Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Preserve Social Security in one graph

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Greatest Generation vs. The TeaBagger Brigade

The prologue years...

[...] unionism had shrunk, corporate America had blossomed -- at least in the size of individual entities and in the salaries and other benefits of those who sat at the top of them.  In the decade following the war twelve hundred mergers swallowed up more than six thousand previously independent companies [...] some two hundred corporations controlled almost half of all American industry.  The fewer companies, the less competition, the less competition, the less incentive to keep profit margins down -- and federal tax policies took very little of that profit.  As a result, most of the personal wealth in the country resided in the pockets, bank accounts, and stock portfolios of a tiny percentage of the population.

But goods had been produced for the millions, not for the thousands, and the millions, in the end, simply could not afford them.

[...] Then there was the banking system.  [...] the Louisiana Banking Commissioner took a look at the failures in his state and penned an assessment that could have served as an indictment of the entire system.  "[...] poor management, promotion of speculative enterprises, loans without security, too large loans, loans to companies in which officers were interested, were the major causes of bank failure."

[...] It was up to the survivors now to sift through the wreckage to find what they could that would help them build a new world.  There was plenty of wreckage to go around.
These are excerpts from The Great Depression: America in the 1930's by T.H. Watkins.  It doesn't take a lot of imagination to draw a direct comparison to elements of the Bush recession, and see history repeating, not only in the activities encouraged that brought about the current crisis, but also the responses both enacted by one party and suggested as "ideas" by another party.

The parallels in cause and response -- if you consider that aspect of the history as well -- make today's "debate" and policy of timid stimulus, deficit commissions, and lack of unified economic vision pale in comparison to the policies of FDR and the WWII generation.

They were courageous enough to not only address the causes of crisis, but also to build an economic future in the face of those too small-minded and easily frightened to think of anything but austerity.  At the end of the second World War, the debt to GDP ratio was 120%.  They put everything on the line to rebuild from the Great Depression to the end of the war.  The strategy prevailed, and by the time Mr. Trickle-Down-Economics came along to begin undoing what had been achieved, debt to GDP was down to 30%, and the American economy was leading the world.  This didn't happen by magic, and most definitely wasn't the result of "tightening the belt" and "waiting it out" (or as I like to call it: The Utah Legislature's Only Plan, Every Time, Ad Naseum). The activities that increased the debt from depression to the end of the war were responsible for the infrastructure that then brought debt down while at the same time creating economic expansion.  Today's austerity "leaders" offer no such plan (i.e. cutting Social Security may reduce short term costs, but how does it create opportunity or incentivize growth?  Hint: It doesn't.).

It may seem cliche, but when I read passages like the one above it also seems relevant: it's simply the difference between a "can-do" approach to economic policy and future, as opposed to tea-bagging ourselves back into the economic middle-ages.  The real lesson of the era was a bravery to rebuild and remake the country in response to changing demands and economic forces.  To listen to Mike Lee, Jim DeMint, Bachmann, or any member of the TeaBagger Brigade, America of today could not handle such a challenge, and we must downsize opportunity, huddle together in frightened "principled" masses, cowering in Hoovervilles, covering ourselves from the rain with our pocket Constitutions and Eagle Forum fliers.

A Bold Plan vs. Driving out immigrants and Mark Shurtleff's protest rallies.

The Greatest Generation vs. The Generation that Winced.

Ability vs. Limitations.

You decide.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cut Simpson, Not Social Security

AFL-CIO in the inbox:

Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the federal budget deficit commission and proponent of Social Security cuts, sent a vitriolic, rant-filled e-mail to the leader of a prominent women's group fighting to strengthen Social Security. Simpson should resign or be fired, say seniors' and women's organizations.

Call the White House (202-456-1414) and urge President Obama to demand Simpson's resignation.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Dumbening

Ed Kilgore:

No one, of course, doubted Ronald Reagan's religiosity even though he never affiliated with a church in Washington. And the famously pious George W. Bush wasn't much seen in churches as president, either. As for playing golf on the Sabbath, I'm reminded again of the time when the wife of "Mr. Republican," Sen. Robert Taft, was asked where her husband worshipped on Sunday mornings. "Burning Tree," she blurted out, referring to the congressional golf course.

In this as in many other respects, Barack Obama is being held to a different standard than most politicians, but I guess that's just his cross to bear. 
The PEW survey showing an increase in those who believe Obama is a Muslim denotes a willing lack of responsibility by Americans to stay informed and believe what they're neighbors send them in chain emails.  The obsession with the topic thereafter displays how petty, childish, and trite our national narrative becomes on a regular basis these days.

Personally, I don't care about the chosen faith of my elected officials.  That's between them and whoever/whatever they believe in.  Every inch of newsprint and broadcast space dedicated to the topic, while possibly answering questions that are important to some out there, is space that could've been used discussing something far more relevant, like policy.  I do understand why it might be important to some (especially those brainless xenophobes who believe all Muslims are terrorists infiltrating our country), and I even acknowledge that there are those out there small minded enough to factor such things as which church an individual frequents above all other considerations for elected office, and that those types of voters would want those types of questions answered.

But the question has been answered time and time again.  Hell, most of the people I hear perpetuating the lie are the same people who think Jeremiah Wright (a Christian) had programmed Obama as a one man sleeper cell set to activate one's the new drapes were in the Oval Office.  There's something bigger (and dumber) going on here.  It's not a credible source issue, and it's not that the President has been vague about his faith.  I think it's a deep dedication of some to see evil in all things either different from them or that they don't bother to learn enough about to understand.  And lost in all of this is another question: At what point did we decide, as a country, that being Muslim was like a scarlet letter?  Even if the President was, are we really that immature?

Apparently.

Ah, for the days of August '09, when all we had to combat to have an adult conversation were teabaggers screaming "Death Panels!"  I thought then that the discussion over direction we were having as a country could not possibly get any dumber.

Those were the days.

Linda Chavez-Thompson

Utah readers here can't vote for her, but they'll wish they could. This is how Democratic state candidates should be talking about immigration. 

From: Linda Chavez-Thompson
Date: August 23, 2010
To: Jason Williams
Subject: Terror babies, ¡por favor!

Linda Chavez-Thompson for Lieutenant Governor

Friends,

If calling American children "anchor babies" wasn't already fear-mongering, Texas State Representative Debbie Riddle took the debate to a new level of crazy with her theory of "terror babies."


Repeating a second-hand story to CNN's Anderson Copper, Riddle explained a nefarious international conspiracy by immigrants to cross the border illegally, while pregnant, to give birth without insurance, to then cross the border back again, so that 21 years later they can send their child back again to do us harm.

As I explained last Friday in my keynote speech at the Southwest Voter Registration & Education Project gala in San Antonio, I'm left to conclude that Debbie Riddle was either never pregnant … never waited in line to cross the border … or at the very least, never flew on a plane with a toddler.

But in all seriousness, I realize those who share Debbie Riddle's views must simply be scared to death when they look around and see people who look different than them.

As we all try to move up the ladder, the easy thing to do is to separate ourselves from those lower down.

And that brings me to my real point, which isn't about Debbie Riddle at all, but about Willie Velazquez, the founder of Southwest Voter, who chose a more courageous path.

Willie's legacy is a reminder that yes, we are our brother's keeper.

I took advantage of the opportunity with my keynote speech to speak out for the hotel workers there at the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio who have faced intimidation in their efforts to join the union UNITE HERE.

I ask you to take a moment to reflect on how you're continuing Willie's legacy.

Today, there are those who have spread fear from the immigration debate to the health care debate to the debate over public school funding.

These times call for courage.  However you choose to keep Willie's legacy alive, I say from the bottom of my heart, "gracias."

Un abrazo,

Linda Chavez-Thompson



 
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About Those "Gang-Related" Arrests

ICE announced last week they'd made 158 "gang-related" arrests in Utah, illegal immigrants with alleged ties to gang activity.  Yeah Freedom!  Except...

“We’ve gotten five or six of these gang cases in the past week, and I have three clients who have no criminal record,” said Aaron Tarin, an immigration attorney who is representing Salazar-Gomez. “They were not affiliated with gangs or participating in illegal activity, but they are being labeled as gang members because they have tattoos, usually that are completely unrelated to gang membership.”
The Trib reports that 65 of those 158 arrested had no criminal record.  This is a complete contradiction of ICE's stated policy to target the most dangerous offenders first.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We're Not Racists!

Followed the immigration discussion and respective demonstrations on the Utah Hill this morning via the Twitter (Our tweeting local journo's rock, btw).  Not much to say about it other than I'd really like to see Sandstrom, Petty, and the mindless chattering tweeters provide some documentation to back up their wildly reactionary claims.

I'll wait...

While they're getting back to me, the rest of you can ponder this.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Celebrate the GOP Plan!

Rep. Paul Ryan (R- Wonderland) is being touted about on all of the front pages lately as the poster boy for a restored fiscal plan for the GOP.  One you should all clap very loudly for of course.

The only problem?  Well, problems, really.  None of it is even in the most remote stretches of the imagination "new," as much as it is a reworking of the same ol' Reagan-zombie dogma.  Also, it requires a complete willing suspension of disbelief to believe.

You can smash chewed gum back into the shape of a fresh piece, but it's still going to have been in someone's mouth before yours.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Secure the Borders" Debate, Billions of Dollars Later

Birthright citizenship and border security "debate" has/is/always will be nothing more than distraction from progress on an issue that will not be a winner for the party in opposition to reform.  Slate:

I seriously doubt that the American public has either the interest in, or the stomach for, a long, drawn-out constitutional debate about birthright citizenship. Polls show the public favors the anti-immigrant Arizona SB1070 but overwhelmingly supports legalization for undocumented immigrants as well. Apparently, the majority of the public is open to having a real conversation about immigration policy and solving the undocumented immigration challenge. This attack on U.S. born children—or, per the ugly moniker, "anchor babies"? That's just a distraction.

Challenges to birthright citizenship are not new. They emerge in predictable historical cycles. Like other attention-grabbing anti-immigrant initiatives, they may even spark debate, but not the kind of honest discussion necessary for immigration reform. Proposals couched in enforcement-only, anti-immigrant sentiment naturally encounter reflexive push-back from immigrant rights supporters advocating legalization. That's why the polarized battle over closing the border and increasing enforcement, versus enacting a legalization program, leaves little room for meaningful conversation. For any real change to come about, we must talk about the needs of employers and the contributions of immigrants. The vitriol about pregnant foreigners who sneak across our borders prevents us from getting an accurate picture of who most immigrants are—both documented and undocumented—and why they continue to arrive instead of trying to achieve their dreams at home. For example, our instincts tell us that reducing the flow across the southern border will require the expansion of the economy and job growth in Mexico. Yet formulating a plan to work with Mexico on its economy has never been part of the discussion.
 
The real problem with the enforcement-only approach to the undocumented immigration challenge is obvious: It's pretty much all we've been doing for the past decade, and what's the result been? Billions of dollars later, we are left with daily deaths at the border, as an enforcement regime funnels the continuous flow of migrants through the most treacherous terrain and ICE raids. Our borders separate loved ones as detention facilities bulge to the breaking point.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

From the comments

A line from the comments in response to my assertion that Utah voters are letting themselves be duped into blind support for anything with any/all Republican candidates:

Utah has a chance with [Peter] Corroon to cast a thinking vote, but will they?
Good question.

I haven't heard a single explanation from any of my Republican friends for Herbert deserving another few years in the Governor's seat.  Asking as often as I can, I can't find a single person who opposes Corroon who can tell me a policy Corroon embraces that they disagree with.

Will this one come down to "principle"?  Meaning of course: "Which one has the R after his name?"

Utahns need to stand up.

Why He Was Angry (and You Should Be Too)

One of the inherent perspectives a progressive in Utah has the luxury of believing unquestionably is how little "principle" there actually is to the predictable GOP outrage at Democratic successes on the national level.  Take a look at the mindless support for Gary Herbert (really... what do you know about anything he stands for, other than the R?  Yeah, exactly.) or the thoughtless allegiance to Republican candidates, even when they don't represent what's best for the state.  Let's face it, Utah, you're not picky.  If it's got an R, you're satiated.

When Democrats enjoy a national success, we get to see this little slice of Utah politics spread like a virus to the national theater.  Tea-baggn' is nothing new.  It happened when Clinton won too, to a tragic extent.  Republicans get angry, as any party would, when they lose.  But the respond to it with fear campaigns, hightened/mindless rhetoric, and Frank Luntz.  And GOP voters fall for.  Much of the support for today's Republican Party stems from the same lack of demand for character and leadership that sails so many ideologues with the right buzz phrases to public office here at home.  Being used in such a way should make you angry.

As angry as Rep. Anthony Weiner was last week.  As he explains in an op-ed today, genuine frustration at misleading tactics is long overdue.

LAST week I got angry on the floor of the House. In this age of cable and YouTube, millions of people evidently saw the one-minute-plus clip. But there has been relatively little focus on why the substantive debate that sparked it matters.

More broadly, while I appreciate the concern over the future of civility in politics, I believe a little raw anger right now is justified. Democrats make a mistake by pretending there is a bipartisan spirit in Congress these days, and would be better served by calling out Republican shams.

The specifics of the debate last week should be an example of an issue beyond partisan dispute. The bill in question was created to help the thousands of citizens who went to ground zero after the Sept. 11 attacks. These are Americans who wanted to help, and who scientific studies now show are falling ill and dying in troubling numbers.

After nine years, the House had a chance to make this right by voting on a bill that would provide treatment, screening and compensation to Americans who sacrificed their safety that day, as well as Lower Manhattan residents and others who have suffered injury from exposure to the dust and debris.

Though it should have been a legislative slam dunk, the bill was defeated on a simple up-or-down vote, with only 12 Republicans voting in favor. Just 21 additional Republican votes would have been sufficient for passage.

It was frustrating to hear Republicans say these people didn’t deserve more help because, as one put it, “people get killed all the time.”
You're being duped by your own party, the tea party, and political opportunists wrapping themselves in the Constitution, my Republican friends.  And until you demand better, expect it to only get worse.