Danger on the right

Donald Trump is a distraction from the fact that the mainstream media has pretended the GOP is a normal party with values just to the right.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Neal Gabler/Moyers and Co

Emphasis Mine

As incendiary and dangerous as he is—and he is very dangerous—and as much of a main event as he has been in this election season, Donald Trump is largely a distraction from what really ails our political discourse. Long after he is gone from the scene, the Republican Party that engendered him, facilitated him, and now supports him—despite a severe case of buyer’s remorse—will no doubt still thrive, booting up for a future candidacy of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan. And the media will still act as if Trump were an aberration, a departure from so-called “sensible” conservatism. If so, it will be yet another act of media dereliction.

In fact, worse than dereliction, because the Republican Party, with its history of dog-whistle racism, sexism, homophobia, nativism, and gun addiction, salted now by incipient fascism, has been legitimized by the mainstream media (MSM) for years. One could say that the GOP and MSM have operated in collusion to the great detriment of this country. One could say that and not even be a liberal, just a commonsensical American.

The MSM continue to treat the Republican Party as if it were just another constellation of ideology and policy—another way of governing the country, even though this campaign season, if not the last 30 years, should have disabused journalists of that notion. Today’s GOP is closer to a religious cult than a political institution. It operates on dogma, sees compromise as a moral failing, views enemies as pagans who must be vanquished, and considers every policy skirmish another Götterdämmerung.

That isn’t politics; it’s a modern version of the medieval Crusades, and as the ancient Crusades did to Europe, it has inflicted untold damage on our country. Because it is deep in the bones of the Republicans, it won’t end with Trump, who is a non-believer himself when it comes to conservative orthodoxy. It can only end with the extinction of the party itself as presently constituted—Cruz, Ryan, Rubio, McConnell, et al.—and the rise of a new conservative party, not a cult.

You won’t hear that in the MSM, in large part because, partisan organs like Fox News and MSNBC aside, it tries to maintain that deadly and deadening balance so often discussed and decried by media critics like me. This is a practice that requires a tit for every tat, so that blame can never be leveled against one party unless the media immediately level it against the other as well. Political equipoise, as it were.

Part of this is laziness. Part is fear. The press knows that if it were to come right out and criticize the GOP for its denial of climate change, its campaign to deny the LGBT community its civil rights, its efforts to strip food stamps from children and health insurance from the poor, its systematic attempts to suppress minority voters, its recent howl to protect the Second-Amendment rights of suspected terrorists while at the same time calling for greater surveillance of us all, there would be hell to pay from the right wing, which would invoke the mythical and dreaded “liberal media.” The historian and columnist Eric Alterman calls this “working the refs,” and the MSM fall for it every time.

But there is another reason why the MSM haven’t called out the Republican Party, despite its egregious behavior, and this one is especially relevant in this election: The media simply won’t discuss the Republican Party’s values, as values are the third rail of political journalism. You just don’t talk about values, because when you do so, you can’t fake balance. We all know that there is a big difference between Republicans and Democrats, and it isn’t just a matter of philosophy-cum-policy. It is a matter of what values underlie the parties’ philosophies. And, if I may be blunt, Republican values just aren’t very consistent with what most of us think when we think of good values.

So the GOP’s blatant contradictions, its hate disguised as individual rights and its disdain for the weakest among us, largely go unexamined. Indeed, our media state of affairs is so sad that it largely has fallen to comedians to be our primary truth tellers about what one of our two major parties really stands for—among them, Jon Stewart in his day, Stephen ColbertJohn Oliver, and Samantha Bee, whose recent broadcasts on Orlando and guns and on Republican racism have torn the so-called “principled ideological” veil off the GOP and exposed it for what it is: a cult of cranks.

By rousing the hatefulness within the GOP rank and file, Donald Trump has emboldened a few intrepid MSM journalists to rip off the veil, too—even journalists who treat Paul Ryan as if he were a first-rate intellect. Andrew Rosenthal, the departing editorial page editor atThe New York Times, wrote a blistering takedown of the GOP’s refusal to denounce Trump, and Times columnist and Iraq War apologist Thomas Friedman, the very definition of a cautious Big-Foot pundit who slavishly creates and follows the conventional wisdom, called for a reconstituted Republican Party on the basis of “moral bankruptcy.” It is a terrific column. Read it.

Of course, two larks don’t an exaltation make, and in any case, both Rosenthal and Friedman are primarily print journalists. Television news still has the longest national reach, and it will never call out the Republican Party no matter what it does, much less examine its values. Instead, we get endless horse-race coverage that turns the election into a long sporting event in which nothing seems to matter except who’s winning. We all know that now, and despite the yowls of protest, we also know that it is not likely to change. Political journalists are like sports writers, tracking a team’s game plans and checking the score—or, as we call it in politics, the polls.

But what we may fail to notice is that, with all its blather about what states are in play or whose field operation is better or which internecine battles presently engage the candidates’ staffs, this kind of coverage is not only a way to juice the political narrative; it’s also a way to avoid touching that third rail. So long as we are talking about strategy or who is winning, we don’t have to talk about policy (borrrrrrrring!!!) or about values.

Avoiding talking about values is one of the reasons we find ourselves in our current political situation. Doing so might have stopped the threat of Donald Trump. Thirty years ago, it might even have stopped the march of the current Republican Party; its values could have been exposed as indefensible, which could have shamed them (and us) into changing. There is a reason the Republicans contrived the slogan “compassionate conservatism.” It was because even they knew their compassion was dubious. It would have been nice to have the MSM examine that, though, of course, it would have required both the courage to buck the right-wing, who would howl, and the seriousness to discuss just how important values are in our politics. In some measure, because we never got that discussion, for three decades the GOP has gotten off scot-free.

Now the MSM routinely rebuke Trump, but that easy critique allows them not to have to rebuke the Republican Party itself, whose values, if not his often-changing policy pronouncements, are virtually identical with Trump’s, minus his oft-changing policy pronouncements. It is the politesse of a Paul Ryan that Trump lacks in expressing his hostility, and it is that politesse that has conned a gullible, frightened media.

When Trump’s candidacy first began taking hold, we were told in the media that Republicans had a Trump problem. As he rose to the top of the GOP presidential heap and rank-and-file Republicans supported him—because of his hateful rhetoric, and not in spite of it—we realized the Republicans had a Republican problem, though, again, the media dare not say it. Now that Trump is the party’s presumptive nominee and Republicans are falling into line just as conservatives did in Germany in 1933, we have come to a much graver realization: America has a Republican problem.

This isn’t about whom we elect as president. It goes much deeper. This is about who we want to be as a people. For three decades, the MSM have been collaborators with the GOP, pretending the cult is a normal party with values just to the right of center. The result is the proto-fascist Donald Trump and an institution that continues to legitimize what is worst in us.

Neal Gabler is the author of five books and the recipient of two LA TImes Book Prizes, Time magazine’s non-fiction book of the year, and USA Today’s biography of the year. He is a senior fellow at the Lear Center for the Study of Entertainment and Society.

See: http://www.alternet.org/right-wing/america-has-republican-problem-and-media-blame?akid=14377.123424.G1plnU&rd=1&src=newsletter1058867&t=8

Why Aren’t Ayn Rand’s Wealthy “Job Creators” … Creating Jobs?

The myth of the wealthy “job creator” has been used for years to underscore a harmful vision of capitalism.

From AlterNet, by John Paul Rollert

 “With the announcement last Monday of President Obama’s plan to pay for his jobs bill with, among other things, the so-called “Buffett Rule,” we’re going to be hearing a lot more about the “job creators.” Over the last year, Congressional Republicans have consistently invoked them as a hex of sorts against any proposal to raise new tax revenue. “I am not for raising taxes in a recession,” Eric Cantor declared last November, when the Bush tax cuts were a bargaining chip in the protracted budget debate, “especially when it comes to the job creators that we need so desperately to start creating jobs again.”

Ten months, no new taxes, and one debt ceiling crisis later, Cantor said the same thing last week in response to the president’s jobs bill: “I sure hope that the president is not suggesting that we pay for his proposals with a massive tax increase at the end of 2012 on job creators that we’re actually counting on to reduce unemployment.” Given that 44 percent of the nation’s unemployed have been without work for at least six months and more Americans are living below the poverty line than at any time in the last 50 years, one marvels at Cantor’s faith in the truant “job creators” as well as his forbearance in the face of human misery. To the jobless, he is counseling the patience of Job.

But who exactly are these “job creators?” The phrase is not new. Republicans have been using it for years to underscore a particular vision of capitalism in which those who have benefitted most by the system are also most essential to its continued success. As long ago as 1991, Newt Gingrich characterized Democratic opposition to a cut in the capital gains tax as evidence that liberals reject this vision. “They hate job creators,” he told a gathering of Senate Republicans, “they’re envious of job creators.  They want to punish job creators.” With no apparent sense of irony, Gingrich added this was proof liberals “believe in class warfare.”

A more telling example for our current political impasse is the debate over the 1993 Clinton budget plan, which aimed to cut the deficit by, among other things, raising the top income tax rate. Congressional Republicans fought the bill tooth and nail, no one more so than former Texas Senator Phil Gramm. On the eve of its passage, he expressed the hope that the bill would “defy history” and prove that “raising taxes on job creators can promote investment and promote job creation.” Gramm, of course, did not think this was very likely to happen. “Only in Cuba and in North Korea and in Washington, D.C., does anybody believe that today,” he said, “but perhaps the whole world is wrong.”

Hindsight suggests that the world wasn’t wrong so much as Phil Gramm, along with every other Republican member of Congress. Not one of them voted for the bill, which cleared the House by only two votes and required Al Gore’s tie-breaking vote in the Senate. While higher taxes on the “job creators” proved no obvious hurdle to economic growth — the economy grew for 116 consecutive months, the most in U.S. history — it did cut the deficit from $290 billion when Clinton took office to $22 billion by 1997 and helped put the country on a projected path to paying off the national debt by 2012.

So much for ancient history. If the term “job creators” is no new addition to the lexicon of American politics, it has enjoyed quite a renaissance since President Obama took office. A Lexis-Nexis search of U.S. newspapers and wire services turns up 1,082 individual mentions of “job creators” in the month before the debt ceiling deal was reached, or just 175 fewer mentions than for George W. Bush’s entire second term.

Jon Stewart, for one, did not fail to notice the uptick. “Republicans are no longer allowed to say that people are rich,” he noted during the deficit ceiling debate, “You have to refer to them as ‘job creators.’” Stewart’s observation is funny only to the extent to which you believe that saying you’re a member of the top tax bracket and saying that you create jobs is not an obvious redundancy. If you believe, however, that the cast of Jersey Shore has just as much claim to being called “job creators” as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, then Stewart’s joke not only falls flat, but misses the point. The wealthy are the “job creators,” whether or not they spend their time actually trying to create jobs.

The problem, of course, with upholding a definition of “job creators” that does not turn on the dedicated effort to create jobs is that it becomes hard to figure out what distinguishes the “job creators,” as a group, from everyone else — at least beyond their relative wealth. All Americans spend, save, and invest in varying degrees; most just do so with a lot less money.

In this light, the “jobs creators” rhetoric highlights a theory of capitalism in which those at the very top of the economic pyramid end up supporting the base. We might call this theory the Visible Hand of Capitalism in order to distinguish it from Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. In The Wealth of Nations, he famously located the enduring success of capitalism in an increasingly complex system of work and exchange that sees “the assistance and co-operation of many thousands.” In such a society, no single group can be meaningfully called the “job creators.” They are as much the managers of capital as the men on the factory line.

As an intellectual matter, the Visible Hand of Capitalism has enjoyed support from figures as disparate as Destutt de Tracy, the French philosopher and economist whom Thomas Jefferson championed, to the steel baron and indefatigable philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. As a rhetorical matter, however, the phrase “job creators” appears to come directly from the work of Ayn Rand. She favored the term “creators” to describe an elite caste in society and her highest human ideal.

John Boehner made reference to Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s most famous novel, in a speech he gave recently to the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. “Job creators in America are essentially on strike,” he said, in an obvious nod to the decision by the “creators” in the novel to go on strike in defiance of an intrusive federal government. The nation immediately begins to falter, and the books concludes with its hero, John Galt, giving a marathon address in which he explains to the rest of the country why America is crumbling. The nation, in brief, has scared away the very people who keep the economy working, leaving behind those who are ill-equipped to fend for themselves. Describing the economic and social theory underpinning this vision, Galt says:

In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability. The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains.

For all that it lacks in human decency, Rand’s vision of who makes capitalism work at least has the advantage of isolating a group of people who actually create something. By contrast, the current “job creators” rhetoric seems to elevate a group of people whose shared tax bracket is their only outstanding trait.

As the debate over the president’s jobs bill takes shape, the “job creators” rhetoric is certainly deserving of a little more scrutiny, especially by those who don’t qualify for the distinction. Otherwise, they might as well accept the judgment of a far greater authority than even John Galt:

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

John Paul Rollert is a doctoral student at the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. His essay, “Does the Top Really Support the Bottom? – Adam Smith and the Problem of the Commercial Pyramid,” was recently published by The Business and Society Review.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/152574/why_aren%27t_ayn_rand%27s_wealthy_%22job_creators%22_…_creating_jobs?page=entire

GOP’s Debt Solution: Soak the Poor

A single mother struggling to keep a roof over her child’s head would probably love to trade places with a six-figure earner and bear the burden of paying federal income tax on a comfortable salary.

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

magine a bulky schoolyard bully routinely holding you and your classmates upside-down by your shoes and pocketing the money that falls out, using the amount gained from his extortion to buy a new bike at the end of each semester. Now imagine enduring this process every day, all year, throughout each grade of school.

What if one day, the bully actually complained that you weren’t bringing enough lunch money to school because he wanted a nicer bike? Would you comply and let him rob you of a larger amount, or would you and your fellow classmates surround the teacher and demand the bully return the money he stole?

Despite billionaire Warren Buffett‘s pleas to reduce the deficit by shifting the tax burden to the super-rich, Republican members of Congress have officially come out in favor of raising taxes on the poor, while fiercely protecting trillions in tax handouts for billionairesbig oil and corporate jet owners. Right-wing politicians and corporate-media pundits have now set their sights on “lucky duckies,” or the bottom half of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes. As law professor Edward Kleinbard noted, this statement is misleading and ignores the need for meaningful reform of our tax code.

Jon Stewart creatively dismantled the poor-people-don’t-pay-taxes argument on The Daily Show, highlighting conservatives who dismissed the $700 billion in revenue gained from ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in 2010. According to Stewart’s calculations, taking exactly half of everything owned by the bottom 50% of Americans would also generate $700 billion, exactly as much revenue as increasing the tax rate for the richest Americans by a modest 3%. Stewart sarcastically suggested Republicans trim the deficit by seizing all assets owned by the bottom half of Americans.

It’s incredibly audacious for the rich to ask the poor to pay more in taxes in order to protect theirbudget-busting tax breaks, especially considering America’s wealth disparity. The gap between the richest and everyone else has grown to levels even greater than on the eve of the crash that triggered the great depression, with the top .001% of Americans now owning 976 times more than the bottom 90%. In 1928, the richest only owned 892 times more than the bottom 90%.

And of course, those accusing the working poor of freeloading ignore the fact that 1 in 4 American jobs don’t even pay poverty wages, or that the federal income tax is inherently designed to avoid hitting the poor, the elderly and working families with children. Such bold accusations also ignore the reality that all of the aforementioned groups still pay roughly one-third of their income in sales, property, payroll and excise taxes.

A single mother struggling to keep a roof over her child’s head would probably love to trade places with a six-figure earner and bear the burden of paying federal income tax on a comfortable salary. But would a six-figure earner be willing to work three part-time minimum wage jobs and still worry about how the rent is going to be paid at the end of the month? Would he really be eager to forgo paying federal income tax if it meant he had to scrape quarters together to buy beans, lentils and ramen noodles for dinner?

Big oil doesn’t need $4 billion per year in taxpayer subsidies – they’re making record profits. Excessive tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires won’t create jobs – the unemployment rate doubledafter ten years of the Bush tax cuts. And corporate jet owners don’t need a tax break while public employees nationwide are losing their jobs to budget cuts.

America needs to surround our teacher before recess and make a strong statement together – the bullies don’t need to rob us of our lunch money to continue their excessive lifestyles. Let’s stop subsidizing wealth for the sake of wealth, and leave struggling middle-class families alone.


Carl Gibson, 24, of Lexington, Kentucky, is a spokesman and organizer for US Uncut, a nonviolent, creative direct-action movement to stop budget cuts by getting corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. He graduated from Morehead State University in 2009 with a B.A. in Journalism before starting the first US Uncut group in Jackson, Mississippi, in February of 2011. Since then, over 20,000 US Uncut activists have carried out more than 300 actions in over 100 cities nationwide. You may contact Carl at carl@rsnorg.org.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/279-82/7202-gops-debt-solution-soak-the-poor