s time to review the rhetoric of fiscal responsibility. For nearly three decades, the GOP has succeeded in hanging the “tax and spend” label on the Democrats. Accepting that premise has likely enabled this painful fleecing.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

While the details haven’t been disclosed, it appears that the powers that be are considering a plan to bail out Wall Street…in a big way…on the backs of the American taxpayer. Troubling as this sounds, it may be the only viable solution. Regardless of the eventual solution, one thing is clear, the losses will be large.

I want to focus on an analysis of the aftermath and the philosophy that led us to this point. I want to do so because I lived through the Savings & Loan scandal and I’ve been convinced for more than two years that the housing bubble, the artificially low interest rates, the lack of proper oversight, and the associated paper “equity” borrowing it fueled would lead to this type of meltdown.

Having established this backdrop, I want to make the case for driving a stake through the heart of trickle down economics, tax cuts for the wealthy, and the meme that the “tax and spend” Democrats are fiscally irresponsible.

Here’s the deal. The existence of large sums of money in the U.S. economy is a given…it has always been there and it will likely continue to be there (though eight years of GOP malfeasance will make digging out from under the enormous debt a formidable obstacle). With that said, we must begin to consider politics and the inevitable debate about what we will do with the money.

By and large, the party that succeeds in holding power and driving public sentiment gets to decide where the money goes. Without a doubt, the GOP has won this battle for the better part of the last thirty years. In doing so, they have succeeded in attaching the “tax and spend” label to the Democrats…driven primarily by highlighting the Democrats desire to fund and insure existing safety net programs (Social security, Medicare, Welfare, and Unemployment benefits…as well as expand others (Healthcare).

At the same time, the GOP has chosen to foster an economic structure that is weighted towards large corporations and the wealthy. Part and parcel of this approach has been the undermining of labor unions, the refusal to increase minimum wages, the willingness to ignore the huge number of uninsured, allowing the influx of illegals to provide cheap labor, and a willingness to accept the growing divide between the haves and the have nots.

So let’s step back for a moment to the S & L scandal (the late 80′s, early 90′s)…the last instance when profits were privatized and losses were socialized. Rampant real estate speculation and a lack of regulation of the financial industry made a number of investors very wealthy while saddling taxpayers with approximately 123 billion dollars of debt. As an aside, it should be noted that numerous investors were building commercial properties and apartments with no intention of ever managing them…they were simply milking the unregulated financial system.

Now let’s take a look at the GOP’s objections to any form of universal healthcare put forth by the Democrats. The argument suggests that it would cost anywhere from 60 to 100 billion dollars annually. At the same time, it must be noted that the Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 have been projected to cost 2.5 trillion dollars over ten years…and we’re also spending approximately 120 billion dollars annually on the war in Iraq. As to the costs of the current Wall Street bail out, it’s difficult to determine the damages. For the sake of this argument, I’m going to estimate that the final tally will approach a trillion dollars.

Now lets calculate the total dollars these items represent. If we assume that only half of the tax cuts were unwarranted (they went to the very wealthy), we have 1.25 trillion. Let’s add in 600 billion for five years of the Iraq war (we’re being conservative). That leaves the 120 billion lost on the S & L scandal and the trillion dollars we’re assuming will be lost on the Wall Street meltdown. Taken together, this totals just under three trillion dollars.

OK, now lets see how many years have passed since the S & L scandal. We’ll use 1985 as our start date (again we’re being conservative), which equates with 23 years. For this exercise, we’ll go ahead and round that to 25 years.

If we take our 25 years and assume it would have cost 100 billion dollars per year to fund universal healthcare, that brings us to a total of 2.5 trillion dollars. Note that the use of 100 billion per year is also an extremely conservative number as it would have been far cheaper to provide in the earlier years.

As you can see by a simple review of the numbers, we had enough money to fund universal healthcare for the last 25 years…with nearly a half trillion dollars to spare. Unfortunately, we didn’t have universal healthcare. Instead, those of us that have had healthcare insurance, paid for it for 25 years…and we also received a meager tax cut for the last seven years. If you look at the total dollars the average family received in tax cuts for these seven years, I suspect one would be lucky if it would have paid for three or four years of healthcare insurance (we’re completely ignoring the deductibles and copayments).

So if we look at the rhetoric of the GOP for the last 25 years, they want us to believe that any consideration of universal healthcare would have been irresponsible. They’ve repeatedly told us that the Democrats would raise taxes and spend money we didn’t have…on programs we couldn’t possibly afford.

However, if we look at the numbers above, the only thing we received for supporting this philosophy for managing our government’s finances (our money), was minimal tax cuts…promised nearly every election cycle (surprise, surprise?). At the same time, those in charge squandered three trillion dollars of our money on tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, an unwarranted war, and two episodes of enabling unregulated and painful financial disasters.

In the end, you can slice it any way you like…but you can’t disregard the fact that the money was there to provide universal health care…or any number of other programs designed to benefit all Americans. In the interest of being fair, all of the blame can’t be placed on the GOP, since the Democrats went along with many of these ill-advised expenditures…or the policies that enabled them.

Regardless, it’s also true that the Democrats frequently did so because voter sentiment demanded it. In other words, voters bought into the rhetoric that the GOP would let us keep more of our money and the Democrats would undoubtedly take more of it away from us. Since we know that all politicians cater to the whims of voters in the hopes of winning elections, it’s no wonder the Democrats have acquiesced and appeared amazingly weak. They’ve been on the wrong side of the argument and they’ve failed to convince voters otherwise.

That brings us to where we now stand. If we voters fail to recognize what has happened in the last 25 years as a result of enabling the rhetoric and the policies of the GOP, we do so at our own peril. It’s time for us to demand that our money be spent on programs that serve the greater good; not the ones that line the pockets of the greedy and the wealthy. The money is there…it has always been there…it’s time we elect politicians that have the interests of all Americans at heart…politicians who will be honest stewards and spend our money wisely.

If we don’t, let me be the first to predict the next financial scandal. Unless we choose a different course, it will invariably happen as soon our memory of the last one fades and we resume our role as gullible voters who settle for false promises and paltry tax cuts. Rest assured, once the coast is clear, the greedy will gladly step in and bust the bank again…while their bullshitting benefactors turn a blind eye.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Friday, September 19th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

Generational Wedge Issues and the U.S. Fiscal Crisis: Up Yours, Baby Boomers

Goodness Gracious of apathy I sing
The baby boomers had it all and wasted everything
Now recess is almost over
and they won’t get off the swing…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Up YoursI’ve been out of the loop for the past few days, and yesterday evening I wanted to catch up on the chatter in the progressive blogosphere. But as I hit a few of the blogs that I visit on a regular basis, it wasn’t the election chatter that caught my eye. My attention was consumed by a new advertisement that’s been rolled out on some A-list blogs (see the screen capture to the left). The creative aspect of the ad hit me with the force of a ton of bricks:

Up Yours, Baby Boomers

My initial reaction, as a card carrying member of the baby boomer generation? “Whoa. You talkin’ to me, buddy? You got somethin’ to say? Let’s take it outside and discuss. I might be on the shorter side in stature, and getting a bit long in the tooth, but I think I can hold my own in a smackdown. So, why you dissin’ me, baby? WYFP? Ready to go?

Why did I get my ass up in the air? Because in my view, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation advertisement sets up a very pressing national problem as a generational wedge issue…


Friday, June 27th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

What True “Progressivism” Looks Like

This past week, the State of New Jersey enacted the Paid Family Leave Act. NJ residents will now be able to take time off under FMLA to care for a sick family member, and not totally lose their income. This type of legislation is the face of true progressivism, and represents what the Democratic Party brand should be all about.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

In the not too distant past, the U.S. Congress passed the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows anyone to take time off from work to care for a sick relative or to stay home after the birth of a child, without fear of losing their job. FMLA was passed at the outset of the Clinton administration, with the support of a Democratic Party-controlled congress. It’s axiomatic that such groundbreaking legislation would have never passed during the tenure of the Bush regime or the lapdog GOP congress that Bush enjoyed during the majority of his reign.

Unlike a long term disability, though, FMLA only guarantees an employee the ability to take the time off. There is no provision for compensation during the leave of absence. So, even though a relative might be terminally ill, if an employee actually does take FMLA to care for the relative, there’s no income during the time of absence. There just aren’t a lot of people who can take off 12 weeks, regardless of the circumstances, without a paycheck.

This past week, the New Jersey legislature fixed that issue for residents of the Garden State. Governor John Corzine signed the NJ Paid Family Leave Law, which provides for 6 weeks paid leave time at 2/3 an employee’s base pay. So now, at least in New Jersey, those who qualify for FMLA leave can do so without fear of being totally without income. How did New Jersey do it?

Very simply: everyone who works in New Jersey will kick in a few bucks per year via a payroll tax to cover the PFL insurance, in an arrangement almost identical to the disability payroll tax. $32 / year isn’t an onerous price to pay to retain some income, and will allow many more people to actually take time off during personally stressful situations. The final bill was a win-win for both employees and employers.

It took over 12 years to get this legislation done, but it’s groundbreaking – and shows what a true progressivism is all about. NJ PFL represents what the Democratic Party brand should be all about.

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Elizabeth Edwards Discusses “Presidential Idol”

As this season’s installment of Presidential Idol continues, Elizabeth Edwards checks in with a New York Times op-ed that laments the superficial media coverage of the real issues that confront Americans. While Mrs. Edwards hits the nail squarely on the head, and will be applauded on both the left and right, her frustration comes out about 8 months too late…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

If there’s one great lamentation that I have about John Edwards no longer being in the Democratic Party primary sweepstakes, it’s that we don’t get to see or hear much from his wife, Elizabeth. She’s a true national treasure, and would have been a wonderful First Lady.

This morning the NYT published an op-ed from Mrs. Edwards which blasts the legacy media coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign. And though her words will certainly ring true with progressives (and even many conservatives), unfortunately, she’s not covering any new ground.

For the most part, press reporting on campaigns in both the Democratic and Republican parties has been as shallow (and as annoying) as a bad bowling score. While I think that we’re all conditioned to expect the 30 second soundbite in candidate commercials, anyone who truly wants to make a more informed decision based on actual policy positions will simply not get the information they need from either print or broadcast legacy media outlets.

There are three key issues on which most Americans will be basing their decisions when electing the next president:

- Healthcare (Obama, Clinton, McCain)
- The U.S. economy (Obama, Clinton, McCain)
- The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Obama, Clinton, McCain)

The above links provide more information on each of the candidate’s positions on these three top issues than anyone will receive in 18 months of campaign rhetoric and press coverage. And yes, Elizabeth, it’s indeed depressing. She writes:

News is different from other programming on television or other content in print. It is essential to an informed electorate. And an informed electorate is essential to freedom itself. But as long as corporations to which news gathering is not the primary source of income or expertise get to decide what information about the candidates “sells,” we are not functioning as well as we could if we had the engaged, skeptical press we deserve…

“Engaged”? The legacy media controllers have been infinitely more fixated on Presidential Idol. “Skeptical”? How can the legacy media be skeptical when they’re snarfing down BBQ and beer at John McCain’s place?

While we can certainly appreciate Mrs. Edwards’ concerns, and applaud her for raising the issue of superficial press coverage on the New York Times op-ed pages, it would have been a whole lot more strategic (and impactful) had she spoken out back when the heathers in the media were spending more time on the phony issue of her husband’s haircuts than his positions on healthcare. But of course, had she spoken out when John was still in the race, no doubt she would have been characterized as “shrew-ish” on those same op-ed pages.

Sunday, April 27th, 2008 by Richard Blair |
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