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.

This Deficit Story Can’t Be Repeated Often Enough!

it was the plan to force the country into debt, and then they would demand that we cut the things that government does for the 99%, in order to further enrich the 1%. They would scare everyone by saying that the debt will destroy us so we have to cut back. That was the plan. They said that was the plan. And now that the plan is being executed, we should understand that it was the plan and not fall for it!

From: AFL-CIO

By: Dave Johnson, at the Campaign for America’s Future, sends us this.

“Atrios says it: Eschaton: Planning For 10 Years From Now.

The last time an administration did the supposedly responsible thing, the fiscal ‘hawks’ suddenly decided that the worst possible thing was no longer a deficit, but a surplus, and that therefore it was necessary to have massive tax cuts for rich people.

And they will, of course, do it again.

Any time any D.C. elite complains about “the deficit” remind them that when Clinton left office we had a huge surplus, so big that at the rate it was being paid down the entire U.S. debt was going to be paid off in 10 years. Bush demanded that we give back the people’s money and Greenspan warned of the danger of paying off the debt. Etc. Etc. Etc. Then Bush doubled military spending—and started two wars on top of that!

So we went from big surplus to huge, huge deficits. Bush said it was “incredibly positive news” when we went back into deficit spending. He said it was good news because it continued the plan to use debt to force the government to cut back. He said that. It was the plan. (Don’t take my word for it, click the links.)

The Reagan people said it, too, back when they started the massive deficit spending. It was the plan: force the country into massive debt, “starve the beast” and use that to force the government out of business, or at least to be “small enough to drown in a bathtub.” They forced the tax cuts and Reagan said this was “cutting the government’s allowance.” The point was to use revenue cutbacks to force government to shrink,to get out of the way of the 1%.

Now that government is very much out of the way of the 1%, we are seeing how things work out when the 1% dominate everything.

They called it “strategic deficits.” They said it was the plan to force the country into debt, and then they would demand that we cut the things that government does for the 99%, in order to further enrich the 1%. They would scare everyone by saying that the debt will destroy us so we have to cut back. That was the plan. They said that was the plan. And now that the plan is being executed, we should understand that it was the plan and not fall for it!

They said it was the plan. So as the plan unfolds, don’t be so surprised.”

Emphasis Mine.

see:http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Economy/This-Deficit-Story-Can-t-Be-Repeated-Often-Enough

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.

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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

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

The Dangerous Reagan Cult

Exclusive: Ronald Reagan’s anti-government philosophy inspires Tea Party extremists to oppose any revenue increase, even from closing loopholes on corporate jets. Democrats try the spin that “even Reagan” showed flexibility on debt and taxes. But Robert Parry says it is the “Reagan cult” that is at the heart of America’s crisis.

From RSN, by Robert Parry

“Exclusive: Ronald Reagan’s anti-government philosophy inspires Tea Party extremists to oppose any revenue increase, even from closing loopholes on corporate jets. Democrats try the spin that “even Reagan” showed flexibility on debt and taxes. But Robert Parry says it is the “Reagan cult” that is at the heart of America’s crisis.

In the debt-ceiling debate, both Republicans and Democrats wanted Ronald Reagan on their side. Republicans embraced the 40th president’s disdain for government and fondness for tax cuts, while Democrats noted that “even Reagan” raised the debt limit many times and accepted some tax increases.

But Reagan – possibly more than any political leader – deserves the blame for the economic/political mess that the United States now finds itself in. He was the patriarch for virtually every major miscalculation that the country has made over the past three decades.

It was Reagan who slashed taxes on the rich to roughly their current level; he opened the flood gates on deficit spending; he accelerated the decline of the middle class by busting unions and slashing support for local communities; he disparaged the value of government regulations; he squandered money on the Pentagon; he pushed more militaristic strategies abroad; and he rejected any thoughtful criticism of past U.S. foreign policies.

Reagan also created what amounted to a “populist” right-wing cult that targeted the federal government as the source of nearly all evil. In his First Inaugural Address, he famously declared that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

It is that contempt for government that today is driving the Tea Party extremists in the Republican Party. Yet, as with many cults, the founder of this one was somewhat more practical in dealing with the world around him, thus explaining some of Reagan’s compromises on the debt ceiling and taxes.

But once the founder is gone, his teachings can become definitive truth to the disciples. Flexibility disappears. No deviation is permitted. No compromise is tolerated.

So, at a time when government intervention is desperately needed to address a host of national problems, members of this Reagan cult apply the teachings of the leader in the most extreme ways. Since “government is the problem,” the only answer is to remove government from the equation and let the corporations, the rich and the magical “market” dictate national solutions.

It is an ironic testament to Ronald Reagan’s enduring influence that America’s most notable “populist” movement, the Tea Party, insists that tax cuts for the wealthy must be protected, even minor ones like tax loopholes for corporate jets. Inside the Tea Party, any suggestion that billionaire hedge-fund managers should pay a tax rate equal to that of their secretaries is anathema.

Possibly never in history has a “populist” movement been as protective of the interests of the rich as the Tea Party is. But that is because it is really a political cult dedicated to the most extreme rendering of Ronald Reagan’s anti-government philosophy.

Astro-Turf ‘Populists’

Granted, the Tea Party also can be viewed as an astro-turf outfit financed by billionaires like the Koch brothers and promoted by billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch. But Election 2010 proved that the movement is capable of putting like-minded politicians into office, especially when discouraged elements of the American Left choose to sit on the sidelines.

During the debt-ceiling battle, the GOP’s Tea Party caucus showed it was strong enough to block any compromise that included a revenue increase. The thinking is that the “evil” government must be starved even if that means defending indefensible tax loopholes and shoving the world’s economy to the brink of catastrophe.

The Tea Party’s rabid enforcement of the Reagan orthodoxy instills such fear among top Republicans that every one of the eight presidential hopefuls at a recent Iowa debate vowed to reject a deal that would include just $1 of higher taxes for each $10 in spending cuts. Even supposed moderates like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman threw up their hands.

But the Reagan cult reaches far beyond the Republican Party. Last February, a Gallup poll of Americans cited Reagan as the greatest president ever, with a five percentage point lead over Abraham Lincoln.

These days, virtually no one in Washington’s political or media circles dares to engage in a serious critique of Reagan’s very checkered record as president. It’s much easier to align yourself with some position that Reagan took during his long career, much like a pastor selectively picking a Bible passage to support his theological argument.

When negative national trends are cited – such as the decline of the middle class or the widening gap between rich and poor – the self-censorship demands that Reagan’s name not be spoken. Instead, there are references to these problems deepening “over the past three decades,” without mentioning whose presidency got things going big time.

Creating an Icon

And there is a self-interested reason for this hesitancy. The Republicans and the Right have made it a high priority to transform Reagan into an icon and to punish any independent-minded political figure or journalist who resists the group think.

The first step in this process occurred in the late 1980s, with aggressive cover-ups of Reagan’s crimes of state, such as scandals over the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages affair, Contra-cocaine trafficking, and the Iraq-gate support of dictator Saddam Hussein.

Faced with furious Republican defenses of Reagan and his inner circle, most Democrats and mainstream journalists chose career discretion over valor. By the time Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, the refrain from Democrats and Washington pundits was to “leave that for the historians.”

Those who didn’t go along with the cover-ups – like Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh – were subjected to ridicule from both the right-wing and mainstream media, from both the Washington Times and the Washington Post. Journalists who challenged the implausible Reagan cover-ups also found themselves marginalized as “conspiracy theorists.”

Leading Democrats decided it made more sense to look to the future, not dwell on the past. Plus, acquiescing to the cover-ups was a way to show their bipartisanship.

However, Republicans had other ideas. Having pocketed the concessions regarding any serious investigations of Reagan and his cohorts, the Republicans soon went on the offensive by investigating the heck out of President Clinton and his administration.

Then, having stirred up serious public doubts about Clinton’s integrity, the Republicans trounced the Democrats in the 1994 congressional elections. With their new majorities, the Republicans immediately began the process of enshrining Reagan as a national icon.

By and large, the Democrats saw these gestures, like attaching Reagan’s name to National Airport, as another way to demonstrate their bipartisanship.

But Republicans knew better. They understood the strategic value of elevating Reagan’s legacy to the status of an icon. If everyone agreed that Reagan was so great, then it followed that the hated “guv-mint” must be that bad.

More Accommodations

Increasingly, Democrats found themselves arguing on Republican ground, having to apologize for any suggestion that the government could do anything good for the country. Meanwhile, the Clinton-era stock market boom convinced more Americans that the “market” must know best.

Going with that flow, President Clinton signed a Republican-sponsored bill that removed Depression-era regulations in the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial and investment banks. With the repeal, the doors were thrown open for Wall Street gambling.

In the short run, lots of money was made, encouraging more Americans to believe that the government and its “safety net” were indeed anachronisms for losers. People with any gumption could simply day-trade their way to riches.

Reagan, it seemed, was right all along: government was the problem; the “free market” was not only the solution but it could “self-regulate.”

That was the political/media environment around Election 2000 when the wonkish Vice President Al Gore ran against the brash Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who came across to many as another version of Ronald Reagan, someone who spoke simply and disdained big government.

Though Gore could point to the economic successes of the Clinton years, including a balanced federal budget and the prospect of the total elimination of the federal debt, the major media mocked him as a know-it-all nerd who wore “earth-toned sweaters.” Meanwhile, mainstream journalists swooned over Bush, the regular guy.

Still, Gore eked out a narrow victory in the national popular vote and would have carried the key state of Florida if all legally cast votes were counted. But Bush relied on his brother’s administration in Florida and his father’s friends on the U.S. Supreme Court to make sure that didn’t happen. Bush was declared the winner in Florida and thus the new president. [For details, see Neck Deep.]

In retrospect, Election 2000 was a disastrous turning point for the United States, putting into the highest office in the land an unqualified ne’er do well who had lost the election.

But this outrage against democracy was largely accepted because of the muscular right-wing machine, the on-bended-knee mainstream media and the weak-kneed Democrats – a political/media dynamic that Reagan had helped create and had left behind.

The progress that the Clinton administration had made toward putting the U.S. financial house in order was quickly undone as Bush pushed through two massive tax cuts benefiting mostly the rich and waged two open-ended wars financed with borrowed money.

Years of Reaganism also had taken its toll on the government’s regulatory structures. Reagan had consistently appointed regulators who were hostile to the very concept of regulating, such as Anne Gorsuch at the Environmental Protection Agency and James Watt at Interior. He also elevated Alan Greenspan, a “free market” admirer of Ayn Rand, to be chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

In the 1980s, the looting of America was underway in earnest, but the elites of Washington and New York saw little to protest since they were getting a cut of the plunder. The real losers were the average Americans, especially factory workers who saw their unions broken or their jobs shipped overseas under the banner of “free trade.”

Feeling Good

But many Americans were kept entranced by Reagan’s feel-good magic.

Taking office after a difficult decade of the 1970s, when America’s defeat in Vietnam and the Arab oil price hikes had shaken the nation’s confidence, Reagan simply assured everyone that things would work out just fine and that no excessive sacrifice was in order. Nor should there be any feelings of guilt, Reagan made clear.

By the late 1970s, it was widely accepted even among many Republicans that the Vietnam War had been an abomination. But Reagan simply rebranded it a “noble cause,” no reason for any serious self-reflection on America’s imperial role in the world.

Reagan then allied the United States with “death-squad” regimes all over Latin America and across the Third World. His administration treated the resulting carnage as a public-relations problem that could be managed by challenging the patriotism of critics.

At the 1984 Republican National Convention, Reagan’s United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick labeled Americans who dared criticize U.S. foreign policy as those who would “blame America first.”

To continue this sort of verbal pummeling on those who continued to get in the way, Reagan credentialed a bunch of thuggish intellectuals known as the neoconservatives.

For the rest of the country, there were happy thoughts about “the shining city on a hill” and “morning in America.”

In reality, however, Reagan had set the stage for the tragedies that would follow. When George W. Bush grabbed power in 2001, he simply extended the foreign and economic policies of the Republican cult leader: more tax cuts, more militarism, less regulation, more media manipulation.

Soon, the gap between rich and poor was widening again. Soon, the United States was at open war in two countries and involved in secret wars in many others. Soon, the nation was confronted with new scandals about torture and deception. Soon, the federal budget was flowing with red ink.

And near the end of Bush’s presidency, the de-regulated excesses of Wall Street pushed the country to the brink of a financial cataclysm. Bush supported a bail-out to save the bankers but didn’t do much for the millions of Americans who lost their jobs or their homes.

Second Thoughts?

One might have thought that the financial crack-up in 2008 (plus the massive federal deficits and the botched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) would have confronted the Reagan cult with an existential crisis of faith. It would seem obvious that Reagan’s nostrums just didn’t work.

However, after only a brief interregnum of Barack Obama, the Republicans seem poised to restore the Reagan cult to full power in the United States. The new apparent GOP frontrunner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is already being hailed in the Washington Post as “The Texas Gipper.”

The Washington Times (yes, Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s right-wing propaganda sheet is still around) fairly cooed over Perry’s tough attacks on Obama, depicting America’s first black president as someone who apologizes for America and isn’t deserving of its soldiers in uniform.

“One of the powerful reasons for running for president of the United States is to make sure every man and woman who puts on the uniform respects highly the president of the United States,” Perry said. “We are indignant about a president who apologizes for America.”

As far as Perry is concerned, America has nothing to apologize for.

These are themes right out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook. And it appears likely that Election 2012 will be fought over terrain defined by Reagan, even though he left office in 1989 and died in 2004.

It is already clear that President Obama will be on the defensive, trying to justify a role for the federal government in America and explaining why the Reaganesque policy of low taxes on the rich must finally be reversed. Obama also is certain to shy away from any serious examination of how U.S. foreign policy went so wrong, so as not to be labeled “apologist-in-chief.”

Rick Perry or whatever other Republican gets the party’s nomination will hold the high ground of Reagan’s lofty standing among the American people. The GOP nominee can continue blaming “guv-mint” for the nation’s problems and promising another “morning in America” if only the nation further reduces the size of “guv-mint.”

With Democrats also trying to associate themselves with the “greatest president ever,” it appears doubtful that any serious effort will be made to explain to the American people that the charming Reagan was the pied piper who led them to their current demise.”

[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a two-book set for the discount price of only $19. For details, click here.]

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

How the Political Right Bullied the US Government Into Ignoring the Threat of Right-Wing Extremism

After right-wingers freaked out about a report detailing the rise in right-wing extremism, Homeland Security effectively dismantled a unit tasked with tracking it.

From AlterNet, by Rania Khalek

“In the wake of the terrorist attack in Norway by right-wing Christian extremist Anders Breivik, conservative media pundits rushed to vilify anyone who brought up the underlying far-right ideology that fueled Breivik’s violence.

The uproar that follows any suggestion that right-wing extremism is on the rise works to silence the conversation about the danger of right-wing militancy. According to disturbing revelations by a former Homeland Security Intelligence Analyst, the consequences of this dynamic extend to the highest branches of the US government.

For six years, Darryl Johnson headed a Department of Homeland Security team tracking domestic extremist groups. Now Johnson, who is no longer with DHS, says that conservative furor over the report’s findings pressured Homeland Security to abandon reporting on and monitoring the rising threat of right-wing extremism for the past two years.

In April 2009, DHS issued an intelligence assessment, co-authored by Johnson, titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” The document was one of many threat assessments shared between DHS and state and local law enforcement agencies to keep them apprised of potential and looming threats, and warned of a surge in right-wing extremism due to the election of the country’s first black president and the economic recession.

Although the report was intended only for distribution to law enforcement agencies, it was immediately leaked to the media causing a political firestorm among conservativepundits, who wrongly suggested that it labeled all conservatives as potential terrorists.

DHS initially defended the report, but within days caved to political pressure and practically disowned it, with Secretary Napolitano apologizing to the American Legion for the report’s mention of military veterans. But DHS did more than just publicly buckle under the political weight of conservative critics. According to Johnson, the department effectively dismantled his intelligence team following the right’s uproar.

In an in-depth interview published in the Southern Poverty Law Center’sIntelligence Report, Johnson reveals the level of sway the political right had in thwarting intelligence work on right-wing extremism. He says DHS deliberately mischaracterized the report as unauthorized, even though it had passed through proper channels and instituted restrictive policies that brought the important work of his unit to a virtual standstill. As a result, Johnson left DHS in dismay and was followed by almost all the members of his team, leaving a single analyst where there had been six. In comparison, there are at least 25 analysts devoted to tracking Islamic terrorism.

When questioned about Johnson’s claims — which have been confirmed by current and former department officials in the Washington Post – DHS officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have repeatedly disputed his account and insist that the level of activity by right-wing extremist groups has remained consistent over the past few years. In addition, they claim the perception of increased extremist activity may be due to increased awareness of the threat by the government and the public. But the numbers beg to differ.

Right Wing Extremism on the Rise

Johnson’s report was consistent with data from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which finds that hate groups topped 1,000 for the first time since SPLC began counting such groups in the 1980s. The most dramatic growth was seen in antigovernment “Patriot” groups — militias and other extremist organizations that see the federal government as their enemy — which came roaring back to life over the past year after more than a decade out of the limelight. SPLC’s Intelligence Project identified 824 anti-government “Patriot” groups that were active in 2010, up from just 149 in 2008.

According to Mark Potok, director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project, these groups are driven by resentment over changing racial demographics, which he describes as, “The idea that the country is becoming less white every day and in fact the prediction by the census bureau that whites will lose their majority about the year 2050 in the United States is very important. Virtually every white supremacist in America knows that date.” Other drivers include frustration over the economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and propaganda aimed at various minorities.

Potok told AlterNet that events following the 2009 DHS report have proved it to be prescient. 

In May 2009, just one month after the report’s release, an anti-abortion zealot murdered Dr. George Tiller in Kansas. In June 2009, neo-Nazi James von Brunn murdered a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. In March 2010, nine members of a Michigan militia were charged with seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction in connection with an alleged plot to murder police officers.

On May 20, 2010, two West Memphis Arkansas police officers were shot to death during a routine traffic stop by a father-son duo of “sovereign citizens,” a group of US residents who believe the government has no authority over them. West Memphis Police Chief Bob Paudert, whose son was one of the officers killed, told me that prior to the loss of his son, he had never heard of sovereign citizens, nor had any other law enforcement officials he spoke to about the matter. After some digging and research he discovered that his son’s murder was not an isolated incident, and in fact sovereign citizens were responsible fordozens of police officer deaths around the country.

Paudert was particularly surprised to learn that the Sovereign movement is estimated at 300,000 people strong and growing, which is why he was disappointed in the federal government’s failure to alert state and local law enforcement that such a threat existed. Paudert says he is absolutely positive that had they been alerted and trained to recognize sovereign citizens, “my son would still be alive today.”

Conservatives Throw a Temper Tantrum

The loudest outcry came from the right-wing shock jocks like Rush Limbaugh, who claimed that Janet Napolitano and Barack Obama were “portraying standard, ordinary, everyday conservatives as posing a bigger threat to this country than al-Qaeda terrorists or genuine enemies of this country like Kim Jong-Il.”  Sean Hannity warned his Fox News viewers that “if you have a pro-life bumper sticker on your car, if you have an ‘America is overtaxed’ bumper sticker, if you have a pro-Second Amendment bumper sticker, they’re viewing you potentially as a radical.”

In possibly the most deranged interpretation, conservative blogger Michelle Malkin wrote that the report was a “hit job on conservatives” and “one of the most embarrassingly shoddy pieces of propaganda I’d ever read out of DHS. I couldn’t believe it was real….the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives.”

In a sad sort of irony, Johnson told SPLC that the conservative media personalities who misinterpreted and attacked his report “would have been shocked to know that I personify conservatism. I’m an Eagle Scout. I’m a registered Republican. I’m Mormon. In fact, I was helping the Boy Scouts with a fundraiser when I heard the report being attacked on the news.”

Outrage over the report’s findings quickly spread to Congress, where several conservative lawmakers demanded the ouster of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. Among them was Rep. John Carter, R-Tex., who remarked, “We shouldn’t even give her the respect of letting her resign. She should be fired by the administration for accusing honest, American citizens — because of their political beliefs — of being domestic terrorists.”

The self-described conservative and Christian non-profit Thomas More Law Center went even further and filed a lawsuit against Secretary Napolitano on behalf a Michigan-based anti-abortion group, claiming the DHS report was all part of a conspiracy between the Obama administration and liberal groups to violate their constitutional rights.

The section of the report that stirred the most controversy referred to “disgruntled military veterans” and cautioned that “rightwing extremists would attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans to boost their violent capabilities.”

This did not sit well with David Rehbein, the commander of the veterans’ organization American Legion, who wrote in a letter to Secretary Napolitano, “To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical disgruntled military veteran is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam.” Had Rehbein actually read the full report he would have discovered that this specific concern was based on factual data collected by the FBI.

The DHS assessment cited a July 2008 report by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division under the Bush administration, titled “White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel since 9/11.” Based on its findings the 2008 FBI report observed that “some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups,” and that “military experience is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement as the result of recruitment campaigns by extremist groups and self-recruitment by veterans sympathetic to white supremacist causes.” Furthermore, based on analysis of FBI case files from October 2001 to May 2008, the report identified 203 military personnel or veterans who were active members in white supremacist organizations during that period.

It’s not surprising that conservatives threw a fit. What’s disturbing is that these conservative complaints prompted DHS to withdraw the report.

Pretending the Threat Doesn’t Exist

I spoke with Johnson, who has been following right-wing extremism in a professional capacity since the early ‘90s. Upon the Democratic nomination for president of then Senator Obama, Johnson says that based on his experience and expertise, he immediately recognized that “this would be a huge recruiting tool for groups like white supremacists, militia extremists, sovereign citizen extremists, those extremists groups that are on the fringes of the right of the political spectrum, which we refer to as right-wing extremists in the counterterrorism community.”

When it was clear that Barack Obama would win, Johnson became worried about the “potential radicalization factor” that would ensue following the election of America’s first black president. “It would agitate people to go beyond their mainstream and law-abiding protest activity to more criminal activity and violence because people would see that these ‘enemies’ so to speak, these minorities in America are actually integrated in society and they’re actually fulfilling the American dream.”

All of this prompted the drafting of the report in the early months of the Obama administration.

He chose to go public because “the conditions that existed back in 2008 and 2009 when we drafted this document still persist today….the climate in this country from a political standpoint and economic standpoint has not changed. The economy is still sluggish, unemployment’s still flirting with 10 percent, and there’s this anti-government sentiment and agitation out there in this country. That’s one thing that concerns me is that we’ve had two years now where these people have been boiling in this environment that could possibly agitate somebody to carry out a violent act.” 

Mark Potok told AlterNet that DHS’s handling of the report’s criticism was “nothing more than an act of political cowardice,” but it doesn’t change the report’s disturbing accuracy.

The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps a detailed and unsettling list of major terrorist plots and racist rampages that have emerged from the American radical right in the years since Oklahoma City, a pattern Potok says continues to this day. That prompted SPLC’s president, J. Richard Cohen, to send a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano two months ago, urging her to reassess the level of resources that DHS is devoting to the threat of non-Islamic domestic terrorism.

The letter highlights several recent examples of thwarted attacks, one of which occurred this past January, when a neo-Nazi activist was arrested for planting a bomb along an MLK Day parade route in Spokane, Washington. That same month, another neo-Nazi was arrested on his way to the Arizona-Mexico border and later charged with possessing explosive devices packed with ball bearings – to “maximize human carnage,” as a federal prosecutor put it. In March, authorities arrested five members of a militia in Alaska and charged them with plotting to murder or kidnap police officers and judges if their leader, who was then fleeing prosecution on weapons charges, were arrested or killed. Unfortunately, Secretary Napolitano has yet to respond to SPLC’s letter.

That the right’s outrage over the report managed to influence the Department of Homeland Security should raise alarm bells for anyone who is concerned about homegrown extremism. It’s frightening that the US government bowed to political pressure. The atrocity that took place in Norway is a reminder of the brutality that ideological extremists are capable of dishing out.

According to Johnson, Anders Breivik “was under the radar, he acquired relatively unsophisticated weaponry and was able to go and target people that he opposed because of his ideology and beliefs and was able to kill close to 80 people, and it was done effortlessly. He didn’t go to some place in Pakistan and learn how to build a bomb.  He learned how to do this on the Internet, and he was able to acquire these materials legally. And I know for a fact that that is going on here in this country, people are stockpiling weaponry.”

Potok believes the right’s ability to silence the conversation about right-wing extremism will have fatal consequences, warning, “The danger of pretending this movement doesn’t exist is that it will grow more and more deeply entrenched in our society and more dangerous. There’s an immediate criminal danger. Timothy McVeigh murdered 168 men women and children in 15 seconds. It absolutely could happen again. It hasn’t because we are lucky and because law enforcement has done a fine job overall.”

Similarly, Daryl Johnson fears that, “These incidents are starting to add up. Yet our legislators, politicians and national leaders don’t appear too concerned about this. So my greatest fear is that domestic terrorists in this country will somehow become emboldened to the point of carrying out a mass-casualty attack, because they perceive that no one is being vigilant about the threat from within. This is what keeps me up at night.”

Rania Khalek is a progressive activist. Check out her blog Missing Pieces or follow her on Twitter @Rania_ak. You can contact her at raniakhalek@gmail.com.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/152033/how_the_political_right_bullied_the_us_government_into_ignoring_the_threat_of_right-wing_extremism?akid=7406.123424.6GLo_-&rd=1&t=5

Americans Don’t Realize Just How Badly We’re Getting Screwed by the Top 0.1 Percent Hoarding the Country’s Wealth

With an unprecedented sum of wealth held within the top one-tenth of one percent of the US population, we now have the most severe inequality of wealth in US history.

N.B.: An oft disdained 19th century philosopher would hardly be surprised!

From AmpedStaus  – via AlterNet – by David Degraw

“With an unprecedented sum of wealth, tens of trillions of dollars, held within the top one-tenth of one percent of the US population, we now have the most severe inequality of wealth in US history. Not even the robber barons of the Gilded Age were as greedy as the modern-day economic elite.

As American philosopher John Dewey said, “There is no such thing as the liberty or effective power of an individual, group, or class, except in relation to the liberties, the effective powers, of other individuals, groups or classes.”

In my report, The Economic Elite vs. the People, I reported on the strategic withholding of wealth from 99 percent of the US population over the past generation. Since the mid-1970s, worker production and wealth creation has exploded. As the statistics throughout this report prove, the dramatic increase in wealth has been almost entirely absorbed by the economic top one-tenth of one percent of the population, with most of it going to the top one-hundredth of one percent.

If you are wondering why a critical mass of people desperately struggling to make ends meet are still not fighting back with overwhelming force and running the mega-wealthy aristocrats out of town, let’s consider two significant factors:

1) People are so busy trying to maintain their current standard of living that their energies are consumed by holding onto the little they have left.

2) People have very little understanding of how much wealth has been consolidated within the top economic one-tenth of one percent.

Considering the first factor, it is obvious that people have become beaten down psychologically and financially. A report in the Guardian titled, “Anxiety keeps the super-rich safe from middle-class rage,” suggests that people are so desperate to hold onto what they have that they are too busy looking down to look up: “As psychologists will tell you, fear of loss is more powerful than the prospect of gain. The struggling middle classes look down more anxiously than they look up, particularly in recession and sluggish recovery.”

Considering the second factor, people do not understand how much wealth has been withheld from them. The average person has never personally experienced or seen the excessive wealth and luxury that the mega-rich live in. Wealth inequality has grown so extreme and the wealthy have become so far removed from average society, it is as if the rich exist in some outer stratosphere beyond the comprehension of the average person. As the Guardian report states:

“… having little daily contact with the rich and little knowledge of how they lived, they simply didn’t think about inequality much, or regard the wealthy as direct competitors for resources. As the sociologist Garry Runciman observed: ‘Envy is a difficult emotion to sustain across a broad social distance.’… Even now most underestimate the rewards of bankers and executives. Top pay has reached such levels that, rather like interstellar distances, what the figures mean is hard to grasp.”

In fact, the average American vastly underestimates our nation’s severe wealth disparity. This survey, featured in the NY Times, reveals that Americans think our society is far more equal than it actually is:

“In a recent survey of Americans, my colleague Dan Ariely and I found that Americans drastically underestimated the level of wealth inequality in the United States. While recent data indicates that the richest 20 percent of Americans own 84 percent of all wealth, people estimated that this group owned just 59 percent – believing that total wealth in this country is far more evenly divided among poorer Americans.

What’s more, when we asked them how they thought wealth should be distributed, they told us they wanted an even more equitable distribution, with the richest 20 percent owning just 32 percent of the wealth. This was true of Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor – all groups we surveyed approved of some inequality, but their ideal was far more equal than the current level.”

This chart shows the survey’s results:

The overwhelming majority of the US population is unaware of the vast wealth at hand. An entire generation of unprecedented wealth creation has been concealed from 99 percent of the population for over 35 years. Having never personally experienced this wealth, the average American cannot comprehend what is possible if even a fraction of the money was used for the betterment of society.

Given modern technology and wealth, American citizens should not be living in poverty. The statistics demonstrate that we now live in a neo-feudal society. In comparison to the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent of the population, who are sitting on top of tens of trillions of dollars in wealth, we are essentially propagandized peasants.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans are struggling to get by, while tens of trillions of dollars are consolidated within a small fraction of the population, is a crime against humanity.

The next time you are stressed out, struggling to make ends meet and pay off your debts, just think about the trillions of dollars sitting in the obscenely bloated pockets of the financial elites. I still cling to the hope that once enough people become aware of this fact, we can have the non-violent revolution we so urgently need. Until then, the rich get richer as a critical mass with increasingly dire economic prospects desperately struggles to make ends meet.

emphasis mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/152010/americans_don%27t_realize_just_how_badly_we%27re_getting_screwed_by_the_top_0.1_percent_hoarding_the_country%27s_wealth?page=entire