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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Thanksgiving Madman

December 4, 2007


Condoning Greed

What happens when greed runs amok? All one has to do is to look at the current mortgage and housing crisis - and it is a CRISIS with a capital "C" - to observe. Greed, in the form of a big returns on lower investments, has put this nation into a housing spiral that will not only burst the housing-price bubble, but will lower the prices of some homes so as to make it more favorable to even those with the cash to keep their homes default on their loans.

In a society with unfettered restraints on the likes of banks and other lending institutions; and with investors banging on doors to let them into the room full of high-risk, over-priced mortgages for a feast of a return, there is no wonder why everybody took the bait and climbed aboard the more-than-you-can-afford express.

Think of it in these terms: Check out this weeks Sunday newspaper and look for that ad for the new 65 inch LCD television that says "No Interest 'til 2010!" Then see of you can get your hands on that contract they want you to sign. It says, simply, that if you miss a payment, or if you don't pay off the whole amount by 2010, you're going to have to pay all of that interest which would have accrued had this been an regular loan. And what happens to those many, many people who are sure that they'll be able to pay the bills , and can't, is that they end up with a TV that cost them upwards of a thousand times more than they thought it would.

The mortgage situation is just like that.

Not only did the near-unregulated mortgage industry loan money to those who had questionable credit reports, but they lent money, at low interest ADJUSTABLE RATES, to those whose pocketbooks didn't warrant such a loan.

I'd like to buy a $120,000 convertible, but my 2002 Chrysler Sebring is just going to have to make it well past it's current 110,000 miles. The reason? I can't afford the former so I live within my means with the latter.

And with the prices having gone up so much in such a short period of time, the market out-priced those who it should have been embracing: The new first-time home buyer. Those young people who breath life into aging communities have kept urban areas alive for decades. Take New Jersey, for example. The idea, up until recently, has been that retirees sell their big, and now empty nests to a young couple just beginning their lives together. as that young couple makes more money, usually because they have steady jobs and have climbed in their profession with experience, they're able to afford more and better things and contribute more to their community. But what has happened is that instead of them trying to make it in their home state's suburbs, they're forced out of the area and into an area where the housing market is more fiscally friendly to them. So, in the case of New Jersey, we not only lose population, but the entire economy suffers as well.

But fear not, Mr. and Mrs. America. The Bush administration has a plan. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. wants to pass a plan that will give local governments "new powers" to finance mortgages. They want to freeze rates that mortgage backers Fannie-Mae and Freddie-Mac offer so as to keep those same ADJUSTABLE RATES from adjusting upwards.

On the surface, and with support from both sides of the aisle likely, this sounds like a good idea, except for one thing: Just how is local government going to implement, enforce and administer another federal mandate that will probably exclude any financing? And if they are going to finance it, we all know that it's us - those of us in the middle class with good credit histories and on-time mortgage payments and the ability to live within our means - who are going to do it.

And it gets worse...

It gets worse because those members of the Bush "base" of "haves and have mores" are being affected. They're the ones who took the "risk" and lent money to those who shouldn't have been lent money in the first place (or at least not as much as they were lent), and now want to be let off the hook by yet another program whose design will be to trash the savings of us fiscally responsible middle class Americans. You see, if the borrower defaults, it will the investor - those who invested in these mortgages and bought them from the original lending institution or mortgage broker en masse - who will end up holding the bag. And, after all, this administration does know where it's bread is buttered.

Don't think so, huh? As the Bushies still attempt to remove the inheritance tax for all, even thought that "death tax" as they like to call it, only applies to those inheriting millions of dollars; and as the Bushies look to keep million dollar tax breaks to the very rich while the middle-class gets crumbs; and as the bush administration attempts to remove all taxation from capital gains - the only "income" for so many of his "base" - while you and I keep paying the "full fee", just who do you think is going to be left holding the bag?

And it's even funnier (as in ironic) that the Bushies real "base" is going to occupy the court system in attempts to make sure that their profits remain just that - profitable, while the likes of Bush, Cheney and Company tell us all that the courts are the problem to begin with.

"Everybody is going to end up suing everybody,"
-Christopher J. Mayer, who heads the Milstein Center for Real Estate at Columbia University's business school

And just how much is that going to cost us?

Wouldn't it be nice of our government was as concerned about the "have-nothings" and the "have-just-enough-to-get-bys" as they are about the Bush "base" of "haves and have mores"? No need to worry - they have their priorities straight.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.

The CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate on November 28th was yet another opportunity to view how out-of-touch with America the Republican candidates are, as well as how untrustworthy CNN is as a news network.

As they have done in previous debates with the Democrats, CNN failed to vet the questioners. The biggest scandals of the evening were questions posed by Grover Norquist, a long-time Republican insider, and by retired Brigadier General Keith Kerr, who is now an openly gay man who also happens to be a member of the Veterans and Military for Hillary. Given only 34 video questions were chosen from over 5,000 submissions for the debate, CNN should have discovered that Kerr worked for Hillary Clinton and Norquist currently works titularly for Romney.

But the true scandal lay in what was said–and what wasn’t.

I have long considered Rudy Giuliani to be one of the sleaziest and most corrupt politicians in America, a feeling shared by most New Yorkers. It is indicative of how damaged the Republican Party has been by the Bush Administration’s lies, corruption and treason, that Giuliani is even considered a viable candidate, let alone the national front-runner.

Giuliani has made the tragedy of 9/11 his calling card for national politics. Every other sentence seems to reference the event, but what the candidate never mentions is how his incompetence bungled rescue efforts because the information relay system was dysfunctional and fire fighters and other first responders were unable to communicate with each other. He never mentions that he chose as the emergency command center WTC7–a building that had already been damaged in a previous attack–because he could walk there from City Hall and met his then-mistress, now-third wife Judi Nathan there for trysts when they were having an illicit affair.

Giuliani dismisses the protests of 9/11 first responders now sick and dying from lung disease that he delayed or outright refused them access to health care for their 9/11-related illnesses. And no one at the debate–not his rival candidates nor moderator Anderson Cooper, a serious journalist and scion of one of New York’s oldest families, the Vanderbilt's–asked Giuliani about the latest scandal to hit the former Mayor: that he required NYPD protection for Nathan–including a police driver for a city car–while she was his mistress. This at taxpayer expense, while his wife and children still lived in the mayor’s mansion.

I don’t think candidates’ personal sex lives should be the stuff of headline news, myself. But Republicans made the collective decision to turn the personal into political headline news–at least for their Democratic opposition. Who Bill Clinton had oral sex with appeared to be the sole issue of interest to Republicans throughout the Clinton Administration. Monica Lewinsky’s name should only have been known in one household–the Clintons’–but she became known to every American household because Republicans wanted it that way. Clinton was impeached for lying about an extramarital affair.

So why is Giuliani–an almost pathological liar and philanderer–the Republican Party’s front-runner, when they claim to be the party of morality?

I don’t really care about Giuliani’s many extra-marital affairs. I do, however, care that the people of New York paid for them.

What I most care about, however, is Giuliani’s lies, which seem limitless.

The Republicans wrested the 2004 presidential election from the Democrats with a scant half percent of the vote. They had one issue--terrorism–which they flogged constantly. The Democrats, they hectored, were soft on terrorism and softer still on national security. The Republican National Committee launched a campaign to depict Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), a decorated and wounded veteran of Vietnam, as a traitorous weasel. Meanwhile, George Bush, AWOL through most of his stateside National Guard service in the U.S., was portrayed as a hero.

This is how Rudy Giuliani came to be considered a national hero. Because after the 9/11 attacks, he appeared to be doing his job.

Admirable, a Republican who isn’t caught in a brothel in a diaper, like Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), or in a men’s room making sexual hand signals to an undercover cop, like Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID). But Giuliani wasn’t doing anything over and above what any normal person would have done in the aftermath of 9/11. He certainly did nothing to constitute the heroic status he’s been mantled with by the Republicans.

But then Republicans needed a hero, and the only actual hero in the Republican presidential lineup, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who was tortured as a prisoner of war for five years during Vietnam, apparently doesn’t count because he doesn’t always tow the Republican Party line.

Which leads back to the debate last Wednesday. One of the areas in which McCain doesn’t mesh with his fellow candidates is immigration. And immigration was one of the major topics at the debate.

Unlike the other seven candidates, McCain has worked for immigration reforms. Arizona is the state with the highest number of illegal immigrants crossing the borders each day, so this is an important element of his platform.

But at the debate, candidates were falling over themselves trying to prove which one was harshest toward illegal immigrants.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose ads in Iowa refer to him as a “Christian Leader,” was accused of giving too much to illegal immigrants because he allowed their children to go to school. Giuliani was accused of having run New York as a sanctuary city by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney because he too allowed the children of illegal immigrants to attend school.

Giuliani then accused Romney of having run a sanctuary state as well as a personal sanctuary, referring to the fact that Romney had employed a landscaping firm staffed by illegals.

The excessive discussion of immigration kept the subjects of the war, the economy, joblessness, health care and other domestic issues as far from the debate as possible. Which was exactly what the candidates wanted, because these are the issues on which they have little of substance to offer. So whipping up fears over immigration (the Republican candidate at the bottom of the pack, Rep. Tom Tancredo [R-CO], has a campaign commercial with an illegal immigrant committing a terrorist act) stokes their base. Ignoring the war and the disastrous economy plays best for these candidates.

But what about us, the voters?

Since Ronald Reagan was first elected, the Republican Party has engineered an ascendancy in American politics which has dominated the nation–to deleterious effect. Democrats have been presented as either weak but liberal, or strong, but too centrist.

The reality is that the Republican Party has seriously lost its way. It has become the party of meanness and vituperation, lies and corruption, hypocrisy and fake morality. A party utterly out of touch with the average American voter who is politically in the center, concerned about the war, the economy, health care and education.

The current slate of Republican candidates typify how out of touch their party is. Only McCain believes in immigration reform. Only Sen. Ron Paul (R-TX) thinks the troops should come home. Unfortunately, Paul’s also the candidate who has a long history of racism and thinks all taxes should be abolished, along with the Federal Reserve Bank, which would destroy the American economy completely.

The choices offered by the Republicans–who still have the guts to call themselves the “party of Lincoln” even as they refute everything Lincoln ever stood for–are alarming at best.

The voting begins a mere five weeks from now in Iowa. What Americans can know for sure is that none of the Republican candidates offers hope for the changes so desperately needed in the nation. Their candidates are fringe crazies like Paul and Tancredo or dangerous liars like Giuliani and Romney, with a welter of confused and inexperienced candidates in between.

Even in a shoddy forum like the November 28th debate, it’s clear that these candidates would only take America further away from core values and deeper into the calamitous realm of deceit and despair into which the Bush Administration has plunged the nation. The dangers the Republicans pose to America cannot be overstated. If that wasn’t clear on November 28th, let’s hope it will be clear by January 3rd.

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-Noah Greenberg