The GOP’s Clown Car To Autocracy.

No, that’s not hyperbole. And, no, Donald Trump, the narcissistic and wannabe autocrat, is not on the ballot. But, across the nation, many equally seditious and treason-adjacent candidates are. They call themselves Republicans. And some of them make the conspiracy-loving Marjorie Taylor-Greene, the gun-toting Lauren Boebert, the insurrectionist Paul Gosar, and the alleged child sex trafficker Matt Gaetz seem almost moderate.

For example, in Arizona, Trump acolyte Mark Finchem will carry the Trump banner forward as the Republican nominee for Arizona Secretary of State. If he wins, he will be in control of the state’s elections. What makes this prospect frightening is that he is still a firm believer in the Big Lie – that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Not surprisingly, he was also in Washington, DC for the January 6th insurrection. If elected, he plans to ban electronic voting machines and ban early voting making it far more difficult for low-paid workers to cast their ballots. And, given his past, imagine what he might do if, once again, the vote totals were not in favor of his preferred candidate.

In the race for Arizona governor, the GOP will offer one of two horrific choices: the Trump-endorsed bat-crap crazy Kari Lake who says she would have overturned Biden’s victory in Arizona, or the Pence-endorsed theocratic Karrin Taylor Robson. Both are legitimate threats to democracy. And, in the race for US Senate, Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly will face off against Blake Masters, a libertarian, Big Lie-embracing, billionaire-funded venture capitalist. Masters believes that our history of slavery and racism should not be taught in schools. He blames gun violence on black people. He supports a national abortion ban and the privatization of Social Security. He also reportedly compared requirements that political candidates disclose financial donations to Nazi Germany’s Kristallnacht. And he supported some views of the Unabomber.

In Georgia, former NFL running back, Herschel Walker is the GOP nominee for the US Senate. Walker, who always refers to himself in third person, has a Trump-like aversion to the truth. Indeed, his own campaign staff has called him a pathological liar. To wit: he falsely claimed to be a former FBI agent and a valedictorian graduate of the University of Georgia (his only degree is in carrying a football). And though he claims to stand for Christian values, he has a history of domestic violence, and he seemingly can’t remember how many children he has fathered. Moreover, if forced to take the most simplistic sixth grade level civics test, he unquestionably would fail. Yet he hopes to win one of the most powerful seats in government.

In Missouri, Trump-loving Eric Schmitt is the favorite for Roy Blunt’s open Senate seat. A theocrat and 2020 election denier, Schmitt worked to help overturn Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He is also an enemy of women’s reproductive rights.

In Pennsylvania, Hillbilly Elegy author and wingnut, J.D. Vance is also running for the US Senate funded by billionaire Peter Thiel. Vance is running a campaign of fear based on all of the wacko hot button social issues, such as banning Critical Race Theory in public schools (it’s only taught in law schools). He also believes women should risk staying in abusive relationships “for the sake of the children.” And like most Republicans, he believes in regulating women’s uteruses. Not guns.

Yet, as dangerous as all those candidates seem, they pale in comparison to Republican incumbent and longtime wackadoodle, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Johnson, you may remember, was a participant in the attempt to decertify Biden’s electoral votes on January 6. Not only is he a supporter of the Big Lie, if Republicans gain control of Congress again, he wants to end mandatory funding of Social Security and Medicare. Instead, he proposes that the funding be made discretionary, which would mean Congress would have to vote to approve funding annually.

The list of such anti-government, anti-American, and anti-democracy candidates is long. And, if Republicans take control of Congress, they promise to impeach Biden (in retaliation for the twice impeached Trump), to investigate members of the January 6 select committee, and to ban all abortions. They will also do everything in their power to privatize education, to privatize or eliminate Social Security and Medicare, to eliminate affirmative action…their ugly, hateful list is long. But the even greater threat to the future of our nation is the departure of competent and trustworthy election officials.

In states and counties across this nation, election officials have resigned or been pushed out of office under threat of violence. They have been doxed – their personal information made public to Trump’s heavily armed insurgent militias who have harassed the officials by phone, staked out their homes, and threatened their lives along with the lives of their families. Many have been replaced by inexperienced and unqualified individuals who believe the 2020 election was rigged and who plan to make sure Trump and his allies never lose again.

If the MAGAts are able to take control of more statehouses, governorships, and secretary of state offices, future elections will be elections in name only. It will be officials who decide the “winners.” Not the voters.

Why You Should Take Tyrants At Their Word.

In the 1970s and 80s, after looking at the nation’s changing demographics, Republicans embraced southern racists still angry at having lost the Civil War and furious with forced integration of schools. Around the same time, they also crafted a deal with far-right evangelicals – people like Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Kenneth Copeland, Jim Baker, John Hagee, and Pat Richardson. The deal was that this so-called “Moral Majority” would deliver votes in exchange for the GOP embracing their cruel and hateful ideas, including a ban on abortion.

This unholy alliance resulted in the daily picketing of clinics, harassment of women seeking abortions, distribution of home addresses and license plates of clinic personnel, the bombing of clinics, and the murder of abortion providers.

Through it all, the GOP platform and most GOP candidates called for an end to abortion. They began stacking the courts with anti-abortion judges and they prayed for the deaths of liberal and moderate Supreme Court justices. They passed draconian laws in GOP-led states like Texass that would imprison women for having an abortion, even if they traveled to another state where abortion is legal or if they ordered abortion pills online.

Most of the GOP’s current or pending laws make no exception for victims of rape and incest. They have made it clear that they will not help feed the children of forced births. They will not provide them with healthcare. They will not even agree to pay for improvements to our already over-stretched and disastrous foster care system.

In reality, the GOP is pro-birth. Not pro-life.

And given the fact that a significant majority of Americans, including Republicans, favor reproductive freedom, this is truly tyranny by a minority. Yet many of you, much like the cancer stricken notorious RBG who refused to resign when a Democratic president could appoint her successor, failed to act. You simply assumed they couldn’t take away a woman’s reproductive freedom.

It took them 50 years but, through a combination of legislative tricks to steal a SCOTUS seat and to hypocritically fill another one, they have apparently succeeded. You didn’t need a crystal ball to see it coming. They told you what they would do if they gained control of the Court.

And if you take these same people at their word, they won’t stop there.

They have openly talked about banning contraception, gay marriage, inter-racial marriage, LBGTQ rights, and affirmative action. They have tried to take away public school funding, Social Security, and Medicare. Even the freedom to practice religions other than Christianity, the right to assemble, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the rights of certain minorities to vote are on the line.

It doesn’t matter that most Americans disagree with Republicans and evangelicals on these issues. They have a plan to seize permanent control of our government. They may have failed on January 6, 2021, but, if you listen to them, they haven’t given up. The only way to stop them is to vote while you still can – in the midterms and beyond. To end this pending nightmare and the collapse of our democracy, they must be convincingly and overwhelmingly repudiated.

The Many Dilemmas That Will Face A Biden Administration.

Should former VP Joe Biden defeat Donald Trump, he will likely inherit a nation so damaged that its very future is at risk. The problems are extensive both in their breadth and depth. Let’s look at them individually:

The pandemic – Even if, as some claim, there will be an effective vaccine for Covid-19 before the inauguration, there are legitimate questions of its availability. Will it be available in sufficient quantities for all Americans? Will it be affordable? Will it reach all American communities, including undocumented immigrants? How effective will it be? Will it effectively block infections for a year? Or for longer?

The economy – The pandemic has caused unemployment to skyrocket. As of this writing, more than 50 million Americans are unemployed. How many of those lost jobs will not come back? Many industries had already been replacing workers with automation before the pandemic. Will they use the relief funds provided by Congress to accelerate automation?

Already, there are plans for self-driving trucks to haul cargo between Phoenix and Tucson beginning in 2021. How quickly will the use of self-driving vehicles expand? Before the pandemic there were approximately 10 million professional drivers in the US. Likely, all of those jobs will be at risk. And that’s only the beginning. Within the next few years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace legal aids and paralegals in law offices, film and video editors in Hollywood, medical workers, clerical workers, retail workers…virtually no industry will be unscathed.

Automation aside, the pandemic and worldwide disgust toward the Trump administration has devastated travel and tourism, as well as restaurants and other aspects of the hospitality industry. Will they quickly return to pre-pandemic levels? Or have those industries forever been changed?

The food chain – The pandemic exposed the weaknesses in the food industry as never before. Most of our food comes from a very few, large growers and suppliers, shipped by increasingly fewer transportation companies, and distributed by ever-fewer distribution companies. The Covid-19 outbreaks among those who pick our vegetables and process our meat also exposed the industry’s reliance on lowly paid immigrants and undocumented who are called “essential.” But are more accurately described as “expendable.”

Many of our restaurants and food services also rely on recent immigrants to prepare and serve our food. Given the Trump administration’s attack on all immigrants of color, what will be the future of the food industry once it begins to return to some form of normalcy. Will independently owned restaurants find enough workers? Will they be able to afford them?

The same questions apply to the many other industries – hospitality, senior care, etc. – that rely on recent immigrants.

Healthcare – Approximately 50 million American citizens do not have access to healthcare. And that number continues to increase as more Americans have lose their employer-provided insurance when they lose their jobs. Additionally, the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is in real jeopardy as the result of the Trump administration’s challenges to its constitutionality. What if the Supreme Court sides with the administration? With no replacement currently under consideration, what will happen to those with pre-existing conditions? How many more will find themselves without access?

Attacks on the ACA are not the only issues the industry faces. The pandemic exposed numerous flaws within the healthcare “system” such as the hospitals’ refusal to inventory necessary materials and equipment. When faced with the pandemic, few hospitals had access to enough Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to meet demand. There were not enough ventilators, enough ICU beds, enough ICU personnel, etc. Moreover, the pandemic has taken a physical and mental toll on Emergency Room and ICU personnel. Many have died. Many more intend to retire when the pandemic ends. What then?

US Postal Service – Libertarians and right-wingers have long wanted to privatize the Post Office. To that end, Republicans in Congress have starved it of funds and created obstacles for its operation. The pandemic has only made matters worse by reducing the number of advertising flyers the USPS needs for revenue. But the real damage to the institution is the result of politics. Trump installed a Postmaster General who is clearly unqualified for the position. And he has given his lackey orders to slow down the mail in preparation for the election in which many more people plan to vote by mail. The idea is to create enough chaos to throw the election results into question. So, if he loses, Trump can claim the election was “rigged.”

The environment – No administration has been more hostile to the environment than Trump’s. From reducing the size of national monuments to auctioning oil and mineral leases to streamlining permits for offshore drilling to repealing the Obama administration’s clear water regulations, the Trump administration has placed us all in danger. Indeed, it has place many of the world’s species in danger.

Climate change – In the very first days of his administration, Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Accords. And everything he has done since has only exacerbated the problem. Scientists tell us that we now have less than a decade to act in order to avoid a worst-case scenario.

National debt – The Trump administration has added trillions to the national debt. And, if there is any hope of avoiding an economic depression worse than that of the 1930s, it will have to commit to trillions more in economic relief for businesses and individuals. The resulting debt will take many years to pay down. Of course, Republicans will want to do that at the expense of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP and other safety net programs, which will only make our economy worse.

International relations – A recent international study found that, instead of admiring the US as “that shining city on a hill” that Ronald Reagan once described, the residents of other countries now view us with disgust, and maybe even worse, pity. Trump has endangered our relationships with allies and adversaries alike. It may be generations before they trust us again.

Racial justice – The killings of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Aubrey, and far too many other black Americans to mention has finally led us to a point where we absolutely must address systemic racism. Though the Trump administration has tried to deny the problems by provoking violence between the peaceful demonstrators and federal agents, there is no turning back. Unfortunately, there are those who refuse to understand the problems or refuse to give up their white privilege, especially the white nationalist groups who believe they will benefit from an all-out race war.

Domestic division – Thanks to Trump and his legions of Trumpanzees, our nation is more divided than at any time since the Civil War. Through propaganda, Trump has created a cult that excuses and forgives his many faults. They are almost universally racist, many are armed, and they seem willing to defend him no matter how unconstitutional, illogical, and cruel his actions become. And because they are uniquely resistant to logic and real news, we must consider what they may do if Trump loses both the popular and electoral vote. Will they refuse to acknowledge the new president? Will they resort to violence?

All of these problems and questions will be waiting for President Biden when he is sworn in. And there are certain to be more. Thankfully, having helped President Obama pull us out of an economic canyon following the mortgage crisis of 2008, no one is better able to deal with them. Certainly not the con man from Queens who is responsible for creating them.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Two – Health Care)

Of the thousands of falsehoods and misleading statements Trump has made since declaring his candidacy, many concern health insurance and health care. Following are but a few of his broken promises:

Insurance Premiums: Trump promised to allow individuals to deduct health insurance premiums from taxes. He hasn’t.

Affordable Care Act: Trump promised he’d repeal and replace the ACA with something “beautiful” that would provide “insurance for everybody.” But he has offered no replacement. Further, his administration has chosen to not defend the ACA in court against claims by several rightwing state Attorneys General that the ACA is unconstitutional. If the courts rule in favor of the plaintiffs, up to 20 million Americans will lose access to affordable health care.

Pre-Existing Conditions: Trump promised to protect all Americans who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions. But, if the ACA is ruled unconstitutional as Trump hopes, private insurers will, once again, be able to deny coverage to tens of millions of Americans for pre-existing conditions.

Medicare and Medicaid: Trump promised that he wouldn’t “cut Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid as other Republicans want.” But his 2020 budget cuts $1.5 trillion from Medicaid over the next 10 years, $845 billion from Medicare over 10 years, and $25 billion from Social Security over 10 years. Moreover, he recently said that he will take a look at more cuts to Medicare and Social Security at the end of this year, presumably after the election.

Social Security Disability Insurance: Despite Trump’s promises, his budget cut retroactive pay for disabled under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) by 50 percent over a 10-year period which began in 2019. Retroactive pay covers the time between when people are unable to work and when they apply for benefits. These cuts, along with cuts to SNAP (food stamps), will impose great financial harm to the disabled.

Drug Prices: Trump promised he’d cut drug prices by negotiating “like crazy” with drug companies. He hasn’t. Instead, drug prices have gone up and the catastrophic Medicare Part D threshold (the so-called donut hole) has risen by $1,250 in 2020.

Given his many lies and broken promises, why would anyone trust anything Trump says? As Senator Romeny once said, “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”

Destruction Of The US. (Part Fourteen – GOP)

This is the last of my 14-part series. But last certainly does not mean least. Without the treachery and complicity of the Republican Party, most of the other factors that are destroying our nation either would not be possible. Or they would be far less damaging.

The damage done to our government by the GOP began in earnest prior to the Nixon administration and has accelerated ever since. In 1968, Nixon undermined the Vietnam peace talks in order to benefit his election prospects. Similarly, he ordered the Watergate break-in to sabotage Democratic candidates during the 1972 election. Following Nixon’s lead, Reagan undermined the Carter administration’s efforts to release hostages from the US embassy in Iran in order to damage Carter’s re-election chances. Reagan attacked labor unions and, based on the discredited “trickle down” theory of economics, he cut taxes for the rich. George H.W. Bush led us in to war in the Middle East over oil. And two of his sons conspired to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore. Then George W. Bush led us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses.

But the GOP’s impact on our democracy has never been more damaging than it has over the past 11 years. During the Obama administration, it tried to undermine attempts to pull our economy out of a worldwide recession created by GOP policies. It blocked dozens of judicial appointments in the Senate culminating with its successful effort to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. And, having captured a number of state houses, it began instituting a wide variety of voter suppression laws in a blatant effort to prevent minorities and other Democrats from voting.

Since 2016, having colluded with a foreign rival to steal yet another election, it has allowed its Con-Man-in-Chief to sidle up to dictators, to bully allies, to promote white nationalism, to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy, to take affordable health care from millions, to undermine public education, to roll back environmental protections, to block any attempts to address the climate crisis, to rip immigrant children away from their parents, and to pack our courts by giving lifetime appointments to young, and often unqualified, ideologues. The party has not only excused blatant abuses of power by Trump. It has openly participated in them as did William Barr in his handling of the Mueller report. Further, Republicans in Congress have tried to block any attempts of congressional oversight by the Democrat-controlled House. (Witness the behavior of House Republicans during the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s attempted shakedown of Ukraine.)

The GOP has run up trillion-dollar deficits in order to justify defunding all social safety nets, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. At the same time, it has handed out subsidies to some of the world’s greediest corporations. Worst of all, the party has participated in the wholesale betrayal of our Constitution by accepting campaign money and other support from Russian oligarchs and excusing Russia’s interference in our elections.

It may have once been labeled the Grand Old Party as a result of Abraham Lincoln’s fight to end slavery and hold our nation together. But the only thing grand about it today is its level of hypocrisy and criminal behavior.

Is Ending Abortion More Important Than Preserving Democracy?

This is a serious question that I pose to my conservative friends. You have told me that you dislike Trump as an individual. Yet you have supported his presidency. Some of you have even embraced him as a messenger of God claiming he was sent to Earth to restore “godliness” in the United States.

Does such godliness now include marital infidelity? Extramarital affairs with porn stars? Illegal payoffs to buy their silence? An admission of sexual assaults as evidenced by the Access Hollywood tape? His pride in saying that he has walked into the dressing rooms of teenage women? Would a messenger from God tell thousands of lies and demand loyalty to himself over country? Would he appoint family and friends to his administration who would use their positions to corruptly line their bank accounts with taxpayer money?

Does godliness now include overt racism? The promotion of violence against people of color? Is it godly to tell women of color to go back to the “shithole” countries where they came from just because their ideas don’t agree with your own? Is it now godly to tear apart families? To pry babies and children from their mothers’ arms? Is it godly to place refugees in cages with no room to lie down? No soap and other toiletries? Limited food and water? Is it godly to embrace murderous dictators while turning your back on those they have tortured or killed?

Did you fall to your knees and pray that your Orange Jesus would deport military veterans who served in war zones despite having been given assurances that their service would result in the opportunity to become US citizens? Is it godly to ridicule a true military hero for allowing himself to be captured and tortured? To cruelly attack the parents of a US soldier who died in combat? Is it godly to deny constitutional rights to people because of their religion, race or choice of lovers? To mock a reporter with a physical disability?

Did your God command his messenger – your messiah – to spend millions of taxpayers’ money on golf at his own resorts while American citizens – many of them veterans – sleep on the streets because they are homeless? Did He order his messenger to deny food stamps to school children? Did He demand that the nation’s deficits be increased so that your messiah’s party might later justify taking retirement benefits and healthcare away from the elderly?

Jesus commanded his followers to turn the other cheek. Yet the “religious” followers of your new messiah now threaten violence against those who have political ideas different than your own. And in far too many instances – in Charlottesville, in Pittsburgh, in Miami and now El Paso – they have already acted.

You say that you are repulsed by the character of your new messiah. But you justify your support for him because he has packed the courts with judges and justices who promise to overturn Roe v. Wade. In the meantime, he has taken actions that will destroy our environment. Indeed the entire planet. He has broken treaties and norms and weakened our most critical institutions. He has committed crimes. He has dramatically increased spending for our war machine without any controls on that spending. At the same time, he has challenged the authority of our Constitution and caused harm to hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And by accepting help from a hostile foreign power in order to obtain his office, he has threatened democracy itself.

Is that really what you want? Is it worth all of this to protect zygotes and fetuses, many of which will ultimately be unable to survive a moment outside the womb?

What about the already living? What about our nation? What about democracy?

Free Stuff.

The GOP, its propaganda network, and the corporate-owned media are fond of accusing progressive Democrats of trying to buy votes by offering “free stuff” to voters. Disregarding the fact that nothing the government does is, in fact, free, this has been a popular accusation for longer than I can remember. The GOP used the same talking point when Social Security and Medicare were first proposed, claiming that the programs were unaffordable and that they would bankrupt the nation. Then, like now, the GOP also accused the Democrats who backed those programs of being socialists.

But it’s important to note that GOP candidates also regularly offer free stuff as a way of buying votes. And they also engage in a form of socialism. The difference is in the beneficiaries.

Social Security and Medicare are, in reality, retirement and medical insurance that directly benefit those who pay the premiums through payroll deductions – ordinary working Americans. And the current Democratic proposals, like universal health care and debt-free college education, would also directly benefit ordinary American workers.

The GOP proposals, on the other hand, pander to a different audience: Large multinational corporations, the military-industrial complex and the very, very wealthy.

Take the GOP-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Most working Americans saw little to no cuts in their income taxes while corporations and the wealthy realized dramatic cuts to their tax burden. The law also allowed multinationals to “repatriate” corporate profits held offshore to avoid paying US income taxes. The GOP promised that the bill would boost the economy and create jobs. It didn’t. Instead, most of the money was used to pay executive bonuses and to buy back stock. That had the effect of starving the companies of capital resulting in layoffs. The same thing happened in 2004 when the US last “repatriated” corporate dollars at reduced tax rates. That year, 58 giant corporations realized 70 percent of the benefit, saving an estimated $64 billion in taxes while, at the same time, slashing an estimated 600,000 jobs.

The real cost of the 2017 tax cut has yet to be tallied. But it has already resulted in record deficits and a record national debt. It was nothing less than a giant gift to corporations paid for by average working Americans!

And that’s but one example. There are many, many others.

The GOP has pushed cuts to inheritance taxes and cuts to capital gains taxes that benefit the wealthy. And, under the guise of its repeatedly debunked trickle-down economic theory, the GOP offers much more free stuff to corporations. Those gifts take the form of corporate incentives to expand or to relocate, long-term tax relief to corporations for expanding in their current locations and promising, but seldom delivering, new jobs, and Tax Increment Financing which exempts corporate facilities from property taxes whenever their owners build or purchase a building and promise to create jobs – a practice so pervasive that many cities have never collected property taxes on their most iconic buildings. Sadly, some “moderate” Democrats have voted for these things, too.

In addition, there are many less obvious free gifts to corporations. Governments pay the cost of building utilities and other infrastructure to reach corporate building sites. And governments are often forced to pick up the cost of food stamps and housing assistance for the employees of Walmart and other companies that fail to pay a living wage. (The cost of subsidizing Walmart’s underpaid workers was estimated at $6.2 billion in 2014.) Governments also pick up the cost of cleaning up mines and other sites despoiled by extraction industries after the corporations have walked away with the resources and profits.

Even more subtle are the allocations to defense contractors who have little oversight and few, if any, real penalties for cost over-runs and delays. In fact, a 2016 study found that the Pentagon can’t account for trillions of dollars in spending. Similarly, private prison corporations have been given sweetheart deals by their GOP sponsors. During the current border crisis, it has been reported that private prison corporations are being paid more than $700 per day to house the refugees and economic immigrants in horrific conditions. For that price, the detainees should be living in luxury hotels. Not suffering in conditions where they are denied access to sufficient food and water, denied basic hygiene, and forced to sleep on concrete with only a foil blanket.

The estimated cost of universal healthcare and free education is dwarfed by the gifts currently being passed along to corporations and the uber-wealthy. Moreover, the progressive Democratic candidates have done something the GOP hasn’t. They’ve explained how they will pay for their “gifts.”

So, the next time you hear someone deride progressive Democratic candidates by calling them socialists and attacking them for their offers of “free stuff,” keep in mind that what’s being “given away” is simply a matter of priorities. The question is: What’s more important to you? American workers? Or greedy corporations and the very wealthy?

No, Democrats Have Not Moved Left. The GOP Has Moved Right…Way, Way Right.

It’s popular for the media – even the so-called liberal media – to portray the “Squad” and many of the Democratic presidential candidates as far left. As if they are some aberration from the core party principles. Of course, that’s exactly what Republicans want you to believe. Indeed, even some Democratic leaders and “strategists” would have you buy into that claptrap.

It’s not only not true. It’s not even close to reality.

In the 1930s and 40s, the FDR administration and mainstream Democrats embraced social democracy as part of the New Deal. To rescue our economy FDR, the Democratic Party and even some Republicans incorporated ideas that were socialist in nature in order to move people out of the soup lines and back to work. For example, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built more than 620,000 miles of streets, more than 10,000 bridges, dozens of airports, hydroelectric dams, public buildings and large numbers of houses and apartments. Much of these are still in use today. Rural electric cooperatives (a form of socialism) brought telephones and electricity to hundreds of thousands of rural Americans who had been ignored by large utilities. In addition, the New Deal’s Social Security rescued the elderly from abject poverty. FDR had even proposed a Second New Deal which included single-payer health care, believing that access to quality health care was a human right.

When fascism and support for Nazi Germany threatened to take over the US, Democrats rejected it. And, when World War II broke out, Americans resorted to what some would now consider socialism by pulling together to produce necessary war materials and to ration consumer products in favor of supporting our troops. Indeed, most of our population temporarily abandoned free market capitalism in order to defeat the Axis powers.

Though many in the GOP opposed some of FDR’s initiatives, they supported others. In fact, the GOP was almost equally divided between conservatives and liberals. But things began to change as the result of Senator Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare in the 50s and the growing Cold War.

As post-war Europe followed the path pioneered by FDR, US politicians from both parties distanced themselves from anything that could remotely be misconstrued as communist. That included social democracy. Yet, even in the 70s, the GOP approved of some liberal ideas. For example, in response to Senator Ted Kennedy’s proposal for single-payer health care, Nixon proposed a health care mandate (Obamacare, anyone?). Nixon also supported the formation of the EPA and OSHA. And he aggressively desegregated public schools.

Only after the GOP saw an opportunity to solidify the Jim Crow South by implementing its southern strategy and creating division over abortion to bring evangelicals into the party, did it begin to lurch far to the right. Since then, it has used race and immigration to divide voters and pander to its rural base. And it has used Christian fundamentalist social issues to hold evangelicals – the so-called “values voters” – in line. Meanwhile, right-wing radio hosts and Roger Ailes’s right-wing propaganda network (aka Fox News) have pushed the party even further to the extreme right.

At the same time, Democrats, in trying to recapture the southern states it lost by pushing through the Civil Rights Acts, began to move to the center-right in order to occupy the space once held by mainstream Republicans. For president, they twice nominated the governors of southern states to win elections. And the party has continued to try to bring southerners back into the fold by moving past the center and trending further and further to the right, at the same time denying or ignoring the wishes of traditional Democratic voters in urban areas and in the rural areas of Rust Belt states.

Voters’ positions on abortion, once a non-political issue, now define them as Republicans or Democrats. And, as the Christian fundamentalists and right-wing media have fomented anger over immigration, gay marriage and transgender use of bathrooms (otherwise known as discrimination) Democrats have struggled to respond. They either had to join in the discrimination or be labeled as extreme leftists.

So here we are. We now have a center-right Democratic party that has struggled to adhere to the principles it once cherished, and an extreme far-right Republican party that uses racism and Christian fundamentalism to disguise its fascist, pro-billionaire agenda.

The GOP has long since abandoned its tradition of fiscal conservatism combined with social compassion. It is now the “everybody for themselves party” that is trying to dismantle every aspect of our government except for the military. It would have you ignore issues such as growing debt and deficits, failing infrastructure, income disparity, the lack of retirement pensions and increasingly unaffordable healthcare. Instead, it would have you blame immigrants, “uppity” people of color and the LGBTQ population for your problems. For those of you who refuse to support the party and its narrow-minded, hateful agenda, it attempts to gerrymander away your rights and make it increasingly difficult for you to vote.

And now that a growing number of Democrats are intent on implementing real, substantive change in order to give ordinary working Americans a fair shake, the GOP and its corporate-controlled media try to label them as leftists and socialists. They would have you believe that they are un-American and dangerous. But they are as American and as mainstream as FDR, JFK, Obama and even Ronald Reagan.

It’s Trump, Mitch McConnell, the NRA and the GOP who fail to live up to the ideals of our nation’s Founders

The Shutdown Is Not A Negotiating Tactic. It’s The Goal.

It seems that most Americans and much of the media believe that the shutdown is the result of a failed negotiation between Trump and Congressional Democrats. But, in reality, the great dealmaker has not been negotiating in good faith all along. Indeed, his latest “proposal” was to offer Democrats things that he has previously taken away – DACA protections, immigration judges, etc.

Prior to this January, if Trump wanted $5.7 billion to fund his wall, all he had to do was ask. The Trump sycophants in the Republican-controlled House and Senate have given him everything he wanted. As evidenced by the Trump tax cuts, which have resulted in nearly $2 trillion in additional debt, they certainly weren’t worried about fiscal constraint. And, if Trump and the GOP really wanted to end the shutdown, they could do it today by voting on the budget bill that has already been passed by the House and was previously passed in the Senate by a unanimous voice vote. Or they could accede to the Democrats’ wishes and negotiate funding for increased border security where it would do the most good – at legal ports of entry. That, after all, is where the majority of illicit drugs enter our country in trucks, shipping crates and private vehicles. And they could use the funds to step up the monitoring of the people who enter our country legally and simply overstay their visas. Those people represent approximately half of undocumented immigrants. The Republicans’ failure to do so shows that the shutdown isn’t really interested in border security.

I believe the government shutdown is what Trump and his minions wanted all along.

For Republicans and this outlaw administration, the shutdown serves a variety of purposes. First, it is a distraction from the Russia investigation that is nearing completion. Second, it deprives the incoming Democratic House members the necessary funds to staff their offices, thus potentially impeding their investigations into Trump world. Third, it offers the bully in the White House an opportunity to frustrate and blame Speaker Pelosi. Fourth, in the twisted mind of Trump, the majority of government workers are Democrats, so it’s mostly Democrats who are suffering the consequences. Fifth, if as I believe, Trump really is beholden to Putin, a shutdown throws Russia’s greatest adversary into chaos.

Finally, and most important, Republicans despise government. So the shutdown allows them to call back only those workers that are necessary to their cause. For example, while many in the EPA and Interior are furloughed, Republicans have called back only those Interior employees who are responsible for issuing drilling and mining permits for public lands.

We must all face the reality that the shutdown is a right-winger’s wet dream. The most extreme among them believe the federal government should only be responsible for law and order, the protection of private property and national defense. Anything else – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, HUD, the EPA, public education – is, in their minds, a waste of money and an unwelcome intrusion into their ability to plunder the national resources and squeeze money out of the populace.

The Entitlement Lie.

For many years, Republicans have been determined to privatize Medicare and Social Security or get rid of the programs altogether. So whenever Republicans talk about federal spending, they usually show a chart that looks something like this:

Notice that the two largest slices of the budget represent Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, or what is often called “mandatory” federal spending. Thus, the chart would seem to indicate that most of the tax revenue goes toward healthcare and retirement for the elderly and the poor. Is it any wonder, then, that so many young people believe that the federal government is being “bankrupted” by payments to senior citizens?

However, most of the costs for Medicare and Social Security are not part of the general budget.

Medicare and Social Security are, in fact, insurance programs similar to your auto, health and household insurance policies. And, like your other insurance policies, the premiums for Medicare and Social Security are collected each year of your working career so the benefits will be there when you need them. The premiums are deducted from our paychecks – you know, the ones that are labeled FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) and Medicare. As a result, Medicare and Social Security are “entitlements” only in the sense that once you have paid the premiums, you are entitled to the benefits in much the same way you’re entitled to benefit from claims against your Allstate, GEICO, Progressive or State Farm policies.

Since the programs pay for themselves, their budgets should be kept entirely separate from the general budget. To more accurately reflect reality, the federal spending chart should look like this:

This chart represents the spending controlled by Congress and paid for through taxation. As you can see, in this chart, the majority of that spending is for our military ($824.6 billion, up more than 13 percent since Republicans have taken the reins of government) and veteran’s benefits ($78.9 billion). When Congress spends more on these items than it collects in taxes, it results in deficit-spending. The shortfalls result in borrowing from other sources – from other countries and from the Medicare and Social Security trust funds.

Despite their claims to the contrary, Republicans have been particularly good at deficit spending. Reagan nearly doubled the federal debt, increasing it by $1.9 trillion. George W. Bush increased the debt by $5.8 trillion. He also left his successor with two wars and the Great Recession resulting in more than $8.5 trillion of additional borrowing. And, in his first two years in office, Donald J. Trump has already doubled the deficit, increasing the debt by more than $1.2 trillion. And the 10-year cost of the Trump tax cuts will add an estimated $2.3 trillion more to the federal debt.

In order to reduce the debt, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he wants to balance the federal budget by cutting payments to “entitlements,” aka Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

Say what????!!!!

That would be akin to embezzling money from your employer to pay for your own spending excesses. The Social Security and Medicare trust funds are not Congress’s money!

None of this is to say that Medicare and Social Security don’t have their own problems. If changes are not made, it’s expected that Medicare will exhaust its reserves by 2028. Likewise, it’s expected that Social Security will not be able to meet its full obligations after 2034. But that does not mean that there will be no money left for the programs’ beneficiaries. It simply means that the payouts will be less.

And both programs could meet their obligations with a few tweaks.

Like all insurance programs, they should be governed by actuarial tables. When the costs go up, so should the premiums. Unfortunately, Congress has put limits on the amount of money the programs can charge for premiums. For example, FICA deductions only apply to the first $128,400 of an individual’s income. Social Security could be fixed by simply removing the cap. It’s that simple.

Similarly, Medicare’s impending problems could be solved by increasing the payroll deductions, by negotiating for better prices with pharmaceutical companies, or, better yet, we could improve outcomes while saving our government and our citizens trillions of dollars by moving toward universal health care.

And, here’s a radical idea: Maybe we could find additional money for these programs in the general budget by holding government contractors accountable. For example, the F-35 fighter jet program was $163 billion over budget as of 2014. A figure that continues to climb faster than the plane.