World’s Most Famous Economist Says Bernie Sanders Could “Change the Face of the Country”

The Vermont senator’s success so far demonstrates the end of the politico-ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the 1980 elections. Piketty’s doesn’t see Sanders as following in the footsteps of Europe’s social democratic models, but rather leading the United States toward a possible return to the nation’s pioneering 20th century experiments with extremely progressive taxation and social spending.

Source: Portside

Author:Zeeshan Aleem policy mic

Emphasis Mine

Thomas Piketty, perhaps the most influential economic thinker of the left in the Western world, is impressed by the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
In a post for Le Monde republished on Tuesday by the Guardian, the French economist outlined why he felt the populist senator’s ascent spells “the end of the politico-ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the 1980 elections.” Piketty argues that regardless of Sanders’ fate in this particular contest, he has created an opening for similar candidates in the future – “possibly younger and less white” – who could successfully make it into the White House and “change the face of the country.”
What’s most interesting about Piketty’s analysis is that he doesn’t see Sanders as following in the footsteps of Europe’s social democratic models, but rather leading the United States toward a possible return to the nation’s pioneering 20th century experiments with extremely progressive taxation and social spending.
America’s golden past: Piketty points to the fact that, prior to Reagan, 20th century fiscal policy in the U.S. was aggressive in taxing the wealthy – much more so than the European counterparts that American leftists are so fond of looking to for inspiration today.
 
“In the interwar years the country invented a highly progressive income and estate tax and set up levels of fiscal progressiveness never used on our side of the Atlantic,” Piketty wrote. “From 1930 to 1980 – for half a century – the rate for the highest U.S. income (over $1 million per year) was on average 82%, with peaks of 91% from the 1940s to 1960s (from Roosevelt to Kennedy), and still as high as 70% during Reagan’s election in 1980.”
 
Those rates – which refer to marginal income tax rates, not the rate at which every dollar someone earns is taxed – played a tremendous role in creating social equality and helped provide crucial government revenue for robust social programs that were introduced during Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.
 
The U.S. also instituted estate taxes (federal taxes on property transferred from someone who has died to their heirs) that were also extremely high and dwarfed rates in France and Germany.

That all changed after Reagan won the White House. In a bid to “restore a mythical capitalism to have existed in the past,” as Piketty put it, he took an axe to the tax code and lowered the rate for the highest incomes to 28%.

Third way politics: Since Reagan, the Democratic Party has largely operated within the paradigm carved out by Reagan: very high tax rates are un-American; keeping the deficit low is of paramount importance; and spending on social services are worthwhile but should not be overly generous. In the 1990s Bill Clinton, who once famously declared that “the era of big government is over,” spearheaded the Democrats’ attempt to adjust to this overarching fiscal vision and only gently challenged Reagan’s tax parameters. And Barack Obama has not sought to alter that status quo. The top tax rate now is just under 40% – a far cry from the top income tax rate of over 90% that existed during the time of Dwight Eisenhower.
 
For Piketty, Clinton is “another heiress of the Reagan-Clinton-Obama political regime,” while Sanders represents a meaningful break from it.
Sanders’ success today shows that much of America is tired of rising inequality and these so-called political changes, and intends to revive both a progressive agenda and the American tradition of egalitarianism,” Piketty wrote.
 
Sanders has his work cut out for him this primary season, but even if he loses the race for the nomination, it seems his popularity already represents a victory for his ideas – and a mighty blow to advocates for the political status quo.
[Zeeshan Aleem is a staff writer at Mic, covering public policy and national politics. He is based in New York and can be reached at zeeshan@mic.com]

See: http://portside.org/2016-02-18/worlds-most-famous-economist-says-bernie-sanders-could-change-face-country

Republicans Reeling After ObamaCare Enrollment Surges To 17.6 Million

Source:Politics USA

Author: Jason Easley

Emphasis Mine

President Obama’s signature health care law is surging past 2015 expectations as 17.6 million Americans have signed up under Obamacare.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced the new numbersduring a speech at Howard University today:

According to a study we are releasing today, as the ACA’s coverage provisions took effect, an estimated 17.6 million Americans have gained coverage. And this progress has been even bigger for people of color: The uninsured rate among African-American adults has declined by more than 10 percentage points, compared to about 7.7 for the total population.”

….

The ACA is about more than the Marketplace. People are beginning to understand that the ACA is improving their care no matter where they buy their insurance. With new protections and required benefits, like preventive services at no extra cost, it’s improved the quality of coverage for all Americans. 

The promises made by Republican presidential candidates to repeal and replace Obamacare are looking like a political suicide mission as ACA enrollment continues to grow. By Election Day 2016, it is possible that the Republican nominee will be running on a platform of taking health care away from 20 million Americans.

President Obama’s health care law has not only been a political victory, but the President has changed health care delivery in a historic way. Thanks to the election of Barack Obama to the White House tens of millions of people have access to healthcare that they didn’t have before.

Hundreds of millions of Americans are benefiting from the protections offered to consumers under the ACA. Obamacare has been a raging success, and Republicans are reeling as they to figure how to reconcile their repeal and replace rhetoric with the real life outcome of taking access to health care away from 17.6 million people.

Republicans have been captured in their own Obamacare trap, and the biggest winners aren’t Democrats, but the 17.6 million people who now have access to affordable health care.

See: http://www.politicususa.com/2015/09/22/republicans-reeling-obamacare-signups-surge-17-6-million.html

No, Obama Didn’t Lie to You About Your Health Care Plans

The claim that President Obama lied in saying that people could keep their insurance looks like another Fox News special.

Source: Alternet

Author: Dean Baker

President Obama has been getting a lot of grief in the last few weeks over his pledge that with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in place, people would be able to keep their insurance if they like it. The media have been filled with stories about people across the country who are having their insurance policies terminated, ostensibly because they did not meet the requirements of the ACA. While this has led many to say that Obama was lying, there is much less here than meets the eye.

First, it is important to note that the ACA grand-fathered all the individual policies that were in place at the time the law was enacted. This means that the plans in effect at the time that President Obama was pushing the bill could still be offered even if they did not meet all the standards laid out in the ACA.

The plans being terminated because they don’t meet the minimal standards were all plans that insurers introduced after the passage of the ACA. Insurers introduced these plans knowing that they would not meet the standards that would come into effect in 2014. Insurers may not have informed their clients at the time they sold these plans that they would not be available after 2014 because they had designed a plan that did not comply with the ACA.

However if the insurers didn’t tell their clients that the new plans would only be available for a short period of time, the blame would seem to rest with the insurance companies, not the ACA. After all, President Obama did not promise people that he would keep insurers from developing new plans that will not comply with the provisions of the ACA.

In addition to the new plans that were created that did not comply with the terms of the ACA, there have been complaints that the grandfathering was too strict. For example, insurers can only raise their premiums or deductibles by a small amount above the rate of medical inflation. As a result, many of the plans in existence at the time of the ACA are losing their grandfathered status.

In this case also it is wrong to view the insurers as passive actors who are being forced to stop offering plans because of the ACA. The price increases charged by insurers are not events outside of the control of insurers. If an insurer offers a plan which has many committed buyers, then presumably it would be able to structure its changes in ways that are consistent with the ACA. If it decides not to do so, this is presumably because the insurer has decided that it is not interested in continuing to offer the plan.

As a practical matter, there are many plans that insurers will opt to drop for market reasons that may or may not have anything to do with the ACA. It’s hard to see how this could be viewed as a violation of President Obama’s pledge. After all, insurers change and drop plans all the time. Did people who heard Obama’s pledge understand it to mean that insurers would no longer have this option once the ACA passed?

If Obama’s pledge was understood as ensuring that every plan that was in existence in 2010 would remain in existence, then it would imply a complete federal takeover of the insurance industry. This would require the government to tell insurers that they must continue to offer plans even if they are losing money on them and even if the plans had lost most of their customers. This would at the least be a strange policy. It would be surprising if many people thought this was the meaning of President Obama’s pledge.

Finally, there will be many plans that insurers will stop offering in large part because of the changed market conditions created by the ACA. For example, last week the Washington Post highlighted a plan for the “hardest to insure” that was being cancelled by Pathmark Blue Cross of Pennsylvania.

This plan is likely being cancelled because it is unable to compete with the insurance being offered through the exchanges. The exchanges charge everyone the same rate regardless of their pre-existing health conditions. A plan that is especially designed for people who have serious health conditions would almost certainly charge a far higher rate. If these high-priced plans no longer exist because they cannot compete with the exchanges would this mean that President Obama had broken his pledge?

On closer inspection, the claim that President Obama lied in saying that people could keep their insurance looks like another Fox News special. In the only way that the pledge could be interpreted as being meaningful, the pledge is true. The ACA does not eliminate plans that were in existence at the time the bill was approved.

If we want to play Fox News, President Obama also promised people they could keep their doctor. Since 2010 tens of thousands of doctors have retired or even died. Guess the pledge that people could keep their doctor was yet another lie from the Obama administration.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/no-obama-didnt-lie-you-about-your-health-care-plans

 

6 Most Brazen Right-Wing Lies About Obamacare

The campaign to recast a program that makes health insurance accessible to millions of Americans as a plague of locusts has risen to fever pitch.

Source: AlterNet

(N.B.: The greatest fear that the detractors of the ACA have is that it will succeed!)

Author: Mark Howard

“Halloween is approaching and the hobgoblins of conservative media are already spinning nightmarish tales of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). Actually, they have been doing it for quite some time, dating back to at least March 2010 when Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller published an article headlined “IRS looking to hire thousands of armed tax agents to enforce healthcare laws.” Fox News reposted the article on its community web site and Fib Factory, Fox Nation despite the fact that it was a complete fabrication and was debunked by the Annenberg Center’s FactCheck.org

This year the campaign to recast a program that makes health insurance accessible to millions of Americans as a plague of locusts has risen to fever pitch. The Republican Party and conservative media has pulled out all the stops in a strategy aimed at scaring people from signing up with the hope that low enrollment will collapse the system. President Obama had the same concerns last month when he said…

“What you’ve had is an unprecedented effort that you’ve seen ramp up in the past month or so that those who have opposed the idea of universal health care in the first place — and have fought this thing tooth and nail through Congress and through the courts — trying to scare and discourage people from getting a good deal.”

These are not the hackneyed GOP talking points about death panels, job killers and government bureaucrats coming between patients and doctors. These are far more fanciful efforts that stretch the limits of credulity and appear to have more in common with satire than actual news reporting. But this is what it has come to as Obamacare has finally reached the consumer stage and conservatives are desperate to keep people from discovering its benefits.

1Fox News Warns That If You Sign Up For ObamaCare Hackers Will Steal Your Life Savings
On an episode of “The Real Story” on Fox News, host Gretchen Carlson introduced an ominous new strain of fear-mongering to demonize Obamacare. She interviewed John McAfee, the anti-virus software developer who is presently a fugitive from a murder investigation in Belize. He made a wild accusation that visitors to Healthcare.gov are going to be victimized by hackers who will steal their identities and/or drain their bank accounts.

Neither Carlson nor McAfee actually provided any evidence of such a threat. In fact, when directly asked about it, McAfee diverts from the question and lays out a completely different threat that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Obamacare website. He alleges that nefarious individuals could set up their own unaffiliated websites in the hopes of luring naive people to take advantage of. Of course, that is a threat that exists for every website, and has since the Internet began. Visiting Healthcare.gov does not expose anyone to these phony sites as implied by the fear-mongers at Fox.

2) WorldNetDaily Reports “Obama ‘Crashing Health-Care Site On Purpose’”
This article asserts that the President is so afraid that insurance shoppers will learn that Obamacare is really more expensive than the old system that he deliberately caused the website to crash to keep people from seeing the rates. No one is defending the botched launch of the insurance exchanges. However, the notion that the technical glitches were intentionally caused by Obama is delusional.

WND’s argument (supported by links to Rush Limbaugh) that rates will increase leaves out the subsidies and tax credits that are available for many applicants. With these adjustments, premiums for most people will be substantially lower. The administration would, therefore, be anxious for consumers to have access to that information and would not be putting obstacles in their path.

3) Rand Paul: Take Obamacare Or Go To Jail
Tea Party darling Rand Paul has made innumerable false statements about virtually every policy that has emanated from the White House. But none are more surreal than his comment, “They say take [Obamacare] or we will put people in jail. People say we aren’t going to put anybody in jail. The heck they won’t. You will get fined first. If you don’t pay your fines, you will go to jail.”

That’s interesting coming from someone who has frequently complained that no one in Congress has read the Affordable Care Act. If he had read it himself he would have known that the law explicitly prohibits criminal consequences for non-payment of fines. It states “In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.” It rarely gets more clear than that, but the mission to frighten the public exceeds the motivation for truth on the part of GOP scare-meisters.

4) Right-Wing Think Tank Mortified That Obamacare Website Links To Voter Registration Form
This is a particularly curious horror story as it seeks to raise an alarm over something that ought to be regarded as a civic duty. Nevertheless, the conservative MacIver Institute (a Koch brothers-funded operation) published an article that implied there was some sort of heinous objective on the part of the Obama administration for having included a link to a voter registration form on the Obamacare website. This startling revelation is met with foreboding by MacIver and a flurry of right-wing media outlets that disseminated MacIver’s story, including National Review, Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, and Fox News. All of their reports agreed that this was a clandestine attempt to register only Democratic voters despite the absence of any partisan framing. MacIver even asks specifically “[W]hat does registering to vote have to do with signing up for Obamacare?”

The core of the right’s trepidation is rooted in a more fundamental aversion to the act of voting itself. It is why they are continually erecting new barriers to voting. Democrats, on the other hand, have sought to expand voter turnout with bills like the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (aka Motor Voter) that mandates certain government agencies provide people with access to voter registration. In fact, that 20-year-old law requires that Obamacare administrators make voter registration available. MacIver, and similarly mortified conservative comrades, are either unaware of this, or are deliberately feigning ignorance in order to rile up their conspiracy-prone base.

5) Weekly Standard Finds Imaginary Threat On Obamacare Website
The ultra-conservative Weekly Standard dispatched its crack reporters to ferret out what it portrayed as an ominous security threat on the Healthcare.gov website. What it found were comments in the site’s source code that said that “You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system.” The Standard notes that these comments were not visible to users and were not part of the site’s terms and conditions. But that didn’t stop them from implying that users would be still be bound by it because “the language is nevertheless a part of the underlying code.” Not really. It’s only a part of some inoperative text that carries no more obligation than some discarded notes.

This is another situation where you have to wonder whether these people are embarrassingly stupid or brazenly dishonest. There is a reason this language was not visible. It was deliberately removed with the use of HTML comment tags by the site’s programmers. It was undoubtedly edited out because it was not an accurate expression of the site’s privacy policy. It does not mean that users are agreeing to a secret clause permitting the government to spy on them as the Standard implied. If any of these “reporters” had a 14-year-old at home they could have learned what this is about. But that would have interfered with their goal, which is to leave Americans with the false impression that some hidden danger lurks beneath the surface of Obamacare.

6) Fox News Fears ACORN Is Back To Push ObamaCare
The Curvy Couch Potatoes over at Fox & Friends had a jolly old time resurrecting their fear of a community organizing enterprise that no longer exists. ACORN was wrongly hounded out of business by right-wing opponents after pseudo-journalist and convicted criminal James O’Keefe distributed some deceitfully edited and libelous videos. But that hasn’t stopped conservative media from exhuming the corpse whenever they are in need of a sensationalist story, as demonstrated by Fox co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who announced that “We’re getting information that ACORN operatives are trying to sign people up for the Affordable Care Act.”

While ACORN was never found to have engaged in any unlawful activity, there was a bill passed that prohibited them from receiving federal funds. However, there is nothing in the law that prevents organizations with former ACORN staff from getting federal grants. In fact, there isn’t even any current law that prevents ACORN from getting grants as the previous ban was not included in the latest Continuing Resolution. Fox is brazenly misrepresenting the facts in an attempt to reignite fears of the old ACORN bogeyman. They upped the terror ante by further alleging that ACORN would use your personal medical and financial information against you politically. They never revealed how that would occur, or to what end, but that isn’t the point. Their only interest is spreading fear, no matter how irrational and unsupported.

Conclusion

The zealousness with which these right-wing propagandists pursue their disinformation campaign is evidence of their own fear that Americans will come to appreciate having access to affordable healthcare. Therefore, they see their mission as derailing the program before that eventuality unfolds. Their tactics get more extreme and absurd the closer the program gets to gaining acceptance. A particular target of their attack is young people whose participation is important for the program to succeed. Consequently, opponents have launched a well-funded campaign (thanks to the Koch brothers) to scare off young consumers. Generation Opportunity has already released the now notorious “Creepy Uncle Sam” videos that make false implications of government intrusion into medical care. Next they are embarking on a 20-city college tour to mislead students.”

PolitiFact has reviewed 16 claims made by Obamacare detractors and found all of them false. Twelve of those were designated “Pants On Fire” lies. If there is one question that begs to be asked, it is this: If Obamacare is so terrible, why do opponents have to tell so many lies about it?

Mark Howard is an artist and the founder of the media analysis website News Corpse. He is the author of Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Community’s Assault On Truth.”

Emphasis Mine

See:http://www.alternet.org/media/6-most-brazen-right-wing-lies-about-obamacare?akid=11074.123424.m5-LEx&rd=1&src=newsletter914168&t=5

Obamacare’s real danger for the GOP is that it will succeed

Source: Washington Post

Author: Eugene Robinson

” To understand the crisis in Washington, tune out the histrionics and look at the big picture: Republicans are threatening to shut down the federal government — and perhaps even refuse to let the Treasury pay its creditors — in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to keep millions of Americans from getting health insurance.

Seriously. That’s what all the yelling and screaming is about. As my grandmother used to say, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

The GOP has tried its best to make Obamacare a synonym for bogeyman and convince people that it’s coming in the night to snatch the children. In fact, and I know this comes as a shock to some, Obamacare is not a mythical creature. It is a law, incorporating what were originally Republican ideas, that will make it possible for up to 30 million people now lacking health insurance to obtain it.Officially, the law in question is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Republicans intended the term “Obamacare” to be mocking, which is perhaps why President Obama started using it with pride.It is, indeed, an achievement of which the nation can be proud. About 48 million individuals in this country lacked health insurance in 2012, according to the Census Bureau, representing about 15 percent of the population. Other industrialized nations provide universal health care — and wonder if this is what we mean when we talk about American exceptionalism.

About 25 percent of people in households with annual incomes below $25,000 are uninsured, compared with just 8 percent in households earning more than $75,000. Do the working poor not deserve to have their chronic medical conditions treated as punishment for not making enough money?

Other rich countries provide truly universal care through single-payer systems of various kinds. Obama chose instead to model the Affordable Care Act after a program implemented on the state level by the Republican governor who became Obama’s opponent in the 2012 presidential election. Yes, before Obamacare there was Romneycare, a private-sector, free-market solution designed to be in accord with the GOP’s most hallowed principles.

But in the years between Mitt Romney’s tenure in Massachusetts and his presidential run, the Republican Party lost its way, or perhaps its mind.

The party shows no serious interest in finding a GOP-friendly way to provide the uninsured with access to health care. Rather, it pursues two goals at any cost: opposing Obama no matter what he does, and making people see Obamacare as a failure.

For the radical far right, making health care more widely available through the existing network of insurers, most of them for-profit companies, is a giant leap toward godless socialism. These extremists hold outsize power in the GOP — enough to make sane Republican officials fear, with some reason, that anything short of massive resistance to Obamacare could lead to a primary challenge and a shortened career.

Some of Obamacare’s provisions are already in force and seem to be having the intended effect. For example, young adults are now allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurancepolicies until age 26. In 2009, 29.8 percent of those 19 through 25 were uninsured; in 2012, 27.2 percent lacked insurance, a modest but significant decline.

Now the central provisions of the Affordable Care Act are set to come into effect — the individual mandate, the insurance exchanges, the guarantee of coverage for those with preexisting conditions. Republicans scream that Obamacare is sure to fail. But what they really fear is that it will succeed.

That’s the reason for all the desperation. Republicans are afraid that Obamacare will not prove to be a bureaucratic nightmare — that Americans, in fact, will find they actually like it. The GOP fears that Obamacare will even be credited with slowing the rise of health-care costs to a more manageable rate. There are signs, in fact, that this “bending of the curve” is already taking place: Medical costs are still rising much faster than inflation but at the slowest rate in decades.

Keeping premiums under control will require persuading lots of young, healthy people to buy insurance — and thus, in effect, subsidize those who are older and sicker. That is why a group called Generation Opportunity, funded by the ultraconservative Koch brothers, plans to tour college campuses with disgusting ads in which a creepy Uncle Sam subjects a young woman to a pelvic examination.

The GOP message: Whatever you do, don’t buy health insurance. It may be — shudder — good for you.”

Read more from Eugene Robinson’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook. You can also join him Tuesdays at 1 p.m. for a live Q&A.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/eugene-robinson-obamacare-the-gop-nightmare/2013/09/23/fd29187a-246a-11e3-b75d-5b7f66349852_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions

50 Reasons You Despised George W. Bush’s Presidency: A Reminder on the Day of His Presidential Library Dedication

Source: AlterNet

Author:  Steven Rosenfeld

“On Thursday, President Obama and all four living ex-presidents will attend the dedication of the $500 million George W. Bush Presidential Libraryat Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Many progressives will remember Bush as a contender for the “worst president ever,” saying he more aptly deserves a multi-million-dollar prison cell for a litany of war crimes.

Amazingly, the Bush library seeks to ask visitors “What would you have done?” if you were in this president’s shoes. The ex-president’s defenders are betting that the public will reconsider their judgments after a hefty dose of historical amnesia. Bush has been absent from political debates in recent years, instead making millions in private speeches. Today, his popularity is even with Obama’s; both have 47 percent approval rating.

Let’s look at 50 reasons, some large and some small, why W. inspired so much anger.

1. He stole the presidency in 2000. People may forget that Republicans in Florida purged more than 50,000 African-American voters before Election Day, and then went to the Supreme Court where the GOP-appointed majority stopped a recount that would have awarded the presidency to Vice-President Al Gore if all votes were counted. National news organizations verified that outcome long after Bush had been sworn in.

2. Bush’s lies started in that race. Bush ran for office claiming he was a “uniter, not a divider.” Even though he received fewer popular votes than Gore, he quickly claimed he had the mandate from the American public to push his right-wing agenda.

3. He covered up his past. He was a party boy, the scion of a powerful political family who got away with being a deserter during the Vietnam War. He was reportedly AWOL for over a year from his assigned unit, the Texas Air National Guard, which other military outfits called the “Champagne Division.”

4. He loved the death penalty. As Texas governor from 1995-2000, he signedthe most execution orders of any governor in U.S. history—152 people, including the mentally ill and women who were domestic abuse victims. He spared one man’s life, a serial killer.

5. He was a corporate shill from Day 1. Bush locked up the GOP nomination by raising more campaign money from corporate boardrooms than anyone at that time. He lunched with CEOs who would jet into Austin to “educate” him about their political wish lists.

6. He gutted global political progress.He pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol which set requirements for 38 nations to lower greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change, saying that abiding by the agreement would “harm our economy and hurt our workers.”

7. He embraced global isolationism. He withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, over Russia’s protest, taking the U.S. in a direction not seen since World War I.

8. He ignored warnings about Osama bin Laden. He ignored the Aug. 6, 2001 White House intelligence briefing titled, “Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.” Meanwhile, his chief anti-terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, and first Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, testified in Congress that he was intent on invading Iraq within days of becoming president.

9. Ramped up war on drugs, not terrorists. The Bush administration had twice as many FBI agents assigned to the war on drugs than fighting terrorism before 9/11, and kept thousands in that role after the terror attacks.

10. “My Pet Goat.” He kept reading a picture book to grade-schoolers for seven minutes after his top aides told him that the World Trade Centers had been attacked in 9/11. Then Air Force One flew away from Washington, D.C., vanishing for hours after the attack.

11. Squandered global goodwill after 9/11. Bush thumbed his nose at world sympathy for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, by declaring a global war on terrorism and declaring “you are either with us or against us.”

12. Bush turned to Iraq not Afghanistan. The Bush administration soon started beating war drums for an attack on Iraq, where there was no proven Al Qaeda link, instead of Afghanistan, where the 9/11 bombers had trained and Osama bin Laden was based. His 2002 State of the Union speech declared that Iraq was part of an “Axis of Evil.”

13. Attacked United Nation weapons inspectors. The march to war in Iraqstarted with White House attacks on the credibility of U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, whose claims that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons proved to be true.

14. He flat-out lied about Iraq’s weapons. In a major speech in October 2002, he said that Saddam Hussein had the capacity to send unmanned aircraft to the U.S. with bombs that could range from chemical weapons to nuclear devices. “We cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” he said.

15. He ignored the U.N. and launched a war. The Bush administration tried to get the U.N. Security Council to authorize an attack on Iraq, which it refused to do. Bush then decided to lead a “preemptive” attack regardless of international consequences. He did not wait for any congressional authorization to launch a war.

16. Abandoned international Criminal Court. Before invading Iraq, Bush told the U.N. that the U.S. was withdrawing from ratifying the International Criminal Court Treaty to protect American troops from persecution and to allow it to pursue preemptive war.

17. Colin Powell’s false evidence at U.N. The highly decorated soldier turned Secretary of State presented false evidence at the U.N. as the American mainstream media began its jingoistic drumbeat to launch a war of choice on Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

18. He launched a war on CIA whistleblowers. When a former ambassador, Joseph C. Wilson, wrote a New York Times op-ed saying there was no nuclear threat from Iraq, the White House retaliated by leaking the name and destroying the career of his wife, Valerie Plame, one of the CIA’s top national security experts.

19. Bush pardoned the Plame affair leaker. Before leaving office, Bushpardoned the vice president’s top staffer, Scooter Libby, for leaking Plame’s name to the press.

20. Bush launched the second Iraq War. In April 2003, the U.S. military invaded Iraq for the second time in two decades, leading to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and more than a million refugees as a years of sectarian violence took hold on Iraq. Nearly 6,700 U.S. soldiers have died in the Iraq and Afghan wars.

21. Baghdad looted except for oil ministry. The Pentagon failure to plan for a military occupation and transition to civilian rule was seen as Baghdad was looted while troops guarded the oil ministry, suggesting this war was fought for oil riches, not terrorism.

22. The war did not make the U.S. safer. In 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate (a consensus report of the heads of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies)asserted that the Iraq war had increased Islamic radicalism and had worsened the terror threat.

23. U.S. troops were given unsafe gear. From inadequate vests from protection against snipers to Humvees that could not protect soldiers from roadside bombs, the military did not sufficiently equip its soldiers in Iraq, leading to an epidemic of brain injuries.

24. Meanwhile, the war propaganda continued. From landing on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit to declare “mission accomplished” to surprising troops in Baghdad with a Thanksgiving turkey that was a table decoration used as a prop, Bush defended his war of choice by using soldiers as PR props.

25. He never attended soldiers’ funerals. For years after the war started, Bushnever attended a funeral even though as of June 2005, 144 soldiers (of the 1,700 killed thus far) were laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetary, about two miles from the White House.

26. Meanwhile, war profiteering surged.The list of top Bush administration officials whose former corporate employers made billions in Pentagon contracts starts with Vice-President Dick Cheney and Halliburton, which made $39.5 billion, and included his daughter, Liz Cheney, who ran a $300 million Middle East partnership program.

27. Bush ignored international ban on torture. Suspected terrorists were captured and tortured by the U.S. military in Baghdad’s Abu Gharib prison, in the highest profile example of how the Bush White House ignored international agreements, such as the Geneva Convention, that banned torture, and created a secret system of detention that was unmasked when photos made their way to the American media outlets.

28. Created the blackhole at Gitmo and renditions. The Bush White House created the offshore military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as secretdetention sites in eastern Europe to evade domestic and military justice systems. Many of the men still jailed in Cuba were turned over to the U.S. military by bounty hunters.

29. Bush violated U.S. Constitution as well.The Bush White House ignored basic civil liberties, most notably by launching a massive domestic spying program where millions of Americans’ online activities were monitored with the help of big telecom companies. The government had no search warrant or court authority for its electronic dragnet.

30. Iraq war created federal debt crisis.The total costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars will reach between $4 trillion and $6 trillion, when the long-term medical costs are added in for wounded veterans, a March 2013 report by a Harvard researcher has estimated. Earlier reports said the wars cost $2 billion a week.

31. He cut veterans’ healthcare funding. At the height of the Iraq war, the White House cut funding for veterans’ healthcare by several billion dollars, slashed more than one billion from military housing and opposed extending healthcare to National Guard families, even as they were repeatedly tapped for extended and repeat overseas deployments.

32. Then Bush decided to cut income taxes. In 2001 and 2003, a series of bills lowered income tax rates, cutting federal revenues as the cost of the foreign wars escalated. The tax cuts disproportionately benefited the wealthy, with roughly one-quarter going to the top one percent of incomes compared to 8.9% going to the middle 20 percent. The cuts were supposed to expire in 2013, but most are still on the books.

33. Assault on reproductive rights.From the earliest days of his first term, the Bush White House led a prolonged assault on reproductive rights. He cut funds for U.N. family planning programs, barred military bases from offering abortions, put right-wing evangelicals in regulatory positions where they rejected new birth control drugs, and issued regulations making fetuses—but not women—eligible for federal healthcare.

34. Cut Pell Grant loans for poor students. His administration froze Pell Grants for years and tightened eligibility for loans, affecting 1.5 million low-income students. He also eliminated other federal job training programs that targeted young people.

35. Turned corporations loose on environment. Bush’s environmental record was truly appalling, starting with abandoning a campaign pledge to tax carbon emissions and then withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases. The Sierra Club lists 300 actions his staff took to undermine federal laws, from cutting enforcement budgets to putting industry lobbyists in charge of agencies to keeping energy policies secret.

36.. Said evolution was a theory—like intelligent design.One of his most inflammatory comments was saying that public schools should teach that evolution is a theory with as much validity as the religious belief in intelligent design, or God’s active hand in creating life.

37. Misguided school reform effort. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiativemade preparation for standardized tests and resulting test scores the top priority in schools, to the dismay of legions of educators who felt that there was more to learning than taking tests.

38. Appointed flank of right-wing judges. Bush’s two Supreme Court picks—Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito—have reliably sided with pro-business interests and social conservatives. He also elevated U.S. District Court Judge Charles Pickering to an appeals court, despite his known segregationist views.

39. Gutted the DOJ’s voting rights section. Bush’s Justice Department appointees led a multi-year effort to prosecute so-called voter fraud, includingfiring seven U.S. attorneys who did not pursue overtly political cases because of lack of evidence.

40. Meanwhile average household incomes fell. When Bush took office in 2000, median household incomes were $52,500. In 2008, they were $50,303, a drop of 4.2 percent, making Bush the only recent two-term president to preside over such a drop.

41. And millions more fell below the poverty line. When Bill Clinton left office, 31.6 million Americans were living in poverty. When Bush left office, there were 39.8 million, according to the U.S. Census, an increase of 26.1 percent. The Census said two-thirds of that growth occurred before the economic downturn of 2008.

42. Poverty among children also exploded. The Census also found that 11.6 million children lived below the poverty line when Clinton left office. Under Bush, that number grew by 21 percent to 14.1 million.

43. Millions more lacked access to healthcare. Following these poverty trends, the number of Americans without health insurance was 38.4 million when Clinton left office. When Bush left, that figure had grown by nearly 8 million to 46.3 million, the Census found. Those with employer-provided benefits fell every year he was in office.

44. Bush let black New Orleans drown. Hurricane Katrina exposed Bush’s attitude toward the poor. He didn’t visit the city after the storm destroyed the poorest sections. He praised his Federal Emergency Management Agency director for doing a “heck of a job” as the federal government did little to help thousands in the storm’s aftermath and rebuilding.

45. Yet pandered to religious right. Months before Katrina hit, Bush flew back to the White House to sign a bill to try to stop the comatose Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube from being removed, saying the sanctity of life was at stake.

46. Set record for fewest press conferences. During his first term that was defined by the 9/11 attacks, he had the fewest press conferences of any modern president and had never met with the New York Times editorial board.

47. But took the most vacation time. Reporters analyzing Bush’s record foundthat he took off 1,020 days in two four-year terms—more than one out of every three days. No other modern president comes close. Bush also set the record for the longest vacation among modern presidents—five weeks, the Washington Post noted.

48. Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld. Not since Richard Nixon’s White House and the era of the Watergate burglary and expansion of the Vietnam War have there been as many power-hungry and arrogant operators holding the levers of power. Cheney ran the White House; Rove the political operation for corporations and the religious right; and Rumsfeld oversaw the wars.

49. He’s escaped accountability for his actions. From Iraq war General Tommy Franks’ declaration that “we don’t do body counts” to numerous efforts to impeach Bush and top administration officials—primarily over launching the war in Iraq—he has never been held to account in any official domestic or international tribunal.

50. He may have stolen the 2004 election as well. The closest Bush came to a public referendum on his presidency was the 2004 election, which came down to the swing state of Ohio. There the GOP’s voter suppression tactics rivaledFlorida in 2000 and many unresolved questions remain about whether the former GOP Secretary of State altered the Election Night totals from rural Bible Belt counties.

Any bright spots? Conservatives will lambaste lists like this for finding nothing good about a president like W. So, yes, he created the largest ocean preserve offshore from Hawaii in his second term. And in his final year in office, his initiative to fight AIDS across Africa has been credited with saving many thousands of lives. But on balance, George W. Bush was more than eight years of missed opportunities for America and the world. He was a disaster, leaving much of America and the world in much worse shape than when he took the oath of office in 2001. His reputation should not be resurrected or restored or seen as anything other than what it was.”

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/50-reasons-you-despised-george-w-bushs-presidency-reminder-day-his-presidential?akid=10363.123424.Vl7-RQ&rd=1&src=newsletter830237&t=3

 

History, culture, mistrust combined to defeat gun control effort

Source: McClatchy

(N.B.: when we use the frame ‘gun control’, our message fails; when we use ‘reduced gun violence’, our message succeeds.

It might also be noted that as the First Amendment does not protect the dissemination of child pornography; the Second does not protect unlimited access to firearms of any type.)

Author: David Lightman

Why is it so hard for even the most modest gun-control effort to succeed?

The easy answer is the power of the gun lobby, but the obstacles are far more complex. Growing numbers of people distrust Washington. A deeply rooted gun culture sees big government as a threat to its security, not to mention its constitutional rights. Members of Congress from conservative areas are well aware that votes on gun control, even in baby steps, are politically perilous.

Gun control advocates thought their task would be so different this week. President Barack Obama was making a passionate, heartfelt pitch unlike almost any he’d made before during his presidency. A congressional colleague, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was severely wounded during the Tucson shootings two years ago, visited the Capitol to make her plea. Families of recent shooting victims visited senators and watched them vote.

But what began as an energetic effort to finally get something new on the books wound up in defeat after defeat, and on Thursday the bill was pulled. There’s no telling when it will return or what might change if it does, because switching votes is going to require changing some profoundly held views.

The biggest hurdle is overcoming the long-simmering, ever-growing public fear that government is too intrusive and incompetent. That attitude almost scuttled the 2010 health care law, as people resented government forcing them to buy coverage. People also became concerned that “death panels” would be created to determine who’d live or die.

They weren’t, but Republicans have tried nearly three dozen times to repeal the law, which will require nearly everyone to obtain health insurance next year or pay a fine. More government intrusion, they say.

The resistance to more gun control follows a similar pattern.

“There certainly is an erosion of trust and confidence in the competence of government,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of four Republicans who voted to toughen background checks. “People often don’t trust government to protect them, and there’s a very distressing lack of any confidence government will keep its word.”

A Pew Research Center survey this month found that only 13 percent of Republicans have favorable views of the federal government, compared with 27 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats. Gun rights advocates argue that if Washington wants to gain some trust, it should enforce the laws that already are on the books.

“More gun laws are not the solution,” said Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. And when gun control advocates try even to tinker with gun laws, they tinker with what Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., called “the depth of feeling about the Second Amendment.”

Millions of Americans grow up with guns in the home, for hunting, self-defense and other uses. “In northern Maine, guns are part of the lifestyle,” Collins said.

Learning to use a gun is as common as learning to drive a car or use hand tools, and any effort by Washington to infringe on that right is viewed with suspicion. That’s why even a mild form of gun control – expanding background checks to gun shows and online sales while exempting private transactions – got nowhere.

“People see it as the nose under the camel’s tent,” former Senate Republican leader Trent Lott said. “They ask, ‘Where does this end?’ ”

Add to this mix some raw politics. Of the five Democrats who voted against expanded background checks, three face difficult re-elections next year: Montana’s Max Baucus, Alaska’s Mark Begich and Arkansas’ Mark Pryor. North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, whose state Obama lost last year by nearly 20 percentage points, joined them. So did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, though he voted no only for procedural reasons.

While polls suggest that the senators’ re-elections probably won’t be won or lost on gun issues, gun interests are well-heeled and offer a simple explanation as to why the background check plan was misguided.

“Expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools,” said Chris Cox, the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action, the political and lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association.

Change is especially difficult in this age of polarization. An NBC News analysis found that 39 of the votes against the expanded background checks came from senators in states that Obama didn’t carry. Two of the swing votes who sided with the opponents, Nevada’s Dean Heller and New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, both Republicans, were from states that Obama won.

If a gun control measure makes it to the House of Representatives, the red-blue state divide is likely to be more obvious. Republicans control 233 of the 435 seats there, and districts often are so carefully drawn that most are downright politically monolithic.

Will the gun control forces’ task get any easier? They say yes, that as people become more educated, as Obama presses harder, as the victims’ families keep up the heat, people will come around.

It won’t be that easy, said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who explained, “It’s very hard for someone from a gun culture to vote for gun control.” Email: dlightman@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @lightmandavid

Again, vote for ‘reduced gun violence’, not ‘gun control’!

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/04/19/189101/history-culture-mistrust-combined.html#emlnl=Weekly_Politics_Update