Friday, October 31, 2008

Socially Speaking

The cries of "socialism" and "wealth spreader" from the McCain-Palin campaign that have been reigning down on Senator Obama and that are being hooted and booed by the throngs at Republican rallies the past few days are, extrememly ironic on the one hand and deeply dishonest and hypocritical on the other. On two levels there are problems with this latest turn in the campaign saga. One: Obama's tax plans, which are being called "socialistic" are hardly that; and two: what exactly is wrong with a little socialism anyway? Unfortunately and expectedly, these words are being devoured by the throngs that shout and holler at McCain rallies and by gullible people who look no further than any talking point or the latest diversionary tactic.

What McCain and Palin are not stating to their adoring minions, for one thing, are their own "socialistic" behaviors and comments over their time in public life. Back in 2000, McCain said that "when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more"; but that was McCain v.2000 and the McCain who at one point opposed the Bush tax cuts, not McCain v.2008. In an interview this summer with The New Yorker's Philip Gourevitch (conducted weeks before she was picked to be the VP candidate) Palin explained that Alaska is "set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs." Alaska's collective ownership of resources which are then given back to the state's citizens in the form of dividend checks have lead to it being "sometimes described as America's socialist state", according to Gourevitch. Food (or oil) for thought, eh?

Additionally, would Senator McCain be in favor of dismantling America's progressive and graduated income tax? I think not. As Hendrik Hertzberg writes this week, "the federal income tax is (downwardly) redistributive as a matter of principle: however slightly, it softens the inequalities that are inevitable in a market economy, and it reflects the belief that the wealthy have a proportionately greater stake in the material aspects of the social order and, therefore, should give that order proportionately more material support." How about dismantling (entirely) Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance and a myriad of other programs that many Americans rely on for everyday life? Again, I think not.

Of course, that is the hidden truth beyond the right's rhetoric: most aspects of what they would call "socialism", are not a bad thing. In fact, caring and supporting for all for the public good and securing a social compact--isn't that what a compassionate and forward looking society should be doing? I'd love to ask the sneering and booing rabble at some of those rallies if they would support the dismantling of the programs just mentioned above; and even more so: how many of them or their family members have benefited from these "socialistic" programs? Once again, the right wing has found a word that simplifies, labels and distorts (communist! socialist!) and tries to turn an honorable candidate and his positions into plans that they say will be the very means to the end of America as we know it. Again, with hope, we can only try and be optimistic that reality and seriousness will prevail next week and not the empty cries of "-isms" and deceitful, vague and distorted talking points.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hard Candy

Yesterday the team of McSame and....uh, McCain and Palin stumped in Hershey, PA. Land of the Hershey Kiss, and other delectable delights. Unfortunately, there was nothing sugary and delicious in their rhetoric; only the same stale and past the sell-by date words of attack, division, diversion and distortion. He criticized Senator Obama for having the audacity, the audacity to run a commercial that may delay the World Series tonight with the words "no one will delay the World Series game with an infomercial when I’m president!’’ We are so relieved Mr. McCain. Because of course, a game is SO much more important than the finacial crisis, war, climate change, innovation and well, just about anything! Almost un-American wouldn't you say? Ah, but that is the rub isn't it? The not-so hidden ugly truth behind McCain's desperate and apalling campaign as it snakes its way to conclusion. Palin, hot off the trail from the "pro-America" parts of the country and from criticizing money spent on the research of fruit flies, ignoring the salient and intelligent points that this very research helps scientists determine information on genetics, heredity and congenital disorders, attacked the "wealth-spreader" in her oh, so mavericky and brainlessly charming way. We still don't know what will happen in one week: take nothing for granted and fight for every vote that will hopefully lead to a Democratic victory, but we do know that the bitter and stale taste of McCain's campaign will linger for a long time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


A new study from the OECD entitled Growing Unequal? reports on growing income inequality in all OECD countries over the course of the 21st century. This is not good news overall, and for us even worse news: the United States is behind only Mexico and Turkey for overall income inquality and poverty levels in OECD countries. "Since 2000, income inequality has increased rapidly" in the United States according to the study, as well as an increase in poverty among the elderly, a low social mobility in relation to other countries and very low expenditures on social benefits. As Bill Moyers said when commenting on this study, "now there's some real spreading around of the wealth - in one direction: up." For a PDF document for the United States "Country Note" of the report, click here.

Monday, October 27, 2008


In a column over the weekend Paul Krugman stated that with the current economic crisis "Americans have rediscovered the virtue of seriousness" to the detriment of McCain's "deeply unserious" campaign. Certainly McCain's focus on the issues of triviality have been the mark of his campaign and underlined his desperation, and with this focus on the unserious comes the illumination that there is nothing there for him to run on. McCain's only hope is to keep bringing up issues that will tear Obama down, scare voters and further distract the electorate with issues that really don't affect their daily lives and muddle the issues of what should be important to them. Of course, the politics of distraction have worked before and we have to hope that this time they will not. As Krugman notes, "when the world seems to be falling apart, you don’t turn to a guy you’d like to have a beer with, you turn to someone who might actually know how to fix the situation." This is what "independent" voters should most remember when going to the polls next week. It seems here to be a good time to give kudos to Paul Krugman for his recent Nobel Prize in Economics. In these last eight years his thoughtful, insightful, brave and illuminating words from his columns, his book The Conscience of a Liberal and his blog have all been tonics for the world we have been living in. Congratulations, Paul.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More of McSame?

Interesting piece by Nicholas Kristof in today's New York Times about Somalia and Bush administration policy in regards to the intervention by Ethiopia in Somalia in recent years, an intervention that helped to create one of the world's "greatest humanitarian disaster(s)" today. One of those stories that is certainly not on many people's radars but one that should be watched carefully and that Kristof states relates directly to why a McCain administration could lead to "four more years of blindness to nuance in the Muslim world"; a result that would be "a tragedy for Americans and virtually everyone else."

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Ownership Society?

As expected, right wingers are now trying to blame the latest financial mess (the mortgage aspect, at least) on poor people and government policy. Two recent pieces refute this meme entirely. According to the Boston Globe, "the subprime mortgages that have failed left and right are the antithesis of the carefully designed, well-supervised loans provided by tightly regulated banks" and are not the fault of government induced loans to poor people. Therefore, "the subsequent meltdown of the nation's entire financial system could not have happened without a huge - and entirely voluntary - inflow of money from Wall Street into a sketchy sector of the mortgage market." McClatchy reports that almost 85% of these loans during their height were made by private sector loaning institutions, and unregulated ones at that, of course. As the Globe concludes, "the current financial crisis grows out of loose regulation that gave big investors plenty of freedom to make foolish bets, and then force their losses upon the taxpayers." Such is the legacy of the "ownership society" that the Bushites loved to tout just a few short years ago. And important talking points to keep in mind when faced with the latest accusations from the right.

The Scrappy Fighter

So This article says McCain's got a new speech to fire up the masses and convince people (once again) that Obama's gonna raise taxes and yadda yadda yadda. Senator McCain, that's nothing new. You've been lying about the democrats raising taxes for months now.

Exactly who's counted you out?

Who's measuring drapes?

Is this one more indication of McCain's disconnection with reality or does he think people are going to be swayed by this redundant rhetoric?

Hopefully, McCain didn't rile up the masses so much that they've shifted into mob mentality. Because if that's the case, he's lost them and this country's going to be a dangerous place to live in if you don't agree with them.

Forget about God bless America, how about God save America?


Thursday, October 2, 2008

McCainomics, Part 3

There are, of course, a myriad of issues that citizens should take into account when making their choice for president this year. One of the issues, however, that many people have at the forefront of their decision making process is that of taxes. The Republicans have always been good at misrepresenting whichever Democrat is running as a "tax increaser". One wonders if the crowds of middle Americans screaming and hollering their approval for McCain really know the numbers and the basic facts of the differences between McCain and Obama in terms of taxes. Well, here they are:

This chart published in the Washington Post from an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, says it all. As the New York Times also pointed out in an article this week about McCain's misleading statements about Obama's tax plan, "Under Mr. Obama’s tax proposal, those in the middle of the middle class — people earning $37,000 to $66,000 a year — would receive a tax cut of more than $1,000 a year, more than three times what Mr. McCain is proposing in his tax platform." Need we be any more clearer than that? The vast majority of Americans will do better under Sen. Obama's tax plan. Period. Full stop.

Stunt Man

So, last week John McCain played stunt man. "Supending" his campaign and forgoing the debate so he could rush to DC to aid in the passage of a financial bailout plan. By many accounts a plan was almost settled upon before he arrived, then once he got there it was derailed again. And then he went to the debate anyway. And then the plan failed in the House. And then....well, you know the story. A shameless political stunt if there ever was one by the 'country first' candidate.