Monday, July 25, 2011


Another campaign of misdirection

By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times

For the second time in three years, the American people are being hoodwinked by a non-stop campaign of misdirection.

The previous campaign took place when Wall Street melted down in 2008. The barons were desperate. President Bush rode to the rescue. And then something totally unforeseen happened. The American people got so angry at the fraud, the Congress actually said “No!” to Wall Street.

In a panic, Wall Street mobilized the corporate dominated media, the VERY SERIOUS PEOPLE, talking heads and an army of lobbyists to scare the daylights out of the American people. Day after day, night after night the almost hysterical message went out: failure to bail out Wall Street will destroy the American economy and the lives of tens of millions.

Specifically, credit will dry up, businesses will lay off workers or close, there will be no loans for anything – homes, business, farmers, a new car or a college education – unemployment will skyrocket.

“The sky is falling!!”

After pretending to think about it, the presidential candidates of both parties got on board and the Congress caved. Wall Street got the cash.

And the sky fell on the American economy.

Credit dried up, the economy crashed and a tidal wave of home foreclosures and unemployment swept away about $7 trillion of the wealth of ordinary Americans. But Wall Street was saved.

The administration, the Congress and Federal Reserve were working for Wall Street, and not your street.

And they still are.

The American people are again being told their house is on fire, told it can’t all be saved, told some rooms must be sacrificed to the awful flames of deficit and debt.

Failure to act “boldly” will mean “The end of American economic supremacy,” warned one widely read columnist. (About a decade too late). No time to think! Quick, decide!

And Americans have decided. In every poll I have seen, Americans overwhelmingly want taxes raised on the wealthiest, wars ended, corporate tax loopholes closed, corporate subsidies ended and spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security maintained, if not increased.

But instead, the President and Congress are positioning themselves to do the opposite; abetted as always by the corporate media, the VERY SERIOUS PEOPLE, talking heads and the army of lobbyists they hope to join after their “public service.”

Never mind that the deficit was caused by the Bush tax cuts and the cost of two wars, and could be erased completely by 2016 simply by letting those tax cuts expire.

Never mind that the U.S. military budget is mindlessly out of control, larger than almost every other nation on earth combined, with a reported 1,000 U.S. military bases spread around the world to defend Americans against no known military threat.

Never mind that the debt has been far higher in the past, as a share of the Gross National Product, and the nation survived, and in fact prospered.

Never mind that small business people, still unable to get loans, are turning to their credit cards for the money to keep their doors open – and paying legally criminal interest rates to Wall Street for that credit, thanks to a Congress that over-rode state usury laws.

Americans are being sold another lie, told that what must be done to save the nation and build a prosperous future is to gut the spending that feeds, clothes, houses, educates, provides health care and sustains the lives of tens of millions, many of whom are already in very dire straits.

As one reader of this column observed, “It used to be only the mafia that shot at your knees. Now it’s our politicians.”

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and others argue that the American people are morally obligated to “do the right thing,” accept that they have it coming, and have no one to blame but themselves after decades of profligate, selfish spending.

But the truth is that corporate America collapsed manufacturing and off-shored millions of good paying jobs, and continues to, in a race to the bottom for the lowest wages and least regulation anywhere in the world, and has depressed wages in the U.S. for decades.

The truth is that millions of American parents keep their children’s heads above water only by working two or more jobs, if they can find a job.

The truth is that Wall Street introduced and aggressively marketed massive and expensive consumer credit to mask the reality and maintain an illusion of prosperity.

And make billions in profits.

The truth is that wealth in the United States has been concentrated in the hands of a few in ways not seen in almost one hundred years.

The truth is the nation is going backwards.

Friedman’s argument is a pseudo- economist’s equivalent of the rapist’s defense, and equally vile: the victim is the culprit

“She really wanted it, your honor. She made me do it.”

The governing, corporate elite of the United States are now almost completely without shame and the knowledge of justice. The broad majority of the American people are almost completely without representation in the federal government.

There must be an alternative to the Wall Street, Washington and Federal Reserve government of the United States. The states, local communities and new leaders must step forward.

Before the Statue of Liberty swims back to France – for shame.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Liberals' Lament

President Obama's remaining liberal supporters are in agony.

By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times

One by one Mr. Obama has abandoned the hopeful promises of his 2008 campaign, and has emerged as the champion of established wealth, Wall Street and war, and the global club of parasites in pinstripes.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was compelled to note that with his proposals to go after what remains of middle class security, Mr. Obama sounds no different than the Darwinian predators in the GOP.

First, Vice President Biden, the administration’s “regular Joe,” was dispatched to give cover to “negotiations” that proposed budget cuts of between $1.5 trillion and $1.7 trillion over 10 years.

Hit hardest were Pell Grants for college students, (while tuition goes through the roof), food stamps (while one in four American children already depends on them), transportation funding (while roads and bridges crumble) and pensions for federal employees.

Not members of Congress, of course.

Then the president put Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block.

Medicaid helps mostly those with no resources, a number that is rising with a vengeance. The administration has proposed to cut as much as $100 billion over the next 10 years, mostly by reducing funding to the states, cutting the Children’s Health Insurance Program and imposing restrictions on the states’ ability to tax hospitals and other health-care providers.
Corporate profit will be protected.

This will further squeeze the states and cut off health care for hundreds of thousands, and over the next 10 years millions, many of them the same children who increasingly lack a decent or sufficient diet. Nice.

Medicare is targeted for the biggest cuts, reportedly $353 billion over 10 years: cuts in prevention, medical education and public health programs. The future. Reimbursements will be slashed for hospitals that run up losses by treating patients who cannot afford to pay.

Charity and compassion must be discouraged.

The cuts in Medicare, combined with another administration proposal to raise the eligibility from age 65 to 67 will take a toll: An already large and growing number of older Americans will find themselves choosing between eating, getting a prescription, paying rent and paying their doctor.

Finally, Mr. Obama proposes cuts in Social Security, now, even though the fund is sound for another 20 years.

Two-thirds of the nation’s elderly rely on Social Security for most of their income, and for one-third, Social Security accounts for 90 percent of their income.

Wall Street has wiped out the investments, savings and home equity of millions, and Social Security is a life line for millions who worked all their lives but now have little left to carry them through old age.

But after months of bogus fear mongering over the debt and deficit as cover, Mr. Obama apparently concluded it was safe to turn his back on those struggling millions.

The change the White has proposed is an accounting devise designed to understate inflation and justify declining monthly support as people age. As noted by the actuaries of Social Security, the longer you receive benefits, the smaller they will be. Retire at 65, and by 85 the benefit level would be cut $1,000 a year; by age 95, $1,400 a year.

In Mr. Obama’s America, the longer you live the worse it will get.

Not for everyone, of course.

While wages for most Americans have remained flat for decades, the wealthiest saw their income double under Mr. Clinton, and triple again under Mr. Bush.

Americans have begun to wake up to the staggering transfer of wealth into the hands of a few, and with elections approaching the president and many in his party now say they want to raise the taxes of the richest.

Don’t hold your breath. Mr. Obama and too many members of Congress now depend heavily on the people who can pony up $75,000 per election in campaign contributions. So they will talk about taxing those Americans, but never put it to a vote without an off-set to give it back somewhere else.

Krugman offered up some pop psychology to explain Mr. Obama’s failure to stand up to the shameless monopoly of prosperity in America and protect the many millions now struggling.

“Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences.”

Translated: He’s just too nice and a little too naive for the job.

Earth to Paul Krugman.

Mr. Obama and the GOP are equally in the pocket of the nation’s established wealth, the latter set up to make the former look good in an increasingly grotesque parody of representative government.

Mr. Obama will be re-elected in a set piece against a GOP candidate pushed to the right of Ebenezer Scrooge. And while it is possible that champions will emerge in the next Congress to join the few brave souls now there who want to mount a resistance to the destruction of the American middle class, it is unlikely.

Reapportionment will make the safe seats safer, and campaign contributions, an army of lobbyists and the prospect of lucrative post-office sinecures will keep many, if not most members in line.

If there is to be a restoration of the prosperity of the American middle class and some hope for those who aspire to a better future for every American, leaders must be found outside Washington.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rome of the Caesars or England of the Tudors

“Let Freedom Ring”

By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times

I have a Fourth of July tradition. On the day, I read the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and thanks to the internet, I listen to Martin Luther King’s speech on the Mall in Washington.

The first two still give me goosebumps. The third stirs strong emotion.

The speech is named by its great refrain, “I have a dream.” But in that speech there is another refrain, and I have always thought that perhaps Dr. King thought that was the one that would be remembered. He gave the dream a name: freedom.

“Let freedom ring,” he said.

You have to hear it. Dr. King was a marvelous orator, and the changes in the cadence, timber and tone of his voice as he said those words over and over –“Let freedom ring!” – can make you hear the bell.

It rang clearly, defiantly for Jefferson and the Founding Fathers. “All men are created equal… they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

That declaration is the bedrock of democracy, although some of these ideas were already current in Europe, a part of Enlightenment thought, though not declared so boldly. (But the “pursuit of happiness” was pure American, Ben Franklin's inspired edit.) But there was more.

“That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.”

That was news. The purpose of government is to secure the rights of the people, and the only legitimate government was republican, empowered by the people.

Lincoln understood how world changing that idea was, if it survived, if a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal… can long endure.”

Well, by the grace of God and the sacrifice of generations it did endure, and prospered, and the bell rang loud and clear for more than another century.

But this July 4th the sound is muted and far off.

It must be hard to hear indeed for tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs, homes and futures, and for whom the American dream has become the American ordeal.

And it must be almost impossible to hear for millions around the world, for whom the sight of an American soldier was once and not so long ago a cause for joy, but is now too often occasion for alarm, fear and even loathing.

And for Americans who cherish the Constitution, the sound can only be a sad echo of former things.

Constitutional protections like habeas corpus, which prohibit government from holding people indefinitely without presenting charges, and others which prohibit government from denying citizens the “due process and equal protection of the law” have been thrown out the window.

The Military Tribunals Commissions Act of 2006 allows anyone alleged to be an “unlawful enemy combatant” to be sentenced to death on the basis of secret and hearsay evidence.
American citizens may be similarly murdered based on a “finding” of some faceless “national security” bureaucrat: no judge, evidence or jury.

This is Rome of the Caesars or England of the Tudors.

The fourth amendment, which protected Americans from “unreasonable search and seizure” and guaranteed the privacy of their persons, homes and papers has been trashed.

Federal agents are now authorized to search anywhere, anytime for virtually any reason, as they do to track protesters (so much for free speech) or the cub scout who was groped or the aged and dying grandmother who was forced to strip and surrender her adult diaper in an airport.

“Warrant? Probable cause? What’s that?”

The driver in all this is the collapse of what was meant to be the “Peoples House” and the repository of representative and therefore republican government: the Congress of the United States. It was long ago hijacked along with the political parties.

Energy companies that make zillions are hauled before the Congress, asked why the people’s taxes ought to further subsidize their fantastic profits and then – nothing happens.

The robber barons who looted the wealth of a nation are similarly beaten up in public shows of righteous indignation, patently perjure themselves in attempts to avoid the truth of their fraud and then – nothing happens.

The Peoples House can no longer pass a budget, take responsibility for the spending it approved, assert its authority to make war or defend the rights of the people.

Small wonder that the presidency has taken on increasingly authoritarian powers. Nature abhors a vacuum. The Capitol being effectively vacant, the president has moved in.

The major change in American government over the course of the past forty years has been the elevation of profit to sacred status, and the subversion of the democratic and republican government of the Founders, Lincoln and King, as presidents and Congresses worship at profit’s altar.

If there is to be a “new birth of freedom” in America, if freedom is to ring again and Americans are once again to enjoy equally their God given rights, then corporate profit and power must be reined in.

Let freedom ring.