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Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Party’

There is an old Thai saying that goes like this: “When elephants fight it is the grass that gets trampled”.

There is a massive fight going on now in Washington D.C., and while many Americans might feel they have a stake in this battle, the fact remains that we are the grass in this battle of elephants.  On one side we have the strong and robust Republican/Tea Party – the party of the already wealthy. They feel they can take care of themselves and the less government, the better. On the other side are the weakling Democrats, traditionally the party of the working class, who believe that only a strong government can protect the average person from the avarice of the wealthy. This is not a new struggle – it is the remnants of a struggle that began in England before this country was even a glimmer in John Winthrop’s eye.

The old traditions of Europe: a small and very powerful wealthy class that owns almost everything and a very large peasant class that performs all the necessary labor so that the wealthy might live in luxury, were left behind when the Puritans sailed to Massachusetts. It was a new, virgin land (except for those troublesome Native Americans who really had no right to the land because they were not part of the Elect – and the fact that they mostly all died in battles with the early settlers (who had all the guns) proved that God was on the side of the Elect!!)

For a time, it all worked out. Anybody could just grab the land they wanted and they could live in total freedom. But with success comes more people, and more people, and more people. Pretty soon the people realized this total freedom thing wasn’t working for everyone, so they made rules. Then they fought a war against the English King and the English people because the English still wanted to play the old game of rich man, poor man. So, with the help of the people of France, who had recently overthrown their own wealthy oppressors, they created a new country styled upon the democracies of ancient Greece and Rome (which is why the architecture of Washington D.C. looks like it does).

Unfortunately, the rules didn’t cover a lot of things so it wasn’t long before the fox was in the henhouse – so to speak.  The wealthy people, not above stealing from the poor, soon owned the banks and the big businesses and went on to steal from the poor and the unsuspecting, which led to the Stock Market crash of 1929, not to mention all of the previous bank panics and economic catastrophes before that. The point was that the wealthy manipulators of the economy always enriched themselves based upon the power of their wealth, their connections with other wealthy people, and their inside information.

The Great Depression pointed out (to some people anyway) the need for reform of the system, and President Roosevelt went about that reform. In fact he named Joseph Kennedy to be the first head of the Securities and Exchange Commission – perfect: who better to catch a fox than another fox? The country recovered from the abuses of the wealthy thanks to Roosevelt’s strong government that was genuinely interested in helping the people.

Now, many years since the Great Depression we are in the midst of the Great Recession – with the potential to fall off a cliff into a second great depression if the wrong decisions are made. However, unlike the 1930’s, we do not have a President with a mandate to save the country. We have a house divided. We have the Republican/Tea Party who wants to do nothing, except lower taxes for the wealthy (the source of all jobs, remember?) and then deregulate pretty much everything. Minimal government is best they say – all we need is a strong military to kill everyone who doesn’t like the way we do things. Are far as the poor and the sick and the homeless goes – well, they’re on their own – Will of God and that sort of thing, you know? (They seem to think that this is the teaching of Jesus. After all, they are the Elect.) They feel kind of sorry for those God-forsaken people – but, they say, why is that the problem of the wealthy who have only made their vast fortunes by honest means? Exactly.

Now for the Democrats – the voice of the working man – where do they stand? It seems they stand firmly in favor of compromise. They talk a good story but in the end they will cave – and the Republican Tea Party knows that. Like a lion waiting in the tall grass, they know the Democrats have no teeth and no stomach for a battle. And why should they – after all, every Senator in the U.S. Congress is already a multi-millionaire, so really – just who do these people represent? And just why should they fight for the working man? After all, they’ve already been elected, so who cares, right? As for the Congressmen, they know where their bread is buttered. Sure some poor working class man might have scraped up $10 to make a campaign contribution – but can that compare to the vast amounts contributed  by major corporations to the campaigns? Of course not. Who would you listen to? And now that the fools in our Supreme Court have declared that corporations have the same rights of free speech as living people, everything has changed. Would you want the corporations, with their semi-infinite resources buying unattributed TV ads against you in the next election?

Don’t look to the Democratic Party to save the country this time. They don’t have the stomach for a fight – they like the good life too much. But, if we only look at history we can see that we are heading for a fight. We are a polarized country – the haves against the have-nots;  and the polarization is deepening. The Republican/Tea Party people are too stupid to see this, nor do they care, and the Democrats are equally blind to the danger that is building. When the Republican Tea Party proceeds to heartlessly cut the lifelines of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, and all other assistance to the poor – the fight will inevitably come. It has to. It will be a fight for survival. It won’t be the weaklings of this Democratic Party that lead the charge, but it will come anyway.  It always does when people refuse to learn the hard lessons of their own history.

And it is always the grass that gets trampled.

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If there is one thing that can be reliably deduced from American voting patterns it is this: the people want change.  Consider the case of Bill Clinton. If you look at his record while President, he rescued the economy from an impending collapse due to the economic fantasies of Ronald Reagan and the economic incompetence of Bush #1. During the Clinton years we had an era of prosperity that was among the best the country ever enjoyed. Furthermore, as President, Bill Clinton pretty much kept the United States out of war – a feat achieved by very few Presidents in our history. Bill Clinton’s problem was his intern that he kept under his desk. True to our Puritan heritage, the American people just could not handle that, and come the next election they voted for CHANGE, i.e Bill was a Democrat, so they voted Republican.  (Our CHANGE button is basically a binary switch, for all practical purposes you get to choose between a Democrat or a Republican – that’s it.)

When Bush #2 became President we became the victims of a man who was arguably the least intelligent man to ever hold that office. He promptly reverted to the insane economic ideas of Ronald Reagan while following the Republican economic battle cry of “No controls, no government oversight”. The result was a plunge into an economic abyss, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the Great Depression. That President also involved the country in a mindless, unjustified war in Iraq that cost uncounted billions of dollars and the loss of many lives. That President also made a mess of the war on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Again billions of dollars were spent, many lives lost, and the supposed objective of the war – the elimination of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden – was a failure.  So, when it came time for the next Presidential election, the American people voted for CHANGE.

When America voted for Barack Obama to become President they knew they weren’t getting a white knight in shining armor who would wage wars with the enemies of America and who would right all the wrongs of the previous President. They thought they were getting a black knight in shining armor who would do those things. They just wanted a fearless and true knight – just like in the fairy tales. The problem is that after two years on the job, our black knight hasn’t led the attack. He has played “let’s make a deal”. True to his background as a United States Senator, he thought he could negotiate his way to achieving the “shining city on a hill”. Well, that didn’t work, did it?  Sure, he did save the country from a mind-numbing plunge into an economic abyss – but it’s one thing to be hanging by the life-saving strands of a safety belt, it’s another to be climbing to the top of a mountain. This isn’t what the American people voted for. They want the mountain top.

So, as we approach another election day, it looks like the American people may well push the binary CHANGE button again. If so, we will be facing more people in Congress who are the economic disciples of Herbert Hoover (the President who presided over the crash of the stock market in 1929 and the resulting Great Depression).  The problem is our binary button. We often have to vote not for the best of all possible candidates, but the least of the evils.  We have to vote for either the failed policies of the present or the failed policies of the past. Our CHANGE button doesn’t work. That is the message of the Tea Party, but the sad thing is that the Tea Party doesn’t bring any fresh ideas either, just ultra-extreme Republicanism which might have worked well in the early days of the country when you could just grab the land and natural resources from the Native Americans. (Those were the good old days, weren’t they?) But those days are gone, and the “every man for himself” philosophy is not a recipe for a modern functional society. Even the Republican Party knows that.

The recent meltdown of the world’s economy demonstrated, to anyone open-minded enough to objectively look, that Herbert Hoover and his disciples are wrong about economics in a capitalist system. They were wrong in 1929, they were wrong in 2007, and they are wrong in 2010. Hoover/Reagan/Bush economics always leads to economic disaster, and this is the problem we now face because when the voters push the CHANGE button on Tuesday it will toggle our economy back to a plan for economic disaster. It’s not the CHANGE we need, nor is it the change for which we voted two years ago. The change we need is this: our black knight needs to put on his shining armor and fearlessly lead this country forward. He needs to understand that we are not playing “Let’s Make a Deal”. President Bush never made a deal, yet he was able to do all of the insane/illegal things he wanted to do: things like illegal wiretaps, torturing prisoners, waging war for fabricated and untrue reasons. Bush, like a European Emperor or a Russian Czar, simply scoffed at the rules and did what he wanted to do. I don’t hold this up as an example for Barack Obama, but I think he needs to learn that he is a President and not a Senator anymore. He needs to put on the shining armor and get out there on the field.

The question is: is it too late? Will the American people push the broken CHANGE button again? It looks like it, but the CHANGE that will come on November 2nd won’t be the one they want or the one we need.

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A long time ago, when my first child was born, I found to my surprise and consternation that my employer-provided Blue Cross Blue Shield policy did not cover normal childbirth expenses in a hospital. I guess they rationalized that by thinking that normal childbirth wasn’t a disease, so why should health insurance  pay for it? Fortunately, credit cards had just been invented. I put the balance due on my BankAmericard.  When I returned to work, a couple of days later, I complained to my coworkers about our lousy health care insurance. One of the older men, probably only a year or two away from retirement, spoke up and said, “Who cares? I don’t want to pay for your babies.”

I was taken aback by the his total and complete lack of concern about my plight, but somehow I was able to quickly retort, “Yes, and I don’t want to pay for your heart attack either!” The old man stood there speechless for a minute and slowly turned and walked back into his office without saying another word.

Today, as Congress struggles with the question of just slightly improving the U.S. health care system – certainly they’re not considering anything close to the health care that is provided in the civilized world – we find that we have become a polarized population. The Republicans are uniformly against the proposals at hand while the Democrats, true to form, are disunited but bumbling forward,kicking and screaming – not to mention dealing secretly.  It looks like the House Dems might actually vote “yes” at this time – but who knows, it’s not like all of our members of Congress are motivated by what is best for the country.

If one just steps back for a moment it’s easy to see what divides us. There are three groups of people, generally speaking, in this country. One group has no health care or very little health care and basically no voice in our government because they are the poor disenfranchised.  A second group has health care but is concerned about the people who don’t have it. The third group also has health care but doesn’t care about the first group in the least.  If they had their way the first group would just go away. The third group, of course, is the Republican Party. It is the party of “every man for himself” or “you’re on your own”.  It’s the party of “I’ve got mine and I don’t care about your problems. Take care of yourself.” They are the Party that aligns itself with the ” Christians” of America.

OK. Fair enough. The Democrats basically represent the method of living that mankind adopted a very long time ago in order to survive. It used to be called tribalism. Everyone was a member of the tribe and everyone contributed to the welfare of the tribe.  In turn the tribe took care of its members because every member was important. The Republicans, on the other hand, represent a newer, more modern point of view. They are the rugged individualists, the go it alone types. The can take care of themselves.  They are the philosophical descendants of the Calvinists who founded our original colonies  – people like the Pilgrims.  It was the early “pioneers” in this country who struck out on their own, with guns of course, and took the land from the Native Americans.  It was relatively easy to be on your own, living off the land, when you had all the firepower you needed and the American landscape lay there, ripe for the taking. And they took it.

Today, 95% of America’s wealth belongs to 1% of the population.  You can bet most of that 1% is Republican and Calvinist.  The question is this: why are so many other Americans also Republican when they have virtually no chance in sharing in the immense fortunes of the Elect?  Sadly, a big part of the answer lies in history.  When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 he predicted what would happen: the “Solid South” that had always been the most dependable segment of the Democratic Party would turn Republican. And they did. The old Confederacy just couldn’t accept racial equality for blacks. That was half a century ago and much progress has been made in the old Confederate states, yet they are still the heart of Republican sentiment. Of course we shouldn’t ignore the cowboy states of the West – they are the rest of the Republican Party.

If one looks at the demographic of those poor people who have no health care there is one thing that stands out: they are mostly minorities.  They are largely blacks and Hispanics.  The message of the Republicans is clear: they already have theirs – and they have no interest in helping anyone else, and certainly not the blacks and Hispanics.  In the end, the health care debate in America is actually a debate about Civil Rights and ironically the Republican Party, the Party of Abraham Lincoln, is against the right of all the American people to have health care.

The right to health care is now recognized throughout the civilized world. It is only America that does not recognize this right.  The time has come for America to grant its people the same rights that are granted to the citizens of France and Ireland and Canada and Russia and Malaysia and England and Norway and Denmark and Germany and pretty much anywhere else you can name.  It is only the Republican Party that is united in denying this right to the American people because,  after all, they’ve already got theirs, and they certainly don’t want to pay for yours.

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