Sunday, November 28, 2010

Put Up or Pay Up

In this neverending debate about extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, I never hear what I think is the big question, although there is quite a bit of tap dancing around it.  I hear Democrats say that the tax cuts haven't worked in the ten years they have been in existence.  The representatives of the corporations in the republic party claim that without the extension of the tax cuts, businesses would not have the money necessary to create jobs.  I even hear some brave souls ask why, if this were the case, jobs were lost and not created during the tax cut years.

The big question is:

When is business going to step up and take responsibility for themselves?

Look around.  What corporate giant doesn't get bailouts and handouts from the government on a steady basis?

The federal government sinks money into airports so that airlines can make huge profits.  As a result of these huge profits, not possible without the American traveler or the federal government, the airlines neither pass on savings, nor do they increase jobs, job security, or job benefits.

In fact, as the government has stepped up to take on the full responsibility for airport and flight security, the airlines have stepped back by further automating check-in, and cutting staff positions on the front lines, where people should be interacting and observing passengers as a very natural and common sense function of improving anti-terrorism security.

The federal government pours money into health care, by subsidizing private hospitals and insurance companies, who make enormous profits.  Again, pass on the savings?  Not their responsibility.  Likewise for the pharmaceutical industry, who benefits from government money for research and development, and then is allowed to own the findings (including individual genes), thereby maximizing profit and prohibiting further scientific development and growth.

The Supreme Court decision granting personhood to corporations allowed them to exert control over the election process, without taking any of the responsibilities of personhood.  We have carried the philosophy of capitalism to the extreme in which they are expected to be immoral in the interest of greater profit.  That's right, immoral, not amoral.  Because there are people making corporate decisions, and when they make decisions that injure others, it IS immoral.

We need to reframe this argument.  The wealthy should not give up their wealth to take care of the rest of us.  They have the responsibility to use their wealth to further the society which allowed them to be wealthy.  They have the responsibility to create jobs, jobs that pay a living wage.  They have the responsiblity to invest in infrastructure, and research.  They have the responsibility to pay taxes, to allow the government from which they benefit to continue to function.

Beginning in the Reagan era, the philosophy of wealth regressed to the mentality of the robber barons.  Capitalism meant gathering wealth for its own sake.  Capitalism meant using the federal goverment to further power and profit.  Capitalism meant never having to say you're sorry.

The eighties were the years of "He who dies with the most toys wins."  Why on earth haven't we realized that not only does that not work, it is neither true nor funny?  As the middle class has stagnated, as our rating in health care, education, longevity have sunk in comparison to other developed countries, why on earth don't we understand what is happening?  Why are we so afraid to see that capitalism is not only NOT democracy, capitalism seeks to  curtail democracy.  Capitalism is a tyranny that feeds on democracy.  It lives off the people's government and starves the people while bloating with its own useless wealth.

Jobs were not created during the Bush years initially because tax cuts and government handouts allowed for more corporate profit without any annoying increase in the cost of labor.  But as the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, and especially since the 2008 landslide presidential election, corporate America has been holding us all hostage.  The past two years, the argument has been that corporations need more financial freedom and less regulation, otherwise the American people will suffer.  The proof is the stagnating jobless rate.

But the reality is that the failure to create jobs has been the boon of the republic party, which represents the corporation.  Had businesses acted responsibly, as they have long stopped doing, they would have used their fortunes to invest in research and development and to create jobs.  But that would have most likely resulted in an electorate that would have voted from reason and confidence and not out of fear, giving the Democratic party continued control of Congress.

The Democrats drop the ball when they fail to challenge business to prove it deserves its power and capital, as President Obama challeneged the auto industry.  The banking industry, the insurance industry, the airline industry, all need to be challenged.  If they want to profit from doing  business in America, they need to act responsibly.  THEY need to stop expecting the federal government to keep paying for their greed and negligence.  And as long as they are not stepping up, the federal government needs to take more control, only give funding under specific conditions, and collect taxes adequate to maintain the wellbeing of the hard-working Americans to which the corporation is really, truly beholding.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Still a Few Things to Be Thankful For

Yes, I know, sometimes it's better to curse the darkness than light a stinking candle.  But this evening before Thanksgiving, I want to take a few minutes to list some things that I am thankful for.

I am thankful that Jan Brewer is not the governor of South Carolina.  Even Nikki Haley looks good next to her.

I am thankful that my son got through airport security and he's on his way home.  I don't know how much security he had to go through, but I will give him an extra long hug when I see him, because I can't be there to yell at people for him and try to protect him anymore.

I am thankful that the democrats still hold the Senate, although heaven help us, it's Harry Reid.

I am thankful for every day that John Boehner is at the tanning salon instead of the floor of the House.

I am thankful that George W. Bush is signing books instead of legislation.

I am thankful to all the people who stood up to protest full body scanners by giving over their bodies for a grope.  We Americans need to fight more and whine less.  We (including me) need to be willing to stand up for others, and stand up for our liberties, even though it may be inconvenient, and sometimes even painful.  I don't know if I have the courage to fight for my rights, but I need to try, because they are after all, my children and grandchildren's rights that I will be protecting as well.

I am thankful for President Barack Obama, rather than President John McCain.  And for Vice President Joe Biden rather than Vice President Sarah Palin.  And it gives me the creeps to even type the words.

I am thankful that, in the year 2010, I still have the freedom as an American to refrain from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which, after all, a great many people who do not even feel strongly enough about their country to get out and vote, will unhesitatingly recite the Pledge.  It is, after all, just words, and meaningless without thought and action.

I am thankful that I have health insurance, crappy as it is, and I am ever hopeful that the Tea Party will someday wake up and realize that they are not fighting for liberty, but fighting for wealthy corporate interests.  I hope that someday we all will think more about what other people don't have than what we are afraid we might lose.

I am thankful I no longer have children in the public schools.  And isn't that a sad thing???

I am thankful for citizens like Tom Clements and Rob Groce, who stood up against great odds to try to pull South Carolina out of the mess we are in.

I am thankful that Mark Sandford will soon have the time to hike anyone's Appalacian Trail for which he feels the desire.  I wish he would take Nikki hiking with him.

I am very thankful that, for a few days, I will have my family with me.  Lots of laughs at the "Macy's Day Parade", some Monty Python's Not the Messiah -- (He's a Very Naughty Boy), Christmas cookies because you have your holiday when you have your people with you, and of course, a huge turkey, etc.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Miss Me Yet?"

Hey, wait - it's only been two years!  One of the most decent things W. had done was disappear after President Obama's inauguration.  One of the happiest sights I'd ever seen was this former president's backside.  I know, it meant I couldn't wear my "Somewhere in Texas a village is missing its idiot" t-shirt anymore, because hallelujah! it wasn't true anymore.  He may still be lost, but now he's found.

And then the inevitable bad news.  The smaller Bush had moved up from reading The Pet Goat to "authoring" a book.  I say "authoring" because, as he admitted :

"I have written a book. This will come as quite a shock to some. They didn't think I could read, much less write."

Sarah Palin at least admitted to having a ghost writer.  But if you believed in weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I guess you might buy a book written by W., himself.  But be forewarned, if you do buy the book, every penny of the profits will go to Bush.

Not even a penny to stock his presidential library.  That's right, our tax dollars will continue to pay for this guy's infamy.  So, instead of actual cash, which, thanks to eight years of the Bush presidency, I am quite short of, thank you very much, I would like to donate my very own books.  These are documents of the eight years that were painstakingly, even lovingly, collected by me, and I will be sending the "former president" a photo so that he can find a suitable location.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Your Tax Dollars at Work

I live on an island with one main road that after two miles, forks and becomes two main roads.  Until some ten miles later, when it ends.  No public water, gas stations, grocery stores.  Most of the traffic, too much for me, but relatively little compared to the rest of the world, is just us chickens.  We travel the same lovely miles every day, back and forth.

So I was surprised, a couple of years ago, to suddenly see, in my ten mile commute, that someone had snuck in overnight and placed a number, i.e. more than one, of signs on the road that said:

First off I thought, what an eyesore.  Certainly gets in the way of a very pretty drive.  And then I wondered who on earth would be driving down this particular stretch of road and need to be told that this is a "Local Byway".  NOT ONLY THAT, but it appears to be a "Local Byway" after the road branches, because if you are traveling back to the mainland (in this case another island) there is another sign that says "Scenic Byway".  As opposed to "Local Byway".  Which I'm sure doesn't mean that my route isn't scenic; I think it's probably more scenic than the two miles before it divides.

Anyway, this led me to believe that a bit of thought had gone into this, which surprised me, because, to be honest, I can't imagine who would have nothing better to do than plan to put up "Byway" signs, scenic or otherwise, on a fairly deserted, rural stretch of road that in fact is a byway to nowhere.

I was disgruntled, but there are so many other things to complain about that I'm ashamed to say I just let the stupid signs blend into the beautiful scenery along with the all the other annoying signs, necessary and un-.

Until three days ago when some sinister road crew snuck in and put up HUGE traffic signs, pretty much anywhere on the road when a person needed to do something other than keep going.  Not only were these huge, horrifically ugly signs up everywhere, but also, a few feet before you got to the point where you needed to do something, there were HUGE SIGNS warning you that the signs telling you to DO SOMETHING were coming up.  AND THEY WERE ON BOTH SIDES OF THE STREET.

I took it quite personally.  Not just because they were an eyesore.  Not because they are totally unnecessary.  Although those are both totally large factors in my anger.

Could we have spent that money elsewhere?  How about the one percent additional sales tax that we struggling Charlestonians have agreed to pay in order to fix schools that our government claims not to have money to repair?  Or how about the furloughed teachers who get paid so much less anyway than educators in neighboring states?  Our struggling libraries?  Our parks?  Our police and fire fighters?


And this, my friends, is why people hate the government. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Not Just for Rapists Anymore

How about the way the TSA tells you they are hearing your discomfort, and then goes on to explain why it's important that they continue to do exactly what they are doing?  Okay, so they don't get the debasement and defilement and let's be honest the rape that you feel when you have the options of holding your arms up for seven seconds so they can get your naked body in view, or be felt up by an airport security madam (I'm talking women, but you men assuredly have a male version of a madam available to feel you up if desired.).

So you try reason.  If intelligence works the way it should it will be a far more effective alternative to the airline debasement process.  In fact, the airline debasement process was not even relevant during the last security threat; maybe the security folks need to formulate a plan for all those packages coming in from not-so-friendly places.  And, I understand that the scanners (and the pat down) don't work if the explosive is ingested.  Is this a case of let's look for the lost car keys where the light is better rather than where you lost them?  Let's invade American citizens, as they are so much easier than shipments from foreign countries.

And they say they understand that as well but they are sure this will work, and they need to continue to do it this way.  After all, the government has paid off so many corporate interests to get these gadgets, and now they are in place and all.

So you know that this is not going to work.  It is just going to be more expense and more inconvenience and more humiliation.  What do you do about it?

Apparently, we all grumble, and then we raise our arms up high.  Maybe, if we think we're really reasonable people, and we don't want to be seen as unpleasant, we make awkward jokes to the woman that's patting us down, or to our families when we're done showing our figure off to the airport screener.

I wonder, if I had a child of twelve, how I would explain this to her (or him).  You know, they trust us so if we want to lie that would be fine.  In fact, they trust us so much that we could tell them they are x-raying our bodies to make sure we are not terrorists, and they would accept that too.

That makes me want to cry.

Damn it, this is America, people.  Stop making excuses, about how it's not a big deal, you'd rather be safe, nobody's going to know it's you.  THEY ARE LOOKING AT OUR BODIES.

Why???  Because they are going to find terrorists?????

Well, I am nearly 60.  Nobody has patted me down in some twelve years.  The thought of this invasion brings tears to my eyes whenever I think of it.  The thought of all the smaller indignities, the shoes, the liquids, the opening up of computers, that we have put up with, not to be safer, but because we Americans don't feel we can stop this process.  This is just the way it's done.

With all my family living in distant parts of the country, and the piss-poor transportation we have in this country, I have been feeling a bit trapped for some time now.  Airports, once such pleasant places where happy things happened at least half the time, are now places of annoyance and intrusion, where every two minutes the loudspeaker requests that you immediately report unattended bags or suspicious looking people.  Where they take down your license plate as you leave, as though that is going to prevent an act of terrorism.

Right at this time, I can't see myself putting myself through this.  I have, since 9/11, had my bag pawed through. But the gun lobby is protecting the rights of Americans to carry guns.   I have had to dump a bottle of water to get to the airport boarding area.  But I can then purchase, for $2 or more, a bottle of water before boarding.  I have taken my shoes off, bagged my tiny bottle of hand lotion, and don't even think about carrying a computer onto a plane.  And yet, because the airlines are charging exhorbitant amounts for luggage, all manor of bizzarre objects are squeezed into planes and overhead compartments, sometimes to fall onto a passenger, and often preventing people from getting to connecting flights, while they wait for people ahead of them to wrestle those big bags to the floor.

I show my drivers license two or three times before I board.  I have for a time had to tolerate standing in line while people opened my luggage, sprinkled powder on and around it (looking for explosive).  Yet we no longer have humans handling ticketing.  We self-ticket, soon we will self-check our bags, and all those points where humans might detect suspicious behavior are gone.

I just heard a TSA representative claim that if people had a choice of taking a flight that had no precautions or a flight that had all these screening measures, people would choose the latter.  First of all, adequate precautions are essential.  Secondly, the current screening measures are nothing like adequate measures.  They have replaced people with machines, and with more machines comes less personal and professional judgment and responsibility.  The airlines are allowing the government to take on the full responsibility for the next terrorist act.  Airline policies and personnel have become more lax and inadequate as the government has instituted ever more  invasive procedures.  The government relies on machines and not personal contact and judgment.  No, I guess I would opt for neither.  What I would choose, given the option, is personnel -- people -- being involved in the process, from check-in to boarding, and all of us being observant.  That  would make me feel safer.

But since that is not going to happen, I have chosen not to fly.  And I wonder when Americans are going to stand up to the government and the corporate interests that have allowed the government to take the easy, less effective way out of pretending to protect us from the terrorists.  Right now, it is the government doing the terrorizing.  Which is probably quite fine by Al Qaeda, who has raped our bodies and our spirits without having to board a plane.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Earmark This!

I've been reading about earmarks.  Now my head hurts.  The term needs to be gotten rid of.  Any politician that talks about earmarks should be "defunded", and I'd like to volunteer our own Senator Jim Demint.

Not that I don't trust him, except I don't, but I do believe that he sincerely WILL NOT use earmarks to favor his own state.  You cannot accuse Jim Demint of putting his constituents ahead of his own deluded ego.  The concept that by not allowing Congress to use earmarks to assign federal funds would just force the Executive branch to assign the funds just appears to totally escape Mr. Small Federal Government Demint.  It seems to make sense that it would be more appropriate for Congress to direct federal funds to specific projects, as, when done right, Senators and Representatives would have more awareness as to what would benefit their particular state.

Which leads to the big conundrum:  What on earth is  an earmark?  Are there good earmarks and bad earmarks (as in, Bridge to Nowhere)?  Why can't we get a definition of this concept that delineates and differentiates a good earmark from a Bridge-to-Nowhere earmark?

Why this isn't going to happen is because politicians like Mitch McConnell and Jim Demint can't even get their own special interests and egos out of the way long enough to agree on this.  I can't say about McConnell other than he's scary,  but I do know that Demint is not the sharpest tool in the shed.  And yet, here he is, the biggest mouth in the Senate.  Which is why no one is eager to have rules changed and concepts defined by this particular Congress.  Senator Demint can't find his way out of an argument, so he is fortunate that as the premier Senate bully no one is taking him on.

I'm not a gambler, but there are some things I would bet on, here in South Carolina:

We will not use federal funds to improve education.

We will not have high speed rail in South Carolina, and maybe not even have public transit to and from Charleston and Columbia in my lifetime.

Unemployment, underemployment, and working poor will continue to thrive.

Our elected representatives will continue to fight to their last breath for the right of the wealthy and powerful to hoard their wealth, and then complain that the economy is failing.

The voters will continue to blame the Democrats for all the ills in a state run by, and run into the ground by, the Republican party.

Earmarks?  I would  be more concerned with the tax dollars that are getting wasted so that these blowhards can argue about where the money should be spent, than whether money is getting wasted on actual funded projects.  I'd rather spend money on the "Bridge to Nowhere" than on a podium for Jim Demint.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Simpler than You Might Think

Here in South Carolina, even in Charleston, even in a library in Charleston, you can hardly swing a dead cat without hitting a whole mess of republicans.  And to my surprise, I have had conversations with a couple of them in which they indicated frustration with this government for refusing to stand firm on raising taxes on the wealthy among us.

Polls are idiotic.  I personally hang up on pollsters; they should never have been exempted from the Do-Not-Call Registry law.  Questions are poorly worded and/or incomplete and/or leading.  I am compelled to yell at whatever news person is reporting polling results, and this election season, there was a lot of yelling.  So a lot of us are unhappy with Obama?  Gee, that helps.

It seems to me that smart Democrats would be down here, yes, in the South, talking to all us poor slobs about why we are ticked off.  Is it because you want "less government"???  What the hell does that mean?  As far as I can tell from talking to actual people, we all want as much government as we use, and some of us understand that you can't only pay taxes on what you use, or nobody would get anything.

I believe those who are informed by Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin voted for Nikki Haley.  Those who were uninformed stayed home.  A lot of us had no clue that allowing Haley to win would mean funding being slashed for government services WE USE.  Really.

I've heard some very odd rationales for why a voter has chosen a certain candidate (as opposed to just voting party line).  Misinformed? You bet.  But how hard were the Democrats working to inform us?

We need specifics.  And we need specifics that address stuff we think is important.  And we want you to think our stuff is important too.  Sadly, most voters don't care about democratic ideals.  But they will be tickled if they think you're listening to them.

That's what the folks in the republic party have figured out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Blood from a Stone

Above:  Erskine Bowles having a good 
laugh over Alan Simpson's fake budget
cutting proposal.

So you thought you'd tightened the belt about as much as you could?  Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles beg to differ.

They are proposing cuts in Social Security and Medicare as well as Defense spending; while we're at it, let's "level the playing field" on taxation, so that even those who are holding on to their mortgage by a thread can forego the interest deduction that they count on.

In the middle of the craziness wherein the republic party is insisting we cut spending while not cutting taxes on their corporate cronies, these guys have tossed in the kitchen sink.  And they did it pretty much by sneaking in in the middle of the night and slipping it in the President's in-basket when he wasn't looking.

I am looking forward to the day that the Tea Baggers who gave the House back to their republic friends realize that the government is now seriously considering taking away their Medicare.

It should be an interesting time, if we are able to live through it.  There are people out there who have no idea what it is like to not be able to afford to send your children to the doctor, much less to college.  They don't get that without public transportation, some of us can't get to work, because we don't make enough to be able to afford a car with it's expensive accoutrements, like taxes, insurance, repairs, and don't forget, gas.  People that believe in Reagan's trickle down theory, because they are the tricklers, not the tricklees.  And we just put them in charge of our government, again.

If Reaganomics worked, we wouldn't have record foreclosures and more than 50 million Americans without health care.  If the Bush tax cuts worked, we would all have jobs and be earning a living wage.

The thing is, if you take away the safety net, as thin as it is, it is going to cost the government more to clean up the mess.

But the thing is, really, that this is about people.  People trying to work, trying to pay bills, trying to take care of their families, trying to make it to retirement age.

We aren't going to be ready to move forward until those who have the means contribute their fair share.  All those other cuts Alan Simpson, the tea baggers, and the republic party are proposing are trying to get blood from a stone.  It doesn't work.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Boehner Brings Me to Tears, Too

John Boehner, like Dick Nixon and myself, was born to humble beginnings.  Like Dick and myself, Boehner worked hard to pull himself up, and the fact that he has "made it" to Speaker of the House, brings him to tears.  The thought that I might run out of savings before my social security kicks in, if John Boehner and his cronies don't get to it first, is what brings me to tears.

I was taking a little peek at Boehner's expenditures.  I was impressed.  The man spent $25,000 in one year at the Bighorn Golf Club in Yucca Valley, California.  If you don't have a map handy let me just say that that is nowhere near Washington, D.C.  And I had only gotten to the B's.  Even though the small print was making my eyes blurry and I had had to cancel my opthalmologist appointment because I couldn't make the co-pay ($20 plus whatever else Blue Cross can figure out how to not pay for, $60 last appointment), I decided I really needed to know how much the man spent for golf.  So I went back to and went throught the whole list, and came up with $15,562 to Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohion, and a whopping $34,646 to Wetherington Golf and Country Club in Westchester, Ohio.  Also, when someone takes his golf that seriously, you would expect that he would spend at least $803 at Par Golf Supply.

Now I'm really not a rube.  I learned that these events were not for the hard-working John Boehner's pleasure.  Each one of them was for a fund-raising event of some sort.  Which I guess makes it tax deductible, at the very least.  But Boehner has worked hard all his life and deserves not to pay taxes whenever he gets the opportunity.

And if they happen to let him on the golf course for a few holes, or whatever they are called, at no charge, that is just business.  Because John Boehner knows how hard it is for small businesses to survive in this dog-eat-dog country.

I'm not saying that John Boehner has done anything wrong.  What I'm saying is, 1) the amounts of money the man spends to be a congressman blows my mind, and 2) if the republic party is going to be going over every penny President Obama spends, I'm sure they won't mind if we take a look at their expenditures, and 3) I got my information on the internet, so I know it's true.

And I want to conclude by saying that anyone who spends $1,660 on valet parking at Sharp's Valet Parking cannot possibly be in touch with what people like me have to do to get by.  You may have started out like I did, Mr. Boehner, but you sure lost touch along the way. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Ironic Cherry on the Icky Political Sundae

Yesterday at the blog that keeps me from going postal at my day job I described the suspension of Keith Olbermann as "the ironic cherry on the icky campaign sundae" that was the 2010 election season.

I liked that.  My first thought was, "ironic cherry" -- Dave Barry would think that was a cool name for a band.  On the other hand, I had been thinking for months about what I would name my new blog.  I planned on retiring my 2010 election season blog when Alvin Greene retired his political career and went back home to Manning with whatever golden parachute he had been promised when he agreed to "run".

So after the band idea, it occurred to me that "The Ironic Cherry" would be a great name for a blog.

Too much irony in politics goes unnoticed and unanswered.  So maybe I'll spend some time ruminating on the odd lies and contradictions that we breathe in every time a politician or a CEO exhales.

Can't hurt.