Saturday, August 25, 2012

Editorial: Granny Starvers Attack

Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate looks to Democrats like a classic case of “be careful what you wish for.” Ryan is a right-wing ideologue who, in tandem with Romney, helps President Obama and Democrats draw a clear line between what the two sides stand for. In that matchup, Obama stands for the centrist liberals who, with limited federal intervention, stabilized the economy and saved General Motors, Chrysler (and probably Ford, as well). Romney and Ryan stand for the radical Republicans who want to double down on the Reagan-Bush economic principles of more tax cuts and deregulation guided by “free-market” principles of “let the buyer beware.” But now, with that line drawn, the Dems had better win the election.

President Obama took office during the worst economic downturn in a generation. We now know that Republican leaders met on the evening of his inauguration and agreed not to cooperate with Obama or the Democrats in any meaningful way. They hoped the economy would deteriorate so Republicans would have an easy time unseating Obama this fall and retaking control after the 2012 election. Democrats in 2009 had a majority in the House and were able to pass progressive bills there, but they started with 58 votes in the Senate — a clear majority but two votes short of the number needed to clear the filibuster hurdle, which the obstructionist Republicans used at an unprecedented level.

When Obama got Congress to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which saved or created 3.6 million jobs, he was forced to accept tax breaks as part of the package, because he needed at least two Republican votes. Republican pressure on Sen. Arlen Specter finally convinced the moderate Pennsylvania Republican to switch parties, and when Al Franken’s election finally was certified and the Minnesota Democrat was seated in July 2009, the Dems finally had their 60th vote to break the filibusters. That cleared the way for health insurance reform — as long as the Democrats held their conservatives in line and ailing Sens. Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd were able to make procedural votes as they attempted to move the Affordable Care Act through the Senate. That is why a single payer plan was out of the question — and even an option to let the public buy into Medicare proved to be outside their grasp. It also is why Wall Street reforms got watered down, with the strongest reforms largely shot down in the Senate along corporatist lines.

The Democrats treated the banks better than they deserved but the banksters give them no thanks. They saw that they can get a better deal from the Republicans who are willing to give them the benefit of every doubt, and Wall Street is investing in Romney and other Republicans by a 2 to 1 margin. Democrats might as well make a virtue of their poverty and go after the plutocrats who, it is becoming increasingly obvious, want to destroy what remains of the New Deal and Great Society and return us to the days of the Gilded Age.

Into the mix Romney has thrust Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the House Budget chairman whose 2012 budget, approved in the House on an almost party-line vote, would have cut domestic spending for aid to the working poor and proposed to turn Medicare into a voucher program for future retirees in order to provide more tax cuts for the wealthy. That budget, while admired by respectable pundits in D.C., earned Ryan the title “the zombie-eyed granny starver” from Charles Pierce of

Nothing underscores the difference between the two parties more than the debate over Medicare. Republicans have been fighting against national health insurance ever since Teddy Roosevelt proposed it in 1912. Lyndon Johnson took advantage of the opportunity when the 1964 election handed him a Democratic Congress with two-thirds supermajorities in the House and Senate that passed the health care program for seniors in 1965. Republicans have been trying to undermine Medicare ever since then.

Romney has been claiming that Obama stole $716 billion from Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act, but the truth, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is that the health reform bill saves $716 billion over the next 10 years through reductions in subsidies paid to insurance companies participating in the Medicare Advantage plans, reductions in the rate of growth in provider payments and efforts to make Medicare programs more efficient. In other words, the cuts are to reduce waste fraud and abuse of the programs and should result in savings of an average of $3,500 for beneficiaries through lower copayments and premiums and better benefits over the next 10 years.

In fact, the ACA improves benefits for senior citizens. It has expanded coverage of preventive care while improving quality and it has reduced the “donut hole” between limits on “Part D” coverage of prescription drugs and the cap on out-of-pocket spending by an average of $2,000 per year. It keeps Medicare Advantage, but places limits on out-of-pocket costs for in-network care for enrollees. Meanwhile, Medicare Part B and D premiums were restructured to reduce costs for most people while raising contributions from the wealthiest people with Medicare.

Ryan’s budget kept the $716 billion in cuts to Medicare. But instead of using those savings to provide other benefits for seniors, Ryan and Romney would use that money to provide more tax cuts for the wealthy and/or add a trillion dollars to the defense budget. Meanwhile, Obama cuts defense spending by hundreds of billions of dollars, raises about $1.5 trillion by letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire and puts that money into deficit reduction, which makes the need for future Medicare cuts less likely. Lately, Romney has said he would restore the funding to Medicare, which further reduces his credibility.

Ryan took his mother with him as protection when he visited a Florida retirement community Aug 18, as if his mom’s endorsement proved Ryan wouldn’t do anything to hurt senior voters. Using mothers for cover is an increasingly popular refuge for Republican congressional scoundrels who voted for Ryan’s Medicare privatization in 2011. But just because they care about their mothers doesn’t mean they care about your mothers — or your children, who might wonder how they will take care of your nursing home costs if Republicans manage to get rid of Medicaid.

The real scandal is that Republicans not only don’t see anything wrong with 50 million Americans being uninsured and another 25 million underinsured. Now they want to do away with the guaranteed benefits of Medicare and divert future retirees to the private insurance market with an offer of discount coupons. The CBO reported that Ryan’s voucher plan would cost the typical Medicare beneficiary $6,500 a year. But Republicans, with the help of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing radio talkers, have convinced half of the electorate that Obamacare will ration their health care. And in key states, Republican legislators have rushed into place voter suppression laws, including new voter ID requirements and limits on early voting, that they hope will keep a substantial portion of Democratic voters from actually casting ballots in November.

One of our readers suggests that evangelical Christians consider the words of Isaiah 32:5-8, which in the King James Version reads: “The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. For the vile person will speak villainy, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.” (Some other versions of the Bible, including the Catholic, translate “liberal” as “noble.”)

I’ll leave it to our readers to figure out who is the liberal or noble leader, and who is vile or foolish, in the parable of Obama vs. Romney. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2012

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Selections from the September 15, 2012 issue

COVER/Robert B. Reich
The Ryan choice: ‘Fix’ Medicare

Granny starvers attack


RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
Resistant weeds force weed killers to get aggressive

GOP panic over rape gaffe in Mo. Senate race;
Romney, Ryan see delays in Medicare coverage;
Branding Rep. Ryan;
Biden: no Social Security cuts;
Mitt’s tax forms may hide felonies;
What is poverty?;
Obama lags on judge picks;
Ryan flexible on economic stimulus;
Republicans indignant at slave rhetoric that they use;
Ohio election official: We shouldn't accommodate urban (black) voters;
Siegelman ordered back to prison;
Bain busted pilots union;
Roseanne still running for president ...

Oregon’s biggest daily paper sits election out

UAW unveils Southern strategy

Water company squeezes woman for last drop

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
Intellectual dust-heap of health myths

What’s good for business?

Postal banks could save mail service

Into the abyss

Heaven forbid that the farmer should eat

Ethanol feeds food crisis

Break up the big banks

BOOK REVIEW/Donald McCarthy
The hidden side of capitalism

Experience America

Not your pop’s pop music

and more ...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Romney’s energy plan: it’s déjà vu again for regressive energy policies

By Marc Jampole

I was expecting to read that Cassandra Peterson, AKA Elvira Mistress of the Night, helped Mitt Romney with his many props as he explained his energy plan yesterday, because it was, as Cassandra in her low-cut, high thigh-slit gown,  used to say,  It’s déjà vu again…and again…and again.

Romney’s plan is the same plan proposed by John McCain and the same plan pursued by Bush II-Cheney. It was Dole’s plan and it was Daddy Bush’s plan. And it was Ronald Reagan’s plan as well: promote and support non-renewable and typically polluting energy sources and withdraw support and promotion from renewable energy sources.

These policies help the behemoth energy companies that are major political donors, and they inconvenience the American public the least over the short term—except for the gradually rising price of energy and average temperatures, and the imperceptible rise in the number of cases of asthma, COPD and other breathing ailments.

There is a hidden method in their madness: once the price of fossil fuels gets high enough, it will eventually become economically feasible for businesses to develop alternative energy without government interference.

Unless of course society breaks down first, as it has so many times in the past, in ancient Crete, Rome, China on several occasions, Cahokia and the Easter Islands, for example. This time, however, social breakdown will likely be assisted by an increase in weather disasters caused by global warming and pandemics breaking out as the diseases of southern climes creep north.

I prefer for the human race to take its fate into its own hands, which, when it comes to energy policy, means focusing on developing and subsidizing solar, wind and viable biofuel energy sources while driving up the cost of fossil fuels by increasing environmental regulations and taxing carbon emissions, all of which will help to slow climate change.


I continue to get a comment or two a day in response to my column stating that the definition of legitimate rape was when a woman says “no.” The commentators rightly pointed out that sometimes a woman can’t say “no” to a rape: passed out, too afraid, a child with a parent; and what of the “yes” of a 12-year-old to the proposition of a 25-year-old, called statutory rape?  Of course these are rapes, too, and no one has any trouble seeing them as rapes except a handful of some very sick people. 

My remarks responded to the obnoxious concept of “legitimate rape,” which clearly reflects a condemnation of the freedom of contemporary women by conjuring the “illegitimate” rapes theoretically brought on by women wearing certain clothes, teasing, engaging in promiscuous behavior (whatever that is) and other bugaboos.  In no way did I mean to imply that rape required the victim to utter the word, “no,” and I am sorry a few people inferred that meaning.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Those wanting more individual freedom and economic equity must vote for Obama this November

By Marc Jampole

As it turns out, when you put the voters leaning one way or another in the respective columns of President Obama and Mitt Romney (I am reluctant to call him governor, since he has repudiated everything he did as a Governor of Massachusetts), there are only 3-5% of likely voters who are undecided.  Thus, all the hundreds of millions that the candidates are spending have the goal to capture the votes of very few people, plus, of course, to rally the loyal troops to actually step into a voting booth and push the appropriate buttons.

This relatively small number of people still undecided underscores how polarized our politics and our country have become.  What’s most interesting is how the polarization tends to play out consistently. On social issues Republicans want to control private life, while Democrats don’t want to intrude; whereas on economic issues, it’s the exact opposite, with Democrats wanting to intrude on marketplace relationships and interactions, with Republicans wanting a laissez faire approach.

The polarization takes place along a wide range of issues, as the following handy-dandy chart encapsulates:

Social Issue
Intrude on private lives
Don’t intrude
Gay marriage
Intrude on private lives
Don’t intrude
Birth control for women
Intrude on private lives
Don’t intrude
Promotion of one religion
Intrude on private lives
Don’t intrude
Rewriting science & history
Intrude on truth
Don’t intrude

Economic Issue
Environmental regulations
Don’t intrude
Intrude on marketplace
Labor and employment regulations
Don’t intrude
Intrude on marketplace
Minimum wage
Don’t intrude
Intrude on marketplace
Support of emerging industries, e.g., solar and wind power, nanotechnology and space research
Don’t intrude
Intrude on marketplace
Support for schools, healthcare and the poor
Don’t intrude
Intrude on marketplace
Privatization of government functions
Don’t intrude on free market
Intrude: Let government do it

The only ways in which the polarization is not consistent with this pattern are the two big money issues: 1) Who will pay for the services and benefits that government does provide its citizens, or in the privatization scheme of things, finance? 2) In paying for our debt, how will the money flow, from the poor and middle class as it has for the past 30 years I dyspeptically call the Reagan Era, or from the wealthy to the poor and middle class until we return to the mix of wealth we had in from about 1945-1975?

The really strange thing about the deep political division in the country is that most of the people who believe fervently in the Republican positions on key social issues suffer from the Republican position on economic issues, and are among the biggest losers if the Republican positions on taxation and government spending prevail.

Why would these Republican for social issues put up with policies that lead to their own economic decline?  If they just tended to their own communities and families instead of trying to impose their religious views on others, then everyone could do what they wanted. They could then vote Democratic for economic issues and have more money to live their own lives or give to their church.

The economic-issue Republicans such as Romney and Ryan cynically support the efforts of the social-issue Republicans in a kind of grand bargain with the devil, or should I say angel.

We know the economic-issue Republicans have to make the bargain, because if they didn’t, they would be severely outvoted in every election. Even with voter suppression tactics, it’s pretty hard for 1% to beat 99% at the polls.

But why do the social-issue Republicans make the bargain?

I think it’s for one reason and one reason alone: racism. The social right wing believes that all the social and government investment programs primarily help minorities, whom many still hate or fear, even if they currently tend to mask these emotions with the kind of code language proliferated by the new sophisticated breed of race-baiters such as Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. They tend to like the benefits they receive, such as social security and Medicare, but demonize other government benefits such as food stamps by incorrectly putting a black or immigrant face on them. 

The economic right wing has been spewing its laissez faire economics and economic Darwinism since the Gilded Age of the middle of the 19th century. But uneducated urban and rural whites began to listen to and agree with the economic far right only when government benefits were opened to African-Americans (and women) in the 1960’s. Goldwater was considered a dangerous extremist figure. A mere 16 years later, years of civil rights strides, Ronald Reagan defeated an incumbent president with the support of the angry white working class and the then incipient evangelical movement.

Is it worth it to social conservatives to allow their allies to perpetrate a financial rape on 99% of the population of the country? Do they think of it as a purifying scourge of extreme poverty and hardship, as the wealthy continue to collect and hoard money thanks to low taxes, little government wealth redistribution, privatization and wage policies that suppress the income of most?  Instead of dragging heavy chains, wearing scratching barbed clothing and carrying heavy crosses as in late medieval times, maybe the Christian right wants our society and most of the people in it to just gradually get poorer and poorer, while the plutocrats bid up the prices of fine art and baseball cards.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The real definition of legitimate rape: if a woman says “no”

By Marc Jampole

I’m not sure what Missouri Republican candidate to the U.S. Senate Todd Akin and other social conservatives mean by the term “legitimate rape.”

When considering new terms or idiomatic expressions, the Urban Dictionary issometimes useful. It just came out with a definition of legitimate rape: “Rape between one man and one woman who are not married or even acquainted; the only rape sanctioned by the Republican Party.” Since the Urban Dictionary uses crowd sourcing, that may not be the precise definition or exactly what social conservatives mean.

According to Katie J. M. Baker, who traces the history of this obnoxious concept, social conservatives have believed for many years that it’s almost impossible for a woman to get pregnant from a “legitimate rape,” because the body produces secretions that suppress pregnancy when a woman is so violated.  This absurd theory of course enables them to oppose abortion in all cases, since, by implication, if a woman gets pregnant it couldn’t be “legitimate rape.”

Abortion politics and false science aside, I have my own definition of legitimate rape that I hope becomes widely used.

Legitimate rape is when a woman says “no.” One time.

If she has said “yes” 50 times before during the evening, but says “no” one time, it’s a legitimate rape (unless the people involved have explicitly agreed to some kinky role-playing).

If the man—husband, fiancé or whatever—who wants to penetrate her has done so a thousand times in the past and she says “no,” it’s legitimate rape.

If a woman of her own free will and not under the influence of foreign substances has decided to have sex with 8 men in a row, with the other males watching while she is engaged with each man (what is crudely called a “gang bang” or “pulling the chain”) and she has completed her business with 7 of the men and the 8th is about to take his turn and she changes her mind and says “no” and he continues, it’s legitimate rape.

Marital status doesn’t matter. A prior or ongoing relationship doesn’t matter. The fact that the woman in question has had many lovers doesn’t matter. The fact that the woman has engaged in heavy erotic teasing with the perpetrator doesn’t matter.

The only thing that matters is if a woman indicates that she does not want to engage in intercourse.  If she says “no,” it’s rape.

If you want to add the word “legitimate,” fine.

But “no” means “no.”

That police departments, prosecutors, judges, juries, frat boys and social conservatives don’t always see it that way is a continuing travesty of justice and makes a mockery of our concepts of freedom and free will.