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Left In Lowell » National Budget

Left In Lowell

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April 28, 2012

I Told You So.

by at 7:51 am.

File this under “Plain as the nose on your face.”

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.”

“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

“When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”

(h/t Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire)

October 2, 2011

From Quirky, to Movement…

by at 10:56 am.

I’ve been following (mostly online) the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston protests since nearly the beginning. They got traction and coverage on blogs and Twitter long before the media was covering it - in fact, before the unprovoked pepper spray incidents that made the news, the only place to read about what was happening was online.

The media complained that they weren’t cohesive enough and there wasn’t news to cover. Well, that has quickly changed and evolved. For starters, there were some very bad decisions from the NYPD - both institutionally, and by some idiot individuals - which put the protests on the map for the media, and solidified the motivation of participants and supporters. What’s more, it seems the organic sort of organizing that has sprung up has - and I have to use the word evolved again - to meet the challenges of running a protest, dealing with the media, finding a set of demands to articulate why they are angry and not going to take it any more. OWS has spokespeople and media tents and a strong online presence - all while being relatively leadersless in the traditional sense.

In some ways, my personal cynicism alert flag is up. (Yeah, I know, I’m too young to be truly cynical…) I spent years organizing with the peace movement against the Iraq war, butting my head up against the sheer stubbornness of the Bush administration and, later, Obama’s. After all, GitMo is still open, the USA PATRIOT Act was reauthorized and is being used to spy on Americans without due process, we’re still in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan though with some troop drawdown, and Obama even unilaterally bombed, for right or wrong, Libya, without the consent of Congress.

The only satisfaction we got out of our fight was that most of the American public got on our side after a while. But it still reelected Bush and let itself be lied to about Kerry’s war record and ability to lead, and we never got a truly different kind of leader to replace him in 2008, either. Obama put Wall St executives in charge of the economy even after it was evident they were full of shit.

But there is something really interesting happening with Occupy[America]. For one thing, it’s just average citizens (not diehard liberals or extremely informed people like me) who are protesting. Photo after photo, interview after interview, this is very evident.

There are so many people in this country who have been foreclosed on, laid off, unable to move forward, that a segment of them, with nothing left to lose, are truly taking the fight to the streets. Since they have nothing left to lose - no middle class lifestyle, no prospects - they have a lot to fight for. I always said the worst part about being an anti-war protester is that most of our citizens, even when sympathetic (and the majority was by the time I left that movement) are busy with their lives, making their livings, feeding their families, going to soccer games, and being generally content that things aren’t that bad for them, personally. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s totally human, and what’s more, a legacy of the last century of American progress. We built the middle class. A country with a middle class able to make ends meet is a relatively politically stable country. It’s a good thing.

Which is why I think there is something different in the air.

Gradually, we’ve seen the erosion of the buying power and the salaries of the middle class. For so many decades before, our children did at least a little better than their parents. Then, since the Reagan era, we started to see the slide. We began to only tread water…then occasionally swallowed some. Then we began drowning, but we as a people were the last to see it happen.

Even in the 2008 economic meltdown, we failed to notice our lungs filling with something other than air.

This generation of young people really are the first who truly believe - nay, who know - they are not destined to do better than their parents. Unlike the spoiled kids of my generation (raised largely in the 80s and coming of age in the 90s), they see the coming tide sweeping over them and pulling them under the water before they even get a chance to begin. They are left behind. And they know that if they do nothing, it will only get worse. They have nothing left to lose.

They join every one of their older siblings, parents, grandparents who have lost a house, a job, a future, despite being of the generations born with more promise. For some of us older ones, we’ve experienced firsthand how it’s gonna be going forward if there are no changes. For the rest of us older ones, we are beginning to understand how fragile our position of comfort is. The OccupyWallSt movement presents this to us in bas-relief - the notion that the middle class is under siege and has been for quite some time.

The thing that is different from now from these previous movements is that the situation that has caused these long term problems is not going to be alleviated by last generation’s leaders. Obama is cut off at the knees to even patch a pathetic temporary band-aid (the jobs bill) on our economic slide by Republican intransigence. And even Obama’s half-measures would probably only prove to elongate the stagnation, not solve the underlying problem. We’re now seeing the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us reach the levels seen right before the 1929 crash. Eventually, this was going to get noticed by someone. By everyone.

Even the Tea Party movement, while misguided to the extreme, is an expression of this loss of power by the average person. Why did they catch fire? Despite being such a minority of even the Republican party? Because poor and middle class Republicans too are suffering in this economic climate, this class warfare on us by the super-wealthy. They just aren’t right on who to blame for this.

Most of America, on the other hand, already knows what and who is to blame. They already overwhelmingly want to see taxes raised back up on the uberwealthy. They know that Wall St needs taking down a peg or three, and that we need to go back to regulating our economic system so that the playing field becomes level again. They just need the energy to look up from their day to day struggles against the tide, to look up, and see that horizon again.

I don’t know where the Occupy movement is going to go. It seems to change and swell bigger by the day, though it could have an upper limit, I suppose. But if this truly is the moment where the American people reach the tipping point, if this is the straw that, finally, after 30 years of straws, breaks the camel’s back, then maybe we can make the changes without the economic crash that I have been foreseeing for years. That crash (which will make 2008 look like cakewalk) could still be coming. But if we organize enough in advance, if we can offer an alternative to the American people now, perhaps we will not lose a decade like they did in the Great Depression. After all, we have history to inform us how best to rebuild the American middle class and spread prosperity around to everyone.

So, occupy on! There may not be an immediate result, but it could offer a long term solution. Hats off to the most powerless among us.

“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” - V

December 22, 2009

Perhaps, Signs of Optimism

by at 12:43 pm.

The news is reporting that MA home sales last month were up incredibly from last November, by a whopping 59% for single family homes. Of course, November 2008 was a terrible month for home sales, but that is still a very good trend. This is in addition to the encouraging, though fragile news that the state’s revenues are also on the rise, beyond previous gloomy projections.

The conservatives have attempted to label the stimulus efforts of the last year as more than fruitless - they state it has been a huge waste of taxpayer money. For instance, they constantly cite their favorite sets of numbers with regards to the Cash for Clunkers program - that each “clunker” cost far too much to be useful as a stimulus.

But here’s what I know. I know a family member of mine who works in the auto parts industry went from a dismal reduction in hours a year ago, to working full time again in the last few months. I know his company is now working on electric car technology, partly due to a bigger emphasis on green transportation and getting ourselves rid of “clunkers.” I know that my own brother proudly purchased his first home to take advantage of the first-time buyers program last summer, one more notch in the stabilization of home prices. He has a good steady job and was a perfect candidate for someone who just needed a little incentive take the plunge to being a home owner.

I also know that I myself have expanded my business as a direct result of stimulus money which is going to a program intending to help people gain the skills necessary to become more financially responsible. My business is doing so well I have less time for blogging. :)

I know there’s construction going on around the state and I know that the Hamilton Canal District’s Appleton artist live-work rentals had their groundbreaking and is keeping people employed for 18 months. I know that MA’s unemployment numbers are looking better every month, and I know that our schools have dodged a huge bullet when it comes to losing budget in the last year, thanks largely to the priorities of our Governor.

Maybe today’s just a glass half full day because my Christmas shopping is done and mostly wrapped and we’re headed for a three day weekend and I get to watch my excited nieces unwrap gifts, but I’m feeling that 2010 is definitely looking up, and I think that the policies enacted to deal with the Main Street worries, such as the stimulus bill and the incentive programs, did what they were supposed to do. Could they have been more efficient? Sure. For instance, we wasted a 1/3 of the stimulus in pointless tax breaks for special interests and big business. It’s well known* that you do not get back the same economic activity from tax cuts as you do direct spending.

But overall, I think we’re in better shape than we could have been, and averted a worse economic crisis. Now we need to fix what was broken, namely, the regulation of industries in which greed played and still plays such a powerful roll. We need to go back to having a firewall between lending activity and investing, among other things.

I’m not optimistic about health care reform (in that I think that the Senate bill subsides for Big Insurance are just going to become tomorrow’s boondoggle) but at least restricting the ability of insurers to deny you care for a preexisting condition or kicking you off care is a good step (we do that in MA by the way). We need fast action on carbon reduction, and though Copenhagen was a tough nut I hope people are not done fighting for it. If we can build these three pillars - economic reform, heath care reform, and environmental reform - we will have gone a long way towards transforming our country to thrive for the next 9 decades of this century.

* Known except to those who cannot let facts get in the way of their theory binkie called “trickle down.”

February 11, 2009

What happens when “I stand with Israel” becomes “I stand against democracy in the Middle East”?

by at 12:59 pm.

(Cross-posted at BlueMassGroup)

So the elections are in and it looks like the hard-liner Israelis (as well as hard-line Palestinians) have sucessfully reaped benefits from the current rounds of conflict. This, in all likelyhood, means more lip-service to a two-state solution at the same time as settlements continue to expand. It seems to me that incentives for Palestinians to negotiate at this point are dwindling by the day. At some point they will come to the conclusion that any two-state option that Israel is willing to give isn’t one worth having. What then?

More below the fold. (more…)

October 25, 2008

Republicans Not Fit To Lead

by at 9:53 am.

Tristero on Digby hits on the real tragedy of the Palin speech on science and earmarks…not only is she completely ignorant of the subject of which she speaks (worthy of a Phelps rant?) but the fact is, that policy speech had to have put together by the upper echelons of the campaign, some of the “great brains” of Republican leadership:

Sarah Palin isn’t the issue here. Sure, I’ll concede that this illustrates Palin’s breathtaking ignorance AND her stupidity. After all, she agreed to repeat it. But what it really demonstrates is how unqualified the upper echelons of the Republican party are to run this country. She certainly didn’t write this speech: John McCain’s advisers did and approved every appalling word.

The subject is government funding of scientific research:

Where does a lot of that earmark money end up anyway? […] You’ve heard about some of these pet projects they really don’t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.

If you know anything at all about science in the 21st century, then you know that the study of fruit flies (aka Drosophilia melanogaster) has led to some of the most important discoveries in biology, genetics, and related topics.

And yet, their best argument for electing them these days is that we need to balance the one-party rule of Democrats (both nationally and in this state). You know, if you got balance, but it’s on the edge of a cliff, I’d prefer to back away from the cliff, to hell with their brand of “balance.”

October 30, 2007

Farm Bill: Info On Improvements

by at 1:48 pm.

I have to say, this is the best diary I’ve ever seen explaining the farm bill, what’s in the new version, what’s being debated, and what everything means. There are action items to take in it as well, and we should all get educated and then call our Senators.

Imagine getting somewhere on reforming the farm bill, which was created originally to help small farmsteads but now is merely a large corporate welfare system that encourages the manufacture of unhealthy foods with its subsidies. Well, this is our chance to make some changes. (Go read, then call your Senator!)

October 3, 2007

Why the War Just Might End

by at 1:55 pm.

So many people are focusing on Rep. Obey’s proposal (along with our own Rep. McGovern) for a tax surcharge to pay for the war, and how this poison pill had the best chance of throwing the “support for the troops=support for the president” crowd off. But skymutt points out that this little tidbit in yesterday’s announcement, which was shot down by Pelosi and Reid within hours, is worth nothing compared to the other point of the announcement.

David Obey, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, today announced that he will not report the Iraq War Supplemental out of committee, and basically told the President that the ball is in his court, that he needs to submit a supplemental that meets several criteria, or there will be no supplemental funding bill.
How many times have you heard some variation of “We don’t have the votes”? Well, today, for the first time, a legislator with the power to back up his words has pledged to take an approach that does not require a floor vote in order to push this war toward an end. Chairman Obey has taken ownership of the issue and said that he will not report an Iraq War supplemental bill out of his committee unless it meets his criteria. Contrast this with other “plans” which have really just been bills that have required majority or supermajority votes for success. Votes that, to date, have not materialized or really even come close.

And Pelosi and Reid have not said a word about this aspect of Obey’s statement. So, there’s hope yet that the wishes of the majority of Americans - that of cutting the funding to this war - will come to pass before Bush is out the door.

March 23, 2007

First Bill on Iraq with Bite

by at 12:24 pm.

I have to say, as disappointed as I might be with how much more this appropriations bill could have accomplished with stronger language or even cutting off funding for the Iraq debacle, that this is a good first step. This bill puts on a binding timeline for getting out (Aug 31, 2008), and mandates that our troops be adequately equipped and trained before shipped off to the combat zone (something we haven’t been doing, which is dangerous for them, and something which will further restrict the “surge” because we don’t have enough soldiers at readiness capacity). How anyone could possibly vote against the latter motion and still consider themselves “for the troops” is beyond me.

Of course, the Decider-in-Chief will probably veto, or at best, sign-statement this away, ignore the law, and cause a constitutional crisis (I’ve always said it will come to that), but the fact is, Mr. Bush, elections matter. The people spoke in November. Now, I don’t know if you care about your party or your legacy, but keep up this course, and both are in serious jeopardy. Your party will be lucky to gain a majority nationally in 20 years, at the rate they are going.

Given this Iraq bill, vetoed or not, and all the myriad scandals surrounding the White House right now (too many to count!), consider this duck totally lame.

Too bad it didn’t come sooner, before so many people died or so many lives were destroyed.

January 9, 2007

Kennedy: Will Intro Bill to Stop Escalation in Iraq

by at 11:49 am.

This is exactly what is needed. It doesn’t go far enough in my opinion, but the American people are not interested in having their new Democratic leadership shy away from interfering with Bush’s completely inept leadership on Iraq [Update: quote from Kennedy writing on BMG]:

I am on my way to the National Press Club in Washington in a few minutes to speak about a new bill. If passed, it will prohibit escalation in Iraq without express Congressional approval of a plan and budget.

President Bush owes the American people a clear explanation about what he’s trying to accomplish in Iraq, and that’s why I’m introducing legislation that will force him to explain himself.

In October 2002, Members of Congress authorized a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein, not to send our troops into a civil war. I voted against that resolution and feel an escalation of this war only compounds the original mistake of going in the first place.

I also write about my idea in comments of the Senator’s post: that I believe we can go one step further, and since the President can’t lead our troops worth a damn, it’s time to micro-manage the war in Iraq by earmarking appropriations to only those activities that directly support the troops. We need to cut spending for any other activity. This will choke off funding for the badly wasted and botched rebuilding projects which have all but halted due to sectarian violence anyway, and any other war profiteering by Halliburton and others. And in 2008 the Dems can say, we supported the troops with targeted funding, but cut off the trough for the pigs. I think that would be a powerful message to send about who is really for supporting our men and women in combat, because the Republicans sure as hell can’t make that claim.

It’s also great to see the Senator posting on Blue Mass Group to let us know about his bill. Thanks, Senator. It’s very rare that you and I disagree.

February 10, 2006

I Respectfully Withdraw From Paying Taxes

by at 7:12 pm.

No really, it’s getting to that point. I can’t believe how much stupid, wasteful, hurtful, deadly, unjustified horsecrap my federal tax dollars are going to.

Where are all the goddamned conservatives who claim they are sick of seeing their tax money wasted? This is so much worse than a $200 hammer. It’s millions to big pharma for overpriced pills, billions for a deadly and unjustified war, and $500 million to anti-gay groups to “promote and strengthen opposite-sex marriage.” Here is THE quote you should read (bold mine):

Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Wade Horn said that the financial windfall is not intended to specifically oppose same-sex marriage, although the President is a major supporter of a proposed amendment to ban gay marriage in the Constitution.

Horn said, however, that none of the money could be used to promote or support same-sex marriage in Massachusetts where gay marriage is legal.

So. Unconstitutional. I’m sputtering maledictions as I write this. This sort of cherry-picking of “causes” to fund with this faith-based initiative crap is exactly why the state should not be involved with religion.

Right now, I totally respect anyone brave enough to refuse to pay their taxes. Probably about 90% of it is going to shit with this bunch. Animals.

[Via Queer Today.]

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