31 July 2011

We must now draw the line in the sand: there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid or we will march on Washington and shut down the government

How about it, Progressive America?

Debt Deal Horrible for Progressives, America

The so-called debt deal being reported at this moment (Sunday morning) as "in the works", to ...
  • turn over the essential governance of our nation by elected representatives to a designated commission that arbitrarily contains equal representation of both parties, thus guaranteeing that it will not be representative of the demonstrated wishes of the majority of the public
  • force massive cuts in essential spending when it's obvious to everyone with a whit of understanding of how the economy actually works that our economy is slipping, at best, into a secondary recession and more stimulus is what's needed
  • do absolutely nothing to shift the imbalance in revenue to force a larger share to be paid by the wealthiest individuals and by big corporations
  • do nothing to ensure that outsize military spending will bear the brunt of any cuts...
...may achieve the short term goal of avoiding catastrophic default, but it's clearly a disaster for progressives and for America.

I'll just say it: Obama has again betrayed his core supporters, and his re-election is in jeopardy. When, in the last few days especially, it became clear that the Rightists are playing a terrorist game, i.e., holding our entire nation's welfare hostage for their own minoritarian policy demands; he should have taken the bold step of invoking the 14th Amendment, in order to prevent just this catastrophe. The fact that he refused to take that courageous step, to me, guarantees that he will fail ultimately to reverse the trend towards Rightist control of America, and will go down in history as a closer analog to Herbert Hoover than to FDR.

Now what? Well, a long slog, and a great fight, but you cannot fool everyone forever, and I still maintain that the essential elitism and arrogance of the Right is slowly but surely dawning on even the dumbest and most lied to in America, and the populace will not stand for it forever.

29 July 2011

Amazon will not oppose nationally regulated requirement to collect state taxes?!

It begins to look like there is a growing consensus that online retailers like Amazon.com and J & R Music World should be compelled to collect state sales taxes; and Amazon has even signalled that it will not oppose national legislation to make this happen.

See this.

Sanders: Why Americans are so angry

Sen. Bernie Sanders (*my hero*), has written a piece on Huff Post which should be required reading:  "Why Americans are So Angry." (Here).

The unreality only deepens

Now we read where Boehner is adding in a balanced budget amendment to his supposed "compromise" bill. The unreality only gets deeper and deeper.

To my mind, although it is of course somewhat problematical, the President now has no choice but to say:  

"Look, for generations, ever since 1917, the raising of the debt ceiling has been pro forma. Now, the Republicans have decided to try to hold the entire country hostage, at the risk of destroying our economy, in an attempt to extort unpopular policy changes. But the Constitution is actually quite clear: the debt of the United States cannot be questioned. I will see to it, as the President of the United States, that our government pays its bills, no matter what. Now, I call upon Congress to take responsible action to avoid any conflict over this matter, but that is my declaration to the American people: we will not default, we will pay our bills, and I will see to it by whatever means are necessary. Period."

If this president had the forcefulness and will to say this, right now, I believe it would redound to his credit and would avert this manufactured crisis completely and finally. 

28 July 2011

Myths, reality, and non-despair for progressives

I am hardly alone in being absolutely flummoxed by the one-sidedness of the media coverage of the so-called debt crisis. Not to mention the unbelievable supinity of the Democrats, and especially the president, in capitulating, not only to policy extortion by the Rightists at every turn, but to the very framing of the issue by them.

Look, it’s quite simple. As Zaid Jilani writes in thinkprogress.com [here]... if we were to simply get beyond the mythology of Washington, which is totally beholden to the interests of the richest Americans and corporations, and restore the tax code of the 1960s (adjusted for inflation), the debt would disappear in a trice, and we would have plenty of money to rebuild our infrastructure and restore full employment. These are simple economic facts, of which I am confident that if the American people were told the truth in plain English, there would be overwhelming support for just this change. 

The entire concept that we have a "debt crisis," or that we can't afford the basic programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, still less the major infrastructure and renewable energy investments that we desperately need to restore our economy to full jobs and productivity, is just false. These statements, which you shamefully hear from Democrats as well as Republicans, and which are all over the media as if they were self-evident truths, are, in fact, deliberate lies, which would only be true if preceded by the qualifying clause, "If we absolutely must keep the enormous disparity of income and lopsided tax system favoring big corporations and the super-rich intact as it currently is...."   But Progressives, and especially our supposedly Progressive president, need to say this: "No, that's not so... we can easily afford these things if only we change the unfair system in place now and make Big Corporations and the Super-Rich pay their fair share."

But the other overriding reality is that in 1955 the top 400 Americans had an average income of $13 million in 2007 dollars and paid 52% of it in Federal Income Tax. In 2007 (the most recent year for which figures are available), the richest 400 had an average income of $170 million and paid less than 15% of it in taxes. These people, and the corporations they run, own the government and manipulate it for their interests. Only when the People take to the streets and demand change will there be change, because this, i.e., nonviolent struggle, is the only effective way to battle entrenched control of political systems, as Gene Sharp, the guru of nonviolent struggle, has masterfully explained. But it’s also true, as in 1933-34, that when things get blatant enough and bad enough,  the tenor of politics can change in a very short time, so there’s no reason for despair.

25 July 2011

Responding to Obama's call

The president has it wrong, again. The American people don't want Congress to COMPROMISE with the unpatriotic, mendacious rightist zealots on the Right. We want the president to use the 14th Amendment to STAND DOWN the Republicans' hostage crisis on the debt and force reform of taxes and end subsidies to corporations; and force NO CUTS to the essential social programs.

America has no debt or deficit crisis. It has a jobs crisis. The President needs to focus on this issue, and say clearly that THERE WILL BE NO DEFAULT period, so forget that, we must move on. The Republicans have no interest in good faith negotiation; they are like the Nazis in 1933... they want to force their unpopular policies and consolidate power regardless of the will of the people. We NEED the president to be the Champion of the People.

The hour is late, but there's no time like NOW for the president to show historic leadership.

24 July 2011

The president, AT LONG LAST, must stand up for Democratic values (e-mail to the White House)

Been on vacation through the last couple of horrible weeks in American politics. Here's my response to the most recent events (e-mail to the White House) :

This idea of a "Super Congress" is not only unconstitutional and antithetical to the very principles of Democracy, it is a very, very bad idea for Democrats. The president must take decisive action, and state flatly that there will be no default on the debt, invoking thereby the 14th Amendment powers. Then he must fight like hell to preserve the programs that are the very hallmark of Democratic policy: Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and infrastructure investment to create new jobs, which will mean new revenue and the end of this Depression and its revenue crisis. No other policies will work. The President must, somewhere in his conciliatory heart, know this is true. We are demanding that he stand strong for Democratic values at long last. The time for compromise with the downright UNPATRIOTIC zealots in the other party is past. We, the Democrats who elected Pres. Obama on a promise of POSITIVE change, demand a major course correction and that the president finally stand up for what we elected him to do.

Thank you.

08 July 2011

Krugman: "Let's be frank" (about Obama's failure to stand up for Democratic values!)

Paul Krugman has it exactly right in his op-ed in the Times today:

"Let’s be frank. It’s getting harder and harder to trust Mr. Obama’s motives in the budget fight, given the way his economic rhetoric has veered to the right."

Link to article here

07 July 2011

Bring back the guillotines

If the Republicans keep up this kind of pure crap that 95% of the public now sees through:
Can it be long before we hear outcries to bring back the guillotines?

06 July 2011

Yet another e-mail to the White House on the Debt Crisis and the so-called "Nuclear Option"

I urge Pres. Obama to indeed "invoke the nuclear option" of Article IV of the 14th Amendment with regard to the Republican extortion tactics and manufactured "debt crisis." This is pure blackmail, and these people care less about their country and its economic health than they do about extorting political advantage. At the very least, the president will have succeeded in deferring the issue, and deferring artificially created crises is sometimes a way of resolving them, because the whole psychological dynamic will have changed. The president needs to go on television and explain to the American people just what the Republicans are trying to do, why it's bad for America, why it's contrary to what polls show the great majority of Americans want (i.e., preservation of Medicare and Social Security, and focus on jobs, not the deficit in a time of Recession), and he needs to ASK FOR THE PEOPLE'S SUPPORT. This will work, and is a much better strategy than trying to negotiate from a position well inside the "enemy turf" of a manufactured "deficit crisis," when the REAL crisis is the lack of jobs. More jobs = more revenue = deficit problem solved. The president needs to make this crystal clear so that everyone in the country who pays any attention AT ALL to public affairs understands it. Thank you.
David Studhalter

01 July 2011

My letter as a Californian to Amazon.com

Corporate Relations
1200 12th Ave., Ste. 1200
Seattle, WA    98144 

re:   Sales Tax Issue

To whom it may concern:

Allow me to begin this letter by pointing out that I am a very good customer of Amazon.com (Amazon Prime), purchasing several hundred dollars’ worth of merchandise, at a minimum, each year. I have become accustomed, and appreciative, of the efficiency and convenience Amazon offers its customers. One of the beguiling aspects of online purchasing for many folks has always been that it was a great deal to be able to avoid sales taxes.

I have, however, recently come to the realization that this is profoundly mistaken. It is human nature not to voluntarily pay taxes; taxes are a price of civilization, not a voluntary donation. But that does not make it legitimate to participate in schemes which deprive states of a large share of commercial revenues which under former circumstances would have been collectible as a matter of course.

As everyone knows, many states in the United States, in the wake of the Wall-Street caused financial collapse and Depression (calling it what it is), are in desperate financial condition. My state of California is in one of the worst situations in the entire nation.

As you of course know, our state has decided to try to force the issue of collection of sales taxes on online purchases from Amazon and other online retailers which have significant business connections to the state. In an attempt to circumvent this (despite having falsely claimed in the past that the sales tax issue was not a major factor in their marketing strategy), Amazon has said it will sever ties to various affiliated agents and entities in order to maintain what, in my view, is tantamount to a legal fiction that they do not do business in California and therefore cannot be forced to pay sales taxes.

The fact is that the era when online businesses needed special considerations, to build what were initially fragile and unprofitable business systems, are long over. Amazon has been instrumental in the demise of brick and mortar independent booksellers, and more recently, Borders. That’s just a fact; for good or ill. But the rationale for a major tax break, if it once existed, has ceased to exist, and the needs of society for effective commercial revenue streams in order to fund the essential services provided by states must take precedence.

For this reason, I urge you, as a good corporate citizen, to change your policy, and to accept the right of the states to impose sales taxes on online purchases rather than pursuing a policy that amounts to evasion of the rightful burden of sharing in the cost of government. After all, the taxes are actually levied upon the customers in the states where they reside, and it is only a question of whether you, as a retailer, are required to collect those taxes.

By now, the convenience and other efficiencies of online commerce have established themselves. Of course, since Amazon is able, through arguably legal tax evasion, to offer a substantial price advantage over in-state sources (of whichever respective state may be at issue), there would be some impact on the vaunted “bottom line.” But this is an issue of fundamental fair dealing and the duty of all citizens to pay the fair share of the cost of maintaining the essential services of our states. All businesses are entitled to a level playing field, but that translates to the equally valid principle that no businesses are entitled to structural advantages based on arbitrary considerations which give them an unfair advantage. When online retailing was a novelty and a tiny fraction of commerce, it didn’t matter so much and no one made too much of an issue of it. But that time has past.

I believe that it ultimately comes down to a moral issue. We must all pay (and online retailers must refrain from enabling customers not to pay) our fair share, or we are in default of our moral and legal obligations as honest citizens. While individuals cannot be expected to go out of their way to voluntarily pay taxes, corporate citizens have an obligation to do business ethically and in a manner that is consistent with good corporate citizenship. The current tax policies of Amazon.com, in my view, completely fail this test and must be changed.  

I request the favor of a reply. Thank you.

Another message to White House on "Debt Crisis"

The president's press conference earlier this week was an OK start, but please read Talkingpointsmemo.com today "What's Wrong with this Picture." The fact is that large majorities of the electorate agree that taxes need to go up for the very rich, and tax loopholes for corporations need to be closed. The vast majority say that ANY cuts to Social Security are EXTREMELY unpopular. And it's clear that most people don't really understand what it means to "raise the debt limit," so polling showing a plurality "against" that are essentially meaningless. But Josh Marshall is right. The Administration and Congressional Democrats MUST stop giving in to the hostage mentality of the Republicans. They must use whatever options, including Constistutional power to protect the full faith and credit of the debt, and TAKING THE MESSAGE DIRECTLY to the people, to force the Republicans to back down; or, failing that, to simply not give in to them. The President can and must protect the integrity of the debt, and he needs to assure financial markets that that WILL HAPPEN no matter what. This will take away the extortion power of the unpatriotic and undemocratic leadership of the Republican party, which is willing to play a dangerous game with the economic health of the entire nation and the ability of our nation's government to function.

Thank you.