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“It’s Working”: The Ultimate Reason To Support Resolution Authorizing Use of Military Force To Stop Chemical Weapons In Syria

The ultimate reason to support the Congressional resolution to authorize the use of military force to stop chemical weapons use in Syria is clear: it’s working.

Over a year ago, the U.S. proposed that Syria turn over its chemical weapons for destruction by the international community and join the chemical weapons treaty that bans their possession or use. Syria refused, and Russia refused to demand that it do so.

Today they have both said yes. There is only one reason. They hope to stop the use of military force that President Obama has proposed to degrade their ability to deliver these weapons — and make the regime pay a price for the indiscriminate slaughter of 1,400 adults and children using chemical weapons containing poison sarin gas.

Many of my fellow Progressives — who like me were strong opponents of the Iraq War — support President Obama’s request for Congressional authorization to use force to sanction chemical weapons use in Syria and deter its future use. They include Congressman Keith Ellison, the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; former anti-war presidential candidate Howard Dean, progressive columnists E.J. Dionne and Gene Robinson; and of course former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But for those who do not want to see the use of military force in Syria, the best thing they can do to assure that the military action is not needed is to support the Congressional resolution authorizing the president to use military force if necessary. That is the absolute best way to make certain the Syrian regime actually gives up its chemical weapons once and for all — and that there is no need for the U.S. to take military action to force Assad to comply.

As the President argued last night, we need to make certain that the Russians and Syrians are absolutely convinced that if they do not make good on their new promise to turn over Syrian chemical weapons, military action will ensue — it’s that simple.

Three additional arguments have been used over the last few days that need to be addressed:

1). Some have argued that it is never justified to use force to counter malicious use of violence.

There are some Progressives who are truly pacifists — who feel that the use of force and violence is never justified.

I respect the convictions of those who hold pacifist views, but I do not agree with them.

When Governor Orville Faubus of Arkansas refused to allow the integration of the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1954, it would have been easier for the rest of America to simply shake our collective fingers and decry racism. It would have also been more popular. Instead the federal government sent troops from the National Guard to enforce the desegregation order with the threat of force.

Sometimes the threat — or actual use — of force is necessary — especially to prevent violence.

That’s why we empower police departments with the ability to use the force of arms when necessary to prevent violent acts.

2). Some politicians worry that supporting the President’s proposal is simply too unpopular. They should remember that polls showed the public opposed the possible bombing campaign in 1999 that was aimed at protecting Kosovars from ethnic cleansing as well. A Gallup poll in February 1999 showed that 45 percent of the public opposed the proposed bombing compared with only 43 percent who supported it.

After the campaign was successful at achieving its goals, that opposition turned into public support, and the issue played very little role in the November 2000 Congressional elections.

3). Some opponents say simply, the use of poison gas in Syria is just not our problem. Let someone else worry about it, they say.

In fact, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. If the use of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction can occur with impunity any where on our small planet, they will be used more and more frequently in military conflicts. And if they are, they pose a massive danger for human beings everywhere.

If Assad can get away with using these weapons with impunity, that will ultimately endanger us all.

But assume for a moment it were possible to isolate their use, so that it would never impact those of us thousands of miles away from the streets of suburban Damascus. Can we just ignore the suffering of those who are its victims?

There was another story about another middle eastern road – the road to Jericho – where the hero of the tale did not ignore an injured foreigner who lay suffering by the roadside. That of course was the story of the Good Samaritan – the quintessential story that is at the center of the Christian New Testament. It was the story Jesus used to explain what it meant to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Can we sit by and ignore the cries of people in foreign lands who are slaughtered in Rwanda, or ethnically cleansed in Kosovo, or gassed by the Nazis? I don’t think so. And sometimes getting involved is not always clean and sterile. Sometimes it is messy and inconvenient and difficult.

By: Robert Creamer, The Huffington Post Blog, September 11, 2013

September 12, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Syria | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Today’s Conventional Wisdom”: It’s Not The Left That’s Changed, It’s The Economy

Have American liberals moved too far to the left? That’s long been the contention of conservatives contemplating liberal positions on a host of social issues, such as gay marriage and the legalization of undocumented immigrants. But opinion polls on these issues show that yesterday’s far-out liberal positions are quickly becoming today’s conventional wisdom.

A more nuanced conservative critique focuses on liberals’ support for a greater government role in the economy. To be sure, New York Times columnist David Brooks argued in a recent column, liberals have traditionally urged government to take up the slack in economic activity during recessions, but now, as the budget proposal of the Congressional Progressive Caucus shows, liberals believe that “government is the source of growth, job creation and prosperity” even when the economy has righted itself. The progressives’ budget, Brooks complains, proposes spending $450 billion on public works and sending $179 billion to the states so they, too, can provide more services and pave more roads. All this and more would be financed by increases in progressive taxation — draining the private sector of the capital it needs to grow, hire and produce prosperity.

Not surprisingly, liberal economists have jumped on Brooks’s arguments. Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute argues that the economy is still performing so under par — $985 billion below its potential output if all our factories were going full tilt — that it needs a major boost from government-financed economic activity to increase production, employment and consumption. Coincidentally, the day after Brooks’s column was published, Gallup released a poll showing that 72 percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, would support a major federally financed infrastructure repair program and a federal program creating 1 million jobs. Nearly 80 years after Franklin Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration, it seems the American people would like the government to re-create it.

But there’s a bigger problem with the conservative contention that government stands athwart the private sector’s capacity to create jobs and prosperity: It fails to acknowledge that the private sector no longer creates jobs and prosperity like it used to, completely apart from whatever effects governmental policy may have on job creation. Entirely on their own and well before Obamacare was a gleam in anyone’s eye, employers began cutting back or altogether dropping health coverage and retirement benefits for employees. Nor have government regulations compelled employers to increase the share of company revenue going to profits (which is at its highest level in decades) and reduce the share going to wages (which is at its lowest level in decades).

The U.S. corporations that make up the Standard & Poor’s index of the 500 largest publicly traded companies get almost half their revenue from sales abroad, according to a 2011 S&P analysis, and, despite all the hoopla about bringing manufacturing back to the States, much of their production is going to remain abroad. The rise of machines has, we all know, taken its toll on employment too. U.S. corporations are sitting on $1.7 trillion in cash, with share values and profits that render most of these businesses’ leaders happy campers. Even if the U.S. economy continues to fall far short of full employment, and even if the rate of workforce participation continues to decline, these businesses can still sell their products all over the world. Unlike in the 1930s, the shortfall in domestic consumption does not present them with a crisis but with perhaps nothing worse than a missed opportunity.

In short, the economy is working for our economic elites. The massive changes they would have to make to investment strategies and the division of corporate revenue so that the economy worked for the majority of the American people are nowhere on the horizon. The great growth machine that once was the U.S. private sector ain’t what it used to be — which is one reason each recession since 1990 has been longer, deeper and more in­trac­table than the last. That’s the new economic reality in this country, and that’s what the budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus responds to. It’s not that liberals have been prompted to move leftward through the readings of ancient socialist gospels or by smoking some stash left over from the ’60s. It’s that the economy has reached a dismal stability far short of its full employment potential or renewing the promise of widespread prosperity, and government investment is required to make up the difference. If anyone is smoking something, it is conservatives who foresee a rebirth of prosperity if only the private sector is left alone.

 

By: Harold Meyerson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 21, 2013

March 23, 2013 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Economy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“After The Flimflam”: Little By little, Washington’s Fog Of Fiscal Austerity Seems To Be Lifting

It has been a big week for budget documents. In fact, members of Congress have presented not one but two full-fledged, serious proposals for spending and taxes over the next decade.

Before I get to that, however, let me talk briefly about the third proposal presented this week — the one that isn’t serious, that’s essentially a cruel joke.

Way back in 2010, when everybody in Washington seemed determined to anoint Representative Paul Ryan as the ultimate Serious, Honest Conservative, I pronounced him a flimflam man. Even then, his proposals were obviously fraudulent: huge cuts in aid to the poor, but even bigger tax cuts for the rich, with all the assertions of fiscal responsibility resting on claims that he would raise trillions of dollars by closing tax loopholes (which he refused to specify) and cutting discretionary spending (in ways he refused to specify).

Since then, his budgets have gotten even flimflammier. For example, at this point, Mr. Ryan is claiming that he can slash the top tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent, yet somehow raise 19.1 percent of G.D.P. in revenues — a number we haven’t come close to seeing since the dot-com bubble burst a dozen years ago.

The good news is that Mr. Ryan’s thoroughly unconvincing policy-wonk act seems, finally, to have worn out its welcome. In 2011, his budget was initially treated with worshipful respect, which faded only slightly as critics pointed out the document’s many absurdities. This time around, quite a few pundits and reporters have greeted his release with the derision it deserves.

And, with that, let’s turn to the serious proposals.

Unless you’re a very careful news reader, you’ve probably heard about only one of these proposals, the one released by Senate Democrats. And let’s be clear: By comparison with the Ryan plan, and for that matter with a lot of what passes for wisdom in our nation’s capital, this is a very reasonable plan indeed.

As many observers have pointed out, the Senate Democratic plan is conservative with a small “c”: It avoids any drastic policy changes. In particular, it steers away from draconian austerity, which is simply not needed given ultralow U.S. borrowing costs and relatively benign medium-term fiscal projections.

True, the Senate plan calls for further deficit reduction, through a mix of modest tax increases and spending cuts. (Incidentally, the tax increases still fall well short of those called for in the Bowles-Simpson plan, which Washington, for some reason, treats as something close to holy scripture.) But it avoids large short-run spending cuts, which would hobble our recovery at a time when unemployment is still disastrously high, and it even includes a modest amount of stimulus spending.

So we could definitely do worse than the Senate Democratic plan, and we probably will. It is, however, an extremely cautious proposal, one that doesn’t follow through on its own analysis. After all, if sharp spending cuts are a bad thing in a depressed economy — which they are — then the plan really should be calling for substantial though temporary spending increases. It doesn’t.

But there’s a plan that does: the proposal from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, titled “Back to Work,” which calls for substantial new spending now, temporarily widening the deficit, offset by major deficit reduction later in the next decade, largely though not entirely through higher taxes on the wealthy, corporations and pollution.

I’ve seen some people describe the caucus proposal as a “Ryan plan of the left,” but that’s unfair. There are no Ryan-style magic asterisks, trillion-dollar savings that are assumed to come from unspecified sources; this is an honest proposal. And “Back to Work” rests on solid macroeconomic analysis, not the fantasy “expansionary austerity” economics — the claim that slashing spending in a depressed economy somehow promotes job growth rather than deepening the depression — that Mr. Ryan continues to espouse despite the doctrine’s total failure in Europe.

No, the only thing the progressive caucus and Mr. Ryan share is audacity. And it’s refreshing to see someone break with the usual Washington notion that political “courage” means proposing that we hurt the poor while sparing the rich. No doubt the caucus plan is too audacious to have any chance of becoming law; but the same can be said of the Ryan plan.

So where is this all going? Realistically, we aren’t likely to get a Grand Bargain any time soon. Nonetheless, my sense is that there is some real movement here, and it’s in a direction conservatives won’t like.

As I said, Mr. Ryan’s efforts are finally starting to get the derision they deserve, while progressives seem, at long last, to be finding their voice. Little by little, Washington’s fog of fiscal flimflam seems to be lifting.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 14, 2013

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Budget | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Special Kind Of Poison”: Over The Top Republican Rhetoric

Not all overheated political rhetoric is alike. Delusional right-wing crazy talk — the kind of ranting we’ve heard recently from washed-up rock star Ted Nugent and Tea Party-backed Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) — is a special kind of poison that cannot be safely ignored.

Let me be clear: I’m saying that the extreme language we hear from the far right is qualitatively different from the extreme language we hear from the far left — and far more damaging to the ties that bind us as a nation. Tut-tutting that both sides should tone it down is meaningless. For all intents and purposes, one side is the problem.

Believe me, I would prefer not to dignify the ravings of Nugent or West by commenting on them. Nugent seems to be motivated by paranoia; West, perhaps by cynical calculation. It would be satisfying to withhold the attention they seek, but this is not an option. The only effective way to deal with bullies is to confront them.

Nugent, who delivered his foaming-at-the-mouth peroration at a National Rifle Association convention, earned a visit from the Secret Service with his promise that “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

That might or might not constitute an actual threat to the president of the United States. More chilling, to me, was the way his audience of gun enthusiasts applauded in agreement as Nugent compared the Obama administration to a bunch of “coyotes in your living room” who deserve to be shot. Nugent ended by exhorting his listeners: “We are Braveheart. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Am I — any questions?”

No, I think he made himself quite clear.

Violent metaphors aside, the nub of Nugent’s argument — and I use the word advisedly — was this: “If you can’t go home and get everybody in your lives to clean house in this vile, evil, America-hating administration, I don’t even know what you’re made of.”

Vile? Evil? America-hating? Nugent doesn’t just characterize those with different political views as misguided or wrong. He seeks to paint them as alien and anti-American — as enemies of this nation, rather than citizens with whom he disagrees. In a subsequent interview, Nugent called Nancy Pelosi a “sub-human scoundrel” and referred to liberals as cockroaches to “stomp” in November.

This is what distinguishes the flame-throwers of the far right from those of the far left. Nugent and his ilk seek to deny their political opponents the very right to believe in a different philosophy. Agree with me, he says, or be stomped.

It would be one thing if this sort of vicious intolerance came only from aging rockers whose brains may have been scrambled by all those high-decibel performances. But it comes, too, from an elected member of the House of Representatives.

At a town hall meeting last week in Palm City, Fla., West was asked how many Marxists there are in Congress. He replied, “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party who are members of the Communist Party.” That is, of course, a bald-faced lie. There are no communists in Congress. What makes the lie even worse is West’s subsequent declaration that he stands by his words because he was referring to the 80-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, which West considers a branch of the Comin­tern.

“There is a very thin line between communism, progressivism, Marxism, socialism,” West claimed this week. “It’s about nationalizing production. It’s about creating and expanding the welfare state. It’s about this idea of social and economic justice. You hear that being played out now with fairness, fair share, economic equality.”

West can’t really believe this nonsense. What he’s trying to do is delegitimize the entire stream of progressive thought that has run wide and deep through American history since the nation’s founding. Disagree with his views, West insists, and you’re not just a political opponent, you’re a godless Marxist.

There is no symmetry here. The far left may hurl insults at the right but doesn’t scream “fascism” whenever a Republican proposes privatizing Medicare.

So this is what I want to know: Mitt Romney, do you agree with your prominent endorser Ted Nugent that the Obama administration is evil and hates America? House Speaker John Boehner, do you agree with your star freshman West that “78 to 81” of your colleagues are card-carrying communists?

Speak up, gentlemen; I didn’t hear you.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 19, 2012

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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