Friday, October 29, 2010

Tea Party Anti Constitution?

The Tea Party Constitution Versus the Thomas Jefferson Constitution

by John Nichols
The default position for Tea Party candidates such as Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, Joe Miller in Alaska, Sharon Angle in Nevada, Ken Buck in Colorado and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin is to declare that—if elected—they will follow the dictates of the Constitution.
But that is a campaign slogan, not a serious commitment.
If O'Donnell, Johnson and their Tea'd-Off compatriots were even minimally serious about adhering to the founding document, they would all be thoughtful critics of the undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ardent foes of the Patriot Act and steady opponents of free trade deals that remove the authority of Congress to represent and serve the interests of American workers, farmers and communities. But then they would be Russ Feingold, and it goes against the Tea Party narrative—at least as it has been framed by the movement's corporate paymasters and messaging consultants—to regard a progressive Democrat as the most ardent defender of the American experiment.
So it should be understood that O'Donnell, Miller, Angle, Buck, Johnson and the rest of the Tea Partisans who might be senators are not talking about the Constitution as it was written or as the founders intended it. Rather, they are talking about the Constitution as they would like to see it rewritten and reinterpreted—with the help of the most activist Supreme Court in American history. While their intents are radical, their prospects must be seen in light of the fact that Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative majority have already reinterpreted the First Amendment's free speech protection in a manner that extends the natural rights that the founders reserved for human beings to multinational corporations.
How big a leap would it be to rewrite the amendment's referencing of religion as an invitation to promote an establishment of religion?
That depends on whether you are reading Christine O'Donnell's Constitution or Thomas Jefferson's Constitution.
O'Donnell, the Tea Party favorite who is carrying the Republican banner in this fall's Delaware US Senate contest, found herself debating the First Amendment earlier this month at the Widener University Law School—where the man whose seat she hopes to occupy, Vice President Joe Biden, once taught constitutional law.
Her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, explained that, while parochial schools can teach creationism, the Constitution makes it clear that "religious doctrine doesn't belong in our public schools."
O'Donnell shot back: "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?"
Coons explained that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion.
To which O'Donnell responded: "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"
"You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp," Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone told the Associated Press.
No surprise there. The law professors and law students in the room recognized that Coons had been referencing the specific language of the First Amendment, which reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Law professors may expect candidates for the US Senate—where Supreme Court nominations are approved or rejected—to have at least a passing familiarity with the Constitution's most famous section,
But expectations with regard to the Constitution go out the window when O'Donnell and her Tea Party cronies comment of the document.
That's because they presume the Constitution outlines an agenda reflective of their own passions—in keeping with the satirical headline in The Onion: "Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be"—rather than a set of enlightenment ideals that rejected the divine right of kings, priestly titles and official state religions.
What distinguished the American Constitution and the founding moment was this recognition that individual liberty and the democratic experiment upon which the United States was embarking required freedom of thought and action with regard to religion—a freedom that was preserved and protected by leaders who recognized that they ruled by the will of the people rather than by "divine right."
Today's Tea Party candidates are hardly the only partisans who have hailed the Constitution without actually bothering to consult it—let alone consider expressions from the founders regarding its intents and purposes. But as the O'Donnell incident illustrates, their confusion with regard to the founding document might best be described as unsettling. Wisconsin Senate candidate Johnson, for instance, has fretted during the current campaign about how the Constitution "is not an easy document to read" and complained that he was finding it "hard to study." While Johnson said he thought he was clear on the free speech and right to bear arms parts, he griped that: "There are also things that aren't quite so easy."
But one part is actually very easy, as we have not merely the wording on paper but the clearly expressed original intentions of the founders.
That's the part about keeping government out of the business of establishing or encouraging particular religious ideas or practices.
The United States was not founded as a country that "tolerated" religious diversity. It was founded as a country that embraced that diversity as one of its greatest strengths, welcoming Christians, Jews and Muslims, believers, nonbelievers and skeptics into a polity where, as George Washington explained, "The government… gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."
The US Senate made the founding position explicit and official a decade after the drafting of the Constitution, when the chamber ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, with its declaration that: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
Again and again, the principle was explicitly affirmed. The most famous of these affirmations came in 1802, when Thomas Jefferson explained in his letter to the Danbury Baptists that: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
While the founders survived, there was no mystery about their "original intent" with regard to that wall of separation between church and state. Indeed, when the greatest of our public services, the post office, was developed, it was determined without serious debate that mail would be delivered seven days a week.
Only in the late 1820s did some Christian groups object. And their complaints were quickly rejected by Congress, which adopted the position—stated by Kentucky Sen. Richard M. Johnson—that: "our government is a civil and not a religious institution."
Many adherents of the Tea Party movement fear that the United States is adrift, floating further and further from the moorings put in place at the republic's founding.
In this, they are probably correct.
America, founded by sons and daughters of the enlightenment, who rejected the notion that there was anything "divine" about the crimes and corruptions done in the name of European monarchs and false piety, has drifted.
Candidates for the highest offices are unfamiliar with or hostile to the basic premises of the republic. And their wrongheaded positions are, increasingly, sustained by justices of a Supreme Court that has tipped the scales of justice against the Constitution itself.
It is true that our founding values are neglected and affronted in these times. But the assault is not coming from members of the House and Senate who vote for unemployment benefits are want to maintain Social Security,
It is coming from politicians like Christine O'Donnell and Ron Johnson, who never took the Constitution seriously—and still don't.
John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. Nichols is also author of Dick: The Man Who is President and The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fraser Echos Roosevelt

Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother," a...Image via Wikipedia
Independent Candidate, Genevieve Fraser, Calls for a Decent Standard of Living for All 
Genevieve Fraser, the Independent candidate for state representative for the 2nd Franklin District has announced that, if elected, she will work to ensure that opportunities within the region will offer a decent standard of living for all.  Her pledge is inspired by the aspirations of the man who lead the Nation out of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Fraser is the author of the World War II book, "In the Claw of the Tiger," the true story of Franklin "Porky" LaCoste who survived the Bataan Death March and POW camps in the Philippines and Japan.
On January 11, 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt broadcast a State of the Union Address where he spoke of the need for all freedom-loving nations to join together in a just and durable system of peace. But, according to Roosevelt, “An equally basic essential to peace --permanent peace -- is a decent standard of living for all individual men and women and children in all nations." The President, whose efforts lead to a successful conclusion to World War II, then proceeded to enumerate an Economic “Bill of Rights” which would guarantee: employment, with a living wage; freedom from unfair competition and monopolies; housing, medical care, education, and, social security in old age.
"Like Roosevelt, I’m lead by principles that include building a just and humane society that levels the playing field by providing a strong educational foundation, economic opportunity for all, a flourishing arts community, a safety-net for the most vulnerable, and a strong and affordable health care system," Fraser stated.  "I also believe that a decent standard of living involves environmental safeguards; otherwise, all our lives are put at risk.  However, those safeguards should also include the natural world so that wildlife and the rich variety of habitat it needs thrives."  

"What I bring to the district is several decades of municipal, regional, and state-wide service and leadership which includes an ability to work with others to achieve common goals. As a town official, I dealt with a multitude of issues from the complex to the mundane involving land use, solid waste, and as assortment of environmental threats. As an aide to a state senator, I attended and reported on legislative hearings, worked within the culture of the State House, and on issues facing constituents," Fraser explained.

"As a citizen, I organized Acid Rain Awareness events and led the fight against trash-to-energy and coal-fired power plants.  I also organized a Lion sponsored Task Force against Drug and Alcohol Abuse which brought counseling services to a high school.  As a staff associate at Mount Wachusett Community College, I initiated the creation of the Forest and Wood Products Institute and chaired the Northern Tier Transit Coalition that resulted in the Gardner to Greenfield, G-Link Bus System," Fraser said. 

"But, today the biggest challenge is creating jobs.  If elected to the position of state representative for the 2nd Franklin District, I pledge to work to rebuild our industrial base and local economy – to be a strong voice for you on Beacon Hill, and secure a future for ourselves and generations to come. For these reasons, I ask for your vote on November 2nd," Fraser stated.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Rebuilding Local Economies: A Shift in Priorities

Assistant Secretary, U.S. Treasury, Harry Dext...Image via Wikipedia

Rebuilding Local Economies: A Shift in Priorities

by Anna White
From the burgeoning popularity of farmers’ markets and co-operatives to the revitalisation of community banking, people are organising to reclaim the economy from large profit-driven corporations and ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions. The small-scale and diversity of these local initiatives masks the immense potential they hold for addressing fundamental flaws in the current model of economic development. Rather than treat the swing towards the local as a fad or misplaced radicalism, the policy community should work to support this alternative vision for sustainable, human-scale development.
Why localise?
The concept of discriminating in favour of local economies is by no means new. One of the most well known advocates of protecting the local is none other than John Maynard Keynes, as emphasised in his famous essay of 1933, On National Self-Sufficiency: “I sympathise with those who would minimise, rather than those who would maximise economic entanglements among nations. Ideas, knowledge, science, hospitality, travel – these are things that of their nature should be international. But let goods be homespun wherever it is reasonable and conveniently possible, and above all, let finance be primarily national.”
Of course, the world has changed in ways that Keynes could not have anticipated. For contemporary advocates of what is often referred to as ‘localisation’, the issues extend far beyond the protection of local jobs and industry. To dismiss supporters of small-scale, community-oriented economic development as protectionists – as many do – is to misconstrue both the motivation and the methods of those involved. The growing emphasis on greater self-reliance should instead be considered in light of a number of unresolved crises that are the unintended consequences of a globalised economic framework: food insecurity, climate change, peak oil and financial instability.
Hunger in the global food system
Global food production has increased significantly over recent decades, yet so too has the number of people suffering from chronic hunger. Recently revised figures reveal that victims of global hunger remain at an unacceptable high of 925 million (UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 2010). Lack of available food supply is not the fundamental problem, as current production levels are more than sufficient to meet global needs. The structural causes of food insecurity are rooted in an over-dependence on volatile international markets in basic food commodities, both in developing and developed countries.
Market volatility – largely a result of speculative activity – not only results in price hikes for the poorest households who spend up to 90 per cent of their income on food, but it can also push prices down for farmers whose livelihoods depend on export crops. The media and many NGOs have also paid much attention to increasing malnutrition in agricultural areas where cash crops, including biofuel crops, have replaced local food production.
The conclusions of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, undertaken by 400 scientists under the auspices of the UN and the World Bank, clearly state that the focus on export crops has left many small-scale producers (the majority of the rural poor) vulnerable to volatile international market conditions and international competition, often from subsidised producers in the North.
Prioritising local food
Rebuilding local food economies is an important step towards addressing the problems of volatility in global markets. Small-scale, diversified food production for local and regional consumption is essential for creating more stable livelihood opportunities for the rural poor in developing countries, and also offers the best hope for ensuring national and regional food security through increased self-reliance.
In industrialised countries, localising food production and increasing food self-sufficiency is equally important. The local food movement, most evident in the growing popularity of initiatives such as community gardens and local farmers’ markets, seeks to address both sustainability and fairness in the global food system. Concepts such as ‘food miles’ have made consumers conscious of the carbon emissions associated with long-distance trade in agricultural commodities, to the point where supermarket chains now actively seek to stock shelves with local produce.
The environmental costs of globalisation
Various reports by UN agencies over the past year suggest that the worldwide drive towards globalisation and urbanisation is taking an ever-greater toll on the earth’s ecosystems. In particular, the twin spectres of climate change and peak oil threaten the long-term viability of current international trade patterns.
Trade forms a growing share of our increasingly fossil fuel intensive global economy, and the transport it depends on is one of the fastest rising sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Not only are nations engaged in ecologically wasteful ‘boomerang trade’ (exporting and importing identical goods that could remain in domestic markets), but many industrialised countries now ‘outsource’ the true environmental impact of their consumption patterns by importing goods and food from other countries.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, greenhouse gas emissions are allocated to the countries where the gases are generated, not where the produce is consumed. A study undertaken by the Carnegie Institute for Science found that around one-third of EU nations’ CO2 emissions were embodied in goods and services imported from other countries, mainly in the developing world. Globalised production patterns thus allow countries with high levels of consumption to avoid responsibility for CO2 emissions and other ‘negative externalities’ yet to factor into the market price of goods.
Price rises associated with peak oil production also threaten the longer-term sustainability of current production and trade patterns. In many parts of the world, communities have become dependent upon globalised supply-chains fuelled by cheap energy to meet local needs. As readily available oil supplies dwindle – which the International Energy Agency has warned may be as early as 2012 – the extraction of more energy- and carbon-intensive fossil fuels (such as from the Canadian tar sands) will further exacerbate the environmental costs of globalised trade.
An alternative – trade subsidiarity
If governments seem sluggish in their response to these problems, large numbers of the public do not. The Transition Towns Network, one of the fastest growing social movements in the world, aims to reduce the ecological impact of economic activity by building resilient, diversified local economies. Through projects such as local currency schemes, community gardens and re-skilling workshops, people are self-organising to rejuvenate localised economic activity and reduce fossil fuel usage.
The aim of such initiatives is not communal autarky, but rather to realign the production and distribution of goods and services within ecological limits while still ensuring basic human needs are secured. Supporters of localisation recognise that economies of scale are essential for efficient production in some areas, such as in the manufacturing of electronic goods. But where there are major environmental and social benefits in producing on a smaller scale, local trade should be prioritised.
A global economy organised along these lines would naturally reflect the principle of trade subsidiarity. While political subsidiarity involves devolving decision-making to the lowest practical level, extending the concept of subsidiarity into the realm of production and consumption would encourage goods to be traded as locally as possible. The environmental benefits are twofold. Firstly, replacing large-scale, energy-intensive production and transport systems with localised small-scale, labour intensive systems would help countries to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Secondly, it would also reduce the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ effect that allows rich nations to avoid the environmental consequences of their over-extended consumption patterns.
Financial crisis: an opportunity for reform?
The 2008 financial crisis exposed deep flaws in the neoliberal approach to economic development that has dominated policy-making since the 1980s. Government intervention in the economy and the nationalisation of many financial institutions proved essential in preventing system-wide collapse, despite the dominant laissez-faire ideology. It is now clear that unregulated markets are not intrinsically stable, nor do they lead to greater prosperity for all. Policies to promote free trade and economic globalisation have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few, while communities everywhere have become more vulnerable to shocks in the global market and a ‘race to the bottom’ in labour and environmental standards.
With little consensus on what should replace the status quo in economic policy-making, the G20 has directed all its efforts to saving the free market global economy – leading to an even greater reliance on export-led growth, reduced barriers to trade and increased capital flows between states. Frustrated by a perceived lack of sufficient action from governments, many people are moving to reclaim control over the economy themselves through alternative business and banking practices. An increasing number of community banks and credit unions are seeking to redirect finance towards long-term investments in local business and social enterprise. The boom in micro-credit is also bolstering social investment in the poorer regions of developing countries, enabling people to start up localised enterprises in areas often neglected by traditional finance. And alternatives to the corporate business model, such as co-operatives, social enterprises and family-owned businesses, are receiving renewed support to encourage local ownership and production.
With many long-held economic maxims under serious review, a great opportunity exists to build a fairer and more sustainable global economic infrastructure. Instead of rolling back the regulatory powers of the state in the hope that the globalised free market will act as the lever of economic growth and widespread affluence, members of the Commonwealth should work together to foster resilience and diversity at the local level.
A new policy framework
Although strengthening local economies depends upon bottom-up development and widespread participation at the local level, the wider policy environment is equally as important. Current grassroots efforts to ‘go local’ are hampered by national and international policies geared towards encouraging comparative advantage in a liberalised global economy. To allow this marginalised movement to reach the mainstream clearly requires a wholesale shift in the priorities of economic policy-making.
As the specific conditions for encouraging locally-oriented business vary from country to country, the recommendations listed here are necessarily broad. These are but the first steps in creating an alternative economic framework in which sustainable, resilient local economies can flourish:
Internalise environmental costs of production and transport to provide the right kinds of incentives for more efficient and environmentally-friendly local forms of production and consumption in a range of industries. This can be achieved through ecological tax reform and/or pricing mechanisms for the use of natural resources and ecosystem services, as well as the removal of public subsidies for fossil-fuel-intensive energy, transport and agriculture.
Renegotiate international trade and finance rules so that their end goal is the regeneration of diversified local economies. Trade agreements should be guided by the principles of subsidiarity, sustainability and sufficiency, thereby reducing the negative environmental and social ‘externalities’ associated with globalisation.
Facilitate the introduction of local currencies and the set up of local banking and micro-finance institutions to encourage long-term investment at a local level. This can help provide the necessary financial assistance that small businesses require to set up and operate.
Introduce and enforce rigorous anti-trust legislation to break up concentrations of corporate power and encourage local competition among small businesses.
Develop alternative indicators of progress, beyond GDP, that incorporate measures of well-being and sustainability.
A new path of development
For many people, the motivation to rebuild local economies goes beyond practical concerns about economic stability and sustainability. It is rooted in a deep dissatisfaction with the lifestyle promoted by an economic system that globalises production and consumption, placing profit and efficiency above local participation and community. By actively discriminating in favour of diverse and resilient local economies, the governments of the Commonwealth can set their countries on a new path of development – one that fosters human flourishing and safeguards the planet for future generations.
A version of this article appeared in the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting Reference Report 2010. To view the original PDF version, click here
Anna White is a policy analyst at Share The World's Resources. She can be contacted at anna(at)
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fraser Receives Public Watchdog Endorsement

Public Watchdog Advocate Endorses Genevieve Fraser for 2nd Franklin District State Representative

The architect of the Massachusetts Public Employee "Whistleblower Law," John Gatti Jr., has endorsed the candidacy of Genevieve Fraser, an Independent, for state representative for the 2nd Franklin District.  Fraser is a former aide to retired State Senator Robert Wetmore (D-Barre).  

“It is with great pleasure that I offer a rare, non-political endorsement for the candidacy of Genevieve Fraser for the Office of Massachusetts State Representative in the 2nd Franklin District,” Gatti stated. “Genevieve has an open and proven record of standing up to powerful special interests – and standing up for the interests of citizens, those in need and lacking power who are less fortunate, and small businesses and industries struggling to gain stability for success of their employees and company.”

“I have observed her compassion, care, and concern for citizens and taxpayers and not any special interest group. As an aide to former Senator Wetmore, on policy and issues she unceremoniously has the same ideals as the former Senator.”  Gatti credits his work with Senator Wetmore as crucial in the fight to gain passage of the Public Employee Whistleblower legislation.  This landmark legislation allows employees to report government, waste, fraud, and abuse without fear of retaliation.

“Genevieve will not have a learning curb to do the job for all and not some she represents. Independent minded candidates with a heart and not self interest are needed in these difficult times,” Gatti stated.  “Very rarely does a candidate for public office embody the hearts and hope for people first  - to be a statesperson by standing alone, if needed, against special well financed interests and the boss leadership of both the Republican and Democrats on Beacon Hill.”

“The citizens of the district would be well served by Genevieve Fraser being elected to join others to bring reforms in the Massachusetts Legislature,” Gatti said. 

John Gatti Jr. is the former Massachusetts Director for the former Department of Labor and Industries as well as the former fair labor practices inspector for the state attorney general's office. He also served as an inspector and investigator for the Department of Labor and Industries and Office of Attorney General where he received the Attorney General's Certificate of Merit.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Timothy Geithner Forecloses on the Moratorium Debate

President Barack Obama, left, flanked by Treas...Image via Wikipedia

Timothy Geithner Forecloses on the Moratorium Debate

By refusing to halt foreclosures to sort out the mortgage mess, the treasury secretary again shows his favour to Wall Street

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is good at telling fairy tales. Geithner first became known to the general public in September of 2008. Back then, he was head of the New York Federal Reserve Board. He was part of the triumvirate, along with Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke and then Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, who told congress that it had to pass the Tarp or the economy would collapse.
This was an effective fairytale, since congress quickly handed over $700bn to lend to the banks with few questions asked. Of course, the economy was not about to collapse, just the major Wall Street banks. To prevent the collapse of the banks, congress could have given the money – but with the sort of conditions that would ensure the financial sector would never be the same. Alternatively, it could have allowed the collapse, and then rushed in with the liquidity to bring the financial system back to life.
But the Geithner fairytale did the trick. Terrified members of congress tripped over each other to make sure that they got the money to the banks as quickly as possible.
Now, Geithner has a new fairytale. This time, it is that if the government imposes a foreclosure moratorium, it will lead to chaos in the housing market and jeopardise the health of the recovery.
For the gullible, which includes most of the Washington policy elite, this assertion is probably sufficient to quash any interest in a foreclosure moratorium. But those capable of thinking for themselves may ask how Geithner could have reached this conclusion.
The point of a foreclosure moratorium would be to ensure that proper procedures are being followed. We know that this is not the case at present. There have been several outstanding stories in the media about law firms that specialise in filing documents for short-order foreclosures. They hire anyone they can find to sign legal documents assuring that the papers have been properly reviewed and are in order.
In some cases, this has led to the wrong house being foreclosed. People who are current on their mortgage – or who, in one case, did not even have a mortgage – have been foreclosed by this process. The more common problem would be the assignment of improper fees and penalties to mortgage holders. Or, in many cases, foreclosures have probably occurred where the servicer did not actually possess the necessary legal documents.
A moratorium would give regulators the time needed to review servicers' processes and ensure that they have a system in place that follows the law and will not be subject to abuse. This is the same logic as the Obama administration used when it imposed a moratorium on deepsea drilling following the BP oil spill.
No one can seriously dispute that there is a real problem. Three of the largest servicers, Bank of America, JP Morgan and Ally Financial have already imposed their own moratorium to get their procedures in order. This is just a question of whether we should have regulators oversee the process or "trust the banks".
If the argument for a moratorium is straightforward, it is difficult to see any basis for Geithner's disaster fairytale. If there were a moratorium in place for two to four months, then banks would stop adding to their inventory of foreclosed properties.
But most banks already have a huge inventory of unsold properties. Presumably, they would just sell homes out of this inventory. This "shadow inventory" of foreclosed homes that were being held off the market has been widely talked about by real estate analysts for at least two years. It is difficult to see the harm if it stops growing for a period of time.
Of course, it actually was Obama administration policy to try to slow the process of foreclosure. This has repeatedly been given as a main purpose of its Hamp programme, the idea being that this would give the housing market more time to settle down. Now, we have Geithner issuing warnings of Armageddon if a foreclosure moratorium slows down the foreclosure process.
It doesn't make sense to both push a policy intended to slow the foreclosure process and then oppose a policy precisely because it would slow the process. While this is clearly inconsistent, there has been a consistent pattern to Geithner's positions throughout this crisis.
Support for the Tarp, support for Hamp and opposition to a foreclosure moratorium are all positions that benefit the Wall Street banks. I'm just saying.
Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Vote No on Question 3

Viewpoint: Question 3 deserves an emphatic 'no'

Published: Sunday, October 17, 2010, 7:30 PM     Updated: Monday, October 18, 2010, 4:10 PM

rosenberg.JPGState Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg


I am emphatically urging a “No” vote on Question 3, the proposal to cut the state sales tax from 6.25 percent to 3 percent.

The proponents of Question 3 - primarily the members of the Libertarian Party, and their leader Carla Howell, whose effort to eliminate the state income tax was soundly rebuked, for the second time, in 2008 - are at it again, attempting to push their radical anti-government agenda by taking advantage of an unfortunate confluence of circumstances: the chronic distrust of all levels of government and a widespread fear for the future.

In their societal view, our state would be better off if we each took our tax cut and went our separate ways, without any concern for the common good, or any regard for the virtue of working together, of building community. Never mind the fact that many of our critical public services will be crippled if Question 3 passes, and never mind that our educational systems and infrastructure will suffer to such an extent that we would lose our ability to maintain and attract new high-tech, good-paying employers. These are facts, and they get in the way of the story Question 3 proponents are trying to sell.

Supporters of the sales tax rollback never, never, discuss in any detail the likely impact of gouging $2.5 billion from next year’s state budget, a budget that is already in deficit by $2 billion, or how that money might be replaced, if at all. They never talk about the likelihood that other, more regressive, forms of taxation - namely property taxes and user fees - will be dramatically increased, and that such increases will fall disproportionately on the elderly and low- and middle-income people, wiping out any “benefit” of a sales tax rollback. Instead, they dismiss these consequences by reverting to standard playbook phrases, claiming simplistically that government is “too big,” that the private sector will magically pick up the slack, and that most, if not all, public investment is “wasteful spending.”

Simply put, Question 3 is yet another cynical attack on government, on the virtue of community building, and its proponents are interested only in winning, not governing.

If they have a plan, a specific plan, for how to govern our state should they win on Nov. 2, they should show it to us. As best I can tell, they have no fiscally responsible spending plan. They have an agenda, an agenda to dismantle government, to eliminate the services, like police and fire protection, education and infrastructure maintenance, to name a few, that we as a people decided long ago should be supported by taxes and made available to rich and poor alike. Instead, proponents of Question 3 seek to replace that kind of community investment with free market, corporate opportunities available only to those with independent financial means.

Anyone considering a vote in favor of Question 3 might want to take a look at what happened recently in Obion County, Tennessee, where residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. One resident did not pay, and when his house caught fire, firefighters stood by and watched it burn to the ground, springing into action only when the blaze crossed the property line and threatened to ignite the house of a neighbor who had paid the $75. Is that the kind of community we want here in Massachusetts?

Furthermore, it would be interesting to hear Question 3 proponents explain how, if our current sales tax rate is so unreasonable and has such a negative impact on businesses and taxpayers, our state has managed to generate enough economic activity to rank first in the nation in the rate of private sector job growth this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Workforce Statistics.

Instead of taking a meat cleaver to government, we should be encouraging people to participate in government, to take a more active role in making sure that government spends taxpayer money wisely and efficiently and works in partnership with our communities, our schools, our children, our elderly, everyone who is concerned about the quality of our common future.

I think we should be joining forces with all the “No on Question 3” organizations, notably the pro-business Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, hardly a liberal organization, which, in a recent report, concluded that “it is impossible to overstate the enormity of the consequences of reducing state revenues by $2.5 billion when programs have already been cut by $2 billion and with the state facing another $2 billion shortfall next year.”

In politics, the easiest thing to do is run a campaign promising consequence-free tax cuts. It takes no courage to tell voters that they can get more by paying less. But politicking is not the same as governing. Governing, for me, is the act of doing what is necessary to promote compassion and quality of life, in other words civilization. If this blatantly cynical attack on government is approved, then we will have turned our backs on our children, on our fellow citizens, on our common future.

Proposals like Question 3, and Question 1, which, if approved, would repeal the state sales tax on alcohol, aren’t just asking us if want to continue paying these taxes. They are asking us if we want our Commonwealth to be a community.

I choose community. I believe that there is far more that unites us than divides us. I hope you will join me in voting “No” on Questions 1 and 3, not just to preserve these necessary sources of revenue for essential public services, but also to send a message to those who would tear us apart that we are reclaiming the idea that our society can succeed only when we work together.

Stanley Rosenberg is the democratic state senator from Amherst.
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fraser Endorses Two Democrats

Independent Candidate, Genevieve Fraser, Endorses Two Democrats

The Independent candidate for state representative for the 2nd Franklin District, Genevieve Fraser, has announced her endorsement of two Democrats.  Fraser supports Steve Grossman, the Democratic candidate for state treasurer, and the 10-term Congressman, John Olver (D-Amherst) from the 1st Congressional District.  Both men are facing challengers.

According to Fraser, “The large commercial banks have turned their backs on America.  Along with leading the way into the greatest recession since the Great Depression, they have refused to help finance a recovery despite the fact that the taxpayers bailed them out after they ran the economy into the ground.  Meanwhile, incomes for the wealthiest Americans have increased by 8% at a time when record numbers of Americans – nearly 44 million - are now living in poverty.”

“We can do better.  And we must,” she stated.  “For this reason, I endorse Steve Grossman for state Treasurer who has proposed that Massachusetts treasury funds not be invested with large commercial banks, but rather invested with regional and local banks which will feed these dollars back into our communities.”

“I also endorse Congressman John Olver who has secured 100s of millions of vitally needed dollars for transportation, infrastructure, education, industry, agriculture and services so vitally needed by the people of the region,” Fraser continued.

“We who live in the 2nd Franklin District have inherited three major traditions– the Native American tradition of balance and harmony with nature and wise use of natural resources – the Yankee tradition of ingenuity, independence, and resourcefulness  - and the multicultural traditions of our forebears from the four corners of the globe,” Fraser explained.

“For centuries, our region thrived with a land-based economy that can be rebuilt and made economically viable through an investment in 21st century equipment.  We are artists, craftsmen, scientists, technicians, inventors and skilled industrial workers,” Fraser continued.

“If elected to serve the 2nd Franklin District, I pledge to create a task force dedicated to reclaiming our heritage, rebuilding our industry, and securing a future for ourselves and generations to come.  And if Steve Grossman and Congressman Olver are there to support such a task force, I know we will succeed,” Fraser concluded.
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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wake Up The Progressives

WASHINGTON - MAY 21: Luci Baines Johnson, daug...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The 'Teach-the-Dems-a-Lesson' Myth

If my e-mail inbox is any indication, many American progressives plan to use the Nov. 2 election as an opportunity to “teach the Democrats a lesson” by either not voting or casting ballots for third parties, even if this contributes to the expected Republican (and Tea Party) landslide.
The thinking seems to be that the loss of the congressional majorities will punish the Democrats for accepting half-measures and compromises on issues from health care and financial reform to job stimulus and war. The Left’s hope apparently is that the chastened Democrats will then shift toward more progressive positions and be more assertive.
However, modern American political history tells us that this strategy never works. After the four key elections in which many progressives abandoned the governing Democrats – in 1968, 1980, 1994 and 2000 – not only did Republicans take U.S. politics further to the right, but the surviving Democrats tacked more to the center and grew more timid.
All four elections also were marred by GOP dirty tricks that drew little or no reaction from either the governing Democrats or the progressives, emboldening the slash-and-burn Republicans to operate in an ever more audacious style.
Tragically, too, the Left’s sideline-sitting contributed to the unnecessary deaths of millions of people in wars from Vietnam and Central America to Iraq and Afghanistan. Arguably even worse, U.S. inaction on global warming – a neglect surely to be continued if Republicans and Tea Partiers are victorious in Election 2010 – may doom the future of a livable planet.
In other words, the “teach-the-Dems-a-lesson” strategy not only doesn’t work, it’s extremely dangerous.
The Vietnam Precedent
Take, for instance, the pivotal election of 1968. The Left was furious with Democratic President Lyndon Johnson for the Vietnam War and with the Democratic presidential nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, for the bloody Chicago convention.
Many on the Left refused to support Humphrey, even though they knew that would help the election chances of the divisive and disreputable Richard Nixon. Some anti-war activists voted for minor third-party candidates while others simply sat out Election Day, allowing Nixon to win one of the closest elections in U.S. history by less than one percentage point.
However, we now know – based on declassified information from Johnson’s presidential library – that Johnson was on the verge of a peace settlement with the North Vietnamese in Paris and that Humphrey’s election likely would have led to a rapid end of the Vietnam War.
Nixon, who was getting briefings on the progress in Paris, knew that a breakthrough was imminent. The evidence is also now clear that Nixon, possessing that knowledge, let his campaign make contacts with the South Vietnamese government behind Johnson’s back, promising President Nguyen van Thieu a better deal if he boycotted the Paris talks.
Thieu did as Nixon’s campaign wished, refusing to attend the peace talks, thus torpedoing hopes for a quick end to U.S. participation in the war. [For details, see’s “The Significance of Nixon’s ‘Treason.’”]
After taking office, President Nixon had no choice but to continue – and to expand – the war in pursuit of a better outcome for Thieu, who after all knew of Nixon’s treachery.
The additional four years of war resulted in the deaths of more than 20,000 U.S. soldiers and millions of Indochinese in Vietnam and Cambodia, yet the final peace agreement mirrored what had been available to the United States in 1968.
Nixon’s nasty, take-no-prisoners style also shook the political foundations of the United States. The nation grew bitterly divided; parents turned against their own children; war-fueled inflation ate away at incomes; hopes for alleviating poverty vanished; and Americans came to doubt their government could accomplish anything good.
The national wounds inflicted by that ugly era have never fully healed. Much of that, however, might have been avoided if disaffected progressives had swallowed their anger and cast their ballots for Humphrey.
‘Good for the Country’
During Nixon’s Paris-peace-talk gambit, the governing Democrats also revealed what would become a pattern for them, an unwillingness to expose political wrongdoing by Republicans ostensibly to avert partisan divisions for “the good of the country.”
President Johnson was aware of what he called Nixon’s “treason” in the days before Election 1968 and was tempted to expose the illicit contacts. However, other senior Democrats fretted that exposure of such treachery might not prevent Nixon from winning, yet could destroy his legitimacy as president.
 “Some elements of the story are so shocking in their nature that I’m wondering whether it would be good for the country to disclose the story and then possibly have a certain individual [Nixon] elected,” said Defense Secretary Clark Clifford in a conference call with Johnson on Nov. 4, 1968. “It could cast his whole administration under such doubt that I think it would be inimical to our country’s interests.”
Clifford’s argument carried the day. Johnson remained silent, Nixon won, and Johnson carried the secret of Nixon’s peace-talk sabotage to his grave.
So, in 1968, the U.S. political process was undergoing three dangerous transformations. The Left was separating itself from practical politics; the Republicans were learning that they could win by playing dirty; and the governing Democrats were shying away from demanding accountability for Republican abuses.
Over the next 42 years, all three of these patterns have deepened, combining to create a political crisis for the nation.
Republican Extremes
Over the past four decades, the only times when the Left and the governing Democrats have pulled together in a meaningful way were when the Republicans were in power and when that power went to their heads.
That was the case when Nixon, who had locked himself into a continuation of the Vietnam War, went nearly crazy in denouncing anti-war protesters as “bums” and going to extremes to block publication of the Pentagon Papers secret history of the war in 1971.
Nixon’s paranoia then led him to commit felonies surrounding his Watergate political spying operation, a scandal that played out from 1972 until Nixon’s resignation in 1974. The Watergate case was one of the few times when the governing Democrats and the Left mostly were on the same page, objecting to Nixon’s abuses.
However, whenever the Democrats were in power and had the potential to accomplish something meaningful, the split always reopened. The governing pragmatists sought incremental change in an often difficult political/media environment, while the idealists demanded sweeping reforms regardless of public resistance.
The division opened up during Jimmy Carter’s presidency when the Left viewed Carter as too centrist and too cautious, prompting a primary challenge from liberal Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1980. Kennedy’s bid fell short but left behind deep antagonisms between the two wings of the Democratic Party.
Many progressives turned a deaf ear to Carter’s warnings about what Ronald Reagan’s election would do to the country. Some backed independent John Anderson or other minor candidates, and some simply didn’t vote.
Iranian Crisis
As it turned out, Carter – like Johnson and Humphrey – was facing Republican skullduggery. The evidence is now overwhelming that elements of Reagan’s campaign contacted Iranian officials who were then holding 52 Americans hostage, a crisis that was eroding Carter’s remaining political support.
Like Nixon with Thieu, Reagan’s team appears to have offered the Iranians a better deal than Carter did, in this case, promises of military hardware via Israel that Iran needed for its conflict with neighboring Iraq.
Failing to win the hostages’ release, Carter saw his reelection hopes dashed. With the first anniversary of the humiliating hostage-taking coming on the day of the election, the polls showed a suddenly widening lead for Reagan who coasted to an easy victory. The hostages were finally released immediately after Reagan was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981.
(As with the Nixon-Vietnam scheme, governing Democrats recoiled at the idea of holding the Republicans accountable even when extensive evidence of Reagan’s Iran contacts came to light in the last half of the 1980s and the early 1990s. For “the good of the country,” Democrats again swept the evidence under the rug.) [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
Reagan’s election marked another turning point in American history, and it was not a positive one. President Carter, for all his shortcomings, had begun addressing some of the big problems confronting the United States, including the need for alternative energy sources, Middle East peace, and human rights as a core value in U.S. foreign policy.
Reagan, however, countered with a “don’t worry, be happy” approach to the future. Tax cuts would swell revenues; no need to worry about your gas-guzzlers; government was the problem, not the rapidly expanding power of multinational corporations; human rights were for sissies.
In selling his policies, Reagan also was aided by a rapidly expanding right-wing news media that was bankrolled to challenge the remnants of the Watergate-era press corps. Meanwhile, the Left largely abandoned the goal of having a national media infrastructure. [For details, see’s “The Left’s Media Miscalculation.”]
Ugly Americans
Despite the harm that Reagan’s economic policies did to the United States – corporations accelerating the shipping of jobs overseas, unions broken, Carter’s solar panels ripped from the White House roof – perhaps Reagan’s most destructive actions came in his global strategies.
Reagan unleashed right-wing “death squads” in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua – killing tens of thousands. To challenge the Soviet Union, he funded Islamist radicals in Afghanistan who would become the backbone of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He acquiesced to Pakistan’s building of nuclear bombs, perhaps today’s greatest threat to world security.
To justify spending hundreds of billions of dollars more on U.S. military hardware, Reagan also oversaw the politicization of the CIA’s analytical division so it would exaggerate the Soviet threat in the 1980s. Two decades later, that perversion of U.S. intelligence would help justify the invasion of Iraq with “fixed” analytical reports about non-existent WMDs.
In terms of government personnel, Reagan credentialed a young group of intellectuals and ideologues who became known as the neoconservatives. To justify U.S. interventions abroad, these neocons felt justified in using propaganda techniques to manipulate the American people, herding them like cattle in a desired direction. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]
Many on the American Left who had abandoned Jimmy Carter were aghast at what Reagan did, especially the atrocities in Central America. But the blame was put mostly on the hapless ex-President and the governing Democrats.
There was very little soul-searching on the Left, which viewed itself as essentially blameless for the catastrophes that the Reagan years wrought.
The Clinton Years
The Reagan excesses, especially the mirage of tax cuts producing extra revenue and the myth that the United States didn’t need an industrial base, created so much economic pain by 1992 that Bill Clinton was able to exploit a split in the conservative vote – between President George H.W. Bush and billionaire Ross Perot – and slip into the White House.
Clinton’s election also came at a time when evidence was finally pouring in regarding political and national security crimes of the early Reagan years, including the Reagan campaign’s arms-for-hostages deals with Iran in both 1980 and later with the Iran-Contra Affair and Reagan’s secret orders to help arm Iran’s enemies in Iraq.
In late 1992, so much new evidence of Republican guilt was arriving at a House task force investigating  the 1980 hostage crisis that chief counsel Lawrence Barcella said he urged the chairman, Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana, to extend the inquiry for a few more months, but Hamilton declined citing political difficulties.
Instead, with the goal of maintaining some bipartisan comity in Washington at the start of the Clinton administration, Hamilton’s task force concealed much of the new evidence and issued a report asserting Republican innocence.
In a similar way, the new Clinton administration helped clean up for Reagan and his team on the continuing Iran-Contra investigation (which represented a sequel to the 1980 Republican-Iranian contacts) and on the Iraq-gate scandal regarding clandestine military assistance to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
High Hopes
As Bill Clinton became the first Democratic president in a dozen years, the governing Democrats had high hopes that they could make progress on some difficult issues that had been ignored under Republican rule, including health care and environmental initiatives. The Democrats also moved to get the nation’s deficit under control, approving a modest rise in income tax rates.
Yet, for all the Clinton administration’s hopes for bipartisanship, the Democrats instead encountered near unanimous Republican opposition to every major initiative. Not a single GOP vote was cast in favor of Clinton’s budget in either the House or the Senate.
Instead, the Republicans relied on their expanding right-wing media, which had added powerful AM radio programming to an influential roster of newspapers, magazines and book publishing houses. Voices on the Right like Rush Limbaugh made every day a fiesta of Clinton bashing.
As the Democrats headed toward Election 1994, the Republicans and their right-wing media allies rallied the conservative base with wild stories about Bill and Hillary Clinton as a kind of Arkansas-based Bonnie and Clyde, leaving a string of death and corruption in their wake.
Though political pundits cite the collapse of health care reform as the key blow to the Democratic majorities, the media-driven hysteria about the Clintons also was a major factor in the right-wing tidal wave that was building. The failure of the American Left to invest in a media infrastructure to counter the Right was another little-noticed factor. A strategic media imbalance was forming.
Yet, even if the Left had worked on building a media infrastructure, it’s not clear that progressive voices would have done much to protect the Clintons from the right-wing attacks. To many on the Left, the Clintons were a couple who had long since sold out their principles to corporate interests.
So, with both American progressives and mainstream Democrats discouraged and demoralized, the Republican tsunami in November 1994 wiped out not only the fragile Democratic Senate majority but ended the long-time Democratic control of the House.
Reagan Redux
The Republicans saw their resounding victory as a mandate to resume Reagan’s assault on Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Trying to assert his “relevance,” Clinton conceded that “the era of big government is over.”
For the next six years, the Republicans and the right-wing media derided government programs that tried to help the middle class and the poor, while pushing through more and more deregulation of corporations, including repeal of a New Deal law separating commercial and investment banks. The repeal passed with the support of the Clinton administration.
Besides trying to dismantle much of the federal government, the Republicans hounded Clinton, finally impeaching him in the House for lying about an extramarital affair. Though Clinton survived a humiliating Senate trial, the Republicans were optimistic about regaining total control of Washington in Election 2000.
The Republican presidential nominee, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, was a thinly qualified scion of a political royal family. Opposite him was Clinton’s wonky Vice President Al Gore, who was an expert on the complex workings of government and who had a particular passion for the environment, alternative energy and the pressing need to address global warming.
In my view, Election 2000 may have represented the last real chance for the world to turn back from environmental devastation and from the dangerous political instability that will follow. In 2000, the future of the planet was truly in the balance – and Gore, despite his lack of charisma, may have been the best person for the job, at least the best that modern U.S. politics could produce.
However, much of the Left viewed Gore as an unacceptable centrist. A number of prominent progressives also rejected my warnings about the dangers posed by Bush, particularly my concern that he would restore the neoconservatives to positions of power over foreign policy.
I was especially alarmed by Bush’s choice of Dick Cheney to be his vice presidential running mate. I had covered Cheney for years when he was in Congress and knew him to be a rigid ideologue who was much closer philosophically to the neocons than was generally understood.
Bush Illusions
At the time, most political analysts of all stripes viewed Bush as an Establishment Republican. They accepted his self-description as “a compassionate conservative” and thought he would govern with his father's moderation, surrounded by his father’s old foreign policy hands, the likes of Brent Scowcroft and James Baker.
I was assured by several left-wing political analysts that I was overly alarmed at the prospects of a neocon revival if Bush won.
This widely held viewpoint fed into the notion on the Left that Bush would not be much different from Gore and that Election 2000, therefore, represented a good opportunity to “teach the Democrats a lesson” by showing them that they couldn’t “take the Left for granted.”
So, many progressives decided that they would back Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. To rally more support on the Left, Nader’s campaign touted what may be one of the biggest – and most dangerous – lies ever told in American politics, that “there’s not a dime worth of difference” between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Nader succeeded not only in siphoning off votes from Gore but his attacks on the Vice President – often echoing similar attack lines from the Republicans – frustrated the Gore campaign’s efforts to gain momentum.
A Stolen Election
Though Gore still managed to outpoll Bush by about a half million votes nationwide and almost surely would have beaten Bush in the key state of Florida if all legally cast votes were counted, Bush used a combination of clever lawyering and hardball politics to seize the White House. [For details, see Neck Deep.]
To this day, very few Nader supporters will admit that they contributed to Bush’s tainted victory, although it should be obvious that Nader’s votes in Florida – if most would have gone to Gore – would have put the election too far out of reach for Bush to steal.
A Gore presidency also would have taken the country in a far different direction. Most significantly, he might have made significant progress in getting the United States to face up to the crisis of global warming, an existential threat to mankind that Bush studiously ignored.
It may be a bitter irony that the one major political accomplishment of America’s Green Party will be that it helped condemn the world to environmental disaster.
Whether Nader backers acknowledge their complicity or not, the hard truth is that the American Left – in this attempt to “teach the Democrats a lesson” – contributed to the dangerous ascension of George W. Bush to power.
Besides his inaction on global warming, Bush restored the neocons to key positions throughout the foreign policy bureaucracy and, after 9/11, adopted their aggressive strategy for seeking violent “regime change” in Muslim countries considered hostile to Israel.
As a result of Bush’s “global war on terror” and his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, hundreds of thousands have died and many more – including many children and other noncombatants – have lost limbs and suffered maiming.
Bush also trampled on traditional constitutional and legal principles with his assertion of unlimited presidential powers that included his secret wiretapping of citizens, his waiving of habeas corpus rights to a fair trial, and his torturing prisoners held in clandestine prisons.
At home, Bush’s tax cuts mostly for the rich and his further deregulation of corporations contributed to a bubble-and-bust economy that – by the end of his eight years in office – had devastated the American middle class, which had grown during the Clinton years but was rapidly shrinking by late 2008 and early 2009 with the disappearance of millions of jobs.
Brief Reunion
Because of the alarm over the Bush administration, the Left and the governing Democrats found common ground in Election 2006 and 2008. In Election 2008, many progressives set aside their concerns about Barack Obama’s accommodating style of politics and rallied behind the first major-party African-American candidate for U.S. president.
Obama’s historic victory in November 2008 touched many progressives as it did other Americans, though some on the Left resisted any sentimentality.
On Election Night, I encountered Ralph Nader at the make-shift studio in downtown Washington where was handling its election coverage. He had run again as an independent candidate but had gotten far fewer votes than at his high point in 2000.
Nader was attacking Obama and the governing Democrats, making clear that he would continue opposing them unless they turned to him for advice and direction. He said that if they didn’t, he would be like “the canary in the coal mine,” an indication that Obama was another centrist sell-out.
No doubt, many progressives believe that Nader’s comment was prescient. The Obama administration did disappoint many of them by making too many concessions to the Republicans in a quixotic search for bipartisanship.
With the Republicans moving almost in lockstep against Obama’s initiatives -- and resorting to Senate filibusters at an unprecedented rate -- Obama and the Democrats did scale back their proposals, like the job stimulus plan, and they sacrificed key features, such as the public option for health insurance, in their bid for legislative accomplishments.
Obama also came in for progressive criticism for refusing to hold Bush and his subordinates accountable for torture and other war crimes, another example of governing Democrats shying away from a divisive struggle that they might deem not "good for the country."
Though Obama did begin winding down the Iraq War as he had promised, he acquiesced to the insistence of Bush holdovers at the Pentagon, including Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, for an escalation of the war in Afghanistan. [See's "How Bush Holdovers Trapped Obama on Afghan War."]
The Right’s Narrative
While many on the Left grumbled about Obama’s centrist approach, the Right sold millions of Americans on an entirely different narrative, that Obama was a closet socialist who was taking over the economy and wasting tax dollars on useless jobs programs.
Again, the Right’s media dominance, contrasted with the Left’s media weakness, has played a key role in convincing a large segment of the population that whatever slur is directed at Obama and the Democrats is true.
This media dynamic, combined with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling permitting unlimited corporate spending on political ads, has thrown the Democrats profoundly on the defensive, with many of them running away from their votes on health care and stimulus spending.
To compound this crisis facing the Democrats, many on the American Left have chosen this moment to repeat the experiences of 1968, 1980, 1994 and 2000 – determined to “teach the Democrats a lesson” by sitting out the election or voting for third parties.
There is little indication that these progressives have learned anything from the outcomes of those four earlier elections. Nobody seems to be asking the pertinent question: "Has that technique ever worked?"
Instead of the Left’s goal of pulling the governing Democrats and the American public to the left, the undeniable direction of U.S. politics (and media) has been to the right.
After 42 years, the Republicans are far more right-wing than Richard Nixon (and arguably even crazier), and most governing Democrats are far more centrist than the likes of Tip O’Neill, Lyndon Johnson and the old Democratic lions of that earlier era.
In other words, the Left’s notion of “teaching the Democrats a lesson” is a myth. It may make some progressives feel morally pure, but it doesn’t work. And, the results of the last 42 years should make clear that the idea is not only folly but it is dangerous.
If the pundits are correct and the Democrats go down to a crushing defeat on Nov. 2, the result will not be more progressive legislation but even less; not more spending on green jobs and a rebuilt infrastructure but more neglect; not a strengthening of the middle class but even starker financial inequities and enhanced corporate power; not a reordering of priorities away from the military-industrial complex but more tough-guy foreign policies.
Indeed, some of the more extreme Tea Party-backed candidates have made clear that their ultimate goal is the total repeal of FDR's New Deal. For both governing Democrats and disaffected progressives, the results of Election 2010 could well prove catastrophic.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'.
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