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Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

NO BARGAIN: America's “fiscal lemmings” are about to effectively reverse the election result and grant HUGE victories to the right (for no good reason)“The deficit hawks… see a crisis over this fiscal stand-off as providing an excellent opportunity to cut Social Security and Medicare. For this reason, the deficit hawks are doing everything they can to convince the public that waiting until after 1 January to reach a deal would be an economic disaster.”

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

I’ve linked my poster art (below) to an article about the statement recently issued by nearly 350 prominent economists, warning against the so-called “Grand Bargain” that’s about to be passed in the lame duck session of Congress (the negotiations are well underway, and the president has already repeatedly signaled his willingness to slash entitlements and cut corporate taxes as key components of this brutally lopsided deal).  Many observers have noted the grim irony that after their Election Day drubbing, conservatives are about to score a historic victory, plundering the New Deal after decades of failed attempts to do so.

I certainly hope that we prevent this terrible victory for radical conservatism and, toward that end, I welcome my readers to print this poster (below) and display it as you feel appropriate.  And spread the word that NOW is the time to push the politicians to defend entitlements… before this Raw Deal is sealed.

STOP the “GRAND BARGAIN” NOW! (Pretty please?)And here are a few more choice excerpts from the (Jobs Not Austerity) economists’ joint statement:

“…too many in Washington are fixated on cutting public spending to balance the budget, not on how to put people back to work and get our economy going. There is no theory of economics that explains how we can deflate our way to recovery.”

*

“If you cut spending and consumer purchasing power in an already depressed economy, unemployment rises and revenues fall — and the goal of a smaller deficit keeps receding like a mirage in a desert.”

*

 “The budget hawks have the sequence backwards. Public outlay for jobs and recovery come first, growth is restored, and revenues follow. Budget cuts in a deep slump lead only to a deeper slump.”

This is the proverbial “hill to die on,” my friends.  And NOW is the time to act.  All reports indicate that the establishment left, led by President Obama, is poised to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and let the .01% run roughshod over the American people.  Obama and the Republicans (“Good Cop” and insanely “Bad,” respectively) are about to impose $3 trillion of deadly austerity on America and hack into the New Deal (starting with Medicare and Medicaid, and possibly Social Security) in order to close this raw deal — the alleged “Grand Bargain,” authored by the corporatists it so clearly benefits (to the detriment of the economy of the 99%). 

While the president could allow the Bush tax cuts to expire and then proceed to bargain from a position of strength, there is no reason to hope that he will do so.  President Obama has repeatedly signaled his willingness to needlessly slash Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security), as well as his willingness to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 (which will only increase the total amount of spending on healthcare — no “savings” there).  In short, Obama has already strongly indicated that he’s anxious to sign any deal (however fiscally hopeless and grotesquely unfair) as long as it raises taxes slightly on the top two percent of earners — for that is the crumb he will toss Americans after he breaks our backs with austerity in order to placate the billionaires.

Negotiations supposedly begin in earnest on Friday, which means that the election results are just days away from being fundamentally reversed UNLESS WE SPEAK UP.  (Act now, or don’t look surprised when austerity does to America what it’s done to Greece, Ireland, Britain, Spain…) 

H E R E ’ S   H O W   W E   W I N :

Begin by making some phone calls (some suggestions below, re: how to go about that).  Also, write e-mails/letters/faxes to your representatives in Congress and to President Obama.  Sign one (or all!) of the many anti-austerity petitions currently in circulation.  Urge your friends and family to act, and spread the word (Tweet, Facebook post, whatever).  Contact AARP, big unions like SEIU and the AFL-CIO, and liberal groups like People for the American Way and MoveOn.org — tell them to mobilize further against this extraordinary betrayal of the electorate.  Organize, if you can, but, however you can, SPEAK UP!

1. PHONE CALLS TO POLITICIANS: In addition to calling the President and your congressional representatives, it would be advisable to call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (775-686-5750) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (415-556-4862).  And, though you’ll likely get a cooler reception, it wouldn’t hurt to call the offices of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (502-582-6304) and House Speaker John Boehner (513-779-5400).  Clearly express your strong opposition to any “bargain” that restructures and slashes entitlements.

A. Call the White House (202-456-1111) — Sample script:

“Please tell the president that voters did not reelect him so he could needlessly slash entitlements while cutting corporate tax rates and leaving Pentagon waste and corporate welfare untouched.  The ‘Grand Bargain’ is a raw deal for the middle class and working people.  The politicians need to leave Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security 100% alone!  If President Obama leads the fight to defend entitlements 100%, he will have my complete support.”

B. Call the congressional switchboard (202-224-3121) and get transferred first to your two Senators, and then to your Representative (though our best hope likely lies with the Senate).  The following is my suggestion for a scripted call, but you should personalize your call as much as possible:

“I am a constituent, and I want Senator/Representative ____________ to oppose the ‘Grand Bargain.’  I want (him/her) to HEED THE RESULTS OF THE ELECTION and leave Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security 100% alone! Raise taxes on corporations and the rich, reduce corporate welfare, and tax financial transactions before you further burden the middle class.  Thank you.”

C. Other phone numbers Here are some other Democratic Party and GOP phone numbers that we can resort to if the main congressional switchboard gets clogged up (as it often does):

* Democratic National Committee (202) 863-8000

* Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (202) 224-2447

* Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (202) 863-1500

* Republican National Committee (202) 863-8500

* National Republican Senatorial Committee (202) 675-6000

* National Republican Congressional Committee (202) 479-7000

2. E-MAILS, LETTERS, and FAXES: In addition to phone calling, make the time (if you can) to send a brief written message to the politicians — LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!

A. Politicians’ websites (linked for e-mailing) and FAX numbers:

* President Obama: FAX# 202-456-2461

* Senate Majority Leader Reid: FAX# 202-224-7327 (DC) or 702-388-5030 (NV)

* House Minority Leader Pelosi: FAX# 202-225-8259 (DC) or 415-861-1670 (CA)

* Senate Minority Leader McConnell: FAX# 202-224-2499 (DC) or 502-582-5326 (KY)

* House Speaker Boehner: FAX # 202-225-0704 (DC) or 513-779-5315 (OH)

B. Bonus Rhetoric (oh boy!) — Here are some more facts, rhetorical arguments, and links to consider while crafting your message:

* I like Robert Reich’s approach to cutting $4 trillion over ten years without painful austerity measures and regressively restructured entitlement programs: Tax financial transactions, go back to taxing capital gains like income, restore America’s traditionally progressive taxation rates, and end the gravy train of corporate welfare.

* During the 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations, the Congressional Progressive Caucus authored a plan for eliminating the budget deficit entirely and returning America to surpluses — without slashing entitlements.  Their plan supports my values and priorities far more than anything presently being contemplated in the so-called “Grand Bargain.”

* According to Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) a single-payer healthcare system would save America an estimated $350 billion per year, improving health outcomes and knocking out the single largest driver of deficits going forward: skyrocketing healthcare costs.

* Any “Grand Bargain” that remotely resembles the recommendations of Mr. Simpson and Mr. Bowles represents a GREAT BETRAYAL of the American people. On Election Day, Americans voted overwhelmingly against austerity and for the preservation of Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid — the politicians need to leave entitlements alone and tax the oligarchs!

* Social Security is not in crisis.  If left alone entirely, the program will struggle for a while (with benefits down to 70% of today’s at the projected cycle’s nadir) until the last of the Baby Boomers have shuffled off their mortal coils, when the program is projected to return to 100% solvency.  The program can weather the full impact of retiring Baby Boomers without reduced benefits if we’re willing to raise the salary cap and make a few other minor adjustments… a humane, sensible course, which the politicians (of course) aren’t even discussing.  What they are reportedly considering — chaining Social Security’s annual cost of living increases to the Consumer Price Index — should be a non-starter, as it will eventually cut benefits enormously.

[I’ll take a brief moment on this Veteran’s Day to acknowledge the sacrifices of America’s servicemen and women, which have been great indeed in recent years.  To be clear (and consistent): I see very little morality or intelligence in the policies of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) — but that critical assessment does not reflect my view of the majority of individuals who have enlisted.  In fact, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it was members of the U.S. military who, in many, many instances, fought the Bush/Cheney assault on human rights and the rule of law most vigorously, at GITMO (where one chief prosecutor after another QUIT in protest) and in the rest of the world, opposing: institutionalized torture, undemocratic/politicized tribunals, and even the ethnosectarian cleansing of Baghdad’s Sunnis euphemistically known as “The Surge.”  I would like to acknowledge the countless individuals who have honorably represented the United States of America and exemplified the best values of our nation.  Thank you for your service.]

Okay, I’ve just decided to let Cenk Uygur (of The Young Turks) do a lot of the talking for me today.  I’ve been working on this blog for a couple of days now, roughing out a few paragraphs and reading and archiving articles and perspectives that best explain (for my money) the folly of the so-called “Grand Bargain” that’s looming, but in my opinion Cenk’s latest column gets it exactly right — so today I’m recommending that you read someone else’s work before my own… even if you leave my website right now, before you read another… word.

(Still there?  Or, better yet, are you back?  Excellent.)

I’m taking this unusual step (directing my readers elsewhere today) because I believe that Cenk Uygur’s “Why the Grand Bargain is One-Sided and Totally Unfair” can do some real good in America right now — THE MORE PEOPLE WHO READ IT, THE BETTER.  This column provides a superb (concise and elegant) explanation of what the politicians are about to do to us in the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress (in short, to put it in my own words, they’re going to take the first truly significant step toward bringing European-style austerity to America, dealing our economy a crippling blow and locking in the permanent contraction of our middle class).

But again, Cenk says it best.  Read his piece.  Share it.  Link it on Facebook.  Tweet about it.  Nag your friends and family with it and e-mail it to your congressional representatives… and tell them they’d better start thinking about balancing the budget some other way if they’d like to be reelected!

Liberalism just won BIG on Election Day, with: 1) a three-million vote advantage (and growing, as the ballots continue being counted) for President Obama; 2) a more than twelve-million vote (collective) advantage for all of the Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate; and 3) a half-million vote (collective) advantage for all of the Democratic candidates for the House (a House that would be under Democratic control right now, if the side with the most votes won — which they would have, many analysts have offered, had Republicans not so thoroughly gerrymandered their districts two years ago).

Even so, thanks to the (near-total) corruption of our political system, Liberalism is about to suffer a historic defeat… unless we act NOW.

*          *          *

Finally, here are some of the links I was preparing for use in this blog — before I decided to make it the “Wow, check out what Cenk Uygur is saying” edition (you real wonks and readers will enjoy some of the facts and perspectives below, but my advice is to read Cenk first).

1. “The U.S. Austerity Fight Cometh” by John Buell (including austerity’s catastrophic failures in Europe and the fact that it was bailing out the financial giants that jeopardized the struggling European economies in the first place): http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/11/07-10?print

2. “Wall Street Urges Obama to Commit the Great Betrayal” by William Black (on the “Grand Bargain,” which he terms the “Great Betrayal”; also flagging “Third Way” as the austerity-shilling, fake-liberals they are and enumerating austerity’s dismal track record in Europe): http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/11/bill-black-wall-street-urges-obama-to-commit-the-great-betrayal.html

3. “Let’s Not Make a Deal” by Paul Krugman (brilliantly explaining how the “fiscal cliff” is no such thing; noting that the President has a strong mandate to protect entitlements; and arguing that Obama must be willing to let the Bush tax cuts expire if the ritual hostage-taking of the U.S. economy is ever going to stop): http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/09/opinion/krugman-lets-not-make-a-deal.html?pagewanted=printv

4. “Voters Didn’t Ask for Bi-Partisanship, They Demanded Good Policies” by Richard Eskew (wherein the author takes issue with the MSM’s preferred, austerity-supporting, narrative and explains what Americans tried to tell our broken establishment last Tuesday: “Protect entitlements and tax the rich!”): http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/11/08-4?print

5. “10 Filthy-Rich, Tax-Dodging Hypocrites Pushing Disastrous Austerity on America: The Fix the Debt coalition is using the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ to push the same old corporate agenda of more tax breaks while shifting the burden on to the rest of us.” by Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger (well worth the read, especially for fans of chutzpah): http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/29-7?print

[Briefly: Hooray for an Election Day that delivered some genuine victories for liberals and progressives, with: 1) a lot of very important local issues breaking the way I hoped they would (California propositions, local races, etc.); 2) some defining cultural/social issues being resolved in a few states in favor of equality (marriage rights) and sanity (moving away from the failed Drug War); and 3) a fairly sweeping national rejection of the Republican brand, which, though badly damaged by the Bush/Cheney years, was really done in by the GOP’s outrageously shameful conduct during the Obama era, including the party’s near-total capitulation to its most bigoted and extreme, “You lie!” raging, partisan id.  This hate-pandering to “paleoconservatives” explains why the GOP fared so very poorly among women and minority voters in 2012 and so decisively lost the race for president as well as key senate races.  As Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) recently observed, “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business” …though it’s certainly not for want of trying (I’m frankly elated to see this vile strategy fail; America is truly better off for the GOP’s bruising defeat yesterday — only that doesn’t necessarily help us on the policy front, where the two parties largely agree.  The devil’s name invoked, let’s proceed to business…]

Limp, quack-quack, and slash, slash, slash…

A LAME DUCK CONGRESS (and stealth radical-conservative president) IS COMING A-SLASHING FOR ENTITLEMENTS… RIGHT NOW. This is no conspiracy theory, but a well-telegraphed and much ballyhooed (if quietly, in coded language), long-orchestrated event: the “grown-ups” in Washington are going to do what it takes to “balance the budget.”  Of course, balancing the budget is not Job 1 in the world of actual grown-ups (who know something about economics, anyway); Debt Reduction should follow Job Creation (the real Job 1, as Americans well know) and also Campaign Finance Reform/Democracy Restoration (Job 2 in my book, accomplished with a strong public campaign finance system along the lines Lawrence Lessig has suggested).  It should also be noted that the establishment’s entitlement-slashing austerity will only shrink the economy while shifting increased healthcare and living expenses onto the populace (while preserving billions of dollars in corporate welfare and tax preferences for the rich — partisan gridlock is a sham, and here comes the proof, “The Great Betrayal,” as William Black has described it).

NOW IS THE TIME FOR ALL PATRIOTS TO RESIST AUSTERITY! (And put a stake through its demon heart, to make doubly sure it won’t return.)  However, I can see only one way we can accomplish this feat (and the path is a gnarly and unlikely one): joint mobilization of the grass-roots, right and left, working in coordination: NOW.

It’s time to put our differences aside and offer every olive branch on the ranch to the other side.  The establishment bastards are coming for Medicare and Social Security, RIGHT NOW, and together we’ve got to stop them. If for no other reason than because they’re doing so under cover of darkness (or trying to, anyway) in clear contravention of the wishes of the vast majority of the public, spanning America’s political center, left, and right.  We just reelected 90% of a body that we approve of, per polls, only 10% — the least we can do now is stop these clowns before they sabotage our most successful remaining government institutions (they’ve already sandbagged the USPS and waged an all-out assault on public education, but that was just the warm-up act).

H O W    T O    W I N :

We need to get the heart of the Ron Paul right — and the people who initially came out for the Tea Party in 2009 (before they were co-opted by the Koch brothers and the Republican establishment) — to make common cause with the core of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Organized labor needs to jump in, too, behind a national unifying call to: PROTECT SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE FROM WASHINGTON TODAY!

As in RIGHT NOW.  Unless we act immediately, this lame duck session will almost certainly see entitlements slashed (for no good reason, and in particularly regressive ways).  Cenk Uygur knows it.  Glenn Greenwald has warned us.  Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) has been increasingly sounding the alarm (and 28 Democrats have co-signed his letter to President Obama, asking in vain for the President’s commitment to defend entitlements).

NOW is the time to do as Mr. Obama has often counseled us: it’s time to make him do the right thing and PROTECT SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE from the obscene recommendations of Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles (two austerity-hawking corporatists who propose that we balance the national budget on the backs of the middle class and poor, leaving the plutocrats untouched).

I suspect that only a massive and mobilized (phone-calling, letter-writing, rally-organizing) and non-ideological coalition can accomplish this task.  I know that many of you just organized, but, folks, it’s time to re-organize (this is why most of you organized in the first place, to prevent precisely what’s about to happen to Social Security and Medicare!).  ACT NOW. And remember that civilization requires civility.  Bridge that divide (lest we be conquered).

This blog is unplanned… and possibly ill-considered.  The planned blog was a simple call to “VOTE” and not much else.  But I haven’t been able to post that blog — since I haven’t been able to convince myself that I am going to make it to the polls today.  I’ve been wondering if I’m just too angry and demoralized to vote, this time around.  (I’m reminded of the instances in my youth when in games or sports, I basically stopped trying to win once I realized that the other side was cheating or the game was fixed; I wouldn’t call it strength of character on my part, maybe the opposite…)

Mind you, I’m genuinely terrified about the possible consequences of this day: I’m very concerned that CA Prop. 30 will not pass (if only through competition with CA Prop. 38, which needs to fail in order for Prop. 30 to win) — and local schools and public safety funds will be cut by $6 billion over the next ten years (after $20 billion in devastating cuts over the last decade — a catastrophe!); I’m also worried that San Francisco Measure F could pass and pave the way for an all-out assault on the Bay Area’s (30 cities’) water supply — under the banner of “environmentalism” (but financed by the usual Republican suspects, hinting at commercial development opportunities and, my guess, water privatization); and, finally, I’m alarmed at the possibility that CA Prop. 32 will pass and corporate money will utterly dominate future elections in America (as California goes, so will the nation on this one), with organized labor’s ability to participate in elections eviscerated.

Compounding my fears and grief, there’s the presidential election: the lesser of two evils (Barack Chamberlain, who, past being precedent, will continue to soberly/stealthily surrender most everything to the corporate fascists) vs. the more evil of two evils (Adolf Mittler, who will proudly take most everything for the corporate fascists, as their smiling robot leader)…  Either way, get ready for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to be unnecessarily slashed in the lame duck session following today’s contest… and don’t hold your breath waiting for the return of civil liberties or for America’s middle class to rebound (our next president will be well-positioned to put the final nails in both of their respective coffins).

Yes, it’s a special kind of bitter impotence I’ve been feeling this election season after my last vote for President unexpectedly helped end habeas corpus and due process and transferred the bulk of $16 trillion to America’s most serious enemies: the criminal banks who have crashed our national economy and defrauded hundreds of American polities along the way (knowingly selling toxic/junk securities to countless cities/counties/states and pension funds across America).  These are the same government-shielded criminals who’ve illegally kicked millions of Americans out of their homes over the last few years with “robo-signers” and falsified mortgage documents (I highly recommend Charles Ferguson’s excellent documentary about Wall Street’s criminality and control of Washington, “Inside Job”).

But anger and despondency aside, listening to Amy Goodman’s “DemocracyNow!” program today seems to have had a positive effect on me (as it often does).  Hearing about the millions of people who are apt to lose their votes this year to intimidation, fraud, and plain old voter suppression efforts (especially in Ohio and Florida) — and factoring in the local issues that I feel strongly about — I believe I’ll vote today, after all, both in the name of the disenfranchised and, also, to at least try to make a difference on those issues on my ballot that I genuinely care about (hoping for the best, even while fearing the worst). 

Otherwise I’ll be voting to REGISTER MY DISSENT.  It’s the least I can do, I suppose: participating in one of my former democracy’s slightly more democratic (if largely rigged) remaining customs, in the year of the Super-PAC.  I remind myself that this voting ritual hasn’t lost all meaning — and my non-participation would probably represent the ultimate victory of the fascist corporatocracy I’ve spent so much time and energy resisting.

So, yeah, VOTE.  While there’s still time…  While it still means something.