Monday, August 13, 2012

Headlines - Monday August

I hope that this election is neither a referendum on Barack Obama nor a (stark, of course) choice between two competing visions for America. I hope instead that this election is a referendum on the collected works of Ayn Rand.

Paul Ryan in 2005:

I always go back to, you know, Francisco d'Anconia's speech, at Bill Taggart's wedding, on money when I think about monetary policy.

Dave Weigel explains:

The problem, says d'Anconia, is that statists—looters and moochers—see dollar signs and think they can, must redistribute them. "Whenever destroyers appear among men," he says, "they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it becomes, marked: 'Account overdrawn.'"

Now, take all of that and apply it to our current debates about the Federal Reserve. Since the Nixon years, the dollar has been de-linked from the price of gold. The Federal Reserve can print money and use it to buy up government bonds—which it has recently, in several rounds of Quantitative Easing. It does this because Congress gave the Fed a dual mandate to fight inflation and to reduce unemployment. Creating "free" money helps with that latter goal. I hope it doesn't surprise you that Ryan, since at least 2008, has wanted the Fed to abandon the employment madate. He doesn't say this in a stupid way, like Rick Perry. He says it by citing Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand is simply "Lord of the Rings" for wingnuts. Fine, everyone is entitled to their own fantasy books, even adults.

But when was the last time you heard a liberal say that every time he considers military action, he always thinks of Frodo's speech about the danger of the lure of power?
Balloon Juice: I appreciate the effort, but we're going to have to get better at this

This editorial will probably get a lot of attention but I think it's horrible advocacy and hurts the people it's intended to help:

More than three-fifths of the cuts proposed by Mr. Ryan, and eagerly accepted by the Tea Party-driven House, come from programs for low-income Americans.
Mr. Ryan's budget "will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment," the bishops wrote in an April letter to the House. "These cuts are unjustified and wrong."

I don't want to save Mitt Romney's soul. I want to beat him. In order to do that I have to get around this kind of pious, useless saccharine moralizing and tell the truth about who benefits from the programs Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan told us they will cut. I have to tell that truth to working and middle class voters, not speak to Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan, because Romney and Ryan are beyond reaching. If you're going to appoint yourself an advocate for "the poor" be a smart advocate, use your head, make an argument that reaches voters, and for God's sake give up on trying to shame conservatives by beating them over the head with the religion they use to get elected. That's a loser. It hasn't worked once in 30 years. Try something else.

Going along with the nonsense that Romney-Ryan are selling, that these programs only benefit "the poor" harms "the poor". Cutting "the poor" out of the herd and making them the objects of whatever charitable impulses Republicans may or may not have hurts "the poor".

So lay off the poor and start telling middle class and working class people how these programs benefit them. The best way to protect the poor, who really are vulnerable, is to have working class and middle class people standing in front of them. Oh, and the next time I hear some elite pundit whining about liberals engaging in "class warfare" I would like them to explain why Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are permitted to set the working class and middle class against the poor every fucking day, but one liberal suggests raising taxes on the uber-wealthy and our elite pundit class go into a tizzy. You wanna see some real class warfare listen to Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney demonize the poor in an attempt to win over the working class and middle class. They're doing it today. Right now. Where's the outrage, pundits? This is class warfare!

Romney and Ryan want to drastically cut Medicaid. Who benefits from Medicaid? The poor, obviously, but also the children of the working class and the elderly parents of the working and middle class, who rely on Medicaid to pay for "long term care" (pdf):

Over 7 million of Medicaid's 50 million beneficiaries are "dual eligibles," low-income elderly and individuals with disabilities who are enrolled in both Medicaid and Medicare. While Medicare covers basic health services, including physician and hospital care, dual eligibles rely on Medicaid to pay Medicare premiums and cost-sharing and to cover critical benefits Medicare does not cover, such as long-term care.
Dual eligibles comprised 18% of all Medicare beneficiaries in 2000, but they accounted for 24% of total Medicare spending. Similarly, they represented 16% of all Medicaid enrollees but 42% of program spending.

Got that? 40% of Medicaid spending goes to elderly and disabled. They're "the poor", sure, but they're also the children and parents of working and middle class people.

If you have an elderly parent who requires long-term care and cannot afford long-term care and Romney and Ryan cut Medicaid, you have two options. You can pay for that long-term care yourself (which you won't be able to do if you're a middle class wage-earner) or you can quit your job and care for that elderly parent. If you're a working class or lower middle class parent and your children qualify for Medicaid under SCHIP or any other program, Romney and Ryan are threatening to take health insurance away from your children. Not "the poor". You. Your children.

Medicaid benefits working class and middle class people, now, today, and Romney-Ryan want to gut it. That's how I'll be presenting The Romney-Ryan Plan to voters face-to-face in this white working class county because that's the truth. "The poor" will thus benefit without being made the abstract objects of appeals to pity or charity, and we can finally start the long, slow process of telling the truth about who gets what in this country. We can start admitting that MOST of us benefit from federal programs, either directly or indirectly.

I benefitted directly from a federal-state program for poor pregnant women 22 years ago. I was temporarily poor. I'm no longer poor. The healthy baby that resulted from that excellent low-cost subsidized maternity care I received 22 years ago is now working and paying taxes. Soonergrunt wrote a wonderful, brutally honest piece where he told us he once (gasp!) received aid when his family was in a bind. Soonergrunt works and pays taxes. He was temporarily poor. He's no longer poor. There are a LOT of us with these stories. If we want to help "the poor" we should tell these stories and stand in front of them, with them, not cut them off and set them apart and beg on their behalf. "The poor" will be better for it, and so will the rest of us, because we'll be living in reality.

Deadbeat dad and Tea Party House member, Joe Walsh, at a town hall meeting last week:

"One thing I'm sure of is that there are people in this country – there is a radical strain of Islam in this country -– it's not just over there –- trying to kill Americans every week. It is a real threat, and it is a threat that is much more at home now than it was after 9/11," Walsh said.

Walsh went on to claim that radical Islam had found its way into the Chicago suburbs, including some that he represents.

"It's here. It's in Elk Grove. It's in Addison. It's in Elgin. It's here," he said.

"This is one thing I want my government to do is protecting us against this threat, because let's be honest, folks, it is a threat."

And the obligatory finish to any hate-filled Islamophobic rant.

"…it's not a matter of if. It's a matter of when."

Two days later, 15 miles from where Walsh gave his speech, "when" happened. But it wasn't the 'when' Walsh had predicted.

A 51-year-old man was charged with shooting at a mosque he lives near in north suburban Morton Grove, according to authorities.

Police confiscated a "high-velocity air rifle" from the home of David Conrad, who lives just east of the mosque. He was charged with three counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm and one count of criminal damage to property, all felonies.

Coincidence? Maybe, but probably not. When you read stories like this one, you come to understand that the Republican Party really does represent the dark side. They operate on the notion that the best way to move their narrow-minded agenda forward is to appeal to people's basic fears. Exploiting xenophobic traits in the weak and the stupid is a finely honed craft for Republicans like Walsh and Bachmann. In fact, the entire birtherism craze was created on this principle. Beware, the black guy with the strange name. He's not one of us! Racist morons.

Tammy Duckworth, the Iraq war vet who lost both legs in a Blackhawk helicopter attack, is running a strong campaign against Walsh in Illinois District 8. Decency and honesty would be well served if she was able to extract one of the bigoted, do-nothing teabaggers from Congress.



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