A Poem for Israelis and Palestinians

Sorry for the short diary, but I was listening to Democracy Now! today and it made me think about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and how both sides just want a home, so I wrote a little poem about it.

A Home

A home, a home…
What is a home
if you have no door,
if you can’t find the key,
if your windows are opaque?
What is a home
if you can’t trust your neighbors,
if their every move is suspect,
if you live in fear?
What is a home
if you’re surrounded by barbed wire,
if you’re starved of supplies,
if you have no water?
We may as well be living in camps.

Cross Posted on Daily Kos.


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AZ State Rep. Raises the Bar on Crazy

Just when you thought the Arizona craziness couldn’t be topped, Republican Rep. Terri Proud (Tucson) comes through with the most asinine thing I’ve seen to date in the Republican war on women. I present to you Rep. Terri Proud:

“Personally I’d like to make a law that mandates a woman watch an abortion being performed prior to having a “surgical procedure”. If it’s not a life it shouldn’t matter, if it doesn’t harm a woman then she shouldn’t care, and don’t we want more transparency and education in the medical profession anyway? We demand it everywhere else.

Until the dead child can tell me that she/he does not feel any pain – I have no intentions of clearing the conscience of the living – I will be voting YES.”

Emphasis added.

This is the entirety of the emailed response of Rep. Proud to one of her constituents who voiced their opinion in opposition to a bill banning abortion after the 20th week.

So let me get this straight…Ms. Proud wants women to have abortions so that another woman can witness someone else’s abortion and are then deterred from having an abortion themselves? This vaults to new levels of crazy. I used to live in Tucson and I’m wondering just how someone this vacuous got elected from a city known for its relatively progressive nature.

Oh, Arizona. You continue to surpass even our most twisted, laugh inducing, mind numbingly grotesque image of inanity. First came the bill linked above banning abortions after the 20th week, then came the bill to defund Planned Parenthood, then came the bill allowing employers to refuse to cover birth control, and now there’s this.

The reactionary Republican legislature is training its fire on women, but they’ve also been attacking workers, and the poor, allowing guns in public buildings, and generally running roughshod over the citizenry. Meanwhile, they’ve done bupkis about the most important issue in the state (and the nation): jobs. They continue to ignore the state’s long term budgetary issues, clinging to the hopelessly flawed and utterly discredited trickle down theory.

However, help is on the way in the form of the inevitable demographic trends and a strong push to register and get out the Latino vote. While this alone will not change the state legislature this year, it will almost certainly make Arizona a swing state at the Presidential and Senatorial level, and probably make Arizona a consistently blue state within a decade. Accounting for an 8.2% population growth since 2008 and all other voting patterns remain equal, if the Latino vote ticks up to 19% of the overall vote (it was 16% in 2008) and Latinos vote 78% for Obama, 19% for Romney, and 3% for other candidates, Obama will win the state. Because Latinos tend to be concentrated in pockets in Southern and Western Phoenix, Southern Tucson, and Yuma, their voting strength is not equal to their 30% share of the general population. Therefore, a concerted effort must be made to register and turn out Democrats and Democratic leaning Independents in every district that is winnable for Democrats. I sincerely hope that the party plans to target these districts this year.

Unfortunately, as for now, Arizona has become the new Alabama and the crazy train keeps on chugging along.

Cross Posted on Daily Kos

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My Hilarious Letter from Scott Walker

I got one piece of mail on Wednesday and it was hilarious. A fundraising letter from Scott Walker! I’m not sure how I got on the Republican mailing list, but over the last couple of years, I’ve received letters from the John Bohner’s NRCC (twice!), failed senate candidate Sharon Angle, failed gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley (several times, but at least this was in my state), and the NRA (they offered me a tote bag to join! wtf?). Anyhow, to my great amusement, I got this letter yesterday and I’m now considering what to do with the return postage paid envelope. I sent Mr. Dudley a spelling and grammar “check” because there were at least 4 errors in his 4 page letter. The NRCC wanted me to fill out their slanted “survey” and send them a donation. I filled out the survey and wrote that I wouldn’t send them a donation unless they changed their positions to meet mine. I figure it’s someone’s job to open and look at all the responses. Maybe they just toss the responses and take the checks, but whatever, it was amusement.

So here’s what Governor Scotty McScandlepants had to say:

Friday Evening

Okay, first off, WTF is this? Why is the text “Friday Evening” even there? And why is it centered?

Dear Fellow Conservative:

Hahahahahah! Man, have they got me pegged wrong. I’m about as progressive you get. If you want to see where you fall, check out the political compass.

Conservatives are under attack in Wisconsin and that means…

There’s BIG TROUBLE AHEAD where you live.

If the powerful labor unions get their way in my state…

They’ll get their way in yours.

Our crisis today, is your crisis tomorrow!

This is the frontline in the battle to rein in the too-powerful labor unions which are using Wisconsin as a “test case” for their national strategy.

All methods of emphasis (all caps, underline, italics, bold)in original.

Yes, the entire letter is written with a double space after each sentence, ’cause, you know, conservatives, by and large, are old and they can’t read so well. I love the overt admission that they’re in trouble. It makes my bleeding heart sing. They’re in trouble and they know it.

It’s kind of ridiculous that they call the labor unions “powerful”. If they were so powerful, why did you cross them? If they were so powerful, how come they couldn’t stop the godawful legislation you pushed through? I’m not trying to knock unions, I really wish they were as powerful as all that, but let’s face it, they’re not. This is just a boogyman that Republicans roll out to scare old white men into giving up their money to defeat those big bad union bosses working people and their massive amounts of campaign cash people power.

Oh, Republicans make such easy and convenient targets of limitless ridicule.

We must stop them NOW.

Please, do go on…

My rivals are using every threat, dirty trick and scare tactic in the book to get their way.

Really…last time I checked, it was you, Scotty, that had the stink lines of scandal coming off of you because of your staffers’ campaigning on the public dime, it was you that set up a legal defense fund, and it’s you that is trying to scare people right now in this here letter with those big, bad, evil, horrible, corrupt, treacherous and traitorous union bosses teachers, fire fighters, cops, janitors, secretaries, and other government staff. If there really is anything untoward going on, why are you not shouting it from the hilltops? Why is it not in the news? Why don’t you even site it in this letter instead of making unspecified accusations? Sounds like a bit of projection to me.

Big Labor Bosses know what they want, when they want it, and how they’re going to get it. Their naked power grab starts here in Wisconsin and then radiates across the country.

Is “Big Labor Bosses” a title you’re giving, sort of like when the Queen of England knights someone? Of course Labor knows what it wants, when it wants it and how to get it. Labor wants your recall, they want it yesterday (but they’ll have to settle for June 5), and they’re going to get it through working their collective tails off. And this is not a power grab, it’s called democracy, and this is how it works.

Mark my words, if they barge and bully and get their way here, your state’s next…so, together we must fight them tooth and nail right here and right now.

So now Democracy is “barging and bullying”? Whatever happened to holding elected officials accountable for their actions? Whatever happened to “We the People”? And Scotty, I wouldn’t join together with you if my other option was joining together with a piece of rotten feces in a suit stuffed full of corporate cash and topped with an oil slick. Oh, wait a minute…I feel like I’ve tricked myself.

This is your urgent call to action and, facing a recall election because I had the courage to battle Big Labor and the Status Quo, I need your help today.

Write and rush your “Friends of Scott Walker” contribution for $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000 or more and let me know that you’ll help me stand strong against the mercenary labor thugs.

So finally, out with it, you want my money. Well, good luck with THAT, sir! You merely had the courage to follow the dictates of your backers. You know, like the guy who you thought called you when you actually got pwned (scroll down to relive the hilarity in full audio) during the protests last year. The status quo has been to tear down the labor rights of ordinary people for the last 30 years and that’s what you’ve been standing for Scotty. That’s not courageous, it’s cowardly. And those people you’re calling “mercenary labor thugs”? Those are the workers in your state that keep everything running. They were not hired to come into the streets to protest you, they came to the streets because your policy was so toxic. They came because you promised one thing and delivered another. They were not paid to do so last February, and they will have no problem getting up the juice to dump your ass this June.

Big Unions have lined up all the usual suspects to bankroll them:

President Obama’s Political Machine.

The Moveon.org Radicals.

Liberal Billionaire George Soros’ attack organizations.

The Ultra Left-Wing Elites from Hollywood and Manhattan.

The list goes on and on, and the millions pile up.

Speaking of right wing boogymen, this is a wonderful shortlist thereof. Too bad ACORN isn’t around to blame anymore!

Wisconsin is broke; our economy was failing, so as the new Republican Governor, I took urgent action to save my state. With disaster staring us in the face, I cut spending and one obvious source was special benefits unions got.

How it should’ve read:

Wisconsin wasn’t broke, and our economy wasn’t quite soft enough, so as the new Republican Governor, I took urgent action to cut taxes for my wealthy campaign contributors, create a budget crisis, and weaken my state’s economy. In the face of this self imposed disaster, I cut collective bargaining rights under the guise of cutting spending even though this move had no financial impact.

Back to the regularly scheduled program:

Those union contracts were tying us in knots and the same is true in your state. But the instant I acted…

The Labor Unions scrambled an unprecedented response.

How do you know what’s going on in my state? Are you really saying that you’re familiar with the budgets and contracts of all 50 states? Next thing you know, he’ll be running for President on an “F the Unions” platform. He acted all right, acted to get rid of union representation. Now here he is painting himself the defiant victim:

They spit out the “insult” that I’m the most fiscally conservative Governor in America, but I take it as a compliment. They are threatening me with the label that I’m their #1 TARGET and my knees are supposed to buckle, my palms are supposed to sweat and I’m supposed to cave into their strong-arm tactics, but…

It’s not going to happen

Clearly he is developing some sweaty palms. Based on the fact that he’s reaching out to out of state Republicans to help him raise millions to fight off the recall. Obviously, we’re not expecting his knees to buckle or that he cave to pressure, this clearly hasn’t worked, we’re expecting him to be recalled for not heeding the voice of the people.

President Obama accused me of waging an “assault on the unions” when he knows it’s not true. I’m just trying to do what’s right in having state employees pay into their own health insurance and pension plans just as their neighbors in the private sector have to do. Seems reasonable right?

If this was all Scotty was doing, he could’ve easily done this without provoking the shit storm he’s brought upon himself by going after collective bargaining rights. In fact, the unions agreed to Walker’s financial demands, but he wanted to push it that much farther.

But thousands of Big Labor protestors, many bused in from Chicago and Las Vegas, buzzed around the State Capitol like angry wasps.

This is just another naked and unfounded assertion. Sorry Scotty, those were Wisconsinites out there freezing their butts off last February. But then, how would you know, you never spoke with them.

Their behavior was, at times, somewhat dubious. You likely saw or read the national news accounts of their demonstrations. Many of their signs were profane and obscene. Some were very aggressive and they vowed revenge on me.

Dubious behavior? Oh, like the time you made up that thing about the zillions in damage to the capitol building? Or that time you floated the idea of planting troublemakers in the crowd?

And then he lays out the victim card again, poor Scotty, hurt by the pwotestuh’s pwetty little signs. You bet they were profane, you were threatening their livelihoods and their families. Of course they were aggressive and vowed revenge, if someone threatened your family, you wouldn’t vow revenge? And now, that day is coming, it’s June 5, mark your calendar.

In the face of hate-filled personal threats, I came to work every single day, did my job, made the tough calls and tried to make government work efficiently and effectively.

How it should’ve read:

In the face of a massive revolt by the working class of Wisconsin, I came to work every single day (except the weekends and holidays for which these peons and their unions struggled), did a job on the workers of my state, made the tough calls to my corporate backers to ensure they really wanted me to do this despite the obvious ramifications (which I’m writing you today to seek your help in overcoming) and tried to make government work for the benefit of the GOP and its corporate sponsors.

Where was I?

But the Big Labor bosses see a fight that they aren’t willing to lose. They view the upcoming recall election as the primer for the national elections this fall.

They aren’t kidding.
They mean business.
And they don’t play by the same rules you and I do.

You’re darn tootin’! We absolutely mean business, no kidding, and we don’t play by the same rules that you do. We don’t play by the rules of the 1% and we don’t play by the rules of “election irregularities“.

Now in the face of bare-knuckle union attacks and a galling failure of President Obama’s leadership, it’s imperative that you and I buckle down, confront the coming political onslaught head-on, and raise the funds needed to stand our ground and take on the status quo.

I need you to stand up for democracy and for conservative stewardship, and I hope you’ll honor me with a “Friends of Scott Walker” contribution for $25, $100, $500, $1,000 or more today.

“Bare-knuckle” attacks? Like the one you laid on all those unionized workers’ collective bargaining rights? “Obama’s failure of leadership”? Oh for goodness sakes, take responsibility for your own failures man. When you do your level best to sink the state’s economy by laying off 21,325 people, own up to it. Yeah, you sure as hell need to raise money, but money isn’t going to save you from the wrath of voters.

When I saw the Big Union-sponsored mercenaries descend on our State Capitol from parts unknown, I knew what we were experiencing in Wisconsin was not an isolated case:

It was just a taste of what the rest of the nation would soon be forced to endure. Because if the Big Union Bosses could make their rampage of intimidation work in my state…

They’ll make it work in yours.

Mr. Walker will soon find out that these were ordinary Wisconsinites on the streets when he reads the returns and weeps, but for now, he’s resorting to scary language to make people think that there is some sort of paramilitary presence invading Wisconsin in order to do the clearly undemocratic, vicious, and utterly uncalled for thing, and vote him out of office. This army, led by monstrous renegade union bosses on a rampage of pure carnage and destruction, will soon be marching on your state to overthrow your righteously elected and divinely anointed leaders! This will not stand!

I inherited a state that was suffering from a never-ending loop of fast spending, high taxing, and deep borrowing (sound familiar?). While the everyday citizens were experiencing great pain, the wild-eyed liberals were spending like there was no tomorrow.

The same is true where you live.

He inherited a state that was just fine until he passed his tax cuts that blew a hole in the budget. This sounds very familiar: Democrats fix the budget, get everything on track and Republicans come in a screw it all up and cause a fiscal crisis. Now we need a Democrat to come in and clean up after the Republican fuck-ups again (sound familiar?). Liberals are “wild-eyed” because we want to fully fund education and make sure everyone in our states is cared for? That’s the most perverse definition of crazy I’ve ever heard. “Oh, and by the way,” Walker wants to remind me, “we’re all in this together…we’re all the same, bro!”

The Liberal Democrats love the Status Quo and they saw no reason to change their ways. The Big Unions had the Democrats in their hip pocket and they refuse to reform the way government works even though our state was heading toward fiscal disaster.

Wow, is this a load of bull. So “Liberal Democrats” want to maintain the status quo? Is that why liberals have always pushed for change? It was liberals who brought you Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the 40 hour work week, the weekend, paid holidays, child labor laws, women’s suffrage, civil rights, gay marriage (okay, still working on this one), and pretty much any other advance in equality and justice you can think of. Do you even understand the meaning of “status quo”? Perhaps unions and Democrats are aligned because they see things the same way, just like the reason that Corporate Welfare Queens and the Republican party are aligned. And again, the only reason Wisconsin was heading for a “fiscal disaster” was because of policy that YOU implemented, dear Scotty.

In fact, in a cowardly attempt to maintain the status quo, fourteen Democrat [sic] State Senators actually fled the state and hid out in Illinois. They wanted me to come meet them at the border…Can you believe that?

First off, this is the first edit I’ve made to the letter, adding “[sic]” after the intentional misspelling of the word Democratic as “Democrat”. Republicans always want to take away the word Democratic from Democrats…sad really…and quite petty. Secondly, the only thing cowardly about this was Scotty’s yellow bellied actions to reverse decades of precedent respecting the rights of state workers to organize.

But I stood up for the everyday citizens who follow the rules and make America work.

No, you stood up for your corporate backers and right wing ideologues who want to get rid of unions because they feel they are a distortion to the mythical free market.

One Democratic State Senator who turned tail and ran away said,

“It’s almost like a reality TV show.”

Not it’s not. It’s not a game. This is real life!

The Union Bosses know that better than anyone and they’ve vowed to make me pay in a “Recall Walker” election.

The quote is taken out of context and the original was in reference to living in a hotel in Northern Illinois with an widely diverse group of state Senators. Then back to bashing on the straw man of Union Bosses. Grow up Scotty, there are consequences in this life for actions that you take. Deal with it and stop playing the victim. But no…here come’s the “waaaaah!”

They’re trying to make an example out of me now but trust me, the true conservative Republican leaders in your state (and nationally) are next.

Oh, poor Scott, let me bust out my violin. Any politician who says “trust me” makes me a lot less likely to trust them. The schlock about “true conservative Republican leaders”…whatever as we’re seeing in the Presidential Primary, there’s nobody who’s truly and rabidly conservative enough to please the crazies that have taken over the Republican party, but even if there were, the much reviled “Union Bosses” are simply not a potent enough force in most places to take them on. There are places like Alabama where Democrats are a relatively rare breed and unions are weak from decades of Republican rule. Democrats are not going to knock off Spencer Bachus (unless it gets to the point of someone finding $90,000 in his freezer).

They have demonstrated their eagerness to ignore reality, disregard the truth, distort my record, question my motives and attack my character for having the courage to try to make government work.

My “Friends of Scott Walker” team is digging in for a tough fight and I’m reaching out to fiscal conservatives from across this great land for help. Your generous contribution to our campaign for $25, $100, $500 or more will help answer the deluge of liberal money flowing into Wisconsin and will allow me to answer the Big Labor funded rampage of attack ads with the truth.

Uh…yeah. Whatever dude. Like I said, John Doe, tax cuts, lying, cheating, etc.

We’re cleaning up the mess left behind by decades of reckless spending, careless budgeting, clueless borrowing and shameless wasting of taxpayers’ hard-earned money. We’re doing what the liberals refused to do: we’re doing the right thing for the sake of America’s children and grandchildren.

Nobody made this mess but you, Scotty. You can create straw men all day long, but really, you brought this on yourself with an act that was designed to destroy the unions and cripple one of the bases of the Democratic party. This was not destined to end well for you. One more thing: do you remember when the last balanced budget happened on the federal level? Yeah, it was under Clinton. I’m not the biggest fan of Bill Clinton, but to say that you came in to clean up the mess liberals made in Wisconsin is like saying that George W. Bush cleaned up the mess left to him by Bill Clinton. Total fallacy.

In their selfishness and greed, the Labor Bosses are taking direct aim at hardworking citizens and over-taxed voters who show up for work, play by the rules, do a tough job right and just want a fair shake at success.

Project much?

For the Union-paid protestors who screamed until their faces were red and painted signs with hate-filled threats and profane words, all I can say is that they can yell and curse all they want but I’m not going to back down from my conservative good government efforts.

Well, all I can say is that you’re in denial, my somnolent adversary.

The Liberals and Union Bosses have got me in their sights. And they’re looking to take direct aim at me in this special recall election.

Why two sentences here? It seems like you could’ve said this in one sentence. Heck, we’re on page four of this repetitive monologue. So much for efficiency and effectiveness.

I’m writing to you in recognition of the vital role you’ve played for so many fiscal conservative candidates and noble causes. Given the magnitude of the challenge ahead, I need you now and I want you to play a leading role my quest to raise $180,000 in the next 30 days.

Moi? I think you’re thinking of someone else. If you want me now, you really ought to at least take me out to dinner first. Your quest is to raise $180,000 in the next 30 days? I bet we could raise that much for the recall effort in 30 days…what do you say Kos?

Given what we’re up against, it’s critical that we start now.

There’s a contribution form and envelope enclosed with my letter and I hope you’ll use them to reaffirm your faith, trust, and confidence in what I’m trying to do here.

Yeah, I’ll use it all right. Not sure exactly how yet, but I’ll send something heavy. And what is it, exactly, that you’re trying to do here anyhow, rob people of the American dream? Reward your rich backers? Secure your place in the Republican Hall of Fame? All of the above?

I’m being demonized by the Senate Democrats, vilified by the Labor Bosses, castigated by President Obama and I’m going to need your support to persevere.

I’d throw you an anchor if I could.

Help me delive my clear conservative message of bold reforms by providing the urgent support I need. We’re on a mission to raise $180,000 in the next 30 days and your generous spirit will get us there.

Fat chance of that happening. Keep sending me envelopes tho, I want to help send fun and resource draining objects with large quantities of mass to your mailbox.

Please write your “Friends of Scott Walker” contribution for $25, $50, $100, $250, $500 or more, today, and return it in the postage-paid envelope that’s enclosed.

🙂 Oh, Scotty…you sent this to the wrong dude.

We’ve taken on some mighty powerful special interests and made them unbelievably mad. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat because our state government was running on fumes and going down for the count.

No, you’d do it again because you’ll be picked up by the Wingnut Welfare program when the people of Wisconsin fire your ass.

My adversaries are out to get me but I’ve got news for them:

Just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you.

In you, I’ve got a friend in my corner and we’re going to win.


Most Sincerely,

Scott Walker

P.S. The vicious attack by Big Labor and President Obama reinforce the importance of your immediate help. The fight to stop them starts here and now in Wisconsin before it spreads like and out-of-control wildfire in your state and across the nation. Will you help me stand against the largest organized labor battle since President Reagan had the fortitude to do the right thing and take them on nearly 30 years ago? I hope your answer is, “YES!”

“Oh, please, oh, please, oh, please, oh, please, oh, please, give me money.” To this, an emphatic “NO!”. The gratuitous Reagan reference is interesting. My guess is that Mr. Walker wants to run for President in 2016 and wants you to know he’s the most Reagan-esque ultra right wing conservative with a record of sticking it to the baddies that run those wretched unions.

On top of this, the Walker campaign included a shrunken down version of this Wall Street Journal piece and on the reverse side was the first two sections of this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel piece. I didn’t think either of these pieces did much justice to Walker or much to portray the recall effort in a negative light. The only positive thing for Walker in either of these articles was the section header ‘He is our hero’ in the second section of the JS article and the last three lines of the section which are dedicated to a couple of Walker supporters who decided to counter protest the recall marchers. Both articles were shrunken down with the WSJ article in 8 point font and the JS article in what appears to be 4 point font. It is nearly illegible even with good eyes, I can’t even imagine what those with bad eyes thought of this.

The other piece of material in the envelope (besides the remittance envelope) is a full color page that says “I’ve Got Your Back, Scott!” at the top, has seven pictures from the protests down the left side of the page and a quick spiel on the right side of the page asking for money. The photos are of various signs, the first has an image of a cross between Hitler and Walker on a sign that says “Stop the Attack on Workers”, the second has a sign reading “Why Do Republicans Hate People”, the third says “Political Death to Tyrants” (but the word “Political” is small compared to the rest), the fourth is of a large crowd and a sign saying “Kill the Bill”, the fifth is and up close shot of a sign that says “Reload” with “Repeal Walker” smaller and next to a photo of him with cross hairs on it, the sixth is of a sign saying “Midwest Mussolini” and the seventh is of the same sign as the 1st with another sign that says “WI Dictator Must Go” and one that says “Care about educators they care for your…”. The kill the bill sign is totally unoffensive IMHO, why even put it there? It is advocating the process of not allowing the bill to move forward commonly referred to as “killing” it. The only reason it’s there is because of the word “Kill” to try to frame the protesters as violent. The Hitler and Mussolini references we could do without, but whatever. All of these images are aimed at getting the right wing recipient of this piece fired up about how uncivilized these protesters are (have they looked in the mirror lately?). The text on the right (underneath my name and address) reads:

I’ll Tackle the Union Bullies, Too!

This Is a Critical Issue and I Don’t Want Them
Running Roughshod Across the Country!

Stand Strong Against the Big Labor Bosses!

Fight Hard for our Shared Conservative Principles!

My Help is on the Way…
a “Friends of Scott Walker” Check for:
[boxes ranging from $25 to $2,500 and of course “other]
Please make check payable to:Friends of Scott Walker

Then there a place to put credit card info and below that, a place to put your personal info, (Employer, Occupation, Home and Work Phone, Email), some legalese saying that contributions are not tax deductible and their footer and paid for by statements.

I’m trying to figure out what I should send them. Any suggestions?

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My Sister is a Single Mom, My Nephew is NOT a Criminal

In 2003, my older brother Jeff got married to one of the most kind and generous people I’ve ever had the good fortune to have met, my sister-in-law Karen. I was pleased to give them a humorous and lighthearted toast them at their wedding as his best man.

At the end of 2006 I got a call from Karen announcing that she was pregnant, and on August 27, 2007, their beautiful son Jacob was born. Jacob, is now almost 5, in preschool, and loves him some trains. He’s a great kid, so when I hear of Rick Santorum calling him a criminal and slurring his mother, it makes my blood boil.

On May 20, 2010 at 2 am, Jeff passed away from brain cancer leaving behind his wife and young son. Jeff was receiving Social Security Disability Insurance and both Karen & Jacob now receive Social Security survivor benefits.

Way back in 2000, we found out that Jeff had a brain tumor. He collapsed after getting out of the shower one day. Fortunately his girlfriend (a previous relationship to Karen) was over and heard the thud as his body hit the floor, knocking his head on the corner of the sink on his way down. She called an ambulance right away and they took him into the hospital where, upon conducting an MRI, they discovered a tumor that grew like a ginger root with little fingers reaching ever deeper into his brain. He tried radiation therapy which caused him to lose hair in a circle on the side of his head. Later on, when he started having some heavier symptoms which at first resembled pneumonia, but then became more clearly due to the tumor, they performed surgery to remove as much of it as possible. When I spoke with him before the surgery, I told him not to worry, saying “It’s just brain surgery, it’s not rocket science.” At least it was good for a laugh. Throughout the last few years of his life he underwent grueling and repeated batteries of chemotherapy, slowly but surely deteriorating his ability to work, think and function. It even took a toll on his personality, making him zoned out and almost zombie-like on the bad days. Eventually the tumor made its way to his brain stem. The doctors said they could operate, but his quality of life would be greatly effected because of the amount of brain tissue they’d have to remove. He chose death.

The doctors gave him 2 months. My wife and I boarded a plane as soon as possible and went to visit. She’d had experience with this kind of thing before and suggested that it was important to go to see him as soon as possible since you never really know how long someone has and we would want to be able to visit with him before he was unable to communicate. I’m sure glad I married such a smart woman. We were able to talk and share memories, laugh, have fun with Jacob, and in the end cry as we said goodbye for what we knew would be the last time.

Jacob was then a bit younger than 3. The saddest part of this is that he’ll never remember his dad, but thanks to his father, he’ll continue to get survivors benefits until he turns 18. This will help him to go to college and become a successful young man. It will help make up for the money my brother, Jacob’s father, can not provide, and I can’t believe that anyone who’s even somewhat seriously being considered to become the President of the United States is demonizing kids like him for the fact that they’re using the social safety net that we have in our country. But, much to my chagrin, Rick Santorum believes that the social safety net is destroying our country.

“Most people agree a continuation of the current [welfare] system will be the ruination of this country. We are seeing it. We are seeing the fabric of this country fall apart, and it’s falling apart because of single moms.

Now, granted, my brother’s family is not what you would normally think of as recipients of “welfare”, but they are. Yes both parents are college graduates, both had/have good jobs, Jeff had good insurance and was well cared for, and Jacob has 4 loving grandparents (and even a wonderfully mirthful great-grandmother) within a few hours drive. However, they still rely on the Social Security system, a system that Jeff paid into and that Karen still pays into, to help provide a decent life for their child.

Back in October, Santorum explained his reasoning for attacking single moms, saying that they’re:

“the political base of the Democratic party.” He continued, “Why? Because it’s so tough economically that they look to the government for help and therefore they’re going to vote. So if you want to reduce the Democratic advantage, what you want to do is build two-parent families; you eliminate that desire for government.”

So even Santorum admits that it’s economically tough to be a single parent. Unfortunately he is advocating making it even tougher on them in the name of “reducing the Democratic advantage” by having less single parent families. Say what? How does this even work? I’m not sure how you prevent people getting a divorce, having children out of wedlock, or from dying, but maybe it’s that magic theocratic pixie dust he’s been snorting. Why does this man think that staying in a bad relationship or getting married to your baby-daddy will cause a decrease in Democratic performance? He thinks that getting into or staying in a bad marriage will cause a lowered “desire for government”? What, does he think that we’re all going around lusting after government or something? Oh, yeah, sorry, I forgot…he’s a Republican, so of course that’s what he thinks.

While they constantly hold up the constitution screaming about how this or that or the other is not in there, they always overlook or forget or just don’t plain know about what it says in the preamble explaining the purpose of the constitution.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Yeah, ya see that part there about “promote the general Welfare”. The founders thought that was important. Just as important as the other 5 things on the proverbial “to do” list while writing the constitution: form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. Notice which of these words are capitalized and which are not. The only one that is NOT capitalized is the one most often referred to by the Republican party, the one about the common defence, and yes, that is the spelling that TJ and the Founders (great band name) used.

Anyhow, this really steams my clams. Cutting people off of critical aid will not help anyone. It will only deepen the economic strife that people already find themselves in. This type of draconian reactionary policy would serve to further tilt the playing field against single mothers and their children. It would further redistribute wealth to the 1%. It would cause increased desperation amongst the lower rungs of our economic ladder, likely causing increases in crime, the very crime that he’s so afraid will be caused by providing nutritional assistance, food stamps, social security benefits, health care, and protection against lapses in employment. The very crime that he’s accusing my 4 year old nephew of committing.

Genesis 29:14 “You are truly my flesh and bone.” ~ Laban, to his nephew Jacob

Cross Posted on Daily Kos

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This is What Terrifies Progressives


“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is the merger of corporate and state power.” ~ Benito Mussolini

There are only two real parties in American politics, but perhaps not the ones you think. Our system promotes a two party state because of the mechanics of our elections. The winner take all system that we employ causes any major third party challenge to split votes off from the dominant party who’s views most closely match their own, thus throwing victory to the party most opposed to their views. This is why it is extremely unlikely, and exceedingly rare, to have a third party candidate win. I’m all for making changes to the winner take all system, but while we have this method, we need to figure out how to deal with the reality of how it works in order to elect more progressives.

Simply put, our issue is that we have one party that is a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporations and another is a partially owned subsidiary of corporations. It’s not so much the Republicans and the Democrats as it is the Corporatists and the Progressive-Populists. Or as Alan Grayson put it in reference to Occupy Wall Street on Real Time with Bill Maher:

…they’re complaining about the fact that wall street wrecked the economy 3 years ago and nobody’s held responsible for that. Not a single person has been indicted or convicted for destroying 20%, 20% of our national net worth accumulated over the course of two centuries. They’re upset about the fact that wall street has iron control over the economic policies of this country, and that one party is a wholly owned subsidiary of wall street, and the other party caters to them as well. That’s the real truth of the matter…

Bill Maher on WhoSay

This is why even when we get reform, it’s usually watered down and full of corporate welfare (wealthfare). The much hyped and touted Affordable Care Act with its individual mandate is a huge giveaway to the health insurance corporations that are the problem in the first place. Yes, there are some good parts of the law and in the long run it may help move us toward a Medicare for All type solution, but with 60 Senators, a solid 257 seat majority in the House, and the Presidency, why couldn’t Democrats pass something better? Likewise, why was there such a struggle against creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? Why were the Dem’s so vexingly ineffective at creating real, lasting, and substantive change as a majority party? And why was 2010 such a bad year for D’s at the ballot box?

The simple answer is because the Corporatist still outnumbered the Progressive-Populists. Corporate Democrats like Max Baucus and the thankfully retiring Joe Lieberman (who was so Corporatist that the party activists kicked him out of the party in 2006) join with Corporatist Republicans (is there any other type?) to prevent progress. Progressive legislation is not only good policy, but good politics. When you pass popular legislation, people vote for you. I specifically refer to Progressive-Populists as such because it is the combination of popular ideas (ie. Populism) and ones that contribute toward social and economic justice, or progress, for the large majority (99%?) of regular people (ie. Progressivism) While this is a fairly simple idea, many Democrats either don’t get it, or are so busy collecting campaign donations from their corporate backers that they just don’t care.

This gets at one of the root causes of the problem. That we have a system that requires candidates to raise obscene amounts of cash in order to be heard allows those with obscene amounts of cash to simply buy the candidates. Generally speaking, the group of those with obscene amounts of cash include those in the top 1% and corporations. Corporations are mechanisms to aggregate wealth and therefore, the largest corporations usually have huge treasuries. With Citizens United v. FEC (pdf) giving corporations the ability to spend unlimited sums from their corporate treasury, the Corporatists will only become harder to beat. This is why we not only need a constitutional amendment making it clear that corporations are not people and overturning this atrocious ruling, but one that also allows for the creation of a publicly funded election system with matching funds, like Arizona’s original system before it was struck down by the Supreme Court.

This would not completely solve the problem, but it would go a long way toward that solution. One of the consequences of the publicly financed system in Arizona was that because it opened the doors to just about anyone to run for public office, it allowed a lot of extreme right wingers to take control of the state. There are three reasons for this, the first is that the right was/is more organized than the left in Arizona, the second being that legislators are paid a paltry $24K salary making it hard to recruit quality candidates, and the third is that most of the legislative districts are drawn in a way that whomever wins the primary in one party or the other will prevail in the general. This combination of factors allowed the right wing of the Republican party to take over that party and the state government because they found extremists who would be happy to make $24,000 that they could run and get elected in the primary and subsequently the heavily partisan general. The left has not been so organized as to take advantage of the system in a way that pushes their partisans to take more progressive stances. They have also had a hard time recruiting candidates in many areas that are winnable. Arizona has a system whereby each Legislative District elects 1 Senator and 2 Representatives. While doing some elections research, I came across many examples of elections when the Democratic party won a State Senate seat, but did not even contest the corresponding House seats. This has lead to occasional control of the Senate, but decades in the minority in the House. In fact, because online records only go back as far as the 1974 election, I can’t tell you when the Democrats last controlled the House.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, however, represents a new hope for Progressive-Populism. Many people have cautioned about outside forces, such as labor unions or Democrats, co-opting the movement, but why shouldn’t the movement co-opt the Democratic party?

It should. The party is ripe for a takeover. In poll after poll, large majorities agree with the policies advocated by OWS, yet many occupiers shun traditional politics, opting only to protest rather than protest and vote. Many believe it is time for a complete revolution, but the public is not ready for this and pursuing this path would be deleterious, leading to a 70’s style fizzle out. As Daniel Quinn put it in Ishmael in reference to the movement of the 60’s and 70’s:

“The revolt hadn’t been put down, it had just dwindled away into a fashion statement.”

OWS should still rally and protest in the streets, but in order to stay relevant and powerful, it must transition into the political arena. If the OWS movement funnels its energies into taking over the Democratic Party at the precinct committee person level and running its own candidates on the Progressive-Populist platform it espouses, it can take real political power to make the country over as it sees fit. Alternatively, OWS could endorse candidates and hold them accountable to their values. This will require taking on (and taking down) incumbent Corporatist Democrats who stand in the way of progressive reform and winning in places that are not currently thought of as winnable for Progressive-Populist Democrats. With the right candidate and the Progressive-Populist message, Democrats can win in every district in the country. While there aren’t many who’ve tried, I can point to bold progressives like Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson as examples of Progressive-Populist Democrats winning in heavily Republican territory. It may not be as dramatic as occupying Times Square, but occupying the chambers, halls, and offices of congress carries much more power to fulfill our common values of Justice, Liberty, and Equality.

Cross posted at Daily Kos

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Healthcare is a Human Right

Although disputed, Gandhi has been widely quoted as saying “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Whether Gandhi actually said this or not, the point remains that there are many supposed Christians who do not actually follow the teachings of Christ. Being Jewish, I’m no expert on these teachings, but as far as I understand them, Jesus was what many would consider a left wing “hippy” today. He believed in taking care of the poor, sick and aggrieved, loving your neighbor as you would yourself, countering hate with love, etc. In other words, he was preaching for social and economic justice. Jesus, and all those who follow him (or at least claim to), would most certainly believe that Healthcare is a Human Right, right? Right?

Maybe not everyone, but most people would agree that Healthcare IS a Human Right. Spreading that message is key to getting real healthcare reform. It’s how the Vermont Worker’s Center won a statewide Single Payer system, and it’s how we intend to establish one here in Oregon.

In Vermont, they started with the idea that transforming the debate around healthcare reform would require a message that is indisputable, and therefore based on morality, not facts and figures. Sure, you need the facts and figures to back you up, but if you don’t have morality to frame the debate, your organizing will not be as quick, sure and cohesive. The real key was getting everyone to accept this frame, once it is the accepted frame, how can anyone oppose a universal system? What kind of immoral jerk would do such a thing?

So the Vermont Workers Center organized for 3 years to pass their system, organizing in every corner of the state around five human rights principles; universality, equity, accountability, transparency and participation. By getting these principles enshrined in the law, they were able to achieve an extremely high standard in the final product. The principles will be used as a measuring stick to judge proposed implementation procedures and assure they meet these high human rights standards.

By including these points in all their organizing efforts, they were able to successfully prepare and inoculate their members and supporters against the “divide and conquer” tactics of the opposition. Uniting people around the concept of universality (since healthcare is a human right, nobody should be excluded) and teaching anti-racism workshops, the movement was able to overcome a proposed amendment to exclude undocumented workers from the final legislation. The amendment was stricken after an overwhelming number of constituents called, petitioned and rallied at the capitol.

The truly critical work in how this was achieved is in the organizing. In Vermont, they organized statewide, educated their members, trained leaders, told their personal stories, and created their own press to put the required pressure on the politicians to make what was once politically impossible into the politically inevitable.

It was through the work of thousands of people that this happened in Vermont, and it can happen in your state too, if we organize and build a real movement. Here in Oregon, we’re currently raising money to hire an organizer to help this movement coalesce. On April 14, some of the best blues musicians in Portland will be helping to Heal the Healthcare Blues at the Inner City Blues Festival Reunion. Proceeds will go to funding the Oregon Healthcare is a Human Right campaign, so get your tickets here!

To all my Christian friends, I wish you a Merry Christmas. To all my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah. To all my friends who celebrate other things, Happy Holidays. To the Wiccans out there, I hope you had a great Solstice. And for the rest of us, Happy Festivus!

Cross Posted on Daily Kos.

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Occupy Democrats, Occupy Republicans & Occupy PAC

The 1% has been busting our camps as they’ve busted our chops for years with economic warfare and “divide and distract” politics. Well, if they’re not going to let us occupy the parks, we’ll occupy houses. However, there are still a couple of houses we must occupy with committed 99%ers…and one senate. I suppose we actually need to occupy a set of these in every state.

Its high time that we, as a movement, start transforming our power into the political arena. We need to find qualified and committed people to run for office on all levels who subscribe to the first Declaration of Occupy Wall St. and any subsequent Declarations from the movement. Click through to Vyan’s recently recommended diary for details on a continuing discussion on the grievances of the occupy movement and a proposed process for composing a more formal document and action plan.

In the meantime, how do we start organizing politically? How can we take this decidedly street based, internet savvy movement from the parks to the halls of power? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure, but I have some ideas. Follow me below the fold to hear my thoughts and please and get your thinking caps on to help brainstorm in the comments.

We’ve been double crossed and flat out lied to by our political leadership so many times that its sickening. But this isn’t just some “throw the bums out” rant. I think most of us here agree that we’re not just sick of Republican corruption, but also that of Democrats. Democrats sold us a bill of goods in 2006 and 2008, but social and economic justice have not been forthcoming. They have passed weak legislation where they’ve been able to pass anything at all. The health care law was a give away to insurance companies. There has been no accountability for the ruination of the economy, let alone the war crimes committed under the Bush Administration. Heck, Obama has continued many of the criminal policies of the Bush Admin. And while many of us feel righteous anger at the deceit of those in charge of our government, we often feel powerless to do anything about it.

Unless we’re going to prepare for a full scale revolution, which I don’t advocate and I don’t think has the support to succeed, we must take the reigns of political power through the electoral system. In order to do this, we must challenge Democrats and Republicans who support profits over people and the 1% over the 99%. We must find and support primary challengers to Democrats who are not supporters of the 99%. We could even help fund Republican 99%ers where it is currently impossible for Democrats to win. There are simply too many people locked into supporting one political party or the other for us to win certain districts without infiltrating both political parties.

The idea of creating a third party does not appeal to me because the current system is a winner take all system. The problem with creating a “99% Party” or some such is that it would probably pull much more from the left (and therefore the Democrats), allowing the solid Republican base to put crazies in many more districts that would ordinarily vote for the Democrat. If we run people in primaries on both sides, it doesn’t split the vote, it just endangers the sick bastards on both sides who have kissed the corporate ring and subscribed to “neo-liberal” aka “neo-conservative” views.

Challenging Republicans in the primary would allow someone to take the message directly to the Republican base, who doesn’t actually agree with the policy that Republicans tend to vote for. It would potentially put places like Utah and Idaho in the mix for a take over by the 99%. Once in congress, they could caucus with other 99%ers across the aisle to implement the agenda of the Occupy movement.

Okay, so now the fun part. IMHO, we need to form a PAC or SuperPAC (?) to funnel the energy generated by this movement into supporting candidates who support our cause. I would love to do that, but I’ll need some help. I am writing this diary to see if anyone out there is interested in being that help. I’m not sure how to go about doing this, but perhaps others do. A recent poll found that 58% of Californians agree with the ideals of the movement, another recent poll found 41% of Massachussetts residents “approve” of the movement. While the numbers have been up and down and generally all over the map, the point remains that there is a large sector (30% to 60%) of the American public that agrees with Occupy. If you look at the Tea Party and the amount of damage they did in the last election by organizing and mobilizing with PACs, there is something to be said for the far more popular ideas that are espoused by the Occupy movement.

We can do this, but we need to work together and work quickly.

Cross Posted at Daily Kos

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Progress, Occupy Wall St. & the Need to Keep this Leaderless and Without Demand

I just read that Geithner has proclaimed that “dramatic enforcement actions” will be taken against Wall St. wrongdoing. Although I’m in the ‘believe it when I see it’ camp, it is certainly progress to have a top administration official even threatening to take an action that the 99% would love to see.

In the last couple of weeks, the constant chant from the mainstream media has been “what are their demands?” The fact that without demands, the administration is moving toward a more just position simply reinforces the notion that we don’t really need demands. Our demands are voluminous, too prolific, too robust to state in a simple list; we want social and economic justice. Creating a list of demands would hem the movement in, make it containable and do more to harm the it than all the police in NewYork, Boston and Denver combined.

By keeping the demands of the movement general it allows more people to feel comfortable with the message. The message, we are the 99%, means we are the people, we are united, and we’re fed up with our unjust and unfair system. It also provides no help to policy makers who then must flail about for answers to our call for a more just and equitable system. If they end up arresting banksters, fantastic. We didn’t have to demand that. If they believe that maybe we want to see increased financial regulation that will actually work and go about implementing that, excellent, we didn’t have to demand that either. Maybe they’ll think, gee, this movement really wants us to tax the wealthy more and they’ll raise the top tax rates. Again, we won’t have to specify what will appease us.

This is the truly interesting and beautiful part of this movement, the fact that it is leaderless and lacks any specific set of proposed demands. This allows the utmost in flexibility and in the innate inability for a decapitation. We’ve seen movements in the past that were halted by the assassination of their charismatic leader. Not having a leader is a great solution to this. It also prevents us from being pinned to something one person says or feels that may not be representative of the vast majority of us. The same goes for having no written demands. If demands were created, they would inevitably alienate a segment of the movement or supporters thereof. While this may sound counter productive to many who have worked on social and economic justice causes in the past, allowing the vast majority to claim allegiance to the 99% can only further the cause.

Keeping the pressure on while not enunciating the specific solutions we want keeps the movement from fracturing and forces the policy makers to attempt anything and everything to make us happy. We should use this to our best advantage by keeping it going and growing. Maybe they’ll decide we want medicare for all, maybe they’ll decide we want strong global warming/environmental legislation, maybe they’ll decide we want full equality for LGBT citizens, maybe they’ll decide we want comprehensive immigration reform, maybe they’ll decide we want a new WPA/CCC/TVA/etc., maybe they’ll decide we want a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood, “maybe they’ll settle for publicly funded elections?, an increase in the minimum wage??, lowering the social security retirement age while removing the cap??? No? Perhaps they want us to break up the monopolies??!?, or some vague notion of “liberty and justice for all”!!!?!?!!!. What the hell do you people want anyway?!??!?!?!”

Maddening? Crazy like a fox.

Lets keep ’em guessing and keep ’em relenting on issue after issue.

Cross posted on Dailykos

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Hitting our Heads on the Debt Ceiling

Sometimes we’re a bunch of idiots. As a nation I mean, not so much as individuals (though some would certainly qualify). I’ve seen people advocating for not raising the debt ceiling and I honestly understand the frustration that leads to that argument. Those who advocate this position are really just upset that the country is carrying a deficit and going deeper into debt every day. They are thinking that $14.3 Trillion is an unimaginable sum and scratching their heads as to why the ceiling would need to be raised even further. They figure that by not raising the ceiling, it will force the government to reign in spending and balance the budget. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true.

No matter what the final budget that comes out of Washington this year looks like, nothing changes the fact that we’ve already budgeted for the current year, and unless it’s raised, we’re going to hit debt ceiling. In fact, we already have, but Treasury Secretary Geithner took action to “create additional headroom” so that the department could continue to fund obligations and effectively extending the deadline to August 2. These are “measures” such as raiding government retirement funds for their treasury bonds. This is not good.

President Obama knows this is playing with fire saying:

“The full faith and credit of the United States is the underpinning not only of our way of life, it’s also the underpinning of a global financial system. We could actually have a reprise of a financial crisis, if we play this too close to the line….”

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is also sounding the alarm, noting a failure to raise the ceiling could cause:

“severe disruptions in financial markets,”

Even former Fed Chair and fiscal conservative guru Alan Greenspan says in plain English that he’s “scared” and calls the games being played over the debt ceiling an:

“extraordinarily dangerous problem for this country.”

Okay, but why is this such dangerous stuff? Why doesn’t it make sense to enforce the ceiling and let the government slash everything they need to in order to regain fiscal sanity?

I don’t want to sound alarmist here, but this really is important. There are real consequences to not raising the debt ceiling that would impact everyone in this country, potentially setting us back to the the great depression. Our country is already in trouble with a sluggish economy and huge levels of unemployment (myself included). Failure to raise the debt ceiling would cause credit rating agencies such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s to downgrade United States’ debt, just as they did on Monday to Greece’s. They did this because they felt that:

a default on some debt appears “increasingly likely.”

There are several negative consequences for us if this happens in the US. One is that the cost of borrowing will increase so that those lending us money, such as Japan, China and the UK, will demand (and be able to get) a higher rate of return in exchange for taking on the now riskier debt. This is also true for individual bondholders, companies who invest in T-bills, etc. Some large bondholders may, if the situation gets dire enough (although I don’t think it will), unload some or all of their US debt, causing a spike in the interest rate.

Another consequence is that the US government itself, the largest holder of Treasury bonds, with about $8.5 Trillion invested in them, may start to dip into these bonds to pay debts. These bonds are currently being held in trust funds (see my last article which references how these differ from discretionary spending here) for things like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Selling them would destabilize Social Security and wreak further havoc on an already underfunded Medicare/Medicaid system. It would also have the effect of flooding the bond market with securities that nobody would want to buy, further driving up the interest rate and thus the cost of debt.

A flood of Treasury securities on the market will spur the Federal Reserve to purchase bonds if they wish to keep the lending rate low, putting more money into the system and lowering the value of our currency. This would have a deleterious effect on our buying power as citizens and thus create a huge drag on the world economy. Nobody would want to hold US dollars because there would be increasing fear that a government default would erode the economy. This in turn causes a panic induced “sell” mindset among currency traders, pushing the value of the currency down.

If the Fed opts not to purchase the bonds, interest rates would skyrocket, causing a those who can even get a loan right now to defer. This would have the impact of further reducing economic expansion through business start ups or freezing demand based upon borrowing. Because of the above factors, the stock market would also likely plunge due to falling demand and skittish/risk averse investors not wanting to get soaked. Falling demand would in turn precipitate another round of layoffs because, contrary to conservative ideas, companies hire when there is more demand, not when taxes are cut.

If the debt ceiling is not raised, the government would either have to default or immediately fill an an estimated $125 Billion per month hole (most likely with cuts). This is equivalent to approximately 40% of government spending, a Tea Party wet dream. If this occurs, it will almost certainly effect all functions of the government causing mass layoffs which further damage the economy. Lower levels of employment also further reduce the tax base of the government and increase demand for government services such as Unemployment Insurance, food assistance, cash assistance, etc. It also has the effect of further reducing market demand since people without income will spend significantly less.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the approach the right wingers want to take. They are attempting to force us into a choice between austerity and default. Nobody really wants the latter because of the reasons outlined above, but to those who wish to “drown [government] in a bathtub“, the former is pure bliss. People like Grover Norquist would love to force this on us again and again in order to roll back the great society and new deal. They’re taking the nation hostage over it because it could, in “one fell swoop“, eliminate the programs that the right has been fighting for years. Programs such as Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, Headstart, Pell Grants, etc. Programs that help the poor, elderly, weak and disabled. Programs that prevent many people from slipping out of the middle class.

These are the kinds of cuts that come as the strings attached to IMF bailouts. Why do you think they’re revolting in Greece?

Time and again, it has been shown that recessions are when government spending is most needed, and in fact increasing spending puts people back to work putting money into people’s pockets and increasing demand, thus healing the economy. When people have more money and have economic security, they will spend more, creating more demand and more demand means more jobs. This is Keynesian Economics, a well known and simple formula that was proven to work back in the 30’s and 40’s. This is a time when we need to increase government spending, not decrease it, even if it causes a larger deficit. This will help pull us out of this recession and bring us toward greater and broader prosperity, it worked during the Great Depression and there is no reason it wouldn’t work today. While our immediate deficit and the national debt are important long term concerns, we must take a more long term approach to them, incurring more debt now, but coming up with a solid plan to pay it off.

Those on the right want to convince us that that there are only two choices here, default or austerity, but this is a false choice. There is actually a third option, tax increases. If we are serious about paying off the debt, and I know I am, we must implement tax increases, such as the Schakowsky Plan, on those who make the most in our society. Those who make the most benefit the most from the infrastructure provided by our government, and should therefore pay more for the privilege of living under it. If the government wasn’t there with all the incumbent legal, military, police and judicial protection their money receives, these people would have their wealth stolen. In anarchy, the bandits wouldn’t head to the ghetto, so it’s only fair that those who are benefiting the most from the government pay more for it. It’s the only just way to eliminate our deficit and pay off our debt.

Cross Posted on Daily Kos

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Changing the Conversation on the Budget: An Idea for Good Governance

As a Precinct Committee Person for the Washington County Democrats, I’ve taken it upon myself to meet my neighbors and update their voter registrations. As I speak with people about various topics, including the budget, and as I’ve spoken with people in the past about the budget, it has become clear to me that virtually nobody knows what the budget actually looks like. People have their ideas, but they’re often skewed, misinformed or just plain wrong. This has an obvious negative impact on any budget discussion in our country. If people don’t know where their money is going, how can they effectively debate what should be done?

Part of the reason for this is an intentional mingling of all income and expenditures from all sources, even if taxes are raised and distributed independently from one another. Some examples of this are, Federal Insurance Contributions Act-Old Age, Survivors, & Disability Insurance (FICA-OASDI, commonly referred to as Social Security), FICA-Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance (UI). These funds are raised, administered and distributed as trusts, separately from the general budget. Unfortunately (from a clarity standpoint), these trust funds have been combined with other federal funds, resulting in a picture of the budget that looks like this. By combining these trusts with the general budget, it makes it appear that Defense is 18.74%, interest on the debt is 4.63%, and all the other departments of the government are only 19.89% of spending. This provides an inaccurate description of how our taxes are spent (and how they’re raised).

What happens when you separate the trust funds (aka. “mandatory spending”) from the rest of the budget? The Defense Department suddenly looks much more robust at 43.32% of “discretionary spending”. This is followed by interest on the debt at 10.7%. Everything else is a total of 45.98% (the next largest expenditure is for the Department of Health and Human Services at 5.13% and it shrinks substantially from there). Looking at discretionary spending will allow for a more honest debate about what we can/should cut and possibly where we need to raise more revenue.

But how can we educate people most effectively? That’s where the idea for a “tax receipt” comes in. The idea of a “tax receipt” is that the government should start sending out receipts that break down each taxpayer’s share of taxes into easy to understand information and graphic depictions. A simple mailing like you receive yearly from the Social Security Administration detailing your Social Security Account would be all that’s needed. It should separate out social security and medicare, showing personal contributions to each program and each program’s revenue and expenditures as well as projections into the future. This would give people the knowledge to address problems with these specific programs (or not touch them if they’re working). It should spell out what your amount of income tax paid was and how it was spent, line by line. This way, people could see that they spent, $XXX on the military, $YYY on veteran’s benefits, $ZZZ on highways, bridges and transportation, etc. This type of mailing should detail total revenues, disbursements, and projections into the future. It should also show the current and projected deficits, the national debt and “your portion”. Reigning in the debt is not a conservative issue, it is an American one and this would help clarify the conversation on how to do so.

A statement of this sort would help to redefine the debate, changing the focus and bringing the conversation out of the realm of the imaginary budget into the realm of the actual budget. If expenses were broken out so that it was obvious that the military is almost 45% of all discretionary spending, nearly equal to all other government spending on everything else, perhaps more people would see the need to cut it back.

This may even bring on more support for certain tax increases. It would help groups to point out that through tax breaks and loopholes, the wealthy are able to substantially lower their tax burden. It would also make the comparison more stark when someone looks at the total amount they pay compared to corporations. By using the tax receipts of wealthy people who are willing to pay more (like Warren Buffet), you could easily demonstrate the need to eliminate the cap on Social Security taxes and apply them to all sources of income. Currently FICA-OASDI (Social Security) taxes are only applied to the first $106,800 of “gross wages”, but does not apply to investment income (interest, dividends, capital gains).

There are many proposed solutions out there regarding raising taxes, but I like the Schakowsky Plan for adding new brackets for income above $1 Million. This would be a lot cheaper for the rich than the Eisenhower era tax brackets were, while providing stability to the system so they could continue their lifestyle. A tax receipt would help provide the knowledge base to balance the budget through this or other progressive means, such as those outlined in the People’s Budget.

As Jim Wallis said:

Budgets are moral documents.

We need to educate people on the facts if we want to establish a moral and just budget. This idea will help do just that.

Cross Posted on Daily Kos.

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