Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Destruction of America: It's What They Want


"Government can't solve the problem. Government is the problem."
-Ronald Reagan

No, the title is not referring to the terrorists. At least, not the ones in other countries, who commit conventional terrorism with bombs and airplanes and vans. These terrorists are a small group of elitists who wish to bring America to its knees unconventionally; through the Democratic process, of all things. Not because they necessarily hate their country, but because they love their money, their power, and their campaign contributors more than their country. And if making the country weaker makes them more powerful, you'd better believe they'll do it.

So who are "they?"

The Reagan Revolution

"I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."
-Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform

America's resounding wish 30 years ago materialized through the "Reagan Revolution." One of unfettered, deregulated, unrestrained capitalism, compounded with "starving the beast." The "beast," of course, being government. Even if that beast was educating our children and caring for our poor and our sick, the American people wanted that beast out of their lives. And they elected Ronald Reagan the the presidency by overwhelming margins in both 1980 and 1984, and they even liked him so much that they elected one of his deputies, George H. Bush, after Reagan's two terms were up.

And the two Democratic presidents who have followed both tread carefully when stumping for social welfare programs, because the "GOVERNMENT BAD, CORPORATIONS GOOD" mantra had been stuck in the heads of constituents for a generation and was there to stay.

President Clinton deregulated banks by repealing the Glass-Stegall Act of 1936 in his second term as per the advice of Rubin and Summers, a decision he now openly regrets. And President Obama doesn't dare raise top income tax rates to what they were under other Republican administrations (50% under Reagan, 70% under Nixon, 91% under Eisenhower) for fear of a corporate lynch mob. Barack Obama is already being called every demeaning term under the sun for letting the Bush tax cuts expire in 2011 (39.6 top tax rate after Bush tax cuts for the wealthy sunset), so it isn't likely he'll impose higher taxes on the richest, at least in his first term.

So the people have spoken, right? Taxes are bad? Government is bad? Corporations, deregulation and obscene profits are all good? If you have absurd amounts of wealth, then you obviously worked for every penny and any taxation on those profits is socialism/communism/fascism/nazism/terrorism? The only reason poor people are poor is because they don't know how to work hard?

Well kids, the Reagan Revolution has come true in every way. We are reaping the fruits of our labor, of the seeds we have sewn three decades ago. I invite all of you to read on, and see just exactly where the Reagan Revolution and 30 years of fiscal conservatism and libertarian unfettered free-market philosophies has led our country.

The Dawn of the Re-Gilded Age

"The only social responsibility of corporations is to make a profit."
-Milton Friedman, economic adviser to President Reagan

Take a look at any economic chart graphing just about anything in this country after 1981, and you'll notice a pattern. That pattern is usually a line that takes a sudden drop, or a sudden rise.

For example, after 1981, when Reagan was sworn in, we steadily went form the world's largest creditor, to the world's largest debtor.

Working people's share of the profits from increased productivity also took a sharp turn for the worst.

This led to increased concentration of wealth at the top.

Because of this, working folks had to deplete their savings just to get basic needs.

Without a reserve of savings, this soon led to increased working-class debt, which has only worsened since the Reagan Revolution.

Obviously, none of this helped economic growth, because the majority of working Americans were cutting back their spending, which hurts local economies and jobs.

Do you see the pattern yet? The source of our economic woes should be painfully obvious right now, but the vested powers that be like it that way, and have plenty of money to lobby Congress so they can make sure the cards remain in their favor. Even if that means the rest of us get the short end of the stick.

So why complain? According to today's conservatives, this sort of economic inequality is not only sustainable, but it is just. And they're going to fight as hard as they can to make sure the status quo stays. But what is that status quo today, after three decades of Reaganomics from both parties?

The Status Quo

"We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

"They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

"Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred."

-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1936

The status quo today is one that is slowly destroying the American middle class, to where nearly one in five of us are unemployed, underemployed, or have just stopped looking for work.

The gap between the richest and everyone else is slowly turning into a chasm, thanks to fiscal policy that fills the pockets of the rich while the working class toil longer hours for lower wages. The debt mentioned in the previous section has grown to such an alarming rate that one in 9 working families can't even make the minimum payment on their credit card debt. The housing situation hasn't improved much since the subprime bubble burst in late 2008; now, one in eight mortgages is either in foreclosure or default, and homes are still emptying all over America today, and it's estimated we'll have ten million more foreclosures before 2012.

While Wall Street bankers used our bailout money to give themselves obscene bonuses, Americans who suffered from their greed had $5 TRILLION of their pension and savings wiped out.

Sure, the 1960's saw a boom where median income rose for working families by 33%, but the economic surge that was celebrated by the end of the Clinton presidency was only a 1.5% jump for folks like us. However, the real gains were made on Wall Street- champagne corks were popping through the latter half of the 20th century as productivity has steadily been on the rise while middle-class wages have been relatively flat since the 1970s.

The top 10% of the country has seen great gains in their wealth since 1980, thanks to Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush policies. However, prices have continued to rise while wages have stagnated for the other 90%. Now, the hunger rate in this country, arguably the most wealthy on the planet, has increased by 37 million in just the past year. And here in the South, it's estimated that nearly half of the children in 15 states are undernourished. And according to the article above, a third of Americans- 100 million people- are at or below 200% of the federal poverty level of $21,834 in annual income for a family of four. And as the author said, that figure really should be adjusted, because that amount of money isn't capable of supporting a family of four today. And as if that wasn't enough, 50% percent of kids growing up today will require food stamps/EBT just to eat three meals a day.

So despite the astonishing levels of disparity and income inequality in America, the likes of which we haven't seen since pre-1929, the Republicans in power and the Libertarians making up the majority of the Tea Party would have you believe that such a lack of income and crippling poverty is your own fault. Their meme is that if you live on food stamps/EBT cards, then you're a lazy, good-for-nothing government mooch. Their reasoning for earning insufficient wages is that you just don't work hard enough.

If that seems like an over-generalization, read on and see just how the Republicans in power feel about the poor and unemployed who survive only on a government-provided safety net. Since the onset of the Reagan Revolution, they have sought to not only abolish all regulatory agencies, but to eliminate all social welfare programs.

They are succeeding.

The Right-Wing War on the Poor

"Tough shit."
-Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) after being asked to drop objections to 30-day unemployment extension

In February, Jim Bunning drew the scorn of Democrats across the country for his callousness toward the plight of America's jobless. Republican senators Jon Kyl and Bob Corker had lukewarm support for his viewpoints, but the rest of the Republican caucus turned their heads in shame, refusing to join their colleague in blocking emergency aid to the poor.

Fast-forward to Thursday, June 24th, when an up-or-down vote on an emergency spending bill to extend unemployment insurance through December 30th was blocked- not just by Sen. Bunning, but by the entire Republican caucus. Conservative Democrat Ben Nelson (D-NE) joined the Republicans, and "moderate" Republicans like Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA) voted in lockstep with their party.

Along with keeping the safety net for millions of jobless Americans intact, the bill also included $16 billion in state government aid, aimed at preserving public sector jobs that would otherwise be lost. Governors of 47 states, including top GOP strategist Haley Barbour (R-MS) all signed a letter begging Congress to extend them the $16 billion to save their state employees. Already, 231,000 state government employees across the nation have lost their jobs since the beginning of the recession because of severe budget cuts.

As if this wasn't enough, in their never-ending, fruitless effort to reach across the aisle, Senate Democrats even compromised the bill down from $190 B to $30 B. However, Senate Republicans vowed to filibuster regardless of the amount in the bill. The only alternative offered by the Republicans would be to severely cut the budget to where the federal government would effectively shut down for almost 80 days. For the GOP, a compromise means that the Democrats do what the Republicans want.

The GOP casts themselves as martyrs, saying that blocking UI is necessary to save the federal deficit from exploding. However, worrying about the deficit while people are starving and losing their homes is a lot like worrying about the furniture on the Titanic if it gets wet. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) joked about the emergency spending bill, calling it the "Deficit Extenders Act."

Mind you, Mitch McConnell is the same deficit hawk who gleefully voted with the rest of his caucus to spend $4 TRILLION that we didn't have on tax cuts for the rich 1%, two wars on countries that didn't attack us, and a Medicare package that put money into the pockets of Big Pharma at the expense of America's senior citizens while George W. Bush was president. He is the same senator who voted to give himself a "cost of living" pay raise while America was reeling from the deficits created by irresponsible spending from those in his party.

Mitch and his Republicans in the US Senate won't cut anything from the $1 trillion spent on wars overseas since 2001, but he draws the line when it comes to keeping a safety net intact for 15 million Americans suffering from an economic crisis created by his party's failed fiscal policies.

It isn't just Bunning being a mean old curmudgeon now- every Republican is now Jim Bunning.

The Destruction of America: It's What They Want

"I want Obama to fail."
-Rush Limbaugh

Eliminating the only source of income left for 15 million Americans will only lead to even more widespread poverty; the lack of money coming into local businesses will have a ripple effect in every state. No longer will the jobless have money coming in so they can buy shoes for their kids, put food on the table, make copays to see the doctor, or change the oil, or even put gas in their cars. The Republicans would like us to believe that this will somehow further enable the jobless to find work, despite the fact that corporate profits are up while hiring is down. The jobs just aren't out there.

When families are pushed out onto the streets because they no longer have UI checks coming in to pay rent, when they lose the money they were getting to gas up their car so they can drive around town and drop off resumes and fill out job applications, when local mom-and-pop grocery stores, hardware stores, shoe stores and service stations go belly-up because there's no money being spent, the economy will likely crash again, just in time for the 2010 midterm congressional elections in November.

The average American doesn't have the time to follow political news- they don't see Republicans crassly voting against emergency aid for millions of families and households. They don't see a vow by the Republicans to filibuster any and all legislation that helps spur job growth. The average American will only see "Congress" sitting on their thumbs, accomplishing nothing while people starve. And come November, the average American will be in an angry, throw-the-bums-out, anti-incumbent fervor. And since the Democrats have the majority, they will be saddled with the blame, despite the Republicans purposefully failing to govern in the people's interest.

This is not about fiscal policy. This is simply the Republicans playing politics with people's livelihoods.


The Republicans seek not to create jobs, or help the economy recover, at least not while the Democrats are in charge of the White House and the Capitol. They want this president and this congress to fail, so they can win more seats in the next election. Their political strategy is to break the economy, increase poverty, widen the gap between rich and poor, and then point the finger at the Democrats and say,

"See? We told you they couldn't get anything done!"

If voters refuse to stay informed on legislative affairs, if voters become apathetic with the political process and decide to stay home on election day, then the Republicans will get what they want. And they will continue to fight against the interests of the working poor as long as Barack Obama is in the White House. They will continue to side with their corporate contributors and Wall Street in their class war against the dwindling middle class and impoverished.

But don't take my word for it- let them say it for you. They are not on your side.

It's a risky political strategy, but they will succeed unless the Democrats come out with guns blazing. The extreme right has taken over the Republican party, and they are waging war with anyone not in line with their philosophy of "screw you, I got mine." The Democrats ignore this partisan warfare at their own peril.

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