Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Time for Work or Politics?

Time for Work or Politics?
Tony E Hansen
25 Jan 2012

Over the course of the past few months (and years), GOP candidates have been ramping up claims that there are problems with President Obama’s leadership. Interestingly, they have also frankly stated that their number one goal is to “stop” Obama. Their focus is upon making Obama a one-term president: not job creation, not deficits, not wars, not civility and definitely not helping middle class Americans survive the Great Recession. Workers, rights, jobs, research, cost of education, military and such clearly are not in the interests of the GOP.  
There has never been any hope for bipartisan efforts because that has been contrary to the GOP focus since Obama was elected (especially since gaining control of the House).  Within hours of his election (before even taking office), his policies were declared “failures” with no alternative proposed and no evidence to showcase these purported failures. Just because the talking heads say “Obama” and “failure” in the same sentence, herds of “sheep” go around bleating mindlessly this characterization with an eye on embarrassing Obama rather than addressing serious issues facing the United States. Perhaps the economy could have a chance to recover quicker with help from those on the right, but instead they choose to play the role of hecklers and thorns-in-the-side of Obama. 
The right-wingers have continuously voted to block government efforts without regard to the needs of the American public.  Essentially, they have put politics ahead of doing the work they were elected to do (e.g. governing). This, at a time in American history, when people need responsible government and the government needs to keep the economy from going into tailspins. They want to discuss the validity of birth certificates, failed notions of supply-side economics, or bailouts of companies (forgetting that we subsidize large corporations with far more money year after year). They have brought our financial stability into question without handling deficit spending, rather than attempting to solve the issues.  They want to argue morality issues despite acting like spoiled adolescents willing to jeopardize global markets through their inaction towards budgets and fiscal matters. Even fellow Democrats have been willing to throw Obama under the bus when he is not as progressive or liberal as they would like.
We hear so much about freedom of religion so long as you are practicing a certain type of Christianity. That is a mockery of religious freedom.  As if to believe something different is painfully inconvenient, people like Santorum want to reverse the gains in equality and recognition of rights because that does not fit his contorted view of fundamental Christianity. These people want to protect the unborn but are completely happy with sending kids to die overseas fighting in Islamic countries.  Are we fighting terrorists or are we becoming them?  These people want to introduce legislation that extends “personhood” to the unborn, but does that also change when the “birthday?” Maybe these God-fearing right wingers are content with sending kids that are not even old enough to drink to die in battle because they do not want to clean up the streets at home.
One has to question whether these people even care to read the material (e.g. bills and laws) they are discussing or just wait for O’Reilly and his type to declare baseless talking points.  Consider some of these guys did not believe there was a recession and they thought that the pessimism of the past years was completely unwarranted.  As someone who works in the utility industry, I can assure you that there were dramatic reductions in commercial and industrial energy use during the past few years that warranted pessimism.
People are so blinded by rhetoric that they do not see what Obama has accomplished in the last few years. We forget there were some really pressing issues that needed to be handled, and without intervention, these issues would have sunk the domestic and global economies. Even without the help of Congress, the Obama administration has managed to save entire domestic industries from collapse. Despite the posturing by the GOP in the Senate, we have long awaited health reforms that will surely breed more changes to cut medical costs. Despite the behavior of the GOP, Obama has moved forward with programs to help homeowners and to help with education loans.  Despite the Congressional impasses, Obama has signed measures that will reduce budget deficits by half over the next few years. Despite the roadblocks set by Congress, he managed to keep our economy from going into a complete depression while he got Bin Laden and helped to topple Gaddafi.
We know that job creation does not happen simply when taxes are low (we have the lowest tax rates in decades despite high unemployment numbers).  We know that more money to the top 1% does not “trickle down” to “raise all boats.”  That 1% benefits when the 99% are able to do things. We do know when more people have discretionary incomes; the economy can grow because more people can buy more products.  Yet, the GOP cares more about protecting the 1% than letting them share the burdens of capitalism.
Over the next few months, we are going to hear more distortions and ridicule from various candidates.  Americans have to realize that despite the awful set of circumstances; Obama helped the United States weather a big storm.  Hopefully, we can realize a better future when we are able to fully implement a recovery instead of these temporary emergency bandages. Maybe with a little help from others in government, we can see a recovery that works for all Americans rather than a select few as proposed by the several GOP candidates.
We need substantial work from Congress rather than this rhetorical garbage that paints falsehoods and ignores reality. Tell Congress to get beyond the pettiness and do what they were elected to do: govern.

Why We Should “Occupy”

Why We Should “Occupy”                
Tony E. Hansen
12 June 2012

The recent protests, called “Occupy”, or the 99%, have echoed a chord with people in this country.  Occupy needs to go beyond the protest into a viable reform movement. For decades, powers have been able to sidestep issues and pacify people into believing marketing campaigns and rhetorical nonsense. Some are all too willing to accept the rhetoric and deceptions as part of a “gospel” of capitalism being good for all Americans. Remember capitalism is essentially justification to exploit resources and inequalities in society. Something needs to change or our democracy faces potential unraveling on a grand scale because all boats do not, in fact, raise when more water is given only to the 1%.

Due, in part, to the supposed gospel of capitalism, we have seen the rapid disintegration of faith in government and public sector institutions while corporations have become multi-national, “too-big-to-fail” behemoths with a corollary increase in power and influence upon public policy.  The only recourse that the public has against these powers is through the public institutions, but, with the deregulation, as well as revolving doors between government and Wall Street, we can see why so many people have lost faith in the public institutions that were created to protect the little guy from those big guys. Yet, Americans are willing to allow private firms, beholden only to their shareholders, manage public institutions with a belief that these private firms will do a better job. Further, these corporations want the public taxpayers to pick up the tab to build supporting infrastructure or insist upon tax breaks because they are “job creators.” If government is made of people and private companies are made of people, where do we see improvement?  Perpetuation of economic inequality and gross over glorification of corporate power is central grief raised by the Occupy movement.

With the pervasive influence of corporations upon public policy, Americans feel excluded from the process that is supposed to include them.  This coincides with research I did with my dissertation.  Regulations and the tax code are rigged so that only corporations can take advantage of capitalism rather than the individual entrepreneurs. Both political parties are willing to give corporations and the wealthy bailouts and tax breaks, but they balk at the idea of helping people forgive student loan debt or stay in houses. People may have made “poor decisions” to get the loans and houses, but the wealthy made money from accepting those decisions. Yet, they do not want to be responsible for their part in those decisions. I guess you have to be a millionaire before you “deserve” government assistance.

Education is supposed to be a means to achieve social status: a social power equalizer. A simple high school education is no longer enough to sustain a person into the working world.  Increasingly, employers are looking for people with expensive college degrees, and with that requirement, many Americans also build up substantial debt when they cannot pay for school costs up front.  Thus, people want to get high paying jobs with “stable” companies and banks, but we have to rack up large amounts of debt to get the credentials that may get a job (let alone a well-paying one). This is one of the big issues being echoed in the Occupy protests: that of the crippling costs of education loans.

Debt obligates people to creditors; in this case, the creditors are the banks. The banks barely service the loan but instead just shuffle papers with a guarantee by the federal government.  One should wonder how we can allow young adults to rack up education loan debt without a job and with no way to discharge, and yet, no bank will loan the same people money for a mortgage without jobs or resources. Banks should not even be involved. Increasing debt levels will not help stimulate the economy.

There is an increasing unwillingness of people to compromise, especially from the TEA Party. There is increasing unwillingness to allow alternative opinions, and there is even growing willingness to profess complete falsehoods in the name of policy positions that service only the most able in this country (e.g. supply-side economics, military build-ups, defund public schools, unregulated health care and financial systems). Ironically, there is a complete disregard for the concept of frugality (a core conservative value) with a perpetuation of gluttonous appetites for all things material through a vain, and an adolescent, boastful, selfish claim “It’s mine”. This is incivility at its core, and is a primary objection raised by many of the Occupy.

There is an ugly and heavy hand of religion being deployed into public policy. Respect for religion has morphed into an idolatry of religion, specifically Evangelical-Protestant sects, as a framework for public policy. There is little room for alternative ideas about religion in the media or public arena with the heavy pronouncement by the various religious zealots despite the Constitutional limitations upon American government with respect to religion. Religious fundamentalists are among the worst with respect to compromise since they consider their “marvelous superior” position, or cause, as a calling rather than a simple viewpoint. All other opinions cannot possibly matter because the apparent “will of God” is on their side, and thus a forgone conclusion of other opinions being inferior, regardless of just nature or destruction that the zealots’ opinion may justify. 

The late author Ray Bradbury stated, “we insure the future by doing it”. Thus, if we do not want to see the rollback of programs and services that protect Americans, we should occupy. If we want civility in government rather than adolescence, we should occupy!  If we want respect for religion rather than religious law, we should occupy! If we want to restore faith in the society as an aggregation of the individual goods, we should occupy! If we want government for the 99% instead of the 1%, we should demand accountability from lawmakers, occupy and VOTE!