November 2003 Archives

by David R. Remer PoliWatch.Org

The President's surprise visit, (no doubt for security reasons), had all of the patina of McArthur's filmed return to the Phillipines, or Nixon's trip to China. But, this effort to display his role as Commander In Chief, friend of American troops, hides none of the political reason for the war, the poltiical reason for the photo-op, or the political reason for pushing headlines about American miltary deaths off the front pages.

Nor will it do much to hide the oncoming wave of criticism and disbelief as American's learn of the administration's review of calling up the draft of American youth to fight Bush's wars. America's war is with the terrorists and their supporters who attacked our land and people. Half the people in this land don't want this war in Iraq to continue taking American lives. Yet, on the floor of Congress, discussion and warnings of reinstating conscription to fight Bush's wars as well as America's war can be heard. The last time I saw the draft conscript American youth into a war they did not agree with, I saw our nation torn apart with images of a police state shooting and killing unarmed students protesting the war on a college campus.

Friendly visit to the troops for a much needed bolster of morale or a politcal stunt like that photo-op on an aircraft carrier all but declaring victory. You decide.

And where is that victory, anyway, that is supposed to mark the end of our military losses?

Extremes to Demise

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In response to Dustin Frelich's excellently crafted article on WatchBlog, entitled Conservatives Debate Medicare, I reply in the following way. I understand the philosophy behind those Republicans who believe that social programs are bad for America. It is a philosophy born out of a gross misunderstanding and confusion about the bi-polar extremes of free enterprise fostered by Milton Friedman followers, and socialism as implemented under communist and authoritarian regimes. They fail to recognize that social programs saved this nation after the most horrible of depressions in the 1930's and an extremely costly WWII which would have bankrupt this nation had it not been for the social programs that trained workers and put them to work on public works, and insured those who did work, a modicum of financial dignity upon retirement.

They fail to recognize that social programs do in fact, work today in countries that are democratic and provide benefits America cannot provide its citizens. This is not to say that social programs don't come without opportunity costs. But free enterprise is not without its costs in greed, class segregation, and tiering of society. Free enterprise costs Americans billions each year in fraud, corruption, tax evasion, and a black market that is second to none in the world. There is no freer enterprise than the black market. It makes and enforces its own rules, pays no taxes, defeats all attempts to regulate it and gives very little benefit back to society. That is free enterprise in its purest form.

France has less than a 40 hour work week, and all citizens are assured of basic health and education and training services. Canada has a health care system that recognizes the immorality of being a wealthy nation and leaving 40 plus million of its citizens without health care, experiencing pain and suffering and shorter lives all because they can't afford the free enterprise health care. Granted, Canada will never be a major exporter of medical and pharmaceutical technology, and non emergencies wait months for an appointment, but that is the trade off. It does work and provides benefits America does not.

But, what frustrates me is the short-sightedness of both party's extremes. The ultra-liberals, who believe more or less, that in a wealthy nation all citizens should be relatively wealthy, would sacrifice America's economic engine driven by capital markets and investments and corporate growth, research and development.

The ultra conservatives on the other hand, would take us back to the 19th century when captains of industry and inherited wealth felt and acted as if they alone were entitled to make the laws that supported them and workers were little more than a natural resource to be consumed, depleted, and replaced at the lowest cost possible. They relied on the eleemosynary system to assist those who were infirm, disabled, too young or too old, or too uneducated to be employed as a cog in the machine. And during those times, free enterprise and the eleemosynary system, relating to charity or giving alms; dependent on charity utterly failed millions and millions of Americans resulting in premature deaths, horrible suffering and abuse in charitable institutions, and total abandonment by society of millions of persons due to there simply not being enough charity dollars to go around.

America has been a blend of socialism and free enterprise, a mixed economy, since FDR and this balancing act between free enterprise and social programs like public education, social security, government supported and union fought for employer paid health insurance and retirement plans, Medicare and Medicaid were a part of making America the most powerful economic, military, and international force in the world, in addition to becoming the envy of 100's of millions throughout the world.

Ultra-conservatives would take us back to the 19th Century, and ultra Liberals would take down our ability to assist other nations financially, to lead the world in information and medical technology through a redistribution of wealth that would choke investments the size of which are necessary to remain a leading nation and force in the world for good.

In my opinion, the Republican party has gone considerably too far to the right to maintain America's 20th century heritage of growing living standards for all, and aging with dignity, and dramatically reducing suffering as a result of poverty and ending sub-subsistence level wages and benefits for an honest days work.

The Democrats at least are not working to end free enterprise or cripple America's economic leadership. But the Republicans appear hell bent on eliminating the concept of a wealthy nation sharing enough of its wealth through taxation and social programs to insure all of its citizens a fruitful, and relatively anxiety and stress free quality of life. A life for parents and care givers that grants them the ability to pass on the assurance of a quality of life to their children unrivaled in the rest of the world should be a goal for the wealthiest nation in the world.

In a free democracy, persons are free to ruin their lives. But in a free wealthy democracy, all citizens who work 40 hours a week provide the very stuff that makes our economic system great. Where would IBM or Microsoft or Chase Manhattan be without janitors, without clerks, security guards and on and on? They would be knee deep in disorganization that's where.

A janitor should be entitled to a decent wage that provides home ownership, a reliable vehicle, health insurance, a retirement plan, and the ability to save for his/her children's educational choices and assistance in getting their start in life as productive adults. For without that janitor, our nation would collapse. Without that clerk, that secretary, that server at Luby's, that maid at the hotel, free enterprise would grind to a halt in a heck of a hurry.

The white collar manager should make more than a janitor because the manager made a greater investment in either education or career experience, or simply was born with talents in more limited supply. But the laborer's work is as valuable to this nation as any white collar manager's and they should be entitled to a share of the nation's wealth that provides a life with dignity and hope, not struggle, frustration and despair. Without the laborer, there would be no great nation, just as without managers, there would be no great nation. Those whose work is indispensable to our economic system should earn a middle class wage and benefits, and if employers cannot bear the full load, some wealth distribution through a progressive tax system or at least a flat rate tax system is justified by history, economic practice of the past, rational and ethical grounds.

Nothing even close to this kind of thinking or debate is taking place in the Republican led Congress and it is clear from the President's actions, that no such thoughts are contained in policies he is promoting. Much of the President's rhetoric at election time and today are aimed at selling himself as some champion of quality of life for all Americans, but, his programs and policies and executive orders reflect nothing of the kind. I fear for America's future if centrists are unable to take the helm of this great government of ours in November of 2004, be they Republican, Democrat, Green or otherwise.

by David Remer PoliWatch.Org 11/23/03

An excellent article entitled Money Talks at MotherJones.com depicts the dilemma of campaign finance reform and how it hasn't a prayer of meeting tax payer's and citizen's expectations. President Bush's reelection strategy is pure and simple, outspend the critics and dominate the media with his own message and campaign finance reform be damned. This strategy has forced chief proponents of campaign finance reform to forego abiding by the reforms they talked and fought so hard to implement. For they cannot protect and further campaign finance reform if they cannot be elected.

The Energy Bill Fiasco

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by David Remer PoliWatch.Org 11/19/03

Sen. Pete Domenici (R) of New Mexico, the chief spokesperson for the current Energy Bill which has come out of conference committee before the Senate for ratification states again and again that if we don't pass this bill now, there will be no energy bill for as many as 10 years. He propounded a list of energy companies that went on and on that would benefit from the bill.

Sen. John McCain and a host of Democrats have flat out stated this bill hurts the American public. It will bloat the deficit without generating jobs in return. It will not address the contract manipulations enacted by Enron, and in fact, permits them to continue. The Energy bill will not enhance energy security, it destroys many environmental protections and gives billions of tax payer dollars to energy companies and corn farmers and does nothing to lower the cost of energy for the American public. And most egregious is the fact that fuel producers have knowingly produced MTBE, a chemical known to cause cancer among a host of other maladies and has now been surveyed to have poisoned ten's of thousands Americans. Leaking fuel tanks send the MTBE chemical into the ground and surface water drinking water sources. The Bill will provide safe harbor to those energy companies insuring they cannot be sued for illnesses incurred from the MTBE's nor for any clean up of water sources that have been contaminated and which in turn are destroying property values for whole communities.

Finally, and in the long run, the most devastating consequence of this Energy Bill is the fact that it provides no focused, concerted, concrete, coordinated plan to enhance, insure, and secure American energy nor does it go anywhere in the future to reduce America's dependency upon foreign oil.

This bill began with the proposal that the President wanted an energy bill passed this year. The only way that was going to happen was to stuff the bill with pork for energy lobbyists, grant non-energy pork to key congressman whose votes would be needed, and at all costs, keep the details of the bill from public and congressional view by Democrats and even Republicans who would likely delay the progress of the passing the bill out of conference with objections designed to represent the what would be best for the American people. The bill contains some very good components like ethanol production. But, they are so outweighed in cost and benefit by the negatives in this bill, that newspaper editorials across the country are stating America will be better off without an energy plan than it will be to adopt this one.

I have watched this bill debated in the Senate for hours now, and it is obvious that the system that is supposed to lead America to greatness, the system that is supposed to protect the American public, the system that is supposed to design programs for the benefit of the economy, the voters, the environment is completely broken. This bill demonstrates that the only factor guiding legislation today is greed by lobbyist business interests and power hungry Congresspersons who place election contributions above the needs and interests of the American people and their country.

Finally, America is poised to become a world leader in cheap, renewable, and environmentally friendly fuel technology. But, that opportunity is squandered by this bill by granting the billions and billions of dollars that should be put into the development of that technology to create jobs and make the U.S. the main exporter of this technology, into subsidization of already profitable corporate farmers and energy companies and even new nuclear power plants to generate ever more radioactive waste that we already can't afford to store or dispose of. If this bill passes in the Senate, it will be a sad day in history indeed, only outweighed by 9/11.

Medicare: A shell game.

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by David Remer PoliWatch.Org

Amy Goldstein and Helen Dewar, Washington Post writers, entitled their article, Republican Medicare Plan Faces Challenges. It might have been more appropriately entitled, The Great Congressional Shell Game. When the GOP and the Whitehouse announced they were selling the plan before the 1100+ page document is even completed and before more than just a handful of Congresspersons even know what it contains, I knew it was time for alarm.

Some of the writing is on the wall. With all the good deregulation that brought us Enron, the ExxonMobil suits, the 401K money market illegal thefts of investors funds, and higher utility costs, the new Medicare Bill will turn a corner of good will and regulate where patients can get their care, underpay millions of citizens through recipient paid membership cards, annual deductibles which increase over time, increase pay for doctors and hospitals and do nothing to lower the costs of prescription drugs. There has to be some good things about the Bill, right?

Maybe! One of the proposals appears to be good on its face, but, in fact, may turn out to be little more than a ruse to help sell the Bill. One of the proposals is to permit recipients to purchase medications from Canada at lower costs. Sounds good. But, while the Bill may allow for it, it could begin only with the permission of federal health officials who have openly opposed the idea. This may be a case of what the one hand giveth, the other taketh away.

Sen. Tom Daschle (D) states, "It keeps drug prices high, causes 2 to 3 million retirees to lose drug coverage and coerces seniors into HMOs." Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R) (Maine), said, "I remain deeply concerned about the specific impact this 'agreement in principle' will have in the real world for millions of Americans who count on Medicare for their health coverage, in particular the untested premium support plan,". Snowe refers to the Bill's proposal to invite private plans to compete directly with Medicare in the future which could lead to a complete privatization of Medicare. The AARP's leaders have indicated favor with some of the proposals but refuse to endorse it until they have a written copy of the Bill for review.

A prescription drug benefit was largely pushed for by Democrats who would now be politically vulnerable to opposing the bill no matter how much of it they disagree with. Some Republicans can comfortably view this Bill as a first installment on the complete privatization of medical care in America leaving quality care for those who can afford it (have earned it) and charitable assistance for the rest of Americans who can't afford health insurance (didn't earn it). In the final analysis, senior citizens are going to get an overhauled Medicare program fashioned in an election year which may do more harm than good and promise a lot now, but, give very little for the participant's dollar later on.

While socialized medicine simply would not fit the American societal model, a single payer plan through the federal government is where America has to end up. It would be so much less expensive to establish today, than it will be a decade or two from now. But, visionaries seem to be a bit scarce in these days of fear and deficits on both sides of the aisle.

by David Remer - PoliWatch.Org

We usually associate one party government with fascism, authoritarianism, or fantasy utopia wherein all persons are healthy, happy, and equal in all ways that matter. In a democracy however, it is very possible to have a one party government which does not meet any of the above criteria. We are witnessing it now in large part. A one party government is not necessarily a cause for alarm about our democracy. Today, however, the stage is set for a potential threat to our democracy as great as that witnessed by the Civil War.

The U.S. currently has a Republican President and a Republican majority in both the houses of Congress, though by a slim margin in the Senate. It is only the slim margin in the Senate which still permits filibuster power by the Democrats, and the split Supreme Court with equal liberal and conservative Justices and one swing Justice who votes on either side depending on the issue, which prevents the U.S. from factually being a one party government. This is not historically unique in the U.S. however; during periods in the 20th century when Democrats constituted a near one party government, the Democratic Party itself was healthily diverse with its own conservative, centrist, and liberal wings of the party.

Beginning with the Reagan years and accelerating through the Clinton years, a polarization has taken place between the Conservatives and Liberals. This polarization has resulted in large part with the loss of the more liberal wing of the Republican Party and the conservative wing of Democratic Party. In addition, there has been a growth in two minor parties, the Green Party and the Libertarian Party, as well as a significant growth in what is termed Independent voters who do not constitute a party at all. To the Green Party many ultra liberals who abandoned the Democratic Party have migrated. And to the Libertarian Party some of the ultra conservatives who abandoned the Republican Party have migrated.

The current state of all this migration has resulted in roughly 1/3 of registered voters being Democrat, 1/3 being Republican, and 1/3 falling into the Libertarian, Green, third party, and Independent camps. Also, it has left the Democratic Party with little more than very liberal and somewhat liberal makeup. And similarly this has left the Republican Party with little more than somewhat conservative and very conservative supporters. One other significant group of citizens should be mentioned here, namely, the disaffected non-voters who for a variety of reasons do not participate in the political process. This non-voters group is rapidly approaching equal numbers with all registered voters. But for the purpose of examining one party vs. multiple party government, they are relatively of little consequence save for their growing numbers.

Thus, when it comes to elections, the U.S. has only two predominant parties vying for office, the liberal Democrats and the conservative Republicans. And issues such as abortion, socialized programs like public education, health insurance, and social security, regulation of industries and business, foreign affairs, and wealth distribution or accrual through taxation have become very polarized issues between the two parties. This polarization between two such equally represented parties sets the stage for a scenario which could constitute a very real threat American democracy.

Whether Democrat or Republican, one party domination in the executive and legislative branches of government will represent the views, and satisfy the requirements of government, by little more than 1/3 of the citizenry of the nation. This is not majority rule. Currently, the Republican Party fails to satisfy the expectations of government by almost all Democrats, all Greens, most Libertarians, a significant portion of independent voters and a significant number of non-voters. The situation would be the same today if the Democrats held control of government instead of Republicans. This fact alone however is insufficient to result in a threat to democracy. Two other components are required to convert this situation into a threat to democracy

The first is sustained one party domination for a period of 8 or more years, Should the Iraq situation improve, even modestly by summer of 2004, and should the economy show improvement, even if only marginally, the Republicans may easily hold control of government for an additional 4 years. This is significant, because the tension and frustration level by non-Republicans will swell. Partisanship will become ever more vitriolic, and bitter. With a minority party ruling for another presidential election cycle, the fear of no end to such one party rule will manifest itself in a host of ways all to the detriment of unseating the ruling party.

The Democratic Party will incur internal dissent as competing views and strategies for overcoming in the next election cycle reach a fevered pitch. Contributions and affiliation with the Democratic Party will drop off as more and more citizens view the Democratic Party as ineffective and even obstructionist. While this may result in growing defections to third parties and independent voter status, the effect will only entrench the Republican hold on government in following election cycles. Thus the ability through the democratic election process to unseat a minority ruling party will diminish.

The second and final component required to constitute a real threat to democracy in our land is for government through action or inaction, to cause, or be held responsible for, a serious blow to the quality of life of a large minority of citizens outside the party holding power. It does not take a crystal ball to recognize a myriad of situations, economic, international, or domestic which could bring this about. Following are only a few examples. North Korean escalation of nuclear militarism. Outbreak of U.S. developed biological weapon like the anthrax released not long ago. Prolonged escalation and growth of terrorism. Growth of the American anarchist movement. Failure by the American system to successfully make the transition away from manufacturing. Attempts by the U.S., EU, Russia or China to militarize responses to changes in economic trading inequities. A series of serious terrorist attacks on U.S. citizens. Or something as simple as the growth of a black market based on identity theft from citizen's mailboxes all across America.

With a one party government which we already have in large part and are likely to continue for another 4 years, and any events like those listed above, we could generate the kind of patriotic movement by unrepresented Americans who demand revolution to take down the one party unresponsive government in the hopes of installing one which will be far more representative and responsive to majority demands and needs. Since the electoral process will be unable to change the one party system, only one option will be left to those demanding change. That option may only be that chosen by the colonialists to throw off the yoke of the British one King system of rule.

The stage is set. November of 2004 will tell if the one party actors remain on that stage. And all that remains for a revolutionary demise of our democracy will be an ill fated event that demonstrates to a large minority of citizens that the one party system has failed and will continue to fail generations to come, if citizens do not take action to alter the course of a minority one party rule in America. The British regarded the colonialist activists as terrorists. American history judged them great patriots. No doubt, if this play is presented as written above, the activists will be called both, and the polarization in America will be devastating until resolution is brought forth.

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