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Eric Cantor Is A Hypocrite On Disaster Relief Spending

Buried in this Saturday’s Washington Post Metro section was  a short piece about the request from conservative Virginia Republican Gov.  Robert McDonnell for $39 million in federal disaster relief for his state.

This was an initial request for 22 localities in Virginia  hard hit  by Hurricane Irene. According  to the article, other local governments  can request more aid and, in addition,  McDonnell also asked for Hazard  Mitigation Assistance for all Virginia  localities.

This comes from a governor who, along with his Republican  congressional counterpart Eric Cantor, rails against Washington and “government  spending.”

What makes this quite interesting is the position taken by  Cantor  last week on Federal Emergency Management funding for disasters. We have  had a record 66 natural disasters  this year and Hurricane Irene was  one of the 10 most costly ever.

Cantor, whose district was hit hard by the earthquake and  the  hurricane, has said that any spending for FEMA should be tied to cuts   elsewhere, dollar for dollar, “Just like any  family would operate when it’s struck with disaster,” says Cantor. Funny, that is not how he felt back in 2004   when he appealed for money for his district after another hurricane and  voted  against the amendment by Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas  to do require offsets.

Did Eric Cantor ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for  the wars  in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did he  ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay  for the Bush tax cuts for the  millionaires and billionaires? Did he   ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for increases to homeland  security? How about border agents?

Another very conservative congressman from Virginia, Leonard  Lance,  totally disagrees with Cantor.  Help is needed now. Gov. Chris  Christie  of New Jersey, no friend of government spending, talks as though Eric  Cantor  has lost his marbles: “Our  people are suffering now, and they  need support now. And they [Congress] can  all go down there and get  back to work and figure out budget cuts later.”

It is time for a host of protesters to go to Cantor’s district   office and call him on his absurdity. Does  he believe we should help  the victims of these disasters? Is that what government has done for  over 200  years? Does he just want to play politics and delay help? Does  he represent the  people of Virginia? Does he care about  the others  who have been the victims of tornadoes and floods across this  country?

It reminds me of a Senate debate where a certain Republican  from  Idaho was complaining about a bill that included funding for rat control   in New York City.

“In Idaho, we take care of our own rats,” to which the New  York senator replied, “In New York, we take care of our own forest fires.”

That about sums it up.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, September 6, 2011

September 6, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Disasters, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Governors, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle East, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty, War | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Austerity Versus Salvation: What Price Life?

So the big, bad storm huffed and puffed and didn’t blow all the houses in.

Reversing Katrina, on the sixth anniversary of that shameful episode in American history, the response to Irene was more powerful than Irene.

And that made some solipsistic Gothamites who missed their subways and restaurants grouchy. There is no greater abuse to New Yorkers than inconvenience.

Once the storm became “Apocalypse Not,” as The New York Post called it, there were those who accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey of overreacting to make up for their infamous underreactions to last year’s Christmas blizzard, when Hizzoner was baking in Bermuda and the Guv was playing at Disney World in Florida with his family.

In a Wall Street Journal column, Bret Stephens suggested “a new edition of the Three Little Pigs, this one for the CYA age.”

Ordered to evacuate from his Manhattan home near the Hudson River, Stephens took his family to his parents’ wood-framed house in Connecticut, where a 50-foot elm crashed in the yard. So he went hard on the Chicken Little mayor. “What’s the wisdom of the ages,” Stephens asked, “when a mayor wants to erase the stain of mishandling last winter’s snowstorms by forcibly relocating people from his zone of responsibility to places that are somebody else’s zone of responsibility?”

Should those whose job it is to prepare for the worst be punished because the worst didn’t happen?

What determines your judgment of politicians’ reaction is what happens to you. Those washed out from North Carolina to New Jersey to Vermont don’t think government overreacted. As Mel Brooks once said, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.”

Asked at a Saturday hurricane briefing about the response in relation to the debate about the role of government, Christie made it clear that saving lives was the most important thing. The Republican said he didn’t think that Democrats and Republicans were debating this: “Protecting the safety of our citizens is one of the bedrock roles of government.”

Not so bedrock for some of the Flintstones types in Washington who are now hotly debating austerity versus salvation. The impressively hands-on performances of Christie, Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York were not enough to make Tea Partiers, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor root for big government against rampaging nature.

Paul, a libertarian whose scorn of government is so great that he doesn’t even want it to coordinate in natural disasters, insisted that FEMA, which he calls “a giant contributor to deficit financing,” should be shut down.

Though his state of Virginia was the epicenter of an earthquake before being hit by Irene, Cantor has insisted that additional money for cash-strapped FEMA must be offset by spending cuts, echoing his remarks in May that money sent to traumatized tornado victims in Joplin, Mo., would mean cuts somewhere else.

The callous comments about disaster relief in recent days by Cantor, Paul and, believe it or not, the disgraced former FEMA Chief Michael “Heck of a job, Brownie” Brown infuriated Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator touring his inundated state. He told Carl Hulse of The Times that coming together to help on disasters “is what being a nation is about.”

In a briefing at the White House Monday, FEMA Director Craig Fugate said that the lesson of Katrina is for the federal government to “get things going earlier” and not wait until an overwhelmed state “says we’re going to need help.”

Too bad that didn’t occur to W. in 2005. He met with Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Air Force One and correctly assessed that they were not up to the job but then retreated behind clinical states’ rights arguments as a great American city drowned.

In his new memoir, Dick Cheney faults Blanco for dithering and not requesting that the president federalize the response to Katrina. It’s a variation on Rummy shrugging that “You go to war with the army you have.”

Always the hard-liner, Cheney notes: “President Bush has written that he should have sent in U.S. troops earlier, which may be true, but which to my mind lets state authorities off the hook too easily.” Why save lives if you can slap bumbling Democrats around? Proving once more that he is truly delusional, Vice praised President Bush in the wake of Katrina for “reaching out to people who needed to know that their government cared about them.”

The awful hypocrisy is this: As we saw when they spent trillions trying to impose democracy on Iraq and Afghanistan, W. and Cheney believe in big government, in a strong, centralized executive power. But with Katrina, they chose not to use it.

By: Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 30, 2011

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Disasters, GOP, Government, Governors, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Public, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Inherent Relationship”: A Primer on Class Struggle

When we study Marx in my graduate social theory course, it never fails that at least one student will say (approximately), “Class struggle didn’t escalate in the way Marx expected. In modern capitalist societies class struggle has disappeared. So isn’t it clear that Marx was wrong and his ideas are of little value today?”

I respond by challenging the premise that class struggle has disappeared. On the contrary, I say that class struggle is going on all the time in every major institution of society. One just has to learn how to recognize it.

One needn’t embrace the labor theory of value to understand that employers try to increase profits by keeping wages down and getting as much work as possible out of their employees. As the saying goes, every successful capitalist knows what a Marxist knows; they just apply the knowledge differently.

Workers’ desire for better pay and benefits, safe working conditions, and control over their own time puts them at odds with employers. Class struggle in this sense hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s inherent in the relationship between capitalist employer and employee. What varies is how aggressively and overtly each side fights for its interests.

Where else does class struggle occur? We can find class struggle wherever three things are at stake: the balance of power between capitalists and workers, the legitimacy of capitalism, and profits.

The most important arena outside the workplace is government, because it’s here that the rules of the game are made, interpreted, and enforced. When we look at how capitalists try to use government to protect and advance their interests — and at how other groups resist — we are looking at class struggle.

Capitalists want laws that weaken and cheapen labor. This means laws that make it harder for workers to organize unions; laws that make it easier to export production to other countries; laws that make it easier to import workers from other countries; laws and fiscal policies that keep unemployment high, so that workers will feel lucky just to have jobs, even with low pay and poor benefits.

Capitalists want tax codes that allow them to pay as little tax as possible; laws that allow them to externalize the costs of production (e.g., the health damage caused by pollution); laws that allow them to swallow competitors and grow huge and more powerful; and laws that allow them to use their wealth to dominate the political process. Workers, when guided by their economic interests, generally want the opposite.

I should note that by “workers,” I mean everyone who earns a wage or a salary and does not derive wealth from controlling the labor of others. By this definition, most of us are workers, though some are more privileged than others. This definition also implies that whenever we resist the creation and enforcement of laws that give capitalists more power to exploit people and the environment, we are engaged in class struggle, whether we call it that or not.

There are many other things capitalists want from government. They want public subsidy of the infrastructure on which profitability depends; they want wealth transferred to them via military spending; they want militarily-enforced access to foreign markets, raw materials, and labor; and they want suppression of dissent when it becomes economically disruptive. So we can include popular resistance to corporate welfare, military spending, imperialist wars, and government authoritarianism as further instances of class struggle.

Class struggle goes on in other realms. In goes on in K-12 education, for example, when business tries to influence what students are taught about everything from nutrition to the virtues of free enterprise; when U.S. labor history is excluded from the required curriculum; and when teachers’ unions are blamed for problems of student achievement that are in fact consequences of the maldistribution of income and wealth in U.S. society.

It goes on in higher education when corporations lavish funds on commercially viable research; when capitalist-backed pundits attack professors for teaching students to think critically about capitalism; and when they give money in exchange for putting their names on buildings and schools. Class struggle also goes on in higher education when pro-capitalist business schools are exempted from criticism for being ideological and free-market economists are lauded as objective scientists.

In media discourse, class struggle goes on when we’re told that the criminal behavior of capitalist firms is a bad-apple problem rather than a rotten-barrel problem. It goes on when we’re told that the economy is improving when wages are stagnant, unemployment is high, and jobs continue to be moved overseas. It goes on when we’re told that U.S. wars and occupations are motivated by humanitarian rather than economic and geopolitical concerns.

Class struggle goes on in the cultural realm when books, films, and songs vaunt the myth that economic inequality is a result of natural differences in talent and motivation. It goes on when books, films, and songs celebrate militarism and violence. It also goes on when writers, filmmakers, songwriters, and other artists challenge these myths and celebrations.

It goes on, too, in the realm of religion. When economic exploitation is justified as divinely ordained, when the oppressed are appeased by promises of justice in an afterlife, and when human capacities for rational thought are stunted by superstition, capitalism is reinforced. Class struggle is also evident when religious teachings are used, antithetically to capitalism, to affirm values of equality, compassion, and cooperation.

I began with the claim that Marx’s contemporary relevance becomes clear once one learns to see the pervasiveness of class struggle. But apart from courses in social theory, reading Marx is optional. In the real world, the important thing is learning to see the myriad ways that capitalists try to advance their interests at the expense of everyone else. This doesn’t mean that everything in social life can be reduced to class struggle, but that everything in social life should be examined to see if and how it involves a playing-out of class interests.

There is fierce resistance to thinking along these lines, precisely because class analysis threatens to unite the great majority of working people who are otherwise divided in a fight over crumbs. Class analysis also threatens to break down the nationalism upon which capitalists depend to raise armies to help exploit the people and resources of other countries. Even unions, supposed agents of workers, often resist class analysis because it exposes the limits of accommodationism.

Resistance to thinking about class struggle is powerful, but the power of class analysis is hard to resist, once one grasps it. Suddenly, seemingly odd or unrelated capitalist stratagems begin to make sense. To take a current example, why would capitalists bankroll candidates and politicians to destroy public sector unions? Why do capitalists care so much about the public sector?

It’s not because they want to balance budgets, create jobs, improve government efficiency, or achieve any of the goals publicly touted by governors like Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Rick Snyder, or John Kasich. It’s because of the profit and power they can gain by destroying the last remaining organizations that fight for the interests of working people in the political sphere, and by making sure that private-sector workers can’t look to the public sector for examples of how to win better pay and benefits.

Other parts of the agenda being pursued by corporate-backed governors and other elected officials also make sense as elements of class struggle.

Selling off utilities, forests, and roads is not about saving taxpayers money. It’s about giving capitalists control of these assets so they can be used to generate profits. Cutting social services is about ensuring that workers depend on low-wage jobs for survival. Capitalists’ goal, as always, is a greater share of wealth for them and a smaller share for the rest of us. Clear away the befogging rhetoric, the rhetoric that masks class struggle, and it becomes clear that the bottom line is the bottom line.

If class struggle is hard to see, it’s not only because of mystifying ideology. It’s because the struggle has been a rout for the last thirty years. But a more visible class struggle could be at hand. The side that’s been losing has begun to fight back more aggressively, as we’ve seen most notably in Wisconsin. To see what’s at stake in this fight and what a real victory might look like, it will help to call the fight by its proper name.

By: Michael Schwalbe, Professor of Sociology, North Carolina State University, Originally Published March 31, 2011, CommonDreams.org

April 3, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Class Warfare, Corporations, Education, Governors, Ideology, Income Gap, Jobs, Labor, Media, Minimum Wage, Politics, States, Unions, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hollow Cry of ‘Broke’

“We’re broke! We’re broke!” Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday. “We’re broke in this state,” Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said a few days ago. “New Jersey’s broke,” Gov. Chris Christie has said repeatedly. The United States faces a “looming bankruptcy,” Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist, wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

It’s all obfuscating nonsense, of course, a scare tactic employed for political ends. A country with a deficit is not necessarily any more “broke” than a family with a mortgage or a college loan. And states have to balance their budgets. Though it may disappoint many conservatives, there will be no federal or state bankruptcies.

The federal deficit is too large for comfort, and most states are struggling to balance their books. Some of that is because of excessive spending, and much is because the recession has driven down tax revenues. But a substantial part was caused by deliberate decisions by state and federal lawmakers to drain government of resources by handing out huge tax cuts, mostly to the rich. As governments begin to stagger from the self-induced hemorrhaging, Republican politicians like Mr. Boehner and Mr. Walker cry poverty and use it as an excuse to break unions and kill programs they never liked in flush years.

On Wednesday, to cite just the latest example, House Republicans successfully pressured the Senate to approve a bill cutting $4 billion in spending just to keep the federal government from shutting down for the next two weeks. In a matter of days, the Senate will be forced to take up the House bill to make more than $61 billion in ruinous cuts over the next seven months, all under the pretext of “fiscal responsibility.” (At least the White House says it will be involved in the next round.) Many Republican governors are employing the same tactic.

But now voters are starting to notice the effects of these cuts and to get angry at the ideological overreach. A New York Times/CBS News poll published on Tuesday showed that Americans oppose ending bargaining rights for public unions by a majority of nearly two to one. And the poll sharply refutes the post-Reagan Republican mantra that the public invariably abhors all tax increases. Nearly twice as many people said they would prefer a tax increase to cutting benefits of public employees or to cutting spending on roads.

A Gallup poll last week showed that 61 percent of respondents nationwide reject Mr. Walker’s attempt to revoke collective-bargaining rights for public unions, including 41 percent of the Republicans polled. Like the Times/CBS poll, Gallup found a mixed result about the overall popularity of unions, suggesting that labor is on firm ground in defending its basic rights but still needs to negotiate with the public good in mind.

Before the union uprising, Wisconsin voters might not have noticed when Mr. Walker approved business tax cuts earlier this year that made his budget gap worse. But now, with his cries of being “broke,” they should listen more closely. On Tuesday, he unveiled a budget that would cut aid to school districts and local governments by nearly $1 billion over two years, while preventing those jurisdictions from raising property taxes at all to make up for the loss.

Perhaps because of the economic downturn, voting among union households was sharply down last November, which may help explain some of the Republican gains. Mr. Walker and his fellow Republicans, may wind up turning that around next year.

By: The New York Times, Editorial-Opinion Page, March 2, 2011

March 3, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Deficits, Economy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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