Political Nutz

Observations on the pathetic state of American politics

Monthly Archives: October 2010

Campaign spending: Enter the oligarchy

The Center for Responsible Politics predicts that total spending for the 2010 campaigns could exceed $4 billion, nearly as much as was spent on the record-setting 2008 campaigns.  It is not inconceivable that the 2012 campaigns will surpass the $10 billion mark. This huge load of cash goes solely to a small number of already well-heeled advertising agencies and media outlets. No jobs are created, no bridges repaired, no new textbooks purchased.  Beyond the pure obscenity of wasting so much money with so little public benefit there is a much greater concern.

The bulk of these billions is coming from a small number of individuals, trade associations, PACs and corporations.  Just as America has seen an ever-growing disparity in wealth distribution –20% of the population owns 84% of the nation’s wealth– we are now undergoing a similar reconcentration of political clout in the hands of a tiny number of individuals and corporate entities.  These folks don’t directly control the votes, of course, but they can and do control the message and are free to tell outright lies to support their positions.  Thus it’s nearly impossible for voters to get clear, accurate information about candidates and issues.

Republican lie machine–it works

“A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Oct. 24-26 finds that by a two-to-one margin, likely voters in the Nov. 2 midterm elections think taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won’t be recovered. “  The reality, of course, is that each of these beliefs is 100% wrong. The relentless drum beat of Republican lies has convinced a majority of likely voters that things are in far worse shape.

  • Taxes. Fifty-two percent of those polled believe that taxes have gone up in the last two years.  Even 43% of Democrats think this. In fact, the Obama administration has cut taxes for the middle class by some $240 billion since taking office.
  • TARP. Sixty percent said that the billions loaned to banks under the TARP are lost and will never be repaid. In reality, much the money has already been repaid and the most recent forecast is for TARP to show a $16 billion profit.
  • Economic Recovery. Sixty-one percent of surveyed voters opined that the economy is shrinking.  The facts.  The recession officially ended in June of 2009, the economy grew 3.1% over the past year, and household spending rose at a 2.6% pace in the last quarter.  All signs of the slowly but steadily improving economy.

It is sad but not surprising that so many Americans are going to cast votes next week with their heads full Republican doom and gloom lies.  The so-called liberal media constantly repeats the Republican blather of Fox News, Limbaugh, Palin and Beck as if it were the truth completely ignoring reality.  Voters are free to choose whomever they want to represent them but they should do so armed with facts.

Juan Williams—Reality check dude

Should Juan Williams have been fired by NPR for his comments on Fox News earlier in the week?  Was it right? Fair?  I don’t know if Mr. William’s statements about Muslims on airplanes were unethical or insensitive.  But that’s not really germane.  NPR can hire and fire employees within legal bounds like any other broadcast organization.  NPR made numerous cuts for financial reasons earlier in the year and misters Williams, O’Reilly and Boehner were silent on those dismissals.

In the real world, companies fire people every day.  These guys who claim to represent the “American people” ought to know that and spend their energy discussing more critical issues than Mr. Williams’ job status.  There’s no freedom of speech, censorship question here.  NPR management decided an employee doesn’t meet the requirments of the job. “Poof! You’re fired.”  Mr. Williams is completely free to say whatever he wants.  In fact, with his new fat contract from Fox he will be better compensated to do so. 

Mr. Williams post-dismissal comments are petty. If NPR constrained his ability to function as a journalist for these past several years, he was free to speak up and seek employment elsewere.  He has had a very successful and high-profile career: now it’s time for Mr. Williams for grow up.

Our infrastructure debacle

The Associated Press reports today on numerous, large-scale infrastructure projects that are being cancelled.

  US shuns some big public works projects.

The reporters note that the U.S. now spends less on infrastructure than other industiralized nations including China and Europe.  Many of these projects are being blocked by Republican politicians decrying the costs of the projects and the enormous federal deficit.  Where were these guardians of the Treasury over the last decade while the Bush crowd was squandering over a trillion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and giving tax breaks to the super rich? All the projects mentioned in this article could have been paid for by the cost of just the Iraq war and unemployment would be a fraction of what it is now.

Tea Party democracy = Don’t vote

The Tea Party folks in Nevada have a new idea about democracy. The way to really be involved is to not vote—at least if you’re an Hispanic American.  That’s the message they send in a campaign ad over Hispanic language stations in Nevada.  What an insult! The underlying message is something like:

“We wish all you Hispanic folks would just go away. The Tea Party has nothing to offer you but could you at least not vote for the other guy.”

Separation of church and state? Nah!

I can’t wait to see how the right-wingers spin this one.  In a debate with her Democratic opponent for a Delaware Senate seat, Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell let slip that there is no basis for separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution.  Seriously.  Here’s a summary of the exchange:

    O’Donnell: Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?

    Chris Coons: The First Amendment establishes the separation, the fact that the federal government shall not establish religion.

    O’Donnell: The First Amendment does?  You’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment? That’s in the First Amendment?

Surprise! Surprise! This is the same woman who called President Obama “anti-American” because he didn’t vote to establish English as the official language of the U.S. and claimed to have classified information that China is plotting to take over America. At least she’s not into witchcraft or something really wacky.

Oct. 20 update:  Here’s a Slate comment on efforts to explain Ms. O’Donnell’s profound ignorance: “Christine O’Donnell’s cocky ignorance of the First Amendment”

The bailouts worked – Really!

Today’s USA Today opinion piece offers another voice acknowledging that the much despised TARP and auto industry aid program have been effective.

Of the $388 billion in TARP money that was spent, more than half has already been recovered, according to the latest Treasury Department report. What’s more, with GM looking healthier and even insurance giant AIG showing signs of life, it’s possible that TARP could turn a profit in the end. That would make it one of the best uses of federal tax dollars in memory.

I hated the fact that so many of those billions went directly into the pockets of greedy, already filthy rich executives.  But it’s times to stop bashing the politicians who made their best effort at avoiding a worse catastrophe. There are plenty of reasonable experts who concur that the programs helped, especially economists Mark Zandi and Alan Blinder. Some other editorial views:

Bailout success story

The Republicans opposed federal assistance to the automobile industry, like they opposed everything else for the past two years.  Tell the folks in Kokomo, Indiana that the auto industry aid has been a failure. Federal aid has trimmed the city’s unemployment rate from 20% to under 14% and stimulus funds have helped eleven new stores open in a revitalized downtown.

  • Chrysler has hired back the 3,500 workers it laid off a year and a half ago and is adding 700 new positions.
  • Delphi is adding 100 new jobs at its auto parts manufacturing plant.
  • A Colorado solar company is hiring 900 workers at a former Daimler plant outside of town.

I’ll do the math for the often numerically-challenged right wingers: 3,500+700+100+900 = 5,200 working, middle-class taxpayers who were formerly unemployed. Not bad for programs the Republicans claim added zero jobs.

Republican stimulus dollars hypocrisy

I’m so not surprised.  Several Republican congressmen who pilloried the 2009 stimulus package somehow swollowed their principles and requested and received funds for their own districts.  Texas Representative Pete Sessions swore the stimulus bill wouldn’t create any new jobs — expect for the $81 million he requested for his affluent Carrollton, Texas district. In his supporting letter, Mr. Sessions wrote that the proposed rail project would “create jobs, stimulate the economy, improve regional mobility and reduce pollution.”

Even the acerbic, obnoxios, House Tea Party Caucus founder Michele Bachmann couldn’t pass up those tainted federal dollars.  Despite her campaign statements that the stimulus did not create any jobs, she sought $300 million for a Minnesota bridge project she said would create 3,000 jobs.  It’s sad that Ms. Bachmann, who opposes public education, can’t tell the difference between 0 and 3,000.

How banks see the mortgage morass

Garbage in, garbage out