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The Right Questions, Part One [Mar. 30th, 2011|11:40 am]
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The return of a Republican-dominated Congress at the end of 2010, along with the return to power of Republican state legislatures and governors  has already led to a cascade of attacks on women, children, the poor, immigrants, and union workers.   In lieu of dealing with the fallout of the severe economic collapse in the last year of Bush's Presidency, the GOP has chosen to instead to return to the fiscal policies that caused that collapse, and the regulatory policies that had steadily eroded the environmental gains of the previous thirty to forty years--cleaner water, cleaner air, awareness and treatment of toxic materials in the environment, etc.

The GOP position is quite clearly biased for corporations and the rich--who are to be free of taxes and "government interference"--and against the average citizenry--who are to have their personal lives scrutinized closely for any signs of "extremism" or "immorality" or unworthiness of any sort.   Hence the fervent support of the most extreme religious positions (such that a religion you don't belong to has the right to control your medical decisions)  and "security" interests (such that anyone who wishes to travel should be willing to be subjected to investigation both physical and historical, including whole-body scanning that allows strangers to see one's naked body in a format that allows--and has already resulted in--the sharing of such images for the entertainment of the recipients.)   Hence the GOP's allergic response to disagreement and criticism, to the point of wanting to review all the correspondence of a college professor who points out where the ideas and funding behind the recent GOP advances came from

Tax cuts and "no new taxes" are the economic foundation of GOP policy...including attempts to divest states and nations of publicly owned assets and put them in the hands of "private" ownership (quote marks because "private" often means international corporations, not the guy down the street who's always wanted to own that state park where he takes his family on weekends.)   The theory the GOP promulgates--and many of its followers believe--is that taxes make it impossible for "business" (read, large corporations) to invest profits in expansion--which expansion would result in hiring more people and producing more, both of which would be good for the economy.   In other words,  the GOP argues that lower taxes will result in corporations investing in the country--by hiring more people (thus giving them money to live on and to spend, including to spend on their own taxes) and by producing needed goods and inventing new useful stuff.  Along with that idea comes the idea that the government should spend less and avoid (or reduce) its debt load.  

 Demonstrably, this does not work.   It does not work because corporations do not want to "invest in the country"--they want--they insist that this is their only responsibility--to make more money.   Lowering taxes gives them higher profit.   Hurray!  If they then hired more people and expanded, they would be spending money and lowering profit.  Boo!   There are cheaper ways to expand than by hiring more people (moving out of the US to a third-world country, for instance, and hiring their workers, or by using robotics)  and corporations have, in the past fifteen to thirty years, done exactly that.   They take their profits away.  Even as President Bush and a GOP Congress lowered corporate taxes,  corporations were shedding employees and closing US plants.  

Corporations are well aware that taxes paid ARE invested in the country:  they pay for roads, bridges, schools, water systems, medical care,  parks, playgrounds, and all the other publicly-funded infrastructure and personnel, including defense spending.   And when they want something built, they lobby hard to get the tax money applied to their project.  But they want that tax money to come from someone else.   They want the government to buy their products (see Boeing, G.E., G.M, and many other large corporations) with other taxpayers' money, and they want the government to give them subsidies and bail them out when they're about to fail (like, um, Boeing, GM, Bank of American, Goldman-Sachs, Citibank) ...again with other taxpayers' money.  But they are not willing to contribute out of their own profits.  That's why lowering their taxes does not--and will not, under current laws--result in their "investment in the country."  If they really wanted to "invest in this country"--they would pay taxes.  But they not only spend millions to lobby Congress to lower taxes...they often pay no taxes, or taxes at a ridiculously low rate (that they then whine about.) 

Consider that the Speaker of the House was dismissive about concerns that GOP goals would kill 750,000 jobs: a three-quarters of a million more Americans put out of work.   The Texas legislature is as bad or worse: having created a budget deficit by lowering taxes and adopting a "no new taxes" stance, it created a budget deficit which it is now "fixing" by cutting state spending for schools and social services to the aged, handicapped, and children, as well as attacking the state parks (seven are expected to close.)   Resulting job loss in Texas?  Over 300,000.  Their fake budget deficit has been passed on to every school district in the state, where tens of thousands of teachers will be out of a job and some schools are closing entirely.   The prospect for children next fall is abysmal.   The defunding of medical care for the poorest, including children and nursing mothers and the elderly and the disabled, is disgusting.  What are they spending the money "saved" on?   More security for the governor and high Texas officials, among other things.  More toys for law enforcement, more prisons...and tax cuts for corporations. 

We, like other states, have an increasing population of homeless, of sick who cannot afford treatment (or even get to an ER or clinic), of children who experience hunger every day.   It is sickening that those with something to give have to choose between a food bank and a free clinic, a rape crisis center and a homeless shelter, between any of these and supporting a political candidate who will oppose the GOP's determination to make us all poor, ignorant, (and if women, pregnant), and powerless. 

The right questions asked at the right time could prevent some of this.   "So how does that work?" is one to start with, followed by more questions that dig into the reality.   "How does it work that lowering corporate taxes makes corporations invest in the country?  Will they hire more workers at good wagers so those workers' taxes will cover the costs of public works?  Will they donate an equivalent amount to build schools and hire teachers that are not controlled by them, that do more than turn out obedient workers?  Will they donate that money to build roads and bridges?  Will they donate that money to provide medical care for the poor, support services for the disabled?   And if you say "Yes, of course," then show me:  have they ever done so?   Have they done so in the past 15 years? "  Because the evidence is, of course, that they have not.  


[User Picture]From: kirylyn
2011-03-30 06:36 pm (UTC)
where's the like button??

in my dreams, I'd like congress critters to be paid reversed - the salary of the WA senator would be the average median of the state counter to his

(pulling from air, on dial-up so can't clog pipe) AL is among the poorest states around; NY among the top 5. NY Senator takes home the average median income of AL, AL senator gets the average median income of NY.

Incentive for NY senator to bring up AL average median income while incentive for AL senator to KEEP NY average median income the same if not higher.

of course it would never happen. :(

c'mon, let's elect Jack Ryan and have the ability to remove those who have made careers out of being politicans.

isn't it telling that every single time term limits comes up, they squawk worse than chickens about how it just takes SOOO long to get anything done that they couldn't *possibly* be expected to leave office after a mere 2 terms.

hmm, maybe if everyone ELSE was leaving office after 2 terms, things wouldn't take so long?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-03-30 07:38 pm (UTC)
In my dreams: Congresspersons are assigned housing in blocks rather like quarters on a military base. They all get the same square footage. They all get the same pay (based on federal pay standards.) They get whatever medical care plan and other benefits they've voted for for citizens. For the duration of their terms, all their other assets are frozen. They are not allowed to travel by private aircraft (their own or anyone else's) or receive campaign contributions from individuals or corporations. Their campaign funds are identical, and paid out of a larger fund into which all contributions from individuals and corporations are paid. Their paid staffs are cut to no more than three; their offices are all the same size, small.

I'd like to have them all pass a certifying exam, too, that would include questions revealing their knowledge of the Constitution, several main branches of science, history, geography, economics, ethics, etc. This would be at least a two-day exam, part written and part oral, and would cover what I consider the minimum that anyone making national policy should know.

Term limits alone are not the answer; term limits do not prevent someone from being lazy, dishonest, stupid, and ignorant in office for two to size years.
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[User Picture]From: shsilver
2011-03-30 08:45 pm (UTC)
I've long felt that elected officials should be required to take a Constitution Test similar to the one offered to 8th graders (here in Illinois, at least) and new citizens.

Of course, after listening to what Constitution training was offered to the incoming Representatives by Michele Bachmann, I'd be very concerned about whoever was writing said test.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-03-31 04:38 am (UTC)
Bachmann wouldn't pass a Constitution test I gave, that's for sure.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-03-31 03:40 pm (UTC)

From Gretchen in MN

I'm absolutely with you on testing knowledge before admitting anyone to public office, particularly high office. My husband and I have discussed the apparent need for testing for fitness to perform the jobs in question, right up to and including the presidency. An assessment of skills and abilities needed for performance of such jobs, followed by general application of said assessments would do a lot.

It's interesting that the older I get, the more I see What Must Be Done (options, anyway), and the more I also recognize the limits to my own power to effect change. I do, however, work on the level that I can, in raising awareness and asking questions.

I think that one of the best things that could be done - in schools, and at early ages, repeated through education - is to teach people how to think critically about things; how to find root causes, asking "why" and "how" questions, etc. It seems that these abilities have been lost for the vast majority of the population.

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-03-30 07:26 pm (UTC)
The right wing doesn't believe that "people" will do the right thing...they certainly do not trust individuals, unless those individuals are clearly on their side. They don't trust women to manage their own reproduction, for instance. They don't trust those who don't agree with them, and want to control information and lives to force compliance. (Hence, though they'd loosen all controls on corporations, they have strengthened controls on individuals. They do not like the amendments to our Constitution that protect free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, legal protections for those accused of a crime, etc.)

This is not a new problem in any society, and certainly we've seen it before. But post WWII, we had a range of views in both political parties--right wing to left wing in both, which meant that moderates in both had considerable traction. That's no longer true. And the Republican alliance with the religious right wing, carefully fostered by both, is a serious problem.

We could end up with a theocracy run by the wealthy, which, history shows, is a really nasty idea.

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[User Picture]From: hugh_mannity
2011-03-30 07:52 pm (UTC)
*applauds wildly*

One small thing: Consider that the Speaker of the House was dismissive about GOP goals that would kill 750,000 jobs: a quarter of a million more Americans put out of work.
I think your math there is a bit off :)

The current system is not sustainable. It will either implode or be manipulated into some form of real tyranny -- probably based on a theocracy as they seem to have managed to convince the majority of the population into be passivity. Welcome to the dystopia envisioned by several excellent (and many not so excellent) SF writers.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-03-30 08:14 pm (UTC)
Yes, my math was off. DUH. Have now edited and added a bit about the job loss in Texas alone that will be added to the national job loss from federal policies.

Combining "social conservatism" (right-wing religion) with "fiscal conservatism" (policies favored by corporations) was of course a smart strategic move. By insisting that social conservatism IS fiscal conservatism (the right-wing churchgoers cost less than others and, listening to their leaders, agree to ask less of government) they've created a double bind for both nonbelieving conservatives (who now find themselves having to support a religious agenda inimical to personal freedom) and more generous-minded believers (who are now told that they must support anti-union, anti-social fiscal policies or they'll be "voting for anti-religious policies.")

Hey, get the Catholics and the evangelicals all het up about abortion and gays and feminism and so on, and convince them they have to vote for your party because it's God's party (never mind the Satanic cr*p on the ethics and money side of things) and you've got a loyal bunch of followers who don't look to either side. Worked for tyrants in the past.

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[User Picture]From: hugh_mannity
2011-03-30 08:37 pm (UTC)
Distraction and diversion work wonders.

I've forgotten who said "if you get people asking the wrong questions, you don't have to worry about the answers", but it applies very nicely to our current situation.

Also the hot button issues: abortion, gay marriage, terrorism, etc. are ones that people respond to emotionally, not logically. And the emotions that the GOP are utilising are all negative: fear, distrust, disgust, anger. You're not going to get intelligent or intelligible responses from people who are emoting rather than thinking about the issues.
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[User Picture]From: chris_gerrib
2011-03-30 08:07 pm (UTC)
I'm looking for the "like" button too.

The fundamental problem with the Republican party is that they've taken what was arguably a good idea in the Reagan era and taken it to extremes.

The good news is that these actions will remind the Democratic base, which sat on their hands in 2010 (40 million LESS people voted in 2010) why they need to go out and vote.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-03-30 08:16 pm (UTC)
LJ doesn't have "like" buttons. However, linking to it is always an option...
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[User Picture]From: blueeowyn
2011-03-30 09:05 pm (UTC)
I'm am SO linking to this, thank you for writing it. The sheer creativity and determination of the radical right to shove their morals and politicians down the country's throat is nauseating and impressive. I have to take my hat off to them for organization, determination, and sheer sneakiness (so much of what they do by the time it is discovered, proved, and so forth the results of their actions are already done ... e.g. voter registration irregularities in the Southwest a few years ago, 'fixing' voter terminals in California during a close race, butterfly ballots, changing the number of machines in various districts, etc..

I do wish that the Democrats/Liberals could come up with a consistent message rather than jump around, I think it is hurting us. I also wish that the "news" outlets could be fined for spinning the news into pure fabrication such as the showing of riots in Wisconsin where the background had healthy palm trees ... not what I think can be found in Wisconsin in the wintertime.

I am in favor of tax incentives for corportations. If a larger % of your corporation is using workers in this country, you get a small tax break. If a certain % of your gross income is being spent to improve the environment, work toward renewable energy, etc., you get a tax break. I'm also in favor of minimum tax rates for corporations with a certain gross income (maybe $500,000 or $1,000,000/year). I don't want to tax the newly started businesses out of business but I think the big ones should have an automatic minimum tax. I also HATE the rules/guidelines that encourage companies to focus on profits above all else, especially the ones that are traded on the stock market. Granted, it is supposed to keep the company focused on doing stuff and not paying insane salaries to the CEO et al., but that isn't how it is working and companies are delaying maintenance to keep costs down.

I would also LOVE to see a new law. If the annual budget is not working its way through congress by 9/1 of the year, there will be NO recesses during the day until a budget is passed. If a CR is passed, congress members shall not be paid their salary (or reimbursed later for the missing dates) and shall be forbidden from travel away from DC except in a family emergency until the final budget is passed. Congress members shall also be prohibited from any campaign activities including mailings, tv ads, radio ads, interviews, statements, etc. until a final budget is passed. If that means that the 2 sides can't get together and play nicely by October 1 (start of the federal fiscal year) then they don't get to work on their re-election bids for the November elections, they may miss Thanksgiving and Christmas at home and will not be paid.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-03-30 09:19 pm (UTC)
I like your way of keeping Congress at work. No campaigning until you've done your work would be an excellent rule.
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