Cut Barry a Break

Barack Obama has been denounced as a failure for his inability to deliver on progressive expectations. But what the left refuses to admit is that first we defaulted on our implied contract with this president, by failing to support his power base.

Why did the House fall to the Pubbies? It was because Americans were angry about unemployment, right? ABSOLUTE RUBBISH! Let’s look at the figures.

In the last 25 years, the lowest unemployment rate was around 3.8%. It was 9.8% last November. Therefore, the real job loss figure back then was no more than 6%.

So now, let me see if I’ve got this right. On behalf of the 6% who had recently lost their jobs, many of the 91% who were still gainfully employed, felt the need to teach this administration a lesson by voting for the party that lives to punish the working class.

PLEASE! To this degree, we are most certainly not our brother’s keepers, nor are we that self-destructive. In fact, too many Americans of both parties who are sitting in the lifeboat seem to show a subtle gratification of watching others tread water. I like to say that if an American died and went to heaven, the only way he could truly appreciate heaven would be by gazing down at the folks in hell.

Here’s the real reason why the Democrats lost the House.

Deficit spending is the reverse engineering of taxing the rich. If the plebs (with their hopeless dream of mammon) are too stupid or delusional to support taxation of the wealthy, progressive politicians must effectively spend rich peoples’ dollars by running deficits, which eventually translate into M1 devaluation. But in the process, everyone with at least some savings suffers proportionally from this inverted method of wealth distribution.

Just as soon as Barack Obama finished saving the day by proving himself a serious deficit spender, the pseudo-Democrats who voted for him started thinking in terms of applying the brakes in order to save their little honey pots. Ergo, a Pubbie House.

In other words, the message of the midterm was obviously this - “Thank you, Mr. President. That will be all, sir.”

So now, let’s stop whining and figure out how we can avoid having to lie to ourselves again next year. This president is doing the best job anyone could hope to accomplish with an opposing House, that we helped to elect.

Ron DiGiovanni
Easton, Pa.

The Way It Is

Robert Reich, in his 7/1-15/11 cover story (“The Truth About the American Economy”), is telling us nothing new. His analysis of the problem — and how we got there — is one we’ve known for many years.

I disagree, however, with the way he downplays the role of globalization. Where does he think the capital investments of the wealthy — stolen from the rest of us — are going? Those monies aren’t rebuilding the US economy or creating jobs. When they aren’t being used to pump up Wall Street Ponzi schemes, they are going overseas to booming developing economies where the investors can claim greater profits.

One other thing: What’s missing from Reich’s article is a statement of what specifically can be done to reverse the decline of the US as a middle-class nation. All he offers is a general plea that the middle class be allowed to share in economic gains. But who’s going to permit that? The wealthy corporate class? The sold-out politicians?

So thanks, Mr. Reich, for reminding us what’s wrong. But we knew that already. What would be far more helpful is a description of what in reality an ordinary person like me can do to change it. Because I sure as hell don’t see it.

It seems to me great institutional forces are at work globally, and the ones benefiting, at least in the US, are the investors and the well paid technocrats running those institutions. They’ve rigged the system so that I don’t have a say-so. And neither does Robert Reich.

Christopher Cook
Prague, Czech Republic

Corporate Lapdog

Like Ted Rall (“Obamabots Stifle Progressive Dissent,” 6/15/11 TPP), I also deplore this new reluctance to harshly criticize a wrong-headed Democratic president. Does anyone remember “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”?

Your editorial in the same issue (“Keep Palaver Palatable”) illusrtrates Rall’s point perfectly. You seem to be advising us to stay polite and happy — a war-mongering corporate lapdog like Obama is the best we progressives can hope for.

Brian Fox
Oneonta, N.Y.


So you class President Obama as a moderate liberal [“Keep Palaver Palatable,” Editorial, 6/15/11 TPP]; I class him as a closet Republican! Look at the number of times he has backed down when the Republicans said “filibuster.” But then the DINOs [Democrats In Name Only] in Congress did not help. I will agree with you on one point, that President Obama was handed a very large can of worms when he took office. But, as of this date (June 7), nobody from Wall Street and the banks has gone to jail, and more than likely nobody from the mortgage banks will be going to jail either. If President Obama does not go after the banks, Wall Street and the mortgage banks, now 2012 is going to be a blood bath for the Democrats — not that I wish that I would happen. One last thing, when the Republicans bitch about the money being spent by the government to get the nation going, nobody asked the Republicans since they were so hot to get the Glass-Steagall Act killed, but they had help from a sitting Democratic president [Bill Clinton] and the Democrats sitting in Congress, there must have been some large bribes that were spent on both parties.

Dennis H. Kuykendall
Kuna, Idaho

Go Indy

I loved the Ted Rall cartoon on p. 11 of 7/1-15/11 TPP when, in the last picture, the woman confronts the man, who wants to vote against Obama for keeping the wars, torture and corporate welfare, by saying “and let the bad guys win?”

This seems to be an ever-growing critical issue in election after election — voting for the lesser of two evils. Does our democratic system favoring only two major parties offer the best process for true democracy? Given human frailty, must every election be a choice of two evils given the very nature of the human condition? Does the system of the two parties ever get to the point that both are so bad that a vote for either candidate becomes an immoral act?

Was Eugene Debs right when he said, “I’d rather vote for what I want and not get it, than to vote for what I don’t want and get it.”

If voters began to see that their vote is a moral or immoral action when they vote, then could things change? The Pew Research now shows that there are more voters who consider themselves Independent than those who say they are Republican or Democrat. Might the time be approaching when the actions of both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are so immoral that an Independent such as a Senator Bernie Sanders could win the White House? I say the time has come.

Bill Nerin
Gig Harbor, Wash.

Be Kind

It warms my heart to read about Rob Patterson’s sympathy towards the Mexican food vendors and the East Asian Muslim market owners, from whom he buys his lunch and groceries. (Narrow Minds Abound on Broadband,” 5/15/11 TPP).

It’s as if he opened the windows to let a fresh breeze clear the foul air of bigotry in a musty room!

And I applaud his observation that “most people on this planet, no matter their nation, race or faith, are just trying to live their lives and get by.” That sentiment is reminiscent of Philo of Alexandria’s advice:

“Be kind to everyone, because they are all fIghting a great battle’.”

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

California Needs Democracy

Why are there budget cuts after budget cuts to California’s education system, to our state parks, environmental protection and to so many more of the institutions that had made California the best of our 50 states? The reason is that our state government is not a democracy. In our state, the majority is ruled by the minority. Necessary governmental investments in California’s future quality should be maintained with a majority of the legislature voting to close tax loopholes on the very wealthiest corporations in our state. Democracy means majority vote decides. 

But California’s law requires a two-thirds approval by the legislature, so the Republicans’ one-third minority blocks every attempt to raise revenue. They have even blocked putting the issue to the people in a general election. 

Studies such as those by the California Tax Reform organization (caltaxreform.org) show how over $20 billion could be raised to support our state, just by making those who have benefited most pay their fair share. We need a democratic, majority vote on revenue relief solutions to our budget problem.

Bruce Joffe
Piedmont, Calif.

Tax Fix Should Help Workers

Andrew Leonard’s “Three Lies about Taxes” in the 7/1-15/11 TPP is an outstanding article that should be republished repeatedly and prominently to rebut the constant lies about poor people not paying taxes. We do not have just one income tax as some conservatives pretend. We also have two gross income taxes, one for Medicare and one for Social Security, which those with “earned income” pay, while employers pay matching amounts based on payroll. The duplicate income tax systems suggest a solution to the underfunding of Social Security and Medicare. Allow a refundable credit on individual income tax returns for Social Security and Medicare taxes actually paid. With the credit in place, raise the Social Security tax on employees from the present temporary rate of 4.2% to 7% and the Medicare tax from the present 1.45% to 3%, for a total of 10% (but leave the employers’ payroll tax unchanged because it makes no sense to tax employers for employing people). We could increase funding for Social Security and Medicare by raising those taxes but because of the refundable credit on individual income tax returns, the total tax bill for working people would actually go down, not up.

James Van Vliet
Bristol, Ill.

Citizens Are Entitled

In a graphic illustration on page 13 of the 6/1/11 TPP, it is stated that “It’s true that a lot of the Federal budget goes to entitlements.” This is less than half true. More true is the fact that a lot of the Federal budget COMES FROM Entitlements. While Social Security and Medicare are supposed to be in separate Trust Funds (remember Al Gore’s lock box?), the Federal government has routinely been spending the money for many years.

The Federal government now owes the Social Security Trust Fund $2.5 trillion. This money must be repaid. If the “full faith and credit of the government of the United States” extends to China, or to international bankers — then surely it extends to our own citizens.

Eugene Carlson
Owatonna, Minn.

Rethink Supreme Court

Abraham Lincoln, 1861: “If the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court ... the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribune.”

Lincoln was referring specifically to litigation between parties in personal actions, but his warning has much broader application. If any five Supreme Court justices, none subject to popular election in becoming Court members with lifetime tenure, and exempt from any form of judicial appeal from their decisions, are allowed the final word on “vital questions affecting the whole people,” the people have indeed to that extent “ceased to be their own rulers.” Lincoln’s marvelous phrase, “government of the people, by the people” proves to be limited in practice, while “for the people” all too readily becomes the plaything of any five majority justices’ political and ideological preferences.

This is not a matter of the Court leaning “right” or “left”; it is a matter of the Court, its members nearly invulnerable in their role thanks to lifetime tenure, having gradually asserted the power — not granted by the Constitution — to establish national policies by passing binding judgment on a far-reaching range of actions taken by the popularly elected branches of government. Both liberals and conservatives should welcome an intense rethinking of the Court’s proper role in the form of government so eloquently characterized by Lincoln.

Merritt Abrash
Lenox, Mass.

Good Old Days and Bad Economics

Ah, if only we could go back to the good old days of yesteryear, when the tax rate on the wealthy was 91% before an enlightened President Kennedy decided economic growth would increase by lowering tax rates.

Not surprisingly, Jim Cullen of TPP cites numerous sources, most of them quite liberal, to make his case for higher tax rates on the wealthy, and increased government spending. Also, all liberals cite the “evil” George W. Bush as the reason for the much of the deficits, especially the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He neglects to mention President Bush had the full support of Democrats in the House and Senate for both wars. [Editor's Note: While the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists was bipartisan (9/14/01), the votes to approve the Iraq War resolution were 297-133 in the House (10/10/02), as 126 Democrats, six Republicans and one independent voted against it, and 77-23 in the Senate (10/11/02), as 21 Democrats, one Republican and one independent opposed it.] Most conservatives agree that the Iraq War was ill-conceived and Iraq support for our intervention was vastly overestimated. Interestingly, the current Republican presidential candidates appear to have far less interest than President Obama in war excursions. One central point that needs to be made is that the cost of all wars will decrease, while entitlement programs costs always increase.

The balanced budget of 2001, and the projected surpluses of $5.5 trillion, was primarily the result of the winding down of military expenditures due to the winning of the cold war, and huge increases in capital gains revenues during the late 1990s during the tech sector bubble. (Very few really took the CBO surplus projections of $5.5 trillion seriously.)

Simply stated the massive debt and deficits now and even more so in the future are the result of the massive entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. [Editor's Note: The Social Security Trust Fund reported a $2.6 trillion surplus as of December 2010, according to the Office of Chief Actuary. Medicare expenditures exceeded income in 2008, largely because of subsidies to insurance and pharmaceutical companies. However, the Medicare Trust Fund will not be exhausted until at least 2024, and the Affordable Care Act promises savings in Medicare expenditures.] By the way, did the Social Security Trust Fund ever have money designated in that lock box for Vic Massara and Jim Cullen? [The Social Security Trustees report that the fund will pay all promised benefits at least through 2036 under conservative economic growth projections — then will pay 75% of promised benefits through 2085.] Perhaps many decades ago, but they have been IOUs for decades.

This is not an indictment of all government programs, many are necessary for a complex society and economy to function. My point is that increasingly under the past several administrations and congress, we are evolving toward a central planning economy with way too much power vested in the federal government.

Addressing Mr. Cullen’s central thesis, espoused by all liberals and socialists, the stimulus helped the recovery and that income redistribution will help the economy. Sure, throwing and printing money at pet projects will have a stimulating effect, but most economists believe it gave little bang for the buck.

Evaluating Mr. Cullen’s cherished 91% highest bracket income tax (even higher than most liberals 70 %,) Alan Reynolds, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of the book Income and Wealth discusses that in depth in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

That 91% bracket produced 7.7% revenues as a % of Gross National Product. President Kennedy reduction to 70% produced 8.0% revenues as a % of GNP. President Reagan’s further reduction to 50% produced revenues of 8.3 of GNP. Even the Tax Reform Act of 1986 of 28% top tax bracket produced revenues of 8.1%

Mr. Reynolds concludes that reductions in top tax rates and capital gains not only paid for themselves and also for those 50% of tax filers who do not pay federal income taxes, or even those that get money back for not paying income taxes, i.e. the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Mr. Cullen concludes that “we can’t cut our way to prosperity.” The evidence is overwhelming, especially from nations such as Greece, that we cannot spend our way to prosperity. A $14 plus trillion debt won’t allow us to do so, a debt that has grown massively under two-plus years under President Obama, truly voodoo economics.

Vic Massara
Omaha, Neb.

The Editor replies: ThinkProgress.org noted (5/31/11) that, according to US Treasury figures, President Bush inherited a $236 billion budget surplus from President Clinton, and under Bush the deficit increased by $4.9 trillion. When Obama took office the debt stood at $10.6 trillion. After inheriting two wars and the worst economy since the Great Depression, the debt has grown by $3.7 trillion since Obama has been in office.

One and a Quarter Cheers for Obama

I usually find myself in agreement with Editor Jim Cullen, but there are a few points that he overlooks in the editorial of June 15th ("Keep Palaver Palatable"). While it is true that the Republicans left a disastrous state of affairs for Obama to deal with, this was all the more reason to fight for policies equal to the task of setting things right. Nobel Prize-winning economists such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz were standing on their chairs waving their napkins and warning Obama at the top of their lungs that you can‚t patch a $2.2 trillion hole in the economy with a $800 billion patch, and they were doing this well before the deal was done.

Mr. Cullen correctly points out that reasonable Republicans are extinct (actually, they have been for about 25 years) and that there are a few turncoat "Democrats" in the Senate who probably would have prevented Obama from getting the 60 votes needed to pass an adequate stimulus. However, if Obama had fought hard for an adequate stimulus and then had to settle for less, he could now say "I told you so" and put the blame on the Republicans and their cohorts (Joe Lieberman, etc..) where it belongs. By caving in immediately and neglecting the effort to make the case for an adequate stimulus, Obama makes it seem to many voters that if the economy doesn‚t turn around, the Republicans were right (government shouldn‚t try to stimulate the economy, etc.).

The same pattern was apparent on the issues of Wall Street reform and the public option. Wall Street reform in particular was very likely a historic opportunity lost. Although then-Senator Dodd (now a lobbyist) was bought and paid for and probably would have resisted stronger reforms, how long Dodd would have continued his resistance if Obama had brought LBJ-magnitude pressure on him (and any other turncoats) we‚ll never know because Obama never tried.

Obama's eagerness to give away the substance of a bill just to be able to claim that he got a measure passed on whatever issue is in question is dangerous for a number of reasons. First, it fails to solve the problem that the bill was intended to address, thus harming the public by allowing the problem to persist. Second, it (predictably) gives the Republicans the impression that Obama is weak, the direct consequence of which is the constantly increasing intransigence we have seen from the Republicans over the last two years. Third, and most dangerous of all, when Congress passes bills that are too weak to solve the problems that they are purported to address, citizens lose faith in democracy as a form of government. This is particularly the case when people perceive that the reason the legislation is too weak is that it was deliberately written that way due to the influence of organized money.

I have been disappointed in the Obama administration not because I believed the campaign promises (I knew better after ’92 and ’96) but because Obama had compiled a reasonably progressive record as a Senator. I wasn't expecting a center-right presidency, nor a presidency so friendly to Wall Street. As Mr. Cullen points out, the Republicans are evil (I say damned near Nazis), and for this reason I will very likely vote for Obama, but when I vote for President, I would like to have the opportunity to be for someone who is for me.

Paul Schwietering
Cincinnati, Ohio

No Obama

I must respectfully disagree with the continuance of support for Obama through another term. Like practically all presidents before him, his actions in office have revealed psychopathic behavior resulting in mass murder, torture, abandonment of the rule of law and unapologetic groveling at the feet of Corporate America, especially the demons of Wall Street. Our country (and others) has been robbed and raped, our Bill of Rights still held as a kidnapping victim, and our economic present and future jeopardized through the largest redistribution of wealth (upward) – read: swindle – in the history of time during this administration. Obama has much more in common with Bush 43 than he does with mainstream Americans, not to mention progressives. His goal is the same as James Madison’s (and the rest of the Founding Fathers and every president since): “to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority.”

The whole “lesser of two evils” argument, which panders to people’s fears once again, carries less weight now than ever when people in Wisconsin and elsewhere across America and the world are finally fighting back against the oppressive forces of the corporate-fascist state. The only hope we progressive populists, regardless of party affiliation, have is to unite behind a single, electable candidate, be it Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ralph Nader or even Elizabeth Warren. If a man of mixed race with Kenyan blood named Barack Hussein Obama can get elected President of the United States, surely we can make a strong, collective push to support a courageous fellow American to take the reins and run a campaign that is “of the people, by the people, for the people” – words that have not yet come to pass in the governing of America.

Alexander Clayton
Westminster, Colo.

From The Progressive Populist, August 1, 2011


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