Tuesday, May 31, 2011
DEBT LIMITS: WHAT NOW?
This is quite a worrisome, but totally unnecessary and inappropriate, political gamesmanship problem with potentially disastrous consequences. The obstructive stubbornness of GOP leaders, in obeisance to their Tea Party faction, threatens to bring the walls and roof down on the U. S. government.
There are several things we need to understand about the debt ceiling. Normally, it has not been an issue, because most people in Congress were responsible and somewhat sensible people. First, Congress votes to approve a budget, and commitments are then made under that spending plan. The various agencies of government then go about their business, spending up to the level budgeted.
That congressionally approved budget, or spending plan, has involved spending more than income. So, the budget included additional borrowing to cover the bills. Now, the GOP House, in its backwards and contradictory fashion, proposes not to allow borrowing the money it already authorized to be spent and reneging on promises already made.
Call this flip-flopping, call it irresponsible, call it playing the deadbeat, or call it GOP style politics. It amounts to fraud and amoral behavior on the part of any congressman who votes against the debt ceiling. This is true no matter how he/she voted on the budget. It is true no matter what excuses are offered.
If the budget was legally adopted, then we have legal bills to pay. This is too serious for game playing and political posturing.
Now comes the question: “What happens if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling now?” Of course, the fact is that Congress has already defaulted, and our executive branch has already been moving money and utilizing creative accounting so that the interest on our debt and our current bills continue to be paid in full.
But what happens this summer when these background adjustments will no longer work? Will we then default on our debt payments and send the world financial and currency markets into chaos? Yes, this is possible.
But some see a different scenario, one that nobody will like, and one with widespread grave consequences – stressful but short of world chaos.
If the republicans continue their obstinate position, then the president may well make a choice between paying the interest on the debt and paying the bills and salaries to run the government.
We may well hear a televised Oval Office talk which reminds us that the administration has put forth a responsible plan for reducing debt over time through cuts in spending and raising income. The President will explain that because of republican intransigence, he must now take necessary steps to cut expenditures so as to neither exceed the existing limit nor stop interest payments on the debt. These steps can include almost anything.
All grants for various community, health, educational, or scientific purposes may be suspended, including community grants, highway funds, college student aid, and all such. It may be announced that Social Security checks will be reduced or suspended, and that recipients will have to make arrangements to borrow from their bank until funding is put back on a normal level. The same could happen to Veterans’ benefits. Medicare could cease paying hospital and doctor claims, or cut these in half to reduce the outgo of money. Federal workers could be laid off, as well as state and corporate employees dependent on grants or contracts. Our military pay could be delayed by 20%. Courts could be jammed with suits, yet close the doors.
Indeed not paying one’s regular bills is tantamount to not paying one’s debts. The difference is the formality and legalities between bonds and bills. And neither is a good thing.
Yes, these and other action examples could become necessary if the irresponsibility of GOP members of Congress continues. Of course, blame for any such necessary actions would be unceremoniously laid at their political feet.
If the GOP members are politically dumb enough to vote for an austere budget bill that includes killing Medicare, then they may well be dumb enough to allow all this to begin to happen before hostile voters descend upon them in anger to force the issue to be properly resolved.
How long will the public stand for such obvious chicanery from one political party in tying up government with such unnecessary and irresponsible tactics?
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Monday, May 23, 2011
REPUBLICAN NOSE-WAVE POLITICS
We wonder how many out there remember the thumb-to-nose wave? It is difficult to remember just when that became passé. Somewhere along the line the nose-wave just sort of disappeared, and it was replaced by the middle-finger salute. While as a youth the nose-wave was widely employed, including by this writer, to show disdain, disapproval, and disgust with others. It was also used as a form of waving that other person off as exasperating or insignificant in a disrespectful way.
Nobody ever fully explained the etiology of the nose-wave. Just what was the gesture depicting in its non-verbal form. Some said it was the equivalent of calling the person a bad name beginning with “son-of.” That may or may not have been true, but it was the equivalent of “go fly a kite,” “go to heck, and take your horse with you,” “stay the heck out of my way and out of my life,” or “I hope you die, you rascal you.”
The nose wave was never a gesture of favor, but neither was it considered in the same vulgar category as the middle finger salute. Some of us may have used the first but seldom the latter.
All this is prelude to a political application. Republicans love using the nose-wave when they feel safe in doing so. Of course, one never uses that gesture toward anyone within reach who can retaliate with force.
Republicans have found that the there are a number of people, and groups of people, to whom they may give the nose-wave safely. And they have begun to use this gesture quite often their pursuit of politics.
There is no hesitancy in showing disdain for the unions and their members with the equivalent of the nose-wave. Republicans do not expect their support anyway. This same attitude has broadened to educators, school administrators, boards, or other state and federal personnel. They no longer feel it necessary to be friendly toward schools. In fact, they find it to be popular with their base if they criticize schools, criticize teachers and administrators, and if they pledge to tear up the schools in the name of “reform.”
In Oklahoma, republican candidates for governor discovered several decades ago that they could be elected without showing proper respect to the education establishment. Educators and their friends simply did not have enough votes to swing a general election. This pattern of ignoring soon became one of animosity toward educators or anyone else paid with tax dollars for public service. In legislative elections, republicans have lately become so secure in their support of a growing number of malcontents and wealthy donors, that they no longer concern themselves to local education groups. Retired teachers are shown little courtesy and given the nose-wave when it comes to support of their legislative goals.
In the Oklahoma legislature, the right wing, tax cutting, anti-public servant, anti-government, republican forces have become so strong that they feel threatened by nobody other than the tea party type extremists in their own party. They compete as to who can get to the political extreme of the other. In such an atmosphere, anyone who is a part of government services, or who is a supporter of any government services such as mental health, public health, family and child services, education, or higher education, simply gets the nose-wave.
The nose-wave has been given also to culture, science, and the arts, as well as intellectual pursuits. The neo-conservatives ignore facts that become obstacles.
Nationally, the republicans have become so brave that they make budget proposals which would wipe out Medicare or fog up Social Security. They under-estimate the intelligence, organization, and the will of the elderly. There are those who see the need for these programs in their own later life. Apparently, they expect to “snow” people with their television advertisements about “reform,” about “saving” these programs, or offering “individual freedom” to medical bankruptcy.
They are thumbing their nose at a populous and prominent group, and they expect to get by with it by lies and by fear tactics. Sadly, they know also that there is a certain proportion within the groups to whom they give the thumb wave who will take no offense. These have past political traditions which apparently prevent rational thought, loyal professionalism, or self-interest. Shallow thinkers do not recognize when they are insulted. They are just gullible.
When the republican court changed political campaign finance rules allowing the corporate rich to pour millions of dollars into elections, republicans became emboldened in thinking that they can win with money. They seem not to fear challenging taboos of the past, such as Social Security and Medicare. They do so in the name of reform, rescue, or deficit control. Do we recall somebody in 2008 using the expression about putting lipstick on a pig?
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
THE ENEMY OF DEMOCRACY LIVES
Those who think that the killing of bin Laden took out the chief enemy of American democracy are all wrong. Of course, bin Laden was our avowed enemy, and he had successfully plotted killings and mass destruction against us. Bin Laden has been the enemy we can see.
Americans are much better at detecting and going after its enemies which manifest themselves in ways we can easily discern – ways which are obvious to the most simple among us. When our buildings are blown up by hi-jacked airplanes full of passengers, it becomes pretty obvious. But there may be a more devious, more formidable enemy lurking in, around, and among our people. This destructive force is ignorance.
It has been said that democracy has within it the mechanisms for its own ruin. The people hold the keys to success or disaster.
Various theories have been offered for the failure of the Roman Empire after some four hundred years. No doubt several of these offer valid contributions to understanding history. But one of the more interesting theories is the notion that the people themselves brought on failure.
In that day common people were referred to as “the rabble.” Some say that Rome had become a “welfare state,” and the rabble had become the spoiled beneficiaries of the largesse of the Empire. It is said that they demanded more and more from the emperor, whether in everyday needs or coliseum entertainment.
That theory holds that the insatiable demands of masses of people can bring down a government or an economic system.
On the other hand, there is a contrasting view that weakness and corruption of the empire system -- the accumulation of great wealth and land holdings by the nobility in contrast with the masses, and the failing military establishment brought on by its own decadence of that era.
But it is clear that a democratic government cannot long endure which does not see to the education and prosperity of all of its people.
It was Thomas Jefferson who said something like this: “The key to maintaining our democracy is an educated citizenry.” That philosophy led Jefferson to be quite an educational activist in his day. Not only was Jefferson a champion of early day public schools in Virginia, but he was a founder of the University of Virginia. Certain campus landmarks still bear his architectural design.
Ignorance may be thought of as either lack of information or misinformation. People who lack formal education often make up most of what we term as the ignorant. However, there are other ways to acquire knowledge. We once referred to bright, articulate, and knowledgeable people who lacked in formal education as “well read.” They read books, newspapers, magazines, and other material to become quite literate. With the advent of the computer, the internet, and video, there are now many other avenues for acquiring knowledge, and some might well use these to build their knowledge base – or to corrupt thinking.
Ignorant people are easily misled. But educated people may also be misled, thus becoming ignorant because of their lack of critical thinking skills. “Give me a person who knows he doesn’t know, anytime, over one who thinks he knows and doesn’t.” How often have we heard that old saying?
We have hosts among us these days who just think they know, and who are quite adamant. Yet they know not, nor do they understand that it is they who may bring about this nation’s failure in its long experiment with democracy. With the advent of mass communication, the ignorance of misinformation is being spread far and wide. It is being absorbed by an unsuspecting populace.
Knowledge without an accompanying system of human values is a dangerous thing. Religious passion without an accompanying sense of common humanity can be dangerous. Both these phenomena are observed far and wide in America.
“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” should be modified to add, “but wrongful knowledge and twisted logic are more dangerous.”
Too many in our voter population in this country are gullible to misinformation being peddled. This is another way of saying that we have a lot of ignorant voters. Voters who are ignorant are potentially hazardous. They can unknowingly become transformed into enemies of our constitutional democracy.
Many have already achieved that distinction, and they are alive and well.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
BACK SEAT DRIVING
Many find the automobile is much easier driven from the back seat. Or, perhaps driven from the right, or another viewpoint less focal than behind the wheel. Women and republicans have often been accused of feeling a perceptual advantage and issuing instructions from that superior position. These are false accusations against women, of course.
This writer sometimes found it personally easier to discern the proper choices for the future of the college from his position as a professor, or as president of the faculty association, than was apparent from the front office of the president. Sure enough later, as a president, he found that various reality fog banks may cloud one’s vision and decisions are often less simple or certain than he had thought earlier. From the driver’s seat, or from the front office, there are complexities often not observed at all from the perspective of others.
Yet it is just from such a shielded perspective that this writer seeks now to put into words what some 80% of the American people may be thinking:
Is this not a good time to move decisively to extricate ourselves from all those foreign war entanglements?
With the killing of bin Laden, send out a search party now for that banner that Mr. Bush had hanging across the aircraft carrier saying, “Mission Accomplished.” Hang that out again, and then get our soldiers the heck out of harm’s way.
For some time now, two thirds of Americans have favored bringing our troops home from the Middle East. We suspect that it is now up in the range of 80% who see these wars as accomplishing little or no good -- at great cost to us. Listen to your people, Mr. President! Listen to your people, Senator Reid! Listen to your people, Speaker Boehner!
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are beginning to echo what they are hearing at home. This is enough! But leadership of neither party is hearing us.
Rep. Chaffety, republican from Utah, speaks for re-evaluation of the war “because the terrorist leader was found, not by 100,000 ground troops in Afghanistan, but by a small contingent of Special Operations Forces in Pakistan.” He says that too many are afraid to speak out because of being called soft on terror.
Senator Lugar, ranking republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, says: “It is difficult establish that our vast expenditures in Afghanistan represent a rational allocation of our military and financial assets.”
Rep. Chaffety was rebuked by his party leader, Speaker Boehner, who says that the fight is not yet over. Senator McConnell, republican senate leader, has failed to take any separate or distinctive position on these wars.
Senator Reid says simply that he supports “the Obama plan,” while House democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, says there is a coordinated “transitional plan in progress.”
To these leaders of ours, including President Obama, we want to say that the American people are not that patient.
The plain truth to Americans is that Afghanistan after another five year planned stay will be vulnerable to a militant takeover within months, just the same as if we were to leave this year. If the Afghans are not ready now to stand up for a civil government of their own instead of accepting the Islamic dictatorship of the Taliban, then they will have the kind of government they deserve. Libyans, Syrians, and others would love to have such a choice now.
Nothing we can do will make much difference in the future of Afghanistan – either already or in another five-year stay. Nothing there is any more threatening to us than in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, or other places. We cannot occupy them all.
Those people really want us OUT. We should accommodate them now. Let them have their own country and be responsible for it. We are NOT appreciated there. We have no national reason now to stay. Occupying Muslim land only makes more of those people hostile toward us.
Bin Laden wanted to break America economically. With the help of some irresponsible business and banking tycoons here, the tax cutters, and the Texas cowboy wars abroad, he has just about succeeded. Why do we go on fighting over deficits, and cutting and killing domestic programs for our people at home for the sake of nation-building in the Middle East and these interminable wars with no end? The defense budget is up 70% since Bush took over. Target that.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Monday, May 02, 2011
Has Palin Been Trumped?
It may be, of course, that there are so many republican hands in the mud bank that it is difficult to maintain a distinction in identity among them. The consistency of the material is about the same, and it has the same target. But, at times it appears that the mud bank is really a manure pile.
On the basis of his weird birther attack, the Donald rose to the top of the heap of rightist contenders for the honors of the party. Polls looked favorable for him, and not so good for Sarah last week. Palin has begun to look less like a candidate and more like a party celebrity. Her public appearances at republican and tea party events have continued at much the same pace, but there seems to be little structure or strategy to her appearances. Iowa and New Hampshire have been given no special place, for example, as has been the case with other contenders.
Palin’s ratings are not such as to be encouraging to her as a presidential candidate. She has an unfavorable rating of 57% with the general public, according to AP. But 65% of republicans still rate her favorably, although down from 80% toward the end of last year. Among that 40% of republicans not sympathetic with the tea party folk, her rating drops to just 38%. Among the tea party crowd, Palin has a strength of about 80% favorability.
Her rhetoric is still there in its same caustic style, even though the media have been watching the Donald. For instance, she sees nothing wrong to inquiring into Mr. Obama’s university thesis, or any other college or law papers he has written in those youthful times. She even suggests that Ayers, the old anti-war leader of the Viet Nam era, wrote Mr. Obama’s personally biographical books.
While following the Trump lead in her questioning, she admits that “he has the spotlight and the megaphone.” She has gone along with the birther conspiracy by saying, “Well, he should show us where he was born.” Sarah is still with us.
The strange phenomenon of the birther conspiracy myth, believed by tea partiers and a majority of the republicans in the face of constant exposure to facts to the contrary, has been this year’s most utterly goofy news story. The Donald has kept it in the forefront. With the president’s regular birth certificate printed in the newspapers, displayed on television, and circulated on the internet, and with state officials, hospital officials and personnel testifying to its veracity, these crazy people have continued to sound on the unbelievable mythology that could only be the product of a deranged minds passed on to one another.
The long form of Mr. Obama’s birth certificate, obtained by special request from the state of Hawaii, was released last week. The birthers can now be identified as the ones with egg on their faces. But not the Donald. Well, probably not the other political lunatics either. They believe whatever they choose to believe.
Without as much as a curtsy to the new evidence of his foolishness, Trump promptly turns to demanding to know Mr. Obama’s college grade records. All this is to suggest that Mr. Obama might have been the beneficiary of affirmative action laws. If so, he would most certainly be a stellar example of their validity.
However, this moves the message from one that says “he is not one of us” to another with a less subtle form of racism aimed at national policies intended to remedy the effects of past racial discrimination, suppression, and bigotry.
The Oklahoma legislature has rallied to the clarion call of racists, and they have answered with a referendum vote to outlaw affirmative action in Oklahoma. Not that all of us, perhaps not any of us, believe in affirmative action as a permanent policy in the United States. It is not a practice we want to be enduring. But most of us see the need now for easing the upward progress of able people in our midst whom our forefathers suppressed through racial discrimination.
Fairness is sometimes a hard thing to understand. In its simplicity fairness may seem one thing, but in the nuances of its complexity mean another. Unfortunately, we can count on Oklahoma politicians and voters for simplicity.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate