Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One More Reason That Single-Payer Health Care Looks Likely Now

By Manifesto Joe

I sometimes hate to use the term "unintended consequences," because what comes to mind is those free-market-dogma economists. But sometimes the term is descriptive, and it seems that way now after health care "reform."

I'm staunchly for single-payer, and a new development makes it look more like that was essentially a no-brainer: Corporations are being advised, somewhat subtly, to eventually terminate their health care benefits, cutting employees loose to seek out taxpayer-subsidized health care insurance on their own after the "pools" are available in 2014.

I suppose it wasn't hard to see that one coming. Corporations have a reputation for being amoral money machines, and they didn't acquire that rep for nothing. Tell them any way that they can maximize profits, and they will do it. Walk over someone's grandmother? It's a dirty job; but have faith, they'll find someone who will. If CEO No. 1 won't, rest assured that CEO No. 2 will. It's said to be a legal obligation.

The talk about the end of job-based health care insurance is just beginning. But as soon as it can be done, rest assured that you will see the Fortune 500 forming a line on this one. Here's a link to an early article on this from AP. There are a lot of pros and cons being tossed about now, but just wait ...

Sit back and envision the scenario. Millions upon millions of American workers will be cut loose from their employer-based plans, forced to go with those subsidized plans that will be available starting in 2014. It's just good business, Corporate Rob, the company spokesman, will tell the press. And hey, now we can afford to give our workers a raise instead, so that they can afford to go insurance-shopping on their own.

But then comes the question I and many others have long been asking: Why did we need a middle man in the first place? Private insurers will offer these plans, helped by federal subsidies. Why didn't we just do single-payer in the first place, since it looks like we'll have to go there eventually anyway?

It wasn't, and ultimately won't be, feasible to leave things as they were, with 47 million Americans uninsured. In other countries of the developed world, people have long thought that we were insane to keep on with the status quo as long as we did.

But if it's going to come to this, wouldn't it have been easier just to make Medicare available to everyone, not just people 65 and older?

I can already hear the fretting out there about big government. And I will grant, the federal government doesn't have a reputation for being the most efficient provider of services.

But, insurance companies do? When was the last time you had to deal with one? Oh, I suppose you could call them "efficient," at least when it comes to their own profits. They definitely know how to tell people "no." And then no some more. And no again. And by the way, no. But of course, they never say no to taking people's money.

Now in the works to perhaps hasten this change is the mania to cut the federal deficit. Instead of the obvious -- raising taxes on rich people and big corporations, who have been getting preferential treatment in the system for decades now, anyway -- a certain tax break is being scrutinized.

Tax breaks have long helped employers provide what health insurance benefits that they do. That credit looks to be on the chopping block, with President Obama's deficit commission proposing to limit or eliminate that deduction. Here's a link to the story.

It's like watching the perfect storm forming. In less than a decade, employer-based health insurance may become the exception, not the rule, and millions of workers will be forced to shop for insurance through the "pools." That is, they will do so assuming that the Republican U.S. House and the Tea Party don't find a way to keep Obamacare from being implemented.

I was reluctantly for Obamacare as an alternative to doing nothing. But now the current overhaul looks like it will merely be a sort of midwife for a very troubled pregnancy and delivery.

Single-payer is where this is all headed, and the insurance bastards will fight that to their last breath. When that battle happens, at least the American people may be privileged to see very clearly what this is all about -- the massive profits of a large sector of Corporate America. If it wasn't already clear that these people are nasty little bloodsuckers, it finally will be.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Open Letter To Noam Chomsky: You're Wrong On A Couple Of Points

By Manifesto Joe

Professor Chomsky, you're always an engaging writer, and I found a short essay of yours, "The US Elections: Outrage, Misguided," enlightening as usual. But, I disagree on a couple of points, and I'm going to explain why.

Here's a link to the article I'm referring to.

More than half the “mainstream Americans” in a Rasmussen poll last month said they view the Tea Party movement favorably –- a reflection of the spirit of disenchantment.
The grievances are legitimate. For more than 30 years, real incomes for the majority of the population have stagnated or declined while work hours and insecurity have increased, along with debt. Wealth has accumulated, but in very few pockets, leading to unprecedented inequality. ...

People rightly want answers, and they are not getting them except from voices that tell tales that have some internal coherence –- if you suspend disbelief and enter into their world of irrationality and deceit.

Professor Chomsky, the hard core of people involved in the Tea Party movement are part of about 30% of Americans (from what polls indicate) who are staunch "conservatives." These are people who would vote Republican if Lucifer were the nominee. It doesn't matter how much their income has declined, their work hours have increased or how much debt they are accumulating, while the wealthy prosper more than ever. We're confronted here with Rush-and-Fox brainwashed people who won't be persuaded by any amount of reasoned argument. They don't have to suspend any "disbelief," because among these people, there was never any to begin with. You have to think for yourself before you can entertain doubts.

It's the people in between, the confused and often ignorant ones who are either "swing voters" or who don't vote at all, who comprise the group that progressives must win over if they are to ever to really win power in this country.

You continue: Ridiculing Tea Party shenanigans is a serious error, however. It is far more appropriate to understand what lies behind the movement’s popular appeal, and to ask ourselves why justly angry people are being mobilized by the extreme right and not by the kind of constructive activism that rose during the Depression, like the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations).

With all due respect for your obvious moral courage, sir, you are living in the past. The labor movement in America is all but dead, and it is because "the people" here had gotten so lazy and comfortable by the 1970s and '80s that they lacked either the intelligence, the guts, or both, to stand up to powerful institutions and defend their rights.

Big corporate money lined up with the psychos of the far right in an alliance sort of like Frankenstein, only in this scenario, the monster has been kept under control and compelled to do the creator's bidding. Most people, the ones in between, decided that it was easier just to get along and go along. While they were making nice, jobs went overseas, incomes declined, personal debt ballooned, and the rich got much richer.

If you'll pardon another analogy, our in-betweeners were like the frog who sits in a pan of water that gets hotter, degree by degree. They just sat there for decades as the water got hotter. Now it's getting close to the boiling point, and an appetite for frog legs is obvious among our moneyed elite.

For many years, there have been those among us who have been trying, in vain, to tell people this. We have been doomed to failure for a number of reasons. For one thing, we don't have the money to get the message out, and our foes most certainly do. For another, there aren't many of us. "Conservatives" far outnumber committed progressives in this country, and they always have. Some of this is a foolishness that I have to conclude simply rests with Americans, with the particular culture, values and attitudes with which we are usually indoctrinated.

Where I grew up, for example, there were absolutely no Trotskyites. I never knew of Trotsky until I got into reading history as a teenager, and my view of him was predictably negative until I was 20 or so. I've known very few anarchists in my 54 years of living, and they've all been the right-wing variety. Even where I live now, in a large urban area in the American heartland, what little political debate one hears is between centrists and right-wingers, Democrats and Republicans. Maybe Libertarians (another kind of right-winger) chime in now and then. That's about it. There are few voices that could be accurately described as left of center.

You, sir, grew up, and still live, in a part of the country that I would describe as -- well, unique. Out here, the right rules, and usually has. The center upsets them from time to time, preventing a total monopoly. An authentic left almost doesn't exist, and it's almost always been that way.

Out here, it's a way of life for folks to blame the wrong people for their misfortunes. I've tried reasoning with such people, and it usually can't be done. They're too brainwashed.

You have said that the U.S. doesn't really have two political parties -- it has the left wing of the Business Party (Democrats) and the right wing of the Business Party (Republicans). In a perfect world, I wouldn't be forced to make such a choice. But the world in which we live is not merely far from perfect. These days, it seems to just outright suck.

So, when forced to make a choice, I'll take the left wing of the Business Party, thank you. Because of them, I was able to go to college (albeit not one in the Ivy League). Because of them, my mother and grandmother were able to get Medicaid and stay in nursing homes after they ran out of money. And thanks to them, I would be able to get, at least temporarily, a meager weekly sum from the government to eat on if I were laid off from my job tomorrow.

As the political compass of America has swung further and further to the right, it's come down to a national battle between real conservatives -- the ones who want to at least preserve the meager welfare state introduced in this country during the 20th century -- and the radical, reactionary right, which wants to plunge the country back into 19th-century social Darwinism.

I'd love to see some kind of authentic left emerge in this country, but I don't think it wise to hold my breath. I would have admired a president who would have gone down fighting for single-payer health care, but I'll settle for one who did what seemed necessary to at least get something done.

You continue: Amid the joblessness and foreclosures, the Democrats can’t complain about the policies that led to the disaster. President Ronald Reagan and his Republican successors may have been the worst culprits, but the policies began with President Jimmy Carter and accelerated under President Bill Clinton.

True, but ... Carter did want a national health insurance program, and could not likely have forecast what the deregulation that began on his watch would lead to. Clinton helped usher in NAFTA, signed "welfare reform" and also signed destructive financial deregulation. But he also forced wealthy individuals to pay somewhat higher marginal tax rates, and because of that, he left office with a record surplus. Clinton may have been a Republicrat, but I'd say he was the best "Republican" president the U.S. has had since Eisenhower.

By the time Bush was well into his second term, I wished we had Clinton back. "Not-that-good" is better than "much worse." What we ended up with was Barack Obama, who hasn't been what I'd hoped, but at least he's been something of an improvement. I was never a Carter fan, but I'd even take him over Bush 43.

To repeat a line from you: Ridiculing Tea Party shenanigans is a serious error.

For one thing, it's hard to witness mass stupidity ("Impeach the Muslim Marxist" one Tea Partier's sign read) and not call it by its rightful name. For another, making nice with such people has never done a bit of good. Ask Barack Obama.

It's hard to witness mass stupidity and not call it by its rightful name.

Again, it's the in-betweeners, the "persuadables" who comprise the battleground. Even stupid people don't like to think that they are stupid. Showing exactly how stupid the "shenanigans" of the Tea Party movement are is one way to reach the "reachables." Even a person of ordinary intelligence, when presented with enough facts, can comprehend how idiotic it is to refer to Obama as a "Muslim Marxist." Ridicule is one weapon we have that doesn't cost anything, and I fully intend to use it against these morons.

Professor Chomsky, I highly respect the fact that you risked jail while opposing the Vietnam War, and that you have often gone to the very front lines of social conflict as a courageous dissident.

But out here, where I live, being a public dissident means even worse things than jail. It can mean job loss, homelessness, hunger. It can mean losing everything you have.

And, in the battle we have going on now -- perhaps the most important one of this century in the U.S. -- what will be decided is whether people like me will be able to find decent jobs, to draw Social Security and Medicare, to get Medicaid if we become decrepit and broke. The fight is over very basic things. And, some of our opponents are foolish enough to say things at town hall meetings like, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare!"

With all due respect, sir, you are a professor emeritus from MIT, pushing 82. You will never have to face the kind of destitution that middle Americans, whether they realize it or not, are facing right now. That makes it a little easier for you to position yourself slightly above the trenches.

The job of progressives is to persuade the "persuadables" that they are indeed facing destitution, a loss of basics. I intend to do that by any means necessary, including ridiculing Tea Party "shenanigans," and even voting Democratic. It beats the alternative, and if Americans don't see this soon, much will be lost.

Manifesto Joe

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Republicans, I'll Stop Demonizing You -- If You'll Stop Acting Like Satan

By Manifesto Joe

I know that much of this comes from misplaced priorities, and from anal-retentive values and attitudes. But Thursday's House vote on the extension of unemployment benefits should indicate clearly where Republicans stand on this issue, and how hatefully they are willing to play politics with the futures of millions of men, women and children.

The vote on the proposed extension of unemployment benefits was 258 for, 154 against. Procedurally, a two-thirds majority was needed to pass this measure of emergency spending. And the breakdown by party was predictable: 11 Democrats voted against, 21 Republicans for. Some 237 Democrats voted for, 143 Republicans against.

And after it was over, a spokesman for likely incoming House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, slammed Democrats for "playing politics" with people's jobless benefits.

"Just two weeks after the election, the Democratic Leadership is playing politics with people’s unemployment benefits," Michael Steel, Mr. Boehner’s spokesman, told Fox News. (Reported by The New York Times)

Um, which planet do these people live on?

I think I can answer that. On Planet GOP, if you're "playing politics" on an issue, just accuse the other side of doing the very same thing. Chances are, millions of delusional people (i.e., Fox News viewers) will buy it. For historical precedent, consult one Joseph Goebbels.

Here's a good link for the details about this.

And, AOL News reported this:

Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison also threw in a holiday-season jab at the GOP. "Sadly, the new Republican majority demonstrated today how they view extending unemployment benefits: No, No No," Ellison said in a statement. "To recall Charles Dickens: the new Republican majority wants to give Scrooge a tax break and leave the unemployed Cratchit family out in the cold for Christmas."

The often-cited reason for so many Republican votes against this humanitarian appropriation was, of course, the deficit. The price tag for this extension was estimated at $12.5 billion. That sounds like a lot, but let's put it in perspective. It's a fraction of what Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim Helu is worth. I think some others in the top 10 among world billionaires, like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, could probably weather the loss.

And the Iraq war, favored by an overwhelming majority of Republicans, has so far cost the U.S. $743 billion (and counting). But, hey, that went for killing a whole bunch of people. Gotta get our priorities straight here.

Millions of Americans are on track to run out of jobless benefits by the end of this month. These people are our long-term unemployed. When they lose benefits, there will be a spike in bankruptcies, foreclosures, evictions and homelessness. Food banks, already stressed, will be overrun with demand. Pets will be sent to "shelters" to be killed, and others will be abandoned.

The stock Republican response? As reported by AOL News:

"We're facing a fiscal crisis in this country. If we're going to choose to extend unemployment again, we've got to find a way to pay for it," Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana said at a news conference Thursday.

And then, there's Sharron Angle. Granted, she failed to win her Senate race in Nevada against current Majority Leader Harry Reid. But she garnered 45% of the vote, and I think she speaks for many Republicans here:

So, it's just a bunch of bums who would rather draw an average of $310 a week than find work? Let's get real here. Most of that money would go just to make my mortgage payment every month, just to keep the bank from foreclosing on me.

And then, there's those tax breaks for rich people. Most Democrats, including the much-too-conciliatory President Obama, realize that it's a bad idea to raise taxes across the board during a recession, or at least the aftermath of a bad one. These people (Republicans) are fighting to keep the Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy individuals -- you know, those tax cuts that turned President Clinton's record surplus into a record deficit early in the Il Doofus administration. Those tax breaks for the wealthy are going to cost an estimated $700 billion over 10 years. And these people are worried about $12.5 billion to keep people from going hungry and homeless?

Republicans, I'd be happy to stop demonizing you all. I'm a moderate progressive. I honestly don't think conservatives are wrong about everything, and I fully realize that we can't go on running $1.3 trillion annual deficits without terrible ramifications. But taxes will indeed have to go up on those with the ability to pay, and especially on those who have been getting preferential treatment in the system for over three decades. There will have to be many painful cuts, but the sacrifice will have to be shared.

Until then, I will be forced to keep demonizing you. Stop playing the Lucifer cards, and then I will cease and desist.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To An Angry White Male: A Counter-Rant

By Manifesto Joe

He works behind the counter in a thousand towns -- a convenience store's most sullen face. I walk into this one to buy beer, and there he is in his smock, same as always. Only today, he's got Rush on the radio. And that sullen look is replaced by a smirk and nods of approval.

As he listens to the latest whacked-out rant about "femi-Nazis," reverse racists and our liberal victim culture, I study this guy. He's fortysomething, with a big gut, and I can tell from his complexion that he didn't get that belly from drinking milk. He smirks at me knowingly as Rush rants on, assuming that as a fellow white male, I agree.

Yet I see something sad in his eyes, and I think maybe I know this guy. He's behind the counter for 10 bucks an hour, risking his life in a bad 'hood, making the stockholders and CEOs richer, because he lost his union-wage job when they moved the plant to Mexico. He's been through a messy divorce. His wife got custody of the kid. He got custody of the dog, and lives with him in a one-bedroom dump.

His wife, no great gift to the male gender herself, decided he was too much of a sick, drunken loser to live with. And now he pays child support on a $10 an hour job, and drinks himself to sleep with 12 beers a night. Blames those "bitches, niggers, wetbacks and queers" for his lot in life.

I can understand his animosity, but it's misdirected. I've been a pissed-off, beer-guzzling, working-class white guy, too. The prime gig my dad had was in the Air Force. After he got out, the best he could do was run a gas station, until he got too sick to work, and then slowly died. My mother was a teacher's aide, because she couldn't afford college.

But I was luckier than this convenience-store stooge. We had books. And one thing I learned was that demagogues like Hitler can get a lot of mileage out of misdirected rage like this guy's. It was no accident that Hitler's first bid for power started in a Munich beer hall. Or that Mao forged a pissed-off peasant army, angry in part because round-eyed foreigners had gotten so many of their brothers, sisters and cousins hooked on opium. I learned that communists are usually just a different, more sober kind of bigot. (Well, they solved China's drug problem, alright.)

Anyway, I got a nice scholarship, but ... college was also loans, grants, work-study, shitty dorms, spoiled roommates, delivering pizzas to all manner of assholes, bad food, no money, snotty bourgeois professors ... A radical feminist from a well-off family dumped me. It was lucky for me that I was too poor to marry her first. I saw a teaching assistantship go to a good-looking but not-that-bright woman. But somehow I got two degrees, went into a profession, and waited for my luck to change.

For the most part, it didn't. I spent years and years working for bullies, and still do. I also spent years and years working for women who were younger and less experienced, and I still do. I got passed over for promotions, saw less-able people get plum jobs.

But I kept going. One day, I woke up, and I was no longer a pissed-off, beer-guzzling, working-class white guy. I was a pissed-off, beer-guzzling, lower-middle-class white guy.

And though I'm still a bit angry that I've not gone further in life, here's another thing I've learned: The original affirmative-action quota program was the one for rich white guys.

I noticed something about my women bosses -- go up the ladder far enough, and they all worked for rich white guys. Come to think of it, one U.S. president barely had a C average at Yale, but he got into Harvard Business. Of course, it couldn't have anything to do with his dad being a rich white guy, or with privileges passed down by his granddad, who made some of his money dealing with IG Farben in Nazi Germany before the war. It took JFK Jr. three times to pass the bar, then he went straight to the Manhattan DA's office. Conservative or liberal, these people never give up one whit of privilege, nor will they ever, unless forced to make room for someone else at the table.

So, who is it that has to stand down and make room?

YOU, convenience-store stooge. And ME.

Hence the modern phenom -- "The Angry White Male."

He's getting fucked; I'm getting fucked. And not in the right way. But at least I know something he doesn't -- who's really on the other end of the dick.

And before I'm accused of class warfare, let me repeat that a communist is usually just another, more sober, kind of bigot. And although government programs did change my life somewhat, they can't change the human condition. People are as evil as they are good, as unjust as they are fair, as hateful as they are loving. All you need to do is turn on the radio to hear evidence of all that.

We all swim in the same water. It's too bad that some folks feel the need to just keep pissing in it.

And there's one more thing I've learned. You can't fight evil with more evil. You don't solve injustice with more injustice. You won't cure hate with more hate.

So, consider this tonight, angry white male, while finishing that 12th beer: There are a couple of billion people on this planet who'd be grateful to have that shit job of yours. I can remember when black men could get little else but shit jobs, and when white women couldn't do certain kinds of business without having a man co-sign.

You have a kid. There are parents all over the world who have lost theirs to mudslides, starvation, disease and smart bombs. And every day, there are thousands of people who violate borders and risk their lives to get jobs shittier than yours.

And before you say something totally unoriginal, like calling me a bleeding heart, let me say something trite to you: Charity begins at home.

So, tomorrow night, why don't you try drinking just 11 beers?

Maybe that kid who visits on weekends could use some of that money.

-- December 2003

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Herr Karl Rove's Gramp Wasn't A Nazi -- But This Is How The Game Is Played

By Manifesto Joe

As the late Molly Ivins used to say, "Crow eaten here." Karl Rove's grandfather wasn't a Nazi -- really. Democratic Underground retracted the story, which was apparently just a rumor that was widely circulated on the Internet.

But, I didn't report it as fact, now, did I? Here's a link to my post.

I wrote, "Judge for yourself." This is how the game is played.

As Mark Twain wrote, "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

I'm retracting the story, for what the retraction is worth. Some damage has already been done, perhaps.

Now I'm waiting for a whole lot of retractions from the other side. Like, about how Obama's Asia trip was supposed to cost the taxpayers $2 billion, and about Bill Clinton's tarmac haircut. And about how Bush is supposed to have actually won the 2000 popular vote, based on a blatant math error from Michigan election returns?

Get the picture?

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Profiles In Stupidity: Rep. John Shimkus

By Manifesto Joe

This will be the first in a series of "profiles" of the kind of cretins who are going to presume to govern the American people, who voted them into the U.S. House of Representatives by lopsided margins.

John Shimkus, modern bearer of the holy covenant

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., is seeking the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He reportedly said Wednesday that a promise that God gave to Noah about 6,000 years ago keeps him from worrying about global warming. "I do believe in the Bible as the final word of God," Shimkus told Politico. "And I do believe that God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood." He's competing against three other Republicans for the top spot on the energy committee, and Politico predicts that even if he doesn't win the chairmanship, he'll at least be named chairman of a subcommittee. Salon's Andrew Leonard wrote, "I'm glad that John Shimkus can sleep at night, faithful that that God's word is 'infallible, unchanging, perfect,' But for those of us who are less confident in humanity's ability to keep from massively screwing up, the thought that the Bible will be determining government energy policy is massively ulcer-inducing."

Here's a link to the original Politico story.

I'm happy for anyone who has so much faith in the deity -- whatever gets you through the night. But to have them shaping energy policy ...?

Even if there's no guarantee of a tomorrow, it's wise to go on behaving as if there is indeed going to be one. Such wisdom seems lost on many high-ranking Republicans these days.

Courtesy of Wikipedia, here's more on Mr. Shimkus:

2007 Comments on Iraq War
In May 2007, Shimkus was ridiculed on many blogs for comparing the war in Iraq, during a speech on the floor of the House, to a baseball game between "my beloved St. Louis Cardinals" and "the much despised Chicago Cubs."[5]

2009 Speech Walkout
On September 9, 2009, Shimkus was criticized for walking out while President Barack Obama was delivering a speech to a joint session of the House and Senate. When asked why he walked out, Shimkus' spokesperson noted that the congressman was frustrated by the tone of the speech. Shimkus' actions were overshadowed by an earlier outburst, during the same speech, when Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled "you lie" at the President. [6][7][8]

Here's a link to the entire Wikipedia biography. By the way, he's a West Point graduate.

Gives you even more confidence in our military officers, doesn't it?

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Karl Rove Nazi Connection? Judge For Yourself

By Manifesto Joe

The Bush family's long-ago ties to the Nazis is now old news. And it's been known for a while that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a bit of a Nazi background in his family.

This is a fairly old story, but I hadn't heard this about Herr Karl Rove, "Bush's Brain." Here's a link.

Having been in the news business for well over 30 years, I know enough to reserve judgment about things until all the facts are in. There seems to be quite a bit about this subject on the Internet. Judge for yourself.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Postscript: I think this calls for an encore of Harry Shearer singing The Turd Blossom Special.

A winning little number, no?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pentagon Refers To Moronic Conservative Blog Reports About Obama Trip Cost As 'Absurd' And 'Comical'

By Manifesto Joe

The easiest job in the world must be that of Rush Limbaugh's fact-checker. One would hardly have to do a thing.

The following seems predictable, when you let mentally ill people try to be working journalists, even if they are supposed to be "opinion" journalists. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan was famously quoted, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.

This started when some half-ass Indian news agency reported that President Obama's Asia trip is going to cost taxpayers $200 million a day. The report also said that something like 34 U.S. warships were going overseas to protect Obama.

People in the "conservative" blogosphere jumped all over this. It was reported as fact, without investigation of sources or probability, by The Drudge Report, Michelle Malkin, and El Lardbaugh himself. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's office apparently disseminated the report as fact, with no checking. By the time Glenn Beck got through distorting and exaggerating it, he had the taxpayers out $2 billion for the entire trip. (Glenn will never have to worry about being unemployed. Even if the great unwashed out there eventually figure him out, I hear they're hiring at Barnum & Bailey.)

This seems to be more than a little tear from a page out of the Bill Clinton haircut folklore. To this day, there are people who believe that he held up air traffic for a considerable time while he was getting a haircut. It came out that this was an urban legend, because there were no other planes on the tarmac at the time. But plenty of right-wing morons still swear by that story.

In our times, I suppose we could have expected Obama to eventually have to start enduring the same kind of right-wing horseshit that Clinton did. Obama had a longer "honeymoon" -- they started working on Clinton almost right out of the chute. But Obama's time definitely seems to have come.

Anyway, the government isn't releasing exact numbers about how much the Obama Asia trip is going to cost, because there are rules about that sort of thing. But the Pentagon, upon hearing particulars like about those alleged 34 warships -- well, they rather quickly characterized the report as "absurd" and "comical."

Here's a link to the story from McClatchy Newspapers. (Yeah, I know -- those experienced lefty journalists of the MSM are just making all this up! They are clearly part of the liberal media conspiracy!)

Again, this is predictable when you have to, per the 1st Amendment, allow mentally disturbed, sloppy people to pose as trustworthy disseminators of public information.

The bigger problem is that one of those who was at the center of this is a member of Congress (Bachmann) who is seeking a leadership post in the new House. Hello, America -- you just elected 60-something more of these bozos to Congress.

And then you'll be surprised when they start trying to phase out Social Security and Medicare, and kicking millions of people off jobless benefits?

I'm going to have one hell of a time over the next couple of years saying over and over and over again, I told you so.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, November 1, 2010

On Health Care, And Many Other Issues, U.S. Voters Are A Confused Bunch

By Manifesto Joe

Adlai Stevenson was once famously quoted as saying that in a democracy, people usually get the government they deserve.

After seeing the virtual Supreme Court appointment of our 43rd president, and the high court also striking down limits on corporate money in political campaigns, I'm no longer sure that the U.S. can in any way be described as a "democracy," or even an honest republic. Plutocracy seems more accurate. But if what the polls show is accurate, the very confused American people may indeed be getting the government they deserve, and soon.

Poll after poll shows Republicans poised for big gains in both houses of Congress. They are expected to retake the U.S. House, albeit narrowly by some projections.

But when you look at what Americans who call themselves likely voters are saying to pollsters, it -- well, as the watermelon-smashing comic Gallagher often says, "It don't make no sense."

Contradictions on health care

Let's take on health care first. That issue seems to have half the country in a state of near-insurrection, if you judge from the Tea Party "movement" and letters to the editor.

But a recent AP-GfK poll (here's a link to the story) showed that less than a majority of likely voters -- 37%, to be exact -- favored a complete repeal of the new Obama-backed health care law. Statistically, about as many -- 36% -- want to revise the law so that it does more to reform health care. About 15% would leave the law as it is.

This means that a solid majority of likely U.S. voters -- 51% to 37% -- favor health care reform that at least goes as far as the watered-down junk we're having to settle for. I favor single-payer, which makes perfect sense when you look at the rest of the developed world, but would go further than what most Americans think they want. I support the current plan simply because I try to be politically pragmatic. It's what we seem able to do right now, given our plutocratic political system and the pathological obstructionism of Republicans.

And these are the people who are about to vote Republican candidates, among them Tea Party darlings, back into the Congress? "It don't make no sense."

Instant gratification denied

I think what we're seeing is voters who, as consumers, have grown accustomed to instant gratification, and have memories that go back perhaps as far as the last Super Bowl. It's becoming clear that Barack Obama was expected to walk on water, and resurrect the dead (well, at least the economy). Many don't seem to remember his predecessor, or have a delusional memory of him. ("Remember me?" asks the widely circulated Web image of Il Doofus.) I recall him very, very well -- the dude who left office with a record-low, and much-deserved, 22% approval rating.

Far too much was expected of Obama, especially considering the debacles he inherited from Bush 43. He hasn't been in office two years yet, and the economic disaster that confronts us now was 30 years in the making. But we seem to be dealing with swing voters who weren't quite sure what they were voting for two years ago, and now they're pouting and plan to vote for the other side, regardless of the recent past.

Obama 'coalition' was all over the place

He put together a center-left "coalition" that added up to 53% of the popular vote. His victory was the biggest that a reputedly liberal Democrat has won in America since the LBJ landslide of 1964.

Now, the left attacks him because he's been too accommodating, and hasn't fulfilled some of the promises. We're still in two wars, and we didn't get a public option on health care. And the economy still sucks.

The self-described "center" attacks him, too. My skepticism rises here, because I've talked to a few people in my life who described themselves as moderate, but they eventually sounded pretty right-wing to me. It depends on what one's definition of "center" is.

One person who talked to a reporter seems to embody this dilemma:

Like many others, Aaron Bonnaure doesn't blame Obama for the nation's woes. But he wants Congress to keep the president in check. That's why this 23-year-old moderate from Pittsburgh who voted for Obama now is looking at Republican candidates.

"He ran as a centrist. I don't think he's a centrist at all. ... His whole economic platform is the more government spends, the better things are," Bonnaure said. "We have a far-left government. The answers are in the middle."

Here's a link to the entire article.

I would have to ask, the "middle" of what? If Obama hasn't governed as a centrist, it's hard to imagine what that would involve. I think some of the American people are so politically illiterate that they expect centrism to be something that is actually center-right.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama has rather sadly proceeded as Il Doofus probably would have. The economic stimulus that Republicans so excoriate Obama over actually began under Bush 43 and was signed by Bush. Obama inherited a larger deficit than the one we have now. And on health care -- well, a lot of progressives would have preferred to see him go down fighting for the public option. Instead, he caved and took a centrist approach in order to get something done. I reluctantly appreciated the pragmatism of that. Something is better than nothing.

But somehow, a lot of people didn't get what they wanted (and the economy still sucks). This begs the question -- what exactly is it that they want?

They want services, but don't want to pay for them

Blue Girl and Yellow Dog of They Gave Us a Republic do a nightly news roundup, and they found a great little piece that sums up the problem well:

The term mental health professionals use for this is "Magical Thinking"

"A majority of Republicans, 57 percent, as well as 65 percent of independents, say they are not willing to accept cuts to Social Security and Medicaid to trim the deficit. ... Six in 10 Republicans and 53 percent of independents said they would not accept cuts to defense and homeland-security spending. ... Meanwhile, 60 percent of Democratic voters said they wanted their lawmakers to bring home the benefits, while only 28 percent of Democrats wanted their lawmakers to cut spending. ... The firm Penn Schoen Berland contacted 4,105 likely voters in 10 House battleground districts between Oct. 16 and 21. The survey had a margin of error of 1.5 percent for the aggregate sample." (At least Democrats realize that things have to be paid for!)

Here's a link to the full article.

Something that's even sadder is that the rank and file of U.S. voters would have to pay little more to both balance the budget and still pay for all those expensive programs. Just get big corporations and wealthy people to pay the same rates of federal income taxes that they were paying in say, 1959 (See Barlett and Steele's America: What Went Wrong?) and before long a surplus would probably materialize, with no cuts in programs.

Hell, if they merely paid what they were paying a decade ago, when President Clinton left office with a record surplus, that would go a long way.

But Americans have been so knee-jerk conditioned against any discussion of new taxes over the past 30 years that, even if you're just talking about raising rates for the wealthy and fatcat corporations, some bozo who makes $10 an hour in a convenience store can be quickly convinced that you're talking about him.

Anyway, even though America can scarcely be described as a republic anymore, let alone a democracy, it looks like American voters are poised to get the government they deserve.

Unfortunately, since I live here and pay taxes here, I'm in this, too. So, I'm hoping for devastating scandal to turn things around for several years. It seems to take something catastrophic to wake people up.

And, I'm counting on some new Tea Party members of Congress to make gaping asses of themselves next year, providing Democrats with plenty of fodder for 2012.

Stay tuned.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.