Archive for April, 2013

“Them or Us?”

April 26, 2013

Steve Earle

“Four score and a hundred and fifty years ago
Our forefathers made us equal as long as we can pay.
Yeah, well maybe that wasn’t exactly what they was thinkin’ —
Version six-point-oh of the American way.

But hey — we can just build a great wall around the country club
To keep the riff-raff out until the slump is through.
Yeah, I realize that ain’t exactly democratic, but it’s either them or us and it’s the best that we can do.”

Steve Earle — “Amerika v.6.0” (2003)

It’s now 2013 — 10 years down the road.

I live ever more unencumbered by great wealth.

And with plenty of company.

A new study released last week by the Pew Research Center dramatically demonstrates an undisputed fact — economic inequality has widened substantially during the first two years of our current recovery from the Great Recession as the upper 7% of American households have witnessed an average net worth increase of 28% — almost a full third — while the wealth of the remaining 93% of us has flat out declined. Got it?

From 2009 to 2011, the average accumulated worth of America’s 8 million most affluent households jumped from $2.7 million to $3.2 — even as the average holdings of the bottom 111 million families fell from $140,000 to $134,000, a drop of 4%. OK with you?

That top 7% owned 56% of the nation’s wealth in 2009, but it jumped to 63% by 2011 and is still climbing, leaving the rest of us to fight for little pieces of the remaining less than 37%. Paul Taylor, Director of the Research Center, summed it all up as follows — “It has been a very good recovery for those at the upper end of wealth distribution, but there has been no recovery for the lower 93% — which is nearly — EVERYBODY.” Think that’s cool?

Let’s face it, folks. Forget redistribution. We need restitution. That’s not evil envy — just honest observation. For over thirty years the American middle class has been on a slow but steady decline. Anyone who doubts this only need look about and take a true count.

Want more jobs? At living wages? With real security, a return to prosperity and pride restored?

The whole sad scene needs a time machine. Climb in! Get set! Hang on, Sloopy!

Yes! Eisenhower era tax rates! Dwight David Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces when he won World Was Two as a five-star general, let alone being elected to our nation’s highest office as a great Republican.

Let’s see. For the wealthiest Americans making over $400,000 a year that would be a marginal rate of — 91% — effective from 1954 through 1963 when I graduated from college, still leaving the rich with tons of money. My friends and I were doing fine as well. Today it’s way less than half that — only 35% above $388,350, even as The Tea Party sulks and sobs over “highest in history” taxation as they continue their vigilant search high and low for FEMA Concentration camps wherein Barack Obama is worshipped as a living god, women wear pants while voting and spoken English is forbidden.

For those who preach financial belt tightening as a hangman knots his noose, that whole “austerity” deal was finally revealed as the fraud it was only days ago with the discovery of “a spreadsheet coding error” in a seminal economics paper quoted time and time again by conservative elements insisting “spending is the problem.” It’s not. Long constriction by wrong conviction is. We’re collectively being had while those having us laugh all the way to the bank — amused that so many still unwittingly accept free fall when it’s promoted as freedom. Free? Dumb!

We can flash the cash. Borrowing has rarely been cheaper. Only the badly bewildered doubt we’re good for it. Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Paul Krugman is correct. “The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences, wrapped in a facade of academic rigor.”

The only true burden our grandchildren might bear will be the inevitable consequence of not trusting in ourselves. Their future well being depends upon a collective commitment to our flag, our nation and, most of all, to each other.

Nothing to it — but to do it.

And why not make lobbying a Federal Felony, punishable with all the money anyone has and life imprisonment in a padded cell with 200 decibels of Justin Bieber piped in 24/7?

We ARE the Country.

Let’s take our CONGRESS back!

“A Classic Case of Premature Capitulation”

April 14, 2013

President Barack Obama-PFR-004047

In the frenzied world of political foreplay, there are few things that offer the same degree of collective embarrassment as a revival of premature capitulation.

I just don’t get it.

With any number of viable options remaining open toward reducing a Federal debt primarily bloated in little over a decade by two unneeded wars and radical tax cuts for the wealthy under Republican leadership, President Obama’s unconscionable surrender on Social Security and Medicare issues in his new budgetary proposals are more mysterious than quantum mechanics, the Bermuda Triangle and Donald Trump’s hair all rolled into one.

That’s why the 125 member Oakhurst Democratic Club approved the following resolution at its monthly meeting on April 5th:

“It is hereby resolved that the Oakhurst Democratic Club strongly condemns any action on the part of President Obama which would in any way negatively impact upon future payments of Social Security benefits, including any changes in annual cost-of-living adjustments as currently structured.”

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I am on the Executive Committee of the Club and moderate our monthly meetings. I would also observe that the vote referenced above was not unanimous. After all, we’re Democrats. At least a third of those in attendance expressed certain reservations on issues dealing with party loyalty, phraseology, timing, and other understandable concerns. But a clear majority joined me in supporting the desirability of an immediate, decisive response to what seems to be an odd and unhelpful inclusion in our President’s initial overture to a chronically recalcitrant and oftentimes mindlessly oppositional Congress.

In such matters, this is not Obama’s first rodeo.

On January 13, 2009, a young President-elect prefaced his first term in office with a three-hour dinner meeting at the home of conservative columnist George Will in Chevy Chase, Maryland with other G.O.P. luminaries at the table, including the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post. This and a number of other Administrative olive branch gestures through subsequent months and years have conclusively proven that any motion toward conciliation and compromise with “the other side” has normally come to naught, particularly after dramatic Tea Party victories in 2010. Reflection upon such Democratic losses offers further reason to scorn such unwelcomed abandonment of fundamental basics as we witness in President Obama’s new proposals.

John Boehner became Speaker of the House of Representatives with an astounding Republican majority even as separate state elections saw Republicans seize control of governorships from Democrats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Tennessee, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin. By the time all votes were counted, the GOP had additionally won at least 19 state legislative bodies from Democrats, including both chambers in Alabama and Wisconsin, the Michigan House, the Ohio House and the Pennsylvania House — just in time for gerrymandered redistricting.

It is my strong contention that this powerful and impressive 2010 Republican resurgence was a direct consequence of disaffected, disappointed, disillusioned 2008 Obama supporters, particularly the young disenchanted, staying home by the millions. There was a sad and self-defeating abandonment of hope in a President who, during his first two Oval Office years, was seen not practicing what he had so passionately preached.

“Yes, We Can’t?”

The only true hope of passing progressive political legislation in the relatively near future rests with a wrestling of House control away from current conservative extremes in 2014. Such a transformation, combined with a “filibuster proof” Senate majority and a sitting Democratic President, could finally put obvious objectives derailed in 2010 back on track, but not if we once again fall victim to déjà vu.

Although I remain absolutely delighted that Barack Obama is our President instead of Mitt Romney, now almost as unknown and unwelcomed in Republican rhetoric as George W. Bush, I am thoroughly convinced there are a multitude of other moves to be made in addressing governmental spending other than slashing into COLA. How about moving FICA payments above the current threshold of $113,700, changing income tax rates back to Clinton Presidency levels and, most of all, closing billions of dollars lost through corporate loopholes?

Perhaps Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) says it best for The Oakhurst Democratic Club:

“I was shocked to hear that the President’s newest budget proposal would cut $100 billion in Social Security benefits. Our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled inch by inch. In short, a “chained CPI” is just a fancy way to say, “cut benefits for seniors, the permanently disabled and orphans.”

I love that lady!

But hate those cuts.

“McClintock No April Fool”

April 5, 2013



When I first learned the date of April First being fortuitously chosen for our Fourth District Congressman Tom McClintock’s first appearance at an Oakhurst “Town Meeting”, I herein confess being overcome with exuberant expectation. I savored the joyous prospect of reviewing his visit with some sort of playfully pejorative “April Fool” headline. As can be seen above, this was not to be.

It was pretty much a Tea Party party.

Even North Fork Steve was there — a political peacock fully costumed in colorfully enchanting, majestically magnificent, red, white & blue patriotic garb. Betsy Ross would have been proud. Steve got to close the session with a passionate, almost tearful expression of gracious gratitude extended to Mr. McClintock for his service to the nation, including an apology for having inadvertently exposed such a distinguished visitor to a lack of proper decorum on the part of certain unspecified individuals.

This would have undoubtedly included Susan Rowe, Chair of the Madera County Democratic Central Committee, who provided McClintock with the “most applause of the night”, as accurately reported by Carmen George in last week’s Star.

When called upon, Ms. Rowe noted that, while the overwhelmingly Republican U.S. House of Representatives recently approved The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 by a two to one margin, our Congressman voted against it. She pointedly asked the Congressman for a “Yes or No” answer as to whether he would cast his ballot in the future for or against similarly progressive legislation.

McClintock replied, “I’m not going to vote for a bill just because it sounds good. You can’t tell a bill by its title.” This thrust of admittedly clever repartee fully quenched any remaining audience thirst for intelligent analysis of the issue. It simultaneously energized loud and continuous hand clapping which realized the additional purpose of drowning out Ms. Rowe’s repeated refusal to accept anything less than crystalline clarification from the Congressman. The timing was superb. If I didn’t know Susan, I would have expected McClintock planted her in the audience for just such a thing and herein hope to dispel subsequently whispered rumors reflecting such suspicion.

It’s important to understand that Susan wasn’t present to win friends and influence people. With media in attendance and the courage of her convictions, she was there to set the record straight. She later stated — “McClintock is never going to forget that Town Hall Meeting. He became increasingly uncomfortable when he was pressed for an answer. I think I did what I went there to accomplish.”

But that little exchange pretty much sums things up.

Tom McClintock is an intelligent, articulate, highly polished professional who can measure an audience well and speak with confident assurance, albeit more than occasionally bringing forth in his often vitriolic ruminations more wistful fantasy than witnessed fact.

Why get flustered by fancy figures such as impudently offered by that annoying Alan Cheah, for example, when there are dependable sources to be conveniently referenced who simply make stuff up? For Fresno Bee readers, Doonesbury recently did a whole week’s worth of brilliant panels on this very subject.

Yes, Alan was at the meeting, too, speaking up about how utterly mindless the House approved “Ryan Budget” is, a project McClintock proudly takes credit for helping to create. Everyone knows that Cheah is obviously a Keynesian, if not from Kenya, itself, like his Socialist hero in what used to be The WHITE House.

The newly configured California Fourth Congressional District, which runs in a narrow band roughly from Lake Tahoe to somewhere south of Guatemala, was constructed to be “safely Republican”, but not for the likes of Karl Rove. McClintock was most pointed in his candid observation that Rove’s recent moves to potentially discredit certain Tea Party type candidates were “very much misplaced” and Rove “has done enormous harm to the Republican Party.”

I enjoyed hearing that and take heart in McClintock’s promise to monitor and address local concerns in conjunction with new Merced River Plan, his commitment to include petroleum and “all energy companies” in closing federal tax loopholes and his pledge to avoid implementing changes in current Social Security cost of living formulas.

With Tom McClintock — we have a man with a plan. Foxy! Rural constituency or not, folks, this is no “Country Bumpkin.”

Setting aside obvious political differences, I consider Tom McClintock to be a top tier, high grade, first class act — an experienced player of obvious talents and practiced skills. Indeed — even as he watches out for us — Congressman McClintock is surely someone to unfailingly and consistently keep our own eyes on.

Susan Rowe will.