Reagan and Reality

 Posted by at 19:05  Politics, Republicans
Feb 152011
 

Bob Herbert has another must-read column in today’s New York Times: “Reagan and Reality.” All of you should read it; many of you need to read it.

Believe me, Ronald Wilson Reagan was not the hero that conservatives of today would have you believe he was. He wasn’t.

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No less than other public figures, Reagan was complicated. He was neither the empty suit that his greatest detractors would have you believe nor the conservative god of his most slavish admirers. He was a tax-cutter who raised taxes in seven of the eight years of his presidency. He was a budget-cutter who nearly tripled the federal budget deficit…

What we get with Reagan are a series of disconnects and contradictions that have led us to a situation in which a president widely hailed as a hero of the working class set in motion policies that have been mind-bogglingly beneficial to the wealthy and devastating to working people and the poor.

 

Jan 182011
 

Bob Herbert’s latest New York Times op-ed column is entitled “How Many Deaths Are Enough?” I’d encourage you to read it. Here is but a paragraph…

We’ve allowed the extremists to carry the day when it comes to guns in the United States, and it’s the dead and the wounded and their families who have had to pay the awful price. The idea of having large numbers of college students packing heat in their classrooms and at their parties and sporting events, or at the local pub or frat house or gymnasium, or wherever, is too stupid for words.

Rick Perry is, unfortunately, being inaugurated today for his third full term as governor of the state of Texas. He is heavily in favor of legislation currently pending in this state that would allow college students to carry guns on their campuses. Too stupid for words.
 

Winning the Class War

 Posted by at 22:04  Politics, Republicans
Nov 272010
 

Saturday is usually Weekly Address day, but this week’s address was released on Thursday. Instead, we’ll give you Bob Herbert’s most recent column. He expounds upon the reasons I smile every time I hear someone complaining that the Affordable Care Act (or, as the Republicans call it, “Obamacare”) is the cause of the rise in their share of the cost of the health care being so generously provided by their corporate masters.

Winning the Class War

The class war that no one wants to talk about continues unabated.

Even as millions of out-of-work and otherwise struggling Americans are tightening their belts for the holidays, the nation’s elite are lacing up their dancing shoes and partying like royalty as the millions and billions keep rolling in.

Recessions are for the little people, not for the corporate chiefs and the titans of Wall Street who are at the heart of the American aristocracy. They have waged economic warfare against everybody else and are winning big time.

The ranks of the poor may be swelling and families forced out of their foreclosed homes may be enduring a nightmarish holiday season, but American companies have just experienced their most profitable quarter ever. As The Times reported this week, U.S. firms earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter — the highest total since the government began keeping track more than six decades ago.

The corporate fat cats are becoming alarmingly rotund. Their profits have surged over the past seven quarters at a pace that is among the fastest ever seen, and they can barely contain their glee. On the same day that The Times ran its article about the third-quarter surge in profits, it ran a piece on the front page that carried the headline: “With a Swagger, Wallets Out, Wall Street Dares to Celebrate.”

Click on the headline to continue reading.

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Sin and Shame

 Posted by at 17:49  economy, Politics
Jul 312010
 

Have you ever wondered, as I have, why it is that corporate profits in the last eighteen months or so have been going through roof yet unemployment in the United States seems to have stagnated at around nine and a half percent? Where is all this “trickle down” that our Republicans keep talking about?

Your reading assignment for this weekend is Bob Herbert’s New York Times op-ed:

A Sin and a Shame

The treatment of workers by American corporations has been worse — far more treacherous — than most of the population realizes. There was no need for so many men and women to be forced out of their jobs in the downturn known as the great recession.

Many of those workers were cashiered for no reason other than outright greed by corporate managers. And that cruel, irresponsible, shortsighted policy has resulted in widespread human suffering and is doing great harm to the economy.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Andrew Sum, an economics professor and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. “Not only did they throw all these people off the payrolls, they also cut back on the hours of the people who stayed on the job.”

As Professor Sum studied the data coming in from the recession, he realized that the carnage that occurred in the workplace was out of proportion to the economic hit that corporations were taking. While no one questions the severity of the downturn — the worst of the entire post-World War II period — the economic data show that workers to a great extent were shamefully exploited. …

There can be no robust recovery as long as corporations are intent on keeping idle workers sidelined and squeezing the pay of those on the job.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Germany and Japan, because of a combination of government and corporate policies, suffered far less worker dislocation in the recession than the U.S. Until we begin to value our workers, and understand the critical importance of employment to a thriving economy, we will continue to see our standards of living decline.

Click on the headline to read the entire column.

UPDATE: Also read “The crisis of middle-class America.”
 

Absence of Class

 Posted by at 20:16  Politics, Republicans
Mar 232010
 

Bob Herbert’s New York Times column today is a must-read: “An Absence of Class.” Here’s part. Click the link to read it all.

For decades the G.O.P. has been the party of fear, ignorance and divisiveness. All you have to do is look around to see what it has done to the country. The greatest economic inequality since the Gilded Age was followed by a near-total collapse of the overall economy. As a country, we have a monumental mess on our hands and still the Republicans have nothing to offer in the way of a remedy except more tax cuts for the rich.

This is the party of trickle down and weapons of mass destruction, the party of birthers and death-panel lunatics. This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry.

Glenn Beck of Fox News has called President Obama a “racist” and asserted that he “has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

Mike Huckabee, a former Republican presidential candidate, has said of Mr. Obama’s economic policies: “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff.”

The G.O.P. poisons the political atmosphere and then has the gall to complain about an absence of bipartisanship.

The toxic clouds that are the inevitable result of the fear and the bitter conflicts so relentlessly stoked by the Republican Party — think blacks against whites, gays versus straights, and a whole range of folks against immigrants — tend to obscure the tremendous damage that the party’s policies have inflicted on the country. If people are arguing over immigrants or abortion or whether gays should be allowed to marry, they’re not calling the G.O.P. to account for (to take just one example) the horribly destructive policy of cutting taxes while the nation was fighting two wars.

If you’re all fired up about Republican-inspired tales of Democrats planning to send grandma to some death chamber, you’ll never get to the G.O.P.’s war against the right of ordinary workers to organize and negotiate in their own best interests — a war that has diminished living standards for working people for decades.

He’s actually spot on.

Tell the GOP: Stop inciting and supporting hate.
 

Out of Touch

 Posted by at 22:14  Politics, Republicans
May 022009
 

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Hey, Bob Herbert of The New York Times, isn’t this kind of what you call kicking them while they’re down? I say kick away. They have earned and richly deserve every kick they get. After what they did and continue to want to do to my country, they cannot possibly be kicked enough. Besides, it’s all true…

Out of Touch

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The incredibly clueless stewards of the incredibly shrinking Republican Party would do well to recall that it was supposedly Abe Lincoln, a Republican, who said you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

Not only has the G.O.P. spent years trying to fool everybody in sight with its phony-baloney, dime-store philosophies, it’s now trapped in the patently pathetic phase of fooling itself.

The economy has imploded, the auto industry is in danger of being vaporized and more than half of all working Americans are worried that they may lose their jobs in the next year. So what’s the Republican response? To build a wall of obstruction in front of efforts to get the economy moving again, and then to stand in front of that wall chanting gibberish about smaller government, lower taxes, spending cuts and Ronald Reagan.

It’s not a party; it’s a cult. I’m no fan of Arlen Specter, but if I were a Republican, I wouldn’t be shoving him out the door and waving good riddance. This is the party of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Newt (“I’m trying to rise from the ashes”) Gingrich, and the dark force who can’t seem to exit the public stage or modify his medieval ways, Dick Cheney.

It is losing all credibility with the public because it is not offering anything — anything at all — that could be viewed as helpful or constructive in a time of national crisis. And it has been unwilling to take responsibility for its role in bringing that crisis about.

Americans are aghast at what happened to the country while the G.O.P. was in charge. Iraq and Katrina come to mind, not to mention the transmutation of the Clinton surpluses into the Bush budget deficits and the collapse of the entire economy.

Trickle down. Weapons of mass destruction. Torture. Deregulation. You name it. The Republican-conservative know-it-alls of the past several years (all-too-frequently with feckless Democrats following closely behind) brought destruction and heartbreak to just about everything they touched.

Click on the headline to continue reading.

(The image, by the way, is courtesy of The Daily Kos (the blog the righties love to hate). They call it The Goposaur.)
 

Guns, guns, guns

 Posted by at 20:40  Politics
Apr 252009
 

There is a bill now making its way through the Texas legislature that will make it legal for students on the campuses of Texas universities to carry concealed firearms. Rick Perry will sign it.

Your assigned reading for this Saturday evening/Sunday morning is Bob Herbert’s column in today’s New York Times

A Culture Soaked in Blood

Philip Markoff, a medical student, supposedly carried his semiautomatic in a hollowed-out volume of “Gray’s Anatomy.” Police believe he used it in a hotel room in Boston last week to murder Julissa Brisman, a 26-year-old woman who had advertised her services as a masseuse on Craigslist.

In Palm Harbor, Fla., a 12-year-old boy named Jacob Larson came across a gun in the family home that, according to police, his parents had forgotten they had. Jacob shot himself in the head and is in a coma, police said. Authorities believe the shooting was accidental.

There is no way to overstate the horror of gun violence in America. Roughly 16,000 to 17,000 Americans are murdered every year, and more than 12,000 of them, on average, are shot to death. This is an insanely violent society, and the worst of that violence is made insanely easy by the widespread availability of guns.

Click on the headline to continue reading.

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Related: “Dems put assault weapons ban on back burner.”
 

Making sense

 Posted by at 18:49  economy, Politics
Mar 072009
 

Bob Herbert showed again today why he is one of my favorite columnists. He just makes sense…

Miracles Take Time

Barack Obama has only been president for six weeks, but there is a surprising amount of ire, anger, even outrage that he hasn’t yet solved the problems of the U.S. economy, that he hasn’t saved us from the increasingly tragic devastation wrought by the clownish ideas of right-wing conservatives and the many long years of radical Republican misrule.

This intense, impatient, often self-righteous, frequently wrongheaded and at times willfully destructive criticism has come in waves, and not just from the right. Mr. Obama is as legitimate a target for criticism as any president. But there is a weird hysterical quality to some of the recent attacks that suggests an underlying fear or barely suppressed rage. It’s a quality that seems not just unhelpful but unhealthy.

Mr. Obama is being hammered — depending on the point of view of the critics — for the continuing collapse of the stock market, for not moving fast enough to revive the suicidal financial industry, for trying to stem the flood tide of home foreclosures, for trying to bring health insurance coverage to some of the millions of Americans who don’t have any, for running up huge budget deficits as he tries to fend off the worst economic emergency since World War II and for not taking time out from all of the above to deal with — get this — earmarks.

Earmarks.

More than 4.4 million jobs have been lost since this monster recession officially got under way in December 2007, and we’ve got people wigging out over earmarks. Folks, get a grip. Some earmarks are good, some are not, but collectively they account for a tiny, tiny portion of the national budget — less than 1 percent.

Freaking out over earmarks is like watching a neighborhood that is being consumed by flames and complaining that there is crabgrass on some of the lawns…

I don’t know whether President Obama’s ultimate rescue plan for the financial industry will work. He is a thoughtful man running a thoughtful administration and the plan, a staggeringly complex and difficult work in progress, hasn’t been revealed yet.

What I know is that the renegade clowns who ruined this economy, the Republican right in alliance with big business and a fair number of feckless Democrats — all working in opposition to the interests of working families — have no credible basis for waging war against serious efforts to get us out of their mess. (*)

Maybe the markets are down because demand has dried up, because many of the nation’s biggest firms have imploded and because Americans are losing their jobs and their homes by the millions. Maybe a dose of reality is in order, as opposed to the childish desire for yet another stock market bubble.

Maybe the nuns in grammar school were right when they counseled that patience is a virtue. The man has been president for six weeks.

(* emphasis mine)
 

Jan 272009
 

Yesterday, I recommended that you read a Paul Krugman column. Today, I am going to present for your consideration another New York Times columnist, Bob Herbert. I’ve linked to several of his columns in the past, but this one is especially timely…

The Same Old Song

Bob Herbert
Bob Herbert

What’s up with the Republicans? Have they no sense that their policies have sent the country hurtling down the road to ruin? Are they so divorced from reality that in their delusionary state they honestly believe we need more of their tax cuts for the rich and their other forms of plutocratic irresponsibility, the very things that got us to this deplorable state?

The G.O.P.’s latest campaign is aimed at undermining President Obama’s effort to cope with the national economic emergency by attacking the spending in his stimulus package and repeating ad nauseam the Republican mantra for ever more tax cuts.

[snip]

When the G.O.P. talks, nobody should listen. Republicans have argued, with the collaboration of much of the media, that they could radically cut taxes while simultaneously balancing the federal budget, when, in fact, big income-tax cuts inevitably lead to big budget deficits. We listened to the G.O.P. and what do we have now? A trillion-dollar-plus deficit and an economy in shambles.

This is the party that preached fiscal discipline and then cut taxes in time of war. This is the party that still wants to put the torch to Social Security and Medicare. This is a party that, given a choice between Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, would choose Ronald Reagan in a heartbeat.

Why is anyone still listening?

(Click on the headline to read the entire column.)

Why indeed? President Obama is up on The Hill today trying to reason with the Republicans. Though his desire to include them in the rebuilding of our country is admirable, nothing will come of it. No offense to two-year-old kids, but the Republicans are like two-year-old kids. You give them a piece of candy and they will just scream at the top of their lungs until they get more. Everything has to be done their way or no way at all. Their little minds are made up and that is all there is to it.

There is a reason the Republicans lost so badly this past November. The problem is, they still do not comprehend or understand that reason. They are not going to change.

It is time for America to move on without them. We are now at a point where we can no longer humor their tantrums. It is time to put them in “time out” and get on with the work of cleaning up the horrendous messes they created.

Why is anybody still listening to Republicans?

See also: “The Republican Hissy Fit Exception.”
 

Oct 282008
 

One week from today Americans will go to the polls and choose their next president. One week from tomorrow the newspapers (and the right wing weblogs) are going to be filled with post-mortems of the Sarah Palin/John McCain campaign. They are all going to try to explain to us why Palin/McCain lost and Obama/Biden won. The thing is, we already know why. We’ve known for quite some time.

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert gets a pretty good handle on it in his column today, entitled “A Choice and an Echo.”

With the country facing enormous problems (even before the meltdown of the credit and financial markets in recent months), the voters wanted more substance from their candidates. They wanted a greater sense of maturity and a more civil approach to campaigning. They were tired of the politics of personal destruction and the playbook that counseled “attack, attack, attack.”

Senator Obama was perfectly suited to this new approach. He told the crowd that trekked through the cold and snow to hear his victory speech at the Iowa caucuses:

“You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that’s consumed Washington. To end the political strategy that’s been all about division, and instead make it about addition. To build a coalition for change that stretches through red states and blue states.”

McCain-Palin
McCain-Palin

John McCain didn’t get it. He seemed as baffled by the new politics as an Al Jolson aficionado trying to make sense of the Beatles.

He answered the desire for a higher tone in politics with ads that likened Senator Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and with attacks that questioned Mr. Obama’s patriotism, blamed him for high gasoline prices and all-but-accused him of being a socialist.

Mr. Obama, said Mr. McCain, would convert the Internal Revenue Service into “a giant welfare agency.”

Get it?

Whether this is admirable or honorable is not the question here. In the current political and economic atmosphere, it seems very much like a roadmap to defeat.

The heyday of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove is over. Yet Senator McCain handed the reins of his campaign to Rove’s worshipful acolytes. With the nation in a high state of anxiety over the conflagration in the credit and financial markets, Senator McCain traveled the country ranting Rovelike about Bill Ayers, trying to instill a bogus belief that the onetime ’60s radical and Senator Obama were good buddies and perhaps involved in some nefarious doings together. Senator Obama was about 8 years old when Mr. Ayers was engaged in his nefarious doings.

It was the classic fear card that the Republicans have played to such brilliant effect for years. But times have changed. (Lately Senator McCain has been obsessively invoking the name of “Joe the Plumber” at his campaign appearances, as if that might be the phrase that finally sways the electorate in a way that the Bill Ayers mantra did not.)

Senator Hillary Clinton helped define the new political atmosphere with her own historic run for the White House. Senator McCain, demonstrating again his tone-deafness to the new reality, tried to capitalize on Mrs. Clinton’s remarkable achievement by cynically selecting Sarah Palin, the anti-Hillary, as his running mate.

Mr. McCain must never have noticed that the public turned overwhelmingly against the Bush administration because of its repeatedly demonstrated incompetence. Now here is Senator McCain, in the midst of a national crisis, with a running mate who is demonstrably incompetent to serve the nation as its president.

Ms. Palin is a walking affront to the many Republican women (not to mention women in general) who are, in fact, qualified to hold the highest office in the land.

John McCain could have traveled a higher road. He chose not to. He bet instead on one last gasping triumph of the politics of the past.

So the lot of you who are at this moment attacking your keyboards trying to come up with your bits of wisdom for next Wednesday morning can stop now. Mr. Herbert has done the work for you. I’m sure he would appreciate a word of gratitude.

P.S. If you’re thinking about leaving a comment to remind me that the election has not yet been held, I know that. Don’t you think I know that? Please, don’t waste your time or mine. Thank you.