Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Both Sides Now



The last time I ever saw my mom I had come to New York after visiting Joni Mitchell in the studio where she was recording a new version of her 1967 masterpiece "Both Sides Now." She and Herbie Hancock played me the nearly finished track and I was blown away by it. Joni had been one of my mother's favorite artists since the 1960s and I knew she loved this song. I knew she would love this version and I felt it was a very appropriate song to listen to when transitioning from this life to the next. Joni made me a CD and I brought it to my mother's hospital room. It brought some joy and solace to her last days. That's the good, warm feeling I have about "both sides."

The other feeling is neither warm nor good and it has to do with Establishment elites blaming both sides for the country's problems. NY Times in-house GOP apologist David Brooks wrote one of his excruciating a pox on both your houses columns last week trying to make a case that Obama is as guilty as the Republican nihilists trying to wreck the government to create more DC gridlock. Well, he could be right... if Obama just gave in to all the Republican demands, there would be no gridlock. As economist and author David Korten put it on Twitter yesterday, the congressional Republican version of crisis management is to create a crisis and blame it on Obama.

We've long warned people about Republican opportunists running for office as "Democrats" and Florida freshman Patrick Murphy, a spoiled rich kid and lifelong Republican who managed to beat-- albeit barely-- war criminal Allen West in November, has already been helping prove us right. He's bonded with right-wing crackpot Robert Pittinger (R-NC) and the two sent out a poorly-written letter to every freshman urging them to sign onto a "bipartisan" effort that further pushes forward the Republican Party agenda at the expense of working families. Murphy was remarkably unsuccessful in finding many Democrats foolish enough to fall for this siren song of collaborationists but, of course, over 20 Republicans were happy to-- including noted bipartisans like domestic terrorist Steve Stockman (R-TX), Hate Talk Radio host Trey Radel (R-FL) and various sociopaths, like Ted Yoho (R-FL), who say they want to impeach President Obama. Of course, Pete Gallego, the only Blue Dog in the freshman class, signed on as well... as did several of the new New Dems.

With the political demise of the Blue Dogs, the New Dems are the corporate cat's paw inside the House Democratic Caucus. And they are, conveniently and opportunistically, the ultimate "blame both sides" band of sell-outs, creeps who use working class voters to help them move corporate agendas. Yesterday their p.r. person got them a lovely and nicely transcribed spread in one of the DC trade rags. It's all about how the New Dems Coalition has "high hopes that it will seize the political power that’s largely eluded the group." The Hill misses the whole point when it describes them as "an odd band featuring lawmakers from both the conservative Blue Dog Coalition and the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus." I know they're not going to use a more accurate term like "corporate shills" or "Big Business whores" but lets be a little more accurate in describing who they really are-- essentially an odd band of economic conservatives, some of whom are also social conservatives and some of whom aren't. There are only two members of the Progressive Caucus among the New Dems, Jared Polis and Jim Moran, who are primarily committed to a progressive social agenda. There are 6 outright Blue Dogs, one Blue Dog who just quit (Adam Schiff) because his new district is too progressive and a whole bunch who are Blue Dogs in all but name, like Bill Owens and Rick Larsen. According to the Progressive Punch crucial vote scores so far this year, New Dem leaders Ron Kind (37.50) and Allyson Schwartz (42.86) are clocking in with more conservative voting records than half a dozen Republicans.

Kind calls his coalition "pragmatists" and hopes to create for himself the role of "a power broker." Monday, Gaius Publius had an excellent breakdown of the various letters circulating Congress about how to deal with the budget deficit.
Two letters oppose cuts, and one supports them. A letter opposing cuts from the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) has 107 signatures. Another letter opposing cuts from Alan Grayson and Mark Takano has 21 signatures. And a letter by pretend-Democrat Patrick Murphy has far more Republican signatures than Democratic ones, and it supports cuts. Shame on him.

Nevertheless, you would think 107 Democrats voting No to cuts could kill a deal with cuts in it, wouldn’t you? You would be wrong-- note the difference in the first two letters. Key phrases:

CPC letter: “We write to affirm our vigorous opposition to cutting Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits in any final bill to replace sequestration. … we remain deeply opposed to proposals to reduce Social Security benefits through use of the chained CPI to calculate cost-of-living adjustments.”

Grayson-Takano letter: “We write to let you know that we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits-- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”

See the difference? The CPC letter “affirms opposition”; Grayson and Takano promise to vote No. Yep, the Progressive Statement Caucus is at it again. Too bad their fine statement isn’t as fine as the Grayson-Takano statement. Too bad the Progressive Statement Caucus doesn’t promise action.

To be fair, several of the signers of the CPC letter have also signed Grayson-Takano, including CPC leaders Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva. Still, the gap between the two letters is noticeable, and the huge difference in signatures-- 107 for the We-Oppose letter, just 21 for the We-Vote-No letter-- is telling.
Of course, not one New Dem signed the Grayson-Takano letter. Of the 11 Democrats who signed onto Patrick Murphy's "We're fine with cuts" letter-from-the-freshmen-- most of the signatories were very right-wing Republicans-- there were 4 New Dems, Ami Bera (CA), Joe Garcia (FL), Patrick Murphy (FL), and Scott Peters (CA). Millionaires Scott Peters and Patrick Murphy also sent out fundraising letters this week bragging about their willingness to toss working families under the bus. Peters, who replaced Republican Brian Bilbray, starts his missive out sounding like a normal Democrat: "The nation faces the prospect of devastating across-the-board spending cuts, known as the 'sequester,' if we don’t come up with a better plan in Washington, DC by this week. I’d love to be writing to tell you that we have come to an agreement, but-- amazingly-- the Speaker sent Congress home for the past week. As important as it is for me to be spending time with the people I represent, and as much as I love being in San Diego, this week Congress should have been in Washington hammering out a smart spending plan that protects jobs and sets us on a path toward a balanced budget... I am proud to be a Democrat and will continue to fight for the principles to which my party is committed. But..."

Yes, "but." Proud to be a Democrat, will fight, principles... but. But what? Here it comes:
But I know that we need to work with members of both parties to find solutions, and I have tried to do just that, by supporting No Budget, No Pay, by joining the bipartisan reform group No Labels, and by helping to form the freshman class’ United Solutions Caucus.
Murphy also explained the United Solutions Caucus: "As you may know, I have joined with Rep. Robert Pittenger (NC) to form the Congressional United Solutions Caucus for the 113th Congress. And I wanted to write to invite you to join this caucus. This member organization is for freshman members who are dedicated to working together to find common ground and sustainable solutions to the fiscal issues facing our nation and educating other Members on the importance of bipartisanship and fiscal responsibility. Last week, Rep. Pittenger and I led a bipartisan group of 36 freshman members in sending a statement of principles to President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and Leader Pelosi urging our leaders to 'go big' with their solutions and to find bipartisan, long-term solutions to our nation's fiscal issues." Who helped elect Murphy? If you did, maybe you should remind him of what David Korten tweeted-- "the congressional Republican version of crisis management is to create a crisis and blame it on Obama"-- because he just doesn't get it. He gets this instead-- simpleminded, self-serving rhetoric for audiences back home. Fortunately, most Americans have a better grasp on what's up than these clowns do:

The great progressive strides that have made the U.S. great haven't been made by giving in to conservatives-- none of them. If it were up to the compromisers, we'd still have slavery, the monopolists would be running the country, there would be no 8 hour work week, no minimum wage, no weekends, no Social Security, no Medicare, no right of women to vote. The conservatives didn't give any of this up because they liked hanging out with some naive faux-liberals. These are dangerous Democrats is this video above. I'm embarrassed to say I know and have supported a couple of them-- not a mistake I'll be making again. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has more experience than all these clowns together. He agrees with them, though, that the blame game is not the way to solve the budget problem. That's about all he agrees with them on, though. What Democrats, particularly President Obama, should be doing is directly rebutting "the two big lies that fuel the Republican assault-- and that have fueled it since the showdown over the debt ceiling in the summer of 2011."

The first big lie is austerity economics-- the claim that the budget deficit is the nation’s biggest economic problem now, responsible for the anemic recovery.

Wrong. The problem is too few jobs, lousy wages, and slow growth. Cutting the budget deficit anytime soon makes the problem worse because it reduces overall demand. As a result, the economy will slow or fall into recession-- which enlarges the deficit in proportion. You want proof? Look at what austerity economics has done to Europe.

The second big lie is trickle-down economics-- the claim that we get more jobs and growth if corporations and the rich have more money because they’re the job creators, and job growth would be hurt if their taxes were hiked.

Wrong. The real job creators are the broad middle class and everyone who aspires to join it. Their purchases keep economy going.

As inequality continues to widen, and income and wealth become ever more concentrated at the top, the rest don’t have the purchasing power they need to boost the economy. That’s the underlying reason why the recovery continues to be so anemic.

These two lies-- austerity economics and trickle-down economics-- are being told over and over by Republicans and their mouthpieces on Fox News, yell radio, and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. They are wrong and there are dangerous.

Yet unless they are rebutted clearly and forcefully, the nation will continue to careen from crisis to crisis, showdown to showdown.

And we will have almost no chance of reversing the larger challenge of widening inequality.

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