The Trouble With Arizona.

In recent years, Arizona has earned a reputation as hot, crazy, extreme and angry.  I hate to admit it, but these characterizations are all accurate.

Certainly, the “Valley of the Sun” surrounding Phoenix reaches summer-time temperatures that would make Satan drool.  But the extreme heat could also refer to Arizona politics.

You see, Arizona was settled by Confederate soldiers and Confederate sympathizers who were escaping the aftermath of the Civil War.  Drawn here by the prospects of ranching and prospecting for gold, these people were literally running away from civilization.  Of course, that might also describe many of the more recent arrivals.  Since the invention of air conditioning, conservatives from Southern California, New England and the upper Midwest have been drawn to Arizona by its reputation for conservative politics.  Tired of being part of a political minority in their previous states, they came to Arizona to get their cowboy on.

This is, after all, the land of Barry Goldwater.

Now in the political majority (albeit a slight majority), these people buy cowboy hats and guns and strut around like the bullies they are.  Our legislature reflects this mentality.  Over the past 8 years, the Arizona government has cut nearly $2 billion from public education because Teapublicans consider it a form of socialism.  As a result, according to some surveys, our state now ranks 51st in spending per pupil (behind all the other states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico).  The Arizona legislature has sold off our state buildings, even our state capitol, to private enterprise resulting in millions of additional spending per year.

The Arizona legislature and our finger-wagging governor signed SB1070 into law – not just to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants, but to further populate the private prison industry.  This despite the fact that Arizona already leads the nation and the world in the percentage of its citizens that are incarcerated.  In fact, Arizona spends 40 percent more on prisons than any other state in the Union (that is, if you still consider Arizona to be part of the Union).

In recent years, the state has closed many of its state parks and many of its Interstate rest stops despite the fact that tourism is Arizona’s largest industry.

Now many Arizona conservatives are pushing a sovereignty bill that would attempt to reclaim national parks and federal lands.  Of course, this would be unconstitutional.  But that doesn’t matter to these ideologues.  We already lead the nation in the number of lawsuits and legal challenges to the federal government.

Of course, many of us are working hard to change the state and it’s renegade image.  Our reward is to have political signs stolen, cars vandalized and numerous physical threats.

So Kansas, you can now enjoy a sigh of relief.  Your state is no longer considered the wackiest state in the nation.  Arizona has seen your wackiness and raised you a large sum of stupidity.

Teapublican Obstinance Jeopardizing Economy Again.

Last Fall, Teapublican demands that Democrats make drastic cuts to the so-called “entitlement” programs led our still fragile economy to the very brink, resulting in the first ever downgrade of our credit rating.  While Democrats were willing to make cuts, Teapublicans steadfastly refused to consider revenue increases such as letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those who make more than $250,000 per year in adjusted gross income.

Now Teapublicans are at it again.

They refused to discuss the budget and debt ceiling until after the election, hoping that they would gain control of the White House or Senate so they could force through their own agenda.

In the meantime, the uncertainty is causing manufacturers and other large corporations to hold back on investments in production and hiring.  As a result, our economy is growing at a much smaller rate than it might otherwise.  And, if Teapublicans again push deficit discussion to the brink, they just might cause our economy to go over the cliff again.

Don’t believe me?  Read It’s Even Worse Than It Looks by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein.  It details the history of the dysfunction of our political system and places much of the blame on Newt Gingrich and the new breed of ideologues in the Teapublican caucus.  And before you think the authors are “wild-eyed” liberals, Mann is a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution and Ornstein is a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Obama’s America In 2016.

The shockumentary “2016” provides one man’s view of what America will be like in 2016 should President Obama be re-elected.  The future it portrays would be dim, indeed, IF this example of Teapublican propaganda were true.

But “2016” is based on a false premise…that President Obama is un-American.  That he’s a socialist out to destroy the very nation he has sworn to protect.

In truth, given his history of accomplishment against long odds, no one represents the American Dream better than Barack Obama.  And despite Teapublican rhetoric (and the film’s premise), Obama’s policies are decidedly not un-American.  In fact, the reverse is true.  It is the continuation of Teapublican policies that threatens to undermine our democracy.

For 40 years, the GOP (Guardians Of Privilege) have weighted tax cuts to aide the wealthy and large, multi-national corporations.  They have engaged in union-busting and cut funds for the poor.  They have used those in the military to pursue their goals of international domination and they’ve abandoned them as soon as they were injured or retired.  In order to win election, they have vilified teachers, firefighters, our postal service, government employees and immigrants.  In order to maximize the profits of multi-nationals, the GOP has proposed to eliminate the agencies responsible for clean air, clean water and product safety.  GOP policies have even rewarded those who ship jobs overseas and who take advantage of offshore tax havens.

President Obama threatens to change all that.  He dares to propose tax fairness, higher standards for fuel efficiency, sustainable forms of energy, investment in infrastructure, improved education and incentives to bring jobs home to the US.

So every time you see an ad for “2016,” imagine how much better off we’ll be with President Obama in the White House than with Mitt the Twit and his 47 percent-hating plutocrats.

The Corporatization Of America.

Teapublicans are fond of calling President Obama a socialist, a communist or worse.  Of course, there is absolutely no evidence to substantiate their claims.

Most likely, the reason for their accusations is to distract voters from recognizing what’s really happening to their country.  Over the past 40 years, Teapublican policies have given virtually all of the political power to large, multi-national corporations as well as the very wealthy and the very powerful. They’ve accomplished this through the systematic use of propaganda.

Following more than a decade of acccusations that mainstream media was liberally-biased, they were able to repeal the Fairness Doctrine in 1987.  Within 20 years of the repeal, 91 percent of talk radio was conservative blather, giving them a large megaphone with which to peddle their ideas.

In the 1980s, Republican-appointed bureaucrats (along with a few Democrats) approved an unprecedented number of mergers and acquisitions in defiance of monopoly laws.  It was done under the guise of globalization; to better prepare American corporations to compete with European and Japanese businesses.  As part of this globalization, multi-national corporations were permitted (actually incentified) to ship manufacturing jobs overseas in order to cut labor costs and crush labor unions.

The Free Trade Act, intended to make it easier to export our products, instead made it even easier to export our jobs.  It also allowed our subsidized agri-businesses to dump cheap corn into Mexico and Central America, displacing tens of thousands of small farmers.

When Americans began to recognize the full impact of jobs being sent overseas, Teapublicans created straw dogs.  Prior to elections, they proposed so-called “values” legislation banning abortions, banning gay marriage, and denouncing so-called attacks on Christianity in order to distract voters.  They blamed our economic problems on immigrants, unions, “entitlements,” government employees, teachers and first responders to keep voters from focusing on the real issues.

Conservative Supreme Court justices ruled that money equals free speech, and that corporations should enjoy the same rights as individuals.  Of course, these rulings allow multi-nationals to spend as much as they want to elect officials who will be most favorable to their issues.

To keep President Obama from meddling with their grand corporate plan, Teapublican legislatures passed a variety of strict voter ID laws to disenfranchise many of those most likely to vote for Obama.  Now they’re crying “Class Warfare” and “Redistribution of Wealth!”

Will they continue to get away with this corporate takeover?  Or will the majority of Americans finally recognize what’s happening and take our country back?

Who’s Really Redistributing Wealth?

Following the “Mitt Happens” moment in which Romney was caught on video disparaging the 47 percent who pay no income taxes, Teapublicans have countered, claiming that President Obama and the Democrats are guilty of trying to “redistribute wealth.”

Apparently, they believe Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, VA benefits, GI Bill benefits, Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamps are evidence of “class warfare.”

Fact is, redistribution of wealth has occured since the beginning of graduated federal income taxes in 1862.  The idea was to ask the wealthy to pay a larger percentage of their income in taxes than those who are less fortunate.  Our tax code embraced the idea until the election of Ronald Reagan.

Reagan’s flawed policy of “Trickle Down” economics greatly reduced tax rates for the rich while, at the same time, increasing taxes on the poor and the middle class.  Indeed, one of the largest tax increases in history was Reagan’s elimination of tax deductions for interest on loans: car loans, college loans, credit card loans, etc.  Now who do you think was harmed the most by that change?

Around the same time, Reagan eliminated the estate tax (aka the “death tax”) so the wealthy could pass their accumulated wealth to their children without penalty, and Teapublicans cut the capital gains tax rate paid on earnings from stocks and other investments.

More recently, the infamous Bush tax cuts were also weighted to benefit the wealthy.

But that’s only part of the redistribution of wealth upward.  During the past 40 years, multi-national corporations have been given a host of unfair competitive advantages over their smaller competitors.  Teapublican policies not only encouraged them to ship jobs overseas. They allowed multi-nationals to shelter income overseas in order to avoid paying taxes to the very government responsible for their success.

Meanwhile, small businesses and ordinary citizens have been asked to take up the slack.

The result of all this is the hollowing out of the middle class, the destruction of our domestic manufacturing base and the deterioration of our infrastructure.  It has led to higher unemployment, lower federal revenues, decaying cities, higher poverty and millions without access to basic healthcare.  Over the same time period, the wealthy have gotten even wealthier.

Class warfare, indeed!

A Political Party So Obstructionist It Even Opposes Itself.

For years, GOP governors have asked for changes in the welfare reform bill of 1996.  They wanted more flexibility in how states measure work requirements, hoping that changes would help even more people move from welfare to work.  Even Governor Mitt Romney supported such changes in 2005.

Upon the recommendation of his Health and Human Services department, President Obama endorsed the changes.

Of course, that meant Teapublicans had to oppose the changes.  Mitt Romney and his Wisconsin partner-in-lies immediately went on the attack, saying “President Obama wants to eliminate the work requirement for welfare.”  They even made a TV commerical repeating the lie.

On Thursday, Liein’ Ryan and his obstructionist House-mates made it official.  They voted against the welfare changes that their own party requested.

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone who has followed Teapublican hypocrisy over the past four years.  Following the Inauguration-night strategy meeting during which Teapublican leaders vowed to block every initiative by President Obama, they have steadfastly refused to support the administration even if it means attacking their own ideas such as Romneycare…er, Obamacare.

Is it any wonder Congress hasn’t been able to pass tax reform and jobs bills?

The Real Mitt Romney.

By now, you probably know that the Teapublican presidential nominee earned hundreds of millions as one of the founders of Bain Capital.  But how much do you know about how a venture capital company works?

(Hint: It uses roughly the same tactics that made the Mafia one of the most hated crime syndicates on Earth.)

Don’t believe me?  Take a look at Matt Taibbi’s fine article in Rolling Stone magazine.

It’s Not Just About The 47 Percenters.

The video of Mitt Romney’s speech to a Florida gathering of the wealthy shows his utter contempt for much of America.

Who are those he considers to be “freeloaders?”  They are not the “welfare queens” and lazy louts you might expect.  The 47 percent who have not paid federal income taxes in the past few years include the working poor, the elderly, veterans, military who are serving in a combat zone, even the wealthy who have enough tax write-offs to zero out their federal income taxes.

But Mitt didn’t limit his disparaging comments to the 47 percent.   He also went out of his way to insult Latinos and other minorities.  And he again inserted his highly polished loafers in his mouth with regard to foreign policy.

He said that Palestinians do not want peace, so as president, he would just kick the issue down the road.  After all, by Mitt’s standards, the Palestinians trapped in Israeli-controlled ghettos don’t earn enough money to be of consequence.

None of this should come as any surprise to those who have followed Romney’s career. 

As a vulture capitalist, he showed complete disdain for those who lost their jobs as the result of his hostile takeovers and business conquests.  His tax-evading investments in offshore accounts display a lack of patriotism for the country that allowed him to accumulate wealth.  And his trip to Europe during the Olympics showed his incompetence and lack of tact with regard to foreign policy, leading European media to label him “Mitt the Twit” and the “American Borat.”

So let’s review: Contempt for nearly half of our voters, dismantling American companies and shipping jobs overseas, legalized tax evasion, and arrogance in dealing with foreign leaders.

Exactly why should anyone other than the very wealthy vote for you, Mitt?

Get Yer Guns Before Obama Bans Them!

For the past four years, the National Rifle Association has fomented panic among the pistol-packing, assault rifle-collecting gun nuts that President Obama is going to take away their Second Amendment rights.  Of course, this fear has about as much veracity as the claims that President Obama is a foreign-born, un-American, freedom-hating Muslim.  But wingnuts and the NRA have never let the truth get in the way of a good fear-baiting story.

The truth is that Obama has never publicly stated a position on gun ownership.

Nevertheless, the NRA-fueled concerns persist, creating a huge windfall for the gun industry.  Domestic gun sales have soared.  And with each new mass killing, the sales spike higher, putting even more guns in the hands of the paranoid, the bullies, the cowards and the mentally-disturbed.  According to Sturm, Ruger & Co. President and CEO Mike Fifer, “It took us nearly all of 2011 to build 1 million firearms, but in 2012 we accomplished it on August 15th

The NRA rumors and racist lies about Obama have even given birth to a new industry – that of “prepping.”  Demand from hate-mongering wingnuts, domestic terrorist groups and the tinfoil hat crowd has led to thousands of Americans building “safe houses” and stocking them with enough food to last for years and enough weapons to launch World War III.

Of course, it can’t all be credited to the irrational hatred of our first black president.

Some preppers believe in the Mayan 2012 “prophecy.”  Some believe the Teapublican lies that liberals have led our nation to the precipice.  Others are worried about the black-shirted “New World Order” taking away our freedoms.  Even more are worried about the growing Latino, African-American and immigrant populations which will relegate angry old white people to minority status.

Let freedom ratta-tat-tat-tat…er, ring.

In The Public Interest?

In 1934, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was given the power to license wire and broadcast communications, demanding that licensees prove they operate “in the public interest.” Not long afterward, the FCC implemented The Fairness Doctrine, which required licensees to present issues of public importance and do so in a manner that was deemed “honest, equitable and balanced.”

Unfortunately, the Fairness Doctrine was eliminated in 1987, following years of attacks by the political right beginning with Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Since then, our media has failed on almost every level…except for generating massive amounts of money.

It’s no coincidence that, following the end of the Fairness Doctrine, broadcast stations and networks have been swallowed up by large media conglomerates.  To maximize profits, the new owners diminished long-established news-gathering organizations, such as the once-proud CBS News which was home to legendary newsmen like Edward R. Murrow, Douglas Edwards, Walter Cronkite, Eric Severeid, and far too many others to mention.

At the same time, radio was hijacked by blathering, angry wingnuts such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.  And the newspaper industry has been virtually replaced by on-line “news” sites that provide a few headlines with little depth or context.

The result of all this is that we no longer have in-depth reporting, especially with regard to politics.  TV networks are filled with “human interest” and are almost devoid of “public interest.”  The most popular cable news network is little more than a megaphone for Teapublican talking points.  Radio is filled with conservative lies.  And newspapers have redirected their efforts toward local news gathering.

(Ironically, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones and Vanity Fair, which were once special interest magazines, are now doing more in-depth investigative reporting on national and international issues than nearly all of the so-called “news” media combined.)

It is precisely this news void that has allowed the Republican Party, the Tea Party and its unscrupulous candidates, such as George W. Bush, Richard “The Dick” Cheney, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to become serial liars. And we’re all paying a price for it through tax cuts for billionaires and tax subsidies for large corporations, resulting in enormous deficits and endless wars of choice.

What can you do about it?

For one thing, you can ask your Congressional Representative and Senators to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. You can demand your state universities teach students that journalism is more than mere reporting; it’s a never-ending search for the truth. You can call out candidates whenever you hear them lie. And you can support the few media left that actually practice real journalism.