According to a recent study by the University of California, 93% of income growth since the economic collapse of 2008 has gone to the wealthiest 1% of American households. Just 20 years ago, the amount of national income growth earned by the top 1% was less than half that.
So, if you are a right wing movement and not even you can justify concentrated economic and political power like that, what do you do? Well, you produce a video that celebrates “freedom” and shakes its fists at “tyranny” and you hope that the gullible will think the plutocratic takeover of our country is as American as apple pie.
The video is called “We the People” and it looks like it’s gone viral on the Right, collecting more than six million hits. I saw it because a friend of my wife’s thought it was just great and was sure we would too. Guess she didn’t get the memo!
The video is organized like an open letter to President Obama and its tone is a perfect replication of the gauzy, abstract vernacular of Fox News.
As the narrator informs President Obama, We The People “have stated resolutely we reject your vision for our country.” We The People “have assembled across America resisting your efforts to subvert our constitution and undermine our liberty.”
The video is filled with the sort of Americana that appeals to Sarah Palin’s right wing “real Americans.” As the Battle Hymn of the Republic plays in the background, scenes of Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, a saluting Marine, an Apache attack helicopter, the Preamble to the Constitution, American flags, American flags, American flags and more American flags fill the screen. Even a Bald Eagle makes a guest appearance.
The video claims to speak for We the People but its voice is boilerplate Tea Party Republican: “Our greatest treasure is freedom;” “We believe in the power of the individual;” “Freedom is the capacity of self-determination.”
There are also the Thomas Jefferson-like “long train of abuses” hurled at the President: “you have expanded government, violated our Constitution, confounded laws, seized private industry, destroyed jobs, perverted our economy, curtailed free speech, corrupted our currency, weakened our national security, and endangered our sovereignty.”
And this is why, the video’s producers say, “we” are assembling all across this land, so that “we” can deliver “our” message that: “We will not accept tyranny under any guise;” that the redistribution of “the fruits of our labor is Statism and will not be tolerated;” that “We The People will defend our liberty;” and that “we will protect our beloved country and America’s exceptionalism will prevail.”
At first I thought “We the People” was the kind of parody Saturday Night Live might do as a spoof of right wing propaganda. Even its title was laughhable – “We the People” – as if the 70% of We the People don’t exist who think Democrats are right and Republicans are wrong when it comes to such key questions as whether to tax the rich more, to eliminate subsidies for oil companies or to preserve America’s endangered safety net.
But, at the end of the day, it is also disheartening to see how easy it is for the hard work of raising the level of understanding and debate in this country to all go to waste as vacuous, dishonest, manipulative and utterly content-free propaganda like this is produced to bamboozle even very smart people like those who sent us this insulting piece of reactionary performance art.
Then again, given recent experience, why should we be surprised that so many seem impervious to facts and reason or who now see politics as nothing more than brute force and war — a take-no-prisoners, law of the jungle scramble for survival of the fittest?
But I did like the Bald Eagles.
By: Ted Frier, Open Salon, March 31, 2012
Writing in Salon, Natasha Lennard proposes that with the warm weather we can again expect the Occupy movement to shoot up. Arab Spring, American Spring. She’s right about one thing: Like in the decades before the Arab Spring, it has been a long, cold, American winter. In the 30 years since coming to power here, Republicans have used their initial ascent to power to seal themselves into office as tightly as the pharaohs. Smart commentators have noted how lawless the conservatives are in making substantive decisions, but that’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is how they use their tenure to make it increasingly impossible to oust them.
With this week’s Supreme Court hearings — which will end, liberals worry, with the justices overturning healthcare reform — we are nearing the apotheosis of conservative power. Let us recount how we got here: In 2000, a mob of conservative thugs stopped the vote recount in Florida. And that was before the court got involved, the five conservative justices seizing the election and handing the White House to George W. Bush. Secure in the tenure of their undemocratically selected president, the two older conservative justices, William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor, retired from the bench. Bush replaced them with two young conservatives, destined, by constitutional design and the miracles of modern medicine, to dominate the court into the foreseeable future. At the Supreme Court, it’s always winter (and never Christmas).
The stunningly inept performance by the Bush administration unforeseeably produced the first Democratic federal government since 1994. Immediately thereafter, the conservative Supreme Court majority ruled that the GOP’s wealthy sponsors could spend an unlimited amount of the money putting conservatives in office. Now, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, appointed, in part, by the conservative president they put in the White House, is preparing to wipe from the statute books the only piece of meaningful progressive legislation in the last half century, passed during the brief Indian summer of a two-year Democratic majority.
And it’s not just the federal government. In 2010, fueled, in part, by the money the conservative justices unleashed, the conservatives took over state legislatures across the country. In power, they enacted a series of measures that should make Hosni Mubarak blush. They redrew the legislative maps to guarantee that they would hold a majority of the legislatures, state and federal, regardless of whether they failed to gain a majority of actual votes. (The design of the Senate, favoring sparsely populated rural states, already way overrepresents the Republicans.) Using a panoply of legislative strategies, they made it infinitely harder for the Democrats to register their supporters and for the Democratic voters, even if registered, to vote. Voters must be reported within 24 hours of being registered or penalties will be levied on the laggard registrars. Would-be voters must produce a fistful of identity documents, notoriously more common among old white (Republican) voters than the youthful and nonwhite Americans likely to support the Democrats. If they run the registration gauntlet, they must again verify their identity on Election Day, with the same culturally skewed set of papers. In the swing state of Florida, the New York Times reports, the activists have given up registering new voters: Too perilous.
True, the Democrats have not been models of political virtue. Cowardly when confronted by their powerful adversaries, confused about the moral grounding of their political vision, faithless to their allies, racketing from one trendy policy initiative to another, without anything resembling long-term planning — with enemies like the Democrats, who needs friends? But blaming the victim is way too easy. Democrats made the mistake of behaving as if the American rules of representative government still applied. Confronted with the lawless conservative Republicans, their fate was sealed.
By: Linda Hirshman, Salon, March 31, 2012
“Grounding Of A Romulan”: Federal Judge Strikes Down Part Of Scott Walker’s Anti-Collective Bargaining Law
A Wisconsin federal district court judge has ruled that some key elements of Wisconsin’s Act 10—Governor Scott Walker’s anti-collective bargaining law—violates the equal protection rights of affected state employee unions.
The ruling extends to the law’s prohibition of automatic dues collecting and the requirement that the affected unions hold annual recertification elections requiring a majority of the union’s workforce members.
At the heart of the court’s ruling is the exemption Scott Walker gave to police and firefighter unions who remain free to automatically collect membership dues and require no annual recertification vote.
Walker has long claimed that these unions were given special treatment because the state could not afford a strike or any disruption of the critical services provided by police and firefighters as a result of being saddled with the restrictions placed on the general service unions.
The remaining unions have never bought the explanation, believing that the exemption was payback for the support given to Walker’s candidacy by the police and firefighters. Clearly, Federal District Judge William Conley agreed, writing in his ruling published today,
The fact that none (emphasis provided by the Judge) of the public employee unions falling into the general category endorsed Walker in the 2010 election and that all (emphasis provided by the Judge) of the unions that endorsed Walker fall within the public safety category certainly suggests that unions representing general employees have different viewpoints than those of the unions representing public safety employees. Moreover, Supreme Court jurisprudence and the evidence of record strongly suggests that the exemption of those unions from Act 10’s prohibition on automatic dues deductions enhances the ability of unions representing public safety employees to continue to support this Governor and his party.
Acting on the ruling, the Court issued an injunction allowing all of the state’s public employee unions to begin the automatic collection of member dues and striking the requirement that they recertify each and every year.
In a statement on the ruling, Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman, Mike Tate, said;
Scott Walker’s so-called budget repair bill has been divisive, unfair, radical and offensive to the values of Wisconsin. Now it’s been found to be offensive to the Constitution. Wisconsin deserved better than this bill, just as it deserves better than Scott Walker.
Governor Scott Walker is facing recall on June 5th.
By: Rick Ungar, Contributing Writer, The Policy Page, Forbes, March 30, 2012
Our topic today is picking the worst new trend of the political season.
Not including putting the dog on the car roof.
I was thinking more along the lines of candidates who twitter. Or robo-calls from Donald Trump. Or candidates who build home additions with car elevators.
Or “super PACs” funded by billionaires who appear so demented you cannot figure out how in the world they got to be so rich. Actually, the super PACs are the worst trend, hands down.
But since I still have some space here, let me throw in a plug for the terribleness of the idea of Americans Elect.
Perhaps you have not yet focused on Americans Elect. It’s a new-generation political movement that aims to rise above the petty forces of partisan bickering and choose a presidential candidate, along with a running mate from a different party, at an online convention in June.
As a reward, the winning team will receive a presidential ballot line in every state, along with some very cool online technology with which to run their campaign. It’s similar to “Project Runway” except for the most-powerful-job-on-the-globe part.
“This is about change. This is about disruption for good,” said Sarah Malm, Americans Elect’s chief communications officer.
Nobody who has been paying attention for the last several months could possibly object to the idea of disruption. Really, I’d be tempted to throw Americans Elect a vote just to get rid of the Iowa caucuses.
But it’s too dangerous. History suggests that this election could be decided by a small number of votes in a few closely contested states. You do not want it to turn on a bunch of citizens who decide to express their purity of heart by tossing a vote to Fred Website.
Plus, the whole Americans Elect concept is delusional, in a deeply flattering way: We the people are good and pure, and if only we were allowed to just pick the best person, everything else would fall into place. And, of course, the best person cannot be the choice of one of the parties, since the parties are … the problem.
“The process has become so toxic and ugly that people don’t even come to the game. We want to open up space for people to come,” said Kahlil Byrd, the chief executive officer of Americans Elect. The group’s leadership seems to be a mix of technology people, financial industry people, and political moderates like Christine Todd Whitman. After trying to run the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush, you can see why Whitman would be looking for a soothing spot to curl up in.
So far, the greatest achievement by Americans Elect seems to be smashing the fantasy that there are all sorts of people out there who would make great presidents if only the parties didn’t stand in the way. The most popular names in the mix are Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman Jr. and Buddy Roemer, the former governor of Louisiana whose candidacy was so deeply unsuccessful that he couldn’t even qualify for the debates.
Roemer, the only one of the trio who actually has expressed interest in being the nominee, now appears to be running on a platform that centers on opening up future debates to Buddy Roemer.
Malm thinks other people will raise their hand as the nominating convention gets closer. “We have ballot access,” she said. “Having ballot access is too much of a jewel for someone serious not to try to make the run.”
Getting a presidential ballot line in 50 states is really, really difficult. To do so, Americans Elect has already collected nearly 2.5 million signatures around the country, using the deeply American tactic of paying people to do it.
The source of the money is a little murky. Some names have been made public. Some haven’t. Byrd says that’s not a problem because “the candidates don’t know who the donors are and the donors don’t know who the candidate is going to be.”
If the Americans Elect candidate does make a big splash in November, we will have discovered yet another part of the presidential elections process that loopy billionaires could purchase out of their petty cash. Tired of financing right-wing contenders for the Republican nomination? Buy your own ballot line.
So that’s the down side. On the plus side, there is the opportunity to create a presidential nominee who will promise to bring us all together in a postpartisan Washington.
Which was exactly what Barack Obama said in 2008. You’ll remember how well that worked out.
The thing that makes our current politics particularly awful isn’t procedural. It’s that the Republican Party has become over-the-top extreme. You can try to fix that by working from within to groom a more sensible pack of future candidates, or from without by voting against the Republicans’ nominees until they agree to shape up.
Otherwise, no Web site in the world will cure what ails us.
By: Gail Collins, Op Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 30, 2012
In arguments before the Supreme Court this week, the Obama administration might have done just enough to keep the Affordable Care Act from being ruled unconstitutional. Those who believe in limited government had better hope so, at least.
If Obamacare is struck down, the short-term implications are uncertain. Conservatives may be buoyed by an election-year victory; progressives may be energized by a ruling that looks more political than substantive. The long-term consequences, however, are obvious: Sooner or later, a much more far-reaching overhaul of the health-care system will be inevitable.
To say the least, the three days of oral argument before the high court did not unfold the way many experts had expected. Confident predictions that the administration would prevail by a lopsided margin became inoperative as soon as the justices began pummeling Solicitor General Donald Verrilli with pointed questions.
At one point Wednesday, as the barrage was winding down, Chief Justice John Roberts told Verrilli he could have an extra 15 minutes to argue a point. Verrilli replied, “Lucky me.”
In the end, however, Verrilli gave the skeptical justices what they were looking for: a limiting principle that allows them, should they choose, to defer to Congress and uphold the law.
At the heart of the legislation is the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance or pay a fine. It became clear by their questioning that the court’s five conservatives — including Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote who sometimes crosses the ideological divide and votes with the liberals — see this mandate as a significant expansion of the federal government’s reach and authority.
Verrilli argued that the mandate is permissible under the clause of the Constitution giving the government the power to regulate interstate commerce. Justices demanded a limiting principle: Where does this authority end? If the government can compel a citizen to buy health insurance, why can’t it compel the purchase of other things?
Justice Antonin Scalia raised the specter of an all-powerful government that could even “make people buy broccoli” if it wished. Scalia’s mind seemed to be made up, but Kennedy seemed to be genuinely looking for a principle that permitted a health insurance mandate but not a broccoli mandate.
And Verrilli gave him one. The market for health insurance is inseparable from the market for health care, he argued, and every citizen is a consumer of health care. Those who choose not to buy health insurance require health care anyway — often expensive care at hospital emergency rooms — and these costs are borne by the rest of us in the form of higher premiums.
I think Verrilli made his case. The court is supposed to begin with the assumption that laws passed by Congress are constitutional. Justices don’t have to like the Affordable Care Act in order to decide that it should remain in effect. If some members of the court think they could do better, maybe they should quit and run for legislative office.
But it’s going to be a close call. What if they strike down the law?
The immediate impact will be the human toll. More than 30 million uninsured Americans who would have obtained coverage under Obamacare will be bereft. Other provisions of the law, such as forbidding insurance companies to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions and allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ policies, presumably would also be invalidated; if not, they would have to be modified to keep insurance rates from climbing sharply. The United States would remain the only wealthy industrialized country where getting sick can mean going bankrupt.
Eventually, however, our health-care system will be restructured. It has to be. The current fee-for-service paradigm, with doctors and hospitals being paid through for-profit insurance companies, is needlessly inefficient and ruinously expensive.
When people talk about out-of-control government spending, they’re really talking about rising medical costs that far outpace any conceivable rate of economic growth. The conservative solution — shift those costs to the consumer — is no solution at all.
Our only choice is to try to hold the costs down. President Obama tried to make a start with a modest approach that works through the current system. If this doesn’t pass constitutional muster, the obvious alternative is to emulate other industrialized nations that deliver equal or better health-care outcomes for half the cost.
I’m talking about a single-payer health-care system. If the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, a single-payer system will go from being politically impossible to being, in the long run, fiscally inevitable.
By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 29, 20122