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The Growth Party vs The Neoliberal (and Green?) Parties, Part 1

7:17 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Part 1: The Problem is Growth Party? Fuck That!

Don’t let the right wing economists steal reality from us. All that people value must be reckoned with when we assess growth and prosperity, whether or not it can be neatly counted.

The major political weakness of neoliberalism is that it is the economics of slow growth. Great on re-distribution up, which is why it is so popular with elites, but it slows economic growth even when it is not pushing austerity. But we leftists don’t exploit this weakness! Among the reasons for the preceding are that, like most citizens, leftists have been propagandized into misunderstanding economics, ignoring economic history and making right-wing or just wrong background assumptions that have no basis in reality.

Case in point is David Lindorff’s tragically subtitled — “The Problem is Growth” — piece in Counterpunch of a few days ago. (‘Tragic’ because only the left will lead us out of neoliberal hell, and a left that is anti-growth will fail.) Lindorff asserts baldly — in a piece whose actual title is also pretty ridiculous, “What’s Wrong with America” — that “economic growth … is a threat to life.” He comes to this conclusion in the usual way, from the global warming, pollution, overcrowding angle.

But Lindorff’s background assumption, about the meaning of “economic growth,” is wrong: he has assumed that it must mean increased factories, cars, buildings and similar. That is not true. Economic growth for real human beings means an increase in whatever individuals give economic value to. Do I value a pollution-free environment? Yes. Then for me an increasingly clean environment represents economic growth. Do I value a more egalitarian distribution of income? Yes. Then for me an increasingly egalitarian society represents economic growth.

Economic value and growth, then, are about what we value, or more specifically what each of us values aggregated together. That’s a real, human GNP. Yeah, it’s not something that is entirely measurable, but so what, that’s sometimes how reality goes. Mainstream economists nonetheless blithely and absurdly assert that economic value (and therefore economic growth) consists only of money and whatever else can be counted. But that destroys any real human meaning to the terms ‘value’ and ‘growth’ just to make economic growth, and by implication prosperity and even happiness, measurable. It isn’t, they aren’t.

If we understand economic value, and therefore growth, in the only way that makes sense to human beings, then left economics can and should be about economic growth and fairly shared prosperity. That, of course, doesn’t mean we support polluting, warming and destroying the planet. No, instead, economic growth and prosperity are for us to define in any way we like, subjectively and democratically. I sure hope and believe most people find great value in a clean and non-warming planet.

Hope I’ve disposed of the ‘Lindorff Objection’. (Of course, I may have done so here, but it is still out there …) But if I haven’t, let’s talk about it in the comments!

My Jill Stein advice: “Social Security! Social Security! Social Security!”

12:00 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Dr. Stein,

I urge you to please read Dean Baker — Obama and the Democrats right now are planning to cut Social Security but the corporate media has decided not to tell the voters. We know the shape of a deal by listening to the corporate bosses who visit DC and tell their paid-off Congresspeople what they want: mostly Bowles-Simpson, which includes cutting seniors’ benefits 3% a month by jerrymandering the cost of living adjustment.

You’ve got to tell the people about this! Who else but you? You are the leading left candidate for President and the election is three weeks away, so you are in an excellent position to exact a price for Obama and the Democrats’ betrayal of everyone but the rich. By doing so you’ll also surely put fear of the voters front and center when the smokey room tries to hammer out a deal in late 2012.

As I’ve written before, both mainstream-party-only debates provided evidence that cuts are the secret word: President Obama saying that he and Romney had a “somewhat similar position” on Social Security, and Martha Raddatz lying that the program is going broke and Joe Biden not correcting her in the VP debate. Biden provided additional evidence that “cuts are coming,” but nonetheless the mainstream media remains quiet on what these clues actually mean for real people, Social Security recipients present and future.

You have a small presence in the news media, but if you HAMMER AWAY at the backroom Social Security bargaining going on between corporate donors and the Congressional Demopublicans, many voters will hear you. Speak out, make it your first and most frequent sound bite.

And yes, of course, informing the people about Obama’s plan to cut Social Security would be very good for your campaign. I think especially so if you follow my advice and, after you shout about the backroom deal, highlight a positive and revenue-neutral alternative:

1. Delete the income cap. (Why should the rich pay less?)
2. Increase benefits and reduce the full-benefits retirement age from 67 down to 66 or 65. (Inflation has for years been eating into benefits since the feds (under Clinton) began using a measure that shorts inflation; 67 is just too long to wait for full benefits.)

Good luck Jill. I think most MyFDLers are rooting for you.


Jill Stein, take Social Security offensive and call for eliminating income cap & raising benefits

3:45 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Hey Jill Stein, though I see your campaign’s front page doesn’t mention Social Security, still hoping you might take the lead on saving and strengthening that great program. Besides aiding a righteous cause, (just sayin’ but) doing so might win you a few million votes …

After the second Social Security debate fiasco — Martha Raddatz lying that the program is going broke and VP Joe Biden not correcting her (the first fiasco was when Pres. Obama said that he and Romney had a “somewhat similar position” on Social Security) — it’s time to come up with a serious effort to save Social Security from Democratic and Republican preparations to cut it and privatize it.

However, obeying the political rule that the best defense is a good offense, I strongly suggest we push a clear, simple, and populist Social Security plan:

1. Delete the income cap. (Why should the rich pay less?)
2. Increase benefits and reduce the full-benefits retirement age from 67 down to 66 or 65. (Inflation has for years been eating into benefits since the feds (under Clinton) began using a measure that shorts inflation; 67 is just too long to wait for full benefits.)

Social Security lovers should do this not just because it is simple, clear and ‘on the offensive’, but because it is what Americans, especially working-class Americans, need. And, we would simply be following the strong hint provided Friday by Eric Kingson, co-director of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, at the end of comments on Raddatz’s question and bad signals from the Vice-Presidential debate and the Obama administration (emphasis added):

Kingson said, “the White House was not willing to say that they will not cut benefits. And in fact that’s unfortunate that they’re not willing to draw that bright line in the sand that says, ‘We’re going to maintain this system.’” …

Kingson said he is worried about Obama’s openness to making “tweaks” to the program during negotiations to find a “grand bargain” over entitlements and the deficit after the election.

That concern is the reason Kingson said he found Raddatz’s question — which presupposed that there might need to be benefits “changes” to fix the “broke” Social Security system — “outrageous.”

“That framing … I would love to see a candidate say this is outrageous,” Kingson said. “This is part of the Washington journalist approach to Social Security: everyone knows it’s in crisis, everyone knows it’s going bankrupt. Baloney — that’s not a statement based in reality.”

With changes like lifting the cap on how much income individuals have to pay in Social Security payroll taxes, Kingson believes the program could be extended well beyond its current 2033 insolvency debate. What moderators should be concerning themselves with, he argued, are the millions of Americans who will be retiring in the near future with underwater mortgages and depleted 401(k)s, who could use if anything stronger Social Security benefits.

For more on Raddatz’s lie posing as a question, see Glenn GreenwaldDean Baker and No, Martha Raddatz, Social Security Is Not “Going Broke” For more on the White House’s obfuscations on and not-so-semi-secret plans for Social Security, see Still no straight answers on Social Security.

Send Barbara Boxer a human rights for Palestinians message

4:24 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Barbara Boxer Gets Progressive Support Despite Checkered Record on Human Rights, International Law
Boxer takes the positions she does not because AIPAC forces her, but because she can get progressives to campaign for her, donate money to her, and vote for her anyway.
By Stephen Zunes
October 18, 2010


Barbara Boxer shaking hands with Ariel Sharon

"The army knows the kids are there to collect. They watch them every day and they know they have no weapons," said Mohammed Abu Rukbi, a fieldworker with DCI. "They usually fire warning shots but the kids don’t take much notice."

Mohammed Sobboh, 17, [ABOVE] was shot just above the knee on August 25 when he was 800 metres from the border, he said. The 12 people in his family have no other income and are not entitled to aid from the UN as they are not refugees.

Israeli soldiers shot dead a horse and a donkey used by Mohammed and his brothers to carry the rubble, he said.

Gaza teens brave IDF fire to collect salvaged building materials
In three months, soldiers shot and wounded 10 youths collecting building materials in expanded buffer zone.
By Amira Hass
October 10, 2010

In the course of three months this summer Israeli soldiers shot and wounded 10 Palestinian teenagers who collect building materials from demolished structures in the former Israeli settlements and the Erez industrial zone in the northern Gaza Strip, dozens or hundreds of meters from the border. Palestinians believe the shootings are aimed at keeping people away from these areas, but despite the great risk dozens of nearby residents, many of them minors, continue to come in order to collect bits of cement and gravel from inside the buildings that were destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces around the time of the 2005 disengagement, and sell them to contractors and factories in the Strip. …

Every day dozens of people come to the ruins of the industrial zone and the settlements, such as Elei Sinai, in wagons drawn by donkeys or horses. One of the teens, who was shot on August 25, told Defence for Children that in recent months soldiers also shot and killed one of the donkeys and three of the horses.

Most of the children tell of a father who is unemployed. Some were among the thousands of Gazans who worked in Israel up until 2006, when their work permits were revoked. The father of one of the teens was forced to close his store as a result of Israel’s ban on the entry of goods it did not define as "humanitarian" into the Strip. After the death, about two years ago, of a 14-year-old shooting victim identified as "N.," the teen dropped out of school to help support his family. That is the story of all these teens, dropping out and going out to work. They all said in their statements that they are afraid to go back to collecting gravel. Some have difficulty walking or carrying heavy loads as a result of their injuries.

Some of the teens sold vegetables in the streets of Gaza City, earning only about NIS 20 or NIS 30 per day, before hearing from neighbors or acquaintances that one could make NIS 40 or more from collecting gravel.

Nine year old Amal and her twelve year old brother Mahmoud witnessed their father and brother being shot dead. Their house was also destroyed. Amal was injured and now lives with shrapnel embedded in her brain which leads to blinding headaches and visual impairment. She struggles with her homework and often finds it difficult to help her mother around the house. Amal says her wish is to become a doctor and help sick people.

Omsyatte, whose home was destroyed by F16s during the 2008 military offensive.

Nasser Abu Said outside the shrapnel-riddled home where his wife, Ne’ema, was killed by Israeli artillery.

Mother of five killed by Israeli artillery fire close to Gaza buffer zone
Three relatives also wounded in shelling on Gaza border, as family say no rockets were heard being fired before attack
Harriet Sherwood in Johar a-Deek
Friday 16 July 2010

…According to the woman’s husband, Nasser Abu Said, 37, the attack began without warning at about 8.30pm on Tuesday with two shells being fired as the family of 17 sat outside their house in the village of Johar a-Deek. Apart from Nasser and his 65-year-old father, the entire group was women and children.

"It was completely quiet, there were no rockets being fired or we wouldn’t have been sitting outside," he said, referring to Qassam missiles launched by militants into Israel.

His sister and his brother’s wife were injured by shrapnel. The family moved indoors and called an ambulance. "About 10 minutes later the ambulance called back to say the Israelis had refused them permission to come to the house," said Nasser.

His wife Ne’ema, 33, soon realised their youngest son, Jaber, was not among the children she was attempting to calm down, and was probably asleep on a mattress outside that he often shared with his grandfather.

As she went to fetch the toddler, another shell landed. "I called to my wife three times," said Nasser, who realised his father had also been badly injured in his leg and stomach. "I could hear small noises coming from her. I knew she was dying."

Via Palestinian co-ordinators, the IDF told the family that anyone going outside the house would be shot dead. Nasser began to tend to his injured father, knowing he could not reach his dying wife.

"I was holding myself in, especially in front of the children," he said. The children were crying hysterically and some had wet themselves, he added.

After two hours, an ambulance was allowed to reach the family. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), which investigated the incident, said Ne’ema and her wounded relatives were taken to al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Balah, where it was confirmed she had died from shrapnel wounds.

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) said it had identified a number of suspects close to the border. "An IDF force fired at the suspects and identified hitting them," it said. The incident was being investigated, it added, but declined to say why ambulances had not been allowed to reach the family. …

29 December 2008: Palestinian children walk past a destroyed mosque and houses after they were hit by an Israeli missile strike that killed Jawaher Baalusha, 4, and her four sisters in the northern Gaza Strip.

29 December 2008: A Palestinian man carries his wounded child to the treatment room of Kamal Adwan hospital following an Israeli missile strike in Beit Lahiya.

1 January 2009: A Palestinian woman with two wounded members of her family in hospital following an Israeli missile strike in Beit Hanoun. Israel dropped a bomb on the home of a Hamas strongman, killing him along with two wives and four children in the first attack on the top leadership of Gaza’s rulers.

5 January 2009: A Palestinian woman sits on the floor beside her baby wounded by an Israeli tank shell, at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. An Israeli tank shell killed three Palestinian children in their home in eastern Gaza City, medical officials said.

Gaza’s children suffer as conflict enters the classroom
The Israeli blockade and years of fighting have taken their toll on Gaza’s schools, where failure rates are rapidly rising
Rory McCarthy in Gaza City
Friday 16 May 2008

On this morning there was no electricity for the first four hours of school, there were no lights and staff had to use a whistle instead of the electric school bell. There was no running water, save what had been held in reserve in a spare tank at the bathroom. There was no bread for sale in the canteen because of shortages at the bakeries, even though many of the children rely on the small school shop to buy their breakfast. This, a result of the Israeli economic blockade of Gaza, was an ordinary day in extraordinary times.

More worrying are warning signs of a broader disintegration of society, such as those seen in exam results. Last autumn, the UN, which runs some of the best schools in Gaza, noted a sharp increase in exam failures. The failure rate in Arabic between ages nine and 15 was between 34.9% and 61.1% . In maths at the same age the failure rate was even higher at more than 65% , peaking at around age 11 with an astonishing failure rate of 90%. That compares with a failure rate of just 10% at UN schools in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria.

"There’s been a big change. There’s no enjoyment in the children’s lives, no going out, no picnics. There’s a lot of pressure on them and I can feel it in the class," said al-Katib. "They don’t do their homework, they make any excuse – no electricity, or they were sick, or tired. They are less attentive in class than they used to be."

It is not hard to cast a protest vote for a U.S. Senate candidate who expresses your values on Israel and Palestine.

Israel/Palestine position of Green Party California U.S. Senate candidate, Duane Roberts:

Duane Supports… Ending all U.S. military and economic aid to the state of Israel and the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people, including the right of refugees to return.

Israel/Palestine position of Green Party Illinois U.S. Senate candidate, LeAlan Jones:

We should adopt the Israel-Palestine single-state solution and end apartheid in the Middle East. Nations should be based on our collective humanity, not our divisive religions. and we must take steps guarantee that no taxpayer money supports state-sponsored terrorism or assassination. This means no more investing in Israel bonds, Saudi Arabia or China.