Are We Now Officially Living In A Police State?

When the American public watched televised scenes of non-violent black marchers being attacked by baton-wielding police and their dogs in the 1950s south, the public’s disgust virtually assured the end of the Jim Crow era.

When students at Kent State University were shot by National Guard troops for demonstrating against the Vietnam War, public outrage made the end of the war inevitable.

So what are we to make of the general indifference our citizens have shown toward the police brutality at Occupy Wall Street demonstrations?

If you haven’t been paying attention, New York police have routinely emptied pepper spray containers in the faces of non-violent demonstrators before hauling them off to jail. During one example of police brutality, an Iraq veteran confronted officers by asking, “Why are you doing this? You are supposed to be serving our citizens.” He went on to explain that he was in the Military Police in Iraq, and the military never treated Iraqis this way.

On the other side of the country, witnesses say another Iraq veteran was critically injured by police as he was demonstrating against Wall Street and the 1%. The Oakland, California police claim they were merely breaking up the demonstration with the use of rubber bullets and tear gas canisters because of “unsafe sanitary conditions.”

In other words, we gassed and beat you to ensure your safety!

Despite these horrible incidents, most of our citizens (particularly Teapublicans) have reacted with a collective ho-hum. Why? Perhaps it’s because scenes of police abusing demonstrators have become common-place.

Our Constitution guarantees the right to assembly and free speech. Yet many in Congress, the media, and our increasingly militarized city police departments seem to have conveniently forgotten that.

Instead, they blame the protestors for police violence.

It’s time for all US citizens to look at the police violence and ask, “Is this the future of our country? Are we now willing to accept brutality from Kevlar helmeted police armed with tear gas, assault rifles and even tanks? Are we willing to concede that corporations have freedom of speech, but ordinary citizens do not? Is it okay for big corporate interests to bankrupt our economy, ask the government to bail them out then pay themselves millions in bonuses with taxpayer money? Are we okay with living in a police state?

And if the answers are yes, what can we expect in the future?  Scenes similar to the military crackdown in Syria? Threats by our own Gaddafis to kill protestors like rats? Or a US citizen blocking a column of US tanks in a futile attempt to stop a violent attack on peaceful protestors? Where does it stop?

Proof That Trickle-Down Economics Work.

In the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s Budget Director, David Stockman, revived an old economic theory as the basis for the Reagan administration’s economic policy. Reaganomics, aka Trickle-Down economics, aka Supply-Side economics was based on the “Horse and Sparrow” theory of the 1890s, which some believe was responsible for the Panic of 1896.

The basis of the theory is the notion, “If you feed a horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.”

Of course, Reagan and Stockman stated the benefits of their plan somewhat differently. Their belief was that if you cut taxes for the wealthy, particularly those on capital gains from investments, the wealthy would spend the extra money on additional goods and services thereby creating more jobs for the middle and lower classes. Despite its many critics, the theory has been championed by Teapublicans ever since.

Has it worked? One might say that it has worked all too well…for the rich.

According to a recent study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), from 1979 to 2007 after-tax income for the top 1 percent of US households has nearly tripled, rising by 279 percent. Over the same time period, after-tax income for the middle class grew by just 40 percent. And those at the bottom saw their incomes increase by just 18 percent.

So, by every measure, Trickle-Down economics have reduced income to a mere trickle for all but the very wealthy. Or, if you relate the results to the “Horse and Sparrow” theory, the supposed benefits are just plain horse dung.

Teapublican Lie #23.

“President Obama is not an American Citizen.”

The fact that any of us feel compelled to address this idiocy after more than 3 years of intense investigation is sad.  Yet this nonsense continues to pervade the ethernet. 

Never mind that the Federal Election Commission accepted President Obama’s birth certificate as evidence of his citizenship.  Never mind that the Hawaii governor, Hawaii secretary of state and virtually every other Hawaiian leader have certified his citizenship and proudly proclaim that he was born in Hawaii.  Never mind that there are archival birth notices in Hawaii newspapers announcing the birth of Barack Hussein Obama in a Honolulu hospital.  Never mind that the Republican Party, Tea Party leaders, media reporters, and right wing lunatics have spent millions in attempts to investigate claims that he was born elsewhere.

There is not one shred of proof that President Obama is not an American citizen.  Not one!  Yet Teapublicans continue to raise the question.

One has to ask why.

I believe the answer is simple.  If Teapublicans can delude themselves into thinking President Obama is not a citizen, then he is not really our president.  Therefore, they don’t have to respect him or anything he says.  They can tell themselves that he was elected only as the result of imaginary voter fraud by Acorn and inner city “thugs.”  They can tell themselves that all of our nation’s problems are the result of the policies of this “foreign born” interloper.

If this is how they react following Obama’s election by an overwhelming majority, imagine what they’ll do when he’s re-elected.

How Did We Get Here?

Once upon a time, the most distinguishing characteristic between Republicans and Democrats was a difference in opinion on how to solve social problems and improve our nation.

For example, Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and presidential candidate Robert Dole all agreed to the need for universal healthcare. They simply offered different means of accomplishing it. Indeed, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama was actually based upon ideas by Nixon, Dole and Mitt Romney – all Republicans.

Contrary to current party ideologies, it was a Republican senator who authored the first anti-trust act. It was a Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, who most aggressively enforced it to break up large corporate monopolies such as Standard Oil. And contrary to the Republican Party’s conservative heritage, it was Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who created most of our national debt.

Similarly, it was a “liberal” Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who most aggressively controlled revenue and spending resulting in annual budget surpluses.

Unfortunately, the subtle gap between the ideologies has turned into an ever-expanding gulf.

Even as the Democratic Party has moved to the center right, the Republican Party has lept to the way-off-the-map extreme right. Republicans no longer talk about merely limiting government. They now talk about “starving the beast” and declare the government as the enemy. Indeed, they have set their sights on eliminating entire departments and agencies.

They demand an end to the intrusion of government into their lives. At the same time, they want to tell women what they can and cannot do to their own bodies.

They protect the incomes of millionaires and billionaires while rewarding corporations for sending middle class jobs overseas. They rail against class warfare as they continue to redistribute wealth upward. They approve of billionaires paying a lower percentage of their incomes than working people.

They praise the Founding Fathers while denying the very principles they fought for. Though the Founding Fathers declared that “all men are created equal,” Republicans deny equality to gays, blacks, latinos and anyone else who is different. Thanks to Republican appointments to the Supreme Court, corporations now have the rights of people. And since the same Republican-appointed members of the Court ruled that money equals free speech, large corporations have more rights than people.

The differences between the parties are abundantly clear. The question is how on Earth did we ever get here?

Teapublicans Are A Disgrace To The Term “Redneck.”

Many Teapublicans, especially those in the South, are fond of referring to themselves as Rednecks. They interpret that to mean that they are common sense, down-to-earth people. They take pride in the fact that they’re relatively uneducated in contrast to the “pointy-headed liberals.”

Not surprisingly, it’s a false pride.

In fact, most of these people are diametricly opposed to the priniciples of the original Rednecks. You see, the term Redneck actually stems from the organized labor movement. In the early 1900s, West Virginia coal miners were fighting for better pay and better working conditions. The mine owners convinced the local law enforcement authorities to fight their battle for them. In late August and early September 1921, 10,000-15,000 coal miners confronted an army of police and strikebreakers. They met on Blair Mountain where they battled for days. More than a million rounds of ammunition were fired. The fighting only stopped when the US Army intervened following a presidential order.

What does that have to do with Rednecks?

Since those fighting did not have uniforms to identify friend from foe, the miners wrapped red kerchiefs around their necks. The term, Redneck, stuck.

Today, not only are the rights to collective bargaining once again under attack by corporate interests. The battlefield on top of Blair Mountain is also under assault by big coal. A coal company wants to remove the entire mountaintop to get at the coal below. To add insult to injury, the coal company owners are supported by modern day “Rednecks.”

Teapublican Lie #22.

“Welfare moms are worse for our economy than welfare CEOs.”

For years, you’ve heard Teapublicans rail against freeloading welfare moms. They portray them as lazy, drug-addled minority women who turn themselves into baby factories to scam the system and live in relative luxury. Right?

In fact, a Teapublican candidate for the Nebraska Unicameral recently compared them to racoons saying, “They’re going to do it the easy way if we make it easy for them.” And Florida Governor Rick Scott recently signed into law a bill that requires Floridians to submit urine, blood and hair samples before they can receive cash aid from the state.

However, according to the statistics, the majority of those who receive Aid For Dependent Children are white and receive benefits for 2 years or less. Half of all welfare recipients leave the program in the first two years.  Most have only one or 2 children.  And the majority are over 20 years old.

Many succumbed to the “if you really love me, you’ll…” line. But many are divorced and a few are widowed. Contrary to Gov. Scott’s expectations, very few are chemically dependent. And they’re hardly living in luxury.

For example, those who qualify for W-2 Transition (W-2 T) funds reserved for participants who have limited ability to work receive payments of $628 per month with a lifetime eligibility limit of 60 months. Not exactly what Teapublicans want you to believe about so-called “welfare queens” is it?

Now, let’s examine the “welfare kings” of corporate America.

We have given millions of acres to mining companies while requiring no royalties in return. We gave railroads millions of acres and millions of dollars in subsidies for construction. We built and maintain 340,000 miles of logging roads for the timber industry in addition to giving them subsidies of more than $111 million annually. Subsidies to oil and gas companies total more than $40 billion per year.

We provide billions to corporations for the research and development of new drugs and new weapons systems, even providing foreign aid to other nations to help them buy our weapons. We offer corporations insurance at below market rates to encourage overseas investments in high-risk nations. We provide farm subsidies to corporate farmers. State and city governments provide incentives to attract large corporations. They also provide millions to help billionaire owners of sports franchises to build new stadiums and sports arenas.

And, lest you think the Troubled Asset Relief Program was the first time we bailed out financial institutions, don’t forget that we forked over $500 billion to the savings and loan industry in the 1980s.

In short, we allow large corporations to privatize their profits and socialize their risks. Is it any wonder that in previous generations their owners were called “Robber Barons?”

Origins Of The Right’s Misplaced Hate Of Obama.

I confess that I’ve long been confused about the intense (and, I believe irrational) hatred of President Obama, when it appears to me that he has been guilty of nothing more than trying to correct the problems created by the previous administration.

Upon reflection, I believe it stems from the Right’s unfailing belief in the so-called “free” market.

When the economy, led by the housing market and a lack of common-sense regulations, careened off a cliff in late 2008, the Bush administration recommended a bill to Congress that called for the US to spend billions in order to prop up the failing banks. Lacking the support of Republican leaders in Congress, the measure initially failed. But when the stock markets crashed as a result, enough Congressmen were persuaded to change their votes and the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) went into effect.

The program ultimately stabilized the markets and the economy enough to prevent the Great Recession from turning into a second Great Depresssion. Yet many Republicans were furious. They believed TARP to be a government intrusion into the infallibility of free market principles. When President Obama subsequently offered government-backed loans to General Motors and Chrysler in order to stave off the collapse of the American automobile industry, the free market Republicans and Libertarians went ballistic.

Capitalizing on an idea by a Republican strategist, groups such as the Koch-funded American FreedomWorks spent millions to rally free market believers to protest. They labeled the movement a modern day Tea Party. It turned out to be the perfect way to inspire the Republican base which was dispirited following the 2008 elections.

Teapublicans deluded themselves into believing that the Great Recession was not the fault of the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act or the Bush administration’s lax oversight of the financial industry.

They focused, instead, on President Obama’s attempts to fend off an economic Armegeddon. In addition, they convinced themselves that the national debt, which had doubled under President Bush, was now the fault of President Obama. They believed the auto bail-outs and economic stimulus were evidence that the administration was moving toward socialism. The President’s eventual signing of a bill to reform the out-of-control healthcare system added even more fuel to the torches being carried by the Tea Party.

When viewed in context, the Teapublican fears seem irrational. But when viewed through a partisan lens and slavish devotion to free market principles, regardless of their consequences, the fears are understandable, if not logical.

Moreover, this helps to explain why so many lower and middle class Americans vote against their self-interest by supporting Republican candidates determined to transfer wealth upward through tax breaks for the wealthy.

Over many years of listening to Fox News pundits and Rush-to-the-table Limbaugh, these people have become convinced that all of their problems will be solved if only we rid ourselves of government intrusion and allow Teapublican leaders to work their free market magic. Indeed, these voters are likely convinced that the only thing standing between them and unimagined riches are evil Democrats, who in their Teapublican minds, are trying to replace capitalism with socialism, or worse yet, communism or fascism.

Never mind that many of these people don’t have a clue of what any of these “isms” actually mean. Hence the Tea Party signs that read “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.”

Teapublican Lie #21.

“Teapublicans are pro-life.”

I guess it depends on whose life we’re talking about.

Yes, Teapublicans do protect the unborn by fighting all abortion, even if carrying the child to full-term endangers the health of the woman. But, after the child is born, as far as they’re concerned, it’s on its own. For example, Teapublicans have opposed or cut funding for stem cell research that could save lives, even if the stem cells are taken from umbilical cords after the birth of a child.

Teapublicans have opposed or cut funding for so-called “Welfare Moms” that would help to feed and house children. They have opposed funding for SCHIP, the federal program that provides healthcare to children of those living below the poverty line. They’ve opposed the extension of unemployment benefits forcing many families into homelessness. They’ve opposed programs such as Early Childhood Family Education. They’ve opposed sex education, which might result in fewer unwanted pregnancies and abortions. Indeed, they’ve opposed education in general, as evidenced by their draconian cuts to the funding of public education in virtually every “Red” state.

What Teapublicans do favor is easy access to guns which result in the homicides of more than 12,000 Americans annually. They also seem to favor war, such as the “blood for oil” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which have killed tens of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan children, not to mention more than 4,600 US troops.

So even though Democrats favor a woman’s right to choose when it comes to her own body, tell me. Which is the true pro-life party?

A Fast And Furious Gunfight.

Teapublicans, especially those in Arizona, have their tea bags in a knot over a botched 2009 sting operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives code-named “Fast and Furious.”

The operation, which apparently began out of frustration with the courts’ failure to adequately convict and punish those who provide guns to the Mexican drug cartels, focused on a group of “straw buyers” who purchased more than 1,500 weapons from Phoenix-area gun dealers. According to records, dozens of AK-47 type weapons would be purchased at once. The buyers would often return a few days later to buy many more weapons from the same stores. Rather than bust the buyers, ATF agents were told by supervisors to let the guns “walk” in hopes of tracking them to those who were directing the gun buys on behalf of the cartels.

When two of the weapons were later found to have been involved in the death of US Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, there was understandable outrage.

The Teapublican-controlled Congress seized upon the story in order to embarrass the Obama administration. Congressman Darrell Issa even called for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder.  Yet it was Teapublican interference and policies which created the environment that led to the operation.

B. Todd Jones, who has now assumed command of the bureau is the fifth “acting director” since 2006. Thanks to Teapublican obstructionism, the 5,000-employee ATF has not had a permanent director since it was spun off from the Treasury Department in 2006. All of the people nominated by the Bush and Obama administrations to regulate the $28 billion firearms industry have been opposed by the gun rights lobby, including veteran ATF agent, Andrew Traver, whose nomination has been stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee for nearly a year.

Also, Arizona’s Teapublican-sponsored gun laws are at the very root of the weapons smuggling problem. The state’s laws, which were written by the National Rifle Association, permit any citizen who can pass a federal background check to walk into an Arizona gun shop and buy as many weapons as he or she wants. The laws are even more lax when it comes to the state’s many gun shows where there are no background checks.

Finally, the state’s laws provide little real punishment for the straw buyers. If they’re caught, they usually face charges of falsely stating that they purchased the guns for themselves, a punishment that hardly fits the crime.

Teapublican Lie #20.

“Teabaggers are patriots. Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are misguided thugs and revolutionaries.”

The Tea Party claimed to be a grassroots movement, but in reality, it was created by Republican strategists, financed by Republican think tanks and billionaires, and promoted and publicized by Fox News Channel, Rush-To-Judgement Limbaugh and the rest of the Republican megaphones.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, on the other hand, receives no money from millionaires and billionaires. It has no think tanks to fund it. And it has no media organizations under its control. The movement was created by a diverse group of young people fed up with the wealthy who control Congress and dictate public policy. And it’s growing.

So why are the Teapublicans now dismissing them as out-of-control rabble? Why are Teapublicans portraying them as dangerous and disrespectful? And why are Teapublicans saying “they ought to get a job?” Actually, that’s the question at the very heart of the movement. The Occupy Wall Streeters want to get a job, but feel that Teapublican policies dictated by the wealthy prevent them from any chance of success.

Instead of trying to initiate legislation that might create jobs to make the Occupy Wall Streeters go home, Teapublicans would rather spend their time denying tax hikes for millionaires and billionaires. And they are using their media megaphones to portray the movement as dangerous. On his daily radio diatribe, Glenn Beck even said, “They’re coming to kill you!”

Hmmm…think about it for a moment. Which group brought guns to their rallies and carried signs with overt threats against Congress and the President? Here’s a hint: It wasn’t the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.