Friday, January 1, 2010

Who is the Real Enemy of the Middle Class?

China's been benefiting almost exclusively from the stupidity of American trade policy. We seem to be subsidizing an entity that appears to be more of a predator than a partner. In the process, all we have created is a monster, it seems.

But a closer look reveals an even more sinister process. I would argue that American business, with the complicity and support of a terribly myopic and corrupted American government, seems to be content to cut its own throat in the long run for the benefit of short-term gains.

By allowing such trade policy to continue, the U.S. economy continues to take body blows, particularly to its middle class, the true economic engine of the American economy. It can reasonably be argued that the only people who have benefited by a free trade policy combined with an unrestricted and unparalleled corporate globalization effort are the business owners who have opted to abandon America's middle class for personal profit. Is this the "American way"?

Like the various investment bubbles that have blown up in our collective faces recently, this trade bubble will explode as well when American businesses realize that the products that they used to manufacture in the good old US of A are no longer being bought by American consumers in the numbers that they projected -- because the purchasing power of the American middle class has been dramatically reduced through corporate globalization and the resulting exportation of American manufacturing jobs.

China is not alone in hurting us economically. China is being enabled or empowered by both American business owners and our very own government who are working against the best interests of its very own citizens. By allowing corporations to freely send our jobs to China and places elsewhere, they are endorsing myopic policies that are principally motivated by personal greed. And which political party has supported these efforts? Answer: the Republican party.

When have you heard Republicans complain about globalization and outsourced manufacturing? Answer: You haven't -- because they have openly embraced these policies from day one. Since when have Republicans been on the opposite side of an argument with big business? They haven't and they won't. Remember, it's the "invisible hand of the free market" that Republicans put so much faith and trust in. History has shown that they reflexively react against any intrusion by government into the private affairs of the business community.

If the Democratic Party is smart, they will work to reverse these devastating trends and position themselves in opposition to the Republicans on the "globalization" initiative. Then Americans -- who are most concerned about JOBS and EMPLOYMENT -- will remain loyal in the upcoming elections.

I think we need to get very tough with China by becoming MUCH MORE PROTECTIONIST. And, in my opinion, it can't happen fast enough.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Axis of Ignorance

Perry, Bachmann, Palin, Steele, Cheney, Rove, Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, and many others who account for the hateful, reactionary rhetoric that seems to be filling such airways as Fox News and right-wing hate radio, have all become part of what can best be described as the "Axis of Ignorance".

The Axis of Ignorance spontaneously manifested itself in a fitful eruption of unchecked hate and venom directed specifically at Barack Obama during the presidential campaign. It continues to this day due largely to the fact that these people only seem to embrace democracy when it rigidly aligns with their notions of truth and justice or how things should be done. Loyal opposition? Forget it with these types. This is the "all or nothing", the "us and them", the "with us or against us" crowd whose philosophy seems anchored in a sort of moral absolutism -- fixed and unforgiving. Very unChristian in my view.

These people are deliberately inciting violence because the world no longer dances to their particular music. They are anything but patriotic and seem to lack a fundamental understanding of what it means to be an "American". No grace, no dignity in defeat, they are dangerous and seem to exhibit fascist tendencies. One glaring example of this is the Republican congressman who recently claimed to know of the existence of 17 "socialists" in Congress, a very McCarthy-like maneuver.

One thing is certain. The Axis of Ignorance needs to be mercilessly exposed for the toxic brew that it is.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On David Brooks' Editorial - Taking a Depression Seriously

Mr. Brooks, while on the whole, I am in agreement with your thoughts and sentiments regarding the pathetic, counter-productive, and toxic approach to this financial crisis that the Republican party has embraced, I have to say that your criticism of President Obama's pursuit of a social agenda in the midst of this financial crisis, I find fundamentally objectionable.

First of all, let's first recognize and acknowledge that this financial mess that we are now mired in is largely the direct result of misguided Republican policies and initiatives. Specifically, aggressive pursuit and endorsement of deregulation, in combination with Bush's profligate spending (and the Republican party's rubber-stamping of said spending), have all contributed mightily to our present financial crisis.

So, what you are essentially asking is that the newly elected Democratic majority, who have been patiently waiting for several decades to finally be in a position toexert its influence in the public arena, forgo its plans to address some of the obvious and glaring social inequities and political deficiencies that have resulted from years of a Republican-imposed perspective and political posture on social, economic, and environmental matters.

You are essentially asking us to sacrifice the one opportunity that we've finally earned to make a difference on the political stage in order to -- once again -- fix the problems that your party played an instrumental role in creating. Is that the gist of it, Mr. Brooks?

Well, let me be brief with my answer. "No!".

We are sick and tired of having to clean up the messes that your party leaves behind which only serves to inhibit our ability to pursue policies and social programs that benefit the greater majority. One can easily begin to think or suspect that these inherited deficits that your party seems to have a special and unique affinity for producing is actually nothing more than an effort on your party's part to make it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for the Democratic successors to implement a Democratic agenda.

So, you are asking us to sacrifice universal health care, and a much needed green technological revolution, so that we can exclusively focus all of our time, effort, and money on fixing an economy that you party left in tatters (after having inherited a surplus from us)?

And if we were to follow your advice, what guarantees will we have that we'll ever again be in a position to exert the considerable political power that we now enjoy (largely as a result of Republican greed and incompetence, I might add) in bringing about a much needed progressive, social agenda again?

The simple answer is that you can't guarantee it. So, in the absence of that guarantee, we've decided to walk and chew gum at the same time. It's really not that difficult if you are committed and resolute...sort of like your Republican party's single-minded commitment to obstructing anything and everything that the Democratic party pursues -- only in the case of the Democrats, it's for the public good and not for political power for political power's sake, alone.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Unusual Times Call For Unusual Measures

Why some people can't see the foolishness of emphasizing tax cuts over public investment as a means of stimulating an economy on life support is beyond me. Political ideologies can often blind us to the obvious.

Two types of tax cuts are being proposed -- one which benefits the average taxpayer, and the other which benefits the business sector. As far as the average taxpayer is concerned, more than likely, if they don't use it to pay off personal debt, they'll end up using it to buy products that are made somewhere other than the USA. In the case of the latter, the only people benefiting would be the actual store in which the items are sold and the employees who work there (by virtue of the store's profit margin). The purchases, for the most part, will not benefit American manufacturing and, therefore, American jobs. (Just read the labels on the items that you purchase at your local merchants. It is becoming a rarity to see "Made in America" anymore.) Given this reality, I assume that President-Elect Obama is supporting this measure to simply fulfill a campaign promise. (And should this tax cut be implemented via lower tax deductions on our paychecks, the extra money will largely go unnoticed for the most part.)

On the business side, history has shown that tax cuts have done very little to spur economic activity in any meaningful way. During periods of economic downturn, businesses are very reluctant to take risks or make those types of investments that would yield increased employment or economic activity. On the contrary, the bulk of business investments occur during economic upswings when there is little to no risk involved. Even with targeted tax cuts, e.g. $3,000 tax credit for each new employee hired, I doubt that such an incentive will prove fruitful given the current state of the economy.

We are far, far better off with an aggressive public investment program that will definitely create jobs while simultaneously producing those types of needed investments that will have long-term benefits for everyone concerned, including the business community. And, as Mr. Krugman suggests, if we extend that investment program over a period of years as opposed to months, we are much more likely to positively effect a favorable outcome given what will likely be a growing perception or sense of economic stability and security in the minds of businesses, workers, and consumers alike.

In this scenario, the public sector will prove to be a valuable partner to the private sector in restoring stability and faith in capitalism as a means of serving the public need. Unusual times call for unusual measures. Both parties can work together for the common good. We shouldn't allow ideological preconceptions blind us to practical solutions.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Ravaging of Our Middle Class Augurs Chaos

Globalization and outsourcing have been singularly responsible for the decimation of our middle class. The only people benefiting from such arrangements are the business owners who are free to relocate their manufacturing operations abroad (typically China, India, or Mexico to name a few) and then are free to export their foreign produced goods back into the U.S. "duty free". This is known as "free trade". And it is also a prescription for disaster insofar as more and more businesses conclude that they also must "globalize" in order to remain competitive.

Meanwhile, the once vaunted purchasing power of the middle class (the real engine behind our economic success), is being savaged. Before long, there won't be anyone left who can afford to buy the goods produced overseas. Nor will there be anyone left to purchase our way out of a recession. The gulf between the rich and the poor has never been wider since the Great Depression.

It is imperative that our society and culture recognize that it was average Americans that helped to fight communism during the Cold War era and have always stood ready to fight enemies of a free and independent America. It was their taxes and hard work that served to preserve, protect, and defend America against its enemies abroad. And with those threats all but eliminated, this is the way they are being rewarded for their efforts -- by having their jobs shipped overseas?!

A society will only exist so long as the short- and long-term interests of its citizens -- its people -- are respected, nurtured and protected. Otherwise, what reason would there be to sustain an ongoing relationship?

If those at the top of the food chain continue to look past those who helped to put them at the top of the food chain, there will be great social upheavals and deep resentments. The writing is on the wall.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Ghosts of GOP Campaigns Past: A Historical Perspective

I remember when Nixon invoked the "Silent Majority" as part of his campaign theme. At the time, there was a political cartoonist who worked for the Boston Globe. His name was Paul Szep and his political cartoons were wonderful, always seeming to capture the essential political message in real but comical and amusing fashion. (He later won a Pulitzer prize for his political cartoons.)

There was one political cartoon that he did that I will always remember. At the time, the Republicans were perfecting their new "silent majority" idea when the country was at war with itself over the Vietnam war. More than half of the country was opposed to our involvement and there were massive protests that generally took place around university settings, initially consisting of largely students and faculty against the war . (At the time, the military draft was still a part of American life.) Anyway, Paul Szep did this caricature of a citizen with a very exaggerated muscular physique that resembled a champion weight lifter on steroids. What was so unusual about this "perfect American" -- this new representation of the "silent majority" -- was that this figure was conspicuously missing a HEAD!

So you had this male human specimen with a complete, very athletic, muscular physique but no head, which is to say, no brain -- and that was your Republican's idea of the perfect American. (Not much has changed in the intervening years, wouldn't you say?) It conjured up images of the stereotypical "dumb jock" or the blue collar worker who wasn't inclined to read or think about matters of deep social significance, whose physicality and ego dominated his response to social challenges. And, ladies and gentlemen, this person - this perfect American -- this new cultural metaphor for the "silent majority" -- was to later morph into what has popularly become known as the new "Reagan Democrat".

So even during the Vietnam war, the Republicans were using their patented "divide and conquer" techniques to political advantage. Only back then they were pitting the young and educated - the "effete snobs" as Spiro Agnew would refer to them -- against the huge, union dominated, blue collar working class who culturally embraced an "America. Love it or Leave it" bumper sticker mentality.

Needless to say, that cartoon was hilarious and managed to capture the hypocrisy and lunacy of Republican attempts to win the "cultural wars" which always seemed to take place during political campaigns.

And so, what was the case then applies equally well 25 years later with the Republican party's continued embrace of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove-style political campaigns. In the absence of an objective record of political accomplishment, Republican politicians opt to run deeply divisive politcal campaigns aimed at dividing the electorate into warring factions. And with the help of a largely complicit media, they were very successful in creating new and disgusting ways to destroy their political opposition.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Top Down or Bottom Up? How Psychological Factors Impact Economic Results

Given the current state of our economy, we have all been subjected to several theories as to how best to proceed out of this economic storm. John McCain and the Republican Party continue to push their "top down" approach by emphasizing tax cuts to the wealthy. Barack Obama and the Democratic Party prefers an economic philosophy where a "bottom up" approach is embraced.

This posting is an attempt on my part to expose the underlying elements at play that have consistently proven that the Republicans' "top down" approach has been a consistent and dismal failure -- that there is an inherent imbalance in such an approach that will consistently produce disastrous results. And I am absolutely convinced that the Republican party, given its philosophical prejudices is incapable of governing in a fair and even-handed manner and certainly does not deserve our trust, loyalty, or our votes. Let me explain.

Having been an active and passionate observer of politics for the past forty years, beginning with the Johnson administration in '64, I have been witness to a number of Republican administrations, beginning with Nixon's in '68, followed by Ford (after Nixon's impeachment and resignation), then Reagan, Bush (#41), and lastly, the worst of them all, George W. Bush (#43). And what I take away from these decades of Republican stewardship (28 years in all), is their uncanny ability to shrink economic activity -- by virtue of a predictable and obvious favoring of the interests of a wealthy few over the interests of the vast majority. It's a selfish philosophy that seems to be fueled by a belief, conscious or not, in the "Scarcity Principle".

The Scarcity Principle holds that what is "perceived" to be scarce is generally held to be more valuable. Conversely, what is perceived to be "abundant" is inherently less valuable. This perspective translates into a mindset within certain circles that only a "chosen few" can realize the "American Dream" -- that wealth can only be achieved or realized in a limited fashion. A specific example of an economic policy, or an offspring of this philosophy, is what has become popularly known as "trickle down" economics. Such an approach is repulsively aristocratic, archaic, elitist, and only serves to suffocate or stifle economic activity.

We are now, in 2008, once again beginning to witness a historic and unprecedented contraction of economic activity due to the unmitigated corruption of a system borne largely from the tapestry of Republican greed, a greed that incapacitates those afflicted from seeing the forest above the swamp of their selfish lust for money, a greed that blinds them to the pain and suffering of those regarded to be disposable pawns on the chessboard of life.

Given such a culture, how could they possibly hope to govern in a manner that elicits trust and understanding and an expansive type of inclusion. Their selfishness and greed suffocates any spirit of growth or dynamism that might yield positive results. So, I say, vote all Republicans out of office. They don't deserve our trust and certainly don't deserve our votes.

John McCain exemplified this type of mindset by his selfish lust for power, as demonstrated by his surprise visit to Washington, D.C. to "rescue" the government's bailout process at a most sensitive and critical juncture in the process. Apparently impervious to, or unconcerned about, the potential risk of economic disaster by such a disruption, his actions reveal a stunning and blind ignorance of the "greater good" and highlight a selfish inclination to pursue personal goals or ambitions first.