No, Protests Against Police Brutality Are Not Increasing Crime

 And those who say so are practicing bad journalism and worse science.

Source:The Nation

Author:Alex S. Vitale

Emphasis Mine

Much has been made in recent months of a series of isolated crime increases in a handful of US cities. Breathless accounts of a new crime wave have appeared in both liberal and conservative media. Right-wing pundits and some police leaders have claimed that there is a “Ferguson effect”—a significant crime increase due to the “Black Lives Matter” protests against police violence. This is both junk science and political opportunism.

The New York Times recently reported that a couple dozen US cities have experienced increases in murders, and a few others some increase in other violent crimes. While any uptick in serious crime should be of concern, short-term changes in a few crime categories is thin evidence of a sustained national trend. In fact, in most parts of the country, crime in general, and murder rates in particular, continue to go down. While New York City, one site of ongoing protest, had a spike in homicides in the early part of the year, the city just completed the “safest summer in 25 years” according to Commissioner Bill Bratton. In addition, a new report by the Sentencing Project shows that in St. Louis, the uptick in homicides actually was well underway before the death of Michael Brown.

Even in cities that have experienced some increase in homicides, there has been no increase in other crimes. Why would a reduction in policing (as claimed by proponents of the “Ferguson effect”) result in more homicides but fewer robberies, burglaries, and auto thefts? The fact is that while homicide numbers are considered very accurate, they are such rare occurrences that it is very dangerous to draw any conclusions about broader crime trends from limited periods of time. Six months of homicide data is not enough to predict what year-end numbers will look like, and it’s bad journalism and worse science to do so.

For the last 20 years, police leaders and their supporters have claimed near-total credit for the dramatic drop in crime beginning in the 1990s, even though different police departments have supported very different and at times contradictory methods. Now that there is some evidence of a crime increase in their jurisdiction, their fingers are suddenly pointing elsewhere. The right-wing echo chamber is abuzz with attacks on the movement against police misconduct, from slandering individual activists to blaming a host of social ills on them, while at the same time denying that they have any influence or relevance.

Even a casual glance at the historical record puts the lie to these claims. When past movements for police reform have emerged in the wake of the Rodney King, Amadou Diallo, or Oscar Grant incidents, there was no appreciable change in crime trends in the specific cities involved, or nationally. Whether these protests took the form of riots, nonviolent civil disobedience campaigns, or sustained community-based protests, crime rates were unaffected. As mentioned before, in some cities the change in homicide rates began before last summer’s protests, in others the trend continues downward, and in others the trends are mixed.

What those who declare a “Ferguson effect” want us to believe is that police need a “free hand” to control crime. Any attempts to end abusive, racist, or illegal police activity is problematic because it interferes with unfettered police power. This is a misunderstanding of the nature of effective policing. Decades of research shows that policing works best when communities support the police, feel respected by them, and accept their actions as legitimate. Second, it throws the Constitution under the bus. Practices like shooting fleeing suspects and stopping and frisking people without reasonable suspicion have been found unconstitutional. To defend these practices as not only necessary but appropriate flies in the face of our legal system and should call into question the loyalties of those who mimic them. Finally, the social costs of racist overpolicing are too high, regardless of effectiveness or legality. No society should be asked to accept the levels of arrest and incarceration being meted out against young people of color in the United States. It tears at the basic social fabric, and is one of the main drivers of increasing social and economic inequality.

Whether there is an uptick in homicides or not, we should all be concerned about the concentrations of extreme violence in very poor communities of color in the US. In order to reduce this violence, we must embrace non-punitive solutions that maximize the well-being of as many people as possible—that is the definition of justice.

Those who declare a “Ferguson Effect” want us to believe that police need unfettered power in order to control crime.

If we want to know what’s driving violence in these communities, we should start by talking to the young people involved and those who work with them on a daily basis. Across the country there are hard-working men and women reaching out to young people in order to address their social and economic isolation and break the cycle of violence that often comes to define their everyday lives. Community based anti-violence initiatives in like places New York, Minneapolis, and Washington often lack adequate resources, and often view heavy-handed policing as just another source of harm.

After over 20 years of significant crime declines, it is likely that that there will be upticks in crime in the near future. Political opportunists will try to link this to whatever social changes are underway that they don’t like—with little regard for evidence or logic. Journalists have a role to play in challenging these facile undertakings. Police and political leaders should be held to account as well. By embracing the nonexistent “Ferguson effect,” they only further undermine their own legitimacy and drive a bigger wedge between themselves and the communities they are employed to serve.

See:http://www.thenation.com/article/there-is-absolutely-no-such-thing-as-the-ferguson-effect/

Progressive Victories in Ohio, Mississippi, Maine, Arizona Provide Seven Key Lessons for 2012

The 99% versus the 1% frame is critical to making clear that the problem with our economy has nothing to do with how much teachers, or firefighters, or steel workers, or home care workers, or Social Security recipients make for a living. It has everything to do with growing economic inequality, the exploding financial sector, and an unproductive class of speculators and gamblers who don’t make anything of value but siphon off all of our increased productivity.

From:HuffPost

By:Robert Creamer.

“A year ago the Empire struck back. Right Wing money capitalized on anger at the economic stagnation that their own policies caused just two years before. They brought a halt to the hard-won progressive victories that marked the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Last night the progressive forces tested some of the weapons and tactics they will use in next year’s full-blown counter offensive. They worked very, very well.

Progressives won key elections in Ohio, Maine, Mississippi, and Arizona.

The importance of yesterday’s labor victory in Ohio cannot be overstated. It could well mark a major turning point in the history of the American labor movement -and the future of the American middle class.

The people of Ohio rejected right wing attempts to destroy public sector unions by an astounding 61% to 39%. Progressives in Ohio won 82 out of 88 counties.

In his “concession,” the author of the union-stripping bill, Governor John Kasich, looked like a whipped dog. He was.”

from the Plain Dealer 9.11.11

“Last night’s victory will have a direct and immediate impact on the livelihoods of thousands of middle class state employees in Ohio. It will stall similar attempts to destroy unions in other states. It will turbo-charge the campaign to oust Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who jammed a union-stripping measure through his own legislature. And it will massively weaken Kasich and other Republicans in Ohio.

But last night’s victory also carried critical lessons for the progressive forces throughout America as we prepare for the crossroads, defining battle of 2012.

Lesson #1: Creating a Movement. The industrial state labor battles that culminated in last night’s overwhelming Ohio success transformed the image of unions from a large bureaucratic “special interest” that negotiates for workers and are part of the “establishment” — into a movement to protect the interests of the American Middle Class.

The Republican Governors who began these battles hoped to make a bold move to destroy union power. In fact, they have succeeded in creating their worst nightmare — the rebirth of a labor movement.

That is critically important for the future of unions – which by any measure provide the foundation of progressive political power in the United States. It also provides an important lesson for every element of the Progressive community.

These battles put the “movement” back in “labor movement.”

And the importance of “movement” can’t be overstated. Particularly at a time when people are unhappy with the direction of the country and desperately want change — they don’t want leaders who appear to be embedded parts of the status quo. They want to be part of movements for change.

Movements have three critical characteristics:

    • They make people feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves.
    • They make people feel that they themselves can play a significant role in bringing about that larger goal.
  • They involve “chain reactions” –– they go viral. You don’t have to only engage people in movements one by one or one or group by group. They begin to engage each other.

Because they make people feel that they are part of something larger than themselves — and that they can personally be a part of achieving that larger goal — movements inspire and empower. And for that reason they give people hope.

To win, Progressives must turn the anger and dissatisfaction with the present into inspiration and hope for the future.

The labor movement turned the battle in Ohio into a fight for the future of America’s middle class. It turned the battle into a fight over the dignity of everyday working people — and their right to have a say in their future. Instead of being about “contracts,” it was about “freedom.”

Lesson #2: It’s much easier to mobilize people to protect what they have than to fight for something to which they aspire.

Every one of the big victories yesterday involved battles that had been framed as attempts by the Right — or their allies on Wall Street – to take away the rights of everyday Americans.

In Ohio, it was the right to collectively bargain about their future. In Maine, it was the right to same-day voter registration. In Mississippi it was the right to use contraceptives –– once it became clear that the so-called “personhood” amendment was not just about abortion, but ultimately about a woman’s right to use birth control. In Arizona, it was the rights of Latino Americans.

And of course, that’s why the Republicans’ plan to privatize Social Security and eliminate Medicare are so toxic for them in the election next year.

Among referenda yesterday, the one progressive setback came in the largely symbolic vote — once again in Ohio — against the Health Care Reform Act’s mandate to buy insurance. The very same people who had voted against taking away the rights of their neighbors to join a union — also voted against being “forced” to buy health insurance.

The whole issue of the “mandate” is the major card the Right has played against the critically important Health Care Reform Act. Of course the whole issue could have been framed differently. The “mandate” to start paying Medicare premiums when you’re sixty-five isn’t framed as a “mandate.” People do it, both because they really want to get on Medicare, and because if they wait to pay premiums until they need it, their premiums go way up.

That’s why a Public Option was so popular with the voters. You got to choose to join something you wanted. But it’s also the way we should have framed the overall “mandate” to get insurance — with premium penalties if you fail to “opt in.”

Once the health care law becomes a fact on the ground that benefits ordinary people, every day, it will certainly become very popular. But that will wait until 2014 when most of its provisions go into effect. Once it does goes into effect, if they try to take away those benefits and the Right will run into a firestorm of opposition.

Of course if Romney is the Republican candidate next year, we don’t have to worry about the “mandate” issue at all. In fact, our attitude should be “go ahead, make my day.” It will be simple to neutralize any attack by Romney or Super-Pacs on Democrats about “mandates” by simply pointing out that the entire question is just one more example of how Romney has no core values — since he authored and passed the Massachusetts health care law built around “mandates.” In the end, Romney’s lack of core values is a much more powerful message than anything having to do with “mandates.”

Lesson #3: Framing the battle is key. In every one of these issue referenda, Progressives won the framing battle.

In Ohio, Progressives made the fight into a battle for the rights of the middle class — part of the overarching battle between the 99% and the 1%.

In Maine, Progressives made the battle into a fight over the right to register to vote. Of course the right wing frame was that eliminating same-day registration provided protection against “voter fraud.” That was pretty hard to sustain given the fact that there had been exactly two instances of “voter fraud” involving same-day registration in 28 years.

The Mississippi “personhood amendment” was framed as a battle over the rights of women to use birth control – not to make “miscarriage” a crime.

Lesson #4: Turnout is king. In Virginia, a Republican candidate leads his Democratic opponent by only 86 votes, so a recount will determine whether the Republicans there take control of the State Senate.

Turnout in the Virginia contests was low.

In Ohio, by contrast, 400,000 more voters went to the polls yesterday than in the elections in 2010. That’s one big reason why Progressives won.

And it wasn’t just inspiration and great messaging that turned them out. Rank and file union members and Progressives of all sorts conducted massive get out the vote efforts in every corner of the state.

After all, victory isn’t just about great strategy, mostly it’s about nuts and bolts — it’s about great execution. In Ohio they had both.

In Arizona, the Latino community mobilized to defeat the author of Arizona’s “papers please” law, State Senator Russell Pearce. He lost a recall election, by seven points, 52.4% to 45.4%. The Pearce defeat is just one more example of how the Republicans play the “immigration” card at their peril — and how important the Latino vote will be to the outcome next year in critical states like New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Florida — and Arizona.

Pearce didn’t count on Latinos going out to vote. They did.

Lesson #5: Progressives win when we stand up straight. We won last night where we stood proudly for progressive values — planted the flag — mobilized our forces and took the offensive.

People in America are not looking for leaders who apologize for their progressive beliefs or are willing to compromise those principles even before they enter the fight. They want leaders who will fight for the middle class, and fight for change; who stand up against the big Wall Street banks and the CEO class that they believe – correctly – have siphoned off the nation’s wealth, and whose greed has caused the economy to collapse.

People are willing to compromise when it seems to advance the common good — but only after their leaders have done everything in their power to defend their interests — and have mobilized them to defend theirown interests.

Lesson #6: The face of the battle in Ohio was your neighbor.

The Republicans bet that they could make public employees the “Welfare Queens” of our time. They bet that they could make public employees the scapegoats for all that has gone wrong with the American economy — that they could divide the middle class against itself.

They bet wrong.

Turned out to be impossible to convince everyday Americans that firefighters, cops, and teachers were greedy villains. Normal voters recognized them as their neighbors — as people just like themselves.

The 99% versus the 1% frame is critical to making clear that the problem with our economy has nothing to do with how much teachers, or firefighters, or steel workers, or home care workers, or Social Security recipients make for a living. It has everything to do with growing economic inequality, the exploding financial sector, and an unproductive class of speculators and gamblers who don’t make anything of value but siphon off all of our increased productivity.

Lesson #7: Progressives win when we frame the issue as a moral choice.

In Ohio, Progressives did not frame the debate as a choice between two sets of policies and programs. They posed the question as a choice between two different visions of the future.

It was a choice between an America with a strong, vibrant, empowered middle class, where every generation can look forward to more opportunity than the one that went before – or, a society with a tiny wealthy elite and a massive population of powerless workers who do their bidding.

It was posed as a choice between a society where we’re all in this together –– where we look out for each other and take responsibility for our future as a country — or as a society where we’re all in this alone — where only the strong, or the clever, or the ruthless can thrive.

If given a clear, compelling choice, Americans will chose a progressive vision of the future every time.”

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partnersand a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.


Emphasis Mine

see:

Thirty Years of Unleashed Greed

It is class warfare.

From TruthOut, by Robert Scheer, TruthDig

“Class inequality had been rising sharply in the United States even before the banking-induced recession…

It is class warfare.

It was not begun, however, by the tear-gassed, rain-soaked protesters asserting their constitutionally guaranteed right of peaceful assembly. Rather, this war was sparked by the financial overlords who control all of the major levers of power in what passes for our democracy. It is they who subverted the American ideal of a nation of stakeholders in control of their economic and political destiny.

Between 1979 and 2007, as the Congressional Budget Office reported this week, the average real income of the top 1 percent grew by an astounding 275 percent. And that’s after payment of the taxes that the super-rich and their Republican apologists find so onerous.

Those three decades of rampant upper-crust greed unleashed by the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s will be well-marked by future historians recording the death of the American dream. In that decisive historical period, the middle class began to evaporate and the nation’s income gap increased to alarming proportions.

“As a result of that uneven growth,” the CBO explained, “the distribution of after-tax household income in the United States was substantially more unequal in 2007 than in 1979: The share of income accruing to higher-income households increased, whereas the share accruing to other households declined. … The share of after-tax household income for the 1 percent of the population with the highest income more than doubled.”

That was before the 2008 meltdown, which ushered in the massive increase in unemployment and housing foreclosures that further eroded the standard of living of the vast majority of Americans while the super-rich rewarded themselves with immense bonuses. To stress the role of the financial industry in this march to greater income inequality, as the Occupy Wall Street movement has done, is not a matter of ideology or rhetoric but — as the CBO report details — a matter of discernible fact.

The CBO noted in comparing top earners that “the (income) share of financial professionals almost doubled from 1979 to 2005” and that “employees in the financial and legal professions made up a larger share of the highest earners than people in those other groups.”

And no wonder, since it was the bankers and the lawyers serving them who managed to end the sensible government regulations that contained their greed. The undermining of those regulations began during the Reagan presidency, so it’s not surprising that, as the CBO reports, “the compensation differential between the financial sector and the rest of the economy appears inexplicably large from 1990 onward.” Citing a major study on the subject, the CBO added, “The authors believe that deregulation and corporate finance activities linked to initial public offerings and credit risks are the primary causes of the higher compensation differential.”

So much for the claim that excessive government regulation has discouraged business activity. The CBO report also denies the charge that taxes on the wealthy have placed an undue burden on the economy, documenting that federal revenue sources have become more regressive and that the tax burden on the wealthy has declined since 1979.

In the face of the evidence that class inequality had been rising sharply in the United States even before the banking-induced recession, it would seem that the Occupy Wall Street protests are a quite measured and even timid response to the crisis.

Actually, the rallying cry of that movement was originally enunciated not by the protesters in the streets but by one of the nation’s most respected economists.

Last April, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz wrote an article in Vanity Fair titled “Of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent,” and it should be required reading for those well-paid pundits who question the logic and motives of the Wall Street protesters. “Americans have been watching protests (abroad) against repressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few,” Stiglitz wrote. “Yet, in our democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income — an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.”

Maybe justice will prevail despite the suffering that the 1 percent has inflicted on the foreclosed and the jobless. But to date, those who have seized 40 percent of the nation’s wealth still control the big guns in this war of classes.”

emphasis mine

see:http://www.truth-out.org/30-years-unleashed-greed/1319808045

Give Karl Marx a Chance to Save the World Economy: George Magnus

s he wrote in “Das Kapital,” companies’ pursuit of profits and productivity would naturally lead them to need fewer and fewer workers, creating an “industrial reserve army” of the poor and unemployed: “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery.”

Karl Marx and the World Economy

By George Magnus

Policy makers struggling to understand the barrage of financial panics, protests and other ills afflicting the world would do well to study the works of a long-dead economist: Karl Marx. The sooner they recognize we’re facing a once-in-a-lifetime crisis of capitalism, the better equipped they will be to manage a way out of it.

The spirit of Marx, who is buried in a cemetery close to where I live in north London, has risen from the grave amid the financial crisis and subsequent economic slump. The wily philosopher’s analysis of capitalism had a lot of flaws, but today’s global economy bears some uncanny resemblances to the conditions he foresaw.

Consider, for example, Marx’s prediction of how the inherent conflict between capital and labor would manifest itself. As he wrote in “Das Kapital,” companies’ pursuit of profits and productivity would naturally lead them to need fewer and fewer workers, creating an “industrial reserve army” of the poor and unemployed: “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery.”

The process he describes is visible throughout the developed world, particularly in the U.S. Companies’ efforts to cut costs and avoid hiring have boosted U.S. corporate profits as a share of total economic output to the highest level in more than six decades, while the unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent and real wages are stagnant.

U.S. income inequality, meanwhile, is by some measures close to its highest level since the 1920s. Before 2008, the income disparity was obscured by factors such as easy credit, which allowed poor households to enjoy a more affluent lifestyle. Now the problem is coming home to roost.

Over-Production Paradox

Marx also pointed out the paradox of over-production and under-consumption: The more people are relegated to poverty, the less they will be able to consume all the goods and services companies produce. When one company cuts costs to boost earnings, it’s smart, but when they all do, they undermine the income formation and effective demand on which they rely for revenues and profits.

This problem, too, is evident in today’s developed world. We have a substantial capacity to produce, but in the middle- and lower-income cohorts, we find widespread financial insecurity and low consumption rates. The result is visible in the U.S., where new housing construction and automobile sales remain about 75% and 30% below their 2006 peaks, respectively.

As Marx put it in Kapital: “The ultimate reason for all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses.”

Addressing the Crisis

So how do we address this crisis? To put Marx’s spirit back in the box, policy makers have to place jobs at the top of the economic agenda, and consider other unorthodox measures. The crisis isn’t temporary, and it certainly won’t be cured by the ideological passion for government austerity.

Here are five major planks of a strategy whose time, sadly, has not yet come.

First, we have to sustain aggregate demand and income growth, or else we could fall into a debt trap along with serious social consequences. Governments that don’t face an imminent debt crisis — including the U.S., Germany and the U.K. — must make employment creation the litmus test of policy. In the U.S., the employment-to-population ratio is now as low as in the 1980s. Measures of underemployment almost everywhere are at record highs. Cutting employer payroll taxes and creating fiscal incentives to encourage companies to hire people and invest would do for a start.

Lighten the Burden

Second, to lighten the household debt burden, new steps should allow eligible households to restructure mortgage debt, or swap some debt forgiveness for future payments to lenders out of any home price appreciation.

Third, to improve the functionality of the credit system, well-capitalized and well-structured banks should be allowed some temporary capital adequacy relief to try to get new credit flowing to small companies, especially. Governments and central banks could engage in direct spending on or indirect financing of national investment or infrastructure programs.

Fourth, to ease the sovereign debt burden in the euro zone, European creditors have to extend the lower interest rates and longer payment terms recently proposed for Greece. If jointly guaranteed euro bonds are a bridge too far, Germany has to champion an urgent recapitalization of banks to help absorb inevitable losses through a vastly enlarged European Financial Stability Facility — a sine qua non to solve the bond market crisis at least.

Build Defenses

Fifth, to build defenses against the risk of falling into deflation and stagnation, central banks should look beyond bond- buying programs, and instead target a growth rate of nominal economic output. This would allow a temporary period of moderately higher inflation that could push inflation-adjusted interest rates well below zero and facilitate a lowering of debt burdens.

We can’t know how these proposals might work out, or what their unintended consequences might be. But the policy status quo isn’t acceptable, either. It could turn the U.S. into a more unstable version of Japan, and fracture the euro zone with unknowable political consequences. By 2013, the crisis of Western capitalism could easily spill over to China, but that’s another subject.”

(George Magnus is senior economic adviser at UBS and author of “Uprising: Will Emerging Markets Shape or Shake the World Economy?” The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the Bloomberg View editorial board: view@bloomberg.net.

emphasis mine

see:http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-29/give-marx-a-chance-to-save-the-world-economy-commentary-by-george-magnus.html

We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore

“I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Written in 2004.

How did the Party of Lincoln and Liberty transmogrify into the party of Newt Gingrich’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk?

By GARRISON KEILLOR

Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned—and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. “Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,” says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, shriekChristians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shreiking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Rich ironies abound! Lies pop up like toadstools in the forest! Wild swine crowd round the public trough! Outrageous gerrymandering! Pocket lining on a massive scale! Paid lobbyists sit in committee rooms and write legislation to alleviate the suffering of billionaires! Hypocrisies shine like cat turds in the moonlight! O Mark Twain, where art thou at this hour? Arise and behold the Gilded Age reincarnated gaudier than ever, upholding great wealth as the sure sign of Divine Grace.

Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy—the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president’s personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of democracy. No republic in the history of humanity has survived this. The election of 2004 will say something about what happens to ours. The omens are not good.

Our beloved land has been fogged with fear—fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.

There is a stink drifting through this election year. It isn’t the Florida recount or the Supreme Court decision. No, it’s 9/11 that we keep coming back to. It wasn’t the “end of innocence,” or a turning point in our history, or a cosmic occurrence, it was an event, a lapse of security. And patriotism shouldn’t prevent people from asking hard questions of the man who was purportedly in charge of national security at the time.

Whenever I think of those New Yorkers hurrying along Park Place or getting off the No.1 Broadway local, hustling toward their office on the 90th floor, the morning paper under their arms, I think of that non-reader George W. Bush and how he hopes to exploit those people with a little economic uptick, maybe the capture of Osama, cruise to victory in November and proceed to get some serious nation-changing done in his second term.

This year, as in the past, Republicans will portray us Democrats as embittered academics, desiccated Unitarians, whacked-out hippies and communards, people who talk to telephone poles, the party of the Deadheads. They will wave enormous flags and wow over and over the footage of firemen in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and bodies being carried out and they will lie about their economic policies with astonishing enthusiasm.

The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.

This is a great country, and it wasn’t made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we’re not getting any younger.

Dante said that the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader. It’s a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning.

  • Help In These Times publish more articles like this. Donate today!
  • Subscribe today and save 46% off the newsstand price!
Garrison Keillor is the host and writer of A Prairie Home Companion, now in its 34th year on the air and a syndicated newspaper columnist.

Emphasis Mine.

see:http://readersupportednews.org/off-site-opinion-section/72-72/7193-were-not-in-lake-wobegon-anymore

3 Reality-Based Charts Your Right-Wing Relatives Will Have a Hard Time Ignoring

Here are some reality-based charts to help knock down absurd right-wing propaganda about the economy

From AlterNet, by RJ Eskow

Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about “Obama spending” and “Obama deficits” and how the “Stimulus” just made things worse.

Solution: Here are three “reality-based” charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened.

Spending

Bush-Obama Spending Chart

Government spending increased dramatically under Bush. It has not increased much under Obama. Note that this chart does not reflect any spending cuts resulting from deficit-cutting deals.

Deficits

Bush-Obama Deficit Chart

Notes, this chart includes Clinton’s last budget year for comparison.

The numbers in these two charts come from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2012. They are just the amounts that the government spent and borrowed, period, Anyone can go look then up. People who claim that Obama “tripled the deficit” are either misled or are trying to mislead.

The Stimulus and Jobs

Bush-Obama-Jobs-Chart

In this chart, the RED lines on the left side — the ones that keep doing DOWN — show what happened to jobs under the policies of Bush and the Republicans. We were losing lots and lots of jobs every month, and it was getting worse and worse.The BLUE lines — the ones that just go UP — show what happened to jobs when the stimulus was in effect. We stopped losing jobs and started gaining jobs, and it was getting better and better. The leveling off on the right side of the chart shows what happened as the stimulus started to wind down: job creation leveled off at too low a level.

It looks a lot like the stimulus reversed what was going on before the stimulus.

Conclusion: THE STIMULUS WORKED BUT WAS NOT ENOUGH!

More False Things

These are just three of the false things that everyone “knows.” Some others are (click through): Obama bailed out the banks, businesses will hire if they get tax cuts, health care reform cost $1 trillion, Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme or is “going broke”, government spending “takes money out of the economy.”

Why This Matters

These things really matter. We all want to fix the terrible problems the country has. But it is so important to know just what the problems are before you decide how to fix them. Otherwise the things you do to try to solve those problems might just make them worse. If you get tricked into thinking that Obama has made things worse and that we should go back to what we were doing before Obama — tax cuts for the rich, giving giant corporations and Wall Street everything they want — when those are the things that caused the problems in the first place, then we will be in real trouble.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/152201/3_reality-based_charts_your_right-wing_relatives_will_have_a_hard_time_ignoring?akid=7484.123424.OxQ7x8&rd=1&t=12

Understand the Right’s Attack on Social Security

The Social Security program is entirely self-funded, separate from the way that the government taxes and spends for other programs.Social Security does not contribute to the deficit in any way.

From Alternet, by: Dave Johnson, Campaign for America’s Future

“You hear over and over that Social Security is “in trouble” or that we “can’t afford it.” This is as far from true as can be, and the idea behind this is to convince people to just give up on defending the program and let the haters have their way. The people who hate Social Security the most are the ones who say they want to make these changes to “save” it.

Well Bernie Sanders loves the program and has introduced a bill that actually will save it.

The Haters

Conservatives have hated Social Security from the start, because it is a program that demonstrates once and for all the value of progressive governance. Social Security is as clear an example of We, the People watching out for and taking care of each other as there ever was. It has made a huge difference n the lives of older people, and their/our families. It works, is cost-effective and requires minimal overhead to keep it going. So they hate it.

A very recent example of conservative hatred for Social Security came from Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who said, that We, the People helping each other makes us weak,

“These programs actually weakened us as a people. … All of a sudden, for an increasing number of people in our nation, it was no longer necessary to worry about saving for security because that was the government’s job.”

Substitute the words “We, the People” or “each other” for “government” in Rubio’s statement and you’ll get the point: people don’t have to worry so much because we’re taking care of each other. He says that makes us weak. Yikes!

Decades Of Attacks

For decades conservatives who hate Social Security have been using every trick in the book to turn people against the program. Over and over you hear, “It’s a Ponzi scheme.” “It won’t be there for you.” This latest attack is that it “makes us weak.” And of course the old classic: “Social Security is broke.”

The “it’s going broke” and “won’t be there for you” attack strategy goes back to a 1983 Cato Institute Journal document, “Achieving a Leninist Strategy” by Stuart Butler of Cato and Peter Germanis of the Heritage FoundationThe document is still available at Cato, and select quotes are available at Plotting Privatization? from Z Magazine. If you have time it is worth reading the entire document (in particular the section “Weakening the Opposition”) to more fully understand the strategy that has been unfolding in the years since. But if you can’t, the following quotes give you an idea:

“Lenin recognized that fundamental change is contingent upon … its success in isolating and weakening its opponents. … we would do well to draw a few lessons from the Leninist strategy.”

” construct … a coalition that will … reap benefits from the IRA-based private system … but also the banks, insurance companies, and other institutions that will gain from providing such plans to the public.”

“The first element consists of a campaign to achieve small legislative changes that embellish the present IRA system, making it in practice a small-scale private Social Security system.

“The second main element … involves what one might crudely call guerrilla warfare against both the current Social Security system and the coalition that supports it.”

“The banking industry and other business groups that can benefit from expanded IRAs …” “… the strategy must be to propose moving to a private Social Security system in such a way as to … neutralize … the coalition that supports the existing system.”

“The next Social Security crisis may be further away than many people believe. … it could be many years before the conditions are such that a radical reform of Social Security is possible. But then, as Lenin well knew, to be a successful revolutionary, one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform.”

Here is what to take away from this: Every time you hear that “Social Security is going broke” you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point that is part of a decades-old strategy. Every time you hear that “Social Security is a Ponzi scheme” you are hearing that strategy in operation. Every time you hear that “Social Security won’t be there for me anyway” ” you are witnessing that strategy unfold.

The Problem

The Social Security program is entirely self-funded, separate from the way that the government taxes and spends for other programs. People set aside money in their working years, they get a monthly amount when they retire. (The program also has other benefits including disability benefits, survivors funds and others.) Social Security does not contribute to the deficit in any way.

You never hear that the huge, vast, bloated, enormous, mammoth military budget is “going broke” or “won’t be there for you.” But year after year you hear that Social Security is “in trouble.”

Currently the program has built up a huge trust fund — over $2.5 trillion. This is invested in US Treasury Bonds, and is earning interest. But there are projections that this trust fund will be depleted in approx. 2037, and if this happens the program will have to cut payouts by as much as 25%. (Hey. when does the military budget Trust Fund run down?)

One big reason for this shortfall is that the last time the programs was comprehensively adjusted (1983, Greenspan Commission) certain economic growth and income projections were used to decide how much “payroll tax” to take out of people’s paychecks. They increased the amount taken out of paychecks, and set up an increasing “cap” on the income that would be taxed. Right now 6.2% (temporarily reduced to 4.2%) is taken out of paychecks, and employers kick in another 6.2%, on income up to a “cap” of $106,800. There is no “payroll tax” on amounts above that “cap.”

But something changed between 1983 and nowalmost all the income gains have gone to a few at the very top. Instead of people who mostly were under that “cap” getting raises, thereby increasing the amount they pay into the fund, the raises went to people who already pass that amount, so the increased income is not contributing to the program. So that money that was calculated would go into the Social Security Trust Fund instead went to the top few. As a result the program is no longer bringing in enough money to keep the trust fund fully-funded past 2037.

Sen. Sanders’ Solution

Senator Bernie Sanders is introducing a bill to the Senate to fix this, once and for all. In simple terms, this bill will start taxing income above $250,000 a year to cover this Social Security shortfall. So instead of just “raising the cap” it lets that cap stay, and then takes it off again on income above $250,000. In effect it means there will be a gap between the current top income that is taxed, and $250K.

Get the money from where the money went: So because much of the real Social Security problem is that so much income is now going to just a few at the top, this gets the money to fix the problem from those top-level incomes.

Here is Sanders, talking about his bill:

“When [Social Security] was developed, 50 percent of seniors lived in poverty. Today, poverty among seniors is too high, but that number is ten percent. Social Security has done exactly what it was designed to do!”


Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.truth-out.org/understand-rights-attack-social-security/1314537823