Remember Bin Laden And Dance, Dance, Dance

All weekend, and again today, the talk is about tomorrow’s one-year anniversary of the demise of Obama bin Laden.

But Republicans are incensed that last Friday the Obama campaign released a web video—a web video, mind you—featuring President Clinton saying—surprise, surprise—nice things about Obama’s decision to send the terrorist bastard to the bottom of the sea.

The ball-buster was at the end when this question is posed:

Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?

That is a question worth asking because of Mittens’ remarks in 2007 that it wasn’t worth “moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”  John McCain found it in his politically duplicitous heart to criticize Romney at the time, but that was then and this is now. These days McCain is bad-mouthing Obama, claiming he is “doing a shameless end-zone dance to help himself get elected.

Well, after years of watching Republicans slander Democrats as being weak abroad, it is about time we danced and spiked the ball after our guy sent bin Laden snorkeling without a snorkel.

But more important, the Obama web video also featured a quote from a Reuter’s article from 2007:

Mitt Romney criticized Barack Obama for vowing to strike al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistan if necessary.

Whoops! Mittens shouldn’t have done that. Makes him look weak. And it is certainly fair game for the Obama team to point out that Romney couldn’t have been more wrong.

And that, of course, is what has Republicans, and their cable “news” channel friends, so theatrically indignant.

The truth of the matter is that it is more than okay for Democrats to point out their successes, even if it pisses off the entire Obama-hating world. And the reason it is okay is because the other side would be quick to point out Democratic failures. Just imagine what kind of campaign commercials we would be seeing from Romney, should the mission to get bin Laden have failed.

Some of us still remember Operation Eagle Claw.

That was the name given to the failed attempt in April of 1980 to rescue the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran by a mob of revolutionaries who had stormed our embassy in Teheran.  That failed mission, and the fact the hostages would not be coming home before Election Day, figured greatly in President Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan.

Anyone think that the Reagan campaign in 1980 simply ignored the botched mission? Anyone think that Republicans simply refused to go there? Refused to be divisive about a national failure? Or criticize Jimmy Carter for failed leadership?

Of course not. The campaign time and again emphasized Carter’s alleged foreign policy and leadership weaknesses.

Here’s the text of an ad that aired in 1980:

Do you really think Iranian terrorists would have taken Americans hostage, if Ronald Reagan were president?

Do you really think the Russians would have invaded Afghanistan, if Ronald Reagan were president?

Do you really think third-rate military dictators would laugh at America and burn our flag in contempt, if Ronald Reagan were president?

Isn’t it about time we had the strong new leadership Ronald Reagan would provide as president. Isn’t it about time America had a president whose judgment we can trust?

Nothing subtle about that.

In an ad aired just before election day, and “paid for and authorized by the Reagan Bush Committee,” a somber narrator read the following text:

In a copyrighted story in the New York Times on October 27th, William Safire wrote: “The smoothest of Iran’s diplomatic criminals was shown on American television this weekend, warning American voters that they had better not elect Ronald Reagan. Ayatollah Khomeini and his men prefer a weak and manageable U.S. president, and have decided to do everything in their power to determine our election result.”

Here’s another ad that aired that campaign season:

MALE NARRATOR: Very slowly, a step at a time, the hope for world peace erodes. Slowly, we once slid into Korea, slowly, into Vietnam. And now, the Persian Gulf beckons.

Jimmy Carter’s weak, indecisive leadership has vacillated before events in Angola, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan. Jimmy Carter still doesn’t know that it takes strong leadership to keep the peace. Weak leadership will lose it.

REAGAN: Of all the objectives we seek, first and foremost is the establishment of lasting world peace. We know only too well that war comes not when the forces of freedom are strong. It is when they are weak that tyrants are tempted…

Jimmy Carter’s weak, indecisive leadership…” Hmm.

The Republicans in 1980 even used Ted Kennedy in an ad against Carter. Kennedy ran against him in the Democratic primary and hurt him by saying things like this:

EDWARD KENNEDY: I say it’s time to say: No more American hostages. No more high interest rates. No more high inflation, and no more Jimmy Carter.

MALE NARRATOR: The time is now for strong leadership. Reagan for President.

“Strong leadership” is always worth emphasizing. It’s just that Republicans aren’t used to our guys emphasizing it. And it is just too damned bad that Republicans are upset that Obama’s team is showing American voters that this election year Democrats aren’t going to sit back and let Republicans smear them once again as foreign policy and military weaklings.

Goodbye, Joplin Globe

The problem with newspapers isn’t the quality of their journalism but the weakness of their business model. It’s ironic that readership of newspaper content in print and online is at an all-time high while the revenues of the US industry are at a 60-year low. We should be focused not on preserving newspapers but on preserving journalism.”

—Paul Gillin, of Newspaper Death Watch

 should tell you that the Joplin Globe has given me the left foot of fellowship.

The beer money I was earning for writing this blog affiliated with the paper proved too much for its finances to bear.* Man, these are hard times when a newspaper the size of the Globe can’t afford to pay a pittance for quality commentary!  Maybe if John McCain had been president, the economy would have blossomed such that the paper could afford my meager wages. Damn, maybe I should have voted for McCain, but the Joplin Globe told me not to.

In any case, as grateful as I am to have had the conservative Globe’s blessing as a liberal blogger, I am now untethered from of our local newspaper, which means that if this blog continues it will do so as a labor of love.  For now, I plan to keep writing through the November election. I began this endeavor just after Obama took office in 2009, and I want to keep at it at least until voters have their say on his presidency.

And besides that, I have some scores to settle with a couple of (now former) conservative Globe bloggers, which I will hopefully get to in time.

As for changes, the only thing I can foresee now is that I won’t be so concerned about profanity. Regular readers who don’t appreciate cursing and coarse talk are now forewarned that I will no longer censor some of the language that most people—even religious people!—use  in everyday life.

I once audited a class out at the local ultra-conservative Christian college where a very capable Greek teacher held an enlightening discussion about profanity. He (unwittingly) convinced me that we make way too much of such words, and give them too much power over us.

William F. Buckley, whose writings I have read with great care and enthusiasm (as a conservative) and with great care and dismay (as a liberal), sometimes used words that stuffy folks considered profane and sacrilegious. He defended such use on the grounds that some words perform a function peculiar to those words and that a writer ought to use all of the resources of the language. On that I still agree with Buckley.

Finally, this would be a good time to thank all of the faithful readers of this blog. The readership has grown steadily since I moved to WordPress in September of 2009, and I appreciate your time and attention.

______________________________

*Most of the Globe blogs were on WordPress and thus readers could avoid going to the Joplin Globe website to read them. And since most readers bookmarked my site and did not go through the Globe (only about 3% of the traffic came from the link on its site), the paper’s management likely reasoned that they weren’t benefiting from my readership. The most obvious solution for the paper, if it wants to be a complete player in the digital age, would be to develop its own blogging platform.

Missouri And The Minimum Wage

There is a ballot initiative underway in Missouri that—if voters approve—would raise our state’s minimum wage to $8.25 an hour in 2013, as well as provide an annual cost of living adjustment in the following years.

On Thursday a judge rejected claims that the summary written by the secretary of state to explain the initiative to voters was faulty:

“We think it’s good news. We’re one step closer to making sure that the will of Missouri voters is being respected and we all get a chance to vote on this,” said Lara Granich, director of Missouri Jobs with Justice, which is backing the initiative.

Just why is this push to raise the minimum wage important? Take a look at the following, courtesy of Remapping Debate:

As you can see, and as Remapping Debate points out, the federal minimum wage “is significantly less in real terms” than in 1968. There are no provisions in the law that would allow the minimum wage to keep up with inflation and thus the purchasing power of those wage earners erodes over time.

Speaking of purchasing power, Remapping Debate also provided a comparison of the “family poverty threshold” between 1968 and 2011. It ain’t pretty:

The above green gap—which represents the shortfall between the earnings of someone working minimum wage and trying to support a family of four at the poverty threshold—is not something to be proud of, but at least it is better than it was in 2007:

Although there is no chance that a Tea Party Congress will raise the minimum wage at the federal level, Missourians can take matters into their own hands, should the ballot initiative succeed.

Help For The Post Office

For those of you interested in the continued existence of the Postal Service, Sen. Bernie Sanders—who is trying desperately to save the agency from the folly of its leadership and from some Republicans who want to essentially kill it off and sell the remains to the private sector—appeared on The Ed Show last night, after the Senate voted to pass a bill that only partially addresses USPS’s problems:

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Akin And Blunt Embarrass Missouri

Ah, to live in Missouri.

First, there’s one of our state’s zaniest Republicans, Rep. Todd Akin, who is trying to become Claire McCaskill’s replacement as U.S. Senator. (By the way, as The Washington Post reported, “Independent conservative groups have already spent more than $3 million on television and radio ads” against McCaskill.)

Akin had the distinct pleasure of being the butt of a joke by the President of the United States involving the issue of increased interest rates for student loans. From HuffPo:

“I’m always interested in how folks talk about this issue,” he said. “You’ve got one member of Congress who compared student loans — I’m not kidding here — to a stage three cancer of socialism.”

Obama tried to repeat the phrase but broke up laughing.

“I don’t know where to start? What do you mean? What are you talking about? Come on!” he implored, eliciting loud applause. “Just when you think you’ve heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end.”

Yes, it’s true.  Todd Akin, who has been endorsed by Michele Bachmann and Iowa’s goofy representative, Steve King,  did say this:

America has got the equivalent of the stage three cancer of socialism because the federal government is tampering in all kinds of stuff it has no business tampering in.

Now, Akin isn’t the only Missouri politician making news about student loans. Roy Blunt, who is Mitt Romney’s front man in Congress, told a whopper about the Affordable Care Act and the interest rates charged to students taking out loans. He told Andrea Mitchell:

Why is that rate as high as it is? Because it was one of he pay-fors in the President’s health care plan. If the health care plan goes away, as the court very well might decide, there’s no longer an argument about this loan rate because it was used to take money from students and pay for health care, and largely health care for people who aren’t students.

Of course this is a complete lie. The law that lowered interest rates (from 6.8% to 3.4%) was signed by President Bush in 2007 and it is set to expire on July 1 of this year, which is what the current fuss is all about.

Some people think Blunt got that law confused with the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which was attached to the ACA. That Act cut the bankers out of the student loan loop (which pissed off Republicans bigtime), thereby saving the government tons of money that Democrats then reinvested in low- and middle-income students via grants. (Presumably, that is what Todd Akin meant by “stage three cancer of socialism“!)

In any case, confused or not, what Blunt did was stand in front of a television camera and tell a falsehood—without immediate challenge from Andrea Mitchell. Thankfully, though, The Ed Show exposed Blunt’s tall tale later that night in the following segment:

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“With How Little Wisdom The World Is Governed”

Fourteen months ago I wrote the following, in a piece titled, “While We Were Away, Republicans Were Trying to Kill The Economy:

Since the fall of 2008, there has emerged two diametrically opposed approaches to solving our (and the world’s) economic predicament:

(1) Stimulate the economy through government (deficit) spending until consumer demand picks up sufficiently to sustain a strong recovery

(2) Drastically cut government spending because deficits are a drag on the economy

Democrats, of course, have tried to pursue (against strong Republican opposition) the former and Republicans, including now the party’s candidate for president, have aggressively pursued the latter.

Thankfully, early in 2009, the Democrats prevailed with a mild (relatively mild, it turned out) stimulus program that has led to Ben Bernanke talking up today (cautiously, modestly) the Fed’s latest growth forecast for 2012 (now up to a range of 2.4 to 2.9%) and projected unemployment down to 7.8-8% at the end of the year. Not fabulous, but better than the 700,000+ jobs we were losing when Obama took office. And the current 25 straight months of private-sector job growth ain’t nuttin’.

The Democrats success with the stimulus (oh, how that galls conservatives when they hear those words, but they must watch as the American recovery continues) can be compared to what has happened in Europe, which pursued a Republicanesque austerity philosophy.

From Henry Blodget of the Business Insider:

The “austerity” idea, you’ll remember, was that the continents’ huge debt and deficit problem had ushered in a “crisis of confidence” and that, once business-people saw that governments were serious about debt reduction, they’d get confident and start spending again.

That hasn’t worked.

Instead, spending cuts have led to cuts in GDP which has led to greater deficits and the need for more spending cuts. And so on.

Paul Krugman chimes in about the “big fat failure” of the European austerity policy:

It’s important to understand that what we’re seeing isn’t a failure of orthodox economics. Standard economics in this case — that is, economics based on what the profession has learned these past three generations, and for that matter on most textbooks — was the Keynesian position. The austerity thing was just invented out of thin air and a few dubious historical examples to serve the prejudices of the elite.

And now the results are in: Keynesians have been completely right, Austerians utterly wrong — at vast human cost.

But no one I know of thinks that these “results” will convince Republicans here in America to suddenly rush to the confessional and admit there are flaws in their cut-spending-balance-the-budget-deregulate prescription for short-term salvation. Not gonna happen, as Krugman points out:

Nobody ever admits that they were wrong, and Austerian ideas clearly have an emotional and political appeal that is resilient to any and all evidence.

Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?

[See here for the origin of that wonderful admonition.]

Etch A Romney

Mittens declared ultimate victory last night in New Hampshire, proving that having plenty of money to carve up your opponents in television commercials and having a willingness to radically alter your beliefs—then pretend they have been your beliefs all along!—is all that is necessary to dupe folks eager to throw Obama out of the White’s House.

This speech was the first in what will be a long series of attempts to re-sketch Romney and make him more attractive to folks who don’t tote placards or guns at Tea Party rallies.

Puke-worthy in his speech was his “simple message” to “heartbroken” single moms, gas-poor seniors, and “the mom and dad who never thought they’d be on food stamps.”  That message was,

Hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight.

Yeah, hold on until the Romney-Ryan budget lifts you up, up, and away!

Mittens will “unite every American who knows in their heart that we can do better!” That means those of us—about half the country— who would rather put a peg through our pupil than vote for him, are S.O.L.! That’s some unity.

Romney also claimed that Obama “will run a campaign of diversions, distractions, and distortions.” Now considering that The Etch Man just finished running a campaign of diversions, distractions, and distortions, and considering that he will have to continue to divert, distract, and distort in order to sell his always-evolving self to the electorate, that is quite a compliment.

And Mittens, who brought the world Romneycare, offered Obama another huge compliment when he gave him credit for the eventual end of  American capitalism:

With Obamacare fully installed, government will come to control half the economy, and we will have effectively ceased to be a free enterprise society.

What? No more Bain Capital? What in Kolob’s name are we gonna do? What will the vultures eat?

Perhaps my favorite passage in the speech was this one, which I look forward to beholding:

In the America I see, character and choices matter. And education, hard work, and living within our means are valued and rewarded. And poverty will be defeated, not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that is taught by parents, learned in school, and practiced in the workplace.

Now, I know right-wingers like to talk about the grandiosity of Barack Obama, what with his slowing the oceans’ rise (promise kept, by the way!) and his attempt to heal the planet (Big O’s still working on that one), but he ain’t never said he could defeat poverty. Heck, Jesus couldn’t even do that! If I thought Mittens could end poverty, I wouldn’t walk, I’d run to the polls in November to symbolically touch the hem of his holy garment!

But he did get something right in the speech:

Today, the hill before us is a little steep but we have always been a nation of big steppers.

Yes, yes. Folks like Romney have been big steppin’ all over the rest of us for years, and the magical thing about these big steppers is that they can get about half of the folks crushed under their big steppin’ heels to crawl out and vote for them! That’s some voodoo!

Toward the end of his speech, Mr. Etch hit a theme that was both offensive and effective, in terms of penetrating deep into the souls of his pale-faced supporters:

We’ll stop the days of apologizing for success at home and never again apologize for America abroad.

There was a time – not so long ago – when each of us could walk a little taller and stand a little straighter because we had a gift that no one else in the world shared. We were Americans. That meant something different to each of us but it meant something special to all of us. We knew it without question. And so did the world.

Those days are coming back. That’s our destiny.

Forget the lie about Obama apologizing abroad and focus on the subtext of his ending message, the message that Etch-A-Romney will bring to Americans:

America isn’t “special” to President Obama. He is a stranger among us, an interloper who doesn’t deserve to live in the White’s House.

More Falsehoods About Social Security And Medicare

By now everyone has heard the news:

WASHINGTON – The Medicare and Social Security trust funds are both on “unsustainable paths” — as they have been for years — and will be exhausted by 2024 and 2033, respectively, a trustee report released Monday said.

And by now maybe you have heard the misinformation.

Joe Scarborough said this morning that Social Security will be “bankrupt” three years earlier than projected last year and it will just keep ratcheting up until it will be no time until it is gone. “It’s going down,” he said. In fact, here was the graphic on the screen as the panel discussed the issue:

Social Security benefits to be depleted by 2033.” What tommyrot that is. Benefits, far from being depleted, will continue long after 2033, even if nothing is done.

But first, let’s look at Medicare. As the USA Today story noted:

The trustees have predicted the depletion of the Medicare Trust Fund every year since they first began issuing reports in 1970, and they ultimately extend the deadlines out a few more years.

Yes, look at this from the Congressional Research Service:

As you can see, since such reports have been created, the projections of insolvency have been fairly imminent. Consider this from Sarah Kliff at Wonkblog:

…the trust fund doesn’t really decide Medicare’s fate. Instead, it’s an accounting term. When we talk about the Medicare Trust Fund, we’re pretty much referring to where our payroll taxes to finance the insurance program get stored. If the Trust Fund runs out, that means it can no longer cover everything it’s supposed to pay for. But Congress could — and, many think, would — make up the difference by borrowing, cutting spending elsewhere and using the savings to plug the hole, or finding new sources of revenue.

“The fund is a fiscally neutral element in the goods and services of Medicare finances,” Theodore Marmor, Spencer Martin and Jonathan Oberlander wrote in one article on the topic. “Congress can change the taxes that finance Medicare if it has the will. Likewise, it can change the benefits and reimbursements of the program.”

So, you can easily see that Medicare won’t be “bankrupt” in 2024, even though there is a definite problem with its financing that has to be soon addressed (apart from just shifting the cost on to future seniors, as the Romney-Ryan budget plan does*).

Likewise, Social Security is not now bankrupt and won’t be in 2033. Why? It is simple, as John Harvey at Forbes pointed out:

It is a logical impossibility for Social Security to go bankrupt.

Here’s how the Social Security Administration explains it:

The current Social Security system works like this: when you work, you pay taxes into Social Security. The tax money is used to pay benefits to:

  • People who already have retired;
  • People who are disabled;
  • Survivors of workers who have died; and
  • Dependents of beneficiaries.

The money you pay in taxes is not held in a personal account for you to use when you get benefits. Your taxes are being used right now to pay people who now are getting benefits. Any unused money goes to the Social Security trust funds, not a personal account with your name on it.

Because wage growth has been slow, and because the economy hasn’t exactly been great, money going into the trust funds has slowed down, but Social Security is not—not—paying out more in benefits than it is bringing in. Payroll taxes, along with interest from the special issue Treasury bonds the program holds, plus taxes on Social Security benefits paid by high-income taxpayers, all add up to an increase in the Social Security surplus.

Get that? The program’s surplus is still growing.

But even though Joe Scarborough got it wrong about Social Security and bankruptcy, he did get something right. He said the program’s future finances could be fixed in about twenty minutes.

One way of doing that—without cutting benefits—would be to eliminate the Social Security tax cap, which is currently set at $110,100. Eliminating the cap would mean that those who make more than that (about 6% of wage-earners) would then have to pay Social Security taxes on all their wages. Just this simple move would guarantee payment of full benefits for at least 75 years.

So, although we will hear a lot of Republicans talking about the demise of the two most important social stabilizers we have, using trust fund projections as tools to severely weaken, if not destroy, our safety net, the truth is that the future of both programs can be fixed without dramatically altering their nature, if there is the political will to do so.

And it is up to voters to impregnate the Republican Party with that will.

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* Sadly, Willie Geist, a fixture on “liberal” MSNBC from 4:30am until 8:00am, defended the GOP budget plan and Paul Ryan, saying,

He doesn’t do this because he likes throwing old people out on the street; he’s trying to make it solvent. He’s trying to save it in the long term…he’s trying to do something big…

Willie, of course, will never have to worry about surviving his old age on reduced Social Security benefits or worry about how he is supposed to come up with the thousands upon thousands of dollars to get health care when he is too old for television.

Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly Are Nazi Pigs

Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly are fascists. No, they are fascist pigs. No, no, no, they are depraved fascist pigs. In short, they are Nazis.

Since I am using the same logic they employed in the following clip, in which they declared Robert Reich a communist, I dare anyone to contradict me:

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McCaskill: Her Opponents Want To “Turn Out The Lights On The Federal Government And Go Home”

I saw Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill on Saturday in Springfield. She seemed to be quite enthusiastic about taking the fight to Republicans this fall. She said some nice things about the stimulus plan passed in 2009, which saved many jobs and helped cover state budget shortfalls, including here in Missouri. It was good to hear her not run away from the major achievement of Democrats, in terms of helping turn around the economy.

She also talked about her potential opponents in the upcoming election. Since there has yet to be a Republican primary, there are three of them, extremists one and all.

Today, on Hardball with Chris Matthews, she talked about her politics, her opponents’ politics, and the Senate race: 

McCASKILL: The Senate has done its best work around the table of compromise. And compromise happens because of moderates. And many of your listeners may not want to hear this, but honestly, if we don’t have moderates, we’re not going to get things done on behalf of the American people.

I am, in this campaign, going to talk to a lot of Missourians–I’m going to cover the state like a blanket, I’m not going to get very much sleep–and I’m going to proudly tell them that I’m part of a moderate middle that believes compromise is a value that we need to cherish in this democracy. If we’re just at opposite ends of the room screaming at each other, we’re never going to solve the hard problems.

And that’s why I think moderation is important, and believe me the folks running against me, I mean they are so extreme, they make some of these people that are in the house look like moderates. They are very, very extreme folks.

MATTHEWS: Are the Tea Party folks still running the party out there?

McCASKILL: Yes. By and large. In fact I think that some of the moderate Republicans tried to get somebody else to run against me. They all took a pass. And so we have three people running that are all fighting over whether or not they’re the Tea Party-endorsed candidate. One of them got one Tea Party endorsement and the other two said, “Well, that’s not the real Tea Party, we have the Tea Party endorsement.”  So, this is all about fighting for the far right-wing base of the Republican Party. That’s who’s going to get the nomination in my state, and so Missourians are going to have a really clear choice: Somebody who’s moderate and believes in compromise, or somebody who believes we need to turn out the lights on the federal government and go home.

Now, as a liberal, I’m not exactly glad to hear that Senator McCaskill is proud to be a moderate. And I certainly object to her saying that “compromise happens because of moderates.” It actually doesn’t. Compromise happens because folks on each side of an issue decide to meet in the middle to get things done. By her reckoning, if you are already in the middle, then you most certainly aren’t compromising, right?

In any case, she does have it right about the candidates running against her:

Todd Akin, a congressman representing the western ‘burbs of St. Louis, is a certifiably unhinged Obama-hater.

John Brunner is a bidnessman who thinks that qualifies him to run the world (I think the family bidness makes deodorant and nail polish remover and, oh yeah, Germ-X).  His right-wing kookiness bona fides: he once was the state chairman of Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign.

Sarah Steelman (who I think will win) gives me another opportunity to play the priceless interview she did with Ozark Billy Long, my brilliant congressman. The interview speaks for itself, but as I said when I first posted it, it is a case of the blind leading the blind:

Here is McCaskill’s complete appearance on Monday’s Hardball:

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