So we’re standing on the State House lawn once again, this time for the working and unemployed Americans who are left out of the budget decisions– except as targets for austerity.
I came more to talk to people and not feel so alone with despair over what the past two weeks have brought us to. It’s a pleasant surprise that so many people in passing cars honk and wave and some give us the fist pump. Not one heckler– this is a record.
One speaker is opposing RIPTA cuts to public transit, a cause supported by Progressive Democrats of American and the Sierra Club. I took the bus to the demonstration– if I didn’t I’d still be looking for a place to park. It was a long wait in Kennedy Plaza for the number 42, but I was rewarded with a great view of the sky.
Today’s Providence Journal has great coverage-- I’m glad they were there.
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.
Rep. Paul Ryan, on the vanguard of Medicare privatization, had this to say on Fox News, via Crooks and Liars…
Rep. Paul Ryan said Sunday that S&P’s downgrade of U.S. credit was a “vindication” Republican actions and his budget plan, which would end Medicare as it exists today.
“I am not very surprised with the downgrade,” Ryan told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “We more or less saw it coming because we are the wrong fiscal path. We’ll find out what spike in rates we are going to get. Obviously not only does it hurt the federal government and its ability to close deficits, but it hurts people. Car loans, home loans, all these things are going to go up. And so, it is because Washington has not gotten its fiscal house in order.”
And to me, this is just more vindication of our actions. We passed a budget, which according to someone with S&P yesterday, would have prevented the downgrading from happening in the first place.”
“Isn’t that like a doctor saying, ‘I did the operation perfectly but the patient died?’” Wallace wondered. “In its announcement, S&P condemned the political dysfunction here in Washington, the grid lock here in Washington… isn’t the failure to compromise part of the problem?”
“Both political parties are responsible for the mess we have right,” Ryan admitted. “This is not a Democrat or Republican problem only. Both parties got us to where we are. I would argue, though, in the last couple of years, we’ve gone deeply in the wrong direction.”
“Yes, we haven’t been able to get the kind of compromise because our partners on the other side of the ailes had been unwilling to reform the [entitlement] programs that the cause of the problem.”
Yes, let’s look at the cause of the problem. Is it our greedy grandparents presuming to feel ‘entitled’ to their Social Security and Medicare? Is it the last 2 years, the Obama years, that tanked our economy? How soon we forget what the Obama administration inherited in January 2009. Here’s from the end of 2008…
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Stocks fell hard on Wednesday, with the Dow closing below 8,000 for the first time since March 2003, as ongoing anxiety about the economy and uncertainty about the future of the auto industry weighed on the market.
The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) shed more than 400 points to close 5% lower. All 30 Dow components lost ground.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 (SPX) index slid 6% to its lowest level since March 2003. And the Nasdaq composite (COMP) lost 6.5% to settle at its lowest point since April 2003.
Stocks languished for most of the day, with the selloff accelerating near the close of trade. Wednesday’s dramatic retreat erases gains made in the previous session.
“The market is fearful of the fallout from the credit crisis and the global economic slowdown,” said Todd Salamone, market strategist at Schaeffer’s Investment Research.
Those fears were writ large in the plight of the nation’s automakers. Investors are grappling with a possible bankruptcy in the automotive industry, something analysts say could have dire implications for the broader economy, as a second day of congressional hearings on the matter ended without resolution.
We recall, of course, that the Iraq War began in March, 2003 and the violence and our military involvement have not ended.
During the past two years the stock market recovered slowly, and despite a terrible week the market is still in much better shape than when President Obama took office. Our auto industry is not headed for a crash just now. We are still adding jobs, though far from the job growth we need.
Over the weekend, Dow futures contracts were trading down nearly 250 points. The New York Stock Exchange invoked rules that allow for smoother trading when heavy activity is anticipated.
The Dow quickly fell 245 points after the opening bell but more recently was trading down 219.79 points, or 1.9%, at 11,224.82.
This debt crisis was a confrontation between a moderate Democratic president and the hard right of the Republican party, and the Democrats lost. Blame the President for failing to fight hard enough, for being too willing to compromise, for letting the small-government partisans go unchallenged in a time of crisis when we need strong government action. But don’t blame the President for a falling stock market, a deficit, unemployment that were all far worse when he took office than they are after two years of his administration.
Let’s be real, after the Clinton surplus, we have a deficit because George W. Bush chose to prosecute two wars without paying for them, allowing our soldiers and their families to be the only ones to sacrifice for war. He also proposed and saw passed a Medicare drug benefit that predominantly benefited drug companies, and cut taxes by a tremendous amount long after it was clear that the other policies were going to cause the annual deficit to balloon. He squandered that surplus with the able assistance of a Republican-controlled House and Senate. He did it with the help of some Democrats, of course, but they weren’t in control of any branch of the government.
Sgouros doesn’t let RI off the hook either, or our politicians. If you want to know why RI is worse off than MA, read the rest here.