Dem Rx

Certain folk are complaining that the Democratic Party has gone off the rails, and is incapable of doing anything right. Nonsense. Dems believe in what they have always believed, that the strength of our democracy depends on how well our citizens are treated.

It’s the Republicans who have gone off the rails, and are now devoting all their time to serving the very rich and living in a fantasy world where magic works just fine. In recent decades Republicans have operated at the edge of the law. This has resulted in 120 indictments, 89 convictions, and 34 prison sentences for Republicans, compared to 3 indictments, 1 conviction, and 1 prison sentence for Democrats over the same period. And that’s pre-Trump.

But aren’t the Dems just as corrupted by corporate bribery as the Repubs? The way I see it is that the Dems have no choice but to accept Corporate Personhood bucks if they want to mount an electoral defense against multi-billionaire fossil fuel science deniers and the like. That’s unfortunate, but unavoidable, and Dems in this trap have to be extremely careful.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to correct the ongoing lies that Trump voters believe no matter what evidence there is to the contrary. The absurd Republican belief is that making the billionaires richer will help everyone. The opposite has been proven numerous times to be the case. Pure greed is the only thing the Republican belief serves. It makes the rest of us worse off.

Some problems and how to fix them.

Poverty: It seems so obvious. Set a minimum wage that allows people to simply live, without working two jobs. Currently that seems to be about $15 per hour. Every place where $15 has been tried has thrived.

Shorten the work week. We no longer work a 72-hour week, yet the 40-hour week didn’t bankrupt us. A 20-to-30 hour week is overdue. The transition will need to be carefully managed, but the result will be that more people will have work and fewer will be unemployed, which helps the country.

Get rid of desperate poverty with a guaranteed minimum income that prevents suffering from the worst effects of extreme poverty, but won’t be enough that it would be desirable.

Establish tax-supported national health care. This will save tens of thousands of lives yearly, and will vastly improve the national health, which in turn will boost economic health. Since cost control would be a part of national health care, excessive costs from fees, technology, and medicines would be reduced. We would no longer waste one of every three dollars on insurance administration, which contributes absolutely nothing to health care. The cost savings would be some $200B annually. That’s a savings of $645 per person per year just for instituting universal health care.

There are many other things Dems should support, policies that create greater common wealth. For example, encouragement of worker ownership of businesses. Policies that help domestic businesses be more competitive against overseas businesses that exploit workers with very low pay. For example assistance in financing a new business and modernizing older ones, and improvements in transportation and marketing. Tax breaks that help real people, not just corporate billionaires.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Dems is reaching Trumpsters, who have fallen for blatant lies, and live in a fantasy world where Trump will make them all rich. Dems must learn how to reach these people and show them how government actually works, and what will help them personally. That’s a tough challenge, because many such people are very resistant to such realization, and would rather remain in their fantasy world. They hate Obama and Democrats because they hate Obama and Democrats.

No, Democrats haven’t gone off the rails. The Democratic platform should be what it has always been: serve the people, all the people, not just the rich. Enact laws based on factual evidence, not quasi-religious faith that doesn’t hold up under inspection.

The Frightening Republican Failure to Understand Reality

What scares me about the presidential election a year from now is the possibility that one of the GOP candidates could win it. In every case, these guys fail not just in showing even modest ability to run the most powerful government in the world, but each and every one of them clearly demonstrates a failure to understand the real world.

Good grief, look at The Donald. Trump is an obnoxious billionaire egotist who’s not even good at his own business, reigning over one billion-dollar bankruptcy after another. His great answer to all the problems he would face as president is “I’m gonna fix that”, which includes everything from ending poverty to stopping (nonexistent) voting fraud, to making (private) health care affordable to balancing the budget. His entire foreign policy consists of deporting 11-million Mexicans because they are all rapists and criminals, and to prevent every single Mexican from coming north by building a 1,900 mile wall on the entire Mexican-US border. Maginot line, anyone? He wants the country to be all white again, just at the point where Spanish speakers are about to outnumber English speakers.

Paul Ryan is author of a budget proposal, one of the few from GOP candidates, but based entirely on fantasy. It depends on massive amounts of money in most categories, but fails to mention where this money will come from, a process Paul Krugman refers to as the “magic asterisk” and even government analysts can’t explain. One presumes Paul Ryan thinks it will come from dissolution of Social Security, Medicare, and other essential programs that serve over 300-million people.

Senator James Inhofe, although not a candidate, demonstrates typical Republican attitudes. He’s chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. He, like far too many Republicans, simply doesn’t understand how the world works. Despite tens of thousands of scientific papers demonstrating climate change and its dangers, and repeated calls for the US to do something, Inhofe’s most significant environmental act has been to bring a snowball onto the Senate floor, thereby “proving” that planetary warming is a hoax. He will be the single person most responsible for millions of deaths because he has refused all action, leaving us completely unprepared for climate change.

He is not alone in failing to understand science. Dr. Ben Carson, who somehow managed to remain not only ignorant but truly stupid in spite of his medical degree, has made a mini-career of dumfounding pronouncements. Among them: evolution is a trick of the devil; the Big Bang is a fairy tale; gun control is what caused the Holocaust; mass murders are the fault of victims; the Affordable Care Act is worse than slavery. He is also certain that prison causes homosexuality. The proof, he says, is that they go in straight and come out gay. Where he got this notion is anyone’s guess.

It’s not that Republicans are bending the truth a little bit. It’s that they have made outright lies and stupidity central elements of the party platform. My god, if one of these fools became president… 

No reasonable person has been able figure out Republican men’s obsession with women’s health, although quite clearly many of them don’t understand basic human anatomy and biology. White Republican males have proposed hundreds of laws to restrict and control women, but not a single one for men. And for irrational reasons they are determined to close down Planned Parenthood, which provides health care for 2.7 million women. They don’t want a single dollar of government money to provide abortion, something which does not occur. They don’t want PP to be able to sell “baby parts”, although selling “baby parts” has never been possible. In short, they want to end something that doesn’t exist, and punish 2.7 million women in the process.

Terrorists blew up the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya on 11 Sept. 2012, killing ambassador Stevens and three others. Republicans soon launched an investigation, not to find out what happened, but hoping to find something they could pin on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Seventeen months of total failure at this goal and two significant and embarrassing public exposures of the real Republican motives behind the investigation—to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign—have not discouraged them. They continue their witch hunt in hopes that enough suckers will believe them to distort the election.

Every Republican president for at least a half century has promised to shrink the national debt, but always ends up increasing the budget by giving yet more billions to the very wealthy, thereby increasing the national debt. In spite of any evidence that it does so, Republicans continue to believe that great wealth will create jobs and bring affluence to all. This has been proven false numerous times. It’s worth noting that only Democrats have actually reduced the national budget.

If there is one favorite activity of every Republican it’s starting new wars. I suppose it proves that one’s testosterone level is more than adequate. Virtually all of the candidates think that bombing Iran is just about the best thing we could do. Most of them would also like to re-invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and send tens of thousands of troops and bombs to Syria and the West Bank.

Aside from almost daily stupid statements of various GOP presidential hopefuls, all Republicans believe in the efficacy of giving money to billionaires; that money would be saved by destroying everything that protects the average American, such as Social Security and the Affordable Care Act; and that military spending, now about twice that of China, and equal to the next dozen major military powers, must be increased. Every one of these beliefs has either proven false multiple times, stands no chance because what they want to kill protects 300-million Americans; or makes no logical sense.

And yet… Because their falsehoods are persistent over many years, True Believers might accept them as fact, and there is the scary possibility that one of these incompetents could be the next president. George W. Bush, who is without question one of the worst presidents we’ve ever had, was dismaying, but the current crop is truly frightening.

Still More Forehead Slappers

Being a highly truncated edition of recent idiotic statements that pass for actual thinking on the right.

Barry Smitherman was a Rick Perry discovery. Perry appointed him to the Public Utility Commission and from there to the Texas Railroad Commission which regulates not railroads, but oil and gas. Smitherman has determined that aborted fetuses would have voted Republican. Climate change is not a problem because there have been no major storms in Austin for some time. He re-tweeted a list of Republicans who voted for a gun control bill, with the word “treason” and an image of a noose accompanying their names. [Crooks & Liars, 13 November 2013]

On Aug. 13, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed into law a voter ID bill that was widely denounced by civil rights advocates. Not only did it mandate government-issued photo IDs at the polls, but it reduced the state’s early voting period from 17 to 10 days. According to McCrory, however, he didn’t actually shorten the voting. “First of all, we didn’t shorten early voting, we compacted the calendar,” he said.

Texas Senator John Cornyn, immediately after the signing of the first agreement with Iran on freezing their nuclear capacity, tweeted: “Amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care”. [23 Nov 13]

“I am thankful this week when I remember that America is big enough and great enough to survive Grown-Up Trayvon in the White House!”— Dinesh D’Souza, a Tweet, November 26, 2013. D’Souza, a former policy analyst under Reagan, has been a relentless critic of Obama for all the usual non-reasons.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage thinks we’re not looking at the bright side of global warming. (What? A Republican governor admits there is such a thing?) The northern shipping lanes are open, shaving 4,000 miles off the route to the East. [Raw Story, 5 December 2013]

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) opposes extending unemployment benefits for workers. His  argument for this stupidity is that it would be a “disservice” to jobless individuals. Like other True Right Wingnuts, Paul believes no one will work if they are given enough money to keep them in poverty. [7 December 2013]

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who chairs the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, has no use for climate change science (or actually, science in general), and less use for the efforts to regulate carbon emissions. Setting standards for polluting power plants is partisan politics, he recently argued, blasting the EPA for trying to do so. [Alternet, 8 December 2013]

Always good for one more idiotic statement, Rick Santorum used the death of Nelson Mandela to draw yet another stupid parallel, this time for Mandela’s fight against apartheid as equal to his fight against the “apartheid” of health care. This is insulting to Mandela’s memory and cements in place Santorum’s vanity and stupidity. [Raw Story, 6 December 2013]

Republican state senator Bob Rucho from North Carolina thinks that extending health care to all Americans is worse than Hitler, Stalin, and terrorism combined. [Raw Story, 16 Dec. 13]

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) wants kids to learn early in life that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. To make sure they absorb that lesson, he’s proposing that low-income children do some manual labor in exchange for their subsidized meals. [Huffpost, 18 December 2013]

As I have said, this ongoing litany of stupidity among Republicans damages not only the GOP, but the entire country. We can’t afford to have the richest and most powerful nation in the world run by fools who have no common sense, let alone an adult understanding of science and critical thinking.

Published in: on 2013/12/24 at 10:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Reality Committee

My previous recommendation, for a qualifying examination for congressional members, doesn’t seem to have gained much traction. I’m baffled by this. It was to have been an exam for all entering members of Congress (and presently sitting members at first) to determine whether they are able to grasp basic realities of the physical world, and understand what democracy is. I am not certain of the reason for this examination’s failure to be promptly adopted, but I suspect it has something to do with certain Republicans’ inability to grasp the meaning of the term “reality” itself. We know this because these same people continually say things for public consumption that clearly fall in the realm of the impossible. They fail the most elementary tests of understanding reality.

Another possibility is that those in the Republican Party who actually know how to think, are simply too embarrassed by these continual inanities, and don’t want to do anything that might draw more attention to them than there is already.

Certain Republicans make frequent
statements that clearly fail
the most elementary tests of reality.

So, rather than a qualifying exam, I now propose that each political party appoint a standing committee to examine the public statements of its own members for the purpose of determining whether their statements meet the test of objective reality.

Public shaming is not the purpose of these committees. Findings of misleading statements, factually incorrect statements, or false understanding of objective reality would be conveyed privately to the person who misspoke. That way, he would be put on notice that sympathetic compatriots are concerned that his statements have strayed into the realm of fantasy. The speaker could then correct misstatements in a future appearance. Not to do so, or continuing embrace of the fantasy world, would be cause for being purposely marginalized, with active party support of an opponent in the next primary election.

Concern about false statements
would be conveyed privately.

At first, these committees would find their assignments overwhelming. Dealing with just one person, Michelle Bachman, for example, would have required nearly full time attention of the entire committee, because an endless stream of stupidities and impossibilities come from her mouth daily. However, if a Republican Reality Committee had been able to address these amazing statements early on, she might have realized that temperance and some attention to reality was in her own best interests. Barring that, she could have been summoned to appear before the committee and informed that continuing stupidities would earn the enmity and active opposition of her own political party.

Correction of half a dozen Republican dwellers in fairyland would not only put the entire party on notice, but it would have a salutary effect on relationships with Democrats. This, combined with civilized requests for documents with supporting data within the Congressional process itself, would lift political debate out of the gutter of intransigence into a realm of mutual respect and striving for actions that would benefit all people.

Respectful correction from one’s own party, I believe, would be more effective in bringing about behavioral change than identical actions from the opposition party.

Purveyors of Cruelty

It’s very easy to be cruel. All you have to do is pretend that persons not like you are lesser beings for whom you have no responsibility or duty. You are not your brother’s keeper, after all.

There is a large subset of Republican conservatives who behave in exactly this fashion. They are blatant racists, who denounce whole categories of fellow human beings as lesser persons, criminals, lazy, worthy of great scorn. They look for someone to blame for their own problems, and find people they have never met to fill the role. This is called scapegoating. Hitler was a master at it.

A subset of Republicans are blatant racists,
who blame others for their own problems.
Hitler was a master at such scapegoating.

The politicians among them proclaim their devotion to justice and equality for all, but their every action moves us in the opposite direction. Their political achievements worsen inequality, and result in the erosion of income and wellbeing for the people they claim to be defending. The NC legislature has been the champions of late, with a string of absurd and cruel laws designed specifically to punish. The latest is unemployment benefits, which are now the shortest and lowest in the country, and will cause the state to lose millions in federal assistance. And why? Because all those people whose skin is darker than ours want nothing more than to spend their lives in lazy luxury on the $300 a week that unemployment provides for a family. Sure.

A long string of voting laws have been proposed or enacted in Republican-controlled states, whose entire purpose is to prevent “undesirable” (i.e., non-white) people from voting. It’s the New Jim Crow. These laws are all promoted to prevent “voter fraud”, which simply does not exist except in Republican fantasy, and probably in shady Republican manipulation of certain critical elections.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times these Republicans are proven wrong by the facts. They live in a fantasy world based on items of faith that no amount of evidence can shake, because they never look outside their own creed. That creed is the absolute antithesis of the Christian faith they all claim, and excuses any cruelty toward “those people”, meaning anyone whose skin is not as pale as theirs. Ironic that Jesus had skin color pretty close to “those people”, isn’t it?

States with Republican governors
and legislatures have passed many laws
whose sole purpose is cruelty.

Southern states have an especially good record of cruelty in recent years. Radical and punitive laws on immigration and border “protection” have been passed, a number of them clearly unconstitutional, all of them to punish non-pale persons for problems that either do not exist or they did not cause. Under Obama, ICE, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, has been particularly evil. Last year, 400,000 such persons were rounded up by ICE agents, others by such monsters as the much-admired Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona, who believes that all such persons he captures are evil criminals, whether or not they are undocumented. So he mounts midnight raids that round up middle-aged house cleaners and a few crop workers, and subjects them to degrading and cruel imprisonment in the heat of the desert next to a sewage treatment plant.

ICE makes constant raids on workplaces where some of these undocumented people eke out a living of sorts. They are then separated from their families and whisked away, to be hidden for months at a time. Their fingerprints are submitted to the FBI. If there is a match for any reason they are treated as guilty. Eventually they are dropped of in some country to the south with a few dollars in their pocket. Their families often have no idea where they are.

And why are there so many undocumented immigrant workers (although their numbers have fallen in recent years)? Because the US makes it all but impossible to get documents.

Now conservatives want an Iron Curtain on our southern border for “security”. It doesn’t matter that national security has never been affected by activity at the southern border. They hold immigration reform hostage, demanding that many billions of tax dollars be used to “seal” the border so we can be “protected”. In reality, all this iron border construction is just a goody bag for contractors, who salivate over the idea of constructing hundreds of miles of expensive wall, and supplying things like drone aircraft, military vehicles, and lethal weaponry.

There is no voter fraud, and there is no need for more border protection. Nor do the perpetrators of injustice want to help bring a better economy to peoples to the south of us, which would keep all these nasty brown people at home. Instead, we continue all the practices that caused the problems in the first place—which is the subject of other articles.

No matter how many times
they are proven wrong,
they never give up their cruelty,
which is the antithesis of the
Christian faith they claim.

If a brown American citizen is picked up in any of these states, and is unable to immediately provide a passport or birth certificate, he or she may be incarcerated in secrecy for months at a time, after which he or she may be deported. Call it the crime of being Norteño while brown. In Arizona alone last year, 82 American citizens were held incognito without bail until judges determined that they were legal citizens. One study found that nationally in 2012, 834 U.S. citizens and 28,489 legal permanent residents were detained and flagged by ICE for deportation after their fingerprints showed up on an FBI data base that is never up to date and often inaccurate. Several of these were deported to places they had never been and did not speak the language. Some, after being rescued by the US embassy services, have returned home only to be deported, again, sometimes multiple times.

This is not a productive program. First, documented or not, immigrants are financially beneficial to the country in several ways, and ICE and the over-financed and dangerous border vigilante groups are money wasters who have themselves caused deaths of a number of unarmed people. Among their cruelties is destroying water caches that humanistic groups place, hoping to prevent some of the many desert deaths. Second, very few deportees are criminals, and among those who are, their crimes are usually minor. Third, deportation of these people has nothing to do with national security. No terrorist has ever been found trying to cross the southern border. These practices are simply cruel, counterproductive, and anti-democratic.

Treatment of immigrants is simply cruel.
Call it the crime of being Norteño while brown.

Immigrants without proper papers are not a drain on our society. They in fact make significant contributions to tax revenue, Social Security, and Medicare, and many of the things we buy are more affordable because of them. Immigrants are much more entrepreneurial than native-born citizens, and help the national economy far more than the rest of us do. The main reason some immigrants do not have papers to begin with is that papers are not available. And if House Republicans have their way, they will not become available because they will do their best to defeat the desperately needed immigration reform bill now before them. If they do, it will prolong the disaster for years.

States with Republican governors and legislators have been very busy passing cruel laws that violate the very Christian tenets they profess. They seek to deny food to poor children, medical care to all poor people, and seek to punish all non-whites. They pass “right to work” laws, whose sole purpose is to deny working people the right to bargain for their own financial wellbeing, and laws designed to prevent “those people” from voting. There is no way to describe it other than cruelty.


[PS: House Republicans have broken new ground in the annals of political cruelty. By removing nutritional assistance (Food Stamps) from the agriculture appropriations bill, they have at a single stroke assured that many thousands of poor children will go hungry, thereby compromising their ability to learn in school, making them less likely to succeed in life. Good job, guys! Fortunately, none of the millionaire corporate agriculture interests were harmed. As Gail Collins noted, one Rep. Fincher got really upset about those children who expect food but won’t work for it. That apparently doesn’t apply to Fincher himself, who has received $3.8-million in pointless cotton crop subsidies. Hypocrisy thick enough to plow with your quarter-million-dollar John Deere.]

O. K., Prove It

OK, Republicans, you have been saying since the year 0001 that we must cut down on our ever-increasing government spending, lest there be rioting in the streets because of widespread starvation. Never mind that we have cut down on government spending. The problem is that you are calculating spending in absolute dollars, forgetting that both our population and our economy have grown. You can only use absolute dollars if you choose some point in the past as your norm. But when would that be? The population and economy grow steadily, and there is the effect of inflation besides. Because of all three, past spending per capita is considerably greater than an equivalent dollar amount today.

We must cut down on our
ever-increasing government spending,
lest there be rioting in the streets.

But you don’t really want to cut government spending, do you. What you really want to do is to trash Social Security, the most popular social program in our history, and Medicare and Medicaid. These services, after all, are only used by people who really need them. The irresponsible ones, the worthless 47%. Most of us, in fact. You think there should be no social services at all. We must all be responsible for ourselves, stand on our own two legs. And if we do that, if we slash government spending to the bone, we will all have enough money and all will be well.

OK, prove it.

What conditions would make it possible to have a viable country with no federal social services at all? How could everyone get medical care when needed, even for a serious condition, and save enough for a reasonably comfortable retirement? Simple. Everyone would earn “enough” money, enough, that is, to pay for all necessities plus a major medical emergency, should it occur. Unfortunately, most people today earn less than they did forty years ago, and millions have no medical care at all. Medical costs are the most frequent cause of personal bankruptcy, causing whole families to lose everything, including the education of their children. That is, our future. People working full time for minimum wage can’t even pay for rent anyplace in the country.

But due to increasing population,
a larger economy, and inflation,
past government spending is actually greater
than an equivalent dollar amount today.

So far, every single bit of evidence we have tells us that the so-called rioting in the streets would be for lack of government spending. Every study we have demonstrates clearly that reduction of government expense and enrichment of the rich leads inexorably to economic contraction and reduced fortune for everyone else. Yet you want actual people to go on a cash diet for their own good, because, after all, every man is an island, and we owe nothing to slackers. But when you cut social programs, everyone will have less money, just when we would all need much more to pay for the services the government now provides. And you say this is supposed to help?

Maybe the most ridiculous parts of what you insist is sound policy is to say that the rich must have unlimited wealth, and spending on the all-American war machine must be uninterrupted. Please tell me how the very wealthy are at present making us all better off, because they have had one enriching break after another for decades, and the result I see is the exact opposite. With unprecedented wealth at the top, very few jobs are being created by the “job creators”. Please show me how the Pentagon budget, which equals the combined military spending of the next 43 countries, accomplishes anything other than draining trillions of dollars from our pockets in order to make unnecessary and immoral wars whose most reliable result is additional millions of people who hate us.

OK. Show me. Go ahead. I’m waiting.

Could it be that the “rat hole”
we are dumping billions into
actually protects millions of Americans?

But why the silence? Could it be because the actual evidence I’m asking from you doesn’t actually exist? That there are actually no studies, scientific or otherwise, that indicate that what you say could possibly be true? That reality is quite different? Could it be that the only reason you have for insisting on stopping (the mysteriously diminishing) “runaway government spending” is that this is an item of faith for the High Holy Republican Church, and cannot be questioned any more than can the ascension of St. Reagan?

Could it be that the “rat hole” we are dumping billions of our hard-earned tax dollars into is actually a conservatively effective design that protects many millions of American citizens from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?