Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Job of Work

I was stuck waiting in my car yesterday evening so I improved my mind by listening to live coverage of the Republican National Convention.

There were politicians talking about how their parents, their grandparents, their families started small businesses. We love small businesses no matter what party we vote for. The big businesses and multi corporations that both parties answer to for the big bucks were staying discretely in the background. That’s always the way. McDonalds hides behind the Mom and Pop diner and Walmart wipes out the corner store. Good luck, small businesses, you are minnows in the shark pool.

Anyway, I am sick of this phrase, ‘Job Creators’. If you are religious, there is only one Creator, and His name is not Donald Trump. If you are scientific you know that Einstein said you can’t make something from nothing. Since when have some of our population assumed Godlike powers? This couldn’t be Evolution, could it? Wouldn’t that be problematic with the base?

With all this self-congratulation about being the party of Job Creators, the politicians I heard seldom used the word ‘work’. Perhaps because ‘workers’ has a slightly discomforting sound, as if perhaps the workers might start organizing. It’s better to focus on the Job Creators, who bestow employment on the deserving if we just give them enough tax breaks and deregulation.

I think we are all, Republicans and Democrats, looking in the wrong direction. A job is a task. You can get a job digging holes and filling them in, but that would not be meaningful or dignified work. Anyone with their eyes open knows that there is abundant opportunity for work that needs doing. Construction and rehabilitation of our cities, roads and bridges, creative problem solving, service work for our growing elderly population to name a few obvious crying needs. There are qualified people ready to do this work.

We still use construction almost 80 years old from the WPA. I wish the Obama Administration had called it that. ‘Stimulus’ doesn’t have the historical connection that would have made it clear how we got the job done in the Great Depression.

Beyond that, we are in a new millenium. No one has to spend forty years kicking a foot press in a stifling mill. It’s all automated. The human being, who is capable of so much more than being used as industrial machinery could make her contribution though meaningful work, or be discarded and despised for her unemployment.

It’s been said that ‘workfare’ only makes sense when the government is committed to 100% employment. You don’t shove someone out of the plane without a parachute. There are not enough jobs. There is more than enough work. To balance the real needs and resources will require both private and public institutions in coordination, with some commitment to the good of our country.

There was a phrase I first heard at Occupy Providence, ‘solidarity economy’. An economy that takes into account mutual aid and the public good, independence and free enterprise, equal representation for all regardless of social class. If we get too fixated on ‘jobs’ we are not aiming high enough. If we don’t recognize that we all built it, we are deluding ourselves.

It’s like a game of mis-direction. No matter which side is talking, don’t watch their mouths, watch their hands.

Tom Sgouros has an analysis of job destruction in North Kingstown at Rhode Island’s Future.

Not Just a Figurehead

If President Obama took the huge gamble of raiding Osama bin Laden in his hideout for the sake of justice, it would be hard to argue against it. The question was asked whether this was a mostly symbolic act, or a response to a still-active threat.

Maybe taking out a leader and planner has made the world a little safer…

The number of worldwide terror attacks fell to 10,283 last year, down from 11,641 in 2010 and the lowest since 2005, the State Department reported today.

What’s made the difference? The State Department cites the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda members killed last year including Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Anwar al-Awlaki, who was the head of Yemen’s Al Qaeda affiliate and had ties to the underwear bomber plot in 2010.

“The loss of bin Laden and these other key operatives puts the network on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse,” the report stated.

It only takes one, and everything could change tomorrow. The real answer is to build alliances and discredit the gangs who turn mother’s sons into suicide bombers. You can’t kill an idea, but killing a man who devoted his life to making war can buy time for better ideas to replace an ideology of despair.

Question for Mitt Romney

The Numbers

Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly reports that the Romney campaign has a new slogan, “Obama Isn’t Working”.

Job loss and a weak economy are affecting almost all of us. We who feel fairly secure in our jobs have children, friends, relatives who are out of work.

I am one of those who wanted President Obama to start a new WPA, to make the banks accountable, to break up monopolies so that in future we will not be held hostage by private corporations that have grown ‘too big to fail’.

NYT columnist Gail Collins said that Barack Obama promised to bring us together, but he didn’t promise to bring us together in left field. Clearly we elected a moderate.

Given that, I have never in my lifetime seen such hostility to a president. That includes Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. Barack Obama had to show his birth certificate. He is constantly accused of being socialist and faces a divided Congress. The economic recession is worldwide– as you will notice if you watch the stock market freak every time something happens in Greece or China. Even if Barack Obama had inherited a surplus and a peace dividend, we would be facing some rocky times.

Of course, that was not the case.

President Obama inherited an economic crisis, two foreign wars, and a Congress with a slim Democratic majority formed by coalitions of widely differing constituencies.

We do not have the job growth we need, but the graph shows what we were up against after 8 years of President Bush.

My question for Mitt Romney– ‘Republicans held the White House for 8 years. Clearly their economic policies weren’t working. What would a President Romney do differently from President George W. Bush?’

That is the question to ask.

Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos

It was morning in America until Barack Obama was elected, right? Dave Johnson at Campaign for America’s Future addresses the collective amnesia.

But here is some reality anyway, even if we’re not supposed to see it. Just ten years ago we were paying off debt at a rate that would have completely paid it all off by now. But under George W. Bush we cut taxes for the rich and more than doubled military spending. We deregulated and stopped enforcing laws. We let the big corporations run rampant. Our federal budget turned from huge surpluses to massive deficits, and Bush said it was “incredibly positive news” because it would lead to a debt crisis they could use to shock people into letting the corporate right privatize and thereby profit.

And then, under and because of Bush, our economy collapsed.

I see the Republicans lacking a leader with the decency to stand against the most crazy superstitions of their right wing– the Birthers, the privatizing profiteers and the Ayn Rand disciples who claim that paying taxes to your own country and local government is the equivalent of rape and slavery– though they’ll keep the clean water, paved roads and Medicare, thank you. If the blinkered and callous statements about the uninsured is any indicator– ‘they can just go to the emergency room’- these people are not only ignorant but happy and complacent in their ignorance.

I see the Democrats lacking the vision and daring to bring a 21st Century New Deal to the American people. They, like the Republicans, are caught in a system where fundraising takes precedence over governing. The Supreme Court decision that money is a form of free speech was one of the worst setbacks to Democracy we have seen in our history. If you want to burn down a house, or level a playing field, or start fresh– look at campaign finance. Our politicians, most of them, are more to be pitied than censured. Save them from selling themselves on the streets!

Our President, Barack Obama, is a decent, smart, principled man. He is leading in a time of crisis. I think he is looking ahead, and what he sees is something neither party will find conducive to their political narratives.

We have seven billion people on this planet. In the developed nations, people are blessed to live to advanced age. This brings us a graying population and new challenges. Medicare is one of the best solutions we have, along with the Veterans Administration, and should not be cut, but strengthened and expanded. However, ‘hands off Medicare’ is not realistic. The salvation of health care is constant assessment of what works and what doesn’t. Barack Obama’s disclosure that his grandmother had a hip replacement that did not gain her health or comfort reflects the uncertainties and hard choices I see every day in elder care. But when I attended Town Hall meetings about health care reform, I found myself staring down some guys who were holding a sign that said, ‘Obama Lies-Grandma Dies’. This is not only a vicious slur against a politician who disclosed a real truth about his actual family–it was a slur against health professionals. I mean, we nurses are all supposedly jonesing for a seat on the ‘death panels’. I wish more of our politicians knew how much hard labor it takes to keep a totally disabled person in comfort and dignity. Many ordinary Americans know, because we are caring for our families.

Health care rationing? We have had it from day one. Health is rationed out to the rich, always has been. Look at the stats. Race being less a mark of heredity than a marker of caste in our very mixed nation– you see that health is distributed unequally. This matches unequal access.

But I think using ‘rationing’ as a scare word veils the truth. We have to decide how much of our national wealth will go to health care rather than other legitimate needs, such as education and infrastructure. Throwing money at Grandma will make some medical providers rich, but won’t necessarily make her healthier or happier. We have to fund research that will question accepted treatments and judge the outcomes so that we can avoid wasting money on dead ends– treatments that are painful and do more harm than good. A national health program like Medicare will always be ‘hands on’.

Another reality we are facing is peak oil. ‘Drill Baby, Drill’ gets harder when we run out of areas where rich people won’t be inconvenienced. Worldwide the demand for fossil fuels is getting harder to fill without political and environmental damage. George Bush famously said that history doesn’t matter, because we’ll all be dead. Others believe in The Rapture. The vast majority of us, though, do think about what we will leave to our children. We can’t honestly promise an endless future of increasing consumption because physics doesn’t work that way. So what do we do? This ‘austerity’ will be working its way up from the people who are ‘used to it’ sooner rather than later. If we care about the future we have to invest in damage control today.

I hope that President Obama will get out of the middle of the road. As a former presidential candidate, Fred Harris, said, ‘The middle of the road has nothing but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.’

If Barack Obama is, as I believe, a good president in bad times, he needs our vocal support for his best ideas. If he is, as some of his critics say, just another politician– then we have to hold his feet to the fire.

Some are saying that a President Romney would galvanize the opposition and swing the pendulum to a new resurgence of the left. As I recollect the Reagan years, it doesn’t necessarily work that way. And after eight years of George Bush we are darn tired of holding signs in the rain and snow.

The time to organize is now. I’m not surrendering, and I’m not staying home on election day. The Bush administration drilled holes in the ship of state before handing it over, disaster capitalism has salvage profiteers ready. This is a mess, but if you blame the last two years of President Obama, you have to forget the previous eight when George Bush turned peace and surplus into war and deficit. That being said, it’s President Obama’s watch now. Our president and party need to offer the American people a New Deal.

Show Your Papers

Daily Kos thinks that President Obama’s release of his long-form birth certificate is a smart move because Republicans who are not tanked up on tea see the birther issue as bad for the credibility of their party.

The President’s own statement is that our country is facing urgent problems, and this issue is enough of a distraction to need putting to rest.

Of course, it will not be put to rest because it was never about place of birth or the Constitution. It’s about a man with brown skin and a funny name, whose father was from Kenya and whose mother was unconventional. It’s about race-mixing and a fixed race that didn’t come through in 2008, when McCain was supposed to win. McCain was on deck, he had the right pedigree– that’s how it’s supposed to work.

When Barack Obama was elected, it was a message to the entire world. America, for all its flaws and failures, is a democracy. Any eligible citizen can run for office, even run for president. Despite our troubled racial history, we showed the world that Americans are equal in fact as well as in law.

And now we have the loudest voices in the Republican Party demanding that the President show his papers. The Republican politicians who should have stood up to this, who should have set an example of reason and civility, have been timid and afraid to offend their fringe. They deserve to have Donald Trump win the nomination, they paved the way for him. I’m disgusted with all the politicians who tip toe around ‘what people believe’ as if the truth doesn’t matter. It’s time for the adults in the Republican Party, if they can find the courage, to show leadership.

The whole world is watching, and today we are not looking so good.

UPDATE: A smart take on why there will never be enough ‘evidence’ to appease those who want to believe. You can’t cure stupid.

PERSONAL ANECDOTE: I used to have panic attacks and experience a convincing sense that something was really wrong. If I checked and confirmed that the iron really was turned off, then I’d worry about the gas stove blowing up. You can’t fix irrational anxiety with reason. Maybe I should have got some Xanax. Whatever.
Anyway, the instant shift in focus from one crazy conspiracy theory to the next just backs up the fact that this isn’t a rational issue, it’s a hysteria afflicting a group of believers who are convinced something is wrong and are looking for a narrative to make sense of a changing world. A lot of them are waiting for the Rapture too. People are entitled to their beliefs, but when beliefs replace facts in politics we are in trouble.

UPDATE II: Convincing evidence that Barack Obama is an alien from the planet Slzrd. Wait– that might be satire… good thing I deleted it. People might think I’m credulous.

State of the Union

Watching these speeches is like watching a tightrope walk.

I’m on my way out, but a quick impression is that Barack Obama was looking forward– he stressed investment in education, research and infrastructure. His tone was optimistic, he praised our country for having the best workers, the most innovation. He named invited guests, last of all a business owner whose drilling company helped rescue the Chilean miners trapped underground.

I was in congenial company, met thru an email. I didn’t want to be alone. Six years ago I watched George Bush in the company of nuns and neighbors at a Catholic school and was glad to be with people.

This was a happier crowd. There were at least three teachers in the room, and they cheered every time the President mentioned education. WBRU sent two young men to do interviews and record first impressions. The mood was enthusiastic, but not without some reserve. Politicians compromise, it’s what they do.

The Republican response by Congressman Paul Ryan was a series of warnings about the deficit, and the need to lower taxes, and shrink the government. A talking point is never to say the word ‘stimulus’ without preceding it with ‘failed’. I have not yet heard Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann’s Tea Party speech.

Ten years ago George Bush assumed the presidency with a peace dividend, an intact economy. He handed it on with two wars, an economy on the brink of crashing, and a huge deficit. Along the way, a deepening divide among Americans and an angry electorate.

Barack Obama inherited a crisis, and the Republican Party has no answer but to defund the government and let the most vulnerable Americans sink or swim.

Ultimately, it depends on we the people. But good leadership is essential if our hard work is to lead us forward together, or to pull us apart, with each seeking a safe refuge while the country sinks.

Government is not the enemy. Not if we use our votes and oversight. Churches and corporations have their place, but a theo/corporatocracy is not democracy, and a nation of gated communities surrounded by poverty is not our America.

Go Ahead and Smoke, Mr. President

The White House is hedging the question of whether President Obama has kicked the habit.

Ordinarily, I’d be zealous about a man with two sweet little girls, and about a leader I admire and still believe in– I’d be nagging for him to quit.

But the present situation reminds me of a story I heard about American soldiers on the battlefield in Vietnam. They’d hold up their pack of cigs, look at each other sternly and say, “Warning– cigarette smoking can be hazardous to your health”.

So, Mr. President, if you don’t feel like you need a smoke, then good for you. I hope that when you are no longer serving in this office that you will quit tobacco for good. But given the situation we’re in now– I don’t think it’s the right time to be jonesing for a cigarette. I think you’re better off smoking without guilt. Do it for your country.

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