America Held Hostage

America Held Hostage to Two-Party Failure: Government of, by and for the Corporations
Thursday 28 July 2011
by: Michele Swenson, Truthout | Op-Ed

Washington rhetoric waxes Orwellian in proportion to inside-the-Beltway disconnect around cause and effect of the US economic crisis. Ranging from the Ryan Budget – “kill Medicare to save it” – and some Democrats – “cut Medicare and Social Security to save them” – to claims that deficit reduction (not jobs) is “what the people want,” to the “greed is good” creed that assigns entitlements in the form of taxpayer bailouts to wealthy financial institutions that take for granted the ability to shift risk for their liar’s loans and speculative transactions. “Austerity” and “shared sacrifice” are Washington code for preserving tax advantages and privilege for the wealthiest, while transferring private debt and risk to the public, onto the backs of the working/middle class.

Phil Angelides, chair of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, notes that 24 million Americans lack work and nearly $9 trillion in household wealth has vanished since the 2008 economic crisis. The commission’s January report detailed “the recklessness of the financial industry and the abject failures of policymakers and regulators that brought our economy to its knees in late 2008.”

Writes Angelides, there is “no correlation between who drove the crisis and who is paying the price.” The disparity of wealth is stark, as “compensation at publicly traded Wall St. firms hit a record $135 billion in 2010.” He notes that, in the face of overwhelming evidence of the causes of economic catastrophe, Wall Street and its allies are revising history, e.g., Republicans like Paul Ryan ignore the fact that “our federal budget deficit has ballooned more than $1 trillion annually since the financial collapse.” Instead of confronting the real causes of the deficit, budget shortfalls are conflated with “the long-term challenges of Medicare” as an excuse to shred the social safety net. Rather than rein in widespread lending abuses, Republicans seek to weaken the authority of the new consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz calls out the titans of finance, who continue to make mega bonuses for their companies’ mega losses, even after they set the global economy in a tailspin and shifted all risks for their unregulated credit default swaps onto taxpayers. He describes a nation of, by and for the 1 percent that enjoys 25 percent of economic benefits, largely purchased by Washington lobbyists. The Republican (Ryan) budget plan would cut $5.8 trillion from government spending over the next decade and reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, while increasing next year’s Pentagon budget by $17 billion. The highly touted Bowles-Simpson proposal for deficit reduction is a recipe for a weaker economy, warns Stiglitz, as it will decrease jobs, and in turn, decrease revenues. A primary means to decrease the deficit is to increase jobs, a goal that ultraconservatives wrongly equate with large tax breaks for the wealthy – so-called “job creators” – never mind that the Bush tax cuts failed to provide jobs over a decade.

It is easier to destroy than to build democracy. Concerted assaults on democracy over four decades serve the ends of those who deem it their right to rule and reign: Republican religious ideologues and acolytes of Milton Friedman economics. Disaster capitalists precipitate crises by running up huge deficits (during the Reagan and Bush one and two regimes), followed by demands for balanced budgets and deficit reduction, as a means of drastically cutting domestic spending and gutting public education, government jobs and public pensions and shifting all wealth upward.

The political right has laid waste to democratic principles by sabotaging elections and the economy and auctioning government to the highest bidder. Some rightists deem it a “citizen’s duty” to challenge the legitimacy of the “ruling regime” by refusing to obey the law – i.e., “destroy the nation to save it.” Certain issues should be advanced “for the purpose of prompting a constitutional crisis,” pronounced law professor Russell Hittinger. The 2000 Supreme Court majority selection of George W. Bush reset the bar for challenges to the constitution, as did Citizens United vs. FEC in 2010.

The 1994 Gingrich revolution ushered in the large-scale sell-off of government to corporate interest groups. Corporate lobbyists were invited to write legislation to eradicate regulations for worker safety, labor rights and environmental protections – the so-called “Project Relief” part of the Republican agenda. Simultaneously, Republican House Whip Tom DeLay (“The Hammer”) pressured corporate political action committees (PACs) to contribute solely to the GOP, reasoning, “People that are pro-free enterprise should support people who are pro-free enterprise.”

In 1995, then-GOP Conference Chair John Boehner handed out tobacco PAC money checks to Republicans on the floor of the House, even as Newt Gingrich warned lobbyists, “For anyone who’s not on board now it’s going to be the two coldest years in Washington.” Republican leaders in a private 1997 meeting with 200 top corporate executives of the Business Roundtable demanded that all contributions to Democrats cease, or corporations would forfeit access to the Republican Congressional majority. Grover Norquist, riding herd over the “K Street Project,” demanded that big business hire GOP-credentialed lobbyists and fire those with Democratic connections. By the 108th Congress, it fell to Sen. Rick Santorum to reward party loyalty by vetting the hiring decisions of major lobbyists. “If you want to play in our revolution, you have to live by our rules,” pronounced  DeLay.

The “defund-the-left” campaign was abetted by Virginia Lamp Thomas, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, and a key staff member for then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who compiled a hit list of liberal groups and nonprofit groups. More recently, Virginia Thomas reportedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from groups that had expressed direct interest in the outcome of cases that came before her husband, including Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which struck down any limitations on corporate contributions to elections, sealing the Republican deal to crush democracy.

In the ’90s, Democratic leadership, reinforced by such corporate-backed groups as the Democratic Leadership Council, turned increasingly to corporate money, away from working people. With both major parties in thrall to corporate money and influence, “we the people” has effectively become “the silenced majority,” discounted voices sought out only for votes during election years, an increasingly futile exercise as big money buys candidates and outcomes.

The majority (53 percent) of Americans who opposed the 2010 extension of the Bush tax cuts watched in dismay as President Obama started with compromise and met his Republican hostage-takers more than half way. Neither did majority popular support result in passage of strong financial regulation, importation of lower-cost drugs or government-payer universal health care.

The fatal flaw of Barack Obama’s presidency seems to be the compulsion to compromise with the likes of Norquist, bent on destroying democracy by “drowning government in a bathtub.” The deficit in public investment imperils us more than the budget deficit, observes former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, citing tax revenues that are less than 15 percent of the total economy, the lowest in 60 years. Large reductions in federal taxes affect state and local revenues, placing more locales on the brink of bankruptcy – thus fulfilling Norquist’s fondest wish for state bankruptcies and “bitter nastiness and partisanship” in state capitals.

The president’s failure to lead by using the bully pulpit to educate about the true nature of economic crisis and recovery has resulted in Democrats’ surrender to Republicans of the economic narrative around deficits, spending, taxes, health care etc. More than the Tea Party corporate shills, disingenuous rhetoric around the economy and the lack of any counter-narrative by the president discouraged voters from going to the polls in 2010 and will likely discourage them again in 2012.

In 1995, a highly secretive umbrella group of America’s right-wing leaders, the little known
Council for National Policy Action, circulated a confidential memo urging members to push for a governmental shutdown in order to force President Clinton to cave to their budget demands. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana) was quoted: “This is our maximum point of leverage to insist that parts of the revolution are executed.” The brief government shutdown that followed failed to achieve their goals. Republicans have willingly upped the ante, holding the country hostage to the threat of economic catastrophe in order to achieve their long-time goal of gutting all New Deal and Great Society programs, while codifying tax cuts for the wealthy. Americans are again being held for ransom in a naked high-stakes grab for total wealth and power.

The majority of people are hungry for a truth teller/leader, like Sen. Bernie Sanders. Instead, corporate media reloops the one-note deficit propaganda of the right-wing sound machine, not seeing fit to even mention The People’s Budget, written by the Progressive Caucus. The People’s Budget would eliminate the deficit sooner than either the proposed Obama or Ryan Budgets and raise a $31 billion surplus in ten years. It would end the main budget deficit drivers – the Bush tax cuts and Middle East wars; restore progressive income and estate taxes; add negotiation of bulk drug rates to Medicare and preserve Medicare, Medicaid Social Security; eliminate tax subsidies for oil, gas and coal companies; close loopholes for multinational corporations; and tax speculative financial transactions. All are goals supported by the majority of people.

Likewise, Medicare-for-All would contribute substantially to economic recovery. Reich writes that expanding the Medicare risk pool to include all healthy young and sick elderly would save $58 billion to $400 billion annually and sharply reduce the budget crisis, while also permitting negotiation of lower rates with hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical companies. Payment reform to reward quality not quantity care would provide additional savings.

Circular talk around the deficit short circuits meaningful action around the creation of jobs and financial and election reforms. Sorely needed to counter the corruption of money in elections are the Fair Campaigns Now Act, free media time for all serious candidates and other remedies such as instant runoff voting and reversing the notion of corporate “personhood.” Humboldt County, California, passed a county ordinance in 2006 to prohibit nonlocal corporate contributions to elections and also asserting that corporations cannot claim the First Amendment right to free speech. Counties nationwide should follow the lead of a number of counties that have drafted ordinances to deny corporate personhood.

The two main political parties are failing to serve the people, both locked in a dance of dysfunctional political posturing in service of power. In a candid moment this spring, speaking to Charlie Rose, some New York Times correspondents acknowledged the sorry state of our politics: Tom Friedman remarked that we are trapped in a “corrupt duopoly.” Crony capitalism is the norm in Washington, lamented David Brooks. Both expressed the wish for a reputable third party to break the Washington gridlock.

Now is the moment for voices that have been willfully ignored in recent years to come together to form a true grassroots movement to advocate for progressive change. Sponsored by over 100 groups led by MoveOn.org, “Rebuild the American Dream” house meetings across the country convened starting July 16 and 17, providing the opportunity for participants to begin writing a “Contract for the American Dream” to serve the people.

The time is a now or never to restore the promise of democracy stolen by the oligarchs.

http://www.truth-out.org/america-held-hostage-two-party-failure-government-and-corporations/1311345019


This work by
 Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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Republicans Sell Out Again

Well it seems the Republicans have sold out…again.  Now there are two different lords the Party must bow to…The Christian Right and the Environmental Destroyers who are paying off our Congressmen/women and Senators to loosen or get rid of environmental laws.  Yeah guys, we don’t need a future…today is all that matters.

“The virus that has undermined the GOP and is weakening U.S. democracy is corruption. Our Supreme Court has made the United States the only democratic nation where bribery is constitutionally protected, where corporations have the privileges of citizens but none of the obligations, and where money is equated with speech. Dirty Energy has bought the party of Lincoln and now calls the shots.”  CARL POPE, chairman of the Sierra Club. Read More:
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Democracy Killed in Michigan

From the Utne Reader

“The very essence of democratic rule may be about to die in Michigan.

If Gov. Rick Snyder (R) gets his way soon he will have the ability to unilaterally declare a “fiscal emergency.” Once such an emergency is declared he would then have the power to dissolve the entire municipal government of wherever this “emergency” exists, dismiss the elected officials with no replacement election to follow, seize control of local civil services and, last but certainly not least, cede control of taxpayer money, services and powers to private corporations.

Anyone else sense the Koch brothers lurking in the shadows?”

So begins the scary story of the poor people of Michigan and their descent into Fascism courtesy of the Tea Party Republicans.

From Forbes Magazine:

” The governor simply has to declare a financial emergency to invoke these powers – or he can hire a private company to declare financial emergency and take over oversight of the city. That’s right, a private corporation can declare your city in a state of financial emergency and send in its Emergency Manager, fire your elected officials, and reap the benefits of the ensuing state contracts.”

I think the Republicans are trying to take over the country…very quietly, in a way that we should be very worried about.
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Egypt, Ethiopia and the Beginning of Biblical Time

Recent DNA Genome studies of the human race, from all over the world, have shown that, long ago, we all came out of Africa.  From North and South America, Australia, China, Asia, Europe, India–All the world’s bloodlines converge in Africa, and the approximate time they came out of Africa can be tracked. This technology is less than three decades old now and it has changed genealogy and criminology forever. Looking into our human past is now very easy and I’m sure many more uses will be discovered.

Below are some short excerpts from a very smart lady writing of Egypt and Ethiopia in 1920’s/1930’s that I think is remarkably prescient. Science and archaeology seems to continue verifying her conclusions, as scientists have been saying for some time now that the Ethiopian area is probably the ‘Cradle of Life’, and we know that Egypt is the first truly great civilization. Much evidence coming out now that Libya, Egypt, and Ethiopia have been populated more than 10,000 years.

“Out of anthropology, ethnology, geology, paleontology, archaeology, as well as history, I have dug up an irrefutable arsenal of facts that Harvard or Yale or cowardly scholarship in our race dare not refute. How can a leadership point the forward way that is utterly ignorant of the past?”

“Stephanus of Byzantium, voicing the universal testimony of antiquity wrote, “Ethiopia was the first established country on earth and the Ethiopians were the first to set up the worship of the gods and to establish laws.” The later ages gained from this ancient empire, the fundamental principles upon which republican governments are founded. The basic stones of that wonderful dominion were equality, temperance, industry, intelligence and justice.”
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“The priests of Sais said to Solon, “You Greeks are novices in all the knowledge of antiquity. You are ignorant of what passed here or among yourselves in the days of old. The history of eight thousand years is deposited in our sacred books, but we can ascend to much higher antiquity and tell you what our fathers have done for nine thousand years. I mean their institutions, their laws, and their brilliant accomplishments.” Baldwin points out that neither Solon nor Plato thought this improbable. The Greeks could tell nothing of their progenitors and but little of the Pelasgian race that preceded them in Hellenic lands. “There can be no doubt,” says Baldwin, “that the Egyptians preserved old records of the early period of their history extending beyond Menes.” This knowledge was lost to our times by the destruction of the Alexandrian library and the fanatical zeal which destroyed all pagan manuscripts.”
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“Egypt falls into natural divisions, Lower and Upper. Lower Egypt stretches from the Mediterranean to the limit of the Delta. Upper Egypt extends six hundred miles south of the Delta to the first cataract. The broad plains of the Delta and the comparatively narrow valley higher up make up the divisions of Egypt. In the primitive days Upper Egypt was wholly Ethiopian. Bunsen says that the early monuments reveal the primitive Egyptian, with head low and elongated, the forehead not amply developed, the nose short, thick, the lips full and large, the chin short and receding. In those days the rulers of Egypt were wholly Ethiopian. Look at authentic plates of early Egyptian Pharaohs, they are undeniably Cushite. The Great Sphinx, emblematic of an earlier king, is the full featured Ethiopian type. Look at the astounding countenance of Cheops. The counterpart of such a face can only be found among Ethiopians today. He is a perfect representation of the Cushite Ethiopian race that cast such giant shadows on time’s dawn.”  Drusilla Dunjee Houston, writing in late 1920’s to early 1930’s, in public domain.

This is a pretty fascinating read for anyone interested in human beginnings and our path to civilization.  One thing I found interesting was that the Egyptians and Ethiopians were circumcising male children-before the Hebrews and their gods even thought about it.

“Circumcision was a rite universally practiced as a part of the religion of the old Egyptians, as long as the native institutions flourished. It was a rite of the ruling Ethiopian element. Under Greek and Roman rule it fell into disuse but was always retained by the priesthood and those who desired to cultivate ancient wisdom. Herodotus said that all Ethiopians circumcised. Lenormant calls it original with them. The Coptic Church practices it to this day. Abyssinians do the same. They did not adopt it from the Jews for they circumcise both sexes. Oldendorpe finds the rite in western Africa. It must be a relic of ancient African customs. It is older than Mohammed, who did not regard it as a religious rite. Southern Arabia had the rite from Ethiopia. Himyartic Arabs (Cushites), circumcise their children on the eighth day. Pocock found that other Semitic Arabs circumcise between the tenth and fifteenth years.”

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