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LOVING THOSE WHO HATE YOU – PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 27, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Republicans have long tried to prevent or eliminate programs that aid the poor and middle-class, including:

  • Social Security (since it began in 1935)
  • Medicare
  • National health insurance
  • Food stamps
  • WIC (Women, Infants, Children).

So why are so many poor Americans now flocking to this party’s banner?

Two reasons: Racism and greed.  There are historical parallels for both.

First, race:

In 1999, historian Victor Davis Hanson noted the huge gap in wealth between the aristocratic, slave-owning minority of the pre-Civil War South and the vast majority of poor white Southerners.

“Before the war in the counties Sherman would later ruin, the top 10% of the landowners controlled 40% of the assessed wealth.”

In contrast, “more than half of those who were lucky enough to own any property at all still possessed less than 15% of the area’s valuation.”

So Hanson asked: “Why did the millions of poor whites of the Confederacy fight at all?”

He supplied the answer in his brilliant work on military history, The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny.

One of those liberators was General William Tecumseh Sherman, who led 62,000 Union troops in a victorious “March to the Sea” through the Confederacy in 1864.

So why did so many poor Southern whites literally lay down their lives for the wealthy planter class, which despised them?

According to Hanson: “Behind the entire social fabric of the South lay slavery.

“If slavery eroded the economic position of the poor free citizens, if slavery encouraged a society of haves and have-nots…then it alone offered one promise to the free white man–poor, ignorant and dispirited–that he was at least not black and not a slave.”

And the planter class and its allies in government easily fobbed off their poor white countrymen with cheap flattery.  Said Georgia Governor Joseph Brown:

“Among us the poor white laborer is respected as an equal.  His family is treated with kindness, consideration, and respect.  He does not belong to the menial class.  The negro is in no sense his equal.   He belongs to the only true aristocracy, the race of white men.”

Similarly, poor whites now flock to the Republican Party–which holds them in equal contempt– in large part to protest the 2008 election of the first black President of the United States.

According to a Pew Research Center study released on July 22: “Notably, the GOP gains have occurred only among white voters; a 2-point Republican edge among whites in 2008 (46% to 44%) has widened to a 13-point lead today (52% to 39%).”

Since the 1960s, Republicans have pursued a campaign policy of “divide and rule”–divide the nation along racial lines and reap the benefits at election time.

  • Republicans opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Republicans opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • Republicans, with Richard Nixon as their Presidential candidate in 1968 and 1972, pursued what they called a “Southern strategy”: Use “code language” to stoke fear and hatred of blacks among whites.
  • Republicans have falsely identified welfare programs exclusively with non-whites.  (Of the six million Americans receiving food stamps, about 42 percent are white, 32 percent are black, and 22 percent are Latino—with the growth fastest among whites during the recession.)

Thus, in voting Republican, many of these poor whites believe they are “striking a blow for the white race.”

And they can do so in a more socially acceptable way than joining a certified hate group such as the American Nazi Party or Ku Klux Klan.

Now greed:

In the hit play, 1776, on the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence, there is a telling exchange between John Dickinson and John Hancock.  It comes during the song, “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men.”

Dickinson, the delegate from Pennsylvania, urges Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, “to join us in our minuet.”

By “us” he means his fellow conservatives who fear losing their property and exalted status by supporting American independence from Great Britain.

Hancock declines, saying: “Fortunately, there are not enough men of property in America to dictate policy.”

To which Dickinson replies:  “Perhaps not.  But don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.  And that is why they will follow us.”

Today,  poor whites generally identify with the CEOs of powerful corporations.  They believe the Republican gospel that they can attain such wealth–if only the government will “get out of my way.”

They forget–or ignore–the truth that government, for all its imperfections, is sometimes all that stands between them and a wide range of predators.

In return, the CEOs despise them as the privileged have always despised their social and economic “inferiors.”

Unless the Democratic Party can find ways to directly address these bitter, Politically Incorrect truths, it will continue its decline into insignificance.

LOVING THOSE WHO HATE YOU – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 27, 2011 at 2:47 pm

On July 22, 2011, ABC News carried the following story:

The Pew Foundation, analyzing voter identification, finds “the electorate’s partisan affiliations have shifted significantly” since Barack Obama won office in 2008.

The GOP has gained strength among white voters, most specifically “the young and poor.”

A seven-point Democratic advantage among whites under age 30 three years ago has turned into an 11-point GOP advantage today. And a 15-point Democratic advantage among whites earning less than $30,000 annually has swung to a slim four-point Republican edge today.

In addition:

  • The GOP gains have occurred only among white voters.
  • Republicans have made sizable gains among white voters since 2008. Fifty-two percent of white voters now call themselves Republicans or lean to the GOP, compared with 39% who affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic.
  • Democrats have lost their edge among lower income white voters.
  • In 2008, Democrats had a 15 point lead among white voters with family incomes less than $30,000.  Republicans now have a four-point edge among this group.
  • The GOP’s lead among middle income white voters also has grown since 2008, and Republicans hold a substantial advantage with higher income white voters.
  • Republicans have made gains among whites with a high school education or less. The GOP’s advantage over Democrats has grown from one point in 2008 to 17 points in 2011 among less educated whites.
  • Republicans have made smaller gains among whites voters who have college degrees.

What is fascinating about these findings is this: The Republicans have, since 1980, pursued a policy of gutting programs aimed at helping the poor–while repeatedly creating tax-breaks for the wealthiest 1% of the population.

For Republicans, the patron saint of this “love-the-rich-screw-the-poor” ideology remains Ronald Reagan–two-time governor of California and twice elected President of the United States (1981-1989).

Ronald Reagan

Among those charting Reagan’s legacy as President was former CBS Correspondent David Shoenbrum.  In his bestselling autobiography, America Inside Out: At Home and Abroad from Roosevelt to Reagan, he noted:

  • On January 28, 1981, keeping a pledge to his financial backers in the oil industry, Reagan abolished Federal controls on the price of oil.
  • Within a week, Exxon, Texaco and Shell raised gasoline prices and prices of home heating oil.
  • Reagan saw it as his duty to put a floor under prices, not a ceiling above them.
  • Reagan believed that when government helped business it wasn’t interfering.   Loaning money to bail out a financially incompetent Chrysler was “supporting the free enterprise system.”
  • But putting a high-profits tax on price-gouging corporations or filing anti-trust suits against them was “Communistic” and therefore intolerable.
  • Tax-breaks for wealthy businesses meant helping America become stronger.
  • But welfare for the poor or the victims of a predatory marketplace economy weakened America by sapping its morale.

“In short, welfare for the rich is good for America.  But welfare for the poor is bad for America, even for the poor themselves, for it encourages them to be shiftless and lazy.

“Somehow, loans to the inefficient management of American corporations would not similarly encourage them in their inefficient methods,” wrote Shoenbrun.

Republicans have sought to dismantle Social Security ever since that program began in 1935.  And Republicans have furiously opposed other programs aiding the poor and middle-class–such as Medicare, food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, Children).

In short, this is not a political party with a history of rushing to the defense of those most in need.

So the question remains: Why are so many poor Americans now flocking to its banner?

The answer lies in the history of the American South–and slavery.

COMING: “SUPER CONGRESS” DICTATORSHIP – PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 25, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Republicans are refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress fails to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. will reach the limit of its borrowing abilities, it will likely begin defaulting on its loans.

But suddenly, at the eleventh hour, Republicans seem to be offering a “solution.”

According to a July 23 story in the Huffington Post:

“Debt ceiling negotiators think they’ve hit on a solution to address the debt ceiling impasse and the public’s unwillingness to let go of benefits such as Medicare and Social Security that have been earned over a lifetime of work: Create a new Congress.

“This ‘Super Congress,’ composed of members of both chambers and both parties, isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, but would be granted extraordinary new powers.

“Under a plan put forth by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his counterpart Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), legislation to lift the debt ceiling would be accompanied by the creation of a 12-member panel made up of 12 lawmakers–six from each chamber and six from each party.

“Legislation approved by the Super Congress–which some on Capitol Hill are calling the ‘super committee’–would then be fast-tracked through both chambers, where it couldn’t be amended by simple, regular lawmakers, who’d have the ability only to cast an up or down vote.

“With the weight of both leaderships behind it, a product originated by the Super Congress would have a strong chance of moving through the little Congress and quickly becoming law.

“A Super Congress would be less accountable than the system that exists today, and would find it easier to strip the public of popular benefits.

“Negotiators are currently considering cutting the mortgage deduction and tax credits for retirement savings, for instance, extremely popular policies that would be difficult to slice up using the traditional legislative process.”

Consider the implications of this  story:

  • The primary reason for creating this “Super Congress” would be to destroy popular programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
  • This “‘Super Congress” isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution–making it, on its face, an unconstitutional body.
  • Republicans–like classic extortionists–opened their “negotiations” with a threat: To destroy the credit-rating of the United States.
  • Then, pretending to the “voice of reason,” they now offer this “Super Congress” as their “compromise” in return for raising the debt ceiling.
  • Adoption of this proposal would empower Republicans to force their radical social and economic agendas on the poor and middle-class.
  • Some on Capitol Hill are referring to the “Super Congress” as the “super committee.”  A more accurate term for it would be the all-powerful “Central Committee” of the now-defunct Soviet Union.
  • Legislation submitted to the “Super Congress” would be rammed through both houses of the “Regular Congress.”  No matter how radically it would affect the lives of millions of American citizens, its passage would be almost guaranteed.
  • Members of the “Regular Congress” would use the “Super Congress” to shield themselves against the wrath of their constituents.  They would blame the “Super Congress” for gutting programs that voters had long supported.  
  • Programs aiding the poor and middle-class–such as Medicare and Social Security–would be the ones targeted by Republicans for extinction.  

As former CBS Corrspondent David Shoenbrun noted in his bestselling autobiography, America Inside Out: At Home and Abroad from Roosevelt to Reagan:

For Republicans, “granting tax concessions and other advantages to business is helping America become strong.  But welfare to the poor or the victims of the marketplace economy weakens America, saps its morale.

“In short, welfare for the rich is good for America.  But welfare for the poor is bad for America, even for the poor themselves, for it encourages them to be shiftless and lazy.”

With voters’ attention focused on the possibility of national bankruptcy,  the proposed “Super Congress” has so far gotten little attention.

But its potential for long-term harm to–if not the destruction of–the democratic process must be addressed, quickly and clearly.

And, above all else, it must be addressed by those citizens, such as seniors and the poor, who have the most to lose through the creation of a “Super Congress”–and the radical demands it would enforce upon their lives.

COMING: “SUPER CONGRESS” DICTATORSHIP – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 25, 2011 at 7:23 pm

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus, may soon prove to be more than great entertainment.  It may also turn out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.

In the movie, Spartacus (Douglas), a Roman slave, leads a revolt of his fellow gladiators against the might of Republican Rome.  Raising an army of thousands of slaves, he marches across Italy, defeating every Roman legion sent against him.

Terrified that Spartacus will soon destroy their city, the Roman Senate desperately searches for a solution.  Gaius Gracchus, leader of the Senate, meets privately with Marcus Crassus, a former Senator and able general.

Gracchus: “The Senate’s been in session all day over this business of Spartacus. We’ve got eight legions to march against him and no one to lead them. The minute you offer the generals command they start wheezing like winded mules. “

Crassus:  “I’ve seen such epidemics before, haven’t you?”

Gracchus:  “How’s your health?”

Crassus:  “Excellent, as you know.  I take it the senate’s now offering command of the legions to me.”

Gracchus:  “You’ve been expecting it.”

Crassus:  “I have.   But have you thought how costly my services might be?”

Gracchus:   “We buy everything else these days. No reason why we shouldn’t be charged for patriotism. What’s your fee?”

Crassus:  “My election as fiirst consul, command of all the legions of ltaly, and the abolition of senatorial authority over the courts.”

Gracchus:   “Dictatorship.”

Crassus:  “Order.  Advise me if my terms are acceptable.”

Gracchus:  “I can tell you now they’re unacceptable.”

Crassus:  “Yes, I know. For the present perhaps, but times change, and so does the senate.  When that day comes, I shall be ready.”

Crassus makes certain that times do change.  He bribes the Ciletian pirates, who have agreed to transport Spartacus and his army out of Italy, to leave them stranded there.  With his escape route cut off, Spartacus has only one choice: March directly on Rome.

In terror for their lives, and feeling they have no one else to turn to, the Roman Senate agrees to Crassus’ terms: He is given command of all Roman armies–and the power of absolute dictator.

The Romans, who have enslaved tens of thousands of others, have, out of fear, now voluntarily enslaved themselves to Crassus.

* * * * *

Now–fast forward 2,000 years, to the United States as it teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.

Republicans are refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress fails to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. will reach the limit of its borrowing abilities, it will likely begin defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explains the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA,” said Buffett.

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.

And while Republicans demand that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they reject any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.

To raise taxes on the wealthy, they insist, would be a “jobs-killer.”  It would “discourage” corporations from creating tens of thousands of jobs that their CEOs “want” to create.

But suddenly–like Crassus–at the eleventh hour, Republicans seem to be offering a “solution.”

According to a July 23 story in the Huffington Post:

“Debt ceiling negotiators think they’ve hit on a solution to address the debt ceiling impasse and the public’s unwillingness to let go of benefits such as Medicare and Social Security that have been earned over a lifetime of work: Create a new Congress.

“This ‘Super Congress,’ composed of members of both chambers and both parties, isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, but would be granted extraordinary new powers.”

And–again like Crassus–the price for “salvation” would be dictatorship–arming Republicans with the authority to force their radical social and economic agendas on the poor and middle-class.

The United States as we know it may soon cease to exist.

BARGAINING WITH BULLIES – PART SIX (END)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on July 19, 2011 at 11:44 am

One man with courage makes a majority.
–Andrew Jackson

With the United States teetering on the brink of national bankruptcy, President Barack Obama must look to the past for a solution.It lies in what is arguably the greatest–and most dangerous–moment of the administration of President John F. Kennedy.

Addressing the Nation on October 22, 1962, Kennedy shocked his fellow citizens by revealing that the Soviet Union had installed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba.

After outlining a series of steps he had taken to end the crisis, Kennedy sought to reassure and inspire his audience. His words are worth remembering today:

“The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are, but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world.

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

President Obama needs to send that message to the extortionists of the Republican Party. Like President Kennedy, he should schedule a prime-time address to the Nation. Among the truths he should bluntly reveal:

  • Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
  • Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
  • They raised the debt ceiling seven times during the eight-year Presidency of George W. Bush.
  • But now that a Democrat holds the White House, they are, as Warren Buffett recently warned, “trying to use the incentive that we’re going to blow your brains out, America, in terms of your debt worthiness over time.”
  • Seniors, in particular, should fear Republicans—who opposed the creation of Social Security in 1935 and have longed for decades to destroy it.
  • Despite Republican lies, we cannot revitalize the economy by slashing taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of average Americans.
  • We will need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to regain our economic strength.
  • Contrary to Republican lies, we cannot starve our way to economic growth.

Finally, President Obama should end his speech by directly calling for the active support of his fellow Americans. Something like this:

“My fellow Americans, I have taken an oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’

“But I cannot do this on my own. As citizens of a Republic, each of us carries that burden. We must each do our part to protect the land and the liberties we love.

“Tonight, I’m asking for your help. We stand on the edge of economic disaster.

“Therefore, I am asking each of you to stand up for America tonight–by demanding the recall of the entire membership of the Republican Party.

“As President John F. Kennedy said:

‘In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty.’

“This is the moment when each of us must decide–whether we will survive as a Republic, or allow ruthless political fanatics to destroy what has lasted and thrived for more than 200 years.”

President Obama has taken forceful action against America’s foreign enemies—most notably Osama bin Laden. If the Nation is to survive, he must now act just as forcefully against America’s domestic enemies.

In doing so, he may find history repeating itself. Joachim C. Fest, author of Hitler (l973), writes of the surprise that awaited Allied soldiers occupying Nazi Germany in 1945:

“Almost without transition, virtually from one moment to the next, Nazism vanished after the death of Hitler and the surrender….

“Hitler’s propaganda specialists had talked constantly of invincible Alpine redoubts, nests of resistance, and swelling werewolf units, and had predicted a war beyond the war. But there was no sign of this.

“Once again it became plain that National Socialism, like Fascism in general, was dependent to the core on superior force, arrogance, triumph, and by its nature had no resources in the moment of defeat.”

With luck, the same will prove true for the extortionists and blackmailers of the Republican Party.

BARGAINING WITH BULLIES – PART FIVE (OF SIX)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on July 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Republicans are refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

By doing so, Republicans have adopted the homicidal mindset that destroyed the Vietnamese town of Bến Tre on February 7, 1968.

Referring to the bombing and shelling of the Vietcong-occupied town–regardless of civilian casualties–an American officer said: “‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

If Congress fails to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. will reach the limit of its borrowing abilities, it will likely begin defaulting on its loans.

This will reduce the world’s most powerful nation to the status–and credibility–of a deadbeat.

Perhaps not since 11 Southern states seceded from the Union in 1860-61, leading directly to the Civil War, has this Nation faced so great a threat to its survival.

To counter it, President Barack Obama must recognize that trying to appease tyrants brings only further demands for concessions.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain learned this lesson to his undying infamy in 1938-39. By agreeing at Munich to let Nazi Germany occupy the “Sudetenland” of  Czechoslovakia, he hoped to satisfy Adolf Hitler’s insatiable demands.

Winston Churchill knew better, predicting: “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war.”

Similarly, Republicans have repeatedly threatened to shut down the government unless their constantly escalating demands were met.

In November, 1995, Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, carried out his threat.  Gingrich unwisely admitted that he did so because President Bill Clinton had put him in the back of Air Force One during a recent trip to Israel.

The shutdown proved a disaster for Republicans.  Clinton was handily re-elected in 1996 and Gingrich suddenly resigned from Congress in 1998.

(A major reason for his departure: The then-twice-married Speaker feared that reporters had learned–or were about to learn–of his latest extramarital affair.

(He had viciously attacked President Bill Clinton for his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.  As a self-claimed embodiment of “family values,” Gingrich couldn’t afford the leak of such damning revelations.)

Still, the Republicans continued their policy of my-way-or-else.  In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down over Republican demands about subsidized pap smears.

During a late-night White House meeting with President Obama and key Congressional leaders, Republican House Speaker John Boehner made this threat: His conference would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through Title X legislation.

Facing an April 8 deadline, negotiators worked day and night to strike a compromise–and finally reached one.

Three months later–on July 9–Republicans again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

President Obama had offered to make historic cuts in the federal government and the social safety net–on which millions of Americans depend for their most basic needs.

But House Speaker John Boehner rejected that offer.  He could not agree to the tax increases that Democrats wanted to impose on the wealthiest 1% as part of the bargain.

As the calendar moved ever closer to the fateful date of August 2, Republican leaders continued to insist:  Any deal that includes taxes “can’t pass the House.”

One senior Republican said talks would go right up to–and maybe beyond–the brink of default.

“I think we’ll be here in August,” said Republican Representative Pete Sessions, of Texas.  “We are not going to leave town until a proper deal gets done.”

President Obama had previously insisted on extending the debt ceiling through 2012. But  in mid-July, he simply asked congressional leaders to review three options with their members:

  1. The “Grand Bargain” choice—favored by Obama–would cut deficits by about $4 trillion, including spending cuts and new tax revenues.
  2. A medium-range plan would aim to reduce the deficit by about $2 trillion.
  3. The smallest option would cut between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion, without increased tax revenue or any Medicare and Medicaid cuts.

And the Republican response?

Said Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee: “Quite frankly, [Republican] members of Congress are getting tired of what the president won’t do and what the president wants.”

Adolf Hitler couldn’t have described his “negotiating” style any more honestly.

With the United States teetering on the brink of national bankruptcy, President Obama must look to the past for a solution.

It lies in what is arguably the greatest–and most dangerous–moment of the administration of President John F. Kennedy.

BARGAINING WITH BULLIES – PART FOUR (OF SIX)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on July 13, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Republicans are refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

In doing so, they have adopted the my-way-or-else “negotiating” style of Adolf Hitler.

If Congress fails to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. will reach the limit of its borrowing abilities, it will likely begin defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explains the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA,” said Buffett.

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.

And while Republicans demand that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they reject any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.

To raise taxes on the wealthy, they insist, would be a “jobs-killer.”  It would “discourage” corporations from creating tens of thousands of jobs that their CEOs “want” to create.

Lost in this crisis is a startling truth revealed on the January 7, 2010, broadcast of ABC’s “World News Tonight”:

While 25.7 million Americans were desperately searching for work, U.S. corporations reported their most profitable fourth quarter in 19 years–while they sat on nearly $2 trillion in cash.

In short:  Giving even greater tax breaks to mega-corporations has not persuaded them to stop “outsourcing” jobs. Nor has it convinced them to start hiring.

So while hugely overpaid CEOs squander corporate wealth on themselves, millions of Americans can’t afford medical care or must depend on charity to feed their families.

Further proof of the folly of “trickle-down” economics came on June 8.

In its cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery?  Five Destructive Myths,” Time magazine warned that profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to “make it all better.”

Wrote Rana Foroohar, Time‘s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business:

“There is a fundamental disconnect between the fortunes of American companies, which are doing quite well, and American workers, most of whom are earning a lower hourly wage now than they did during the recession.

“The thing is, companies make plenty of money; they just don’t spend it on workers here.

“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”

Yet there is also a disconnect between the truth of this situation and the willingness of Americans to face up to that truth.

The reason:

“The Republicans have pulled off a major (some would say cynical) miracle,” writes Foroohar.

They have convinced “the majority of Americans that the way to jump-start the economy is to slash taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of Americans.

“It’s fun-house math that can’t work.  We’ll need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to get back on track.

“Yet surveys show 50% of Americans think that not raising the debt ceiling is a good idea — that you can somehow starve your way to economic growth.”

How have Republicans achieved this?  By adopting the principles of propaganda laid down by no less an authority on lying than Adolf Hitler:

According to Mein Kampf-–”My Struggle”–-Hitler’s autobiography and political treatise:

  1. The great majority of a nation is ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning.
  2. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.
  3. Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side.
  4. The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget.
  5. All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas.
  6. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.

Following these principles, Republicans have proved hugely successful at persuading millions that truth is whatever their party claims it to be at any given moment.

For their disciples, the slogans penned by George Orwell for 1984, his then-futuristic novel about an all-powerful dictatorship,  have become reality:

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

BARGAINING WITH BULLIES – PART THREE (OF SIX)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on July 12, 2011 at 8:57 am

Hitler wanted Czechoslovakia.  So, once again, he opened “negotiations” with a lie: The Czechoslovak government was trying to exterminate 3.5 million Germans living in the “Sudetenland.”

This consisted of the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Then he followed this up with the threat of war: Germany would protect its citizens and halt such “oppression.”

For British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the thought of another European war erupting less than 20 years after the end of World War I was simply unthinkable.European

Something had to be done to prevent it.  And he believed himself to be just the man to do it.

He quickly sent Hitler a telegram, offering to help resolve the crisis: “I could come to you by air and am ready to leave tomorrow.  Please inform me of earliest time you can receive me, and tell me the place of the meeting.  I should be grateful for a very early reply.”

Once again, another head-of-state was prepared to meet Hitler on his home ground.  Again, Hitler took this concession as a sign of weakness.  And Chamberlain’s use of such words as “please” and “grateful” only further convinced Hitler of impending triumph.

Chamberlain met with Hitler in Berchtesgaden on September15.  During their talks, Chamberlain said he had come to discuss German grievances.  But, he added, it was necessary in all circumstances to exclude the use of force.

Hitler appeared to be shocked that he could be accused of such intentions: “Force?  Who speaks of force?“

Then, without warning, he switched to an aggressive mode.  He accused the Czechs of having mobilized their army in May.  They had mobilized—in response to the mobilization of the German army.

“I shall not put up with this any longer,” shouted Hitler. “I shall settle this question in one way or another.  I shall take matters in my own hands!”

Suddenly, Chamberlain seemed alarmed—and possibly angry: “If I understood you right, you are determined to proceed against Czechoslovakia in any case.  If this is so, why did you let me come to Berchtesgaden?

“In the circumstances, it is best for me to return at once.  Anything else now seems pointless.”

Hitler was taken aback by the unexpected show of defiance.  He realized he was about to lose his chance to bully the British into accepting his latest demands.

So he softened his tone and said they should consider the Sudetenland according to the principle of self-determination.

Chamberlain said he must immediately return to England to consult with his colleagues.  Hitler appeared uneasy.  But then the German translator finished the sentence: “…and then meet you again.”  Hitler realized he still had a chance to attain victory without going to war.

Chamberlain agreed to the cession of the Sudetenland. Three days later, French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier did the same. No Czechoslovak representative was invited to these discussions.

Chamberlain met Hitler again in Godesberg, Germany, on September 22 to confirm the agreements. But Hitler aimed to use the crisis as a pretext for war.

He now demanded not only the annexation of the Sudetenland but the immediate military occupation of the territories.  This would give the Czechoslovak army no time to adapt their defense measures to the new borders.

To achieve a solution, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini suggested a conference of the major powers in Munich.

On September 29, Hitler, Daladier and Chamberlain met and agreed to Mussolini’s proposal.   They signed the Munich Agreement, which accepted the immediate occupation of the Sudetenland.

The Czechoslovak government had not been a party to the talks.  Nevertheless, it promised to abide by the agreement on September 30.

It actually had no choice. It faced the threat of an immediate German invasion after being deserted by its pledged allies: Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

Chamberlain returned to England a hero. “I believe it is peace for our time,” he told cheering crowds in London.

But soon he would be seen as a naive weakling–even before bombs started falling on London.

So closely associated was Chamberlain’s trademark umbrella with appeasement that no politician has since wanted to be seen carrying one.

Hitler—still planning more conquests—knew better.  In March, 1939, the German army occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

And shortly before he ordered the invasion of Poland on September 1–triggering World War II–he said: “Our enemies are little worms.  I saw them at Munich.”

In time, historians and statesmen would regard Munich as an object lesson in the futility–and danger–in appeasing evil and aggression.

But for the postwar Republican party, Hitler’s “negotiating” methods would become standard operating procedure.

BARGAINING WITH BULLIES – PART TWO (OF SIX)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on July 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm

On February 12, 1938, two Chancellors–Adolf Hitler of Germany, and Kurt von Schuschnigg of Austria–met at Hitler’s retreat at Obersalzberg.  At stake lay the future independence of Austria.

Although Austrian by birth, Hitler considered himself a German.  Annexing Austria, he believed, would ensure its return to “the Great German motherland.”

By studying Hitler’s mindset and “negotiating” style, we can learn much about the mindset and “negotiating” style of our own Republican party.

HITLER: “I could call myself an Austrian with just the same right–indeed with even more right–than you, Herr Schuschnigg.  Why don’t you once try a plebiscite in Austria in which you and I run against each other?  Then you would see!”

SCHUSCHNIGG: “Well, yes, if that were possible.  But your know yourself, Herr Reich Chancellor, that it just isn’t possible.  We simply have to go on living alongside one another, the little state next to the big one.  We have no other choice.

“And that is why I ask you to tell me what your concrete complaints are.  We will do all in our power to sort things out and establish a friendly relationship, as far as it is possible to do so.”

HITLER: “That’s what you say, Herr Schuschnigg.  And I am telling you that I intend to clear up the whole of the so-called Austrian question–one way or another.  Do you think I don’t know that you are fortifying Austria’s border with the Reich?”

SCHUSCHNIGG: “There can be no suggestion at all of that–“

HITLER:  “Ridiculous explosive chambers are being built under bridges and roads–“

SCHUSCHNIGG: “If that were so, I must have heard of it–“

HITLER:  “You don’t really believe, do you, that you can lift a single stone without my hearing about it the next day?”

This was a lie, and Hitler knew it was a lie.  But no matter.  It gave him an excuse to threaten to destroy Austria–as he was to destroy so many other nations during the next seven years.

HITLER: “I have only to give one command and all this comic stuff on the border will be blown to pieces overnight.  You don’t seriously think you could hold me up, even for half an hour, do you?

“Who knows–perhaps you will find me one morning in Vienna like a spring storm.  Then you will go through something!  I’d like to spare the Austrians that.

“The S.A. [Hitler's private army of Stormtroopers] and the [Condor] Legion [which had bombed much of Spain into rubble during the three-year Spanish Civil War] would come in after the troops and nobody–not even I–could stop them from wreaking vengeance.”

British historian Robert Payne noted in his biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler: “Schuschnigg was not a coward, but he showed fear, and it was precisely this look of fear that Hitler was waiting for.

“He had worked out the program of intimidation very carefully.  The thunder and lightning in the morning; then a period of calm, when the unsuspecting victim might believe he had relented; and then he would come in for the kill with such savage fury that there would be no resistance.”

After lunch, Hitler presented Schuschnigg with an ultimatum:

  • Austria must join in an economic union with German.
  • Austria must lift its ban on membership in the Nazi Party (which had assassinated the country’s previous Chancellor).
  • Within three days there was to be a general amnesty of Nazi prisoners.
  • Three key government ministries—of war, interior and finance—were to be given to members of the Nazi Party.

With these in their possession, the Nazis would be able to take over Austria in two to three weeks.

At first, Schuschnigg refused to sign.  He explained that the Austrian constitution did not give him the power to sign it.  But Hitler insisted–threatening to invade Austria otherwise.

Schuschnigg, a virtual prisoner of his host, facing the destruction of his country by a powerful and aggressive neighbor, signed.  It marked–until the defeat of Germany in 1945–the end of Austria as an independent nation.

Seven months later, in September, 1938, Hitler gave another exhibition of his “negotiating” methods.  This time, the target of his rage and aggression was Czechoslovakia.

BARGAINING WITH BULLIES – PART ONE (OF SIX)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on July 8, 2011 at 11:33 am

Fascism is a lie told by bullies.
–Ernest Hemingway

Republicans are refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

In doing so, they have adopted the my-way-or-else “negotiating” style of Adolf Hitler.

A major critic of this Republican blackmail effort is Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Buffett is no radical socialist. With a fortune of $50 billion, he is consistently ranked among the world’s wealthiest people.  Forbes magazine ranked him as the third wealthiest person in the world in 2011.

“We raised the debt ceiling seven times during the Bush Administration,” Buffett told CNBC.

But now that a Democrat holds the White House, the Republican-controlled Congress is “trying to use the incentive now that we’re going to blow your brains out, America, in terms of your debt worthiness over time.”

If Congress fails to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. will reach the limit of its borrowing abilities, it will likely begin defaulting on its loans.

“We had debt at 120 percent of the GDP, far higher than this, after World War II and no one went around threatening that we’re going to ruin the credit of the United States or something in order to get a better balance of debt to GDP.”

The GDP–gross domestic product–refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period.

“If you don’t send out social security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning,” said Buffett.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA.”

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.

Buffet was born in 1930, three years before Adolf Hitler–the current Republican model for “bargaining”–took command of Germany.

British historian Robert Payne, who chronicled the Fuhrer’s life in his 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, writes:

“Although Hitler prized his own talents as a negotiator, a man always capable of striking a good bargain, he was totally lacking in finesse.  He was incapable of bargaining.  He was like a man who goes up to a fruit peddler and threatens to blow his brains out if he does not sell his applies at the lowest possible price.”

A classic example of this occurred in 1938, when Hitler invited Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg to his mountaintop retreat in Obersalzberg, Germany.  The stated reason for the invitation: To discuss “outstanding issues” between the two countries.

Hitler, an Austrian by birth, intended to annex his native land to Germany.  Schuschnigg was aware of Hitler’s desire, but nevertheless felt secure in accepting the invitation.  It was understood that the question of Austrian sovereignty would not arise.

That is, it was understood by Schuschnigg.  Hitler, on the contrary, felt no compunction about demanding–and getting–his way.

Payne vividly describes Hitler’s explosive tirades against Schuschnigg as “raw and ugly beyond anything known before.

“He liked the word ‘brutal’ and used it frequently, but he usually required that there should be some deftness in his own brutality….But there was no deftness in his attack on Schuschnigg.  He was all rage, venom, and vicious threats.”

It started with a friendly overture by Shuschnigg.  Walking over to a large window, he admired  the breathtaking view of the mountains.

HITLER: “We haven’t come here to talk about the lovely view or the weather!”

Hitler continued: “Austria has anyway never done anything which was of help to the German Reich….I am resolutely determined to make an end to all this business.  The German Reich is a great power.  Nobody can and nobody will interfere if it restores order on its frontiers.”

SCHUSCHNIGG: “I am aware of your attitude toward the Austrian question and toward Austrian history….As we Austrians see it, the whole of our history is a very essential and valuable part of German history….And Austria’s contribution is a considerable one.”

HITLER: “It is absolutely zero–that I can assure you!  Every national impulse has been trampled underfoot by Austria….”

SCHUSCHNIGG: “Despite that, Herr Reich Chancellor, there are many Austrian achievements which cannot be separated from the general German cultural scene.  I’m thinking among others of Beethoven, for example….”

HITLER: “Indeed?  I regard Beethoven as a Lower Rhinelander.”

For Schuschnigg, the “negotiating” session proceeded to slide downhill from there.

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