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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

November 14, 2007

 

A Social Security Idea

Raising the retirement age for regular, middle-class Americans to begin collecting the Social security Insurance which they have spent a lifetime paying into is not a choice I'm willing to make. In fact, there is a much better choice that would keep the Social Security Trust Fund solvent well into the latter half of this century and beyond.

Step 1: Stop Raiding the Social Security Trust Fund
President Bush has raided the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for his war of choice in Iraq. Of that there can be no doubt. During the 2000 campaign, sitting Vice President and Democratic Presidential nominee Al Gore said he would put our Social Security dollars into a "lock box" and not use that money for other purposes. President Bush also swore the same thing, but went back on his word. Today the Trust Fund is nothing more than a series of worthless I.O.U.'s that the Bush administration has no intention of paying back.

Step 2: Lowering the Tax on Middle-Class and Lower Income Americans
No one should have to pay taxes on earnings when they're trying to make ends meet. To that end, I recommend not charging any Social Security Tax on the first $10,000 of income earned. That is a savings to everyone of some $620 per year, regardless of your total income.

Step 3: Lowering the Tax Rate from 6.2 percent to 5.95 percent on Employee-Paid Social Security Insurance
Next would be to lower the tax rate paid on Social Security insurance from 6.2 percent to 5.95 percent. This would allow for another $150 saved per $50,000 of income earned for all Americans.

Step 3: Remove the Cap
Today, all taxes paid on Social Security insurance is capped at $97,000 of earned income. If the cap is removed and all Americans pay equally on all earned income over $10,000, Social Security not only will become solvent indefinitely, but its cost will be spread evenly across the board for all Americans.

In a time when the Bush administration is looking to give those which President Bush called his "base" of "haves and have mores" even more in tax breaks, we should be looking for fairness in our tax structure. It's time for all Americans to pay for Social Security fairly. As it stands now, Americans earning up to $97,000 per year are paying over $7,400 in Social Security taxes while some CEO earning $1 million per year pays the same. Under my plan, the American earner at $50,000 would save some $770 per year while that CEO would more than make up the difference.

With President Bush's Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Plan costing its beneficiaries 95 percent of their drug's costs during the "Donut Hole" period, aren't our elderly paying enough? Making sure that Social Security remains stable at the cost of only six percent of our richest Americans is the only choice.

If our economy is truly reliant on the middle class, this plan would be just the spark that would ignite it once again.

-Noah Greenberg


DO WE REALLY HATE HILLARY?
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.

I’ve been hearing a lot about Sen. Hillary Clinton lately. More than I’d like to be hearing, actually.

That’s because I am not hearing much about Sen. Clinton’s position on issues, which is the only topic that interests me about the one candidate out of ten Democrats and eight Republican candidates for president who has managed to crest past the 50 percent mark in the national polls.

Instead of the issues, with regard to Sen. Clinton, the mainstream media seems to have another agenda in mind.

The Washington Post, the same newspaper that once broke the Watergate scandal, wrote about her breasts. Yes, it’s true, as a woman, Hillary Clinton has breasts.

Is this a boy’s locker room or a presidential campaign?

Ann Coulter, the best-known conservative columnist, complains that Sen. Clinton has fat legs, and thus wears pants suits all the time instead of skirts. As Ms. Coulter wears only sleeveless mini-dresses, it is to be presumed she thinks Sen. Clinton should wear these, too.

Then there’s the fact that Sen. Clinton is, according to this pundit and that columnist, “unlikeable.” Others note that she is “cold,” “too controlled” and “has a laugh like a hyena.”

Okay. Let’s say all these things are true: Hillary Clinton has breasts, fat legs, laughs like a hyena and is too controlled.

So what? Do these traits mean she can’t be president? And if she is so unlikeable, why is she the only candidate with a poll rating over 30 percent–let alone the only one who has a poll rating of over 50 percent? Her closest rivals are Republican Rudy Giuliani at 31 percent and Sen. Barack Obama at 22 percent.
How unlikeable is she, again?

The left–of which I remain a card carrying member–complains that Sen. Clinton is too centrist a Democrat. Yes, she is a centrist, I agree, and that, actually, is my main complaint about her. But I am a radical leftist, not a centrist. And last I looked, there were no radical leftists running. All the Democratic candidates are either to the right of Sen. Clinton or exactly in the same place.

And anyway, how is this a surprise? Sen. Clinton’s been a centrist for 35 of her 60 years. This is not new news. And since about 80 percent of Americans are themselves centrists, this is not exactly out of step with the American voter. She’s not an extremist like George Bush or Dick Cheney. That seems a good thing, not a negative.

On November 14th, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is himself running for president for the third time in 20 years and is trying to keep from slipping further in the polls than the fourth place spot he currently holds, was asked by a voter at a town meeting about Sen. Clinton: “How do we stop the bitch?”

Now this is a family newspaper chain and we don’t usually use that kind of language, but this was the question.

Sen. McCain first laughed, but then he responded, “That’s a very good question.”

Now let’s imagine that a voter asked McCain of Sen. Obama, “How do we stop the nigger?” Or of Gov. Bill Richardson, “How do we stop the wetback?”

Does anyone really think that such a comment–with a similar reply on McCain’s part–wouldn’t have resulted in his being forced to withdraw from the race? Yet chuckling over the only female presidential candidate–who is a sitting senator, former First Lady and the leading candidate among all the candidates–being called a sexual slur is, according to McCain’s people, reason to send out a new fundraising letter.

McCain is running for president, not head of some grade school clubhouse. Is this how he will talk about other female heads of state? Because no doubt, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, would be displeased at that reference.

Yet despite the constant demonizing of Sen. Clinton, she is clearly not accepting the mantle of victim; she refuses to be one. In fact, she has seemed to gain strength from each new attack, making her an even better candidate for office, as she is virtually unflappable.

Imagine what kind of president George Bush might have been, if he didn’t fly off the handle and throw a tantrum every time someone challenged him?
The question constantly asked in one form or another by pundits and people on the street is: Do we really hate Hillary?

*No*.

The biggest secret of the 2008 presidential race is that we *don’t* hate Hillary. That is why she leads her closest Democratic rival by 30 points and her closest Republican rival by 20 points. In fact, a majority of would-be voters think Hillary Clinton is the best candidate overall to be the next president for any number of reasons, chief among them that she is–unlike the current president–smart, educated, politically savvy, knowledgeable and sanguine. She has shown a sometimes stunning ability to take on her detractors and she has also shown her softer side for those who insist on asserting that she is cold and calculating. (Terms only used for her, by the way, despite, for example, Giuliani’s icy countenance and vicious rejoinders to voters.) Remember, Sen. Clinton built her own political platform with issues related to families, women and children. Her book, *It Takes a Village,* published a decade ago, was about making the lives of children better.

So much for cold and calculating.

As for Sen. Clinton’s so-called “negatives,” they are not nearly as high as any one of her Republican opponents or the majority of her fellow Democrats, all of whom have far higher negative numbers than she in the polls. Yet pundits repeatedly refer to her negatives while not ever mentioning what the numbers are for her opponents.

On November 14th, the most recent polls had Sen. Clinton’s negatives at 44 percent. But Rudy Giuliani’s were at 56 percent at that same point. And Sen. Obama’s were not all that far behind Clinton’s at 36 percent. Other candidates–Fred Thompson at 60 percent, John McCain at 55 percent, Mitt Romney at 55 percent, all had far higher negatives than Sen. Clinton.

And George Bush’s negatives? He’s at 71 percent.

As one Washington insider told me, “Of course she has negatives. She’s been in politics for 35 years. Only the new kids on the block have lower negatives and that’s because no one knows who they are. Yet. Until someone pulls something out of a closet or bathroom stall or former voting record.”

We know who Hillary Clinton is. There aren’t going to be any October–or November or January–surprises. Hillary Clinton has been investigated by the hardest core of the right wing and they failed to find anything to hold against her, except that she stayed with her husband after he was caught cheating on her because she loves him and that she’s tough, savvy and ambitious. All of which latter traits are ones that most of her rivals on either side of the aisle are desperate to be seen as having as they limp along in the race.

With few missteps, Sen. Clinton has won every debate. Her winning streak was so long and unmarred, in fact, that her fellow Democratic candidates began to shift the focus of the debates. Forget the war, terrorism, immigration, health care, poverty, diplomacy. The Democratic debates are now single-focus: Get Hillary!

As a woman, I have to say I am impressed to see this one female politician scare so many powerful men into behaving like schoolyard bullies. But I would have preferred that they all stay on topic: it’s the war and immigration and health care, stupid, not the “girl” on the platform with them.

Did John Edwards comment on anyone else’s jacket in a debate? Of course not. This is an attempt to remind voters that Sen. Clinton has breasts and wears pink–that she’s a “girl.” Talking about her outfit in the debate is a not-so-subtle effort at making prospective voters think Sen. Clinton’s like Paris Hilton and can only think about clothes.

Please. We can do better.

Even those asking the questions at the debates can’t seem to get past Hillary Clinton’s gender, consistently making references to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and his policies as if she and he were interchangeable. Sen. Clinton has put each of those questioners firmly in their place with responses like “Well, he’s not up here, is he?” or “I’ll have to ask him later.”

The media game is to slash and burn. The same people who tried to convince us that Al Gore and George Bush were one and the same (the past seven years have proved how radically different they were) or that Howard Dean, the front runner in 2004, was somehow not as credible a candidate as John Kerry, are now trying to convince us–with the endless negative focus on Hillary–that somehow she can’t make it.

Of course she can, that’s why everyone is so scared.

Now the left has a valid argument: Clinton is a centrist. But there are no non-centrists running (and for those who just said “Kucinich” please remember he was a Republican not that long ago and anti-choice as recently as three years ago and seeing UFOs doesn’t make you a radical), unless one votes for the Socialist Party candidate (is there one?). All the Democrats are centrists. Check their voting records. Or, in the case of Obama, lack of voting records but loud avowals of what they would have been, had he been in office, which he wasn’t.

The right also has a valid argument: Hillary Clinton is a threat to the Republican status quo. She’s determined to get universal health care, which she’s been striving for since she was First Lady. She wants us out of Iraq. She’s gotten caught already suggesting that it would be okay to let illegal immigrants stay in the country and have driver’s licenses, then had to backtrack on that one. She wants daycare for working mothers and programs for children in poverty. She has the largest percentage of African American and other voters of color on her side and the highest favorable rating among all women voters of every race and ethnicity.

She scares the intransigent and the extremists, because unlike so many people running in this race, she’s not a single-issue candidate. She believes in evolution. There have been complaints about her taking money from various political action groups, but so has every other candidate running, including John Edwards who slammed her unmercifully for doing so and then ran out of money himself and had to take public funds. The flaw in that argument is that until the entire system is overhauled, everyone has to take money from public groups because otherwise they can’t run. But that’s hardly a fault of Sen. Clinton’s, it’s problem of the system.

The other thing people say about Sen. Clinton is she’s “not electable.” They said that when she ran for the Senate, yet she won in a landslide both times. (Conversely, Sen. Obama has lost several elections in his various bids for office.)

Sen. Clinton is not without flaws as a candidate, of course, chief among them that she voted for the Iraq war, like the majority of Congress, a vote she now regrets. But she’s also led the efforts in the Senate to get a timeline for troop withdrawal–which President Bush vetoed twice.

Unfortunately, the politics of gender in America haven’t changed all that much since Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for president in the U.S. in 1872.

That has to change.

It’s time for American voters and politicians to grow up and recognize that more than 50 percent of the American populace is female and that the U.S. lags behind nearly every other democracy in never having had a female head of state. Margaret Thatcher was the longest-serving Prime Minister of Britain for more than 150 years and was the first woman to hold that office. She was elected back in 1979. Currently, Angela Merkel is Chancellor of Germany. In May, Segolene Royal was narrowly beaten in a run-off race for President of France. India, Israel, New Zealand, Liberia, Argentina, Iceland, the Phillipines, Mozambique, Pakistan are among the many nations that currently or formerly have had female heads of state.

Hillary Clinton may not be the perfect candidate (I have yet to see that candidate anywhere) and she may not be the candidate we would have liked for first woman president.

But what we do know about Hillary Clinton is that she is smarter than the current president, calmer than the current president, better versed in foreign affairs than the current president and able to handle almost anything that is thrown at her with aplomb and grace. Hillary Clinton managed to get through the Monica Lewinsky scandal with her pride and grace intact. George Bush can barely ride a bike without falling off.

It may indeed take a village to raise our nation’s children, but it does not take a penis to run our nation’s government. As soon as we can accept that reality, we can stop demonizing Hillary. For the sake of the country, which desperately needs to get the Republicans out of the White House, let’s hope that realization takes hold soon.


In response to, "(Bush) can't understand why gas prices have risen and, likewise, doesn't get why there's no answer as an alternative," Rhiam writes:

He knows exactly why oil prices have risen. Some of his best friends (have-mores) are Saudis, well aware that their financial ride in the pockets of Americans is almost over, and seek to get as much as possible before there is no more money in America in the hands of consumers to buy gas at all.

'Course he can't come out and say that to the American public.


In response to, "In my opinion, those who seek and keep war as a matter of polarizing the people they represent are the real traitors," Robert Dozier writes:

Amen


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-Noah Greenberg