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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

July 7, 2008


The McBush Economy's Balancing Act
(More an "Act" than "Balance")

“American workers and families pay their bills and balance their budgets, and I will demand the same of the government,”
-John McCain

No, this isn't a recording or a reprint of something which John McCain (McBush) has said before. This is a brand spanking new promise by the would-be Bush(44) to undo what his GOP predecessor has done so well - swell the national debt.

And McCain-McBush says he'll do it by the end of his would-be first term!

Amazing. Just where does he get the chutzpah?

McCain's website plainly tells a story of pandering to those on the Right who supported President Bush in both 2000 and in 2004. And, if memory serves me correct, those who contribute want to pay less and less in taxes while we, the middle class, pay more and more to make up the difference.

Of course, when the middle class runs out of money - something that has been happening at an apparent geometric pace - there's no reason why they, the Bush-McCain-McBush "base of haves and have mores" should make up the difference. Instead, in the words of Dick Cheney, "Deficits don't matter."

Maybe we should call McCain McCheney instead?

Cheney's (the original, not the newer McCheney version) comment was a "tribute" to the Great Communicator Ronald Reagan. Here's exactly what he said, in context:

"Reagan proved deficits don't matter,"
-Dick Cheney

Ah but they do matter. In fact, they matter so much that the only time in the past generation which our economy actually grew was when Bill Clinton took over the reigns from George H.W. Bush. Clinton had a choice: Lower taxes or reduce, and finally, eliminate the national debt. He chose the latter and we all benefited.

But the Bush-Cheney's, and now McBush-McCheney - because that's what we're going to get in a new John McCain administration, if we let that happen - want to cut even more taxes, including taxes on the already unbelievably wealthy, to reduce the deficit.

Ask yourself one question: Has lowering taxes on the wealthiest Americans ever worked? Reagan, the model of a President which present-day Bush and future-McCain look towards as a role model, had to raise taxes because his economy was out of control, and we, the middle class, did much of the suffering.

McCain's "Pro-Growth Tax Policy", as his web site states it, should be named the "No-Growth Tax Policy" inasmuch as it is a continuation of the Bush(43) policies. All one has to do is look at the economic news of the past six month, which include: Stagnant unemployment; a net loss of jobs, nearing negative 400,000; and a dollar worth about half what it used to be worth on the world market, as compared to other western world currencies, just a scant few years ago.

Perhaps "No-Growth" is being too generous. it should be called McCain's "Snow-Growth Economic Policy" because never has there been such a snow-job in our nation's recent economic history.

Stay the Course, McCheney.

And as McCain throws more money at his new upper class "base of haves and have mores", he looking at even more ways to expand the federal government's expenditures in his effort to balance the budget. McCain's "plans" include fixing health care by throwing an additional $700 billion in tax credits to only those who pay taxes, leaving only those who can't afford health care still without health care.

That'll fix it, right?

McCain-McCheney is also going to balance the budget by lowering the already low commercial tax rate from 35 to 25 percent, taking even more money out of our US Treasury.

The McCain-McCheney plan is a plan right out of the NeoCon playbook: Make the people feel that they're going to keep the pennies in their left-front pocket while taking dollars out of their right-front pocket, their wallets, their bank account and their hide, if necessary.

As the man who said "I don't know much about economics", McCain is constantly proving the point. All one has to do is look at his top economic advisors to see how much trouble McCain's policies would be if they ever got put into practice. Listed as his top people on the economy are none other than failed GOP Presidential hopeful and former Texas Senator Phil Gramm, who invented the environment which caused the mortgage crisis, and then became a lobbyist for the industry; and Carly Fiorino, the failed former CEO of Texas-based Hewlett-Packer. Ms. Fiorino was forced to leave HP, complete with her golden parachute, after her company slipped and fell under her leadership.

Lots of negative things come out of Texas - Perhaps McCain should move there after the November elections.

In the end, McCain is attempting to distance himself from the Bush administration while adopting their trickle-down plans which even their own Congress, when the GOP held the majority - wouldn't let them completely get away with.

Yes, McCain surely doesn't know much about the economy. The problem is that those who he is counting on as his economic brain know the economy too well - and they know how to make it the best economy for them, their friends and the rest of the McCain "base of haves and have mores".

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.

July 4, 2008 seemed quiet in that birthplace of American liberty, Philadelphia. Perhaps it was the rain after weeks of no rain. Or the heat and humidity.

Or perhaps it was that people just didn’t feel as celebratory as usual, with gas prices double what they were a year ago and food prices up 25 percent from January.
It could have been that Philadelphians were also thinking about the men and women lost to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or the ones still fighting.

It could also have been that what had seemed like the most exciting election in many years has turned into more of the same: Two candidates who campaigned on change in the primary are now embracing the status quo daily. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have been outdoing each other trying to equate patriotism with guns and warmongering, with a little bit of faith-based pandering tossed in for good measure.

The Founding Fathers would be ashamed of them both. That is not what they had in mind, 232 summers ago in Philadelphia.

I acknowledge being more disappointed in Obama than I am in McCain. After all, McCain is a Republican and Republicans are the party of guns and war with a little faith-based pandering tossed in to ease the pain of all the killing. It doesn’t surprise me that McCain is still for guns and war, although he doesn’t mention faith nearly as often as Obama, who seems obsessed with the topic.

But wasn’t Obama the guy who kept saying he was a different kind of politician?

Not this week. Nor last. Nor the week before. In three weeks time he’s come out for illegal wiretapping of American citizens (FISA) and for sending more troops to the unwinnable war in Afghanistan. He said he has to re-think his position on Iraq, said he might have been wrong about being so hard on NAFTA after all, said the U.S. Supreme Court was right to overturn the hand-gun ban and wrong to limit the death penalty to just murderers. And then, just for good measure, he said he’d *expand* President Bush’s failed faith-based charities idea *and* allow federally-funded faith-based charities to hire and fire on the basis of religion. Plus, he’s decided that mental illness is not an acceptable reason for a woman to have an abortion. Apparently suicide is better.

In short, he’s reversed himself on all the major issues he ran on in the primary, except taxes.

All of which made me think about the hot July 232 years ago when a bunch of smart guys–much smarter than either Obama or McCain, smart as they both are–sat around and tried to find ways to maintain their own political integrity while also finding a way to safeguard the country from politicians like Obama and McCain forever.

Founding a nation and crafting a Constitution is a tall order. They haven’t had much success with it in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But it did happen here. And despite the efforts of the current president to gut that Constitution and suspend the rights of the citizenry, the fact is, we are still the most solid democracy in the world.

That does not mean we should all act like everything’s fine in America. Everything is not fine. The fact that Obama and McCain, who both claim to be running against the track record of President Bush, are now in agreement with one of the most egregious Constitution-gutting elements of Bush’s presidency–FISA–is a cause for real concern.

The fact that the two political parties we have seem more and more interchangeable is also a cause for concern.

But is the country about to implode? Is our democracy on the ropes? Is it, as one hysterical acquaintance of mine said last week when referring to Obama’s support of FISA, “The end of America”?

Not by a long shot.

Americans have little knowledge or sense of history–their own or anyone else’s. It’s one of our worst flaws, because it leads us to repeat the same mistakes again and again. It also leads us to make hyperbolic statements like the one above.

FISA is bad. Really bad. That both candidates for president, all the Republicans and a fair number of the Democrats support it is even worse. The Founding Fathers didn’t anticipate telephones and email, but they surely didn’t want the government spying on the citizenry.

But bad as FISA is, it’s still not the end of our democracy.

Historical context is important. America has seen far darker days–as difficult as this may be to believe–than the era of the Bush presidency. No one can rationally dispute that George W. Bush will go down as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. But it’s been worse.

As hard as Bush tried to shred the Constitution, he didn’t succeed. He’s failed at everything, even his attempts to destroy the country.

That’s the good news. Our nation is tough enough and resilient enough to withstand Bush. Our Constitution and the system of checks and balances so painstakingly put in place by our Founding Fathers in this very city 232 years ago was so formidable, that even the evil genius of Dick Cheney and the arrogant stupidity of George Bush have not been able to ruin the Republic.

The bad news is, under the Bush Administration, dissent has become synonymous with being unpatriotic. Worse news is that politicians fear being called unpatriotic more than anything.

But here’s more good news: Dissent *is* patriotic. In fact it’s so patriotic that it was the predicate upon which the Founding Fathers built the Constitution.
The Constitution, like the Declaration of Independence, is all about dissent. The Constitution is all about safeguarding the citizenry from the excesses, cynicism and power-mongering of politicians.

It’s easy in rocky economic times and war time to be cynical. With a president who seems incapable of doing anything right and who seems unable or unwilling to care for the citizens of America, it’s easy to believe that all is lost, that the Republic is foundering.

But it isn’t. Look at Zimbabwe. Reformer and opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai claimed to have won the March election. But the corrupt dictatorial president of the past 28 years, Robert Mugabe, who has wrecked the country and instigated a reign of terror over Zimbabweans, asserted that the election was in fact too close to call and demanded a run-off election.

Then he had the Tsvangirai arrested, and had his top men tortured or killed. Opposition supporters–and their children–were tortured and murdered. The election was held June 29th and Mugabe won–because Tsvangirai, fearing for his own life and those of his followers, withdrew from the election and urged his supporters not to risk their lives to vote for him. Tsvangirai said he knew what was in their hearts, but that he could not have their blood on his hands.

In January, violence erupted in Kenya after a similar problem with the elections there. Thousands were killed.

In Egypt, in November 2007, secret police rounded up the spouses and children of several groups plotting against the government and tortured them. Egypt is a one-party state.

In May, former Russian President Vladimir Putin hand-picked his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who then appointed Putin Prime Minister. (Putin was ineligible for a third term as president.) Under Putin’s “democracy,” dissent was quashed. Journalists are murdered regularly in Russia, particularly those who question the government.

Last month, China’s government threatened parents of children killed in the massive May earthquake. Parents–most of whom lost their only child–had complained that schools their children attended had not been built to code and that the buildings collapsed because of this failure.

In other countries claiming to be democracies, dissent will kill you. Not here. So why is everyone so afraid of it?

I’ve spent much of my life dissenting. Maybe it’s because I was born in the birthplace of American dissent. My grandfather would take me to Independence Hall as a child and tell me stories about the men who crafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and imbued in me a sense of the importance of maintaining what they had done. One of the first books he gave me was a reprint of Thomas Paine’s *Common Sense,* a defining tome of early America, an essay, essentially, on the importance of dissent.

In the days leading up to July 4th, there was a lot of talk about patriotism and how important it is. I consider myself intensely patriotic. I love America. I’ve lived other places and I know this one is best for me as a woman, a writer, a leftist and a dissenter.

I’d like it to stay that way. I’d like Americans to begin to demand dissent from their political leaders, not rote politics.

This is a great nation–we had a rough primary but there was no rioting, no bloodshed. In 2000, we didn’t have a final decision in the presidential election for weeks, yet again–no rioting, no bloodshed. In fact, the transfer of power happens incredibly smoothly here, one more testament to the strength of our Republic.

The men who sweated through that July in Philadelphia were trying to build something different, unique, better. They were smart enough and dedicated enough to figure it out. And 232 years later, our Republic has withstood a revolution, slavery, a Civil War, a Great Depression, other wars, several assassinations, civil rights changes for African Americans and women, George Bush and Dick Cheney and it has survived.

It survived because of the dissenters, not because of the followers.

Next July 4th, we’ll have a different President. Either of the two men currently running would be better than the current president. But both those men–Obama, who asserts he is the candidate of change, and McCain, known as a maverick–have spent the past month avoiding all hint of dissent. They have embraced everything *but* change or maverick ideas.

I don’t want status quo government. I want the questioning and the dissent that founded this nation. I want the Constitution intact as the living, breathing document it was meant to be. I want Independence Day to mean something real. I want us to live up to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

As I watched the fireworks on July 4th, I thought about what it meant to be here, in Philadelphia, the birthplace of all those ideas that are still stunningly good and vitally important. I thought about how much I want to see a president who believes in something yesterday, today and tomorrow, without concern for polls or focus groups or voting blocks.

I want leaders to dissent, to break free of centrism and safe politics and take on the hard issues and fight for the citizenry the way the Founding Fathers fought for us. I want us to be grateful that this isn’t a failed democracy like Zimbabwe or Kenya or Egypt or Russia and to show our gratitude with dissent. If we are patriots–whether it’s you or me or Obama or McCain–we all have the same duty: to make America better for the entire citizenry. That’s what our Constitution demands. And that’s what we need to demand of our leaders. Our Republic deserves nothing less.

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-Noah Greenberg