New 2012 Campaign Slogan

The Public Sucks. Fuck Hope.

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June 7, 2012 · 10:54 pm

That damn Cognitive Dissonance

Our personal loyalty to our political leaders is so strong that we Americans are willing to change our previously held positions on public policy to reflect the positions of our leaders. On both sides of the aisle, voters are compelled to apply a sort of double standard to politicians… especially to those who hail from the other party.

That’s the message of reporter Shankar Vedantam. In his piece on NPR.org called “Partisan Psychology: Why Do People Choose Political Loyalties Over Facts,” he uses the work of Dartmouth poli-sci scholar Brendan Nyhan to show just how taken we are with our political leaders and their “constantly evolving” policy positions.

Take the nearly two-thirds of Republicans who tell pollsters that President Obama can do more about gas prices and two-thirds of Democrats who take the opposite position.

Economists generally side with the Left on this issue…and with the majority of Republicans who, six years ago, also said the price of gasoline was outside the realm of influence for the president…President Bush, that is.

Unfortunately, this sort of dynamic is the norm, rather than the exception. Citizens – especially those with strong political views – generally seem to defer to their political affiliations when they conflict with the facts.

In most situations, the partisan American voter is more than willing to don the hat of a hypocrite than apply uniform standards to ALL politicians.

This is not some grand development or show of solidarity. It’s proof of the polarization of our electorate to the point that we’re willing to compromise on policy for the good of that party.

The worst thing that this may signify is the great extent to which our political parties “got us by the balls,” as George Carlin used to say.

Unless our policy positions aren’t worth a damn – which isn’t good, either – being so wiling to reverse them in support of politicians is terrible.

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Dick Lugar’s statement on today’s GOP primary

Prepared Statement of Senator Richard G. Lugar on the Concluded Indiana Senate Primary – May 8, 2012

I would like to comment on the Senate race just concluded and the direction of American politics and the Republican Party. I would reiterate from my earlier statement that I have no regrets about choosing to run for office. My health is excellent, I believe that I have been a very effective Senator for Hoosiers and for the country, and I know that the next six years would have been a time of great achievement. Further, I believed that vital national priorities, including job creation, deficit reduction, energy security, agriculture reform, and the Nunn-Lugar program, would benefit from my continued service as a Senator. These goals were worth the risk of an electoral defeat and the costs of a hard campaign.

Analysts will speculate about whether our campaign strategies were wise. Much of this will be based on conjecture by pundits who don’t fully appreciate the choices we had to make based on resource limits, polling data, and other factors. They also will speculate whether we were guilty of overconfidence.

The truth is that the headwinds in this race were abundantly apparent long before Richard Mourdock announced his candidacy. One does not highlight such headwinds publically when one is waging a campaign. But I knew that I would face an extremely strong anti-incumbent mood following a recession. I knew that my work with then-Senator Barack Obama would be used against me, even if our relationship were overhyped. I also knew from the races in 2010 that I was a likely target of Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and other Super Pacs dedicated to defeating at least one Republican as a purification exercise to enhance their influence over other Republican legislators.

We undertook this campaign soberly and we worked very hard in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to overcome these challenges. There never was a moment when my campaign took anything for granted. This is why we put so much effort into our get out the vote operations.

Ultimately, the re-election of an incumbent to Congress usually comes down to whether voters agree with the positions the incumbent has taken. I knew that I had cast recent votes that would be unpopular with some Republicans and that would be targeted by outside groups.

These included my votes for the TARP program, for government support of the auto industry, for the START Treaty, and for the confirmations of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. I also advanced several propositions that were considered heretical by some, including the thought that Congressional earmarks saved no money and turned spending power over to unelected bureaucrats and that the country should explore options for immigration reform.

It was apparent that these positions would be attacked in a Republican primary. But I believe that they were the right votes for the country, and I stand by them without regrets, as I have throughout the campaign.

From time to time during the last two years I heard from well-meaning individuals who suggested that I ought to consider running as an independent. My response was always the same: I am a Republican now and always have been. I have no desire to run as anything else. All my life, I have believed in the Republican principles of small government, low taxes, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and trade expansion. According to Congressional Quarterly vote studies, I supported President Reagan more often than any other Senator. I want to see a Republican elected President, and I want to see a Republican majority in the Congress. I hope my opponent wins in November to help give my friend Mitch McConnell a majority.

If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.

This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve. The most consequential of these is stabilizing and reversing the Federal debt in an era when millions of baby boomers are retiring. There is little likelihood that either party will be able to impose their favored budget solutions on the other without some degree of compromise.

Unfortunately, we have an increasing number of legislators in both parties who have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint. This shows up in countless vote studies that find diminishing intersections between Democrat and Republican positions. Partisans at both ends of the political spectrum are dominating the political debate in our country. And partisan groups, including outside groups that spent millions against me in this race, are determined to see that this continues. They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise. If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years. And I believe that if this attitude expands in the Republican Party, we will be relegated to minority status. Parties don’t succeed for long if they stop appealing to voters who may disagree with them on some issues.

Legislators should have an ideological grounding and strong beliefs identifiable to their constituents. I believe I have offered that throughout my career. But ideology cannot be a substitute for a determination to think for yourself, for a willingness to study an issue objectively, and for the fortitude to sometimes disagree with your party or even your constituents. Like Edmund Burke, I believe leaders owe the people they represent their best judgment.

Too often bipartisanship is equated with centrism or deal cutting. Bipartisanship is not the opposite of principle. One can be very conservative or very liberal and still have a bipartisan mindset. Such a mindset acknowledges that the other party is also patriotic and may have some good ideas. It acknowledges that national unity is important, and that aggressive partisanship deepens cynicism, sharpens political vendettas, and depletes the national reserve of good will that is critical to our survival in hard times. Certainly this was understood by President Reagan, who worked with Democrats frequently and showed flexibility that would be ridiculed today – from assenting to tax increases in the 1983 Social Security fix, to compromising on landmark tax reform legislation in 1986, to advancing arms control agreements in his second term.

I don’t remember a time when so many topics have become politically unmentionable in one party or the other. Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases. For two consecutive Presidential nomination cycles, GOP candidates competed with one another to express the most strident anti-immigration view, even at the risk of alienating a huge voting bloc. Similarly, most Democrats are constrained when talking about such issues as entitlement cuts, tort reform, and trade agreements. Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives. If fealty to these pledges continues to expand, legislators may pledge their way into irrelevance. Voters will be electing a slate of inflexible positions rather than a leader.

I hope that as a nation we aspire to more than that. I hope we will demand judgment from our leaders. I continue to believe that Hoosiers value constructive leadership. I would not have run for office if I did not believe that.

As someone who has seen much in the politics of our country and our state, I am able to take the long view. I have not lost my enthusiasm for the role played by the United States Senate. Nor has my belief in conservative principles been diminished. I expect great things from my party and my country. I hope all who participated in this election share in this optimism.

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The moral hazard of geographic inequality

The data don’t lie – Americans increasingly live in communities that differ on the basis of class and wealth. Physical separation may be minimal, but differences in quality-of-life and quality of institutions mean that residents may as well be living in different worlds or at least different countries. Such an arrangement has serious negative consequences for our nation. Among the most dangerous is a form of sociological moral hazard.

In the world of economics, moral hazard results when market forces prevent natural business consequences from impacting actors in the market. Because of interventions, these actors disregard the risk of certain actions – usually negative – even when the risk is sizeable and the natural result of reckless behaviors.

The greatest contemporary example of moral hazard is the result of government action following the 2008 financial crisis. Large banks were saved from the bankruptcy court by trillion-dollar bailouts, and never experienced the severely negative but expected consequences of their reckless lending and shameful profiteering. Today, the world is left with a group of Too Big To Fail financial institutions, emboldened by the government response to continue reckless behaviors that threaten future financial crises. Applied to the national fabric of the US – especially in its increasingly unequal state – we face similar catastrophy.

The widening chasm of wealth and economic opportunity in the US can be seen in the patchwork of municipalities and cities that dot the US. The most recent Census data show increasing class-based separation of Americans in their towns and neighborhoods. Wealthier Americans and the middle and lower classes rarely call the same town “home.” In the suburbs of Philadelphia, the wealthy and middle class concentrate in outer suburbs while the poor crowd into neighborhoods in the decaying inner city or dilapidated inner-ring suburbs.
Gentrified neighborhoods and Center City census tracts may boast significant populations of the wealthy and upwardly mobile, but these enclaves pale in comparison to the sheer size Philly’s ghettos and poor suburbs that developed just outside city limits in the post-war period.

To be sure, processes like white flight and suburbanization have devastated cities for decades. If these processes are longstanding, then why should anyone care today? Besides the magnitude of today’s separation, this situation threatens the very fate of institutions that ensure the continued validity of ideals related to equality and economic opportunity.

Concentrated wealth and poverty mean concentrated educational excellence and complete decrepitude. They create areas of great services and infrastructure and areas with poor or nonexistent services (often the very locales where they are needed most).

This is disastrous, given our already desperate need for effective public policymaking. Wealthy persons with the most resources and capacity to influence public policy often in perfect communities where the importance of funding schools, social services, and public infrastructure is lost. With little evidence of the importance of these institutions in their surroundings, the wealthy become less likely to support tax expenditure on public education, social services, and mass transit. The importance of these institutions to the lives of the vast majority of Americans is largely lost.

Like the result of reckless lending, the consequences of inadequately funding these institutions has numerous negative impacts: an uneducated populace, rampant social problems like crime and disease, and further declines in economic opportunity. In this way, a sort of sociological moral hazard is the result when the geographic and class-based separation of Americans shields the most powerful, gifted, and wealthy among us from seeing the importance of public policy that funds education and supports community services. Like the banks, society is likely to continue the blunders of the past because actors with the capacity to make a difference feel no need to do so…and often commit considerable resources to defeating change agents seeking good public policy and adequate funding of public institutions.

We see that inequality threatens much more fire consequences than initial discrepancies in economic opportunity and quality-of-life. It has the capacity to snowball, preventing meaningful public policy decisions and actions that could reverse the quickly unfolding economic disaster.

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In the US, what to do?

Life in America ain’t what it used to be. Wages are stagnant, debt is growing, opportunities are few, and a sense of powerlessness has taken hold. Many commentators cite growing inequality as the primary catalyst. The post-1970 divergence of wealth began a long period of flat wages and less opportunity.

But decades-long economic trends like inequality are not purely random events.  While there is always a possibility of “unintended consequences,” these trends are more likely the result of deep thought, planning, and the misguided actions of democratic representatives.  Recent history is full of examples: the repeal of Glass-Steagall and Bush tax cuts come to mind.

But scouring the history books and pondering actions not taken are all worthless unless done within the context of the future.

The mechanism for achieving a better future is public policy that tears down the foundations of the current system. More oversight of the Federal Reserve, simplification of the tax code, effective campaign finance reform, and restoration of civil rights are obvious examples. But these common sense policies are perennially blocked by the government that’s supposed to help.

Most would agree that this is because our politicians are beholden to Wall Street and many other groups that have profited from post-1971 wage stagnation and inequality.  They’re intelligent folks – they reinvested their profits in the pockets of Congressmen. This has paid off handsomely – creating a mesh of legal protections and skewed public policy obediently enacted by the “representatives of the people.”   It is no surprise that used car salesman and Communism have a better approval rating than the US Congress.

Unfortunately, this is what we have to work with.  Until we realize this and start engaging our elected officials and the parties, they will continue listening to Wal-mart and DC lobbyists, and that means the stakes are high.  However weak and ineffective it may be, the Democratic Party has generally defended the social safety net, plus civil rights and economic protections.

At this point, continued apathy or wholesale withdrawal from their “tent” is unwise – weakening them only strengthens the defenders of corporate America, making their eventual downfall a more difficult task.

Absent some compelling reason – abandonment of Medicare, perhaps –  backing party progressives sympathetic to the middle class is a great idea.  A strong Democratic Party, reinvigorated by activism and broad support, can help in the struggle against our economic overlords.

Let’s start by reelecting President Obama… and putting Democrats on notice that pandering to radical right-wing policy or going along with murderous, wasteful foreign wars are no longer acceptable.

The alternative is a Romney Administration … putting middle class interests at risk and better times even further off in the future.

 

 

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Ayn Rand’s Nightmare is Today’s Wall Street » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

From Counterpunch.org:

Some great commentary on the perversion of Objectivism brought about by the folly of backers of Wall Street’s criminal, parasitic class…

Ayn Rand’s Nightmare is Today’s Wall Street » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

The high priestess of corporate deregulation and free markets, Ayn Rand, wrote a novella in the 1930s.  It was published in the U.S. in 1946 under the title, Anthem, by a corporate front group, a precursor to today’s astroturf groups.  Anthem is currently being pumped into high schools across the U.S. and Canada with financial inducements to both teachers and students by a corporate funded nonprofit that has the financial support of some of the largest hedge funds in the U.S.

The book presents a frightening dystopian world produced by the ever present Randian trademark – an out of control government.  People are known by numbers instead of names; individual rights have been eviscerated. To break the will of the individual, uttering the word “I” results in being burned alive in the  town square.  (Charming high school literature.)

What has happened today, however, proves that in a country dominated by powerful multinational corporations, Rand not only had the wrong target of big government in her cross hairs but the despotic enemy became the very deregulated market she helped design with acolytes like former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and her corporate cronies.

The epicenter of the “free market” – Wall Street – which has had 70 years of corporate propaganda chipping away at its government restraints, is the modern day embodiment of every demon Rand feared in her copious journals and books.  Not only are Wall Street workers muzzled but they must profess written loyalty to their masters who characterize them as mere numbers rather than humans.

Employees for the major Wall Street firms must sign away their right to access the nation’s courts in any dispute with their employer.  A crony-run arbitration system that relies on “equity” rather than the rule of law replaces the taxpayer supported court system where the jury is randomly selected from a large pool. The U.S. Supreme Court has enshrined Wall Street’s ability to serve as judge and jury in multiple decisions. Congress has failed to get a bill out of committee to outlaw these kangaroo courts in two decades of documented abuse.

One of the largest Wall Street firms requires workers to sign that they have read and understood the following statement in order to remain employed at the firm.

To read the rest of this piece, courtesy of CounterPunch, click the following link:  Ayn Rand’s Nightmare is Today’s Wall Street » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

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GOP 2012: Campaign of racist hatred

Santorum aide backtracks after stating Obama administration pursuing “radical Islamic policies…” … Santorum compares Americans’ sentiments in mulling second Obama term to what US faced during rise of Adolf Hitler in Europe … follows comments questioning Obama’s spirituality & earlier incident with supporters claiming Obama is “avowed Muslim” … changing conversation from anti-Gay, anti-women’s health rhetoric to xenophobic hate language … GOP disintegrating into fundamentalist, extremist paranoia … commentators cite hate-filled talk radio and conservative echo chamber …

www.washingtonpost.com

Comment on President Obama’s “radical Islamic policies” was a mistake, she says.


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February 20, 2012 · 11:19 pm