Sunday, October 28, 2012

This Election Matters


Let’s step back from the sound-bites and examine the core differences between Democrats and Republicans in 2012.

On the Economy, the Republicans still voice the "trickle-down" theory that goes back at least to the 1890's: if the really rich have more money to spend, it’ll "trickle down" to the average joe. And jill. The wealthy will invest money in ways that employ the rest of us.

Economic studies and a century of experience have shown it just ain’t so.

If you give a wealthy person $10 million, s/he might invest it in a factory, but probably won’t: s/he might buy a yacht made in Taiwan or some astonishing jewelry, or invest outside the country (perhaps through an offshore entity to minimize taxes).

If you give 10,000 middle-class people an extra $10 each, almost all of it goes straight into the U.S. economy. It goes to the grocer or car repair guy, who pays some tax and spends the rest here. It circulates, providing income to many U.S. citizens or businesses and contributing to the public treasury.
Nevertheless, Republicans refuse to extend middle-class tax cuts unless the cuts for the very wealthy are also continued.

Bill Clinton left office with a surplus. The Bush Administration left with a huge deficit. Blame that partly on arcane and speculative manipulations by financial folks, whose crazy schemes Democrats are somewhat more ready to regulate than Republicans are; and there are other contributing causes.

A major cause of our economic predicament was Bush’s idea that you could give rich folks (and others) a massive tax break, start two costly wars, and somehow come out all right.

Consider the longer context.

There are parallels with the 1920's: a decade of greed and speculation, during Republican Presidencies devoted to unfettering business, crashed in October 1929.

There followed Roosevelt’s "New Deal" and a strong effort to get people back to work. Helped by World War II, our economy improved and stayed pretty powerful throughout the 1950's and 1960's.

In 1961, at the end of Eisenhower’s eight-year Presidency, the top marginal income-tax rate was 91%; it was 70% when Nixon resigned in 1974; now it is a mere 35%!

It’s no coincidence that figures also show a massive increase in economic inequality in this country since 1974. Further, new studies link equality to economic development. Increased economic inequality isn’t just unfair, it’s bad business for a nation.

Sadly, there are fewer and fewer Republicans like Eisenhower or Dirksen or Nelson Rockefeller – or even the elder George Bush.

More and more, Republicans are extremists, or people who bow to the Far Right to get campaign funds and primary votes. Locally, we get a district attorney seen applauding a mention of the Confederate Flag at a Tea Party meeting; a rigidly right-wing congressman; and a state senate candidate (Alberson) from the Tea Party who touts her belief in public education but won’t let her children experience it – and believes education should be based on literal interpretation of the Christian Bible.

Our country and our state have a lot of tough decisions to make. How can we protect the environment without unduly hamstringing the economy? Help those who need help without creating an underclass of dependent people? Guarantee workers a decent life while remaining competitive in the world? What mix of drilling and alternative energy can ultimately free us from dependence on foreign oil?

Solutions aren’t always obvious, and they don’t flow magically from ideology. Finding the answers requires an honest search – not a telephone call to find out what Grover Norquist or the Koch Brothers says the answer should be. Nor can we find details in the Bible or the Koran.

Meanwhile racism, in an interesting way, plays some role in the present Presidential race. Obama is a fairly middle-of-the road liberal. His positions on issues were slightly to the right of Hillary Clinton’s; but liberals saw him as further left because of the power of his eloquence and the color of his skin. In folks whop hopefully viewed him as more liberal than he was, because he was"black," there was a scent of racism; and there’s racism in the Far Right’s nonsense about him fomenting socialist revolution or plotting to make us Moslems. One conservative lady recently said, "Michele Obama just doesn’t look like a First Lady." Yet she’s intelligent, articulate, and caring, appears to be a wonderful wife and mother, and dresses better than any First Lady since Jacqueline Kennedy.

Obama is a smart and ambitious man who cares deeply about doing a good job, both for the country and because he doesn’t like to screw up. He has done a pretty good job, too, under all the circumstances. His mixed ethnic background and varied childhood experiences gave him a broader perspective than most of us have in our youth.

Romney, the etch-a-sketch man, seems to want to accomplish what his beloved father failed to do, but he lacks his father’s character and compassion. When he views the world he sees the upper class and upper-middle class, wants to free them from nagging high tax-rates and regulations, and trusts that this will be good for the country as a whole.

                                         -30-
[Much of the foregoing appeared as a column in the Las Cruces Sun-News today, Sunday, October 28.  I wrote it hurriedly, to replace a column on NM Constitutional Amendment #5 that might have been redundant after the Sun-News published a column on that issue Thursday.  (That one is also on the blog, if you page down to the next post.)  There's a lot more to say about the present election.]

Further observations:
Folks have been saying in every election for two hundred years that the Republic's future hangs in the balance, and the United States has continued to exist, despite some rather bad choices as president (e.g. Buchanan, Harding, and the second Bush.  Actually, it may be too early to claim we've survived the damage done by George's eight-years.).  I'll just say that it will be very difficult for us to survive another four years of Republican Rule just now.

We barely survived what the Bush Administration did to the economy.  Four more years of that kind of nonsense would weaken the country significantly -- not only because Romney wants to lower taxes for the rich at a time when we have a record deficit, but because it would exacerbate the growing economic inequality that hampers us now.

Four more years of Republican Rule so soon after the eight-year Bush Administration would mean a Supreme Court that would: (1) prevent real progress on most fronts for at least another decade, (2) possibly take us back to a time when young girls died frequently in botched illegal operations that couldn't be conducted at medical facilities, and (3) continue the work of the Roberts Court to strengthen corporations at the expense of the rest of us on a variety of fronts, some obvious (Citizens United) and others known mostly to lawyers in various specialties.

Romney himself should be a little scary, not just to women but to all of us.  His willingness to re-invent himself to please whoever seemed able to help his ambitious plans for himself means there's no real center there, no strong character.  All politicians, to some degree, play to their audience and contradict themselves; but Romney's made it an art form.  Things he said to get elected in Massachusetts flatly contradicted things he'd said and done as a Mormon "Bishop"; most of what he said during the Republican Primary Season flatly contradicted and often tried to deny his record as governor in Massachusetts; and most recently he's re-invented himself again by starting to deny much of what he's spent the last two years saying. 

Four more years of Republican Rule right now would also weaken environmental protections, weaken regulations aimed at keeping our food and drink somewhat safe, weaken regulations designed to keep banks and other finance specialists from the kind of speculative risks that helped destroy our economy recently, and guarantee we wouldn't even try to deal with globabl warming.

Four more years of Republican Rule would likely end the progress we've made during Obama's term in developing a viable foreign policy in a difficult post-Cold-War world.  Romney has shown he hasn't a clue, and he's shown that he's not too likely to appoint folks who can really help him.  The world is just beginning to respect and trust us a little, after the madness of Bush's people; but Romney doesn't sound like he values that improvement or understands how to continue it.

For months now it has appeared likely that Ohio will be the critical state.  It's possible but highly difficult to point to a way Romney can reach 270 without winning Ohio; and no Republican Presidential candidate ever has prevailed without winning Ohio.  We can hope that with the workers of Ohio Romney's willingness to let nearby Detroit go bankrupt and his general upper-class bias (and his very real contempt for them) will make a difference.

But either way, the uses the Republican right (and the Koch Brothers and their ilk, and the New Mexico oil and gas industry) are making of their new freedoms under Citizens United bode no good for democracy, or for future Democratic prospects.  However, maybe folks will learn somehow to shrug off all that stuff the way they do most TV commercials.

As to the discussion of local races, I'm in New Mexico Senate District 37, which Bill Soules and Cathy Jo Alberson are contesting.

I voted for Soules.   He seems alike a capable thoughtful guy, respected by some of my neighbors who know him well.   He has sensible positions on the issues, and some experience. The blemish on his record is that he and his fellow school-board members were convicted of holding a meeting that violated the open meetings law.  Mistake.  He says he'd been assured it was legal.  He's otherwise been a good neighbor and an active and productive citizen.

Heloise Wilson's letter in today's Sun-News ably articulates a parent's and grandparent's view of Soules as school principal here: a kind, caring, innovative man who improved education for those under his charge, but did it with a heart.  [The letter's at http://www.lcsun-news.com/ci_21862964/your-view-letters-editor-oct-28?IADID=Search-www.lcsun-news.com-www.lcsun-news.com - just page down through the first few letters to "Supports Soules."]

Alberson is a right-wing zealot without meaningful experience.  (Apparently she's also a bit dishonest: in listing her memberships in organizations on her web-site, she slyly omits her memebership in the Tea Party and on the board of a group of parent educators who believe in teching the literal Bible.)  Michael Hayes discusses her in a column the Sun-News and, in more detail, at http://firstimpressionssecondthoughts.blogspot.com/

Let me state clearly that I'm not against home education.  My in-laws home-school their kids in New Hampshire, in a remote area, and those two kids amaze me.  Locally, I know a couple who raise cattle and home-school their son, and he's smart, respectful, creative, and cheerful, and seems at ease with various adults wherever I've seen him.  I am against someone who asks for our vote and conceals her core believes and activities, as Ms. Alberson appears to have done.  I'm against someone who states, as the first qualification on her website, that "I am an educator" -- but apparently has no professional experience in that field.  I'd also be against anyone for whom a high priority was to turn public education to the service of any specific religion.  "Public" means for all of us.

So I am against Alberson.  One of our problems is that the the Tea Party already so dominates the Republican Party that meaningful government is more and more difficult.  Another is the effort by oil and gas to dominate New Mexico politics, and they're active in support of her, with the Reform New Mexico Now PAC's usual vicious and misleading material..  (Whoever chose or created the terrible picture they use of Soules is highly competent, though.  It makes him look truly weird, which he doesn't in person.)   Alberson's appears to be another who'll do the bidding of NMOGA in the Legislature, although her highest priority appears to be making abortion illegal.  
       

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