Total Pageviews

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Awful Progressive Liberals?

In the US today it is rare for someone with “Liberal” political views to identify themselves as being a Liberal. The word has all kinds of negative connotations due mostly to the relentless hammering from the political right and their wealthy benefactors. “Communist”, “Socialist”, “Pinko” are words often tied to being Liberal. Being totally or partially reliant on the government, lazy and unambitious, wanting something for nothing, freeloaders, expecting others to provide for them, unpatriotic, are some of the more common themes used to describe anything that is considered to be liberal by the right. As a result of this continued onslaught many Liberals have chosen to identify themselves as “Progressives”.
Many in the US, from both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, think that President Barack Obama is a Liberal. He isn’t. Neither is Bill Clinton or Hilary Clinton. They are “Centrists”. In a lot of ways they are closer to what the old Republican Party used to stand for.

You don’t have to look very far to get a good indication that Obama is no Progressive. His healthcare plan, the ACA (Affordable Healthcare Act) is based upon a right wing think tank idea that Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, implemented in Massachusetts. It is also very similar to a healthcare plan that Republican president Richard Nixon once considered introducing to the American people.
For a number of years now in the US Senate getting any bill passed has required 60 of 100 votes. Not 51%. (There are 100 senators in the Senate.) When Obama first started to set up the ACA he was quite aware that there were several “Blue Dog” Democrats in the senate. The Blue Dogs have kind of disappeared in the past few years but when they were around they leaned towards conservative views.
The insurance companies had their own point man in the Democratic Party, Senator Max Baucus from the state of Montana. Montana has a population of about 1 million people, about 1/300th of the US population, and Baucus has been in office for more than 35 years. From 2003 to 2008 Baucus received over 4 million dollars from the healthcare insurers and the pharmaceutical industry in campaign contributions. There was no way Baucus was ever going to consider universal healthcare as a viable alternative to the existing healthcare delivery in the US.
Max Baucus
Before the ACA became law Obama formed commissions to study America’s healthcare system. The healthcare insurers were at the table as were representatives from the major pharmaceutical companies. Doctors and nurses and the public in general were left out of the process.
When explained factually without right wing doom and gloom nonsense, “User Pay” or universal healthcare is favoured by most Americans. Historically from the 1960s on, the major healthcare insurers in the US have been buying out their competition. There are only several “players” in the healthcare insurance industry today with two of them having over 70 million customers each.
Obama decided that taking away part of the insurance cartel’s business was an impossible task considering how entrenched they were and how powerful their lobbyists are. Even though every civilized country on the planet has government sponsored universal healthcare Obama resigned himself that this type of healthcare in America was too big of a stretch.
Obama came into office unprepared. He really didn’t have a lot of political contacts on a national level. When it came to choosing a running mate, he didn’t have a lot of choices and settled on the affable but awkward Joe Biden. After beating the crap out of Hilary Clinton in the primaries, once elected, Obama had to go to her, hat in hand, to get her to accept the position of Secretary of State. It seems likely that part of that bargain was leaning more to the center as the Clintons prefer to do.
Most Progressives expected universal healthcare to be part of Obama’s push to reform health care. It wasn’t the only time they would be disappointed in the following years. A lot of promises were broken as Obama moved to the center often appeasing the Republican Party.
-Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay), in Cuba, where foreign terrorists were held, often without trial, was never closed as Obama had promised.
-Eliminating oil and gas tax loopholes was another promise not kept.
-Ending no-bid contracts above $25,000.00 never happened.
-Creating a 60 billion dollar bank to fund roads and bridges never came about.
-Allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs from foreign countries never got off the ground.
-Allowing Medicare to negotiate for cheaper drugs was killed outright and Obama made a sweetheart deal with the pharmaceutical corporations.
-Require employers to provide 7 sick days per year. It didn’t happen.
-Reduce the veteran’s benefits administration backlog. It didn’t happen.
-Clarify legal status for defense contractor personnel. It didn’t happen.
-Establish regulations to secure chemical plants. It didn’t happen.
-Toughen rules against revolving door of lobbyists and former government officials. It didn’t happen.
-Not knowing a lot about economics Obama settled for Tim Geithner, the Wall Street insider, as his Secretary of the Treasury.
The list goes on and on. Mostly anything that gave an advantage to corporate America over the American public was maintained.
Nobody on Wall Street of any note was ever prosecuted. Criminal activity by the previous administration was simply ignored. There is a reason why certain Republicans don’t travel to some foreign countries.
On top of all of this Obama maintained a lot of the Bush era foreign policies.
In Obama’s defense there was a lot to fix when he came into office and he wasn’t going to get any cooperation from the Republicans. On top of all of that he had to put up with a lot of racism and false accusations like being a Socialist or Communist.
In the end the American left was left with the conclusion that at least he wasn’t “the other guy”, a McCain or Romney.
One of the more notable instances of Obama being afraid of the right in the US was when he failed to appoint Elizabeth Warren as the head of the new consumer protection agency. Luckily for him, she chose to run for senator in Massachusetts.

A Quick Review Of Some American History
It is important to have some understanding of American history to understand why the US is in the state it is today. Right from the beginning of the settling of the US control of the country has been mostly in the hands of the very wealthy.
The right in the US likes to portray those on the left that see a huge inequality between the very wealthy and the rest of America as jealousy forgetting of course that many of the wealthy in the US are themselves Democrats.
-You can’t really look at the first part of American history without being aware of what was stolen from the American Indians.
Wounded Knee Massacre
-The US was initially settled by The Pilgrims from England on the east coast of the country. They came to America for religious freedom where they could practice their faith without persecution of the threat of imprisonment or persecution. This of course only applied to the like-minded Christians. Things got out of hand with the Salem witch trials when some were put to death.
-Back then the US was mostly an agrarian country. As time went on landowners had more and more influence in local politics. The more land they controlled the richer they became.
-In 1776 The Declaration of Independence was introduced. In the preamble “all men are created equal” is mentioned. Many of the signers of this document were in fact slave owners which isn’t quite all men being equal. Most of the signers were also wealthy land owners. The American Indians were also not part of the “all men are created equal”.
-The US south was built on slavery. The US Civil War was partly but not entirely about slavery and the man who tried to abolish it, President Lincoln, was a Republican. Many of the Founding Fathers who signed The Declaration of Independence were slave owners including Washington and Jefferson.
American slavery.
-In the mid-1800s the industrial revolution started. More and more people flocked to the cities in search of work. By the 1890s by far most of the wealth in the US belonged to a small % of people.
-Wealth controlled both local and national politics. People’s general welfare was often the least thing most politicians were concerned with.
-Around 1900 progressive ideas started to come to the fore in the US. A number of unions were created to give workers some rights. Over the next 50 years or so there were a number of fierce battles between workers and strike breakers who were hired by the wealthy.
-In 1929 the stock market crashed and fortunes were lost. Out of control recklessness with goods and materials having false values and people investing without collateral were some of the reasons for the collapse. Poor farming methods based on endless extraction led to the Dust Bowl and millions of Americans were out of work.
-WW2 revived America’s fortunes and led to a number of years of prosperity. Manufacturing was a key part of the country’s economy and there was an abundance of decent paying blue collar jobs.
-For the past 30 years or so the control of the nation has shifted more and more to the very wealthy and Corporate America. Wage gains have in no way matched the increased cost of living for many in the middle class and more and more Americans are struggling.
So…What Have Progressive Ideas Done To Better American’s Lives?
Before offering up a list it should be noted that the very rich have always stood in the way of progress if it includes benefitting the middle class or poor.
The world does not stand still. There are things that have always worked and others that need some fixing or need to be replaced all together.
-Before there were unions it was common for people to work 10 hour days 6 days a week. Child labour including working in mines was the norm in parts of the country. There was little in the way of safety rules to protect the health of the workers.
Child labour.
-If it wasn’t for Teddy Roosevelt there wouldn’t be the number of national parks there are today including Yellowstone National Park. Big business would have mined the hell out of the parks if they had their way In the early 1900s the “progressive movement” was the most powerful influence in US politics. In 1904 318 trusts controlled about two fifths of the US economy. A number of monopolies including railroads were broken up by Teddy Roosevelt.
Teddy Roosevelt at Yellowstone.
-The Federal Meat Inspection Act came into being in 1906. It was the forerunner to the Food and Drug Administration which protected citizens from the marketing of unsafe products.
-In 1916 the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act came into being curtailing the exploitation of child labour.
-The Suffragette Movement pressured American politicians for the right for women to vote. It wasn’t accepted until 1920.
Women marching for the vote.
-In 1935 Social Security became part of the fabric of America. Up until then poor older people often spent the remainder of their years in “poor houses”. In the over 75 years since SS was introduced it has been a savior to millions of Americans in their final years.
An American poor house.
-In 1936 the Hoover Dam was completed. Funding for the project came from the federal government.
The Hoover Dam.
-In 1938 the statutory minimum wage was introduced in the US. Up until that time an employer could pay a worker as little as he cared to.
-The GI Bill of 1944 assisted over 2.2 million American vets returning from WW2. Among the benefits the vets received were college tuition along with living expenses, financial assistance in starting a small business, high school or vocational training, one year of unemployment compensation, and low-cost mortgages.
* To get an idea how much has changed in the US between the end of WW2 and now, consider the following. At today’s dollar value WW2 cost the US over 2 trillion dollars. There was also the added cost of the Marshall Plan in Europe and money owed from The Great Depression. The GI Bill lasted until 1956. It was in effect in both a Democratic presidency and a Republican presidency (Eisenhower).
-In 1964 The Civil Rights Act became law. It prohibited segregation in public places and terminated Jim Crow laws in the South. It also required integration of schools, eliminated unequal voter registration requirements, and prohibited employment discrimination.
-The Social Security Act of 1965 established Medicare and Medicaid in the United States. Medicare basically established healthcare coverage for seniors over the age of 65.
-The Voting Rights Act of 1965 secured the right of every American, particularly blacks in the South, to be allowed to vote. Poll Taxes, literacy tests, harassment and violence towards voters was outlawed.
-In 1970 The Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed. Basically it requires employers to provide a safe and healthy working environment.
-The Endangered Species Act of 1973 was passed to protect wildlife that was becoming extinct including the American bison, whooping cranes, and the bald eagle.
-The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 gave American workers the option of taking  unpaid time off from their jobs for serious illnesses, pregnancy, care for a new child, family turmoil caused by a family member being called for military duty, without the threat of losing their employment.
-In 2009 the Hate Crimes Act (the Mathew Shepard Act) was introduced. It put more teeth into prosecuting crimes based upon race, colour, sexual persuasion, or religion.
These are just some of the examples of “progressive” laws that were passed to benefit all Americans. It goes without saying that most of these laws were not favoured by the far right and often the very wealthy and corporate America.

What Are Progressives Typically for?
#1 The right for women to control their own bodies when it comes to their health.
#2 Most Progressives are anti-war unless it comes down to having to defend their country. Progressives also recognize that is mostly the poor in America who end up fighting in these wars and once they have been used for these purposes they are often discarded by the politicians who sent them off to war in the first place. Progressives don’t believe that the US should be the world’s unasked for policemen.

Anti-war march.

#3 Universal healthcare, not the water downed Obamacare. The same type of healthcare utilized in every other advanced nation in the world, not one run by a cartel with anti-trust exemption that can extract at will whatever they care to from a captured market place.
 #4 Limited political contributions from wealthy corporations and the very rich (casino owner Sheldon Adelson and the industrialist Koch brothers) that alter election outcomes by contributing millions to political campaigns. Democrats accept money also from corporate America and pretty well have to after the weighted in favour of the Republicans Supreme Court decision to accept corporations as being people too.

#5 A recognition that Global Warming isn’t just a vague opinion and that steps need to be made to address what this ongoing calamity will do to coming generations and the present one.

 #6 Financial reform. That laws be passed to prevent banks and Wall Street from taking high risks with people’s investments causing a meltdown of the world’s economy once again. That those who work for these companies and break laws be prosecuted.

#7 Environmental protection. That industry can not just do whatever it pleases in the name of profit without having any responsibility towards environmental damage. Like the oil industry and the unknown damage caused by fracking.

#8 Consumer protection. That products can not come to market without proving that they are safe for usage or consumption. That customers are not used as guinea pigs when it comes to the introduction of new drugs.

#9 Affordable higher education. Starting with the amount of interest that can be charged for student loans and a banning of private sector student loans with their usurious rates.  A banning of on-line schools that prey on ex service people and whose degrees have little value to perspective employers. An investment of federal and state taxes to lower the cost of a college education.
#10 A serious attempt at job creation including a national works program funded by the federal government rebuilding the US infrastructure. This would create millions of jobs and products would be supplied by the private sector.

#11 A severe cut to the Defence Department. Cutting their budget at least in half. Ending the waste of building fighter jets in 10 different states and the enormous amount of money spent with private contractors. The money saved could be spent on reducing the national debt, reducing the cost of higher education, and a number of other things benefitting almost all Americans.

#12 Increasing the minimum wage. The American people are not responsible for the fortunes made by fast food restaurants who make a good part of their earnings by paying their employees poverty wages. 10 years ago a Big Mac meal cost about $2.50. Today it is closer to $8.00. Nowhere in that $5.50 increase has a pay raise for workers been added.

#13 A total end to corporate subsidies. In the total history of mankind there has never been the amount of profit by one industry as there is today by the oil companies. Yet they are still substatized.

#14 A closing of corporate tax loopholes. This is a total loss of tax revenues. Many corporations pay zero in taxes but get to use public roads and bridges for free when they are paid for by the taxpayers.

#15 An uncoupling of monopolies. Once corporations have formed a monopoly they can work together in collusion to demand whatever price they want for their products and their captive market has no options. Monopolies are not about free markets and competition.

#16 Removing religion from politics. If churches want to get involved in politics they should be taxed.

#17 Making voter suppression a criminal act. Oh actually is a criminal act but nobody is ever charged.

#18 When corporations refuse to pay US taxes and ship their cash to offshore accounts they should be made to pay an import charge when their products come into the US.

#19 The legalization of marijuana. Would save billions on wasted police time and the incarceration of people who shouldn’t be in prison
These are just some of the Progressive ideas. Societies are made up of all people. Some have to deal with poverty. Some have to deal with health problems. Even the bible which is the basis of Christian values talks about empathy for one another. A society that ignores the majority of its population and its welfare is doomed. What is so wrong about wanting better lives for one’s fellow citizens?

Progressive ideas haven’t always worked. Prohibition was a stupid idea. Unions got out of hand at times with gangsters sometimes in control and there were times that too much was given to union members in the way of benefits. In my opinion Michael Moore was a little sloppy with some of his facts in his movies. Nothing is always perfect!

A List Of Some Of the More Notable American Progressives in US History.
Jane Adams 1860-1952… one of the founders of the NAACP.
Louis Brandeis 1856-1941… fought the railroad monopolies.
W.E. Dubois 1868-1963…civil rights activist.

W.E. Dubois
 Eugene Debs 1855-1926…organized one of US’s first labour unions, The American Railway Union.

Teddy Roosevelt…as US president created a number of national parks. Introduced anti-trust laws.
Florence Kelley 1859-1932…organized against sweatshops and was an advocate for children’s rights.
Upton Sinclair 1878-1968…changed California politics for decades.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman 1860-1935…argued for equality between the sexes.
Roger Baldwin 1884-1981…founded the American Civil Liberties Union.
John L. Lewis 1880-1969…was president of the United Mine Workers from 1920-1960. In 1948 he won an historic agreement with the mining companies establishing medical and pension benefits for miners.
Frankin Delano Roosevelt 1882-1945…served almost 4 full terms as US president starting in The Great Depression and ending near the end of WW2. He is often picked as the most revered president in American history.  He instituted the New Deal, a variety of programs including government jobs for the unemployed, regulation of Wall Street, the banks, and transportation. He also introduced Social Security. At its peak the WPA (The Worker’s Progress Administration) employed over 2 million formerly unemployed Americans.
Eleanor Roosevelt 1884-1962…spent her years as FDR’s wife during his presidency and after he died being involved with causes like assistance for the poor, women’s rights, and civil rights. Stood up to the Daughters of the American Revolution over racial exclusion.


Norman Thomas 1884-1968…early critic of the Viet Nam War. Was one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Other notable Progressives  from the 20th century include Paul Robeson, John Dewey, Supreme Court Justices Earl Warren and Thurgood Marshall, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, I.F. Stone, Harry Hay, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Rachel Carson, John Kenneth Galbraith, Michael Harrington, Ralph Nader, Bill Moyers, Tom Hayden, and Saul Alinsky.
You can add the many progressives that stood up against the wars in Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Progressivism is hardly dead in America. Most of things Progressives stand for are the same things that most Americans want. Progressives are not radical. They are for common sense.

If you are a TV watcher you can find a number of Progressives on MSNBC including Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, Ed Shultz, Rev. Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Alex Wagner. Chris Mathews is not a Progressive.
Rachel Maddow
Although they might not label themselves totally as Progressives you can often see comedians like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher railing at the absurdities of the American far right.

Matt Taibbi, a writer for Rolling Stone, is an excellent source for a clear look at how corporate America and the far right including far right Christians repeatedly try to get one over on the American public.

Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Senator, is probably the most outspoken Progressive in American politics today and he sits as an independent.  

Polls Show That Progressive Political Ideas Are Gaining More And More Favour In The US.
-80% of Americans believe the federal government investments in education, infrastructure, and science are necessary to ensure America’s long term economic growth.
-66% of Americans believe that the government has a responsibility to provide financial support for the poor, the sick, and the elderly.
-75% of Americans believe that government regulations are necessary to keep businesses in check and protect the consumers and workers.
-76% of Americans believe that the US should move from a reliance on oil and gas to renewable energy like wind and solar.
-Over 65% of Americans believe that healthcare should be more affordable.
Big Government?
The right in the US is constantly railing against the size of the federal government and its inability to ever do anything right.
First of all this is an interesting claim since most of the expansion of the US federal government has come about under Republican presidents including Ronald Reagan. Homeland Security has over 200,000 employees and the department was created following 9/11.
The US federal government employs about 2.8 million people (about 1 out of every 100 American citizens). There are about 320 million American citizens. That’s a lot of people. Actually about 1 million Americans are federal employees (1 out every 300 Americans). The rest are military personnel.
-Republicans like to claim that the federal government never does anything right. This of course is a big lie starting with NASA and putting a man on the moon. SS and Medicare have benefited millions of elderly Americans. Programs for the poor have saved countless lives. Big projects like the American highway system and the Hoover Dam have assisted America’s prosperity.
-The federal government has protected people’s freedoms including their religious choices.
-The reason there wasn’t a major run on banks in 2008 was because of federal deposit insurance.
-America’s air and water are considerably more cleaner today than they were in the 1960s due to the federal government’s legislation.
-The National Weather Service has improved hurricane and tornado warnings by 50% in the past 15 years.
-Food and drug safety programs have protected Americans from dangerous products for years.
-Federal funds account for 80% of science research in the US. Many beneficial products have come about by federal research including the internet. Although the research money comes from taxpayers the products are all made by the private sector.

The American Right’s Hypocrisy When It Comes To The Federal Government.
-Republicans in general hate entitlement programs. They never ever mention that programs like Medicaid and Medicare both spend billions of dollars acquiring goods and materials from the private sector. Ask one of these suppliers if they would like to give up their sales to the federal government.
-The US defense budget is about 1/5 of the annual budget. Billions are spent with private contractors at often ridiculous prices. Often without open bids. Ask the contractors if they would like to forgo this income.
-Republicans and Democrats will take any government subsidy they can get including being paid not to grow something.
-Paul Ryan, the architect of the farcical proposed Republican budget that included more tax breaks for the rich, the voucherized Medicare, and the destruction of Obamcare, has spent most of his adult life being paid by the federal government. His working history is a mere few years for the family business. Where you really shake your head is that Ryan put himself through college using his dead father’s social security survivor benefits.
-The avoidance of paying taxes may be legal but it still undermines the federal government in tax revenue. Mitt Romney has worked this to perfection with millions of his money in off-shore accounts.

America is the richest country on the planet. There is plenty for everyone. There is no reason 20% of the population should live in poverty or that many who still manage to barely be middle class are forced to be affected by one unneeded crisis after another including the cost of healthcare.

Making sure the rich get richer should not be most people’s concerns. What is enough for the very wealthy and corporate America? Should everyone else suffer because of the appetite for greed by a few? Just how much is enough, a billion? You could buy anything you could ever extravagantly expensive that you would want in a lifetime and still have money left over if you had a billion dollars…. a 30 million dollar house, a 10 million dollar vacation home, money for tuition at Harvard or Yale, servants and drivers, expensive cars. You name it.
Should Americans be concerned about the welfare of Wal-Mart heirs, the Walton family, who had no part in building the company but are worth 25 billion dollars each?
Or should they be concerned about their neighbours and their welfare? Should they care about the poor? Should they care about their children’s future?
Republicans love to push the idea that anyone can make it in the US through hard work. Just what is hard work anyway? Standing on your feet all day at Wal-Mart or digging ditches or making a real estate deal in the clubhouse on a golf course?
Can your daddy give you money to buy your first hotel like Donald Trump’s dad did?  Do you think you might get away with stiffing your contractors when your business decisions prove faulty?
Are you fooled by Republicans that will tell you that the rich are important because they are the job creators or do you know the truth which is that the rich and corporate America only hire people because they need them to become richer and the reality is that small and medium size businesses create the most new jobs.
Fuck the rich! It is long past the time caring about what they think because whatever it is they are thinking it isn’t about others (you and your family) having a better life.


I am a Canadian. I live in a country with universal healthcare. Our current government is run by Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party. The Conservatives were elected with about 40% of the popular vote. Canada is not a conservative country. A few years ago there was contest to determine who Canadians thought was the greatest Canadian ever. Of course there were a number of votes for professional hockey players because we Canadians love our hockey. The person chosen as the greatest Canadian ever was a man named Tommy Douglas. He was from the province of Saskatchewan. He was an ordained minister in the Calvary Baptist Church. After being in politics in Saskatchewan for some years Douglas became the leader of the national political party, the CCF, which was a left of center group. The CCF later became the New Democratic Party. Douglas never came close to being Canada’s prime minister. His claim to fame was that he introduced universal healthcare in his home province of Saskatchewan. After it became a success the national Liberal Party Of Canada introduced it as part of the fabric of Canada.

Stephen Harper has done a number of nutty things and if an election were held today he would most likely be out of office. Unlike his right wing cousins to the south in the US, Harper would never in his wildest dreams attempt to abolish universal healthcare.

Tommy Douglas died in 1986 at the age of 81.

PS #2.....

A few years ago we were in Arles, France where there is a Roman arena. Our tour guide told us that the common thought about battles between gladiators or men fighting animals was that it was for the entertainment of those in power and the very wealthy.

Our tour guide pointed out that this wasn't entirely true. In fact many of the peasants attended the arena battles. For most of the next week they would talk in excitement of what they had seen and what they would see the next week. It was a distraction for them and made them forget somewhat about the deplorable conditions they lived in and their futile plight in life.

The same thing is happening today in the US where people are divided and instead of being concerned about their own welfare and that of their neighbours, many choose to concentrate on divisive issues like race, religion, homosexuality, abortion, their interpretation of socialism and patriotism, and pay little attention to the fact that society including the government favours the very wealthy to the detriment of most Americans.





No comments:

Post a Comment