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Infographic courtesy of StartupLoans.org
Check this out and let us know what you think!
Infographic courtesy of StartupLoans.org
Those of us of a certain age have seen the economy expand, then contract, then expand again on many occasions. Things have changed, though – from Reagan’s “revolution” to GHW Bush’s “voodoo economics” through the unprecedented wealth transfer that has happened during Bush II’s reign, there’s a fundamental difference. In that difference lies the reason that I’m a progressive Democrat…
I’m old enough to remember when the nuclear family was really the American dream: 2.2 kids, a house with a modest mortgage, mom met the kids at the school bus stop in the afternoon because she didn’t work outside the home, dad came rolling in later in the afternoon, dinner was served, homework was done, then maybe some TV (3 VHF channels and a couple of UHF “independents”). Rinse, spit, repeat.
The promise of technology and automation was never that Americans would lose their jobs to machines, but that the machines would make the jobs more efficient and lead to a better quality of life for everyone. LBJ’s “Great Society” was a product of progressive thinking – that yes, indeed, it was possible for the previous generation to leave the next generation just a little bit better off, and so on and so on.
In the past, I’ve ranted about how there was a palpable shift in the overall demeanor of big business back in the early days of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Perhaps I was a bit closer to it (“the shift”) at the time because of the point that I was at in my career – I’d been with the same employer for a couple of years, making a pretty good wage, and I was the sole breadwinner in the family. That was my role; that was the real role in life I thought I was supposed to play. But I could sense, even back then, that something was terribly amiss. I just couldn’t put my finger on it at the time. Something strange was happening in the work place that augured an uncertain future.
Allow me to use a personal story as a segue into a larger discussion on why I’m a progressive Democrat.
The company I worked for during the Reagan years made a very rapid transformation from a truly “family oriented” employer, to a “bottom line” company. Harvard Business School was just starting to churn out Michael Hammer-cloned MBA graduates using the “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap model of business education. The heady days of merger and acquisition really got cranking around the time of Reagan’s second inauguration. The atmosphere in the workplace shifted dramatically in the space of what felt like just a few short months. In fact, the change was so dramatic that, even in the quasi-professional / technical role that I filled, it was becoming obvious that the only way to survive was for those in my technical specialization to organize with a local labor union. And so we tried – I tried. I was very active in the effort.
I was active in the effort for several reasons, but the most important was that the HBS graduates were starting to fling around the specter of competition and deregulation and corporate survival as if to generate a self fulfilling prophecy. And, to a degree, the HBS’ers did just that. What a union offered, even a professional / technical union, were rules that the company and employees had to live by. I reasoned that, without a legally binding employment contract, non-represented, non-management employees were flying by the seat of their pants and without a net.
In the long run, I was right.
The company used a couple of really shady tactics, aided and abetted by a Reagan-reconstituted National Labor Relations Board ruling, to defeat the organizing effort, and the union local was not prepared well enough to respond. The threat of layoffs never emerged for the rank and file union members in the company, but the professional and technical specialties started to be purged in the late 1980′s, as folks like me began to simply make too much money.
As my salary and 401K grew, I clearly recall sitting at my kitchen table one night and amortizing the value of my salary and benefits 20 years into the future. I somberly recognized that evening that the company couldn’t sustain me and hundreds of my coworkers into the future. At some point, even a modest three or four percent increase per year in a fairly decent salary becomes like compounding interest to the bean counters in a company – and it was clear that something had to give. So the professional ranks started taking hits in terms of layoffs, “performance-based” firings, and early retirement package offerings to those in the organization who held the corporate institutional memory.
Here’s an example of how quickly the changes occurred, and why I worked so hard in the union organizing effort.
At one time, the technical and professional folks made time and a half for overtime (because the company would never compensate their professional people less than their union workers, don’tcha know…). Out of the blue, the non-represented technical workers were required to put in at least 45 hours a week to qualify for time and a half. The uncompensated five hours per week was euphemistically dubbed “professional time”. And then one day, word came down from the executive suite that overtime was completely gone for the professionals. You worked what you had to in order to get your job done, no matter how long it took or how much additional responsibility you had to assume because the guy’s desk next to you was suddenly vacated late on a Friday afternoon (the favorite time to issue pink slips), and there was no replacement for him or her.
But you know who didn’t go? The company never touched the union rank and file, because of the contract. There are still guys working for the company in union positions who were there when the great middle management purge of 1990 took place.
I was fortunate enough to see the handwriting on the wall, and started doing some serious programming work on the side back then, and that led to my ability to leave the company on my own terms in the mid-90′s. After all, computers were where the big money was, Tim Berners-Lee was rolling out the HTTP protocol, and the dot com boom was just getting underway. My services were in pretty high demand, and I brought not only my computer experience to a booming market, but my mature business acumen. It was a great combination that worked for awhile, and I made a pretty good living. And then the dot com bust hit.
By the time I was forced back into the job market in the early part of this century, even though my skills were at their peak, my earning power was not. The conservative mantra was, “well, you work whatever you have to work at. McDonalds, whatever. There’s no shame in working hard.” Indeed. It got to the point where I took one of the first jobs that I was offered that was even remotely reasonable in terms of compensation. And then that job was “mergered and acquisitioned”, even though it was in the non-profit sector. The last several years have been a struggle, having come down from positions of both authority and responsibility. In the business climate that I was unfortunate enough to experience, at a certain age, it’s impossible to regain career traction, and you settle for the best job that’s available in order to make ends meet.
I know I’m not alone in my tale, and that there are many out there like me. My real income has declined significantly since the mid-90′s. In fact, I was 1040–²ing more per year in 1995 than I am today. And I’m working harder today than I ever did in my life, for a relatively thankless employer whose executive battle cry at the end of every quarter is: “We’re not making the numbers!! Panic! Panic!!” So, the sales force forward-sells our product line to make this quarter’s numbers at the expense of bookings at the beginning of next quarter. It’s an endless cycle of stupid business decisions that leads to bargain basement deals for our customers, less revenue for the company, and a repeating of the cycle again at the end of next quarter.
The company that I work for in 2008 is by no means exceptional in the modern corporate world. There is no “quality of life”, so to speak. I’m tethered to a cell phone and a computer 24 hour a day, 365 days a year, and I spend my time reacting to business crises rather than getting a break from the bonds. I am literally doing the same work that three people did 20 years ago. But my employer thinks this is ok. (The customers don’t, but that’s another story for another day.)
This is the life that the Republican Party brought to me, and why I’m such a strong progressive, even if I’m getting a bit long in the tooth. I’m angry. I’m angry with the business climate that has upended my life and that of millions of others like me. I’m angry that I’m good enough at what I do that I’m the “go-to” guy when there’s a steaming pile of business shit that someone else has left for me to clean up, but there’s no one to back me up when I have a less than stellar day at the office. I’m angry that at this point in my life I’m locked into a fairly dead-end position because of the paycheck, but more importantly, benefits that I can’t (again, at this point of my life) afford to be without.
In the past year, I’ve seen one of my closest business associates hang it up because it just wasn’t worth it anymore – he bailed out early when he had the opportunity, even as he was somewhat unsure of his financial future. Another (15 years younger than me) had a heart attack just before Christmas. He was back at his desk last week. He’ll never make it to retirement. Another is opting for early retirement in March rather than spend another minute with her nose stuck to the grind stone.
The nuclear family is a dream of the past. There are so many among us (thankfully, I’m not yet one of them) who have to work two and three jobs just to pay the mortgage, electric bill, and put food on the table because real wages have declined so precipitously in years recently passed. But the GOP thinks that’s all right, in fact, they’re proud of it. They think it’s just peachy that mom and dad have to work themselves to the point of exhaustion, and then on the other hand they wonder why the nuclear family has disintegrated.
There is more than just a mortgage crisis at hand, and I don’t think anyone in a position to say so really wants to admit it in polite company. There is a very real family financial liquidity crunch that is underway, and sooner than later, the crunch is going to affect all of us. The unprecedented wealth transfer from poor and middle income families to the uber rich is nearly complete. The folks at the bottom of the GOP-led financial pyramid scheme are nearly bled dry, and the pyramid is about to collapse. To sustain itself a little longer, the folks at the top of the pyramid will have to start an Amway-style ritual of financial cannibalism amongst themselves. I think that (to an extent) this is exactly what we’re seeing in the stock markets and big financial houses as the true meltdown begins. Is this is how it starts?
An executive of a collapsed subprime mortgage lender jumped to his death from a bridge Friday, shortly after his wife’s body was found inside their New Jersey home, authorities said.
The deaths of Walter Buczynski, 59, and his wife, Marci, 37 – the parents of two boys – were being investigated as a murder-suicide, according to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office…
[He] was a vice president of Columbia, Md.-based Fieldstone Mortgage Co., a high-flying subprime mortgage lender that made $5.5 billion in mortgage loans and employed about 1,000 people as late as 2006.
However, it has since filed for bankruptcy and now has fewer than 20 employees. The company had recently filed court papers seeking approval to pay about $1.1 million in bonuses that would be divided among Buczynski and other staffers so the company could wind down its lending operations and go out of business…
Even in the last throes of corporate failure, the bosses reward themselves.
It’s only speculation, but perhaps this tragedy happened in part because the Buczynski’s were embroiled in some intractable sort of financial difficulty. Still, for each VP of a failed company that can’t take the personal pressure any longer and leaps from a bridge, how many more bodies and destroyed lives from the lower rungs of the economic pyramid have they left in their wake as they pursued the Republican holy grail of financial success and “A-list” cocktail parties?
When consumers stop spending, the economy is going to crash hard. Signs already point to a significant contraction in consumer spending, which is why George Bush today offered up a
The failure to pass bailout legislation is a symptom of a larger issue’¦one that percolates in the background. Good governance must promote a social structure that insists the nation be neutral while accepting the soul’s autonomy. Preserving our American identity hangs in the balance.
We’re in uncharted waters with a leaky boat and a storm on the horizon’¦but the GOP wants us to know that Nancy Pelosi is a mean-spirited partisan.
Let me see if I can get this straight. The Republican president of the United States sends the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Chairman to Capital Hill with a message of impending economic doom’¦asking the party in power to put aside partisanship and pass necessary legislation.
The party in power (Democrats) holds its nose and puts together a bill premised upon the gravity of the situation, endures John McCain’s grandstanding at the eleventh hour, allows him to characterize his involvement as critical to the success of the process, spends hours meeting with those in the GOP who want to amend the bill, comes to an agreement on a bill the GOP leadership can support, and then brings the bill to a vote.
In that vote, over sixty percent of Democrats support legislation that was requested by the head of the opposition party, two thirds of the presidents fellow Republicans jump ship and oppose the bill, and the GOP house leadership wants Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to shoulder the blame?! Well there you have it’¦nothing illogical about that, right?
Frankly, I’ve personally reached the point at which I’m opposed to any attempt to glue what remains of our failed government back together. Unless and until politicians are held accountable for the consequences of their actions, I’m in favor of pulling the rest of the metaphorical china from the cupboard and smashing it all on the floor. I say as much because I don’t think anything will change until the American public is forced to face reality’¦even if that means standing in line for a loaf of bread and a bowl of soup.
Look, let’s be honest as to what all of this GOP partisanship is about. From their self-serving perspective, it’s power and money’¦and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to obtain both. Voters, on the other hand, have allowed themselves to be drawn into an ideological struggle to define morality. Taken together, this is the underlying formula for the disaster we’re witnessing.
Instead of a candid discussion on the merits of rescuing our financial structure, the political combatants have spent years defining our differences in terms of good versus evil; right versus wrong. While voters blindly engage in this theoretical tug of war, the real battle for dominance is waged in the trenches’¦replete with lobbyists looking to commit larceny in tandem with their trusted troopers’¦the political elite.
The unseen metrics of today’s maelstrom center upon the pursuit of profit. Those house Republicans who opposed today’s legislation tell us they are concerned about main street. In truth they, in concert with their corporate benefactors who want the government to insure their success without foregoing the profits that may eventually result from the government’s intervention, see main street as a peripheral player.
Let me explain. If the bail out takes the current form, the companies that avail themselves of it will have to forego the upside of the very assets that have made them a ton of money during the housing bubble and now leads them to the edge of financial ruin. Conversely, if the legislation is structured as an insurance mechanism, they receive the financial assist they need without foregoing the future profits that may ensue with the passage of time and an improved economy.
In other words, house Republicans are carrying the water of Wall Street while telling us they’re looking out for the interests of taxpayers. You see, one need only look at the proposal that came from the Bush administration’¦a virtual blank check to assi
Polls show them that social issues don’t work and that the GOP is on the wrong side of nearly every issue with voters, but when the Michigan GOP hires a consultant who tells them that, they stick their fingers in their ears and sing “God Bless the USA,” firing the consultant before the second verse. I’m thinking they don’t care about winning anymore.
In Michigan the Republican Party is just not too swift. Earlier this week they snubbed Governor Jon Huntsman, who was scheduled to speak in Grand Rapids, because he wasn’t conservative enough. Well, I suppose Sarah Palin is always available, if she’s finished solving the political problems of all the stillborn citizens in Alaska. Oh, the GOP in Michigan is so screwed that they hired a consultant to report on how to solve the political problem they have, of losing not just the Governor’s office or the registration advantage to Dems, but the State House and virtually every other meaningful political measure. So they hired Dennis Darnoi, long a Michigan strategist, to give them pointers. Then they fired him because he didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear. From Susan J. Dimas at Huffpo:
The message of tax cuts and social issues isn’t resonating anymore with voters, who have fled the party in droves, especially in big swing counties like Oakland and Kent. Demographics aren’t in Republicans’ favor in Michigan or nationally, with the fast-growing groups of Asians, Hispanics and young people all voting Democratic by scary margins.
So what’s the solution? Darnoi didn’t suggest anything radical like bowing at Obama’s feet and hoisting the Communist flag. No, he said Republicans should run on accountability and transparency while big government is OK with voters, as a recent Gallup/USA Today poll shows. He notes that moderate GOP candidates have enjoyed some success even in areas where the president won handily, like Kalamazoo.
He also believes that the GOP needs an image makeover, stat, as it’s perceived as wanting gays to stay in the closet and being on the wrong side of environmental regulations and alternative energy.
No kidding. The overarching view of Democrats used to be that they were limp-wristed, liberal weenies. But the ’80s and ’90s are over. What Republicans fail to realize is that their party is now tagged as being one of mean, bigoted blowhards. Of course, many are too busy self-medicating with the primal screams of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to notice that the ground has shifted beneath them.
The story here is that the Republicans in Michigan think they ought to recruit candidates who are even more extremist than before. A common sense guy like Darnoi had no chance with these folks. He’s not extremist enough.
It’s not the social issues, stupid. Of course, we could shout that loudly to the Republicans in Michiagan and the still wouldn’t dent their psyches. These people are evidently stupid. I guess they think if they can slam gays hard enough even more extremists Christians will vote. Two problems with that. Fewer people are identifying themselves as either fundamentalist or evangelical Christians, for one. Perhaps more significantly, Obama is winning the whole lot of the demographic groups when it comes to religion, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, Athiest, etc. They get a consultant who tells them to ease off the social issues and they kick him out, exactly the wrong strategic move. Hey, the heartland of Iowa also needs to give up on the social issues, according to a poll commisioned by the GOP, and I’m betting they ignore the results and try to gain seats by slamming the gays again.
I think we’ll see more of this myopia on the part of Republicans for some time. It is an extension of what Richard wrote about the other day, that nationally the Republicans are seeing themselves in worse shape than in years. The GOP brand is completely broken now, far worse than when Goldwater screwed up so badly. There’s hardly a Republican out there who doesn’t owe his job to a dwindling and extremist power base, with the rest of the country considering them hateful, incompetent and simply wrong on everything. I’m thinking this is a fine situation for Democrats to be in.
What’s better than a gathering of 24%er’s at a conference which includes the conservative stylings of such “values” luminaries as Bill Bennett, Tom DeLay, Stephen Baldwin, Phyllis Schafly, Rudy Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich? Why, the conservative entrepreneurial spirt and the sale of Obama Waffles, of course!
You are excused if you missed the memo, but the annual Values Voters Summit is taking place this weekend in Washington, DC. I’m not going to write extensively about the summit, because quite frankly, it’s little more than another gathering of angry 24%’ers who think that George Bush has been too liberal on “values issues”. If you really want a blow-by-blow rundown of the summit (no, Larry Craig was not invited, as far as I can tell), go here.
Still, it’s always kind of interesting to check out the list of speakers at these kinds of events. Here’s a short run down of some of the highlighted guests, who are lecturing America this weekend on how to behave:
William Bennett – noted gambler and addict
Tom Delay – noted crook and future felon
Newt Gingrich – noted adulterer
Rudy Giuliani – see Gingrich, above (and noted cross-dresser)
Stephen Baldwin – noted “D”-list actor and drug and alcohol addict
J. Kenneth Blackwell – noted voter suppressionist & minority disenfranchiser
Draw your own conclusions.
Anyway, a big hit at the VVS has been the sales of Obama Waffles. (No, I’m not going to link to their site – I assume you, unlike John McCain, know how to work the google.) This culinary delight was apparently selling like hotcakes (no pun intended) to the fundie crowd, until event organizers took heat for the vendor booth and shut it down on Saturday afternoon. Here’s what the box looks like. Check out the top and the sides, as well as the front:
The GOP leadership in the Senate was caught by surprise by Arlen Specter’s becoming a Democrat. That shows how out of touch the GOP leadersip is. They will be surprised this morning that the New York Times sees signs of change in the GOP on the gay marriage issue. No, the Times is wrong on this one. The GOP will remain bigoted.
The GOP Senate leadership was surprised by Arlen Specter’s defection from the Republican Party yesterday. Considering the failures and incompetence demonstrated by Republicans over the last eight years or so, a picture of a bunch of befuddled GOP Senators seems appropriate to me. One thing I don’t expect is any immediate change in the Republican platform in order to create a “big tent.” (Scarborough this morning noted that the GOP is suffering from a “small tent,” and there’s no sign of a wonder drug to help with that.) But the New York Times, in a journalistic coup, has spotted signs that the GOP is softening its stance on gay marriage. Really, here’s the New York Times headline: “Signs G.O.P. Is Rethinking Stance on Gay Marriage.” This may be the stupidest story of the year from American print journalism in the “not in WingNutDaily” category.
The Times story is based on a couple factors. First there was former McCain campaign staffer Steven Schmidt who wrote about how the GOP should de-emphasize the issue of gay marriage. Hey, NYTimes, that’s the opinion of one guy, and if you look around at the GOP reaction to Steven Schmidt’s opinion you’ll see that the rank and file think he should just shut up. Then the Times cites the Specter defection as a sign the GOP is thinking of changing its tune on gay marriage. Hey, even if GOP outlier Olympia Snowe shows regret for Arlen Specter leaving the GOP, that just isn’t a sign that the GOP is softening its anti-gay stance. Good God, the big headlines all over the right side of the blogosphere was “Swine Flew” in response to Arlen Specter’s defection yesterday – and while I’m unsure that the headline is anti-semitic, it can’t be denied that there’s just one Republican JEw now in Congress, Eric Cantor. The GOP is alienating both Jews and gays.
The New York Times here is right to note that demographics are not in favor of the GOP on the gay marriage issue, and that those demographics are getting worse everyday. Here’s a snippet fromt eh Times article:
Consider this: In the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, released on Monday, 31 percent of respondents over the age of 40 said they supported gay marriage. By contrast, 57 percent under age 40 said they supported it, a 26-point difference. Among the older respondents, 35 percent said they opposed any legal recognition of same-sex couples, be it marriage or civil unions. Among the younger crowd, just 19 percent held that view.
. . .
This does not mean, Republicans said, that most Americans are suddenly embracing the idea of same-sex couples going to the chapel. It is more that, for a lot of these Americans, gay marriage is not something they spend a lot of time worrying about, or even thinking about.
For younger respondents, this shift may in part be cultural: the result of coming of age in an era when openly gay people have become increasingly common in popular entertainment and in public life, not to mention in their own families or social circles. Familiarity in this case breeds relative comfort, or perhaps just lack of interest.
Again, this may be reality on the ground, but nowhere here is there evidence that the GOP is recognizing that reality and changing as a result. I suppose I expect them to recognize that their virulent opposition to gay marriage, and their close ties with a religious right wing that is bigoted on the issue, is harmful to the GOP, but that recognition is a long way off. For the Times to crow in a headline about how they’ve read tea leaves that show there are portents of change int he GOP – HOGWASH!
The big stories here are that the GOP is blind to the future. They couldn’t see that Specter was ripe to switch parties and were supposedly stunned by the development. They can’t see that such divisive and extremist views such as they hold on gay marriage are only going to further alienate Americans who believe in offering, as Olympia Snowe notes, “individual opportunity” to Americans. Heck, the Dems sure knew Specter was ripe to switch parties, with Biden, Casey and Rendell all recruiting Specter for the Dems for a month or two prior to this announcement. There’s your stark difference there between the parties. The GOP is not only “just say no,” but also a bit of an ostrich with its head in the sand concerning political reality, especially on issues like gay marriage. The Dems, on the other hand, are bringing about change, in Vermont and DC and Iowa, for sure, but also in PA with the gain of a Democrat in the Senate.
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.
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.”
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.
The news out of Trinidad and Tobago this morning has Obama signalling a new beginning in Western Hemisphere relations, including with Cuba and Venezuela. The GOP will react by refighting the Cold War, complete with sugar cane to go with the teabags. That will further alienate independent voters. Republican FAIL again.
It’s going to be Cuba, folks. The GOP is going to get a bunch in their underwear about Barack Obama working to change the direction of US policy towards Cuba. There’s a photo on virtually every front page int he country today with Barack Obama shaking hands with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and Obama recently eased restrictions on the long, long economic embargo of Cuba. That’s enough ammunition for the whack jobs in the GOP to seize on this. Perhaps the sex-crazed teabagging didn’t alienate enough independent voters (MSNBC has video), so they’ll work this issue. From the Washington Post we have a glimpse of yesterday’s actions, which will spark the faux Republican outrage:
“The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba,” Obama countered in his own speech. “I know there is a longer journey that must be traveled in overcoming decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day.” Earlier this week, Obama lifted restrictions on travel to the island by Cuban Americans.
The administration has been careful to accompany its outreach to Cuba with demands that the government allow more political and personal freedoms before the embargo is lifted. “They’re certainly free to release political prisoners,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters yesterday. “They’re certainly free to stop skimming money off the top of remittance payments as they come back to the Cuban island. They’re free to institute a greater freedom of the press.”
But events appeared to be outpacing the administration’s efforts to adjust its Cuba policy on its own terms. Earlier yesterday, the secretary general of the Organization of American States said he would ask its membership to readmit Cuba – ejected in 1962 at U.S. urging – when that organization meets next month. Bipartisan bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress to lift all travel restrictions and ease the embargo.
And it was not at all clear that Cuba is ready to grasp the olive branch Obama is extending.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that a reported willingness by Cuban President Ra–ºl Castro to discuss “everything” with the United States was a “welcome overture.” Her comments followed news accounts from Cuba that quoted Castro as expressing willingness to talk with the United States about “human rights, press freedom, political prisoners, anything they want to discuss,” as long as it was a conversation between “equals” that respected Cuba’s sovereignty.
There we have it, Obama reaching out to mend fences and begin with a new relationship with Cuba. His handshake with Hugo Chavez can be seen in the same light. There’s nothing here, though, to indicate that Barack Obama is giving away the store or anything. He’s simply showing himself and his administration as ready to improve those relations, and he’s getting at least a glimmer of positive response from Chavez and Castro. How could the Republicans possibly try to exploit that? Well, you can bet they will.
The Republican teabagging debacle played to the Republican whackjob base and alienated independents partly because of its ludicrous imagery and the whackjobs it attracted, but it also alienates because with its rallying against supposed socialism it is fighting the Cold War again, 20 years after the Cold War ended. The only vestige we have of the Cold War now is the relationship the US holds towards Cuba and Venezuela. Just take a look at how Presidents of the past dealt with Cuba. The results have been almost no change in Cuba, and a hardening of the radicals on the subject. But, hey, those radicals on the subject of Cuba are already voting Republican, and the small “c” notion of conservatism suspicious of change of any kind is a notion they embrace, even when conservative voices such as The Economist in December called for change in the US stance towards Cuba:
All this means that for the Castros, Barack Obama may turn into a far more formidable foe than his predecessors. The danger starts with his example: after all, a young, black, progressive politician has no chance of reaching the highest office in Cuba, although a majority of the island’s people are black. Mr Obama has already promised to reverse the restrictions on remittances and travel by Cuban-Americans imposed by Mr Bush. Once he is in office, the new president should go further and urge Congress to lift the embargo altogether. It is wrongheaded and ineffective. If it went, Cubans would know they had nobody except their rulers to blame for their plight.
That’s good policy thinking there. 50 years of the US embargo on Cuba has done nothing, so why not make a change, show the Cuban people what change means to them and their lives? There’s a lot of chance for success here, and the next three and a half years could see a thaw in relations where tourism flourishes in Cuba and Americans in general come to embrace happier relations with the country. Oh, the Republicans will howl that easing the embargo and encouraging tourism will put money in Cuba’s economy, but they’ll appeal only to the GOP base, and will alienate independents, if this issue shows up on the radar screen of anyone at all but the Republican base.
That’s the bottom line, I suppose. The Republicans will try to fight the Cold War all over again by whining about Obama’s attempts to change policy towards Cuba. Not a doubt about that. The leaders of the Republican Party, Hannity and Limbaugh and Gingrich and G. Gordon Liddy, will whine and howl, but nobody really cares besides the hardcore Republican base. Sure, much of that base consists of Cuban-Americans in Florida, but I’m thinking even they will be won over eventually as they are able to visit relatives and see their homeland. And surely the Cuban-Americans do not rive the Latino vote in this country, not if you look at the results of the last Presidential race.
The big thing is that the Republicans will stand foursquare in the way of progress and reconciliation on this issue as just another facety of their “Just Say No” agenda. They’ll likely put together sugar cane parties to go with the teabagging (is there a sexual innuendo to go with “sugar cane?”). Mojitos will be downed among Republicans, or poured into the Miami harbor, or whatever, and independent voters will be turned off.
Ah, Republicans are so predictable!
The Sarah Palin hopes for national office officially ended yesterday not when Levi Johnston went on the Tyra Banks Show and displayed his ‘Bristol’ tattoo and talked about condoms. No, the Sarah Palin response, which reads as if someone is spitting it out before closing the screen door of the double wide, sinks Sarah Palin’s ambitions.
I remember this Ad from the McCain campaign last Fall, wherte the implication is that Barack Obama’s celebrity was waning and Sarah Palin was going to take over. (McCain hasn’t gained any more sense lately, calling hispanics ‘you people’ and frothing at the mouth in a recent meeting.) Well, since then she’s not exactly become an ‘A’ list celebrity, but more appropriately a candidate for the Montel Williams Show, or Cops. OK, so she can’t control her sister-in-law breaking into a neighbor’s house to steal some cash. That’s not on Palin, is it?
The fun part is that the Palin family is being revealed for the trailer trash sensibilities that are its foundation. Sure, Palin can’t control Levi Johnston going on the Tyra Banks Show, showing off his ‘Bristol’ tattoo, and admitting to wardrobe malfunctions, er, ah, sometimes forgetting to use a condom when
screwing making love with Bristol. Heck, she can’t control the video of that appearance, due out Monday but with a sneak peek here. But Sarah Palin can control the reactions of her staff.
Sarah Palin, if she had class at all, would react to this little episode with resounding silence. But, no. Class doesn’t enter into it. Here’s the scoop on the Sarah Palin reaction from that celebrity gossip magazine People:
‘Bristol did not even know Levi was going on the show. We’re disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship,’ says the statement from the Palin family rep.
‘Bristol’s focus will remain on raising Tripp, completing her education, and advocating abstinence,’ the statement continues. ‘It is unfortunate that Levi finds it more appealing to exploit his previous relationship with Bristol than to contribute to the well being of the child.’
The statement ends, saying, ‘Bristol realizes now that she made a mistake in her relationship and is the one taking responsibility for their actions.’
When I read Palin lashing out like this I think of one thing. I think of someone playing the Church Lady in an opposition political commercial and using Sarah Palin’s exact words over and over and over again. Maybe splice in some scenes of a hair-pulling, chair-throwing fight just to spice up the ad. The celebrity Sarah Palin sought is now at the level of Montel and Springer and Tyra Banks. That’s called finding its true place. Meanwhile, Barack Obama is being feted in Strasbourg.
Was the “fix” in from the very beginning by the Bush administration DOJ, and were the prosecution errors committed on purpose so there was no way that the conviction would ever be upheld? Or was it just garden variety legal incompetence that became a hallmark of Alberto Gonzales’ tenure as US Attorney General?
In October 2008, Senator Ted “Bridge to Nowhere” Stevens (R-Alaska) was convicted on several charges of official corruption. He subsequently lost his reelection bid in November. Since then, there have been a variety of defense motions to overturn the conviction and have a new trial.
Today, the Department of Justice announced that it’s dropping all charges against Stevens:
The Justice Department said Wednesday it would drop corruption charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens because prosecutors withheld evidence from the senator’s defense team during his trial.
The reversal is an embarrassment for the department, which won a conviction against the Alaska Republican in October and is now asking to overturn it…
Was the “fix” in from the very beginning by the Bush administration DOJ, and were the prosecution errors committed on purpose so there was no way that the conviction would ever be upheld? Or was it just garden variety legal incompetence that became a hallmark of Alberto Gonzales’ tenure as US Attorney General? The conspiracy theorist in me leans toward the former. The pragmatist in me leans toward the latter, because it seems quite hasty for current Attorney General Eric Holder to totally drop the charges, unless the errors were so egregious as to prevent a retrial.
There’s gotta be one hell of a backstory to this case. I wonder if we’ll ever hear it?
Update: Daily Kos has a short diary that explains why AG Holder’s decision was the right one.