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Americans Are Greater Together

6:27 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Teddy (photo: davetron5000/flickr)

Teddy (photo: davetron5000/flickr)

It wasn’t so much a vote as a proclamation of ideology last Thursday when Republicans filibustered Obama’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The rebuff had nothing to do with the person, Richard Cordary, who even Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said appeared well qualified. Rather, it was part of the GOP campaign to hobble the agency created to safeguard borrowers from dodgy payday lenders and predatory mortgage salesmen.

The GOP thwarts regulatory agencies in order to enforce its “you’re on your own” philosophy. That is, each citizen, like an island, fends for himself in a world where the invisible hand of the market serves as regulator. Democrats believe something very different. They espouse the principles set out by President Teddy Roosevelt in his 1910 speech in Osawatomie, Kan., and echoed by President Obama in his address there last week. That is America and Americans are better when citizens work together and watch out for each other, that cooperating invigorates the individual, the economy and the nation, and that primacy is in people and profit is subordinate.

The late Senator Paul Wellstone expressed the essential sentiment most succinctly:

“We all do better when we all do better.”

Republicans don’t ascribe to that. They want to set up a country where every person is responsible for every aspect of daily life, from ensuring drinking water is safe to reducing workplace hazards. The GOP wants to shred regulations that protect citizens, even eliminate the federal agencies that enforce them. Congressional Republicans have worked to defund the Environmental Protection Agency, a move that would “empower” each citizen to persuade big industrial polluters to limit the particulates, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and lead belching from smokestacks.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said he’d reverse laws forbidding child labor –the same regulations Teddy Roosevelt endorsed to keep youngsters in classrooms and out of factories. In a nation deeply concerned about the quality of schools and the quantity of imported oil, GOP candidate Rick Perry plans to close the Education and Energy departments. Republican candidate Ron Paul would abolish the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the organization citizens created to aid fellow Americans who fall victim to natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

But that’s just the point: Republicans don’t believe Americans should help each other – they should only help themselves. In the GOP view, greed and selfishness aren’t sins. They’re virtues. Read the rest of this entry →

Rights Come with Responsibilities; the Right Shirks Theirs

8:49 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Five years ago, a 47-year-old Missouri woman began a duplicitous on-line courtship through MySpace with a 13-year-old neighbor who once had been friends with the woman’s daughter.

The adult, Lori Drew, flirted with the 13-year-old, Megan Meier, through the guise of a fictitious, 16-year-old character named Josh Evans. Suddenly, “Josh” broke up with Miss Meier, writing to her, “the world would be a better place without you.” Just hours later, Miss Meier hung herself in her bedroom.

Words have consequences.

Drew wasn’t charged with the child’s death. In fact, a judge reversed her conviction on computer fraud charges, saying the law was intended to deal with hacking, not murder. But for most Americans, there is something deeply disturbing, something morally, if not criminally, wrong with deliberate torment, with predatory viciousness. Drew eluded accountability the same way conservatives are seeking to evade culpability after their irresponsible speech has provoked the delusional to violence.

It’s hard to draw a line directly from Drew’s cruel words to the noose around Miss Meier’s neck. Similarly, it’s difficult to directly link violent political rhetoric like Sarah Palin’s illustration showing gun sight cross hairs on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ Arizona district to the shattering of Giffords’ office door after her vote for health insurance reform last March or Jared L. Loughner’s shooting spree last weekend that left six dead and Giffords and 13 others wounded.

What is clear, however, is that vile and threatening communication that becomes so repetitive that it’s routine has the effect of sanctioning an atmosphere of violence. . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Republican-Hood: Steal from the Workers; Pander to the Rich

8:27 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Robin Hood, the guy who robbed the rich and gave to the poor, wore a short frock and tights. From the get-go, the guy serving the disadvantaged while sporting gay attire would fail the entrance exam required to become a card-carrying Republican.

The GOP is, after all, the anti-gay marriage, anti-repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell crew. More than that, Republicans are anti-working class. Their recent policies and activities show them clobbering the middle class while kissing the wealthy’s, well, you know.

Consider health insurance reform and tax cuts for the rich.

The GOP spent the entire fall election cycle yammering about the federal deficit. The world as we know it was coming to an end because of the deficit, they contended loudly and repeatedly.

Then, immediately after Election Day, Republicans insisted on extending tax cuts for the rich. They added more than $36 billion to that supposedly-cataclysmic federal deficit in 2011 so that they could pad the pockets of the nation’s millionaires.

To secure that bonus for millionaires, Republicans held hostage extension of unemployment compensation, which during this grave recession, sustains the nation’s workers who are out of jobs and, all too often, also out of foreclosed-on homes. The deal comes down to this: The average millionaire will be $100,000 richer as a result in 2011. The average worker will get $15,236 in unemployment benefits if jobless the entire year of 2011.

Republicans insisted on giving the rich $84,764 a year more than the poor.

Repealing health insurance reform, as the GOP has said it hopes to do before month’s end, would have the same result – increasing that supposedly-cataclysmic federal deficit while slamming the poor and middle class.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has calculated that the Affordable Care Act will decrease the federal deficit by $140 billion over 10 years. That’s what the GOP wants to repeal – a deficit reduction measure. Republicans want to add $140 billion to the debt.   . . . Read the rest of this entry →

The Message of Massachusetts: Jobs

7:07 pm in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Bill Clinton saw it clearly when he was running for President against Bush I. It became his mantra: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Clinton wanted to reform health insurance too. But he understood that during a recession, the first priority is jobs.

Politicians and commentators continue to blather obtusely about the meaning of Massachusetts Senate candidate Martha Coakley’s loss to a Republican in a heavily Democratic state. Like Coakley and her advisors, they’ve failed to see the obvious, failed to learn from Clinton’s victory:

It’s the economy, stupid.

Poll results show that Massachusetts voters punished Coakley – and Democrats — for neglecting the issue most vital to them: jobs. If politicians had studied earlier polls or attempted to actually get in touch with mainstream, Main Street Americans, or just listened to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s Jan. 11 address at the Washington Press Club, they’d have known to focus on jobs. The message of Massachusetts should be clear: If Democrats want to save their own jobs in the mid-term elections this fall, they must create jobs now.

A poll taken as far back as the first week in December exposed voters’ anger over the economy. The bipartisan Battleground Poll showed this: A huge majority of those surveyed ranked improving the economy and jobs as the most important tasks for Congress. It was 40 percent, compared to healthcare reform, at just 15 percent.

Here’s what pollster Celinda Lake said about the results:

“The number one thing Democrats have to do is prove they really have a jobs program and an economic program that is going to sell on Main Street.”

That was a month before the Massachusetts vote. In the meantime, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced unemployment numbers for December – and they were worse in 43 states than they had been in November. Joblessness in Michigan, a high population heartland state, was the highest in the country at 14.6 percent. Only the rates in two other states, Rhode Island – 12.9 percent — and South Carolina — 12.6 percent, beat that in one of the dozen largest economies in the world – California. There it was 12.4, significantly higher than the U.S. average of 10 percent.

People are hurting. Pay attention, politicians. Pay attention.

They didn’t. In the Massachusetts race, they were talking about terrorism and baseball.

In a Research 2000 poll done for MoveOn.org, 95 percent of Massachusetts residents surveyed ranked the economy as either important or very important to their candidate choice. Research 2000 questioned 1,000 registered voters – half of whom voted for Republican Scott Brown and half of whom did not vote at all.

Among those who voted for Obama in 2008 but Brown in 2010, 51 percent said they believed Democratic policies helped Wall Street more than Main Street.

It’s the economy, stupid. The Main Street economy.

Similary, in a Hart Research Associates poll conducted on election night in Massachusetts, 79 percent of voters said electing a candidate who would strengthen the economy and create more good jobs was the single most important factor in their decision. The most crucial quality for a candidate, they said: Someone who would fix the economy.

The Bush II Great Recession is more than two years old now. Workers are frightened and angry. They see bailouts for Wall Street, big bonuses for bankers and unemployment continuing to rise.

They will vent their frustration on politicians. Massachusetts showed it. Trumka warned about it earlier this month in his talk at the Press Club:

“At this moment, the voices of America’s working women and men must be heard in Washington – not the voices of bankers and speculators for whom it always seems to be the best of times, but the voices of those for whom the New Year brings pink slips and givebacks, hollowed-out health care, foreclosures and pension freezes – the roll call of an economy that long ago stopped working for most of us.”

He went on: “Working people want an American economy that works for them – that creates good jobs, where wealth is fairly shared. . .”

He recommended immediate implementation of the AFL-CIO’s five-point jobs creation program – a plan that would produce 4 million jobs and includes dramatically increasing federal infrastructure and green jobs investments and direct lending of the refunded bank bailout money to small and medium sized businesses that can’t get credit because of the financial crisis.

Just as important is implementation of the recommendations in the Framework for Revitalizing American Manufacturing report issued by the White House manufacturing task force in December. That report contains concrete measures to revive manufacturing in the U.S. to generate real wealth, not the illusory paper assets counterfeited on Wall Street.

Trumka called for immediate action, not going slow, not taking half steps. Those who seek delay are “harming millions of unemployed Americans and their families,” he said, and jeopardizing economic recovery.

He ended with this warning:

“the reality is that when unemployment is 10 percent and rising, working people will not stand for tokenism. We will not vote for politicians who think they can push a few crumbs our way and then continue the failed economic policies of the last 30 years.”

Workers executed that warning in Massachusetts.

What Americans want is jobs.