Where Are Populists Going?

I am reading the June issue of the Populist [7/1-15/13 TPP] and find many good articles.

But the big political issue of our time is absent. How will Progressives approach the next Presidential election? It is becoming increasingly evident that Barack Obama is not a Progressive. While his speeches and background would suggest that the President is a fighting liberal, he isn’t! Under his guidance the military has grown, nuclear weapons are planning to be a world threat for decades, our military exports are filling the world with munitions that our troops are likely to face in the future. On the labor front, we have very limited jobs programs, no help for union organizing, cutbacks in food stamps, child care, and education. 

The big question is will Hillary Clinton be any better for labor? Has she come out for an increase in the minimum wage? Is she supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will cause more jobs loss and loss of American sovereignty? Hillary did a faithful job of representing the Obama business policies around the world, but I hear nothing about cutting back on our building bases in Africa and Asia. What has she said about the NSA secret surveillance of the American people? Would she be another Teddy Roosevelt or another Bill Clinton? 

If we are going to have a serious third-party challenge, we have to start laying the foundations now. If we are going to have a true progressive in the Democratic Party primaries to force the basic issues on to that milquetoast stage, we had better start building our candidate now.

We need to debate these alternatives. The progressive populist is one of the few vehicles for the expression of the ideas of the Congressional Progressive Coalition, which has come up with the greatly better priorities and budget. History and conservative think tanks have pretty much destroyed the left, leaving us with no counter force to stale, backward-looking Republican versions of the ‘good old days.’ 

Are you going to be the platform for this desperately needed populist dialogue?

Peter G. Cohen
Santa Barbara, Calif.

Constitutional Rights Matter

While I usually find the column by Gene Lyons to be enlightening, his column of 8/1/13 (“Surveillance State Debate”) seems to radiate more heat than light. He states that it’s “childish” to think that citizens’ privacy can be protected, and that privacy “vanished with the Internet, and it’s never coming back.” If everyone took his attitude on this issue it certainly would never come back.

Lyons seems to have developed a personal dislike for Edward Snowden and for Glenn Greenwald, which influences his whole approach to this issue of NSA spying. While Lyons correctly points out that the NSA must get a search warrant if Google or Yahoo (or whichever server is involved) doesn’t turn over the requested information willingly, he neglects to mention that the NSA requests the warrant from the “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance” (FISA) courts. The record shows that these courts are rubber stamps, which have rejected a total of 8 requests for warrants in the past 8 years (out of over 12,000 applications).

While it is true that the greatest enemy isn’t methodology but lawlessness, a methodology that violates our Constitutional rights is a very great enemy. And a methodology that makes committing unlawful acts easier increases the temptation to commit them.

Mr. Lyons says that this is a debate we should be having, but like it or not, we wouldn’t be having it if not for Ed Snowden.

Paul Schwietering
Cincinnati, Ohio

Lyons’ Irish Stereotypes

Gene Lyons, as he’s done in previous columns (“Ethnic GroupThink Imperils Democrats,” 4/15/08 TPP, and “Sotomayor a ‘Racist.’ Really?” 7/1-15/09 TPP), continues with his stereotyping of Irish Americans and misinformation about Irish history in his 6/1/13 column (“What Nationality Are You People, Anyway?”). This in spite of the fact he denounces stereotyping in his 9/1/09 column (“Beer Summit’s Over, Back to Real Issues”).

He writes: “I was taught that there was a proper ‘Irish’ opinion on every imaginable topic. To dissent was to be labeled inauthentic, a traitor to one’s heritage. Over time, however, I decided that if there’s one single, overriding ‘Irish’ trait, it’s yelling at the dinner table.”

Of course, because this was the situation in his home it automatically applied to all the other Irish households.

So much for someone who has no use for those who stereotype people. Even worse than the foregoing is the following: “Meanwhile, back in the Old Country, people kept killing each other over 17th century religious issues. I once asked a (Catholic) friend in Belfast how the antagonists told each other apart, as they all resembled by cousins. It’s the shoes, she said, and the accents.”

The way you would tell them apart was to ask them if they were Nationalist or Unionist. The Nationalist would have told you he was discriminated against in employment, in housing and was brutalized by the police and military.

It had nothing to do with religion. If the two sides switched religions, became atheists or converted to the same Muslim sect it wouldn’t have changed a thing. The Unionist would have continued in his favored economic, political and social position supported by the British. The Nationalist would remain oppressed in his own country.

Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers did not die because of religious issues. They died because they couldn’t get justice in their own country.

He writes: “But here’s the thing. People don’t know these things unless I tell them.” What this self-styled expert misinformed writer is telling people is false and denigrates the Irish and Irish Americans. He portrays himself as knowledgeable even though he’s narrow-minded and ignorant regarding Irish history.

So much for someone who claims to be progressive.

In his 10/1/12 column, he writes, “All the Irish-American cuties with the big eyes on the TV news networks call Ryan a ‘deficit hawk’ because they haven’t done the arithmetic.” What’s the relevance in specifying the ethnicity of the TV reporters, and if it is necessary to do so, why hasn’t he specified the ethnicity of all those he writes about?

Just because he himself is a member of an ethnic group doesn’t give Lyons license to stereotype and misinform about that ethnic group without being called on it.

Charles McCarthy
Highland, N.Y.

‘Us’ Need Public Financing of Elections

Over 50 years ago I heard that our great country was divided by Us versus Them. At that time Us was 90% and Them was 10%. About 20 years ago it shifted to where Us were 95% and Them were 5%. In the past year or two it has become Us are the 99% and Them are the 1%.

Even though Us keeps increasing in numbers, we have never gained in power. That is the way it was and the way it will alway be unless the 99% remove the ability of the 1% to buy the politicians.

Public financing of national elections is the only pathway to level the playing field between Us and Them. Eventually that will result in lower taxes for everyone because the special considerations given to the one per cent cost us many times over what tax dollars spent on guaranteeing true representative government will deliver.

My message to the Occupy Wall Street people and similar  movements is to spend your efforts campaigning for public financing of elections and you may find yourselves on the winning side for a change. 

Peter Daniels
Polson, Mont.

Expand Affordable Care, Don’t Repeal It

With the Obama administration deferring the “employer mandate” for another year, the Republicans are once again on their warpath to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I have the opposite opinion. In my opinion the Affordable Care Act does not go far enough to solve the health care (and more importantly, the health care financing) problem in the United States.

T.R. Reid in his book, The Healing of America (2009), examines the various health care systems around the world, including the British, French, German systems. He concludes, not surprisingly, that our system is too costly and fails to deliver health care to those most in need of it. Even the Affordable Care Act comes in for criticisms, mainly that, although it expands coverage to many million more people, it does not really provide universal medical care, which all the other industrialized nations provide at a lower cost than our present system.

Although Congress appears polarized at present, there may be an opportunity after the next election to do more. My recommendation would be to adopt the Medicare system, especially for those between 55 and 65, who are the most vulnerable  to ruinous medical bills. Medicare for those people would reduce some of the enormous expenses incurred by insurance companies in treating that population, and it would reduce the cost of insurance for everyone else. It would also give those in that age group, many of whom are working primarily or in part for the insurance benefits, an incentive to leave the work force, opening room for younger people to obtain jobs (or better jobs).

The only ones who might suffer are the insurance companies, who would see their premium volume (and their profits) decrease. I don’t think that’s enough of a reason to refuse to change, even though Representatives AND Senators will receive many dollars in campaign contributions from insurance interests to do just that.

The solution to the problems of the Affordable Care Act are in expanding it, not repealing it.

Frank L. Schneider
Chicago, Ill.

Money Shouldn’t Be an Obstacle

Much is made in the ongoing national debate reported in TPP and elsewhere over how to address problems attendant to poverty, decaying infrastructure, national security, energy, education, healthcare, aging, housing, and preserving the environment of the costs and how to meet them. But why is it that when we discuss ways of improving things, we allow the solutions to be derailed by a social economic fiction? I refer to that convenience for the purpose of exchanges in goods and services called money.

We do well to consider the quality and quantity of materials required, the risks to life and limb involved, and efficiency of technique and effort when contemplating undertakings in the service of the public welfare. These things are real—the givens of activity in the natural world pertaining to success and practicability. But money is our own invention. We could create as much as we need to stand for the values needed in labor and materials to complete any reasonably conceived project. It is only that money has also been made a commodity whose value and distribution is made available for speculation that keeps it in shorter supply than the labor waiting to be begun in service of ideas waiting to be realized that could create a more equitable present and a future that better supports and preserves life. We continue to compete for it, to be encouraged and obliged to hoard it, and to determine the value of life in terms of it to our own detriment and to the glorification ultimately of selfishness.

If we would take the view that we are here to support one another and sustain life rather than to receive, control, or accumulate money from an artificially limited supply, we would free ourselves to do whatever needs to be done to make life as productive and comfortable as it can be for all. We might not even have to print more money to represent the value of our efforts because we have the technology to credit and shift quantities from one account to another without using physical currency. Isn’t it time we started cooperating for our common benefit rather than insisting that our quality of life be restricted by costs calculated according to a conceptualization of money that has become an obstacle to social welfare and progress?

C.C. Halitsky
South Orange, N.J.

The Right to Shoot Black Males

I am all in favor of police service, but we know how through the years we’ve seen stories of how cops shoot and kill innocent black males. Now with Stand Your Ground laws, people have the right to do the same thing.

Normally if someone felt threatened they would stay in their vehicle and call 911.  With Stand Your Ground you have every right to target someone you feel you’re threatened by. So, racist violence has become justified. Also with cases such as Trayvon Martin’s, the percentages that show racist bias in judicial cases are furthered along.

Tim Mavrides
Saint Johns, Ariz.

From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2013



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