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BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG FOR TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

With the release this week of the chairmen's draft of the deficit-reduction commission (National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform), the chickens are ready to come home to roost.

The 18-member "bipartisan" panel, appointed by President Obama, was chaired by and included primarily Washington insiders, part of the Wall Street economic status quo (with a couple of exceptions). The report called for many things, including cutting back Social Security and Medicare and adjusting taxes in a way that won't help the middle class, but will probably provide bigger tax cuts to most of the wealthy. As Paul Krugman concludes, "It will take time to crunch the numbers here, but this proposal clearly represents a major transfer of income upward, from the middle class to a small minority of wealthy Americans."

Thus far, President Obama, on his tour of Asia, is not denouncing the recommendations. Rather, he appears to be preparing the nation and Congress to adjust to austerity for seniors and the middle class, and more of the same for the rich: "Before anybody starts shooting down proposals, I think we need to listen, we need to gather up all the facts," Obama said of the commission recommendations while in South Korea.

Obama added, in a subtle but telling sign of his support for the gist of the chairmen's draft, that members of the commission "are trying to round up 14 votes for certain aspects of the recommendations, and I want to make sure that they've got the room and the space to do so."

Midterm voters were older in the 2010 election than in 2008, and even the Tea Party seniors, of which there are many, vociferously opposed cutbacks to their entitlement programs. Meanwhile, Democrats at the grassroots appear to be in a lather at the thought of cutting back Social Security and Medicare.

A recent poll indicated that only 12 percent of US voters would back Social Security cuts to reduce the deficit. Meanwhile, according to TPM, "Forty-three percent said they'd prefer to see taxes on the wealthy go up, and 22% said cutting the huge defense budget was the best way to go."

Obama's deficit-reduction commission is laying the groundwork for another massive voter revolt: this time Democrats and seniors of both parties taking on the Republicans and the White House.

The chickens are just about to come home to roost, all right.

Published in EditorBlog

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG FOR TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

Peggy Noonan, a speechwriter who helped craft the Disneyesque aura for Ronald Reagan, wrote a book, "What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era." It lavished praise on the "Gipper."

David Stockman, who was Reagan's budget director, has gone in another direction. He's renouncing deficit-building tax cuts, calling for their rollback.

"We've had a 30-year spree of really phony prosperity in this country," Stockman recently told Leslie Stahl on "60 Minutes."

Stockman derided the "anti-tax religion" of the GOP.

"Well it's become in a sense an absolute. Something that can't be questioned, something that's gospel, something that's sort of embedded into the catechism and so scratch the average Republican today and he'll say 'Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts,'" Stockman told Stahl. He added, "To stand before the public and rub raw this anti-tax sentiment, the Republican Party, as much as it pains me to say this, should be ashamed of themselves."

In short, tax cuts provide the illusion to the American public that Social Security, Medicare, military spending and government funded public expenditures - such as highways - can be had without citizens paying a fair share.

As for the wealthy, Stockman was loaded for bear in another appearance, this one on ABC News: "Two years after the crisis on Wall Street, it has been announced that bonuses this year will be $144 billion, the highest in history. That's who's going to get this tax cut on the top, you know, 2 percent of the population. They don't need a tax cut. They don't deserve it."

When Stockman declares, "We're now becoming the banana republic [of] finance," wise men and women should listen.

After all, he was the person who put together the largest tax cuts in US history. He knows of what he speaks.

Published in EditorBlog

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG FOR TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

It's deja vu all over again from earlier this year, with the Republicans once again seeking to cut off extended federal unemployment benefits. Without Congressional action, millions of Americans without jobs will have no financial support come the holidays.

Contrary to GOP talking points, receiving unemployment checks does not make people lazy, although it might make them anxious and depressed because there are no jobs for 80 percent of the people seeking them.

A recent analysis of government unemployment figures and job data reveals the devastating reality:

There simply aren't enough jobs to employ four out of five unemployed Americans, according to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The total number of available jobs in September was 2.9 million, according to a BLS report released Tuesday. It's a decline of 163,000 job openings from the previous month. During that same period, there were about 14.8 million people unemployed, BLS data show (hat tip to Economic Policy Institute).

A simple calculation shows that the ratio of unemployed people to job openings was 5.0 to 1. Put another way, there are only enough jobs to employ a fifth of the unemployed population.

Reality and facts are something the Republican Party regards with disdain, because they often don't fit its self-serving talking points.

Yet, jobs don't create themselves. It's just another dangerous fantasy of "prosperity theology" that people who lose their paid work deserve it in the divine order of things, that they are on God's bad side.

That's a dangerous and reckless use of religion and a selfish "deficit-cutting" obsession that benefits the rich.

Come Christmas, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner should alternate playing "Scrooge" in a modern political adaptation of "A Christmas Carol."

Published in EditorBlog

EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

You've heard the phrase "kick the ball down the field," of course?

Well, that is just what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to do.

Before the 2010 elections, the Republicans promised, if elected, to put America immediately on a new path (which is really the old path that got us into this mess under three GOP presidents beginning with Reagan.) But within hours after sweeping election victories, McConnell "kicked the ball down the field."

Published in EditorBlog

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

As President Obama has taken flight on an official ten-day visit to India and Asia, the right wing has once again ramped up its rumor mill - and let false charges aimed at tarnishing the president's image fly around the media and the Internet.

In this particular case, the message point for the Republican character-assassination machine was that the foreign policy trip to areas of great economic growth and potential markets for the US would cost taxpayers $200 million a day. Not only that, the attack on Obama as being a lavish spender of taxpayer money included the ludicrous claim that 34 US Navy warships would be protecting the president off the coast of Mumbai.

Chipping away at a Democratic president or presidential candidate through negative, false, personal attacks has been a hallmark strategy of the Republican Party and media since the Nixon era. The tactic accelerated under Clinton and was used against Al Gore ("he lies and exaggerates") and John Kerry (who was relentlessly "Swiftboated").

It's been employed against Obama since his campaign against John McCain: He's really a Muslim; he was born in Kenya; he's a secret Marxist. Now, with the midterm House takeover by the GOP, it appears the right-wing smear machine is emboldened.

Snopes.com, CNN, ABC News and numerous other credible outlets debunked the Drudge Report-generated lie (which came from one questionable "source" in India).

But the Republican propaganda machine knows the truism of a Mark Twain quotation (paraphrased): "A lie will go round the world while the truth is still getting its pants on."

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BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

It would be too simplistic to blame this year's election results entirely on the White House's messaging problem. After all, the party in power when the economy hits a prolonged skid usually gets a shellacking.

But there are numerous signs that when "Team Obama" transitioned from campaigning to governing, it lost its communication mojo.

I recall running across a poll that indicated that many Americans who earned under $250,000 didn't realize that they had received a tax break under the stimulus package. A New York Times/CBS News Poll conducted last month found that "fewer than one in 10 respondents knew that the Obama administration had lowered taxes for most Americans. Half of those polled said they thought that their taxes had stayed the same, a third thought that their taxes had gone up, and about a tenth said they did not know."

That's astounding. Only 10 percent of Americans realized that President Obama had provided a tax cut for the vast majority of Americans in the stimulus package! That's a White House messaging disaster. You can be sure that the Republicans would never let any American stay ignorant of a tax cut that they had passed.

In an upcoming interview with Steve Kroft, on "60 Minutes," President Obama admits, "You know, I think that over the course of two years we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn't just legislation. That it's a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone. And making an argument that people can understand. And I think that we haven't always been successful at that."

Maybe the White House has finally gotten the message on messaging.

Published in EditorBlog

A post-racial America?  Not a chance.

Take McKee, Kentucky -- in the heart of Appalachia -- for example. As the Washington Post reports, "many locals are deeply suspicious about Obama and consider him an illegitimate president....People openly question whether Obama is Muslim or was born outside the United States, both accusations that have been proven false."

The town is 99.5 percent white, and poor, very poor: "Half of McKee's residents live below the poverty line," the Post's reporter observes, "and nearly three-quarters subsist on government money, said a county official, be it from Social Security, welfare or another entitlement program." So 75 percent survive on government checks, but "fear that the United States is being destroyed."

It's like the elderly in the Tea Party who carry signs that accuse Obama of promoting "socialist" healthcare reform, but warn the government not to mess with their Medicare benefits.

How do you explain such a contradiction?

Because the majority of Americans elected a black man to reside in the White House.  And a lot of white people, poor and rich, think that's not an "American" thing to do.

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Published in EditorBlog

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

 

According to CBS News, the Jon Stewart "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" drew an estimated crowd of 215,000 on Saturday, while Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" event in August had 87,000 in attendance. But don't count on Beck to dampen down his incendiary rhetoric any time soon.

According to ThinkProgress, Beck used the right-wing fixation on reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to identify by name and vilify a League of Women Voters debate moderator in Illinois. This resulted in threats on the woman's life and forced increased security at the Illinois League office. The League formally alerted the FBI and local police of the violent rhetoric resulting from Beck's incendiary charges on television.

Apparently, the debate moderator was following League precedent in not opening the debate with the pledge (which was eventually recited anyway), but that didn't stop right-wingers and Beck from targeting a person carrying out her volunteer civic - and civil - responsibilities. According to ThinkProgress, the Illinois League Executive Director alerted the FBI to death threats posted on the Internet and "reported menacing posts on Fox News Channel's Facebook page and Beck's website, The Blaze."

Beck is already linked to motivating a follower to try to kill staff of the Tides Foundation, which he has singled out in his "liberal conspiracy" rants.

Can this inflammatory incitement in any way be perceived as "restoring honor" to America?

Or is Beck just trying to increase his body count?

 

Published in EditorBlog

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

This is a time for white, working and middle-class voters, as Sharron Angle would say, "to man up."

In the world of public policy - or just plain hateful politics such as stomping on the head of a MoveOn supporter at a Rand Paul debate - a man or woman has to choose between his or her prejudices and the future of their families.

As a commentary posted on Truthout recently noted - "Eight False Things the Public 'Knows' Prior to Election Day" - most of the information being peddled by the Tea Party and the GOP is flat out wrong. After more than three decades of Republican policies that have lost millions of American jobs and diminished the standard of living of the working and middle class, millions of gullible white citizens are angrily clamoring for more of this mistreatment!

Yes, the Obama administration has been horrible at communicating its relative accomplishments to almost everyone, a veritable textbook example of a messaging disaster. But the facts remain - and the facts are that the GOP, in general, is toxic to the well-being of the nonrich.

So, the Tea Party and GOP whites can stomp on all the "liberal" heads that they want, but they are just betraying the future of their families and themselves.

They can choose between prejudice and hate on the one hand, or the economic and educational opportunities for their children and themselves on the other. If the polls are correct in states like Nevada, at least half of the white, working, middle class and even unemployed are going to choose anger and bigotry over economic self-interest.

Instead of choosing to support public policies that will help put food on their tables, they are going to feed their children spoonfuls of hate.

Published in EditorBlog

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG BY MARK KARLIN

Dear Readers,

We all know this: the midterm elections will come and go, but the movement toward progressive values will continue. It must.

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After more than ten years of publishing the pioneering progressive site, BuzzFlash.com, I was delighted to join the Truthout team in August, donating BuzzFlash's site to Truthout.

BuzzFlash and Truthout share a common vision that to advance the common good is a long-haul effort, not subject to the outcome of any particular election cycle.

BuzzFlash and Truthout understand that positive change must influence the hearts and minds of so many Americans who have been bombarded with extremist propaganda and corporate-backed policies.

BuzzFlash and Truthout realize that real progress cannot come when corporations are footing the bill.

It would be easier for BuzzFlash and Truthout to accept advertising, but it would be wrong. If people are to come first in our democracy, then they need to be able to find news sources and communities that are free of corporate funding and corporate branding.

BuzzFlash is proud to be a part of the Truthout family, where are our only obligation is to the truth.

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