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Monday, 15 October 2012

My Political Rant: US Election

Have you heard? There is a US election happening on November 6th. A lot is on the line. Will America go totally to the right and change the social fabric for years to come or will President Obama survive and push the country slowly ahead?
Many issues are being argued. One issue that isn’t being argued very much is that 4 years ago there was a financial crisis worldwide, millions of jobs disappeared, and a recovery for middle class Americans has been slow in coming.
The biggest thing probably on the table in US politics is the reworking of entitlement programs, particularly Medicare but also Social Security and a number of other social programs. The US is almost evenly Democrat and Republican as far as voting goes.
Almost 12 years ago now, George Bush Jr. was elected president. Shortly after assuming office and with a budget surplus inherited from the President Clinton years, he decided to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans. In the autumn of his first year in office, Bush had to deal with 9/11. All of the 9//11 terrorists except one came from Saudi Arabia. Instead of seeing Saudi Arabia as the enemy Iraq and Afghanistan were chosen as the countries to go to war with. Some think Iraq was chosen because Bush Jr. thought there was some unfinished business from Desert Storm when Bush Sr. invaded Iraq years before.
General Colin Powell was instructed to lie at the United Nations. A story was concocted about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. None were ever found but it was used as a premise to attack and occupy Iraq.
During Bush Jr.’s 8 years in office both wars were put on the credit card. Medicaid Part D and the tax breaks for the rich were also put on the credit card. By the end of Bush Jr.’s 8 years in office he had increased the US national debt by about 5 trillion dollars.
And then, just a month or so before the last presidential elections the bottom fell out of the US economy. Financial rules had been lax for some time and banks had been playing with exotic money schemes including derivatives. The whole world-wide financial community began to collapse. Later on some would say it was because the banks were forced to provide mortgages to unqualified people. This was totally untrue. The reality is that the banks just turned a blind eye to people’s qualifications in having a mortgage. Then they bundled those crappy mortgages and sold them off to a third party knowing full well that they had little value.
The stock market collapsed and millions of people lost their jobs. Over Bush’s 8 years millions of US manufacturing jobs had been sent overseas. The banks were bailed out and they turned around and laughed at the American taxpayer while giving themselves bonuses.
Bush Jr. pretty well left office in disgrace. In the last presidential election no Republican would let themselves be caught anywhere near to him. He wasn’t even invited to the Republican national convention.
Obama came into office with one of the biggest messes any president had ever inherited. The first thing the Republicans did was hold a meeting where they decided to make everything as difficult for the new president as they could. There was not to be any pulling together to help solve America’s problems. Mitch McConnell, the Republican senate minority leader, stated that his number one objective was make sure that Obama was a one term president.
For Obama’s first two years in office the Democrats controlled the house and the senate which may make it sound like they could pass anything they wanted. This was not to be the case. Instead of 51% being enough to get a bill passed in the senate it had become 60%. Joe Leiberman who had previously run for vice president on the Democratic ticket was now an independent who often sided with Republicans. In addition there were also several “blue dog” Democrats who leaned conservative. Some of them had large healthcare insurance companies in their home states that they were beholden to.
As his centerpiece of new legislation, Obama chose to retool healthcare. It was something that Democrats had wanted to do for decades. The cost of healthcare was overwhelming the US economy. After all was said and done, with no cooperation at all from Republicans, and insurance lobbyists pumping out fear and smear, universal healthcare was not even discussed. User pay was rejected out of hand. What barely became law was Romney’s healthcare plan in Massachusetts complete with a mandate.
Early in Obama’s term it looked like the end for America’s car making companies. Obama insisted that they be bailed out and they were and they had a dramatic recovery. A stimulus bill was passed in an attempt to create jobs and ease the tax burden on states.
Unemployment was still very high although more jobs were created while Obama was in office than during Bush’s 8 year term. The stock market totally recovered and corporate America was seeing higher profits than they ever had.
Along came the midterm elections and with the zealousness of the Tea Party (and dimwit Sarah Palin) Republicans took over the house in a landslide. The big issue throughout Obama’s term has been jobs and this was the issue the new Republican house members promised would be on the front burner. Instead of pushing for more jobs they chose to deal with social issues like gay rights and abortion. Almost 5000 state bills on abortion were presented.
Any Democratic bills were blocked in the house including ones to stimulate small business. A number of federal judges were left unappointed. If it was a Democratic proposal it would be dismissed.
The new hero for the far right was a career congressman named Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. One of his plans was to turn Medicare into a voucher system. He managed to get his first Medicare bill passed in the house before working on his plan B. His plan A would have added a cost of about $6400.00 a year for seniors on Medicare. Every Republican in the house signed on to this bill.
Virtually every elected Republican also signed a pledge to an unelected guy named Grover Norquist promising to never ever raise taxes including on the rich.
Earlier this year the debt ceiling issue came up when it was needed to be increased again. Republicans had not batted an eye under Bush Jr. about approving the raising of debt limit numerous times under Republican presidents like the Bushes and Reagan. This time the new Republican congressmen decided to hold the American taxpayer hostage. They had no problem jeopardizing the US’s credit rating. In the end they managed to get a continuation of the Bush tax cuts including the ones for the rich.
Part of the deal was that at the end of this year unless one party has absolute power, the Bush tax cuts will lapse and the government will be forced to cut a number of expenses including the cost of defence.
So now election time is almost upon us.
Several months ago we got to (those that are interested in US politics) see the Republican primaries where they would choose their nominee for president. The whole show was one candidate after another claiming to be more extreme than the other in their right wing beliefs.
In a lot of ways it was like a clown show that shouldn’t be taken seriously. There was Herman Kane and his 999 plan and his obvious history of molesting women. There was the Texas governor Rick Perry who couldn’t remember the third of 3 things he would do if he was president. There was the lunatic Michelle Bachmann whose husband was in the de-gaying business. There was Rick Santorum who is married to a woman who used to live with an abortion doctor and doesn’t believe in birth control. And of course there was the formerly disgraced thrice married Newt Gingrich doing his dog whistles to racists. Trump turned up for some ego time and did his birther bit. A sad lot they were.
The guy with all the money and the backing people like the Koch brothers was the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. He pretty well obliterated any competition by carpet bombing the TV airwaves.
This is Romney’s second attempt at trying to become president of the US. This time around he is running as a “severe Republican”. A lot of views he has had in the past have changed including on abortion. He seems to adapt his views to whatever he can manage to sell to a particular audience.
Who is the real Mitt Romney? How about we take a look at his history?
He was born in Michigan into a wealthy family. His father was once governor of the state. His father also ran to be the Republican nominee for president. Romney’s mother also ran for office. Both of his parents were considered moderates and his dad was pro civil rights and ended up being against the Viet Nam war.
The Romney family are Mormons. (They sometimes prefer LDS or Latter Day Saints). There are a few things in this church that don’t quite mesh with other Christian churches. They wear “magic underwear”, believe in a planet called Kolob, think facial hair on men is disrespectful, and only men are allowed to become elders. Some also believe in something called “lying for the lord” which means lying is OK if the end justifies the means.
There is no doubt that most Mormons are fairly industrious. Although their faith forbids things like consuming alcohol, smoking and gambling, they often don’t mind making a profit out of these practices by others.
According to some that knew Mitt at a young age in private school in Michigan he was a bit of a bully including taking part in forcing a schoolmate to endure having his long hair cut by some of Mitt’s toadies.
The Romney family including Mitt’s father George, or any of Mitt’s 5 sons have ever spent a night in an army barracks in their lives. Mitt demonstrated in the 60s as being pro the Viet Nam war but sat it out spending two of those years in France.
Mitt once put his Irish setter in a kennel on top of his car and drove to Canada that way on a family vacation.
After leaving university Mitt used his dad’s contacts and went to work for the Bain group of companies in Boston. He was asked to start up a venture capital company called Bain Capital. He only agreed to take the job if none of his own money would have to be invested and that he would get his old job back if things didn’t work out. Not exactly a big risk taker.
The concept of Bain Capital was to seek out good sized businesses that were having financial difficulty. Time and time again what they did was cut employee benefits and wages to improve the bottom line. They would pare out anything they could and sometimes shipped jobs overseas. Sometimes they would insert people to manage the company with no previous industry experience. Part of their plan was to make businesses more efficient as to profit so they could later be sold off. If the company failed or succeeded Bain still took massive fees. On a few occasions, long time employees were told that they could reapply for their jobs at much lower wages.
One of the more widely recognized companies Bain was involved in was the office supplier Staples. Staples has about 100,000 employees today. About 95% of those jobs pay below the US poverty line by about $5000.00. Not the kind of jobs a family can be supported on.
Altogether, Romney amassed about ¼ billion dollars from his “vulture capitalism” years. Although he hasn’t been actively involved with Bain for years he still earns about 20 million annually from them. And he pays about 14% in taxes according to the two partial tax returns he has released. His father, George, released 12 years of tax records when he was in office.
Romney was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2003 and served for 4 years. He says he worked with a political body that was 87% Democrat and was bipartisan. In fact he vetoed over 800 bills while in office. Instead of raising taxes he raised fees which in the end is the same thing. In his time in office Massachusetts was 47th out of 50 states in job growth. When he left office in 2007 he had all of his office’s computers destroyed so there were no records.
I guess you could ask a few questions here. What is right wing America’s agenda and what is Romney’s agenda?
The right wing agenda is a bit complex. It is partly religious values and partly the support of the very wealthy instead of the middle class and poor. If you are on their side almost nothing is too extreme.
#1 Racism whether direct or not is OK. Many Republicans believe Obama is not American and was born in Kenya. Somehow, over 50 years ago some people planted his birth notice in 2 newspapers in Hawaii knowing that he would one day run for president. Obama is often depicted by right wing America as “the other”. Some Tea Party signs even made him look like a savage. These beliefs and actions are not part of any bible reading that I am aware of.
#2 The lopsided Republican supreme court decided that rich people and corporations could donate unlimited funds to political action committees (pacs) skewing influence towards their interests through print and TV ads. And the contributors don’t have to identify themselves.
#3 Laws were passed in a number of Republican states requiring people to get sometimes difficult to acquire voter ID. This has never been a problem in the past period. The intent was to disenfranchise poorer people who would quite likely vote Democrat.
#4 An all-out assault was made on women and their right to control their own bodies. Everything from vaginal probes if an abortion was sought, to the use of birth control, to trying to shut down Planned Parenthood. The fact that very few doctors would perform an abortion, unless it threatened the life of the mother, is never mentioned.
#5 Rush Limbaugh is like god to right wingers. After Limbaugh called a college student a slut because she uses birth control Romney remarked that that wasn’t words he would have chosen.
#6 The endless union bashing. The American middle class was at its best when unions were at their peak. Germany has one of the best economies on the planet and a large number of union workers. In the US teachers were made out to be close to pond scum by many Republicans.
#7 The right likes to claim that the Christian religious beliefs are under attack. You almost can’t run for office in the US without claiming to be a Christian. Over and over it is said by the far right that the US is a Christian nation simply because they are the majority. To them others just don’t count.
#8 The constant silly chatter about Socialism, Marxism, and Communism as if they are all the same. Many Americans don’t seem to understand that the concept of any form of insurance is socialistic.
#9 The implying that only Republicans are successful at business. The truth of the matter is the two richest people in America are Democrats, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Half of the small businesses in the US are owned by Democrats or lean Democrat.
#10 Perhaps the biggest hoax perpetuated by the right in the US is that Medicare is going bankrupt. It will if they allow it but it can be fixed fairly simply by raising the payroll deduction by 1 or 2 %. A lot less costly than the ever increasing healthcare insurance premiums.

#11 The crap about high gas prices. No president has any control over what the price a gallon of gas is. You could double the drilling in the US and it still wouldn't decrease the price of gas.
The current Republican party represents 2 interests. The religious nuts and the wealthy. They are against things that most Americans want. Here is a list…..
#1 Equal pay for women.
#2 Raising the minimum wage.
#3 Affordable healthcare which includes the public option.
#4 The non-privatization of Medicare and SS.
#5 Enviromental protection.
#6 Consumer protection.
#7 Inceasing taxes on the very rich.
#8 Real financial reform.
#9 An end to corporate subsidees.
#10 Less expensive and more investment in education.
#11 The break up of corporate monopolies.
#12 The choice of gays and others to marry who they wish.
#13 An end to useless wars.
#14 The legalization of pot.
#15 The taxing of churches should they choose to be political.
#16 A major jobs bill that would rebuild the US infrastructure in partnership with the government and the private sector.
These are just some of the things that most Americans want but Republicans won’t let them have. Instead they have the Romney/Ryan budgets that give away billions to the wealthy, increases the US national debt, kills Medicare, and promises millions of high paying jobs based upon trickle down economics that has never worked before.
This election is going to be a close one. Unfortunately, close to 50% of Americans are really clueless.
I am crossing my fingers. 

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