Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Modest Proposal

Peter Goldmark of Newsday is a former budget director of NYS & former publisher of the International Herald Tribune. He headed the climate program at the Environmental Defense Fund.
On August 19th and repeated in today's Sunday Newsday he wrote an OpEd putting forth a few "modest" ideas to straighten out the country.
He invited readers to send in their thoughts via email and he promised to read and respond to all.
That might be a tall order given the amount of angst in New York, let alone America.
I guess it's not a surprise that I offered my opinion, naturally, in the hopes that someone, somehow, somewhere will start to listen to those of who make less than a few million dollars a month!

Hi Peter,
Thanks for offering to listen to those who read & listen to you.
I almost do not know where to begin – Almost.
First and foremost we must restore confidence in America and self esteem in Americans. And when I say Americans I am speaking of the vast but dwindling middle class.
You are absolutely correct on all your points and I wish to add a couple of finer points to the list.
I realize there is no single project, no silver bullet to kill all that ails us as a country but one area that is definitely a win-win is infrastructure repair.
The nation’s bridges and roads are deteriorating at an embarrassing rate and putting people to work repairing them is a no-brainer. Sadly many of the politicians on one side of the aisle ARE no-brainers as they refuse to allow any movement that could be seen as a plus for the President.
If we do get to move on infrastructure I wish to add a new project to the mix:
When we built our National Highway System it became a model for the rest of the world to point to. We should use our ingenuity to now plan and build a similar system, not for vehicles but for water.
How often do we see terrible flooding in one part of the country while others are literally praying for rain? (I couldn’t resist a little dig at Mr. Rick Perry.)
This National Water Main system would funnel water away from flood ravaged areas and send it to places in dire need of the precious liquid.
The project would create jobs for tens of thousands and ongoing careers maintaining the structures for ages to come.
And it could even have the extra added benefit of producing hydro-electric energy as the water is moved around the country.
As for so-called entitlements I guess reform is absolutely necessary but certainly not as necessary as tax reform.
The wealthy who have contributed much to the problem in America and very little to the solution should look to Mr. Warren Buffet, no slouch he when it comes to money. We should agree with him as he asks why he is paying so little toward his fair share of tax revenue.
Incentives for state and local governments are nice and should always be looked into. But how do we ask the local municipalities to do that which the nation refuses to do?
But many years ago and for five consecutive years I was the President of the Home Fashion Products Assn. During one of my many speeches in the 1990s I warned that our nation was headed for terrible times as we continue to send jobs overseas.
I warned that we would become a third world nation unless DC started to place tariffs on products manufactured by cheap foreign labor.
I also admitted that we could not blame any CEO for trading highly paid and skilled workers in America for ‘who cares, they’re cheap’ labor in Asia since if they did not do so while their competitors did their businesses would fail.
My laundry list is much longer than I note here but I must stop somewhere.
But unless and until I see a willingness in Congress to tackle ANY of our problems I fear we will be airing our dirty laundry in public for many years to come.

I don't expect to get an actual reply from Mr. Goldmark but I wouldn't mind hearing from any of you.  Am I off the mark or am I striking Gold?
If he replies I'll post it here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


In soccer the goalie's main job is to deflect all shots and stop his opponent from scoring.
He is charged with the task of keeping others from attaining their goals.
Great goalies are world renowned and among the highest paid in their sport.
In America soccer has taken a long time to gain a foothold.
This is because we love high scoring events with prodigious offensive outbursts over defensive struggles that are considered boring.
And that's a shame because in many ways a good defense is the best offense.
A one on one match up between a forward and the goalie featuring a penalty kick is one of the most exciting plays in the game.
Tension mounts as the cool level-headed players face each other.
With striker and goalie intent on reading any sign of movement, any edge to anticipate, react and stop the other the crowd hushes.
One wishes to score, the other needs to stop him.
In an incredibly similar way our politicians have been playing this same game for years.
Unfortunately those in the vast but shrinking middle class have had their goals deflected more and more to the point where no one even talks about scoring anymore, merely surviving the game.
Republicans, and their well funded new arm in the T-Party have become the goalkeepers who have become quite adept at total deflection.
Think of what's going on in the country today:
Unemployment and under employment is at horrendous and dangerously high levels;
Corporations, many who received bailouts and are still receiving tax subsidies are reaping in the profits AND KEEPING THEM;
The only jobs our young college graduates can find are unpaid internships with these greedy fat corporations;
Anyone lucky enough to gain new employment does so at a lower rate with less benefits if any;
Health care costs and insurance premiums to supposedly cover those costs have increased through the roof with co-pays/co-insurance/deductibles and 'un-covered' treatments adding to the costs;
And health care insurance companies' profits rival those of big oil;
Our nation's infrastructure, the very roads upon which we travel or water mains through which we receive that precious liquid is falling apart;
BUT the news is filled with stories about NEXT YEAR'S REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT!
And the Republicans keep it thus by deflecting all eyes away from the current needs of the country.
These above noted needs if addressed and fixed would ultimately help all of us.
BUT THEY MUST BE DEFLECTED AT ALL COSTS if the 'right' is to have any chance of gaining total control of the government.
And if that happens they will be free to use their perceived mandate as license to further kill the middle class' former American dream.
This would seem to be un-American activities bordering on terrorism and yet they deflect our eyes by calling President Obama anti-American even questioning his citizenship!
No goal for you!
When the Democrats decry tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of the country the Republicans claim those people are the job creators and must not be harmed.
When Speaker of the House Boehner accidentally allowed $17 Billion in spending for Pell Grants aimed at aiding education his entire party objected and stalled debt ceiling talks claiming runaway costs.
And when President Obama talks about adding revenue to the country's coffers in order to get us out of this terrible depression by asking the wealthiest Americans to merely contribute their FAIR SHARE Republicans claim class warfare and job killing policies.
Speaker Boehner proudly proclaimed that he had been able to get 98% of what he wanted in the debt and deficit talks.  That is a fairly telling number which leaves 2%, the same number of Americans who are also left out of the tax rolls and go 'scot-free' during this social and economic crisis.
It has been said that what you don't know won't hurt you.
For years Americans did not know much about soccer.
Sadly we are learning about the great game in an interesting way, through the eyes of the deflecting goalies of the 'do-nothing' 'stop all progress at any cost' Republican Party.
They have turned our lives into a game for which they have written the rules and appear to be the referees.
And if someone has the nerve to point this fact out they will deflect by blaming Obama or saying something innocuous such as, "Lovely weather we're having!"  Of course they also deny Global Warming - AKA climate change but that's another deflection, I mean story.
Unless and until we as a nation come to grips with this tactic and rise up to defeat it we will never score a goal  again, let alone be victorious.

And we and our children will be shut out of our own futures!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Reality DC

It's ironic that many pundits have been dropping hints that our country was heading into a disaster similar to what recently happened in Greece.  The analogy is hard to miss but their timing is a bit off.  They should be comparing us not to the Greece of today but rather to the days of Aeschylus and the Greek Tragedies.
Next year's commentators on Fox News
This week one of the financial ratings agencies decided to chime in on what the rest of the world has been watching for years, America's dysfunctional political theater.  It is reality TV at its best, or rather worst.
With so-called Reality TV the viewer should understand that much of what they are seeing is absurdly phony.  The situations are contrived at best and staged at worst.
People who spend more time watching reality shows than living reality lives are missing out on life!
But this is not about them, this is about our elected officials and their counterproductive childish behavior.
When Standard & Poors lowered America's rating from AAA to AA+ it was the first time in the history of ratings that our country was not considered at the top of the financial ladder.
I will let those more well versed in all the ramifications of a lowered financial rating for America discuss what happens now.  I am more interested in the cause and the continued derisive tone that preceded it.
In order to know when it's hot you must also know what cold is.  Without an opposite against which to measure definitions are useless.  If the temperature was always 95 degrees day and night then that would be normal!  We wouldn't even comment on it or have thermometers to tell us it was in fact 95 degrees!
Using that simple bit of logic let's describe the Washington DC of today.
Is it working well?
How does it compare to governments of our past?
Does our future look bright with wonderful possibilities for our children?
The answer to this last question is incredibly subjective as the 2% of Americans at the top of the food chain will say yes, our children will have it great!
But for the rest of us not so much.
They say that politics is the 'art of the possible.'  But I ask how is it possible that our leaders care so little about those of us here on the ground?
Mr. Dickinson knew how
to keep the Riff Raff out!
Well that question is also simple - We voted them in and allowed them to continue the policies that harm us.
I have often used a line from the Broadway play "1776" to describe the mentality of our current electorate and their propensity of voting for people who will hurt them the most.
The words are attributed to Mr. Dickinson, a delegate to the first Constitutional Congress in Philadelphia in the 1770s. In the play he says, "Don't forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich rather than face the reality of being poor."
Unfortunately it still fits and now more than ever I wish the voters would face THE REAL TRUE reality.
Because it is this mentality that is being played on by the representatives of the wealthiest 2% in America and their corporate allies.
Why else would one side of the aisle in Congress demand that we not remove oil subsidies from companies who are making more money than any other company has ever made in the history of the world?  And this at the same time they are demanding we lower benefits to the poor, the elderly, minorities, real housewives of every city and the vast but slowly vanishing middle class!
The answer stares us all in the face every day and every night - The groups being hurt do not have a voice in our current Reality DC theater.  And too many of the members of those groups continue to dream about joining the 2% at the top.
Cheney & Boehner?
Our founding fathers, even Mr. Dickinson would be appalled at the actions of Congress over the last few years.  They were civilized in their dissent and argued for what they believed to be the best course for the most people of America.
The Continental Congress did not have anyone telling another member to "F--k Yourself" (Vice President Cheney) or stand at the podium of Congress and in front of the TV cameras while Congress was in session and shout "Hell no you can't" (John Boehner) because the President had the audacity to try and make our lives better.  (Okay, forget the camera part for the Continental Congress.)
And who can forget Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stating that his one job until 2012 will not be to help the American people live better lives but rather to get rid of President Obama.  His quote, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one term president."
Lowering our nation's horrendous unemployment number or fixing our failing infrastructure does not even appear on the radar screens of this elected official as long as Mr. Obama inhabits the Oval Office!
At least these guys
were entertaining!
And he said this before Mr. Obama had done anything as President other than becoming the first Black man to inhabit the White House!
No elected official had ever been quoted using the same vow against any previous President but then we've only had 44 of them so far.
If this is reality I cannot blame people for wanting fairy tales.  Sadly the ones we are getting are Grimm.

So when S&P dropped America from the ranks of the most trustworthy they were not actually rating our ability to pay back any debt.  We can still print money as needed.
What they were doing was what Nielsen has been doing for years, rating a show.
And this reality show ain't no comedy!