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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Who Won the Debate? Pinocchio!

It is somewhat exhilarating and affirming that what one says in one week’s blog is confirmed the next week by a presidential candidate.  Mitt Romney, in the first of the presidential debates, made it perfectly clear that what I said on this Blog last week is patently true:  the real platform of the Republican Party is that of lies and distortions.  Romney presented us with no fewer than 15 lies or distortions and probably more (some counted 28).  Let’s start by listing his Ten Most Shameless Lies as contained in an article by Alex Kane on AlterNet.org:

1. An ‘Unelected Board’ Controlling Your Health Care
    In reality, as the Associated Press points out , the board that is tasked with bringing down Medicare costs is prohibited from “rationing care, shifting costs to retirees, restricting benefits or raising the Medicare eligibility age. So the board doesn't have the power to dictate to doctors what treatments they can prescribe.”
2. A Bipartisan Record
    ABC News calls the claim “not quite factual.” Indeed: Romney’s health care plan was enacted with the help of a Democratic legislature. But in general, the body was “frustrated” with Romney “because he wanted to govern like a ‘CEO’ and ‘didn’t pay heed to the legislature and they resented that,’” according to the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation’s Michael Widmer.
3. Dodd-Frank Labels Banks as ‘Too Big to Fail’
    As ThinkProgress notes, this is far from the truth: “the law merely says that the biggest, systemically risky banks need to abide by more stringent regulations . If those banks fail, they will be unwound by a new process in the Dodd-Frank law that protects taxpayers from having to pony up for a bailout.”
4. Obamacare Leads to Loss of Healthcare
    Governor Romney claimed that the passage of the Affordable Care Act will lead to 20 million people losing health insurance.  PolitiFact’s final verdict on the claim is: “That number is cherry-picked, and he’s wrong to describe it as only including people who ‘like’ their coverage, since many of those 20 million will be leaving employer coverage voluntarily for better options. ”
5. The Failure of the Obama Economy
    Romney hammered Obama on the economy’s performance over the past four years. One claim Romney made was this: “[We have] 23 million people out of work...The proof of that is that 50 percent of college graduates this year can't find work.”
    The AP breakdown of the facts on this claim: “The number of unemployed is 12.5 million, not 23 million. ”  And on the college graduate claim, Romney was also wrong. Back to the AP: “A Northeastern University analysis for The Associated Press found that a quarter of graduates were probably unemployed and another quarter were underemployed, which means working in jobs that didn't make full use of their skills or experience.”
6. Obamacare Cuts Billions From Medicare
    This was one of Romney’s favorite attack lines debate night: the notion that the Affordable Care Act is siphoning off funds from Medicare, giving the impression that the law takes money already allocated to Medicare away from current recipients, which is why it gets only a "half true" rating.   The specific claim is that $716 billion was cut from Medicare because of the Affordable Care Act.  "That amount — $716 billion — refers to Obamacare's reductions in Medicare spending over 10 years, primarily paid to insurers and hospitals," says PolitiFact. What the number refers to is money that is saved “primarily through reducing over-payments to insurance companies under Medicare Advantage, not payments to beneficiaries. Paul Ryan’s budget plan keeps those same cuts , but directs them toward tax cuts for the rich and deficit reduction,” ThinkProgress notes.  But perhaps more to the point, because the savings are over a decade, and, since this money is in savings, there will never be a lump sum that Romney can “give back.”
7. Gas Prices Increase
    Romney said that “gasoline prices have doubled under the president. Electric rates are up.” This is true--but to blame it on the president is highly misleading. Instead, as the Associated Press states, “Gasoline prices are set on financial exchanges around the world and are based on a host of factors, most importantly the price of crude oil used to make gasoline, the amount of finished gasoline ready to be shipped and the capacity of refiners to make enough to meet market demand.”
    The AP also skewers Romney’s claim on electric rates going up: “Retail electricity prices have.…grown by an average of less than 1 percent per year, less than the rate of inflation and slower than the historical growth in electricity prices.”
8. Health Care Costs Rising Under Obama
    FactCheck.org was on this false claim back when Romney used it on the campaign trail in September: “Romney says health insurance premiums have gone up $2,500 (per family) under Obama. The actual increase has been $1,700, most of which was absorbed by employers and only a small part of which is attributable to the health care law, which is why it gets only a "half true" rating.
9. Oil and Gas Production Increases Only on Private Land
    The former Massachusetts governor said debate night that “all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land...Your Administration has cut the numbers of permit and licenses in half.”  ABC News says Romney is playing loose with the facts. Data from the Bureau of Land Management shows that “the number of drilling permits on federal lands approved during the fiscal years President Obama has been in office has decreased somewhere between 20 and 37 percent compared to the years before he became president - not the 50 percent Romney claimed.”
10. No Tax Cuts for the Rich
    To fend off the perception that he’s only concerned about the wealthy, Romney made sure to emphasize that his economic plan would not lower tax rates on rich people.  Think Progress has the details on that claim: “If Romney were to actually implement his plan to reduce tax rates by 20 percent while eliminating tax deductions in order to pay for it, taxpayers with more than $200,000 would certainly see a tax cut. But everyone else — 95 percent of Americans —will see their taxes increase.” The New York Times notes that Romney "has proposed cutting all marginal tax rates by 20 percent — which would in and of itself cut tax revenue by $5 trillion."
   
So, the question becomes:  is an inveterate liar and flip-flopper someone we want to put in the White House as President of these United States? 

Maybe that’s exactly what a significant number wants, so that they do not have to face the reality of today’s economy, or the reality of a global economy, or the reality of having to fight through the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Or, more to the point, maybe they are simply tired of hearing how difficult it is to climb out of the mini-depression we have been forced in to by Bush policies that augured trouble from the beginning.

Interestingly, George W. Bush prepared us for this barrage of untruthfulness.  The original reason for the Iraq War perpetrated by his administration was that Iraq had weapons of “mass destruction” and would use them at a moment’s notice.  Secondarily, it was because Al Qaeda was active there (which it was not, of course).   Then, we were led down a primrose path regarding our individual rights, and all kinds of scare tactics were put into use to keep the American people in support of the War.  The Patriot Act made us more vulnerable to government intervention in our lives: all public travel but mainly air travel, surveillance, including the government’s ability to search our private documents and belongings without cause, or to take our pictures without permission, confiscate our computers or library records or what have you, just to see if we had any terrorist tendencies.

We did, after all, buy into this craziness.  And here we are again, allowing a Presidential candidate to lie to us over and over in order to win a debate and to put himself back in the running for the highest office in the land.  But here are a few of his commitments out of which he cannot squeeze:

First of all, whatever he says to the contrary, Mitt Romney is committed to the people of his economic class.  He is going to see that they are well taken care of.  You can’t say that he won’t favor the rich when he has already promised them:
A reduction in the corporate tax rate to 25%
To reverse Executive orders that favor labor especially the one encouraging use of union labor on government construction projects
To lower and then eliminate the estate tax
To lower tax rates for investment income to 15%
Continue the Bush tax cuts that favor the aggrandizement of the 1% over $250k per year
Lower the marginal tax rates (meaning the top rates) substantially from35% to something around 28%
In the long run, lower and flatten the tax rates (which automatically favors the rich)

Second, Mitt Romney is committed to making ours an austere economy for millions of our people, by:

-Immediately moving to cut and cap spending at 20% of GDP, meaning that many programs aiding vulnerable or poorer citizens will have to be cut.  Even Big Bird will take a hit!
-Immediately cutting non-discretionary spending by 5%, reducing the annual federal budget by about $20 billion, by his own estimate.
-By instituting “entitlement  reform,” which comes down to an assault on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as Food Stamps.  Block granting some of these entitlements - like Medicaid and food stamps -- to the states will have the effect of increasing administrative costs for those states who will then have to cut other  programs in order to maintain even a semblance of the benefits now offered.
-By cutting federal government personnel across the board by 10% or more which will have the effect of gutting some programs and curtailing the services of others.
-By eliminating the Affordable Health Care Act, he will devastate millions of people who had already benefited: young adults up to age 26 no longer on parents’ policies; women - no longer able to receive certain services with no charge; seniors - no more help with their medicines: the donut hole returns; and no more restrictions on private insurance conglomerates who will raise your rates, restrict your benefits and cap your payments for certain procedures and services; to say nothing about the fact that a pre-existing condition can again prevent you from even getting insurance!   

Third, no matter what he says, we can count on Mitt Romney to mess-up our foreign relations.  He’s already shown how well he can do that!  But the devastating conclusion is that a bellicose attitude toward other nations, brought on by a jingoist concept of “exceptionalism,” is bound to get us into more wars.  We may be unique among democracies, we may be a leader in certain areas of manufacturing, we may be a wonderful people, and have a beautiful country with great schools and colleges and health care facilities; we may be many things, but “exceptional” crosses a line between special and outright arrogant.  Calling ourselves exceptional but acting as though we are simply better than everyone else, does not make it so.  We must demonstrate our best intentions in our relations with other countries.  Actions speak louder than words and we can be exceptional only when others come to regard us as such by how we act.

So, let us ask again:  do we really want a President who has shown over and over that he will lie, distort, and change his policies and ideas just to get ahead?  I think we have had enough of that in the previous administration.  Romney will listen to his rich friends.  Romney will act as he is told to act by the radical right controllers of his Party. Romney will not move to the center as many predict because his Party is not there.  But mostly Romney will lie to you whenever he is in trouble on any front.  That is his pattern, in business and in government, and it is not going to change.  In order to be the kind of CEO he was, Romney had to “fit” the circumstances or the constituency with which he was presented.  Distorting the truth for him is a way of life; it leads to his kind of success.  Manipulating people, firing them, stripping them of meaningful jobs was his way of life with Bain.  The aggressiveness, the distortions, the outright lies used at Wednesday’s debate was not just for that moment; it is his modus operandi - his manner of operation. 

An untruthful and vacillating President is a disaster in a free and democratic society.  So be aware, be cautious, be wary.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

*Can I trust Romney as President to protect Medicare from being diminished or developed into an inadequate voucher program, when he actually has praised his running mate’s budget that intends to do just that?
*Can I trust Romney to keep the plusses in Obamacare, such as no pre-existing conditions, children under age 26 being on parents plan, making drug costs less expensive for seniors, or even the improvement of the quality of health care? 
*Can I trust Romney to advocate for the middle class and the poor when he seeks to cut entitlements, cut government spending, and cut programs like food stamps?
*Can I trust Romney when he says that he won’t raise the taxes of the middle income group to pay for tax cuts for the rich and corporations?
*Can I trust Romney to put in place any protections for consumers, since he favors massive changes in regulations that control businesses, wall street, banks and the environment? 
*Can I trust Romney to invest the funds necessary to improve our environment, to put us on a track toward oil independence, when he talks only about cutting regulations, getting rid of the EPA, and depending on our own limited oil resources?  When he believes “green jobs” actually hurt employment more than help it?
*Can I trust Romney to enhance our public school system when he advocates for state and local control as opposed to federal involvement?  Can I trust him to advocate for teachers as professionals when he opposes unions and supports a budget that does not envision supporting more teachers?  Can I trust Romney to care about school building refurbishing when he stands against government help for such matters?
*Can I trust Romney to do anything about our crumbling infrastructure when he believes that such “intervention” is not appropriate?
*Do we really want a President who lies to us, deceives us, and changes policies every time he confronts a particular constituency?  Do we really want such a man to have the power to appoint Supreme Court Justices, to hold the detonator of hydrogen bombs in his hands, to command the strongest military in the world?

While President Obama has a specific and concrete plan to stimulate our economy, and has already demonstrated the effectiveness of that plan in moving us forward, Romney wants to go back to the failed policies that got us into this mess.  Romney not only won’t discuss specifics on almost any topic, he purports to keep some things secret until he can discuss them with Congress.  Can I trust Mitt Romney in any matter? since it is unclear what he believes; since he changes positions on issues at the drop of a hat; since he lies or distorts facts and data to suit his own purposes?  Not on YOUR life!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Is the Republican Party Built on a Foundation of the BIG LIE?

Despite what we have said in the last few weeks about the Republican platform being the foundation of what the GOP believes, it is now time to comment on their real foundation.  It is NOT the DNC platform; it is the network of lies and half-truths perpetrated upon the public; it is the twisting and ignoring of facts that is the clear basis for this Party.

Where do we start?  Well, why not start where they started:  President Obama is somehow foreign to the American experience and to the American Way.
 
The GOP has made an industry out of manufacturing images of the President that conjure up a foreign-born, non-Christian (Islamist), Kenyan-oriented, elitist who doesn’t even meet the requirement of being a native-born citizen because he doesn’t have a valid birth certificate. 

Maybe you have already forgotten the outrageous “birther” campaign centering on this one thing: an invalid or non-existent birth certificate in this country.  The movement included a Philip J. Berg, Pennsylvania attorney and 9/11 conspiracy theorist, who backed Hillary Clinton for president.  Another notable advocate was Alan Keyes, who was defeated by Obama in the 2004 Illinois U.S. Senate election, and self-described as a ‘conservative political activist’.

But, of course, the right-wing media joined in through the persons of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and even Lou Dobbs.  However, it was a wannabe presidential candidate who put it into high gear.  Donald Trump resurrected the movement of lies and brought it to a head, since President Obama did release the long form birth certificate from Hawaii.  Although Trump took the opportunity to imply that he made it happen, it was more likely the long-term need to get this falsity squashed that brought forth this reaction from the President.

The Obama-haters didn’t stop there.  In spite of the much earlier Rev. Wright controversy which brought attention to Obama’s Christian denomination membership, and despite his repeated references to his Christian faith, and his appearances at the  Congressional Prayer breakfast, or his use of biblical phrases in his speeches, the general public bought into the fabrication that Obama was, and is, a Muslim.  According to the Huffington Post, about 17% of people still believe this lie, but the numbers are even higher among Republicans and in certain southern states.  It is a tribute to Republican truth-stretching strategy that they have been able to sell this chestnut to about 1/5th of the population.  But that’s not all…

According to a recent article on Addicting Info.org, a right-wing political action committee named “Government Is Not God” recently ran a smear-campaign against President Obama in 19 newspapers, using a dozen bizarre lies about religion and values to rally conservative voters to the polls.  “In the ad, the wingnut GING-PAC lays out its vision of ‘the true agenda of Barack Hussein Obama.’ Upon scrutiny from Politifact, all of the claims rate as false, with a whopping 6 “pants on fire” rebuttals.

Force Christian organizations to pay for abortions: MOSTLY FALSE (qualified by “mostly” only if you equate contraceptive access with “abortions”).
Force Christian schools to hire non-Christian teachers: FALSE
Force all states to permit same-sex marriages: FALSE
Force military chaplains to perform same-sex marriages: PANTS ON FIRE
Force doctors to assist homosexuals in buying surrogate babies: PANTS ON FIRE
Force employers to give illegal immigrants the jobs of U.S. citizens: PANTS ON FIRE
Force States to pay the college tuition of illegal immigrants’ children: FALSE
Force courts to accept Islamic Sharia Law in domestic disputes: PANTS ON FIRE
Force police agencies to allow Muslim brotherhood to select staff: PANTS ON FIRE
Force local authorities to allow Occupy protestors to live in parks: PANTS ON FIRE
Force creation of a permanent government funded “underclass”: Deemed too vague to investigate
The same ad also claims Obama is ‘the only President in history who has deliberately removed the words ‘endowed by their Creator’ when referring to our Declaration of Independence, not once, but several times,’ which Politifact also rated as ‘false’.”

It is clear that all of these lies and half-truths are being used to make Obama seem not only different from the rest of us, but intent on destroying certain beliefs and standards that more than a few Americans espouse.  Again, all this to implicate his ways as other than our ways!

There is another huge lie that lies at the heart of Right-wing attempts to make President Obama seem not only different, but foreign, and that is: Obama is a socialist intent on making our government into a socialist state, much like certain European governments.

Trouble is, America is not a socialist country nor is it headed in that direction.  To be a socialist government, the central government would have to be operating all sources of production and distribution.  This means that all manufacturers, all services, all industries, all modes of distribution - like trucking companies and railways - would have to be government-operated.  They aren’t, and they won’t be under this President (or any other most probably). 

Most of the purveyors of this untruth attempt to display Obama as a European-type socialist, meaning he supports a type of cradle-to-grave “welfare state.”  But the real motive for this appellation is displayed for all to see in an article on Forbes.com.  That real reason is the opposition of the rich toward a government that takes taxes from them and distributes what the rich consider their profits and resources to others with special challenges or needs.  It is displayed in a basic misunderstanding of the commonweal, i.e. the health of a society as a whole.  They simply don‘t want their hard-earned rewards going to people who are, in their estimate:  irresponsible, uneducated, and unworthy. 

Thus, the revealing statement of the real motive for this lie:  these measures are “excuses for the state to take from one group to give to another or to coerce people or businesses to do something they do not want to do otherwise. The more powerful the state, the greater the risk of state coercion under the guise of noble aims. ” (Paul Roderick Gregory on Forbes.com)

A so-called “welfare state” and a socialist country are not the same, no matter how badly the antagonist liar wants them to be.  A socialist state, founded either by the Right or the Left, is all about control of citizens, about power over their thinking and their lives, and all about using them as cogs in the mechanisms of the State.  Nazi Germany and Communist China are not that far apart in their national socialism (or communism).  They controlled all aspects of the lives of their subjects, proclaiming citizen “welfare” while simultaneously taking away all individuality and individual rights.  The only right one possessed was the right to serve the State.

In the Forbes article mentioned above, the author wants to term Obama a European-type socialist because the European welfare state takes one half of national output to provide state health care, pensions, extended unemployment benefits, income grants, and free higher education.  However, he also indicates that these countries leave enterprise in private hands but coerce it through taxation and regulation to contribute to what the state deems “social welfare.”  But a state with private enterprises is not a socialist state.  Social welfare is just that; it is not socialism.  Because 60% of Americans are perturbed by the word “socialist” or “socialism”, these purveyors of lies apply that term (wrongly) to any country that provides for “social welfare.”

Security for the elderly and disabled in the form of Social Security, or Medicare for the aged and sick, or the Veteran’s Administration health care system, or the saving of the American auto industry -- these are not signs of socialism.  The point is that government help for those in less fortunate circumstances than those who prosper is not socialism; it is a social contract that people enter into as citizens to enable society to enhance the lives of all its people.  Government aid is not socialism.  America is not on the road to anything like socialism, because we happen to know the difference between control of people by the state and empowerment of people through supports and opportunities. 

The fact that some small percentage of people, receiving some form of welfare, cheat or take advantage of an opportunity to be lazy or “shiftless” is not an argument for taking away all forms of government help.  If that were so, all the “welfare subsidies” to businesses and corporations should also be taken away because a percentage of those businesses (like macro-farm conglomerates and big oil companies) are cheating us all when they take from the general coffers what they don’t deserve or need. 

Likewise, Socialism is not defined  by government regulation of businesses, banks, and other financial services, nor of drugs and food and other products.  This is the legitimate regulation of  production and distribution so that consumers are protected from unlimited practices that tend to exploit them and their families.  Unfettered profit-taking is a threat to the well-being of citizens because it unleashes not just the benefits of entrepreneurship, but the forces of greed, crime and corruption, as well as threats to health and safety.  Radical Republicans tend to overlook these very real matters whenever they discuss the reduction of regulations, which is almost every day.

Finally, another lie that persists is that President Obama is an enemy of small business and that he is looking to undermine the entrepreneurship that such businesses represent. 
If that were so, would he then reduce the tax burden on small businesses some seventeen times?  From an article by Lori Schulman on Whitehouse.gov, we learn the following:

“Since coming into office in January of 2009, President Obama has signed legislation that created or extended 17 small business tax cuts and credits. Several of those cuts were in three key pieces of legislation: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the HIRE Act. All told, these three laws contain eight different small business tax cuts, including the exclusion of up to 75% capital gains on key small business investments, a tax credit for the cost of health insurance for small business employees, and new tax credits for hiring Americans who had been out of work for at least two months.
The Small Business Jobs Act, signed by President Obama in September of 2010, had another eight tax cuts and credits in it. These included raising the small business expensing limit to $500,000, the highest ever; simplifying the rules for claiming a deduction for business cell phone use; creating a new deduction for health care costs for the self-employed; allowing greater deductions for start-up expenses for entrepreneurs, and eliminating taxes on all capital gains from key small business investments.
In December of 2010, President Obama also signed a tax bill that went one step further and allowed all businesses -- large and small -- to expense 100 percent of their new investments until the end of 2011. It also extended the elimination of capital gains taxes for small business investments through the end of 2012 -- and the President's budget has proposed to make that tax cut permanent.”

Although we have examined only three of the lies continually perpetrated by the Radical Republican base, there are many more, and they persist even now.  Just to name a few (based on information in another blog - prbrownreport.blogspot.com):

Lie #1.
President Obama took $716  billion out of Medicare in order to fund Universal Healthcare. This has been repeated over and over again by both Mitt Romney, and Paul Ryan, and by many running for Congress.  But the fact is, as we have reported before,   President Obama intends to cut $716 billion in wasteful spending over a period of ten years and close a gap in the Medicare budget to give senior citizens more benefits.
Lie #2.
President Obama gutted the welfare system and made it no longer necessary for recipients to work for their benefits. Wrong again! The Obama administration initiated a $1.3 billion program that helps states give work to more welfare recipients but this initiative was killed by Congressional Republicans.
Lie #3.
President Obama is soft on terrorism because he is a Muslim sympathizer. More drone attacks have been authorized under The Obama administration than under George W. Bush and a great many top Al Qaeda operatives have thereby been eliminated. And, lest we forget, President Obama authorized the daring operation that killed Osama Bin Laden.  Oh yes, and Mubarak and Qaddafi are also gone thanks to the support rendered by this President for the democratic desires of rebellious Egyptians and Libyans.

During Adolf Hitler's reign of terror in Nazi Germany he employed a cynical media tactic in order to desensitize the country and lull it's citizens into apathy. Rather than tell small lies, he told huge lies over and over again. So much so that some Germans believed that fiction was the truth (not unlike some Americans today). “This represented a tipping point, and lead (sic) to one of the worst atrocities that the world has ever seen.”

Today, decades later, the Republican Party is using the very same tactic.  What are their intentions?  Some believe they simply want to win an election.  Others believe that their intentions are much more sinister and conspiratorial.  I tend to agree with the latter, as I indicated in several recent postings.  This is not just lying to gain an advantage.  This is lying intended to lull the citizenry into compliance with views that are contrary to the fundamentals of our constitutional republic and democracy.  This lying is meant to put the few in charge of, and in control of, the hearts and minds of the many.  Do not succumb to the Radical Republicans’ BIG LIEs.