What would the patriarch of capitalism, economist Milton Friedman himself, have to say about the new Health Care Reform bill?
Milton Friedman, as I am sure you recall, was the chief founder and promoter of the Free Market theory of capitalism, which was, of course, the political-economic theory that has utterly dominated everything from Wall Street to MBA schools to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (not to mention both our political parties), that brought us globalization and eventually defeated Soviet Communism in the world market of ideas, or so say Reagan Republicans.
Almost every speech (and rant) against the Health Care bill is replete with references to Friedman's doctrine, despite the fact that the bill itself is extraordinarily careful to preserve "market-based" solutions---- remember, President Obama himself took off the table any government (i.e., socialist) competition in the form of even a diddly little public option, which makes it all the more puzzling when we hear major blowouts about "socialism" and the end of America, that the government is taking over one-sixth (or more) of our economy.
We have heard little snippets about the Health Care bill signed by President Obama, not to mention more distortions from outraged Republicans, but fortunately Speaker Nancy Pelosi has, with her usual efficiency, listed key provisions which take effect this year (http://www.speaker.gov/blog/?p=2214). You might find this helpful if you have occasion to talk with a nervous and mis-informed voter. Here is a condensed version:
President Obama will speak at a pre-vote rally for health care reform tomorrow, Friday the 19th of March at the Patriot Center on the campus of George Mason University. The doors open at 9 AM; the President is sceduled to speak around 11 AM. The event is open to the public, no ticket required. This means Tea Party Republicans and other corporate finks (strike that, should read "Tea Partyers, Republican activists") are also expected to attend. Since many of them are retirees or paid to demonstrate, the local Democratic Committees are in high gear to rally support for health care. If you care about health care and President Obama's success, please show up.
In any situation, and I do mean any, there are always some people who make money, or find a way to profit, even in desperate times when the mass misery index has to be high. Nowhere is that more evident than right here in the United States. This is where the Bush bailouts, which the incoming President Obama followed through on, in a desperate move to save the system from its own excesses and prevent a killing collapse of the economy (or so every commentator assures us, whether from the right or left), has actually helped the already wealthy become more so. The galling thing is, Wall Street insiders are openly crowing. Read what a highly rated investment newsletter, Taipan Insider for Thursday, 11 March, says (my emphasis is added--- the quote is extensive because it is so very revealing):
Are we, the American people, sheep, stupidly deluded repeaters of talking points we do not really understand, baaing trustingly after cruel masters who clip us over and over of all our pelf? Or, are we Americans more like lemmings, blindly and frantically swarming over the cliffs of a broken system, unable or unwilling to see where we are headed, convinced we can continue doing as we've always done, following nose-to-tail in what we believe has been a heretofore successful script? Fair and balanced, consider the following, and you decide:
Some of us noticed about ten days ago a remarkable flowering of public offerings at the altar of Rahm Emanuel. It began, at least publicly, with an article by Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on 21 February, where he wrote
"Obama's first year fell apart in large part because he didn't follow his chief of staff's advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter,"
that is, Milbank implied, from becoming a failed, one-term president. The thrust of the article was that Obama had been bebopping off on his own naive and liberal path, ignoring the sage insider advice of Rahm the Enforcer, the only one in the administration who really understood How Things Work in Washington. Milbank gave every indication he was basing his expose on comments from the inner sanctum, private but high-level sources close to the top. Next, on February 28th, his anonymous source(s) advised Milbank that Obama "too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers." Ouch.
I just returned from a conference on world currency and investments held in Scottsdale, Arizona. The meeting was packed, mostly with retirees anxious about preserving (or restoring) their nest eggs, but with a heavy sprinkling of angry mid-level investors, business owners, and even a few blue collar workers, also worried about their futures. The participants were mostly white or Oriental, a few African-Americans, almost all American citizens (some Canadian, a few Latin American), overwhelmingly conservative, including a good number of Tea Party members who were generally applauded by the business people and would-be capitalists present. I considered it an education in outside-the-Beltway reality, and a serious warning about what to expect for the November elections and the general direction the country is headed economically and politically.
In an article in The Washington Times on Sunday, 21 February 2010, Julia Duin described the gingerly approach of the Virginia Diocese of Virginia in dealing with gay marriage. The article, interestingly, was offered in The Times' blog (washingtontimesmail.com) under the misleading teaser of "Virginia Episcopalians narrowly vote not to recognize gay marriage." What they actually did at their annual council meeting at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria was form a committee---- always a good fall-back tactic in trying circumstances when dealing with a hot potato, just like the study groups so popular with the Virginia Assembly.
The committee is to "set standards for church-sanctioned blessings of such unions once they are approved by the entire 2-million-member Episcopal Church." This was after a motion to allow openly gay clergy and same-sex blessings was defeated, and was what Duin called a response to the Episcopal General Convention last year which ordered the collection and development of "theological resources and liturgies" for same-sex "blessings." As it happens, 16 Episcopal dioceses already allow same-sex blessings. What was fascinating were the reader comments which followed the short article; pragmatic progressives need to keep an eye on what people are saying to each other. Yes, sometimes it confirms stereotypes, and sometimes it does not:
Democrats are fighting the lies and hypocrisies to which the Republicans are treating Americans---- at last. Here is the latest YouTube video on the Recession job loss. What do you think? Could be better? More aggressive? Too wonkish to use as a mass media ad on CBS, for example? What about those Republican hypocrits who use stimulus money in their state, while campaigning against the stimulus as such?
Rack up another one for corporate control of our government. The Republican Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates just forced passage of a special piece of legislation benefitting one company, Crown Cork & Seal, limiting its liability as a result of law suits relating to asbestos. The bill had failed in committee two years ago and again last year, even though it was sent to a different committee. This year, in an unusual show of open arm twisting, Howell not only changed the makeup of that committee by removing two Democrats (Northern Virginia Delegates Kenneth Plum and Mark Sickles), replacing them with Republicans who backed the legislation, but he personally lobbied both Republican and Democratic Delegates, a sight last seen in 2007 when he managed to pass the transportation bill with its abuser fees. As a result, House Bill 629, sponsored by Terry Kilgore (R-Scott), was reported out of committee, passed 49-48 in the House, and sent to the Democratic-controlled Senate for consideration
I know we thought Obama at long last made some great, fighting speeches recently. To the Righties, obsessed with despising Obama, those speeches were ridiculous, ego-driven lies strung together by a supreme egoist---- and, therefore, easily deprecated, ignored, and belittled. See this clip from PowerLine, a conservative blog, and the comment or interpretation of the small little clip of a fragment of an Obama speech. The righties really have to work to turn Obama's remarks into a personal assault on him, but they manage to do it:
Compare this with Gerard Alexander's attack on Obama and "liberals" in The Washington Post Outlook Section for Sunday, 7 February 2010 as being "condescending:"
PERMANENT UPDATE: I SEEM TO HAVE TAPPED INTO THE REAL NEWS PERMANENT LINK, SO WHAT YOU SEE HERE WILL CHANGE EACH DAY TO THE NEXT REAL NEWS NETWORK INTERVIEW OR STORY. SINCE IT IS ONE OF THE BEST OLD-STYLE JOURNALISTIC WORK BEING DONE TODAY, I DECIDED TO LET IT RUN
The undeniably extraordinary U.S. fiscal deficit is being leveraged into a frightening armageddon by Ron Paul libertarians, Tea Party fanatics in need of anger management, deficit hawk Blue Dogs, and Republicans seeking political brownie points against Obama while beating the no-tax-no-entitlements drum. The Real News has started a series of interviews on the deficit, and Republican attempts to privatize Social Security and reduce entitlements in general as a way to "solve" the problem. Watch this video clip (be patient with the brief opening plea for support).
Use this to comment on what you are seeing, doing, and thinking as we struggle through this mammoth storm. In Fairfax City the snow began yesterday about 10 AM, big fat, sloppy snow which came down but turned instantly to slush, and then it gradually changed to smaller, sharper pellets that descended furiously from the heavens. Suddenly the accumulation began to mount up. I shoveled a partial path to my air conditioner compressor heat pump on my back patio, and shoveled about 5 inches off the equipment---- and repeated this preventive maintenance four times. It turned much colder and windier and snowed overnight continuously---- everything disappeared under a thick, heavy, wet blanket of snow. A couple of hours ago the snow turned dry and powdery, and mounted up even faster; I continued to shovel a way to my heat pump.
All kinds of frantic birds are flying in flocks, swooping from snow-laden tree limb to snow laden tree limb, having no place to light, and unable to find food. Can birds eat flax seed? I will put some out for them. Just paid two energetic young boys 80 bucks to shovel mountains of snow in both front and back, and dig out my car. They will return tomorrow to re-do the entire job, as the shovelled part is re-filling with snow.
I am in receipt of Postcards pre-printed by The Republican Party of Virginia to be signed by me specifically, and mailed to Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, and to Congressman Gerry Connolly. They proclaim:
"As a Virginia resident and taxpaying American, I demand that you reverse your vote on the government takeover of healthcare bill. I do NOT support this bill in any incarnation and will hold you personally responsible should you vote in favor of its passage.
(They called me by my full name including the middle one, preceded by "Mr.," which shows you how much they know about the gender of names.... or maybe they forgot that females can now vote, and assumed if I am on the voter rolls I must be a "Mr.")
This discourteous demand arrived with an explanatory letter signed by Pat Mullins, Chair of the Virginia GOP, who stated bluntly (underlined in italics) that "if Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Jim Webb didn't sell out the taxpaying citizens of Virginia... this letter wouldn't be necessary." Such Capitol Hill-style treachery is possible because (underlined, bold-faced): "President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are feverishly working behind closed doors" (end underlining and boldfacing) "in Washington" which, as we all know is an evil place. Their (evil) objective is to "force the government takeover of healthcare on Virginians and the American People" (Note the persistent use of "healthcare" as one word, as if extracted from the ancient Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf----- I suspect this is an invention of Republican sematicist Lutz), and the healthcare plot is really, really bad because it:
Stop the presses! The Supreme Court of the United States, in an invigorating exercise of judicial activism and scientific legerdemain, has given Money a Voice. Money can now talk, even as you and I, thanks to the 21 January 2010 split decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission. The decision has been annointed with Republican approval as reinforcing the sacred constitutional First Amendment right of free speech. It has also been attacked by Democrats and progressives as giving mega-corporations freedom to use their enormous wealth to pay for advocacy political ads and otherwise employ their resources to influence elections and national policy, thus undermining the democratic proces. Labor unions acquired the same freedom to spend money, but since their money is a hill of beans compared to the Himalayas of moola in corporate coffers, there is no comparison.
Some people are so discombobulated by this decision (including President Obama himself, who mentioned it in his State of the Union address) that various fixes have been proposed in Congress, and a group called MoveToAmend.org is now circulating a petition to amend the Constitution to affirm that "money is not speech," and that, therefore, the First Amendment does not apply to anyone or anything but real human beings. How often it happens that, when someone is dissatisfied with a present legal situation or process, up pops an effort to amend the Constitution, on the theory, I suppose, that will really make it all better, as we all know the Constitution is iron-clad, words of perfection from the all-knowing Founding Fathers. Is this a good idea in this case?
It is reality check time in the postmortem on the recent election in Massachusetts, where a hard right Republican State Senator handily won the US Senate seat held for 58 years by Democrats, most recently by Ted Kennedy. Good grief! How come such a staggering event? Here is a grabbag of some current analyses in the running for becoming the new Accepted Wisdom:
* Republicans and their pundit stable are riding the race horse called Rejection: the great American populace is conservative, Obama is a flaming liberal, and said populace is rejecting his entire big government agenda out of hand, especially the socialist health care bill, therefore Obama and Democrats must now follow the Republican lead on everything (Mona Charen, Townhall.com, 21 Jan 2010).
* Blue Dogs and Senators Bayh (D, IN) and Lieberman (I-CT) have saddled up the gelding called Fake Centrist: Democrats are losing because they overreached, veered too far to the left, and now must over-correct to the right.
* They are joined by Senator Webb (D-VA) and Representative Barney Frank D-MA) and DLC types betting on the tough little pony named Realism: The election was a referendum on health care, Democrats need to pause, reassess their position, and "respect the process and make no effort to bypass the electoral results" in Webb's words, meaning accept the chastisement by Massachusetts voters and try even harder to work with Republicans.
The Great Haitian Earthquake of 2010 is the fault of the people of Haiti, according to Pat Robertson, who frequently plays blame-the-victim as a matter of course. He explains it very logically (in his mind): the people of Haiti, when subject to French colonial rule under Napoleon, "made a pact with the Devil," promising that if the Devil would help them to throw out the French, they would serve him in the future.
The first week of January 2010 has seen "the tide turn against Democrats" according to pundits and Conventional Wisdom as Senators Dodd and Dorgan and Governor Ritter of Colorado all announce their retirement, not to mention Senator Nelson saying it was a "mistake" for Democrats to go after health care instead of the economy. Put this together with the Democrats' losing the governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey, and the constant cacophony about health care reform, conversion of one (so far) Blue Dog Democratic Representative to the Republican Party, the security lapses evident in the attempt to bomb the Detroit-bound airplane, problems with closing Guantanamo, an upsurge by al Qaeda in Yemen, a sputtering economy which has seen Wall Street smirking its way to the bank with huge bonuses while Main Street continues to lose jobs---- well, no wonder Fox News is cackling with glee and Politico's formerly Republican operatives smugly predict, if not a Democratic wipeout, then a serious rout in 2010 and beyond, proclaiming The Elephant Triumphant!
Oh, dear, oh dear:
When in worry, when in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout.
In the January/February 2010 edition of the magazine Mother Jones there are several important articles concerning the global financial meltdown which triggered the still potent Great Recession, that attempt to answer the 64 trillion dollar question: How is it that the banksters are already back at doing the same things that caused the mess, and why is it that they still haven't been punished and the system reformed? It is Kevin Drum's fact-filled article "Capital City" which explains it all, and which I will discuss here, but the entire edition of MoJo is worth a close read.
We already know the purely financial and economic story of the 2008 meltdown; Drum explains the politics of how Congress and the Federal Reserve were "persuaded to let all this happen.... In other words, it's about the finance lobby." Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said last April that "they frankly own the place." But there is another reason that is even bigger: over the past 30 years the finance lobby, supported by the conservative movement and some powerful backers, convinced the American people that the financial sector's success should be measured "not by how well it provides financial services to actual consumers and corporations, but by how effectively financial firms make money for themselves." This is the (crazy) Big Idea which has smothered every opponent and conquered every perceived threat to Wall Street and its profits.
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