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Charlie's Books
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

So it goes …

We’ve all wondered how and why voters would support politicians and/or political parties that work against their interests. For most of my life, based on economics alone, I wondered how anyone from the middle class could vote for a Republican candidate. Given the GOP’s dedication to “bigger is better” business, middleclass families supporting big business didn’t make sense. Conservatives claim a free market buffered by competition is the answer, yet our government has always supported the economic system we like to believe is Laissez-faire, and is actually government sponsored through and through.

From Forbes: The Fortune 500 corporations alone accounted for more than 16,000 subsidy awards, worth $63 billion – mostly in the form of tax breaks. 

Never mind government bailouts to big banks, when socialism is not only tolerated, it is applauded. Forget the “saving of the auto industry” bailout. In our capitalist economy, wherein corporations and banks not only fight against regulation, they set policy through the votes they purchase via unrestricted campaign financing (i.e., Citizens United), corruption rules the day. No doubt to Mr. Lincoln’s dismay, the concept of government of the people, by the people, for the people, has in fact perished. Citizens United, the legislative legalization of government bribery, can still be overturned, but until voters acknowledge the two party system is working toward the same corporate goal, it isn’t likely to happen. Until it is overturned, we have to live with the disastrous effects of a capitalist system run amok.
When I was a young idealist, and a lot more naïve than I am today, I believed the bullet points about the Democratic Party. It represented the working class. It believed in civil rights. It championed the little guy. The Republican Party was the champion of big business, the wealthy class, and opposed change on all fronts. In fact, it seemed as though the GOP existed to stall change.

Back then it seemed like such simple math: the underdog vs. the greedy, and I always chose the underdog.

I voted for Jimmy Carter and believed in his honesty and best intentions. I still think the man was a good person with a good heart struggling against the poison of American politics. Then came the man who defeated him, Ronald Reagan, and like most liberals, I couldn’t believe our country could elect a B movie actor to the presidency. His national cheerleading style baffled me. How could we as a nation fall for such simpleton logic. His trickle down economic theory, especially after doing his best to eradicate unions, proved more disastrous then his Vice President, George H. Bush, described it. Reaganomics, would prove to be what Bush had called it: “voo-doo” economics. Twenty-six years later, Reagonimcs has proved trickledown economics is voo-doo economics on steroids.
George H. Bush followed Reagan into the oval office for just one term, but he started a free trade policy that Bill Clinton would embrace and enact. Clinton’s hard turn to the right before his second term proved a disaster to the long term health of American workers and the middle class. Although he brought the deficit down somewhat (some claim it was a surplus), it was at the expense of the middle and poor classes. Repealing Glass-Steagall (a law that separated commercial and investment banking for seven decades) is considered to be the reason behind the financial crisis of 2007-8. In 1993, Clinton managed to pass a free-trade agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico, Canada and the U.S. It too was originally penned by his predecessor, George H. Bush (a big business Republican), and it would cost the United States millions of jobs (700,000 labor union jobs to Mexico alone). Free trade agreements benefit everyone except the United States workforce. They are an incentive to move manufacturing businesses out of the country for the sake of cheap labor. It is one of the main reasons United States workers are producing more while earning less (a decline documented year after year). 
From the same linked article: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of full-time jobs last month was still 2.3 million below where it was back at its peak in 2007. Here’s another harsh fact that justifies the gloom: The positions now being created have pay levels that are 23 percent lower than the jobs that have disappeared, according to an August study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and IHS Global Insight. Quite simply, in many cases low-wage and often part-time jobs are replacing high-wage full-time jobs in sectors like technology, manufacturing, and construction. Respectively, they pay, on average, $87,000, $63,000 and $58,000. Quite a difference from the $21,000 to $47,000 earned by workers in low-wage jobs in hospitality health care, and administrative support.
George W. Bush proved another disaster, the likes of which we’ll never forget. His wars based on false pretenses, and then paying for them with credit cards continues to devastate our economy. His “tax cuts” for the rich once again proved his daddy was right regarding “trickle down/voo-doo” economics. The inevitable financial crisis born of Glass-Steagall occurred under W’s watch, and his exit from the White House couldn’t come fast enough.

ENTER President Barry. Taking W’s initial bailout of AIG a few steps further, Obama followed through with further carte blanche bailouts. Excuses about expediency were thrust down our throats by a corporate media anxious for the first bi-racial President to be successful. Let’s face it, most of us fell for his charisma, good looks, his attractive family, and his ability to change his voice from Harvard Professor to Sunday Preacher (depending on which crowd he was appealing to at the time) at a moment’s notice. We sat back and defended his absolute corporate giveaway to Wall Street during the fiscal crisis. There were barely any complaints when Obama allowed the same corporate executives who engineered the mortgage disaster to reward themselves with record bonuses. Nobody demanded the banks be required to hire back the middle-income staff they jettisoned at the first signs of bankruptcy. Executives rewarded themselves for making the mess and workers paid for their mistakes.

And then there was the clemency given to taxes owed by Citibank, et al … to the tune of $38 billion dollars, completely excused by the Obama administration. Read about it here:  Again, from the linked article: the bank's TARP payback agreement, it's quietly been given a $38 billion tax break by the IRS. Seriously.

Was it a sign that Obama was in bed with big money? The first hint came prior to his winning the election in 2008, when it was disclosed that he’d been given the largest donations to a presidential campaign by Wall Street in history. Big Banks were surely hedging their bets. An educated guess demanded the banks support a democratic nominee post-Bush, and banks put their money behind Obama … and they have been reaping their rewards ever since. The banks are now bigger and more consolidated than in 2008. For all his talk about regulating them, Obama has made them bigger and stronger than ever.

Of course none of the culprits ever went to jail. It was a bust-out of epic proportion, verifying the ironic statement of a famed American Gangster, Alfonse Capone, when he stated: “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class.”
So here we are, just two more years before the end of a Democratic administration that has further eroded labor unions and the middle class while expanding American poverty. Completely ignoring the plight of union workers in Wisconsin during Scott Walker’s dismantling of public unions there, Obama reneged on his promise to put on a pair of comfortable shoes and join the picket line.

Blind faith democratic loyalists immediately defended their president by looking ahead to his next election and how publicly supporting labor was just bad timing. One can only assume they were thinking: imagine if he loses his second term?

Dios Mio!

TPP is another Obama legacy achievement, as we’ve been told by MSNBC and the rest of the corporate controlled media. It is also the corporate authored agreement Obama attempted to pass behind the public and Congress’s backs. For six years now we’ve had to endure the Republican Party’s refusal to work with this president. They stopped him at every turn, determined to achieve what their Senate minority leader (at the time), Mitch McConnell, proclaimed: to make sure Obama is a one-term president.
All was lost in the progressive cause, it seemed. Until yesterday that is. Yesterday the big breakthrough between the right and President Obama occurred when the two men most responsible for Obama’s stalled presidency joined hands and served up another reward to Wall Street and the rest of corporate America. Yesterday progressives took a knife in their backs.

His one big accomplishment until yesterday was the Affordable Care Act, which was fumbled from the start. Hiring a Canadian website developer (his wife’s college friend) while millions of Americans remained unemployed was yet another insult completely ignored by Democratic blind faithers. The result was stalled insurance enrollment for several months. The fact it wasn’t single payer/universal health care was ignored because as many as 12,000,000 people now have insurance. Of course, those same 12,000,000 are now insurance company customers, but why would taxpayers complain about insuring people when we’ve maintained wars in the Middle East since 2003 on the same credit card?

And speaking of wars … was it bad timing or did Mr. Obama misspeak when he claimed Iraq was “the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy(?)” Last week he sent 450 new troops back to Iraq.

So, is it just Republican supporters from the middle and lower classes who are voting against their self-interests? What about Democrats? What about union members? What about minorities? How do we continue to support a party that thinks nothing of giving the store away time after time?
I’m all for Vietnamese workers earning $56.00 an hour, never mind $.56 cents, but not at the expense of American workers, not while corporations reap record profits. And does anyone really believe working conditions overseas are going to improve? Seriously? Third World countries thrive on capitalism. We’re learning that here now, how profit over people is the methodology at each and every step of the business model. American workforce production continues to rise with the advance of technology, yet our incomes continue to shrink and corporate profits reach new records.

This president has sponsored TPP with the blessing of Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, the Koch brothers, Goldman Sachs, and everyone else in the corporate world? How does that fit with a so-called progressive President? International Business Times has just published a new report examining the known text of the TPP treaty that shows it would provide special legal rights to corporations that it denies to unions, small businesses and other public interest, environmental and civic groups. Specifically, while President Obama keeps repeating the misleading promise that the deal would "level the playing field," instead, the TPP would let corporations sue in international tribunals to try to overturn labor, environmental and human rights laws while prohibiting public-interest groups from suing in the same tribunals. How's that for a "level playing field?" Please, Mr. President, how about you leveling with us?

Liberals across the board wanted Obama to win and to be successful. Some whites voted for him because he seemed the best choice: a smart Harvard Professor with a heart. Some whites voted for him from a sense of guilt over the crime of slavery. Some voted against him because of his bi-racial makeup. Some voted against him because he was perceived as too liberal. African-Americans wanted him to represent their interests and highlight their collective struggles. Most minorities voted for him because of the connection they felt with his underprivileged roots. Obama was voted into office with a surge of optimism that just might’ve achieved Hope and Change had he bothered to act presidential and wield the power of a bully pulpit. The people gave him that power, but instead of taking his stated cause back to the people, he turned his back and repaid his campaign debts to those who wrote the biggest checks.
What happened is unfortunate and disappointing, yes, but it’s also scandalous, and something that shouldn’t be rewarded with yet another vote for the so-called “lesser of two evils.” It has been that same lesser of two evil philosophy that ushered both NAFTA and now TPP into our lives at our expense and for the benefit of those who paid for legislation through campaign donations. It is the lesser of two evils that has and will continue to hurt and haunt minorities so desperate for employment.

In 2000, I was so frustrated by Bill Clinton’s hard veer right, I abandoned my better angels and supported George W. Bush for President. I made the same mistake when he ran for a second term. It wasn’t until 2006 when I admitted my mistakes and vowed to never vote for either major party again. I did not vote for Barrack Obama in 2008. Not because I’m some kind of working class Nostradamus, but because I saw the hype for what it was. He had charisma, he was handsome, he was bi-racial, he had an attractive family, and he could speak in complete sentences. Obama was a pre-packaged dream for an American public desperate to convince itself it was doing right by electing a bi-racial person to the presidency. The fact a self-proclaimed rogue, John McCain, was forced to bow to a conservative base and then chose an embarrassment for his running mate, assured Obama’s victory. And let’s face it, being the guy after Bush didn’t hurt either.

According to many on the left, voting for Bush meant you were stupid. They ignored in the past and continue to ignore today the fact that the economic devastation hurled at the working class has come from Democratic presidents who opted to side with their alleged political enemies. It wasn’t a Bush or even a Reagan who facilitated the outsourcing of American jobs. The facts are, it was a Clinton and an Obama. One has to wonder if Democrats feel stupid for the votes they delivered their party. If union officials can’t own up to their misguided support of democratic presidents who betray them at every turn, then rank and filers returning the same union leadership to power certainly qualify as a “less than intelligent class of worker.” That isn’t to say they should support the GOP, but there are alternatives to progressive voters, and until the Democratic party feels the wrath of the people it has abandoned, it’ll be business as usual (i.e., the coronation of another Clinton).
Yesterday the media did its job and mentioned the “big victory for President Obama,” never mentioning once how he walked hand-in-hand down the aisle with his so-called political enemies (McConnell and Boehner). Blind faith Democratic Party supporters will continue to ignore this latest back-handed insult (TPP) to American workers. Blind faith supporters will try to convince the most liberal of us (socialists and democratic socialists) to give up when Bernie Sanders gives up, and to do as he has already proclaimed he will do, which is to endorse Hillary Clinton for President.

I love the potential of a Bernie Sanders. I love everything about the man, but mostly I love and applaud his integrity. He refuses corporate coin. Most likely that same refusal will be his undoing. Most believe he can never defeat the treasure chest of “the one whose turn has come.” If by some miracle Bernie wins the nomination, I will volunteer to work for his presidential campaign. If he doesn’t win the nomination, I will turn my back once again on a party that has consistently turned its back on me. I will vote for Jill Stein and the Green Party. I don’t believe there’s a lesser of two evils in American politics, not anymore. Both parties owe their existence to corporate interests, and neither party cares a hoot about those who elect them.

Sometimes things really do have to bottom out before they get better. I fear where at that point in history now. A political revolution would be a beautiful thing. I fear it won’t be long before a violent one takes its place.

And to that, I say: “So it goes, amici. So it goes.”