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By Jose Antonio Rodriguez 

“The Tea Party acted like terrorists in threatening to blow up the economy,” said Vice President Joe Biden, according to Politico, during a two-hour meeting with angry House Democrats. In a CBS interview, the Vice President denied using the “terrorism word”. Kendra Barkoff, Biden’s spokesperson, added further clarification: “The word was used by several members of Congress. The vice president does not believe it’s an appropriate term in political discourse.” The closed-door caucus meeting took place amidst the scramble to pass a deal to raise the debt limit before the August 2nd deadline, a deal that some Democrats called a “Satan sandwich”.

The perpetually thin-skinned Sarah Palin, the former Governor of Alaska and John McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate during the 2008 election, immediately took offense to the comment. “To be called a terrorist because of our beliefs from the vice president, it’s quite appalling, it’s quite vile,” she said during a Fox News interview. Of course, she herself is quite famous for casually throwing around the “terrorism word”. During the 2008 election, Palin famously accused then-Senator Barack Obama of “pallin’ around” with terrorists, a reference to the fact that Obama sat onChicagoeducation boards with a former member of the Weather Underground named Bill Ayers. Indeed, Palin resurrected those allegations, saying, “He didn’t have a problem palling around with Bill Ayers back in the day when he kicked off his political career in Bill Ayers’ apartment… You know, shaking hands with Chavez and saying he doesn’t need any preconditions with dictators… wanting to read U.S. Miranda rights to alleged, suspected foreign terrorists.” She added that, if she and her ilk were actually terrorists, “heck, shoot, President Obama would be wanting to pal around with us, wouldn’t he?”

It should be added that Paul O’Neil, a Treasury Secretary for President George W. Bush, made remarks similar to the ones that House Democrats made during the meeting with Vice President Biden: “[The] people who are threatening not to pass the debt ceiling are our version of al Qaeda terrorists. Really — they’re really putting our whole society at risk by threatening to round up 50 percent of the members of the Congress, who are loony, who would put our credit at risk.”

But how far off the mark are Paul O’Neil and the angry Democrats? Not that far.

The U.S. Department of Defense defines terrorism as: “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” The TEA Party backed freshmen in the House, elected in 2010, have threatened to shut down the government and throw it into default. More recently, they have shut down the Federal Aviation Agency, resulting in the furlough of 74,000 people, the halting of about 200 construction jobs, and causing the federal government to lose out on roughly $30 million a day in revenue. In every instance, these TEA Party backed members of the House have held the American people hostage, threatening to inflict economic violence if their narrow political, ideological demands are not met. Their efforts have supporters in conservative corners and from the Facebook page of the former Mayor of Wasilla. “Don’t retreat,” Sarah Palin routinely reminds her supporters. “Reload.” Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, had this to say about the tactics of the House Republicans: “If you hold one-half of one-third of the reins of power in Washington, and are willing to use and maintain that kind of discipline even if you will bring the entire temple down around your own head, there is a pretty good chance that you are going to get your way.”

This is not the first time our government has been threatened by right-wing zealots, however.

In the elections of 1994, Republicans took control of the House and Senate. Led by Newt Gingrich and motivated by his “Contract with America”—or, as Democrats termed it, the Contract on America—right-wing ideologues in Congress sought to reshape the government by gutting programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, the Environmental Protection Agency, and programs for the poor, such as Head Start, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Contract withAmerica also outlined an ambitious agenda, which included legislation for a balanced budget amendment and term limits.  Gingrich, the new Speaker of the House, even threatened to not raise the debt ceiling. These right-wing freshmen were operating on two assumptions: (1) that the American people had provided them with an historic mandate to carry out their agenda and (2) that President Bill Clinton would cave in to their demands.  After all, the American people just overwhelmingly swept the Republicans into power for the first time in over forty years. On the second point, they believed that President Clinton was politically weakened by scandals, which were manufactured by ultra-conservative Clinton-haters and fueled by a pliant media; they also believed that he was without convictions of any kind and lacked moral fortitude. By the end of 1995, they would be proved wrong on both fronts.

On the night of November 13, 1995, hours away from an impending government shut down, Republican leaders of Congress met with President Clinton in order to craft a last minute budget deal. Just a few days earlier, the Republican controlled Congress sent the President a budget that inflicted draconian cuts to entitlements and programs that millions of Americans depended upon. They also sent him a bill to raise the debt ceiling for another thirty days. The President, much to the surprise of the Republican leadership, vetoed both bills. During the tense, last minute negotiations in the White House, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Speaker Gingrich made conciliatory statements, while the zealous Dick Armey (now the leader of the TEA Party group Freedomworks) verbally attacked the President. Armey accused the President of fear-mongering, saying that he “could hardly get” his mother-in-law “into a nursing home, you guys have scared her so much.” President Clinton, who still nursed resentment over Armey’s claim that Hillary Clinton was a Marxist, lashed out at Armey: “I don’t know about your mother-in-law, but let me tell you, there are a lot of older women who are going to do pretty darn bad under your budget.” The President was feeling his blood boil. “So don’t expect any pity from me.” Armey, in a moment of petulance, retorted that the Republicans would shut down the government and effectively endClinton’s presidency. “If you want to pass your budget,” the President said with a glance to Bob Dole, who was planning to run for the presidency in 1996, “you will have to put somebody else in this chair!” As if to signal that the meeting was now over, the President declared that he didn’t “care if I go to five percent in the polls. I am not going to sign your budget. It is wrong. It is wrong for the country.”

At midnight, the government shut down began. Nearly 800,000 federal employees were furloughed and the lives of millions of Americans were inconvenienced. In order to prevent default, Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin borrowed $61 billion from retirement funds and employed some financial gimmicks, a move that elicited cries for his impeachment from Republicans who preferred that the country be thrown into default. Briefly, the government shut down ended, and it appeared that there would be a budget deal. But the Republican lead Congress continued to send the President bills that unnecessarily inflicted economic pain on the most vulnerable Americans. So, it was not to be, and the government was shut down for a second time. The American people were angry. The poll numbers for Republicans (and Gingrich in particular) plummeted, while the President’s poll numbers skyrocketed. In some polls, his numbers were almost 70% among likely voters over the age of 50. The American people rejected the extremism of the right-wing ideologues and supported President Clinton’s defense of programs that helped millions of Americans keep their heads above water. They rewarded him for not caving in to the demands of over-zealous Republicans, who were holding the American people and the economy hostage. In early January 1996, a contrite Gingrich apologized toClinton, saying, “We made a mistake. We thought you would cave.” On January 6, the government was back in business.

It is difficult not to look back over the last year and see that President Obama has, time and time again, been rolled by House Republicans, lead by Speaker of the House John Boehner. He has caved in to the demands of the TEA-orists, who have threatened to wreak economic violence if their demands are not met. In the wake of the recent debt limit deal, Speaker Boehner has boasted that he got 98% of what he wanted. Emboldened, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hinted that his party would continue the tactics that have allowed them to cut spending and risk government default. “I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this— it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming.” The deal allows the debt ceiling to be raised until early 2013, but it cuts nearly a trillion dollars in discretionary spending over the next ten years and creates a bipartisan committee, which will be tasked with cutting an additional 1.5 trillion dollars.  The TEA Partiers have thrown sanity into the wind. Though they brought the nation to the brink of economic devastation, many refused to vote for the deal that provided them with virtually everything they wanted and virtually nothing that the President wanted. These are people who will not take yes for an answer.

Not everyone is thrilled about the deal. Obviously, Democrats are enraged. Some progressive groups, such as MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, are threatening to withhold support for the President’s 2012 campaign. Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winning economist, has described the debt deal as an economic “disaster”, warning that it will make our deficit problem worse and “takeAmericaa long way down the road to banana-republic status.” Lawrence Summers, a former economic advisor to President Obama, said that there is a “one in three chance” that there will be a double-dip recession. Standard & Poor, a major credit rating agency, has also responded to the debt deal by downgradingAmerica’s top credit rating. In a statement following the downgrade, S&P cited a dysfunctional political system and a failure to produce a credible, balanced plan. “The majority of Republicans in Congress,” a representative from S&P said, “continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.” The American people, according to recent polls, also strongly dislike the deal. According to a CNN poll, 52% of Americans disapprove of the debt deal. The poll also found that three out of four Americans would describe elected officials as “spoiled children”. A New York Times/CBS News poll, for example, has Congress’s approval rating at a dismal 14%. Speaker Boehner’s disapproval rating is at 57%, ten points higher than the President’s. Public approval of the TEA Party is at a mere 20%. There are signs of hope for the White House in the polls, however. According to the latter poll, the American people trust President Obama over the Republicans with economic issues. They also blame Republicans for the crisis, believing that they refused to compromise. Despite all the drama, President Obama still stands with a 48% approval rating.

 

At some point, President Obama is going to have to take a stand and draw a line in the sand.  During the debt ceiling negotiations, he warned Rep. Eric Cantor: “Don’t call my bluff.” Yet, when they called his bluff, President Obama caved. In 1995, President Clinton demonstrated that he had conviction and moral fortitude. He held firm, risking his political career, and refused to be rolled by the right-wing zealots who were trying to gut government programs and remake the country in their image. When the dust settled, President Clinton not only succeeded in his 1996 election, but his fiscal discipline resulted in a balanced budget and a projected surplus in the trillions of dollars. Today, President Obama faces an equally fanatical and nihilistic group of TEA Party backed Republican freshmen who are willing to blow up the economy. Unfortunately, the TEA-orists have learned that they can get their way if they take hostages. This is a fundamental fight for the future of our country. President Obama needs to decide if he has the conviction to risk his poll numbers and his Presidency in order to preserve our way of life and win the future.

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By Jose Rodriguez

 

  

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, out of 11 potential options for Congress, rated unemployment extension as the most likely to stimulate the economy. The least likely: extending the Bush tax cuts, especially for the wealthy. Furthermore, the CBO estimates that every dollar spent on unemployment benefits will generate up to $1.90 in economic activity. Others, such as the Labor Department, argue that there is $2.00 worth of economic activity for every spent dollar. It is a basic fact that people who are unemployed spend every dollar in unemployment insurance that they receive, which fuels economic activity. Conversely, tax cuts for the rich tend to only generate somewhere between 10 and 40 cents of economic activity for every dollar, because the rich tend to save their money, not spend it.

            Not extending unemployment benefits would have a deleterious impact on the already slow pace of economic recovery. With current low demand and excess supply, failure to extend unemployment benefits would further contract the economy and make it even more difficult for employers to hire new workers. The CBO estimates that the economy could see a 1% decline in GDP growth and up to one million additional people could lose their jobs. It goes without saying that we would have hundreds of thousands of people fall into poverty. A recent report by the Census Bureau found that over one out of three people cannot “make ends meet” at a basic level. Not extending unemployment insurance to Americans suffering from unemployment during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression would be a moral outrage.

 

 

The suggestion, posited by many conservatives, that people are simply too lazy to get a job would be laughable were it not so incredibly offensive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report last August that indicated that there were five job seekers for every job listing. More specifically, there were 14.6 million people who were unemployed, but only 2.9 million job openings. Those numbers have shifted somewhat in recent months, but the ratio is constant. The misconception that the unemployed are simply lazy reflects a world view that suggests Americans are spoiled and feel entitled. The reality, in this economic crisis, is that Americans are struggling to keep their heads above water. They are struggling to survive. So, the notion that cutting off aid to lazy, spoiled Americans will get them back to work is completely false. Americans want to work, but there are simply not enough jobs.

 The American economy is a consumer driven economy. And right now, Americans do not have the money to consume as much as they used to, which has driven demand downward. Now, corporations are sitting on $1.8 trillion. They claim that they have not invested that money for two reasons: there are excess supplies of goods, so there is no need to invest; and their confidence in the economic outlook is keeping them from making any risks in future investments. Others, such as myself, believe that there is a political dynamic, as well. Corporate America has not been happy with the Obama administration’s attempts to regulate the economy, or his desire to end the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Under President Bush, regulations were ignored, regulators were in bed (in some cases literally) with the people they were supposed to be monitoring, and corporations could count on President Bush to side with them. Fareed Zakaria, in a Washington Post column, made this case, as well. In discussions with business leaders, he found that most of them complained more about President Obama than their economic or financial concerns. He found that most of them felt similarly: “… [President Obama] has almost no private-sector experience, that he’s made clear he thinks government and nonprofit work are superior to the private sector. It all added up to a profound sense of distrust.”

It is an agreed fact that during periods of economic booms generous unemployment benefits reduce the incentives for people to find employment. However, we are not currently in a period of economic success. We are crawling out of the bowels of an economic crash. In 2003, in testimony before the Joint Economic Committee, Alan Greenspan made comments about unemployment benefits which can be applied to today’s debate about the issue: “Unemployment insurance is essentially restrictive because it’s been our perception that we don’t want to create incentives for people not to take jobs. But when you’re in a period of job weakness, where it is not a choice on the part of people whether they’re employed or unemployed, then obviously you want to be temporarily generous. We ought to be temporarily generous. And I think that’s what we have done in the past and it has worked well. […]I think that because it is stringent in normal periods, that one should recognize that people who lose jobs not because they did anything and can’t find new ones, you have a different form of problem, which means that you have to allow the unemployment system to be much broader and, indeed, that’s what we need to do.” People who now find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own should not be left out to dry. Not only is it morally indefensible, it is economically unsound.

                                              

 

 

 

By Jose Rodriguez

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and scum-bag who asked his ex-wife for a divorce while she was in a hospital undergoing cancer treatment, is hoping to run for president in 2012.

 Asked by the Richmond Times-Dispatch about a possible run in 2012, Gingrich replied, “Callista and I will look seriously and we’ll probably get our family totally engaged, including our two grandchildren, probably in January, 2011.” While he mulls over a presidential bid with his… what? Third wife?… Newt might want to check out the polls. According to a November Quinnipiac poll, he is polling at 15%, which places him behind Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee.

Meanwhile, Newt might need to see a doctor, because he is suffering from a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease.

During the controversy over the so-called Ground Zero mosque, Newt compared the construction of a mosque several minutes and blocks from Ground Zero to the construction of a Nazi sign outside of the Holocaust museum: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington… there is no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.”

Before that regrettable (to decent people) comment, Gingrich described Sonia Sotomayor (President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court) as a racist. He even recommended that President Obama withdraw her name from nomination. The accusation came from a mischaracterization of a speech she gave, during which she used the words “wise Latina woman.” Though he later apologized for using that term, he nevertheless continued to believe the sentiment: “My initial reaction was strong and direct — perhaps too strong and too direct. … Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice. … The word ‘racist’ should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable.”

More recently, Newt bought into a ludicrous article by Dinesh D’Souza, which suggested that President Obama is heavily influenced by his father’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview (since when was being anti-colonial a bad thing?). He went on to say, “This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president.” According to David Frum, a former Bush aide and speechwriter, Newt’s comments were an example of race-baiting, as well as an attempt to trump his extremist credentials for the radical right-wingers in the TEA Party: “When last was there such a brazen outburst of race-baiting in the service of partisan politics at the national level? George Wallace took more care to sound race-neutral.”

It is not surprising then to hear that Newt blames our economic woes on the lazy unemployed. At a South Carolina event, attended by 250 Republican activists, Newt said, “I’m opposed to giving people money for doing nothing.” What is even sadder is the fact that the audience cheered loudly. In his view, the nation wasted $134 billion dollars on people who “do nothing for 99 weeks” and “got nothing for it.”

Yup. That’s Newt.

So, let’s evaluate his assertion that we “got nothing” for extending unemployment benefits for people out of work.

Let’s first dispel the notion that the unemployed are lazy people who could easily find a job in no time. According to data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is roughly one job for every five unemployed people. There are simply not enough jobs and there are simply too many people looking for work. It is shameful and immoral for anyone to suggest that the unemployed are simply lazy.

Secondly, let’s look at the claim that we “got nothing” for our $134 billion extension of unemployment benefits. According to the non-partisan  Congressional Budget Office, every dollar spent on unemployment insurance generates up to $1.90 in economic growth. From a list of 11 options for stimulating the economy, extending unemployment benefits was at number one. Last? Extending the Bush tax cuts, which, according to CBO Director Doug Elmendorf, “would worsen the fiscal outlook” of our economy.

 

All I can say is this: Good luck, Newt. If comments like the ones you have made over the last year will characterize your presidential campaign, then I will enjoy watching you battle Sarah Palin for the Republican nomination.

It’ll be fun to watch. And, for President Barack Obama, it will be a cake walk to re-election.

The Republicans in Congress have proven that they hate the poor and middle class, but really love the rich. Recently, they allowed unemployment benefits for 2 million people to expire. They have also blocked several attempts by Democrats to continue the Bush tax cuts for the bottom 98% of Americans. Talk about class warfare.

Yet President Obama has not done very much to exploit this. He has, instead, proclaimed that he will work with these people, even though they have bashed him repeatedly. Some Republicans, like Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., the third-ranking House Republican, have said that President Obama and the Democrats do not want anyone to get a tax cut, which is a total lie. Pence stated: “Should Democrats get their way, every income tax bracket will increase on Jan. 1, 2011. Every single one.” While it is true all tax brackets will see a tax increase on January 1, 2011, it will not be because of the Democrats. President Obama has made it clear that he wants to see these tax cuts extended for those families making less than $250,000. He has even indicated that he is willing to make a deal with GOP leaders. The Democrats in Congress have attempted several times to extend the Bush tax cuts for the bottom 98% of Americans, but Republicans like Pence have blocked those pieces of legislation.

Why? Because they exclude the rich. The top 2% of income earners do not need unemployment, so why pass an extension? The top 2% need a tax cut, so why exclude them? This debate only underscores their affinity for the wealthy. They try to cover this by claiming that they are fighting for small business owners. They argue, with no one in the White House really disputing them, that they are trying to stand up for those who are in need of a job, so they cannot fathom a tax hike on the job creators. All of this is a load of crap.

First of all, only 3% of small business owners would be affected by the so-called “tax hike.” Most small business owners do not make $250,000 in profit.

Secondly, the Republicans just blocked the passage of tax cuts for 98% of Americans, just so the top 2% can have $100,000 tax cuts. They are doing this at the same time they are saying that we cannot afford an extension of unemployment benefits and demanding that we start lowering the deficit. It’s hypocrisy and blatant favoritism of the rich. A recent CBO study found that for every dollar spent through unemployment benefits there is as much as $1.90 put into the economy. A dollar spent by the rich from the tax cuts generates somewhere between 10 and forty cents . In fact, the CBO found that extending unemployment benefits would be the best stimulus for our economy, while extending the Bush tax cuts was dead last.

Thirdly, as for it being a “tax hike,” these were tax cuts that were set by President Bush and the Republicans to expire at the end of 2010. These were not implemented as permanent rates, but a temporary tax gimmick to gin up support. Dan Bartlet, a former Bush White House Communications Director, admitted that they deliberately used the tax cut deadline as a trap for future political leaders: “The fact that we were able to lay the trap does feel pretty good, to tell you the truth.”

And lastly, it is a falsehood to suggest that not extending the tax cuts for the rich would have an impact on jobs. When President Bush first introduced the tax cuts, he argued that it would create jobs. Over his eight year term, the economy only added 2.4 million jobs. In Clinton’s first budget, he increased taxes for the rich. By the end of his eight year term, the economy added over 23 million jobs . This is a fact: job creators are motivated by demand. That’s economics 101. As it stands now, the business sector is sitting on 2 trillion dollars, which they are not spending. Why? Because they have excess supply. People do not have the money to purchase things as they have in the past, which is causing this recovery to move sluggishly. So, money is not the problem: demand is. It’s a vicious cycle: many people are out of work or are tightening their fiscal belts, so they do not consume as much, which causes businesses to have excess supply, which then prevents them from investing in their company, precluding any additional employment. And the cycle begins again.

This is why extending unemployment benefits is so important. Not doing so is a job killer. People who are unemployed spend the money they receive, which goes to businesses. Now that 2 million people are not going to be receiving unemployment benefits they will be tightening their fiscal belts even more, which will lead to even more excess supply and less demand. This will create a situation that will make it even harder for the business sector employ people.

But some people would rather pretend that giving the top 2% of income earners a tax cut will create jobs. It won’t.

In the final analysis, it becomes evident that any time the poor or middle class need some help the Republicans can be counted on to ignore their pleas. You get some millionaires and billionaires complaining that they cannot afford to maintain their fifth house or buy the small island they wanted the Republicans are there to lend a helping hand. They like to play the “We feel your pain” game, but they are only doing so in order to score political points. If they really cared, they would have voted for the extension of tax cuts for 98% of Americans and for extending unemployment benefits.

It’s not just the moral thing to do: it’s smart economics.

John McCain is a sore loser.

Ever since President Barack Obama took office, McCain has griped and complained about all of the President’s proposals and has only endorsed policies that reflect the Bush-era way of running the country. Well, George W. Bush is no longer President, and neither are the Republicans. Democrats are now in charge, and John McCain and the GOP can’t stand it. Jon Stewart put it best when he said: “It’s supposed to taste like a shit taco.”
Instead of being an opposition party with constructive ideas and criticisms, they have embraced obstructionism and outright demagoguery, in hopes of regaining seat during the mid-term elections. Their pseudo-populism makes me vomit a little bit.

John McCain put his madness on display last tuesday after a recent Department of Homeland Security report, which warned that right-wing extremist groups have been trying to recruit disillusioned veterans. After the report’s release, John McCain demanded an apology from the White House for “insulting” veterans. But John McCain wasn’t the only one filled with self-righteous anger: Pat Robertson was also hysterical, as he made a complete fool of himself (which he does often) on his show. Robertson was clearly agitated as he complained that the DHS was conducting a witch-hunt against veterans, pro-life groups, gun rights groups, and groups opposed to illegal immigration. Robertson complained that the Obama administration was attempting to take away their basic constitutional rights to free speech. Both McCain and Robertson have intentionally mischaracterized the report.

The cries from the right (and some from within the Democratic party) have grown so loud that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has been forced to apologize on several occasions for the wording in the report, which others have construed to be offensive. There have even been demands that she resign and face a congressional hearing. Jeez! Republicans are so eager to burn Napolitano at the stake for an accurate security assessment, but they are wholly opposed to any form of congressional hearings or investigative panels into the wrongdoings of the Bush administration. As far as I’m concerned, the DHS report doesn’t even come close to being as offensive as the use of torture during interrogations, which was enthusiastically endorsed by Bush, Cheney, and the whole administration. I don’t recall John McCain demanding a White House apology for that. I don’t recall Pat Robertson being outraged over Bush-era counter-terrorism policies that clearly violated our constitutional rights. Despite the fact that Napolitano did succumb to pressure to apologize, she insists that she will not resign.

But what exactly did the report say that has everyone so riled up? If you’re interested, I suggest you read the report yourself. The report itself is only nine pages long, and it is fairly uncontroversial. It begins, roughly, by asserting that a Democratic administration, with the first African American President, has given new vigor to radical right-wing extremist groups, who “may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues… [such as] real estate foreclosures, unemployment, and an inability to obtain credit.” The resurgence of radicalized right-wing groups parallels the rapid growth of right-wing extremist groups during the 1990’s, when Bill Clinton was President.

The obvious consequence was the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995 carried out by Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh was a Gulf War veteran who was radicalized by right-wing extremist propaganda, such as the fear of a New World Order, a single global currency, a single global police force, and the belief that the government planned to take out every gun owner so that the UN could easily take over the country. He collected large quantities of guns and ammo, and one of his favorite books was The Turner Diaries. He also believed that the government had implanted a computer chip in his butt. McVeigh had returned home from war a hero, but he became disillusioned with his country and the military, and he found it difficult to find employment. In an angry letter to the Lockport Union Sun & Journal, published on February 11, 1992, McVeigh wrote:

…Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate “promises” they will increase. They mess up we suffer…Racism on the rise? You had better believe it… No one is seeing the “big” picture… What is it going to take to open the eyes of our elected officials? America is in serious decline. We have no proverbial tea to dump. Should we instead sink a ship full of Japanese imports? Is a civil war imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that, but it might.

Clearly, for McVeigh, he felt that the broken system required the shedding of blood. Many of his gripes and concerns can be heard to this day. Believe me: I attended a TEA party rally!

All of this made him easy prey for radicals such as Terry Nichols (also a Gulf War veteran) and James Nichols. The group practiced making bombs, collected right-wing extremist propaganda, and collected guns. The Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents were all the proof they needed to see to understand that the government was waging war against people like them. As McVeigh’s hatred intensified, he began wearing a shirt with a picture of President Lincoln on the front– with the words SIC SEMPER TYRANNISTHUS EVER TO TYRANTS. On the back was a picture of a bleeding tree with the words of President Jefferson: THE TREE OF LIBERTY MUST BE REFRESHED FROM TIME TO TIME WITH THE BLOOD OF PATRIOTS. It was only a matter of time before McVeigh and the Nichols brothers would plan and execute the deadly Oklahoma City bombing, which took the lives of 168 people– 19 of whom were children.


Notice his shirt

The report cites an even more recent case, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where “three police officers” were shot to death, “on 4 April 2009. The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled ‘one world government.’” These beliefs are eerily similar to the ones held by McVeigh, and these people are not alone. Many of these people are online, where they can exchange more of these racist anti-government ideologies and can potentially plot domestic acts of terrorism.

The critics (McCain, Robertson, et al.) complain that the report targets conservatives who disagree with the “leftist” policies of the Obama administration. This is clearly not so. The report clearly indicates that their focus is on radical and extremist groups who are prone to commit violence. The report does not focus on everyday Americans exercising their right to free speech. Those people on the right who have their panties all in a bunch are having a hard time differentiating themselves from the radicals, which seems weird to me. Let me put it this way: a protester outside of Planned Parenthood to commemorate the anniversary of Roe V. Wade is not who the report is talking about– it’s the loon who commemorates the occasion by blowing up an abortion clinic. It’s not the asinine religious zealot with a religious “news” network who has to worry– it’s the asinine anti-semite who shoots up a synagogue that we should worry about. Of course, in both examples, the damage is already done before the offender’s extremism is fully realized. We live in a free country where people can pretty much say and do whatever they want. The consequence, as events have shown, is that people take advantage of our freedom to commit horrible acts of violence. Should we limit freedom to stop these people? Bush and his ilk would say, “YES!” However, I say, “No.” If we want to live in a free society, we have to understand that that freedom can have violent consequences. What we can do, all of us, is be aware of our friends and family members who take their grievances to the extremes. I’m not talking about the sort of snitching the government encouraged during the red scare of the 1950’s. Timothy McVeigh’s friends all remembered him talking about committing acts of violence, but they never reported it or even found it strange. Of course, after the Oklahoma City bombing it made sense, but hindsight is 20/20, right?


Timothy McVeigh

Illegal immigration is another issue that is a rallying call for extremist groups. White supremacists, especially perturbed by the election of an African American President, are especially concerned by the influx of Mexican immigrants into our country. There already has been an increase in the number of crimes committed against Hispanics. The report cites two instances: “In April 2007, six militia members were arrested for various weapons and explosives violations. Open source reporting alleged that those arrested had
discussed and conducted surveillance for a machine gun attack on Hispanics. A militia member in Wyoming was arrested in February 2007 after communicating his plans to travel to the Mexican border to kill immigrants crossing into the United States.” This is not language protected under the First Amendment. If you’re as ignorant as Pat Robertson, maybe this is acceptable language, but for society (and the LAW) this is not acceptable language: indeed, this is quite illegal.

The section of the report that has stirred up the most controversy is the section titled “Disgruntled Military Veterans.” Notice that it doesn’t say Military Veterans. It specifically uses the term “disgruntled” so as to avoid confusion. In our heavily politicized country, the McCains and Robertsons of the country have deliberately mischaracterized the report in order to score political points, or to bring down the President’s poll numbers. Disgruntled veterans, such as Timothy McVeigh, return home from war with anti-government sentiments. They possess training and skills that radical right-wing groups would love to take advantage of. True, as McCain points out, McVeigh never built a bomb during his time in Iraq and Kuwait, but he certainly regarded his mission to destroy the Murrah building in Oklahoma City in military terms. This, for him, was the full use of his powers to strike back at a corrupt political system, draw a substantial amount of blood, and gain national attention to his cause for reform. As the report makes clear, there were a number of Gulf War veterans who joined the ranks of radical right-wing groups during the 1990’s.

The DHS report actually cites the FBI, which “noted in a 2008 report on the white supremacist movement that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups.” This report, mind you, was written in 2008 under the Bush administration, yet it did not elicit calls from McCain for an apology or calls of resignation from Republicans. The hypocrisy is vast and sickening. These people are now trying to paint themselves as targets of the Obama administration, targeted only because they have political differences. That’s just bullshit. They neglect to mention, of course, that on January 26th, the DHS also issued a report regarding left-wing extremists. Using their “logic,” Obama’s targeting everyone.

The report says the following:

[It] assesses that lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing
extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States. Information from law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations indicates lone wolves and small terrorist cells have shown intent—and, in some cases, the capability—to commit violent acts.
— (U//LES) DHS/I&A has concluded that white supremacist lone wolves pose the most
significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy—separate fromany formalized group—which hampers warning efforts.
— (U//FOUO) Similarly, recent state and municipal law enforcement reporting has warned of the dangers of rightwing extremists embracing the tactics of “leaderless resistance” and of lone wolves carrying out acts of violence.
— (U//FOUO) Arrests in the past several years of radical militia members in Alabama, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania on firearms, explosives, and other related violations indicates the emergence of small, well-armed extremist groups in some rural areas.

The report concludes that the political climate (i.e., African American President and a Democrat controlled government), technological advances, and the downward spiral of the economy, are all factors in the resurgence of right-wing extremist groups.

The report in no way concludes that all veterans are susceptible to these extremists groups, nor does it conclude that citizens with conservative “values” are potential terrorists. The report is very clear about drawing a line between people with honest policy differences (as protected by our constitution) and those who are potential domestic terrorists.

John McCain, you owe the American people an apology. You have deliberately mischaracterized and misinterpreted the DHS report for political gain. You are a disgrace and you should be ashamed of yourself. You have proven to be just as underhanded and deceitful as you were during the 2008 election. Please go away.

Again, the report is very short and I encourage people to read it.

Here it is.

The latest online populist movement, given prominence through ad nauseum Fox News coverage, is the TEA Party organization. Tomorrow, wednesday April 15th, the organization will be holding nationwide protests and rallies in opposition to paying taxes. The coast-to-coast teabagging rallies will protest such things as: “spending trillions of borrowed dollars, leaving a debt our great-grandchildren will be paying”; people who “want to take your wealth and redistribute it to others”; “punish those who practice responsible financial behavior and reward those who do not”; “run up trillions of dollars of debt and then sell that debt to countries such as China… [and] want government controlled health care?”; “refuse to stop the flow of millions of illegal immigrants into our country”; and to protest “want to force doctors and other medical workers to perform abortions against their will… [and] want to impose a carbon tax on your electricity, gas and home heating fuels.” At the Atlanta tax day TEA party, Sean Hannity will host his Fox News show; the entire event is also supported by Michelle Malkin and Newt Gingrich. Sounds fun!

Can I just point out that many of these items have nothing to do with taxes? Abortion? Immigration? Health Care policy? It’s all a bunch of rubbish, if you ask me. And if you ask Paul Krugman, who had this to say: “The tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects.”

The conservatives who have organized these rallies and protests have wrapped themselves in the lore of our nation’s early patriots, who dressed as Natives, and, in the dead of night, secreted upon boats carrying crates of tea. In protest of Britain’s imposition of a tea tax, these patriots tossed the crates overboard, thus ruining the tea. The TEA protesters are not trying fighting for Independence, or fighting to throw off the yoke of oppression: this is the latest attempt by the right to undermine America– to undermine progress. They scream “socialism,” or decry Obama’s deficit spending, or his so-called attempt to shift wealth from one class to another. Where were these voices when President Bush rammed his tax cuts for the uber wealthy through congress, which was literally the largest transfer of wealth in American history? Where were these voices when President Bush doubled the national debt, adding some $5 trillion? And he oversaw the Chinese take-over of the American economy! And where were these voices when President Bush started bailing out the giant financial institutions, who were free to run-amuck under his administration’s deregulation policies? Where were these voices?

I’ll tell you where these voices were–

These voices, only a few short years– months– ago were singing the praise of George W. Bush, and screaming at liberals or anyone who questioned the President, calling them “unpatriotic” or “un-American.” These hypocrites have the audacity, after eight years of that shit, to call President Obama a tyrant, a socialist, or anything else they can think of, in a time when he is trying to fix all of the messes left behind by his predecessor. He didn’t create the financial mess– Bush did; he didn’t allow the Chinese to buy up our debt– Bush did; he didn’t create the vast disparity between rich and poor– Bush did; and on and on it goes. Now, President Obama find himself in the worst economic situation since the Great Depression, and these hypocritical Bush-lovers are ready to lynch the President. Just listen to the insanity of Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity, or Glenn Beck… it’s fucking madness! I- there are no words to describe how this just blows my fucking mind!

Even more amazing to me is the fact that there are so many Americans who are swayed by this ant-tax group. Yeah, it’s a pain in the rear to have to pay taxes, but it is nonetheless necessary in order to have a civilized society– it’s nice to have roads, bridges, policemen and firemen, an education system, government, and all the fancy things we enjoy everyday, but take for granted. So it kills me when people, who are either lower class or lower-middle class, are so angry about the tax code. I totally understand why the mega-rich don’t like paying taxes– they pay quite bit in taxes every year. But, in reality, many of these mega-rich people find loop-holes or write-offs. In many cases, they either don’t pay as much in taxes, or don’t pay any taxes at all. Take, for instance, Warren Buffet, who is the worlds third richest man: Warren Buffet pays less in taxes than his secretary! At a fundraiser, Buffet admonished his fellow wealthy elites by saying, “The 400 of us [here] pay a lower part of our income in taxes than our receptionists do, or our cleaning ladies, for that matter. If you’re in the luckiest 1 per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.” He went on to describe how he had only paid 17.7% in taxes on the $46 million he made, while his secretary paid 30% on her $60,000 income. He described the Republican mentality that says, “I’m making $80 million a year – God must have intended me to have a lower tax rate.” This is the unequal tax system that the protesters are trying to maintain– one that actually benefits the rich at their expense. They are angry that President Obama wants to create a fairer tax system by eliminating the Bush tax cuts on the super rich.

Where’s the logic in that?

The debate on “fairness,” with respect to taxation, has to do with equality. The rich complain about the fact that they pay more, which, they claim, is not fair. So, they send out the ignorant low and lower-middle class conservatives to protest a system that is, in reality, quite fair. The progressive tax system, created during President Roosevelt’s administration, was intended to tax people according to their ability to bear burdens relative to their level of income. In other words, the poor should have a smaller burden than the rich, due to the disparity of their incomes. Seems fair to me. Then again, I’m a poor bloke, and not some fancy pants wealthy elitist like Rush Limbaugh.

The growing trend among the conservative crowd is the so-called “Fair Tax” or the flat-tax. Mike Huckabee, during his 2008 Presidential campaign, boasted that “when the Fair Tax becomes law, it will be like waving a magic wand releasing us from pain and unfairness.” This seems, on its face, to be a good deal: abolish the income tax and the Federal Reserve and embrace a 23% tax on all goods and services. Seems simple, right? It even sounds a bit fair. Ah, but when one actually looks into the plan, it really benefits those who are wealthy, and it is at the expense of the poor. This is essentially “supply-side” economics at its best.

See, we poor (my wife and I fall below the line of poverty) actually spend more than we make. We don’t really save, not because we don’t want to, but because there just isn’t any money at the end of the month to do so. So, under the flat tax system, we would be paying at a 100% tax rate on our income. Those in the middle-class, who spend about 80% of their income, fall into the 80% tax bracket. Meanwhile, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, who have loads of money that they could never spend in a lifetime, fall into the 5% tax bracket. So what this so-called Fair Tax does is penalize the poor and working class families, who already have a tough time making ends meet, while allowing the rich, who have money to burn, to spend less in taxes. Does this seem fair? Not only that, but the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation projected a ten year $2.5 trillion revenue shortfall in the event that the Fair Tax proposal became law. Hmmm… who would get to keep all that money? The rich, of course. Does that seem fair?

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(Tables come from Bruce Bartlett)

To the Hannitys and Limbaughs of the world, it does.

Neal Boortz and John Linder, authors of the Fair Tax Book, argue that this obviously regressive tax system that favors the rich would still benefit the poor because of the “pre-bates” they would receive. Pre-bates, just to inform the reader, are determined by the Census Bureau’s calculation for the poverty level, divided into twelve months, which would work out to $196. This income would go to everyone, at all levels of income despite need. Ah! But wait! Families who spend those pre-bates will be taxed again at the 23% rate.

There is also the issue of simplicity. The Fair Tax proponents argue that their proposed system would be easier. When Steve Forbes ran for president he famously pledged that Americans would only have to deal with a postcard sized tax return. Instead of Federal taxes, or state taxes, medicare or social security taxes, or corporate/business taxes, there would simply be one flat (and “fair”) tax: the 23% tax on goods and services. Would people prefer to pay more in taxes and have a simpler system? Or, do you think, people would prefer a complicated system that allows them to pay less in taxes? I think the latter option is the obvious choice.

There are a whole host of other problems affiliated with the Fair Tax initiative. Critics fear an increase in black market sales; others wonder how the proposal will deal with tax evasion, since there will be no IRS; how will states get their revenue?; there is the matter of the revenue shortfall; how the proposal will affect workers’ wages; and the cost of transitioning from one system to another.

Well, it’s late and my wife is beckoning me to the mattress we have in the corner of our small bedroom. So, to end my diatribe, I can only wish the TEA baggers well. I hope it all goes down smoothly, and without fuss. I’d like to go, but I’m just not into that sort of thing. I was tempted to attend the rally in my town, bring along a video camera, and film the event. But I think I would go insane and start yelling at people… I would then be assaulted by an angry mob.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I’m celebrating Tax Day by working. Earning what little money I can, and paying what little taxes I can afford to Uncle Sam.

Peter Schiff predicted the current economic crisis as early as 2006. He was openly mocked for his predictions and critiques about the Bush economy. If it wasn’t such a disaster it’d be comical.

Watch the clip and comment!

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