The Middle East is on Fire, Thanks to US!

The scholar speaks about America’s past foreign policy blunders and the failures of the mainstream media.

Source: Jacobin, via AlterNet

Author:Dan Falcone and Saul Isaacson / Jacobin

See: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/noam-chomsky-middle-east-fire-thanks-us

Dear Evangelicals: You’re Being Had

Why are you trying to solve a cultural problem with a political solution? Because the Republican Party is using you.

Source: Daily Beast, via RSN

Author: Jay Michaelson

Emphasis Mine

Dear Conservative Evangelicals,

I drive a Prius, enjoy Vanilla lattes, and am married to a man. I know it’s unlikely for me to be writing you this letter, and even more unlikely for you to read it.

But unlike most of my Obama-loving, liberal friends, I am no longer afraid of you. It’s clear to me that “your side” is losing the battle for public opinion, and I know that many of you agree with that assessment.

So why am I writing you this letter? Because, also unlike my liberal friends, I’m actually on your side, in some ways. I’m an ordained rabbi, and someone deeply concerned with the vulgarization and sexualization of our society. You and I disagree about the solution to this problem, of course, but we agree that there is a problem.

The trouble is, you’re trying to solve cultural problems with political solutions—because politicians have convinced you to do so. I am referring here to establishment Republicans, which for 150 years have consistently been the party of the rich and ungenerous.

In the first half of the twentieth century, most Christians distrusted this party, controlled as it was by “urban bankers” and others opposed to the Jeffersonian values of rural America. But in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the switch began—and by Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, it was complete. Republicans catered to conservative social attitudes on racial integration, and eventually moved rightward on issues like abortion and feminism, too, although you know as well as I do that they never really believed in them. They just realized that they could gain power by uniting two very different groups: the same moneyed elites as always, and you.

Now, let’s see who has won, and who has lost, in the ensuing 34 years.

It’s clear that the rich—call them the 1 percent if you like, but I prefer to think of them as the moneylenders whom Jesus threw out of the Temple—have prospered enormously. In 1983, the wealthiest 1 percent were 131 times richer than the average American. In 2009, they were 225 times richer. In 2012, the top 20 percent made $13.5 trillion in income; the entire bottom 80% made $1 trillion.

These are disparities not seen since before the Great Depression. Whether for better or for worse, the ultra-rich have done extremely well in the 30 years you’ve allied with them.

How have you done, in the same period? Not well at all. Not only is gay marriage now the law for over two-thirds of Americans while the value of marriage in general has been declining for decades; not only are television, film, music, and video games more vulgar than we could have imagined in 1980; but more Americans are declaring themselves “Nones,” that is, people of no religious affiliation, than ever before in our history. Sure, some churches are expanding, but overall, your way of life is in steep decline. In short, you are losing horribly.

So, who is using whom here? Have the rich Republicans been good for you, or have you been good to them?

I look at the alliance you’ve forged with these people, and I don’t understand why you’re in it. Their agenda keeps winning, and yours keeps losing.

Moreover—and I don’t want to speak out of turn here—their agenda is even eating away at yours. What happened to the Christian concern to “love the least of these,” the most vulnerable, the most destitute? In my opinion, supply-side Republicans have convinced many Christians not merely that the welfare state is a bad idea, but that generosity itself is a vice, that public assistance equals dependence, and that giving the wealthy even more breaks is the way for benefits to “trickle down” to the rest of us.

That theory, by the way, has never been proven. When it’s been put into practice, it’s only made the ultra-rich richer. It’s done nothing for the middle class, the working class, and the poor. And its mean-hearted message, in my opinion, has corrupted the social gospel. Of course, prosperity is a good thing. But our current moment isn’t one of prosperity—it’s of inequality on the scale of ancient Rome.

Now, I’m not saying that you should jump on board with the Democrats’ agenda either. I’m saying that this Republican claim that you can build a Christian nation through politics is bogus, and only serves their goals.

You’re fighting the wrong fight. You should be making your case in culture, not in Congress. Look around. Atheism is highest in Europe, where there are established churches involved in the political process. But according to most historians, America is the most religious country in the Western world precisely because of the separation of church and state.

That “wall of separation” that liberals like to talk about? The original metaphor was: erect a wall to keep the garden of the church free from the wilderness of politics. The more you try to force your beliefs on others, the more people dislike you.

Of course, there are now multi-billion-dollar organizations dedicated to Christian politics. But how effective have they been? What has all that money bought?

I’ve worked in the LGBT movement for 15 years. At first, we, too, tried a political approach, talking about equal rights, civil rights, and so on. But the movement’s PR people found these messages weren’t working. So, in the 2000s, we shifted. We worked in the cultural arena instead, with pioneers like Ellen and Will & Grace. We went into churches and synagogues, testifying about our lives and our families. We changed people’s hearts, not their laws.

We also found messengers who could communicate the truth of our lives. Sure, there are radicals in the LGBT community who really are opposed to mainstream values—and some of them are my friends! But there are also moderates, even conservatives. The LGBT movement looked for places where we could find common ground, and focused there.

But because the public face of Christianity is now made up of the political operatives who can shout the loudest, your “wingnuts” are in center stage. I know that most Christians are not bigots or homophobes. I read the data, and I have Christian friends. But you have to admit: you’re putting your worst feet forward. Many of your spokespeople are loud and mean, because they can turn out the votes.

This all feeds into that devil’s bargain with the Republican Party. They stir you up about social issues in order to get you to the polls, and then they don’t really do anything about them. Because, in fact, they can’t. These are cultural questions, not political ones, and they have to be solved in the cultural arena.

To be clear, I’m not alleging any vast, right wing conspiracy to hoodwink Christians into voting Republican. I know that many of your values do, indeed, align with Republican policies.

But from the outside, from my side of the aisle, the situation seems very clear. The Republican rich are doing very well, and you’re losing badly. There’s only one conclusion I can draw from that: you’re being had.

See: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/27256-focus-jay-michaelson-dear-evangelicals-youre-being-had

Voodoo Economics, the Next Generation

Source:NY Times

Author: Paul Krugman

Emphasis Mine

Even if Republicans take the Senate this year, gaining control of both houses of Congress, they won’t gain much in conventional terms: They’re already able to block legislation, and they still won’t be able to pass anything over the president’s veto. One thing they will be able to do, however, is impose their will on the Congressional Budget Office, heretofore a nonpartisan referee on policy proposals.

As a result, we may soon find ourselves in deep voodoo.

During his failed bid for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination George H. W. Bush famously described Ronald Reagan’s “supply side” doctrine — the claim that cutting taxes on high incomes would lead to spectacular economic growth, so that tax cuts would pay for themselves — as “voodoo economic policy.” Bush was right. Even the rapid recovery from the 1981-82 recession was driven by interest-rate cuts, not tax cuts. Still, for a time the voodoo faithful claimed vindication.

The 1990s, however, were bad news for voodoo. Conservatives confidently predicted economic disaster after Bill Clinton’s 1993 tax hike. What happened instead was a boom that surpassed the Reagan expansion in every dimension: G.D.P., jobs, wages and family incomes.

And while there was never any admission by the usual suspects that their god had failed, it’s noteworthy that the Bush II administration — never shy about selling its policies on false pretenses — didn’t try to justify its tax cuts with extravagant claims about their economic payoff. George W. Bush’s economists didn’t believe in supply-side hype, and more important, his political handlers believed that such hype would play badly with the public. And we should also note that the Bush-era Congressional Budget Office behaved well, sticking to its nonpartisan mandate.

But now it looks as if voodoo is making a comeback. At the state level, Republican governors — and Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, in particular — have been going all in on tax cuts despite troubled budgets, with confident assertions that growth will solve all problems. It’s not happening, and in Kansas a rebellion by moderates may deliver the state to Democrats. But the true believers show no sign of wavering.

Meanwhile, in Congress Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is dropping broad hints that after the election he and his colleagues will do what the Bushies never did, try to push the budget office into adopting “dynamic scoring,” that is, assuming a big economic payoff from tax cuts.

So why is this happening now? It’s not because voodoo economics has become any more credible. True, recovery from the 2007-9 recession has been sluggish, but it has actually been a bit faster than the typical recovery from financial crisis, despite unprecedented cuts in government spending and employment. In fact, the recovery in private-sector employment has been faster than it was during the “Bush boom” last decade. At the same time, researchers at the International Monetary Fund, surveying cross-country evidence, have found that redistribution of income from the affluent to the poor, which conservatives insist kills growth, actually seems to boost economies.

But facts won’t stop the voodoo comeback, for two main reasons.

First, voodoo economics has dominated the conservative movement for so long that it has become an inward-looking cult, whose members know what they know and are impervious to contrary evidence. Fifteen years ago leading Republicans may have been aware that the Clinton boom posed a problem for their ideology. Today someone like Senator Rand Paul can say: “When is the last time in our country we created millions of jobs? It was under Ronald Reagan.” Clinton who?

Second, the nature of the budget debate means that Republican leaders need to believe in the ways of magic. For years people like Mr. Ryan have posed as champions of fiscal discipline even while advocating huge tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations. They have also called for savage cuts in aid to the poor, but these have never been big enough to offset the revenue loss. So how can they make things add up?

Well, for years they have relied on magic asterisks — claims that they will make up for lost revenue by closing loopholes and slashing spending, details to follow. But this dodge has been losing effectiveness as the years go by and the specifics keep not coming. Inevitably, then, they’re feeling the pull of that old black magic — and if they take the Senate, they’ll be able to infuse voodoo into supposedly neutral analysis.

Would they actually do it? It would destroy the credibility of a very important institution, one that has served the country well. But have you seen any evidence that the modern conservative movement cares about such things?

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/06/opinion/paul-krugman-voodoo-economics-the-next-generation.html?_r=0

Wingnuts are gullible! How GOP’s bubble of ignorance keeps leading to humiliation

Why does the right keep falling for false stories about poverty and social programs? Hint: An ideological fixation

Source: Salon.com

Author: Brian Buetler

“Looking back on the events of last week, I’m struck by how lucky Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was to be awarded the uncoveted early-Thursday speaking slot at CPAC Thursday morning.

Because though kicking things off at a three-day event like CPAC means speaking to smaller audiences and fewer cameras, it also means that there are three days of intensifying stagecraft ahead of you to distract attention from whatever errors you might make.

And Paul Ryan made a doozy of an error. It attracted plenty of coverage anyhow, but probably would’ve attracted more if it hadn’t happened before all the jousting began. In case you missed it, Ryan recounted a story he heard secondhand about a poor child who felt bad about being on a subsidized school lunch program while other kids brought their lunches to school in brown bags, to serve the argument that parents who can’t afford to bag their children’s lunches for them don’t care about their kids as much as better-off parents do.

The view he expressed is strange enough. Being an impoverished parent isn’t actually coterminous with being a “poor” parent, in the normative sense of the word. And even though children on school lunch programs are surely stigmatized by their peers in some communities, the solution is to combat the stigma, not to moot it by just letting those kids go hungry.

But as you’ve probably heard by now, the story he told never happened. He recapitulated the erroneous testimony of a fellow social spending scold without vetting her story, which she had taken from some pro-social spending literature and tortured beyond recognition.

For someone like Ryan who often treats politics as a contest of character, that’s a pretty epic blunder. He’s since apologized for not checking his facts, which undoes some of the damage. But that mainly just changes the frame of the story. In addition to making an incredibly questionable moral argument, he also exposed the depths of his most politically problematic ideological fixation. Either he doesn’t care about truth, or his faith in the ubiquity of poverty traps and dependency and so on is so strong that he sees no reason to doubt any corroborative anecdotes, no matter how apocryphal.

This is a familiar epistemic problem, but I’m bringing it up now because it has metastasized into a national campaign strategy.

If you’re sure your ideas are correct and confident your solutions are the right ones you’ve already erected a significant barrier to self-examination. And when admitting error carries enormous financial, personal and ideological risk, it feels easier not to check. You’re shocked when your candidate loses, because none of your friends voted for the other guy. And you just pass along stories they tell you about the soul-crushing nature of welfare, or the horrors of the Affordable Care Act, without bothering to apply a smell test.

Combine that instinct with a well-heeled, amoral campaign apparatus and you get a bunch of Americans for Prosperity ads that wither under scrutiny.

For instance: “A Dexter cancer patient featured in a conservative group’s TV ad campaign denouncing her new health care coverage as ‘unaffordable’ will save more than $1,000 this year under the plan, The Detroit News has learned.”

(They’re referring to Julie Boonstra, whose story we’ve examined multiple times, and have confirmed what I and others long suspected.)

That’s not to diminish the annoyance and uncertainty she felt when her old plan was eliminated, but to say that the premise of her complaint about her new plan is wrong. AFP probably doesn’t care; it’s just as likely that they never bothered to check. Here’s what Boonstra had to say.

When advised of the details of her Blues’ plan, Boonstra said the idea that it would be cheaper “can’t be true.”

“I personally do not believe that,” Boonstra said.

Of possible relevance to her incredulity: “Boonstra is the ex-wife of Mark Boonstra, the former Washtenaw County GOP chairman whom Gov. Rick Snyder appointed to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2012.”

Back East, AFP found similar ACA victims. “Two New Hampshire women featured in a major television advertising buy critical of Democratic Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster’s support for the Affordable Care Act are state Republican activists.”

Again, I don’t think the collapse of these stories suggests that nobody is genuinely worse off because of Obamacare. Slate’s Dave Weigel found some that seem to fit the bill in Florida just last week! But there aren’t as many as Republicans would have you believe, and inconveniently they are unlikely to be older people with preexisting conditions, because the law is designed to make sure people like that aren’t left behind. Conservatives aren’t venturing very far outside of the movement to find them, though. Because on the right, a story about a child who feels unloved due to his family’s poverty must be true, in the same way that a story about Obamacare hurting a cancer patient can’t possibly be false.”

Brian Beutler

Brian Beutler is Salon’s political writer. Email him at bbeutler@salon.com and follow him on Twitter at @brianbeutler.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.salon.com/2014/03/11/gops_sick_welfare_obsession_how_a_bubble_of_ignorance_keeps_leading_it_astray/

The Abject Failure of Reaganomics

Source: Consortium News, via RSN

Author: Robert Parr

“Even as the Republican Right licks its wounds after taking a public-opinion beating over its government shutdown and threatened credit default, the Tea Partiers keep promoting a false narrative on why the U.S. debt has ballooned and why the economy struggles, a storyline that will surely influence the next phase of this American political crisis.

If a large segment of the American public continues to buy into the Tea Party’s fake reality, then it is likely that both the political damage and the economic decline will continue apace, with fewer good-paying jobs, a shrinking middle class and more of the bitter alienation that has fed the Tea Party’s growth in the first place. In other words, the United States will remain in a vicious circle that is also a downward spiral.

The pattern can only be reversed if American voters come to understand how and why their economic well-being is getting flushed down the drain.

The first point to understand is that the current $16.7 trillion federal debt is about $11 trillion more than it was when George W. Bush took office. Not only did Bush’s tax-cut-and-war-spending policies send the debt soaring over the next dozen years but it was those policies that eliminated the federal surpluses of Bill Clinton’s final years and reversed a downward trend in the debt that had “threatened” to eliminate the debt entirely over the ensuing decade.

Amazingly, President Clinton left office in January 2001 with the federal budget in the black by $236 billion and with a projected 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. The budgetary trend lines were such that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan began to fret about the challenges the Fed might face in influencing interest rates if the entire U.S. government debt were paid off, thus leaving no debt obligations to sell.

Thus, Greenspan, an Ayn Rand acolyte who was first appointed by Ronald Reagan, threw his considerable prestige behind George W. Bush’s plan for massive tax cuts that would primarily benefit the wealthy. In that way, Bush and the Republicans “solved” the “problem” of completely paying off the federal debt.

When Bush left office in January 2009 – amid a meltdown of an under-regulated Wall Street – there was no more talk about a debt-free government. Indeed, the debt had soared to $10.6 trillion and was trending rapidly higher as the government scrambled to avert a financial catastrophe that could have brought on another Great Depression.

Reaganomics’ Failure

But this debt crisis did not originate with George W. Bush. It can be traced back primarily to President Reagan, who arrived in the White House in 1981 with fanciful notions about restoring America’s economic vitality through massive tax cuts for the wealthy, a strategy called “supply-side” by its admirers and “trickle-down” by its critics.

Reagan’s tax cuts brought a rapid ballooning of the federal debt, which was $934 billion in January 1981 when Reagan took office. When he departed in January 1989, the debt had jumped to$2.7 trillion, a three-fold increase. And the consequences of Reagan’s reckless tax-cutting continued to build under his successor, George H.W. Bush, who left office in January 1993 with a national debt of$4.2 trillion, more than a four-fold increase since the arrival of Republican-dominated governance in 1981.

During 1993, Clinton’s first year in office, the new Democratic administration pushed through tax increases, partially reversing the massive tax cuts implemented under Reagan. Finally, the debt problem began to stabilize, with the total debt at $5.7 trillion and heading downward, when Clinton left office in January 2001.

Indeed, at the time of Clinton’s departure, the projected ten-year surplus of $5.6 trillion meant that virtually the entire federal debt would be retired. That was what Fed Chairman Greenspan found worrisome enough to support George W. Bush’s new round of tax cuts aimed primarily at the wealthy, another dose of Reagan’s “supply-side.”

The consequences – especially when combined with Bush’s decision to rush into two major wars without paying for them – proved disastrous. The federal debt resumed its upward climb. By August 2008, just before the Wall Street crash, the debt was over $9.6 trillion, nearly a $4 trillion jump since Bush took office.

And, after the Wall Street collapse in September 2008, the federal government had little choice but to increase its borrowing even more to avert a global economic catastrophe potentially worse than the Great Depression. By January 2009, just five months later, the debt was $10.6 trillion, a $1 trillion increase and counting.

Many of the Republican leaders who stomped their feet during the recent budget showdown, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, were among those who favored the Bush tax cuts, the costly invasion of Iraq and bank deregulation. In other words, they were denouncing President Obama for a debt crisis that they helped create.

But the record of reckless Republican budget policies from Reagan through Bush-43 was not only destructive to the fiscal health of the government. The “supply-side,” “free-trade” and deregulatory strategies – including some facilitated by the Clinton administration – proved devastating to the nation’s ability to create good-paying jobs and to sustain the Great American Middle Class.

Zero Job Growth

During the decade of George W. Bush’s presidency, the United States experienced zero job growth. And zero is actually worse than it sounds since none of the preceding six decades registered job growth of less than 20 percent.

By comparison, the 1970s, which are often bemoaned as a time of economic stagflation and political malaise, registered a 27 percent increase in jobs. Yet, in part because of that relatively slow rise in jobs – down from 31 percent in the 1960s – American voters turned to Ronald Reagan and his radical economic theories of tax cuts, global “free markets” and deregulation.

Reagan sold Americans on his core vision: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Through his personal magnetism, Reagan then turned taxes into a third rail of American politics. He convinced many voters that the government’s only important roles were funding the military and cutting taxes.

Yet, instead of guiding the country into a bright new day of economic vitality, Reagan’s approach accelerated a de-industrialization of the United States and a slump in the growth of American jobs, down to 20 percent during the 1980s. The percentage job increase for the 1990s stayed at 20 percent, although job growth did pick up later in the decade under President Clinton, who raised taxes and moderated some of Reagan’s approaches while still pushing “free trade” agreements and deregulation.

Yet, hard-line Reaganomics returned with a vengeance under George W. Bush – more tax cuts, more faith in “free trade,” more deregulation – and the Great American Job Engine finally started grinding to a halt. Zero percent increase. The Great American Middle Class was on life-support.

Ignoring Reality

Despite these painful statistics of the past three decades, Reaganomics has remained a powerful force in American political life. Anyone tuning in CNBC or picking up the Wall Street Journal would think that these economic policies had enjoyed unqualified success for everyone, rather than being a dismal failure for all but the richest Americans. The facts were especially stark for the 2000s, the so-called “Aughts” or perhaps more accurately the “Naughts.”

For most of the past 70 years, the U.S. economy has grown at a steady clip, generating perpetually higher incomes and wealth for American households,” wrote the Washington Post’s Neil Irwin in a Jan. 2, 2010, review of comparative economic data. “But since 2000, the story is starkly different.”

As the Post article and its accompanying graphs showed, the last decade’s sad story wasn’t just limited to the abysmal job numbers. U.S. economic output slowed to its worst pace since the 1930s, rising only 17.8 percent in the 2000s, less than half the 38.1 percent increase in the despised 1970s. Household net worth declined 4 percent in the last decade, compared to a 28 percent rise in the 1970s. (All figures were adjusted for inflation.)

Despite this record of economic failure from Bush’s reprise of Reaganomics – trillions more in government debt but no net increase in jobs or household wealth in the last decade – many Americans appear to have learned no lessons from either the Bush-43 presidency or Reagan’s destructive legacy. Any thought of raising taxes or investing in a stronger domestic infrastructure remains anathema to significant segments of the population still enthralled by the Tea Party.

Indeed, across the mainstream U.S. news media, it is hard to find any serious – or sustained – criticism of the Reagan/Bush economic theories. More generally, there is headshaking about the size of the debt and talk about the need to slash “entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare. Instead of paying heed to the real lessons of the past three decades, many Americans are trapped in the Reagan/Tea Party narrative and thus repeating the same mistakes.

‘Voodoo Economics’

The U.S. political/media process seems resistant to the one of most obvious lessons of the past three decades: Simply put, Reaganomics didn’t work. As George H.W. Bush once commented – when he was running against Reagan in the 1980 primaries – it is “voodoo economics.”

Yet, the fact that the United States has embraced “voodoo economics” for much of the past three-plus decades and refuses to recognize the statistical evidence of Reaganomics’ abject failure suggests that the larger lesson of this era is that the U.S. political process is dysfunctional, a point driven home by the recent Tea Party-led government shutdown and threatened debt default.

In the decades that followed Reagan’s 1980 election, the Right has invested ever more heavily in media outlets, think tanks and attack groups that, collectively, changed the American political landscape. Because of Reagan’s sweeping tax cuts favoring the rich, right-wing billionaires, like the Koch Brothers and Richard Mellon Scaife, also had much more money to reinvest in the political/media process, including funding the faux-populist Tea Party.

That advantage was further exaggerated by the Left’s parallel failure to invest in its own media at anything close to the Right’s tens of billions of dollars. Thus, the Right’s outreach to average Americans has won over millions of middle-class voters to the Republican banner, even as the GOP enacted policies that devastated the middle class and concentrated the nation’s wealth at the top.

So, even as American workers struggled in the face of globalization and suffered under GOP hostility toward unions, the Right convinced many middle-class whites, in particular, that their real enemy was “big guv-mint.”

Though Obama won the presidency in 2008, the Republicans didn’t change their long-running strategy of using their media assets to portray the Democrats as un-American. The Right waged a relentless assault on Obama’s legitimacy (spreading rumors that he was born in Kenya, he was a secret socialist, he was a Muslim, etc.) while a solid wall of Republican opposition greeted his plans for addressing the national economic crisis that he inherited.

The Rise of the Tea Party

Like previous Democrats, Obama initially responded by offering olive branches across the aisle, but again and again, they were slapped down. In mid-2009, Obama wasted valuable time trying to woo supposed Republican “moderates” like Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine to support health-care reform. Meanwhile, Republicans filibustered endlessly in the Senate and whipped their right-wing “base” into angrier and angrier mobs.

Initially, the GOP strategy proved successful, as Republicans pummeled Democrats for increasing the debt with a $787 billion stimulus package to stanch the economic bleeding. The continued loss of jobs enabled the Republicans to paint the stimulus as a “failure.” There was also Obama’s confusing health-care law that pleased neither the Right nor the Left.

The foul mood of the nation translated into an angry Tea Party movement and Republican victories in the House and in many statehouses around the country. Gradually, however, a stabilized financial structure and a slow-healing economy began to generate jobs, albeit often with lower pay.

Obama could boast about sufficient progress to justify his reelection in 2012, with most voters also favoring Democrats for the Senate and the House. However, aggressive Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts helped the GOP retain a slim majority in the House despite losing the popular vote by around 1½ million ballots.

But the just-finished budget/debt showdown has shown that the Tea Party’s fight over America’s political/economic future is far from over. Through its ideological media and think tanks, the Right continues to hammer home the Reagan-esque theory that “government is the problem.”

Meanwhile, the Left still lacks comparable media resources to remind U.S. voters that it was the federal government that essentially created the Great American Middle Class – from the New Deal policies of the 1930s through other reforms of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, from Social Security to Wall Street regulation to labor rights to the GI Bill to the Interstate Highway System to the space program’s technological advances to Medicare and Medicaid to the minimum wage to civil rights.

Many Americans don’t like to admit it – they prefer to think of their families as reaching the middle class without government help – but the reality is that the Great American Middle Class was a phenomenon made possible by the intervention of the federal government beginning with Franklin Roosevelt and continuing into the 1970s. [For one telling example of this reality — the Cheney family, which was lifted out of poverty by FDR’s policies — see Consortiumnews.com’s “Dick Cheney: Son of the New Deal.“]

Further, in the face of corporate globalization and business technology, two other forces making the middle-class work force increasingly obsolete, the only hope for a revival of the Great American Middle Class is for the government to increase taxes on the rich, the ones who have gained the most from cheap foreign labor and advances in computer technology, in order to fund projects to build and strengthen the nation, from infrastructure to education to research and development to care for the sick and elderly to environmental protections.

In other words, the only strategy that makes sense for the average American is to reject the theories of Ronald Reagan and the Right. Rather than seeing the government as “the problem” and higher taxes on the rich as “bad,” the American people must come to understand that, to a great extent, government has to be a big part of the solution.”


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, “Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush,” was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, “Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq” and “Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth'” are also available there.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/19956-focus-the-abject-failure-of-reaganomics

 

Reagan’s Chickens Home to Roost?

Source: RSN

Author: William Boardman

The guilty get some breathing room, but not safety yet

Former members of the Reagan administration are breathing easier, now that they are somewhat less likely to face criminal charges for their part in the Guatemalan genocide of 1982-1983, supported by Reagan policies.

The threat that former officials might be held accountable for genocidal policies of the Reagan administration increased on May 10, when a Guatemalan lower court convicted the country’s former president, General Efrain Rios Montt, 86, of genocide and crimes against humanity for his part in the killing of thousands of Guatemalan civilians.

Rios Montt’s conviction and sentence included an order by Judge Iris Yassmin Barrios to Attorney General Paz Y Paz to further investigate everyone else involved in Rios Montt’s crimes, an investigation that would include many Guatemalans including the country’s current president, as well as U.S. military advisors, the CIA and other American agents, and Washington officials like Elliott Abrams and others directly involved in supporting the Guatemalan governmental genocide.

But this threat of prosecution for accessories and accomplices to genocide didn’t last long, as Guatemala’s highest court, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala, ruled by a vote of 3-2 on May 20 that the lower court’s proceedings going back to April 19 were dismissed, thus annulling the verdict.

The Genocidal General’s Trial May Yet Begin Again

But the Constitutional Court ruling also allows the trial to resume at some undetermined time in the future. The dismissal sets the trial back to April 19, when a judge who had heard earlier but separate proceedings relating to Rios Montt asserted jurisdiction over the continuing trial that had started a month earlier. Judge Barrios overruled the prior judge supported by Attorney General Paz Y Pay, who said his claim was unlawful.

The jurisdictional dispute proceeded to the Constitutional Court while Rios Montt’s trial continued to its unsurprising conviction, given the weight of the evidence against him and his administration.

Rios Montt came to power in 1982 through a military coup, after he had lost a democratic election for the second time, claiming massive fraud both in 1974 and 1982. Between elections, in 1978, Rios Montt had left the Catholic Church and become a minister in the evangelical/Pentecostal Church of the Word, based in California. His friends and supporters included Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Robertson, and others connected with the evangelical movement that helped elect Ronald Reagan president in 1980.

Rios Montt would be the American-supported dictator of Guatemala for only 17 months, before he fell to another military coup. But in that time he was responsible for government forces that killed more than 1,700 people, mostly indigenous Mayans, and also tortured, raped, kidnapped, and brutalized thousands more – for which he was found guilty on May 10.

Ronald Reagan and His Administration Supported Gen. Rios Montt

President Reagan praised Rios Montt for his anticommunism and claimed that human rights were improving under his rule, while human rights organizations condemned the general and the army. Amnesty International estimated that Rios Montt’s forced killed more than 10,000 rural Guatemalans from March to August 1982, and drove more than 100,000 from their homes.

Reagan evaded Congressional oversight in order to provide Rios Montt with millions of dollars of military aid. When Reagan and the general met in Honduras in December 1982, Reagan spoke warmly of him: “I know that President Rios Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice. My administration will do all it can to support his progressive efforts.”

“The next day,” the London Review of Books reported in 2004, “one of Guatemala’s elite platoons entered a jungle village called Las Dos Erres and killed 162 of its inhabitants, 67 of them children.” The report continued:

Soldiers grabbed babies and toddlers by their legs, swung them in the air, and smashed their heads against a wall. Older children and adults were forced to kneel at the edge of a well, where a single blow from a sledgehammer sent them plummeting below. The platoon then raped a selection of women and girls it had saved for last, pummelling their stomachs in order to force the pregnant among them to miscarry.

They tossed the women into the well and filled it with dirt, burying an unlucky few alive. The only traces of the bodies later visitors would find were blood on the walls and placentas and umbilical cords on the ground.

On another occasion, Reagan claimed that the dictator was getting a “bum rap.”

In 1983, then assistant secretary of state Elliott Abrams told PBS, “the amount of killing of innocent civilians is being reduced step by step…. We think that kind of progress needs to be rewarded and encouraged.”

Guatemalans Have Struggled for Decades to Get Justice

The currently interrupted trial is part of a judicial process that began in 2001, with a ruling by the Constitutional Court on March 21, exposing Rios Montt and others of the ruling party to prosecution for corruption. The next day, two grenades were thrown in the yard of Judge Iris Yassmin Barrios. Three days later, the head of the Constitutional Court, Judge Conchita Mazariegos, had shots fired at her house.

The criminal role of the United States in Guatemala has continued at least since 1954, when the Eisenhower administration engineered a CIA-backed coup d’etat against the country’s elected president.

American reporting on the Rios Montt trial and America’s role in genocide in Central America goes largely unreported in the United States. According to FAIR, none of the three major TV networks have mentioned the trial since it began. Perhaps the most detailed coverage has come from DemocracyNOW, which summed up the present situation this way:

In the run-up to its latest decision to overturn, the court had come under heavy lobbying from Rios Montt supporters, including Guatemala’s powerful business association, CACIF. Rios Montt remains in a military hospital where he was admitted last week. His legal status is now up in the air. He will likely be released into house arrest, and it is unclear when or if he will return to court.

For the moment, that leaves surviving Reagan administration officials beyond the reach of Guatemalan law and international law.

In 1998, Bishop Juan Gerardi, head of the human rights commission uncovering the truth of the disappearances associated with the military, including Rios Montt, was assassinated. His successor is Catholic bishop Mario Enrique Rios Montt, the convicted general’s brother. The trial and conviction of Bishop Gerardi’s killers in 2001 was the first time members of the military were tried in a civilian court.

Emphasis Mine

See: :http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/17558-reagans-chickens-home-to-roost

 

The Tea Party History of the United States.

Until one understands what is wrong with the above, they have no hope of understanding the USA of today.

Things were almost perfect during the seventh and eighth years of the Presidency of GW Bush: The Axes of Evil had been subdued (Really?); income tax rates for the highest earners were at a historic low(TRUE); the terrorists had been vanquished(FALSE); income tax rates for the highest earners were at a historic low; the estate (death) tax – (inheriting an estate enables hard working Americans to be successful because of their birth situation) was on life support (TRUE);income tax rates for the highest earners were at a historic low; there was almost no deficit adding to the minuscule national debt (FALSE); income tax rates for the highest earners were at a historic low; access to contraception and abortion for people without means was low (TRUE); and fewer Americans than ever understood Natural Selection in specific or science in general (TRUE). The only dark cloud on the horizon (besides the fact that Social Security was on sound footing) was in housing: some very wealthy people – of the class know as job creators – had been growing our economy by speculating on increasing housing values, which had created a bubble getting ready to burst; and many home mortgages – of a type labeled  subprime – had been written because the government forced financial institutions to make loans to people who had no chance of ever paying them back(FALSE). (The job creators dealt with the latter issue by hiding these bad loans in a package of securities, which they – using the best of free market principles – sold to unsuspecting clients) (ALL TRUE).  When the housing bubble burst, the shady, worthless securities were exposed, markets collapsed, millions of job were lost (TRUE),  many homes became worth less than what was owed on them (TRUE), and then, even worse, a Democrat – and  a Black person – was elected President.

The President and his Democratic Party friends came into office and instantly the national debt and the deficit became huge (FALSE),unemployment reached levels almost as high as during the Reagan Administration(TRUE), gas prices skyrocketed, our national defense was compromised, and – horror of horrors – legislation to help people gain access to affordable health care was signed into law (TRUE).  Even worse, the policy – begun in the previous presidency – of helping the financial and auto industries by providing low interest loans was continued(TRUE). What could have been worse? Higher taxes? Food stamps and unemployment insurance for those who were living the American Dream until their jobs were destroyed? Higher taxes? Spending tax money on successful military missions?  Higher taxes?  Strengthening public schools in poor neighborhoods so that some could gain the skills to survive, and even prosper? Higher taxes?  Improved access to contraception and woman’s health needs?  Marriage equality?

N.B.: taxes on moderate incomes are lower than they were on Jan 19, 2012; the marginal (highest) are unchanged.

Until one understands what is wrong with this tea party perception of history, they have no hope of understanding the USA of today.