What kind of country do Republicans envision?

Given the Republican response to President Obama’s initiatives, one has to wonder exactly what the Republican vision for our nation actually is.  To try to determine that, let’s look at recent events.  If Republicans had prevailed on their opposition to the TARP bailouts of Wall Street banks, most economists believe that the entire world economy would have collapsed and we would be in the midst of a 2nd Great Depression.  Republicans argued against bailouts to General Motors and Chrysler which likely would have forced both into bankruptcy putting up to 10 million workers on unemployment.  Republicans fought the stimulus plan which, by even the most conservative estimates, has saved or created up to 2 million jobs.  And they have continued to whine about the growing deficits under Obama while lionizing Reagan for tripling our national debt.

The Republican alternative to Obama’s attempts to save our economy?  Tax cuts for the wealthy despite the fact that most economists believe such cuts would do nothing to alleviate our situation.  In fact, many feel that the tax cuts could make things worse!

Republicans have fought any form of banking regulation.  They have voted to keep the status quo on an unsustainable health care system that results in 33,000 deaths each year for lack of access.  They have voted against increasing benefits for military veterans.  Republicans refuse to allow the federal government to negotiate lower prices for pharmaceuticals as Canada and many other nations have done.  They are opposed to spending money to encourage the development of reasonable alternatives to fossil fuels.  They dismiss the international scientific community’s warnings of global climate change.  They have long stated their disdain for “entitlements” such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  They are vehemently opposed to labor unions.  They are opposed to social services for the poor, saying that they should be the responsibility of faith-based organizations.  Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices voted to corrupt our election process by permitting corporations (even those based overseas) to spend unlimited amounts of money in support of candidates who favor their positions. 

Under the Bush/Cheney regime, Republicans started two wars with no clear plan on how to win them, and no plan to pay for them.  (Indeed, they intentionally obscured the actual cost of the wars – in terms of dollars and lives.)  And they awarded billions to Halliburton and other corporations through no-bid contracts. 

The Democratic Congress has shown a decided lack of unity and will.  But based on the Republican record, why would anyone want to return the Republican Party to power?  Or their even less-pleasant brethren – the members of the Tea Party?

The Ghosts of George W. Bush and Richard (The Dick) Cheney.

On January 20, 2009, you probably thought the Bush/Cheney administration had come to an ignominious end.  You were wrong.  The problems generated by these goons still haunt us.  The war in Iraq may be winding down (although we can’t be certain), but the war in Afghanistan is growing.  The oil companies and Big Pharma are still holding a gun to our collective heads.  The Wall Street tycoons are still gambling with our money and paying themselves six to eight figure bonuses.  The corporations and utilities are still spewing poisons into our atmosphere.  The gun lobby is still rewriting laws to permit more weaponry.  Health insurance companies are still hauling in record profits while denying care to millions. 

Don’t blame Obama.  These issues all began or at least ballooned under Bush/Cheney and it will take years to change them. 

But these issues are the least of our problems.  Seriously!  The most problematic legacy of the Bush years is a Supreme Court dominated by conservatives who liberally support big corporations while denying rights for individuals.

And now that the Roberts Court has over-reached by over-turning 103 years of established law to allow unlimited funding for candidates by large corporations, what Senators or Congressional representatives will dare to vote against corporate interests when those corporations can spend millions, maybe billions, to defeat them in the next election?  What Gubernatorial or Legislative candidate will be able to raise enough money to compete with a corporate-sponsored foe?  The majority opinion of the Court says it ruled to erase limits on free speech.  The effect will be very much the opposite. 

The next big crisis facing Democrats.

For 30 years, the Grand Old Party of Corporations has fought to end welfare for the poor (although corporate welfare is just dandy), labor unions, workers’ compensation programs, public schools, and entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security.  And recent events have presented Republicans a golden opportunity to permanently undo 80 years of progressive initiatives. 

State income has plummeted as a result of the Republican-created financial collapse.  Now those states controlled by right-wing conservative legislatures are capitalizing on the recession by slashing budgets for public education, health care for at-risk children, and pensions.  And you can bet the wingnuts are going to blame it all on President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress. 

In my state of Arizona, a Republican-controlled legislature has slashed millions from an education system that already ranks 49th in the nation.  (Following the Republican philosophy of wresting control away from government, the state offers huge subsidies for private and parochial schools.  Of course, those subsidies are unaffected by budget cuts.)  The legislature is also closing state parks even though they are a necessary part of the state’s 2nd largest industry – tourism.  The legislature is even considering selling all state-owned buildings and leasing them back as part of long-term agreements which will pay the purchasers billions of taxpayer dollars.  But, according to Republicans, they’re only doing what Democrats won’t – balance the budget. 

Never mind that, for years, Republicans have cut taxes for the wealthy.  Never mind that the legislature refused to allow the Republican governor to place a temporary sales tax increase on the ballot.  It’s a perfect political climate for Republicans to orchestrate this charade. 

I hope voters are informed enough to make Republicans pay for it by voting for progressive candidates.  But since many rely on the Faux News Channel for information, they’re more likely to make matters worse by voting for the Tea Party, instead.

If you think herding cats is difficult, try Democrats.

The election of a Republican to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat in the U.S. Senate has clearly illustrated the disarray of the Democratic Party.  Despite holding the White House, the House of Representatives and a super majority in the Senate, Democrats have been either unable or unwilling to accomplish much of the agenda they campaigned for. 

Faced with a financial industry so greedy that it nearly caused the collapse of the international economy, Democrats have failed to institute new regulations to prevent future problems.  Faced with millions of unemployed, they failed to pass a stimulus bill large enough to create jobs.  Faced with mounting foreclosures, they failed to force lenders to restructure loans.  Faced with millions of uninsured and more than 33,000 deaths each year for the lack of access to health care, Democrats let Republicans and Tea Party wingnuts control the dialogue about health reform.  They publicly cut deals with insurance companies and big Pharma.  They allowed a few Congressmen to include more restrictive language on abortion.  They allowed one senator to kill the public option despite polls showing that a public option is favored by a significant majority of Americans.  And they allowed another senator to hijack the bill in order to gain major concessions for his state. 

It’s not that our nation’s current problems were created by Democrats.  They weren’t.  And it’s true that the Republicans, whose policies led to the problems, were determined to block any initiatives by Democrats.  But the fact remains, in one full year, Democrats were unable to solve them.  And given the fleeting attention spans of most voters, in their minds, these ongoing problems are now the fault of Democrats.   

So where does the party go from here? 

In my opinion, Democrats must take a lesson from Republicans.  When it comes to legislation, Democrats must act as if they’re joined at the hip.  They must craft legislation in caucus meetings and not present it to the public until they can all support it – without fear of defections.  They must better present their ideas to the public and explain their benefits.  And they must learn to be as ruthless as Republicans in trying to achieve their goals.  No more “gangs of six” that include Republicans trying to undermine the legislation.  Democrats can make it clear that they will work with Republicans, but only if Republicans are willing to work with them.

And the President must change his approach.  Although he obviously envisions himself a modern-day Lincoln who will pull together both parties and the nation, he must finally realize that you can’t achieve bi-partisanship when there is no “bi.”  He must realize that Republicans are serious about their desire to see him fail.  He must become more involved in legislation and more clearly set a path for his party.  He must become the leader we voted for. 

Failing these kinds of changes, we’re likely to see Democrats, and the nation, flounder.  If that happens, voters will believe the Democratic Party is incapable of governing.  And they will be right.

The Most Activist Court Ever!

For years, conservatives and the religious right have decried what they considered “activist” Justices on Supreme Court.  They howled about the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion.  Indeed, they screamed about any decision that restrained anti-abortionists.  They whined about any decision that protected the rights of gays and racial minorities.  And they went ballistic over decisions that affirmed separation of church and state.  On radio and television, some evangelists even prayed (or should I say preyed) for liberal Justices to die so that George W. Bush could nominate more conservative Justices.

Today, the conservative Supreme Court committed its most activist action ever. 

By undoing decades of prior decisions that limited the role of corporations in political campaign, the conservative Court gave a blank check to corporate intervention in our elections.  More precisely, they created an environment that will provide blank checks to candidates who are willing to legislate on behalf of corporations.

Let’s say the financial industry wants to fight regulation (and it does) it may now take all of those billions of dollars in bonuses and spend them on advertising for candidates who are opposed to financial regulation.  Or, let’s say the insurance industry wants to fight health care reform.  The insurance companies may now spend billions on candidates who will fight for the status quo.

If you think those prospects are chilling, imagine the impact on candidates themselves.  Will any candidate or elected representative be willing to make decisions that could be perceived negatively by large corporations?  Doubtful.  It’s almost a certainty that our Congressional Representatives, already unduly influenced by corporate lobbyists, will obediently pander to those with the money and influence to affect their political future.

How will independent individuals compete?  The short answer is they won’t be able to.  Thanks to Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Kennedy, Justice Alito and Justice Thomas, corporations and organizations now enjoy free speech and, soon, you will not.  From this day forward, it will be a government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations.

American terrorists.

What if I told you that there’s an organization in America that’s responsible for more than 30,000 deaths a year?  That’s nearly ten times the number of people who died in the attacks of 9/11.  And what if that organization was responsible for tens of thousands more deaths overseas from 2003 through 2008?  Would you want to declare war on such an organization?  Would you commit trillions of dollars to defeat it as we have to defeat al Qaeda? 

Would you be willing to disrupt and refashion an entire industry as we have transportation?  Would you expect to make individual sacrifices to defeat such an organization? 

Now, what if I told you that you could defeat these terrorists for much less?  What if you could defeat them merely by speaking out and committing a few dollars a year to benefit yourself?  What if your efforts not only saved lives; maybe your own; but also saved your hard-earned money? 

It’s possible.

All you have to do is to force Republican Senators and Representatives to accept a nationalized health care program.  They don’t even have to vote for it.  Most Democrats are willing to push it through themselves and they could if they didn’t have to worry about achieving a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

That act, of creating nationalized health care, could eventually save millions of American citizens.  It could save many more from bankruptcy as a result of serious illness.  It could save many of our small businesses, corporations, and even our state, county and city governments from financial ruin.  It could save hundreds of thousands of jobs and create many more.

So far, American citizens like you have been willing to spend “whatever it takes” to kill or capture al Qaeda members and stop them from killing more Americans.  Why wouldn’t you spend a few minutes calling your elected officials to save your neighbors, your friends, your family or yourself?

What are we fighting for?

I recently watched a documentary about the Civil War.  In discussing the events leading up to the war, the narrator stated, “For the Confederacy, it was dependent upon wealthy plantation owners convincing the poor to fight for them.” 

I could scarcely believe the openness and honesty of that statement! 

But isn’t that almost always the case?  True, many Union soldiers volunteered to join the battle as a fight against slavery.  And, in WWII, most U.S. soldiers joined the battle as retaliation for Pearl Harbor and to stop world domination by the Axis powers.  But most wars wouldn’t have happened if the rich hadn’t been able to manipulate the poor into fighting for them.

Many years ago, I found myself sitting next to the CBS bureau chief for Central and South America.  I told him I was confused about the situation in Nicaragua and El Salvador.  “Who are the good guys?” I asked.  He turned to me and laughed.  “There are no good guys.  Like most Americans, you’re under the false impression that U.S. foreign policy is about right and wrong.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The U.S. simply supports whoever is friendliest to our corporations,” he said. 

Since that conversation, I’ve examined conflicts with his words in mind.  Almost always, I’ve realized that our soldiers are ordered to fight to preserve corporate interests.  For example, the Afghan War was not only the result of the Taliban providing sanctuary for Al Qaeda.  Bush, Cheney and their oil buddies had long wanted to build a pipeline across that country.  The Iraq War was sold as a pre-emptive strike against Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.  But it was likely more about the oil reserves Saddam controlled.  And, according to a professor at Northern Arizona University who studies the origins and results of conflicts, our war in Bosnia was more about demonstrating the continued need for NATO following the fall of the Soviet Union than it was about the so-called genocide. 

Indeed, if the U.S. entered wars only to protect our homeland or American citizens, we likely wouldn’t have participated in the Opium War with China, the Spanish-American War, WWI, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bosnia and Iraq.  Moreover, we wouldn’t need to have our military stationed around the world in Germany, Japan, Okinawa, Bosnia, Turkey, Kuwait, Iraq, etc.

And if we entered wars solely for human rights abuses and the prevention of genocide, we likely would have sent troops to Tibet, Cambodia, Chile, East Timor, Sudan and dozens of other nations. 

So the next time you hear a politician start talking about the need to send our military halfway around the globe to protect “American interests,” ask yourself.  What interests does he or she really want to protect?  Those of our large, greedy corporations?  Or those of our citizenry? 

The Corporatization of America.

Those on the political right incessantly condemn government while, at the same time, promoting “privatization” – another word for corporatization.  What they want is to eliminate all forms of public regulation and turn all of our government affairs over to large corporations. 

They have a good start.

In the U.S., our health care and pharmaceutical industries have long been privately-owned and controlled.  This despite the fact that taxpayers provide large research grants to these companies to help them develop their products.  And over the past 30 years, we’ve seen increased privatization and control of the food chain, schools, prisons, even the military.  The mercenary company, Blackwater (aka Xe), has become a household word for its role in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Indeed, some reports state that there are as many mercenaries working for the U.S. in those wars as there are government troops.  We’ve even seen our government award patents (and the resulting control) to corporations for genetic discoveries, including plant hybrids even though they were often subsidized by our government.  Perhaps the greatest threat of this privatization nonsense is to our water supplies. 

Appearing on Christiane Amanpour’s CNN program, Robert Kennedy, Jr. stated that this is becoming a very big concern throughout the world.  He stated that water is one of the biggest bargaining issues for peace between Israelis and the Arab world.  And, according to Kennedy, the issue we’re seeing in the Middle East is now becoming a very big issue in the western U.S.  For example, as the result of urban and irrigation pressures, the Colorado River now runs dry before it hits the ocean.  Lake Powell, which provides water for Las Vegas, is projected to be dry in 20-50 years.  In addition, much of the prime farmland in California now lacks water for irrigation because of the demand on reservoirs.  Of course, some suggest that the solution is to give control of water supplies to private corporations. 

This is a very bad idea.

This privatization stupidity has gone so far that some want corporations to take over public lands, public parks and public buildings.  In the state of Arizona, the Republican-controlled legislature has already cut millions from education, tourism and public safety in its attempts to balance the budget while simultaneously cutting taxes.  Yet those measures haven’t been sufficient.   So the Republicans are actually promoting legislation that would force the state to sell all state-owned public buildings to individuals or corporations and lease them back.  The result would be to literally hand billions to the buyers at the expense of the taxpayers who paid to build them.

If the choice is between a well-regulated government and greedy corporations (think AIG, Goldman-Sachs, BankofAmerica, et al), which would you want to control your fate? 

The cost of tax cuts.

Everybody complains about paying taxes.  But Republicans and Teabaggers have turned their complaints into an art form.  Indeed, just last week, they were whining that the Obama administration allowed a number of Bush-era tax cuts to lapse.  Yet these people are the first to complain when our government entities don’t work as they expect.  Somehow, they seem incapable of seeing the connection. 

For the past 40-plus years, Republicans have been cutting taxes on the wealthiest U.S. citizens and U.S. corporations.  They’ve even cut estate taxes (the so-called death tax). 

All of this tax-cutting has had a profound effect on our infrastructure. 

Except in our largest cities, our highways haven’t been substantially improved since the 50s and 60s.  As evidenced by the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, many of our nation’s bridges are in woeful repair.  Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t Hurricane Katrina that caused the disaster in New Orleans.  It was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s archaic levee system.   And in California, another levee system responsible for much of Los Angeles’ water is eroding making it highly vulnerable to a catastrophic event. 

Our electric grid needs to be replaced.   Many of our largest cities’ sewer systems are collapsing.  Security at our airports is incapable of stopping all terrorists, and the security for our ports is much worse.  Our schools are falling behind those in many other nations.  And, unlike most wealthy nations, we can’t provide basic health care to all of our citizens (although that is, hopefully, about to change).

What’s the reaction of Republicans when faced with these facts?  Not surprisingly, they merely call for more tax cuts.