Saturday, October 16, 2010

Politics Dowd and Kutler Going Mad in Herds and Politics of Fear Elites Examined

Tags: Dowd, Kutler, Wealth Matters, Going Mad in Herds, Politics of Fear, Elites Hate Scrutiny

Both Maureen Dowd and David Brooks are 2 NY Times analysts I do not particularly like, but I still read what they have to say. Here is an excerpt from Dowd and Kutler about our current election happenings and why the rational no longer applies to our mid-term elections. I agree with Kutler most of the time and try to read what he has to say. This time he is writing from , one of favorite websites, but too liberal for many of my readers. Another is . A good compromise is with Amy Goodman which is on 350 radio and television stations. The facts she presents may make you wince, but it is more fact based than anything you will get on television or radio.

The NY Times is a newspaper I sometimes hate because of its propaganda in its front page headlines and first six or so paragraphs to shape our mind. This has been the case even as far back as the 1850s, but much more sophisticated now. This is the same newspaper that did not report the fraud in the Florida elections even thought it was front page news in Europe such as the Guardian in the UK. CBS television refused the story even though it was given by the BBC for free!

A comparable fraud occurred on the front page of the Times in the recount where the front page headlines said in very large type that Bush Would Have Won Anyway! The was presented on the 5 jump pages buried deep in the newspaper. Gore would have won without eliminating the 600 fraudulent overseas votes, without the 100,000 votes that Jeb Bush, the governor, had removed Democrats from Democratic districts fraudulently as further investigation showed where the computer company admitted the fraud. Jeb Bush did not go to jail because his brother was “elected” President. Lesson, read beyond the front page or skip it altogether.

I go into this now because a new article in the NY Times talks about the often unreported anger of many Americans towards the elites. “Wealth Matter” Scrutinizing the Elite, Whether They Like it or Not.” By Paul Sullivan, Oct 15, 2010. … “If you look at the poor as a problem, you’ll be angry at elites or you’ll expect them to come up with a solution,” said Mr. Venkatesh, who took the most pragmatic line. “You have to come in accepting that there will always be poor people in society and there will always be wealthy people in society, and neither of the two reached that status by their own efforts.”

That’s not the usual description of this issue. But otherwise, you risk viewing the rich as rapacious thieves or seeing the poor as lazy freeloaders.

That said, there were other academics who hewed to an older model of power dynamics. Jeffrey Winters, associate professor of political science at Northwestern University, talked of the wealthy in America in terms of oligarchy. And he advanced an argument against what he called the “income defense industry.”

The term referred to the accountants, lawyers and financial advisers employed by the wealthy — and the merely affluent — to manage their financial affairs. Mr. Winters argued that this group was hurting the non-elite by minimizing tax collection. He estimated that $70 billion was lost yearly just from offshore accounts.

There is no denying that members of the elite have a lot of money and would like to hang on to as much of it as they can. But that’s true of most people.

Olivier Godechot, a French academic on the sociology panel, presented research that quantified just how skewed the increase in wealth at the very top has become. Mr. Godechot, a researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research in France, said that two professions — finance and business services — accounted for almost all of the increase in income inequality. …

Jim Kawakami, Oct 26, 2010,

Going Mad in Herds, Maureen Dowd, NY Times, August 21, 2010,

“ … The bookstore gave the president a copy of “Freedom,” a new novel by Jonathan Franzen about a dysfunctional family in America. This is apt, since Obama is the head of the dysfunctional family of America — a rational man running a most irrational nation, a high-minded man in a low-minded age.

The country is having some weird mass nervous breakdown, with the right spreading fear and disinformation that is amplified by the poisonous echo chamber that is the modern media environment.

The dispute over the Islamic center has tripped some deep national lunacy. The unbottled anger and suspicion concerning ground zero show that many Americans haven’t flushed the trauma of 9/11 out of their systems — making them easy prey for fearmongers.

Many people still have a confused view of Muslims, and the president seems unable to help navigate the country through its Islamophobia.

It is a prejudice stoked by Rush Limbaugh, who mocks “Imam Obama” as “America’s first Muslim president,” and by the evangelist Franklin Graham, who bizarrely told CNN’s John King: “I think the president’s problem is that he was born a Muslim. His father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father, like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother.” …

(Both his parents did not believe in any God, but Obama’s mother, a model of today’s independent women, had the inherent nurturing instinct to develop a son who is loved by those close to him, scholarly, and has a mission to make life better for all of us despite the opposition by the Republicans and some in his own party. I hope the American voters stop being crazy and vote for those who will best make their life and the life of their future generations better. Jim)

Politics of Fear Stanley Kutler, Mercifully, the midterm election cycle is nearing its end. Both parties, we learn, are planning their “postmortem assessments.” The Daily Beast’s recent headline is a sign of the times: “Why Obama Can’t Lose in 2012.” Plan ahead.

For the past year, the media, reflecting disenchantment with Barack Obama, their very own rock star, have “predicted” huge Democratic losses for 2010. Like blackbirds who fly off the line (as Eugene McCarthy once said), the media follow in lock step. We have heard ad nauseam that Democratic losses are inevitable—the governing party always suffers a setback in the midterm elections—or so we are told. But it is not always so; and further, we can ask if the Democrats’ troubles are not so much about what they did, but rather, what they did not do.

(Pelosi’s House passed 400 bills Obama wanted, often with Republican support. This illustrates the Republican Senate strategy of blocking all the bills they can using senate rules such as 60 votes needed just to debate the bill and another 60 votes needed to allow a vote on the bill.

When bills were passed with Maine Senators, the concessions Democrats had to make made the stimulus bills much less effective, but still formidable.

The Healthcare Bill was passed when we had 60 Democrats, but Obama had to make deals with conservative Democrats such as Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Independent Joe Lieberman (D-CT). The same happened in passing the Financial Reform Bill with several Republicans. That is how the Senate works. Its main aim is to stop liberal House bills from representatives who are accountable to all the people. The two senators per state with less people than a smaller city tend to be the ones who get their way.

We would be in a Great Depression if not for this bill and the so-called “bad” bailout of the banks. When they failed and all credit stopped including our money market funds, banks stopped all loans and communities no longer could draw money out of the money market account to run their towns and cities. Jim Kawakami)

… In the 1934 midterm elections, two years after the launching of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the president and Democrats vigorously defended their programs. No, they had not solved the Depression—not by a long shot—but nevertheless they fought hard to retain their authority.

FDR burst on the scene with his nomination acceptance speech in 1932, boldly announcing “a new deal for America.” After his election he brought new ideas and new faces to Washington. After serving in three previous administrations, Andrew Mellon, the self-advertised “greatest secretary of the treasury since Alexander Hamilton,” was gone. FDR appointed no Summers, Geithner or Bernanke to continue the failed policies of the past.

FDR said in his inaugural address, “Our primary task is to put people to work.” Along the way, he offered a cast of villains he believed responsible for the economic disaster, and he never let his audiences forget. Americans had clear, constant reminders of Herbert Hoover, the “money-changers in the temple” and “economic royalists.” He knew the perps, accomplices and accessories that “caused” the Great Depression.

Such attacks today would be almost unthinkable—unless one gave up campaign contributions.The initial New Deal measures had only modest success. But the Democrats reformed the banking structure and made the breathtaking move to have government as the employer of last resort. The prospects of hope, and indeed employment, for many replaced the profound pessimism of two years earlier.

In 1933, Congress established the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration and the Civil Works Administration to directly employ people. Today, we have no such proposals. Democrats supinely react with the mantra of tax credits as if they are a panacea for providing immediate relief for the unemployed.

(Roosevelt had a Supreme Court as bad as the one we have today. Only their retirement allowed Roosevelt to implement Social Security which made the huge amount of poor seniors into respectable citizens who are now inadvertently undermining the security of future seniors. They have the all too popular thinking that what is mine is mine and we will give it up. Screw the future generations. Jim)

“… FDR and the Democrats seized the moment after the 1932 elections, and they proudly defended their actions in campaigning for the 1934 midterms. Meanwhile, the president was reviled across the land, but largely along class lines. The attacks were personal. Some whispered President “Rosenfield,” with all its sinister connotations, similar to today’s tea party slogan of “Take Our Country Back.” A Republican congressional nominee in Wisconsin said that Roosevelt was a “man who can’t stand on his own feet without crutches.” “That man” was hated. A New Yorker cartoon, showed folks in top hats and evening gowns, shouting to neighbors in a brownstone: “We are going to the Trans-Lux [movie theater] to hiss Roosevelt.”

The Republican Party dutifully offered token, restrained opposition. More formidable efforts came from the Liberty League, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. The administration’s enemies were transparent, with open backing from the wealthy establishment. The du Ponts, the Morgans, the Rockefellers and large segments of the business community wielded their influence and power. Today’s right-wingers derived a lesson and now hide behind well-financed, well-organized opposition that portrays itself as “spontaneous” and “grass-roots.” …

FDR called out his enemies and threw down the gauntlet. For those business spokesmen who demanded an end to regulatory legislation, he bluntly replied, “if we were to listen to [this] … type, the old law of the tooth and the claw would reign in our Nation once more.” His opponents insisted that “liberty” was at stake, but FDR forcibly retorted: “I am not for a return to that definition of liberty, under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few.” …

Democrats in 1934 routed the Republicans, increasing their margin in the House from 313 to 322 and their Senate majority from 60 to 69 (of 96 members), with the GOP losing 10 seats, including that of Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, who shifted to a “Progressive” label. The new Democratic ranks included a young Sen. Harry Truman.

Today’s Republican scare machine has stirred the passions about Obamacare and the Democratic “socialist” program. But when Republican candidates are caught advocating the privatization of Social Security, they hastily retreat, promising to “save” Social Security. And then we have the well-financed tea party folk howling that government must keep hands off their Medicare. Social Security and Medicare are great historical achievements. Democrats dutifully defend them, so why now shy from activist, interventionist programs? Rush Limbaugh, Mitch McConnell, et al., doth make cowards of them all.

Democrats instead have buckled under all kinds of assaults, no matter how wrong or absurd they may be. The “death panel” controversy of a year ago was built on a lie, irresponsibly buoyed by a media frenzy. Democrats nevertheless cringed, blinked and remained on the defensive against the charge. President Obama is smeared as a noncitizen, and again the Democrats confront the accusation only meekly and timidly.

Unlike the Democrats of 1934, Democrats now focus on their local campaigns and have failed to offer the nation a coherent message. They should have the microphone, but they do not. They have the lesson and triumphs of the midterm elections of 1934 clearly in front of them. Democrats have ignored them only at their own peril. …

Obama and the Democrats, unlike FDR and his party members seven decades ago, allowed the foxes into the henhouse. Lawrence Summers and his allies assumed key positions. As Bill Clinton’s secretary of the treasury, he championed repeal of the Glass-Steagall Banking Act, which had served this nation well and contributed to five decades of unrivaled prosperity, lasting until the policies of the Reagan-Clinton era. Further, Summers bluntly thwarted any attempts to regulate financial derivatives. …

As always, we have the politics of fear. The Republicans are wily veterans of such campaigning and governing. Sad to say, that is truly where bipartisanship truly reigns. To offer only an argument that the alternative is worse does not say much for your own case.

Stanley Kutler is the author of “The Wars of Watergate” and other writings.

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