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Stagecraft: Our Presidential Contest Has Devolved Into Little More Than A Fake Wrestling Match

11:46 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

For those on the Left, one of the most frustrating aspects of this Presidential election has been following the narratives of both establishment parties, each aligned with the other in their complimentary fictions, as they deceive the American voters into believing there is an actual choice to be made here.

Beyond the rhetorical divide, the actual differences between Obama and Romney are minor, if not downright trivial. Each candidate, regardless of how he has actually governed in the past, uses the talking points from his party’s platform to tap into the ideological preferences of his base. The contest is little more than a theater of deception.

Romney, who governed like a Clintonian Democrat, now speaks in ways that appeal to his base, which continues to drift rightwards a la Tea Party.

As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney implemented what would become the blueprints for Obamacare, and offered generous subsidies for those in his state who couldn’t afford it. He embraced a pro-choice position, favored gun control, was pro-gay-rights. He opposed the flat tax, was critical of Bush tax cuts. He believes in global warming, and has supported ‘cap and trade’ policies.

Whereas Romney has been forced to move rhetorically to the right, Barack Obama, who himself has governed from right-of-center, needs to reestablish his own cred with his liberal base, and is thus, only too happy to accommodate Romney in aligning their fictions.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle that both candidates have had to overcome with regards to their respective bases is in trying to convince them that there actually are fundamental differences between their visions for America’s economic model.

The Obama campaign was the first to seize on a distinction when it released a video showing Mitt Romney at a Boca Raton fundraiser expressing disdain for Obama voters, suggesting they are “dependent upon government” and feel entitled to handouts.

But this video revelation actually enhanced the far-Right cred that the Governor had been so desperate for. You might think his own campaign planted the video. In fact, he proudly wore the video revelation around like a medalThe Tea Party won’t see me as a RINO anymore, he likely surmised.

Seeing this as the perfect red meat issue needed to re-energize his base, Romney pivoted to the hot-button ‘Socialism’ charge. He charged Obama with being another Socialist-minded liberal who wants to take money from those who work hard and succeed, to then redistribute it to those who don’t.

After unearthing a 1998 video showing a young Obama expressing that he believed in “redistribution at a certain level,” Romney pounced:

“He [Obama] really believes in what I’ll call a government-centered society. I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America,” Romney said Wednesday at an Atlanta fundraiser. “There’s a tape that came out just a couple of days ago where the president said yes he believes in redistribution. I don’t. I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others but to create wealth for all.”

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus seconded that description of Obama, and now all GOP surrogates are on message, making the ‘redistribution’ buzzword the central theme in Romney’s campaign.

But of course this depiction of Obama couldn’t be further from the truth. Obama has actually governed like a starry-eyed Milton Friedman disciple. Bloomberg News decided to investigate Romney’s ‘redistribution’ charge, and here is what they found:

If President Barack Obama is trying to spread the wealth, he doesn’t have much to show for it. [...]

[S]ince Obama took office in January 2009, wealthy Americans have continued to pull away from the rest of society. In the aftermath of the recession, income inequality in the U.S. reached a new high in 2011, Census Bureau data show.

Even as the president has decried the hollowing out of the middle class, the fortunes of labor and capital have diverged on his watch. Quarterly corporate profits of $1.9 trillion have almost doubled since the end of 2008, while workers’ inflation- adjusted average hourly earnings have declined.

“At the very high end, people got a whole lot wealthier whereas income stagnated at other levels,” said Anne Mathias, director of Washington research for Guggenheim Securities LLC. “Fifty years ago, people talked about the other half, how the other half lived, and now we’re talking about the other 1 percent.”

But, forget reality — back to the fantasyland that is our Presidential Election.

Knowing his progressive base sees the U.S. economy through the 1% vs 99% prism and views his last 3 1/2 years as a monumental sellout to the 1%, Obama likely sees an opening in Romney’s ‘redistribution’ charge. This Republican accusation may be exactly what he needs to energize his own base. Perhaps it can help him to get his populist mojo back.

And the theater just continues on and on …

But make no mistake about it, whichever candidate wins — be it Obama or Romney — things will continue right along this Neoliberal road we are on, and the firmly-entrenched 1% will have their man.

UPDATE:

Author edit: In response to commenter who questioned the validity of my statement re: Mitt Romney’s alleged support of gay-marriage when Governor of Massachusetts, and after further review myself, I have decided to remove the following statement: (he implemented same-sex marriage by executive fiat).

President Obama’s Appearance on 60 Minutes: The Good And The Bad

10:35 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

A photo of Obama speaking

Photo: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr

President Obama and Governor Romney both appeared on 60 Minutes last night in what is being billed as an indirect debate between the two candidates. They interviewed separately, but both used it as an opportunity to level some attacks at one another and to defend themselves against the other’s talking points.

Here are some of the things that struck me about Obama’s performance:

1. The Good

The President subtly distinguished U.S. interests from Israels’:

The President cleverly addressed Steve Kroft’s question regarding Israel PM Netanyahu’s blatant attempts to force the U.S. into war with Iran. Kroft asked him about the pressure being leveled at him during the U.S. elections (a time when a sitting President is most likely to placate deep-pocketed special interest groups). Obama appropriately recast the issue to the interests of the American people.

Although this tact might seem logical and obvious to most Americans — A U.S. President putting U.S. interests above those of a foreign government’s — anyone who follows the Israel / Palestine issue closely, knows this is practically unheard of in Washington, and actually constitutes bravery:

Kroft: How much pressure have you been getting from Prime Minister Netanyahu to make up your mind to use military force in Iran?

Obama: Well, look, I have conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu all the time. And I understand and share Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran should not obtain a nuclear weapon because it would threaten us, it would threaten Israel and it would threaten the world and kick off a nuclear arms race.

Kroft: You’re saying you don’t feel any pressure from Prime Minister Netanyahu in the middle of a campaign to try and get you to change your policy and draw a line in the sand? You don’t feel any pressure?

Obama:When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that’s out there. Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply. They’re one of our closest allies in the region. And we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence.

Later in the interview, Kroft brought up Romney’s assertion that Obama was weak on national defense and foreign policy, saying that he “needed to be more aggressive on Iran, he hadn’t done enough to support the revolt in Syria, and that our ‘friends’ don’t know where we stand, and our enemies think we’re weak.” To which Obama replied:

Well, let’s see what I’ve done since I came into office. I said I’d end the war in Iraq, I did. I said that we’d go after al-Qaeda. They’ve been decimated… That we’d go after Bin Laden, he’s gone. So, I’ve executed on my foreign policy, and it’s one the American people agree with. So, if Governor Romney is suggesting we should start another war, he should say so.

Essentially, Obama is turning Romney’s pro-Israel hawkishness around on him, by reminding Americans that war is too important an issue to be championing for mere political expediency. That committing the United States to another unnecessary war in the Middle East, once again driven by fear mongering, would hold severe repercussions for U.S. interests.

2. The Bad

Read the rest of this entry →

VIDEO: Green Party Pres. Candidate Jill Stein Discusses Iran And The State Of The Democratic Party

10:01 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

The Green Party Presidential Candidate, Jill Stein, appeared yesterday on The Real News Network, where she explained to Senior Editor Paul Jay why she chose NOT to run as a Democrat.

In addition, she revealed how her position on Iran differs from President Obama’s, and then she delved into the details of her Green New Deal, revealing why it would be so much more effective than Obama’s stimulus plan, despite costing roughly the same amount.

Video follows the partial transcript:

JAY:

So when you run a campaign with a party that’s essentially within the realm of progressive politics, you need to kind of explain to people, I’m sure, over and over again why you aren’t doing this in the Democratic Party. President Obama recently did describe himself as a progressive candidate or president—presidency. So, first of all, why a new party? Why—I shouldn’t say new. Green Party’s been around. But why not working in the Democratic Party?

STEIN:

You know, people are hurting. We’re in crisis in so many ways. You know, let me count the ways. You know, people are hurting for jobs, they’re losing their homes by the millions. They cannot afford their health care. The students are coming out of college up to their eyeballs in debt. Our civil liberties are under attack. And our climate is in great peril. You know, really, across the board we’re facing crisis.

Yet the wealthy few who got us here, who crashed the economy, are making out like bandits, rolling in more dough than ever. And meanwhile we have a political establishment which is making things worse—not only failing to fix it, but actually making it worse, imposing austerity on people while they squander trillions on wars, Wall Street bailouts, and tax breaks for the wealthy.

So, in short, people are clamoring for something different, and there’s a movement out there for democracy and justice that’s alive and well out in the streets and in our communities. It deserves to have a voice in this election and choice come November that’s not bought and paid for by Wall Street or K Street.

And we’ve seen about as far as we can go with the Democratic Party. You know, we just had—we elected a president who claimed to be that progressive. He had both houses of Congress for two years. And people were so bitterly disappointed, they didn’t show up to the polls in 2010. And, you know, we got where we’re going.

We really need real change, not just the change of the corporate representative. We need a party fundamentally about people.

JAY:

So before we get into some of the big domestic economic questions, which certainly are going to be the overriding issues in the election, let’s take on a bit on the issue of foreign policy. Where do you differentiate, for example, with President Obama when it comes to Iran?

STEIN:

President Obama is waving the flag, you know, for keeping all options on the table, including a preemptive attack on Iran. Yet 16 security agencies for this country and other international agencies agree that there is no evidence that Iran is currently building a bomb or intending to build a bomb. It’s very clear the case needs to be made to Congress and to the American people that there’s reason for war. That’s why we have a congress empowered to declare war. And that case hasn’t begun to be made.

So where we stand is basically with a foreign policy that’s guided by international law, by national law, by human rights, not by the drive for oil. We need a foreign policy that we can stand up and defend. And currently there is no discernible threat to the United States from the actions of Iran.

We do need to watch carefully. We should be pursuing nuclear disarmament, starting in the Middle East. There are many countries who already possess bombs whose governments are extremely unstable and not necessarily friendly to the United States. So the region would benefit enormously from pursuing a very vigorous and active policy of nuclear disarmament. But attacking Iran is only going to get us into very deep trouble.

JAY:

So let me go back to my first question, then. Some people are raising the issue that, then, why aren’t people like you fighting this out within the Democratic Party, where there’s, in a sense, some access to power? And not that you can—just by joining the Democratic Party you’re going to get power, but could have primaried Obama and forced him to have this debate in some kind of primary campaign. Why not that, versus, you know, a separate-party campaign?

STEIN:

You know, I think people have been there and done it. You know. And it’s fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I think people considered Obama really the Hail Mary for the Democratic Party. It was—people went all out, and then double that and triple that, and people really went to the wall to try to move progressive politics through a corporate-sponsored political party, and discovered that it just wasn’t [incompr.]

There were people, you know, who really tried to get someone to primary Obama, and nobody would, and to my mind that also speaks volumes about the condition of the Democratic Party. It just is a creature of its corporate funding. That’s not where we’re going to make change.

If you look through the history of progressive politics, independent political parties have played an enormous role in driving forward key issues—abolition, women’s right to vote, 40 hour workweek, the right to organize in our workplaces and form unions. These have all been pushed forward by independent political parties, and we clearly need that in droves.

[...]

Read the Full Transcript for segment pertaining to the details of her Green New Deal.

WATCH:

Learn more about Jill Stein at her website, and by following her on Twitter.

Originally published at AlterPolitics

Peter Beinart’s Book Explains Why Democrats Gave ‘Thundering Ovations’ At Bibi’s Speech To U.S. Joint Session Of Congress

10:56 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman created a bit of controversy this December when he wrote:

I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.

Well, now some of the logistics of our Representatives’ enraptured response to Bibi’s speech are beginning to surface. The Democratic Party apparently had a conductor to signal these moments: Democratic National Committee head, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

From Scott McConnell’s review of Peter Beinart’s new book, The Crisis of Zionism (emphasis is mine):

A year later, when Obama stated that the 1967 borders should be the starting point for renewed two-state negotiations—an American position for more than a generation—Netanyahu delivered what Beinart describes as “one of the most extraordinary humiliations of a president by a foreign leader in American history.” Fresh from speaking at AIPAC’s annual conference, Netanyahu replied that there was no chance of Israel withdrawing to “indefensible lines.”

Then Netanyahu went before a joint session of Congress. Each member of Congress had a single gallery pass to give out, and most gave theirs to their largest AIPAC donor. With the hall packed with supporters, Netanyahu received one thundering ovation after another. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who as head of the Democratic National Committee plays a key role in party fundraising, used arm motions to signal to her colleagues when to stand and applaud, and they rose and clapped at Netanyahu’s most controversial statements.

Concluding from this that America was unlikely to help, the Palestinian Authority tried to secure United Nations backing for a state within the 1967 borders. [...]

(h/t to Justin Elliott from Salon‏)

Wonder if the President, whom the Israeli Prime Minister humiliated that afternoon, ever called Wasserman-Schultz to ask whose side she is on?

Originally posted at AlterPolitics

Can A Democracy Function When The President Can Evade His Critics?

10:30 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Evading Some Critics at the Whitehouse Gate (photo: telekon/flickr)

Evading Some Critics at the Whitehouse Gate (photo: telekon/flickr)

A democracy is built upon the premise that our elected officials will routinely be confronted on their policies in the public square. And from this public engagement, this battleground of ideas, Americans will be better equipped to determine the best policies, thereby ensuring the democratic process actually strengthens the health of the nation, rather than weakens it.

But for some reason, the President of the United States is free to elude this ongoing battleground.

Only at election time, every four years, is he expected to participate in a handful of debates, and these are somewhat controlled environments. Debate questions tend to be the predictable ‘establishment’ ones, unrepresentative of the ones many Americans would like answered. All third party candidates, and the important issues they would bring to this national contest, are deliberately and systematically banned by the two major parties.

Once elected, Presidents begin to mirror ‘regal’ figureheads, suddenly ‘above’ subjecting themselves to pesky, potentially embarrassing, press conferences. They sidestep any engagements where they might be confronted on controversial policies.

President Bush went as far as to build a literal fortress around himself. It was oft-reported how his administration aggressively “screen[ed] audience members, remov[ed] protesters, and script[ed] questions prior to Bush appearing at public events.”

There are literally no laws in place that require the President of the United States to confront his critics.

And their efforts to evade this form of ‘check’ on Presidential power only seems to be getting worse. Whereas George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton held 56 and 31 news conferences, respectively, during their first three years in office, George W. Bush held only 11, and Barack Obama has held only 17.

When they agree to appear in televised interviews, rarely is it ever a hard-nosed Q&A session. Instead they opt to appear on The View, Jay Leno, or some other non-serious venue, where they are more likely to field questions about their daughters’ grades than meaningful ones, like the signing of the controversial National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Read the rest of this entry →

VIDEO Debate: Attacking Iran, AIPAC, Israel-Palestine and Obama with Rashid Khalidi and Jonathan Tobin

1:03 pm in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Rashid Khalidi (photo: FLoyd Brown/Flickr)

Rashid Khalidi (photo: FLoyd Brown/Flickr)

Yesterday, President Barack Obama addressed the annual policy conference of the powerful pro-Israel lobby group, AIPAC.

In his speech, he attempted to walk a fine line between reassuring the group of his ‘sacrosanct’ commitment to both Israel’s security and ethnic identity as a ‘Jewish state,’ and yet tamp down on its insistence that the United States bomb Iran.

In making the case that he has been one of the most pro-Israel Presidents to date, he outlined the many ways he has bolstered the country’s security apparatus over the last three years, and then boasted about some of the more controversial diplomatic efforts he has made on Israel’s behalf:

And just as we’ve been there with our security assistance, we’ve been there through our diplomacy. When the Goldstone report unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it. (Applause.) When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them. (Applause.) When the Durban conference was commemorated, we boycotted it, and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism. (Applause.)

When one-sided resolutions are brought up at the Human Rights Council, we oppose them. When Israeli diplomats feared for their lives in Cairo, we intervened to save them. (Applause.) When there are efforts to boycott or divest from Israel, we will stand against them. (Applause.) And whenever an effort is made to de-legitimize the state of Israel, my administration has opposed them. (Applause.) So there should not be a shred of doubt by now — when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back. (Applause.)

This morning, President Obama received Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, and it is being reported that much of their discussion was focused on Iran, and that the two continued to buck heads on the ‘red lines’ necessary for war:

Even though Obama has offered assurances of stiffened U.S. resolve against Iran before the White House meeting, the two allies are still far apart on explicit nuclear “red lines” that Tehran must not be allowed to cross, and they have yet to agree on a time frame for when military action may be necessary.

While the two leaders hashed it out at the Oval Office, Amy Goodman moderated an excellent debate between Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University and Commentary Magazine’s Senior Online Editor, Jonathan Tobin. Read the rest of this entry →

Obama Flip-Flops On Outsourcing American Jobs, While In India

10:19 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

It appears President Obama has two contradicting messages with regards to outsourcing American jobs overseas.  The one he chooses to voice apparently depends on whether he’s speaking here at home or to an overseas audience, and whether his statements are made before or after an election.

Here’s a video clip of the President, in May of 2009, criticizing the American tax code for giving financial incentives to corporations who outsource American jobs:

It’s a tax code that says, you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York. We will stop letting American companies that create jobs overseas take deductions on their expenses when they do not pay any American taxes on their profits.  And we will use the savings to give tax cuts to companies that are investing in research and development here at home. “

Here’s the President speaking to a crowd in Ohio — where 9.6% of its residents are unemployed  — on September 9, leading up to the 2010 midterm elections:

“One of the keys to job creation is to encourage companies to invest more in the United States. But for years, our tax code has actually given billions of dollars in tax breaks that encourage companies to create jobs and profits in other countries.  I want to change that. Instead of tax loopholes that incentivise investment in overseas jobs, I’m proposing a more generous, permanent extension of the tax credit that goes to companies for all the research and innovation they do right here in America,” he said, with Ohio governor Ted Strickland standing by his side.

“I think if we’re going to give tax breaks to companies, they should go to companies that create jobs in America — not those that create jobs overseas. That’s one difference between the Republican vision and the Democratic vision. And that’s what this election is all about,” Obama said.

Now, shortcut two months later to Obama speaking in India (two days ago) — post-2010 Midterm elections:

“I don’t think you heard me make outsourcing a bogeyman during the course of my visit.  In fact, I expressly said during my visit to Mumbai, at the business council, that both countries (India and the US), I think, were operating on some stereotypes that’ve outlived their usefullness,” Obama said.

“In every discussion that I have had with Indian businesses what I have seen is that our countries are matched up in a way that allows us enormous win-win potential,” he said.  “Whenever I’m asked about Indians taking away our jobs, I want to say: You know what, they’ve just created 50,000 jobs. But these old stereotypes, these old concerns ignore today’s reality. In 2010, trade between our countries is not just a one-way street of American jobs and companies moving to India.”

He added:

“We’re very proud of our high-tech industries and we think we make some of the best products in the world, and we want to sell them to a growing Indian market.  But it turns out some of those same technologies are ones that will allow Indian entrepreneurs to grow and thrive and create jobs right here in India,” Obama said.

President Obama obviously didn’t get the message from Americans who actually bothered to turn out to vote in the Midterm elections:  “It’s the jobs, Stupid!”

UPDATE:

Tonight, The Ed Show covered Obama’s outsourcing flip-flop in India.  Here’s the video clip with a worthwhile discussion on the outsourcing problem with Teamsters President, James Hoffa.

Originally published at AlterPolitics

Watch: How Obama Lost His Grass Roots Supporters – In A Nutshell

10:50 pm in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Here is a CAN’T MISS discussion between Dylan Ratigan, Glenn Greenwald and Cenk Uygur on the contentious divisions which now exist between Progressives and the President (and the Democratic Party).  The three identify Obama’s ultimate betrayal — which underlies a series of more easily identifiable ones, including his deliberate undermining of meaningful health care reform, financial reform, political reform, etc.

They articulate how his chosen methods of governance conflict so fundamentally with his former populist campaign promises as to literally obliterate his credibility and his former identity as a change agent.  Herein lies the impetus for the Democratic Party’s midterm losses: their overnight transformation from change agents — ushered into power with a populist mandate — to status-quo agents.

Here’s some highlights of the discussion:

Glenn Greenwald: You can complain and object to all sorts of things, but if at the end of the day politicians know that you’re going to give them your undying and unconditional support, because the other side is just mildly worse, what you’re doing is you’re ensuring that you’ll be ignored.   But I think this election actually revealed some leverage, which is one of the reasons why the Democrats got destroyed, is because the base of the party — the people who put Democrats in power in the last two elections — didn’t bother to go and vote.  And the reason they didn’t bother to go and vote is because they weren’t given a reason why they thought it was worthwhile.  That is leverage.  That is telling the Democrats you will be out of power.  Not just in the House of Representatives, but in the Senate and the White House if you continue on this path.

[...]

Glenn Greenwald: [Obama's] whole campaign was based upon subverting that very system — namely that no matter who wins, Democrats or Republicans, the same special interests continue to prosper, while ordinary Americans suffer.  And the plan was that by assembling this highly energized, activated citizenry behind him — this army of people who believed in the change that he would bring — he could circumvent all of those power structures.  He could tell them that they could no longer have their way, because they couldn’t do anything to him, because he had this army of highly energized young voters, first time voters, and the like.  And they squandered that.  Instead of becoming the voice of populist rage, they became the target of it, because they became the agents of the status-quo rather than the agents of change.

Cenk Uygur: [Obama's] fundamental error was — we didn’t ask you to do change on the specific issues.  That’s great, health care reform, etc. that’s lovely, ok.  And there was some good wins in Pell Grants, etc. right?  We asked you to change the system.  That’s what you missed. [...]

Glenn Greenwald: … the real tragedy of the Obama Presidency is there are millions of people who had believed that the political process had nothing to offer them, who were turned away from it and wallowing in cynicism.  And they got convinced to put aside their cynicism for the first time ever — that there was really hope that they would be able to realize by investing themselves in the political process.  And that has come crashing down.  And I don’t see how it can be re-engaged, and the irony of the Obama Presidency –

Dylan Ratigan: Why not?  Why not?

Glenn Greenwald: — because people concluded that: “this , I thought, was the real chance that something would be making a difference, and if not even this worked, then I don’t ever believe anything will.”

Cenk Uygur: … I’m with Glenn.  There’s a great irony here, that the guy who sold us “HOPE” ultimately wound up robbing us of hope, and why?  Because this was our one chance.  Because the money power is so overwhelming, it is such a hard thing to fight, but he had amassed the army to fight it.  He had that army.  Let’s go, let’s do campaign finance reform, let’s change the way things are done so the lobbyists don’t own our politicians.  And he squandered it, so what hope do we have?  [...]

Glenn Greenwald: … I guarantee there are lots of people who are watching who are thinking “Oh, look at how impatient they are.  What did they think, that he was going to come in and fundamentally and radically change and improve Washington in two years?”  I don’t think anybody thought that.  I certainly didn’t.  I think everybody was in it for the long haul, was willing to have patience.  But the reason people are disappointed isn’t because he hasn’t succeeded yet, it’s because he’s not trying.  He’s doing the opposite.  Everything he accomplishes is by meeting in secret with the very lobbyists who he said he was going to dis-empower.   Everything that he does is intended to entrench the system rather than to subvert and undermine it.  So if he were actually fighting, everybody, including everyone at this table, would have all the patience in the world [...]

How rare it is to see candid discussions like this one, in the main stream media, giving an honest account for the recent Democratic losses — low progressive turnout — and then to expand on the WHY.

WATCH  (to see discussion in its entirety):

Originally published at AlterPolitics

The Most Effective Way To Protest At The Ballot Box

9:39 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally Published at AlterPolitics

Are you disgusted with the Democrats, and their cynical attempts at impeding the very ‘change’ they promised us in 2008? We ushered them in with a clear mandate to make good on their promises, and once given complete control of the government, they’ve taken every opportunity to legislate the status-quo — all under the guise of ‘bipartisanship’. As if voters are too dumb to understand that reconciliation has remained a tool available to them to actually legislate their promises into law. When Republicans previously held a smaller majority in both houses, they used reconciliation repeatedly to enact all three of Bush’s major tax cuts which added trillions of dollars to our national debt.

That’s the kind of conviction we believed we were getting in 2008, when we put Obama in the White House and gave Democrats majorities in both houses. Boy were we fools!

Ever since its passage, the Democratic Party has cited Health Care Reform as its greatest accomplishment. Back in May, Speaker Nancy Pelosi ecstatically claimed:

“Healthcare reform is my proudest achievement in Congress,” she said. “But it would not have been possible without the leadership of President Obama.”

However, with the President’s job approval ratings plummeting, Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton complained recently that they aren’t getting their due credit from their base (whom his boss had previously referred to as the ‘professional left’):

there is some “frustration” in the White House that activists on the left are criticizing President Barack Obama for not being liberal enough instead of giving credit for his accomplishments, including health care reform. Still, Burton said the administration will continue pushing its agenda even if liberals don’t give them credit.

It is a bit ironic that what the Democratic Party feels to be its greatest achievement, Health Care Reform, essentially sent its own base packing. And they feign feelings of ‘hurt’ and ‘frustration’ by it all. As if they don’t already know:

Candidate Obama promised his supporters a robust public option without a mandate. Once elected, he immediately embarked on cutting back door deals with hospital groups (where he secretly promised them there would be no public option in the final bill), and with Big Pharma (where he secretly promised to oppose Congressional efforts to use the government’s leverage to negotiate drug prices downwards. He also agreed to prohibit US citizen’s from re-importing drugs from Canada). He then lobbied the Senate to drop the public option and any expansion of Medicare.

As if this weren’t bad enough, he additionally imposed a mandate on all American citizens, who would now be forced — or suffer financial penalty — to purchase expensive and crappy insurance policies (often with unaffordable deductibles and premiums) from the ‘for profit’ health insurance industry. A HUGE gift to the very industry most Americans hold responsible for creating the worst and most expensive health care system in the world.

It’s clear that the Democratic Party is out-of-step with its own base. The party shrewdly believed they could promise us what we demanded, meaningful change, and then ignore us once elected. They used the straw men available to them, obstructionist Republicans and their Blue Dog cousins, to evade ‘Change’. And President Obama’s call for ‘Change’ suddenly transformed overnight to a call for ‘Bipartisanship’ (his excuse for not using reconciliation to fulfill his campaign promises). Obama supporters, they figured, would just blame the obstructionist Republicans for Obama’s abandonment of the platform he ran on. Well, now they’ve discovered that in this new internet era, the blogosphere has made triangulation and political shell games very difficult for politicians to pull off.

Morale is low on the left, and many have concluded that Democrats no longer represent their interests. So for those of you wondering what to do at election time this November, here are your options, along with my two cents on each:

1. Vote Democratic — reward them for screwing you over. Nothing reinforces bad behavior quite like an unjust reward. Result: Democrats get reelected and continue to screw us over, as clearly there are no repercussions for anything they do.

2. Stay home / don’t vote — Perfect! Then the main stream media can interpret all the Republican victories as an indicator that the electorate wants Obama to move even further to the right. Hypothetical headlines: “Americans Reject Obama’s Big Government Policies”. Result: Obama and Democrats in Congress move even further to the right.

3. Vote for a Green/Independent left candidate on the ticket — Even if (s)he has a slim chance for victory, this is by far the most ideal method of sending a message. Result: It’s a vote for the Left (the message can’t be misconstrued by the MSM), and it helps to strengthen (build momentum) for third party candidates. The defeated Democratic candidate will view that third party candidate as a ‘spoiler’ and the party will realize that for the next election in that state, they better move to the Left or lose even more detractors to independent parties.

4. Write-in ‘PUBLIC OPTION’ – Assuming you ONLY have Republicans and Democrats on your ballot, and you’ve realized that option 2 (above) is not going to accomplish anything, what should you do? Cast your vote for a ‘public option’ as if you are treating this election as a referendum. Remind the party that is parading this HCR bill around like a trophy wife, that you are not voting for them BECAUSE of that very bill. Result: If the MSM sees that the Republican candidate won 200k votes, the Democrat won 185k votes, and ‘PUBLIC OPTION’ won 16k votes, that sends a clear message that the Left protested this election. It provides indisputable clarity that the Left abandoned the Democratic candidate, and instead wrote-in a HUGE Democratic betrayal in its place. Imagine if the press were to report that the Democrat would have won this race had he won all the votes cast for ‘PUBLIC OPTION’ .

5. Write in whatever you want – Some commenters made the suggestion on TheMalcontent’s FDL diary (which introduced this ‘write in’ idea) — that voters should just write in whatever they want. For example, if the wars are your main problem with the Democrats then write-in ‘Iraq’ or ‘Afghanistan’. If you are out of work, and pissed about it, then write in ‘job creation’. Or if you’d prefer ‘Medicare for all’ then just write that in, instead of ‘public option’. Result: You may potentially get more write-ins, but you will most certainly muddle the message, possibly to the detriment of the entire effort.

When the press gets ballot box results they aren’t going to report seemingly insignificant numbers. For instance, if the Republican won 200k, Democrat 185k, public option 25, Iraq 4, Ralph Nader 1, medicare for all 7, Guantanamo Bay 6, Bush war crimes accountability 1, … They’ll only report the bigger numbers. The more numbers any single write-in gets the more you ensure it gets reported, and brought to the media’s attention.

For those of you who have reservations about writing-in ‘PUBLIC OPTION’, I’ll just say this: whatever the write-in is, please pick something that the Left, and specifically the Left, is furious about so that the MSM will disseminate the message correctly. It’s crucial that if you decide to protest this election with a write-in, and get others to do the same, that you send a clear, simple, distinct message that can’t be spun into a victory for the Republicans or Glenn Beck. For instance, ‘Obama must resign’ may be a popular write-in for some on the Left, but I suspect Tea Partiers who might hate the Republican incumbent option on their ballot, will take full credit for it, if it were to be successful. Glenn Beck will be doing victory dances all week long.

We are striving for headlines the morning after which read something akin to, “The Left Abandons Democrats For Their Betrayal On The Public Option”, AND NOT, “Americans Reject Obama’s ‘Big Government’ policies”. Essentially, we want this message to be one that makes Democrats feel the wrath of their base; the same ones they routinely call names, like ‘fucking retards‘. We want Democrats to begin to govern to the Left, and fear the very ones who elected them.

We either control the message, or the media will happily create its own narrative for the Republican victories. And as always, it will be a call for the Obama administration to move further to the right. So if you were already planning on sitting out this election, please consider option #3 above, and if that’s not an option in your district/state then please consider option #4. These are the two best strategies for insuring that the main stream media disseminates correctly that the Left played a huge role in Democratic defeats.

Is Obama’s Health Care ‘Reform’ Plan Destined For Massachusetts’ Results?

6:26 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

Robert J. Samuelson of the Washington Post highlights the similarities between Obama’s and Massachusetts’ health care plans — specifically, the fact neither did a thing to reign in costs — and Samuelson forewarns that the nation’s plan will likely suffer the same fate as the Bay State’s:

If you want a preview of President Obama’s health-care “reform,” take a look at Massachusetts. In 2006, it enacted a “reform” that became a model for Obama. What’s happened since isn’t encouraging. The state did the easy part: expanding state-subsidized insurance coverage. It evaded the hard part: controlling costs and ensuring that spending improves people’s health. Unfortunately, Obama has done the same.

Massachusetts, like Obama, was as timid in confronting the runaway profits of Big Pharma, health insurance companies, and medical professionals as it was committed to actually solving the escalating health care crisis. The result: Massachusetts health care costs continue to soar:

Aside from squeezing take-home pay (employers provide almost 70 percent of insurance), higher costs have automatically shifted government priorities toward health care and away from everything else — schools, police, roads, prisons, lower taxes. In 1990, health spending represented about 16 percent of the state budget, says the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. By 2000, health’s share was 22 percent. In 2010, it’s 35 percent. About 90 percent of the health spending is Medicaid.

State leaders have proved powerless to control these costs. [...]

Attacking unpopular insurance companies is easy — and ultimately ineffectual. The trouble is that they’re mostly middlemen. They collect premiums and pay providers: doctors, hospitals, clinics. Limiting premiums without controlling the costs of providers will ultimately cause insurer bankruptcies, which would then threaten providers because they won’t be fully reimbursed. The state might regulate hospitals’ and doctors’ fees directly; but in the past, providers have often offset lower rates by performing more tests and procedures. [...]

The lesson from Massachusetts is that genuine cost control is avoided because it’s so politically difficult. It means curbing the incomes of doctors, hospitals and other providers. They object. To encourage “accountable care organizations” would limit consumer choice of doctors and hospitals. That’s unpopular. Spending restrictions, whether imposed by regulation or “global payments,” raise the specter of essential care denied. Also unpopular. [...]

What’s occurring in Massachusetts is the plausible future: Unchecked health spending shapes government priorities and inflates budget deficits and taxes, with small health gains. And they call this “reform”?

Though I agree with much of what Samuelson writes on medical cost containment, I disagree with his assertion that insurance companies are merely ‘middlemen’, therefore contributing little to runaway medical costs. There is a long documented history of health insurance companies price gauging companies and patients with exorbitant premium hikes based on little more than ‘exaggerated justification’:

Aetna has become the second health insurance company in California since April to scrap planned rate hikes, following revelations last week that “math errors” in the company’s application exaggerated justification for the proposed rate increase.

The company had sought a 19 percent rate increase affecting 65,000 policyholders in California. [...]

Anthem Blue Cross withdrew a much larger, 39 percent rate increase request in April that would have affected 800,000 policyholders in California, following detection by state workers of similar calculation errors. [...]

Filings for rate increases by Blue Shield of California and Health Net Inc. are also under review by state regulators. [...]

An expert hired by the New Mexico Attorney General’s office similarly concluded that Blue Cross Blue Shield New Mexico had inflated its losses to justify a controversial 21.3 percent rate hike, but the AG’s office nevertheless signed off on the rate hike. [...]

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently responded to these unjustified premium increases:

“I applaud California for its decision to shine more light on skyrocketing insurance rates and demand more accountability after uncovering that a second insurer used faulty math to try to justify exorbitant health insurance premium increases.”

Unfortunately, Obama’s decision to sidestep the central issue in this country’s health care crisis — runaway costs — will likely come back to haunt the Left. The forthcoming spiraling costs will most certainly be used by the opposition to undermine any future efforts for REAL reform.