Wednesday, May 4, 2016

America now has clear choice: the competent, experienced Hillary Clinton or a failed developer turned reality show celebrity

By Marc Jampole

The American people now have a clear choice for their next president. Do we select someone who is knowledgeable and informed about every issue or someone who knows nothing about many important domestic and foreign issues?

Do we want someone whose campaign is built around facts and the issues or someone whose campaign is built around insults and boasts?

Someone whom PolitiFact considered the most truthful of all the candidates or someone who lies in every speech and even vilely stooped to telling the odious lie that he knew a child who got autism from a vaccination?

Someone who has remained calm and restrained in the face of 25 years’ worth of false accusations or someone prone to fly off the handle and make outrageous statements?

Someone who has always stressed inclusiveness and spent decades working on behalf of minorities or someone who has fomented hate against immigrants and minorities?

Someone who has admitted when subsequent events or facts proved her wrong or someone who digs in and refuses to admit he’s been wrong or even made an inaccurate statement?

Someone who has spent decades working for the rights of women, or someone who constantly denigrates women and evaluates them solely on their sexual charms?

Someone who showed her commitment to traditional marriage by working things out with a philandering husband or someone who twice had public affairs while still married?

Do we want someone from the upper middle class who represents the American ideal of meritocracy by working hard and succeeding in every position she has had or someone who was born into wealth and by some accounts did worse in his business dealings than he would have passively investing the hundreds of millions he inherited? Someone who has always been a success or someone who sent three companies into bankruptcy, making money while investors lost millions?

Do we want someone whom virtually every foreign leader knows and respects or someone foreign governments fear as an irrational hothead and despise because of his insulting statements about Muslims and Hispanics?

As these comparisons of the character and experience of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump demonstrated, even people who believe that Hillary Clinton is too left wing or too right wing have plenty of reasons to vote for her.

Donald Trump is at best a narcissistic blowhard and at worst a deranged, self-centered lunatic. In either case, he is masterful at public relations and self-promotion, prone to lying, and inconsistent about his position on the issues—except for his odious stands on immigrants and his insistence with every other Republican candidate that we need to lower taxes even more on the wealthy. That many leaders in the Republican Party are beginning to embrace him instead of talking about running a third-party candidate only further solidifies the notion that they believe that the president doesn’t matter much, as long as he (or she, giving the GOP the benefit of the doubt) supports tax breaks for the wealthy and hates unions. After all, they have rallied behind an actor and liar before, although Ronald Reagan had at least been an ultra rightest for years and also had experience serving as head of a union and governor of a large state. Republicans who are lining up behind Trump believe that doing so they have the best chance of keeping control of the House and Senate and maintaining their dominance of state government. That belief may prove to be as wacky as Trump’s notion that one could round up 11 million people and ship them out of the country.

The Republicans share blame with the right wing media for getting the public used to believing lies and fantastical notions. The mass media also deserves criticism for creating the grounds for Donald Trump, as they have steadily turned elections into celebrity contests and reality shows by their focus on personalities, the race itself and miscues, and their inability or unwillingness to expose candidates and elected officials who lie about such matters as tax policy, the effectiveness of government programs, global warming, abortion, gun safety, unions and foreign policy. The Republicans also fomented the anger of those hurt worst by their policies and deflected that anger to minorities and our African-American president. It is those voters who are flocking to Donald Trump—along with the hardcore nativists and racists who have always made up about 10-15% of the population. Now the GOP is stuck with a demagogic, self-centered con man with barely controllable urges and a strong authoritarian streak.

But making certain that Donald Trump does not seize power is only the second best reason to vote for Hillary Clinton.

The best reason is that she is a competent and caring liberal who knows how to get things done. Given a majority in the Senate and the House—a very possible outcome if we get a large voter turnout in November—I believe that she will build on Barack Obama’s start in bringing the country back from the excesses of Reaganism. More about that in a few days. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Editorial: Renew the Deal

Bernie Sanders has come a long way since he announced his plan to seek the Democratic nomination for president on the Capitol lawn on April 30, 2015. The Washington Post called him “an ex-hippie, septuagenarian socialist from the liberal reaches of Vermont who rails, in his thick Brooklyn accent, rumpled suit and frizzy pile of white hair, against the ‘billionaire class’ taking over the country.”

The consensus of the Washington pundit class at that time was that Sanders would be, at most, a speed bump for the Hillary Clinton juggernaut. The self-styled “democratic socialist” had been mayor of Burlington, Vt., then served 16 years in the House before he was elected to the Senate in 2006.

Sanders, who remained independent but caucused with the Dems, was not well-known.
Sanders has been criticized for running a progressive populist campaign that focused on economic issues such as income and wealth inequality, raising the minimum wage, pushing for universal healthcare, reducing the burden of student debt, making public colleges and universities tuition-free by taxing financial transactions, and expanding Social Security benefits by eliminating the cap on the payroll tax on income above $250,000. He also opposes most “free trade” agreements that move manufacturing jobs overseas and he supports legislation that would make it easier for workers to join or form labor unions. And he identified climate change as a national security issue.

Sanders struck a chord. His campaign raised $1.5 million from 35,000 donors in the first day after his announcement. Through March 2016, he had raised $182.2 million from more than seven million individual donations, as he rejected super PAC assistance. Clinton had raised $182.2 million for her own campaign, but she also raised money for the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee with the Democratic National Committee and state parties, and she has super PACs working independently on her behalf.

Sanders admires Scandinavian social democracy but in a speech at Georgetown University last November, he traced democratic socialism back through President Lyndon B. Johnson to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who used government power to create jobs and lift Americans out of poverty. “I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a decent standard of living and that their incomes should go up, not down.” Sanders said. “I do believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America, companies that create jobs here, rather than companies that are shutting down in America and increasing their profits by exploiting low-wage labor abroad.”

Sanders is basically a New Dealer and his success in the Democratic primaries shows there is still a groundswell of support for progressive populist democracy in the United States. While Sanders faces diminishing chances of catching up with Clinton for the nomination after the Atlantic primaries on April 26, he should continue his campaign to complete the unfinished business of the New Deal.

As the US struggled to break out of the Great Depression in 1932, Roosevelt committed to government guarantees of social and economic rights for the working class. In a speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Sept. 23, 1932, he sketched what would become the New Deal to put millions of Americans back to work.

In a key passage, FDR said, “As I see it, the task of government in its relation to business is to assist the development of an economic declaration of rights, an economic constitutional order. This is the common task of statesman and business man. It is the minimum requirement of a more permanently safe order of things.”

In his State of the Union speech to Congress Jan. 8, 1941, as the US watched the aggression of Axis nations in Europe and Asia, Roosevelt proposed four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world ought to enjoy.” They included freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

In what would be his last State of the Union speech on Jan. 11, 1944, with US military forces leading the Allied momentum against Germany and Japan, Roosevelt proposed a second Bill of Rights, an “Economic Bill of Rights,” which built upon the “Four Freedoms.”

“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made,” he said..

“In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all — regardless of station, race, or creed.”

“Among those are:

“The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

“The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

“The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

“The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

“The right of every family to a decent home;

“The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

“The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

“The right to a good education.

“All of these rights spell security,” he said. “And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

“America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

So, if anything, Sanders is in the mainstream of the New Deal spirit that dominated American politics until the right-wing coalition under Ronald Reagan set about to dismantle the government programs that assisted working families and small businesses.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the right’s attitude toward higher education. After World War II, university tuition was practically free in California and New York and tuition was low enough in most states — the average tuition at a four-year public university in 1965 was just $243, the Sanders campaign noted — that a student could work their way through college with summer jobs at minimum wage.

Reagan, who supported FDR when he was an actor, became a leader in the fight to turn back the New Deal in the 1960s. He attacked state support for higher education, first as governor of California, where he imposed tuition at California universities, and later as president, where he targeted higher education funding and ended up cutting Pell grants and excluded middle-class students from the program. He limited the grants to lower-income families, which made it easier for Congress to cut the program further. Reagan also cut low-interest student loans and restricted eligibility for them. He phased out Social Security survivors’ education benefits, which provided one-fifth of student aid in 1981. Republicans at the state level also reduced their commitment to keeping higher education affordable for the working class, and tuition and other college fees skyrocketed.

If Hillary Clinton wants to win over Sanders’ supporters, particularly his young supporters, and parents who are trying to help their children get a college education, she should discover her inner Roosevelt and adopt Sanders’ progressive populist position on restoring federal assistance for college students at all levels and helping graduates pay off their college debts.

Both Clinton and Sanders should compete over who can finally implement FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights. Dems should force Republicans to answer for making higher education unaffordable for many Americans. Give working people something to vote for. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2016

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Selections from the May 15, 2016 issue

COVER/Ari Rabin-Havt
GOP plan: Lie big, and never back down 

Renew the Deal


From lab bench to copy desk

RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
Clean water regs flow from feds

Trump U fraud case could go to trial this fall;
Former Sanders staffers seek to change Congress;
Va. gov. restores ex cons’ rights;
N.C. voter suppression law could swing election;
Two-thirds of Kansas voter registrations held back;
Fast food industry skirts labor law with state assists;
Climate change emerges as wedge issue;
Maine gov. says drug users should die;
Colorado GOP loses top Senate challenger;
Kansas gov. justifies kicking 15,000 off food stamps;
Mo. Legislature rejects $8.3M Medicaid funds in war against Planned Parenthood;
FCC moves on Cahter-Time Warner-Bridge House cable merger;
50 donors provide 41% of super PAC money;
Obamacare has been effective, studies say ...

That ‘natural’ label doesn’t mean much

Terrorist down the block

Pols ignore working class at their peril

Missing the Socialist moment

Hey Columbus: Stop, look and listen

A call to action for people and the planet

Media, pols, economists admit they were wrong

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
A memo to the 47%

NY primary not as much fun as we hoped

Corporate America’s judicial firewall

Superpredators revisited

Liberals are the future

National gun fetish is double-barrel menace

Alt work grows in US

MOVIES/Ed Rampell
Sketches of pain: Miles High

21st Annual political animal awards

and more ...