Is Trump just a cynical serial liar? Or is he something even worse?
Let’s be clear. Trey Gowdy is no friend of Democrats and progressives. And he looks kinda like the infamous “Bat Boy” of tabloid fame.
But lately he’s been an unlikely hero for the truth.
A deeply conservative House member from South Carolina, it was Gowdy who chaired the committee that spent over two and a half years and $7.8 million investigating Hillary Clinton’s role in the 2012 Benghazi embassy attack. And he barely put up any honest, objective resistance while House Intelligence Committee Chairman (and traitorous weasel) Devin Nunes turned that formerly bipartisan body’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election into a Republican whitewash of Donald Trump’s role in that affair.
But in recent days, Gowdy, who served as a federal prosecutor before he became a politician, is taking positions that few Republicans have dared to take. Of course, Gowdy is not seeking re-election to Congress, so like GOP Senator Jeff Flake and a precious few others, he no longer has to sacrifice every ounce of his integrity to satisfy the prejudices of the rabid Trump/GOP base.
Thus, unlike the vast majority of Republicans who are in the thrall of Trumpism, Gowdy is free to speak the truth.
Having been given access to classified info during the controversial May 24 meeting between GOP Congressmen and members of the Justice Department regarding an anonymous FBI informant who contacted certain members of the Trump campaign in 2016, Gowdy told FOX News that “I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.”
Trump has been using his bully pulpit – with an accent on the word “bully” – to make wild claims that President Obama ordered the FBI to spy on his campaign. But in the days after that May 24 meeting, Congressman Gowdy has been busy throwing cold water on Trump’s spurious “Spygate” claims.
Undeterred by the facts, as usual, Trump insisted during a rally in Nashville last night that his campaign had been “infiltrated” by the FBI under Obama – as his Trumpist minions in the audience booed lustily.
But Gowdy has stated that the FBI is only following Trump’s own orders by investigating his campaign’s ties to Russia. “President Trump himself in the Comey memos said, ‘If anyone connected with my campaign was working with Russia, I want you to investigate it.’ Sounds to me like that was exactly what the FBI did.”
Gowdy’s refutation of Trump’s “Spygate” bullshit hasn’t stopped the Mango Mussolini from continuing his Goebbels-like assault on the truth. He and his bug-eyed TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani have doubled down on their “Spygate” lies – and aren’t likely to stop.
So, what are we to make of Trump as this point? Even when a loyal member of his own party goes on FOX News to tell the truth – Trump clings to (and amplifies) his disproven lies.
Is Trump just a cynical serial liar? Or is he something even worse: a delusional despot for whom the truth is whatever he wants to believe? Whatever works for him.
Either way, Trump is a clear and present danger to our democracy.
We need many more Republicans to have moments of honesty like Trey Gowdy, who has also said of Trump’s anti-Mueller antics, “When you are innocent — act like it.”
We need more bipartisan candor in both houses of Congress – and a big turnout for Democrats in the upcoming midterms!
And, by the way, Kim Kardashian made a visit to the White House today. We’re told she was there to discuss prison reform with Trump.
President Obama made the following remarks at a recent fundraiser, calling out the false equivalency narratives spun by the insufferable, Beltway-blinkered poobahs of the pundit class. He should continue to say these things publicly and emphatically – just like Harry Truman would have – all the way up to the mid-term elections.
“You’ll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible. And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses.
“But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific.
“We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.
“They, so far, at least, have refused to budge on bipartisan legislation to fix our immigration system, despite the fact that every economist who’s looked at it says it’s going to improve our economy, cut our deficits, help spawn entrepreneurship, and alleviate great pain from millions of families all across the country.
“So the problem…is not that the Democrats are overly ideological — because the truth of the matter is, is that the Democrats in Congress have consistently been willing to compromise and reach out to the other side.
“There are no radical proposals coming out from the left. When we talk about climate change, we talk about how do we incentivize through the market greater investment in clean energy. When we talk about immigration reform there’s no wild-eyed romanticism. We say we’re going to be tough on the borders, but let’s also make sure that the system works to allow families to stay together…
“When we talk about taxes we don’t say we’re going to have rates in the 70 percent or 90 percent when it comes to income like existed here 50, 60 years ago. We say let’s just make sure that those of us who have been incredibly blessed by this country are giving back to kids so that they’re getting a good start in life, so that they get early childhood education…
“Health care — we didn’t suddenly impose some wild, crazy system. All we said was let’s make sure everybody has insurance. And this made the other side go nuts — the simple idea that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody should go bankrupt because somebody in their family gets sick, working within a private system.
“So when you hear a false equivalence that somehow, well, Congress is just broken, it’s not true. What’s broken right now is a Republican Party that repeatedly says no to proven, time-tested strategies to grow the economy, create more jobs, ensure fairness, open up opportunity to all people.”
Now, I wish the mainstream Democratic Party position on climate change was more radical – and I don’t like hearing President Obama extolling an “all of the above” strategy, especially if that means we all get “fracked” in the process.
But, let there be no doubt. Progressives must get out the vote this fall. The only answer to our broken Congress is a Senate controlled by Democrats – and a House of Representatives in which Nancy Pelosi once again holds the gavel. Important issues like climate change, immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, Wall Street reform and income inequality will never be addressed while Republicans are in a position to obstruct positive change.
Then, in 2016, we must work to keep a Democrat in the White House – because our endangered democracy can’t afford another religiously biased, corporate stooge conservative on The Supreme Court.
But first – we’ve got to get that oversized gavel out of John Boehner’s hands.
Tomorrow evening, January 28, 2014, President Barack Obama will stand before a special joint session of Congress to present the Constitutionally mandated State of the Union Address. As President Obama is a wise and circumspect orator, a skilled politician and a naturally conciliatory person, he will probably not give the kind of speech millions of progressives, liberals and Democrats would love to hear him give.
We will certainly hear a speech that will thrill us at times with ardent, engaging calls for tolerance, cooperation, hope and determination in confronting the many daunting challenges our nation faces in this turbulent age of promise and peril.
According to all the pre-speech hype from the TV talking heads, we are led to expect a “feisty” President to lay out an agenda that relies more on executive action than Congressional legislation. Confronted by historic levels of obstruction and inaction by the opposition party, particularly by the Republican majority in the House, Obama has little choice than to try to make progress on his own this year. Yet, I don’t expect him to be completely candid about why he has encountered so much Republican resistance.
In fact, there will be some large elephants in the room that will likely go unaddressed.
That’s because, as our country’s first black President, while Obama may be allowed to strike a “feisty” note, he can’t afford to appear angry or defiant – though his opponents will surely label him such (and worse) regardless of his actual demeanor. There’s too large, vocal and virulent a sector of the U.S. electorate (and political class) that can’t tolerate the mixed-race son of a black African father and a white American mother bluntly lashing out against a “do-nothing Congress” as President “Give ‘Em Hell” Harry Truman famously did.
Southern blacks were forced to appear humble and deferential in the presence of whites in the Jim Crow South. And now, despite all the progress we’ve made since the Civil Rights Movement of the 50’s and 60’s, a black Leader of the Free World is still not free to get righteously indignant and tell it like it is.
Everyone – even many liberal wise men – agree that President Obama can’t appear to be an angry black man. (Of course, you can’t be an angry woman, either.) But the same politicos and pundits admire tough-talking, shoot-from-the-hip, white public officials from Governor Chris Christie to Sheriff Joe Arpaio. It’s a clear, shameful double standard.
Now, let me be clear. Racial animus isn’t the only reason I don’t expect President Obama to give ‘em hell in his State of the Union speech. It’s clear by now that he’s a natural bridge-builder and consensus-seeker. Obama’s not the kind of populist firebrand that some on the left hoped he might be in 2008 when they heard the soaring rhetoric of his inspirational Hope and Change campaign. I believe he’s sincere about trying to encourage a less divisive political atmosphere.
But Obama can’t clap with one hand — and the GOP refuses to extend theirs.
So, mindful of the complex reasons that President Obama can’t give the speech I’d love to hear, please indulge me in a bit of political fantasy.
Just imagine that an impassioned Barack Obama wrote the following words in an off-the-top-of-his-head, get-it-off-his-chest first draft. Then, after reading it back to himself, the calm and cautious peacemaker President was about to get out his red pen and start to temper his words – when I got someone to distract him so I could steal this draft off his desk…
TEXT OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S 2014 STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and my fellow Americans – including all you assault rifle-toting, Bible thumping, intolerant, government-hating folks and those of you who are still unable to get over the fact that I’m only half as white as the 43 Presidents who preceded me.
The state of our nation is nowhere near as good as it would be if my Republican opposition in Congress would actually do their job and work for the benefit of all Americans – instead of misleading their less educated, bigoted and utterly confused “low information” supporters into voting against their own economic interests by flogging hot button social issues like abortion and gay marriage while pursuing economic policies that favor corporations and the wealthiest one percent over the interests of the vast majority of middle class and working class Americans – let alone the neediest among us.
In the Gospels, Jesus talked a lot about how “it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven” And he was always trying to help the poor and the sick and those oppressed. Somehow, I don’t think that Jesus would be trying to balance the budget by kicking needy families with children off food stamps – or denying unemployment insurance to working families during a hard, cold winter. Yet that’s what these supposedly Jesus-loving conservatives in the GOP – especially that wacko Tea Party bunch – are always pushing us to do.
In order to avoid a second, economy-damaging government shutdown, Democrats in Congress – and this President – were forced to ignore the explicit teachings of Jesus and take food out of the mouths of babies and deny much-needed help to workers who find themselves out of a job through no fault of their own. (And folks, these unemployed workers PAID into the system for years to make sure they were insured against an economic downturn.)
I want to particularly acknowledge the hard, flinty heart of Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. If there’s a working man or woman in Kenosha, Racine or Walworth Counties who is still supporting Paul Ryan, I have no idea why. Wake up, folks! Look at the guy’s record. He’s all about corporations getting all the breaks, the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer – and the middle class footing the bill.
And what’s with that hair? Is he an Eddie Munster fan or what?
Sorry, Paul, just kidding — about the hair. The rest is, as Sergeant Joe Friday used to say, “just the facts.” You don’t remember Dragnet, Paul? It was on TV around the same time as The Munsters.
Now, I wish I didn’t have to talk like this. I’m a nice guy by nature. I encourage people to get along, and I think we can best solve our problems and meet the challenges we face through consensus building and common effort.
But I’ve tried bipartisanship and compromise – and Republicans just won’t take “yes” for an answer. Let’s take Health Reform, for instance. Many in my party are in favor of the type of government-run, single-payer health care system that’s been successful throughout Europe and Canada. Barring that, many progressives hoped for at least a so-called “public option” – but what did I do?
What did the President that conservatives and Tea Baggers openly excoriate as everything from Stalin to Hitler to Mao — and as both a communist and a fascist do? Did I propose the Big Government system that the majority of my party wanted? No, I didn’t. Instead, I compromised by adopting an idea that was the brainchild of conservatives: the individual mandate. I took a huge political hit within my progressive base to seek a deal that would extend affordable health care to millions of uninsured Americans. And I did it by promoting a Republican idea.
So, how did Republicans respond to my bipartisan approach? Did they appreciate the political courage it took to disappoint so many Democrats and progressive independents in the pursuit of the greater good?
In the words of House Speaker John Boehner — “Hell no!”
My reward from the opposition party – that’s you, you Republicans and Tea Baggers — has been nothing but a constant shit storm of misinformation, vilification and obstruction – including that needless government shutdown.
And please don’t tell me that Democrats and Republicans play the game the same way — because the level of obstruction I’ve endured at the hands of the right wing in Congress is historic.
The truth is that there’s no historical precedent for the number of cabinet-level nominees that have been blocked or delayed by Republicans during my administration. Let me emphasize, my fellow Americans: this has never happened before.
Republicans in the Senate even filibustered my nomination of a Republican Vietnam War hero and former Senator, Chuck Hagel. In fact, Chuck was the first Defense Secretary candidate ever filibustered. Again, I reached out in a nonpartisan way – and got smacked in the face for doing it. But it’s not that I was hurt – it’s that America suffered from a needlessly slow and combative process in filling a job that’s vital to our national security.
Lately, Republicans have filibustered nearly every one of my Cabinet appointments. Guys, this is my team we’re taking about. A President gets to name his own team. Advise and consent. That’s your job, Senators. And, frankly, I’ve had enough of the “advise” and not enough “consent”.
My judicial nominees are also getting the shaft. They’re waiting exceptionally long periods to be confirmed. The average wait for circuit and district judges while I’ve been in the White House has been 227 days, compared with 175 days under President Bush. I’ve got one appellate judge who waited a year for her nomination to be voted on.
There have always been filibusters in the U.S. Senate, but they were rare. Before 1960, there were only four times in U.S. history when Senators of one party had to muster a 60-vote super majority to end a filibuster. My so-called “loyal opposition” has used the tactic far more than ever before. Since 2007, the Senate Historical Office has recorded that Democrats have had to end Republican filibusters more than 360 times — an all-time record of which nobody should be proud.
This is not business as usual, my fellow Americans.
During the legislative fights to pass the landmark Civil Rights bills of the early 1960′s, the filibuster became a weapon used by the bigots opposed to ending segregation. Still, even in those charged and turbulent times, filibusters were rare — and the Senators had to take the floor and keep the floor by talking hour after hour. Today, Mitch McConnell (that turtle-looking guy with the grumpy face sitting on the Republican side of the aisle) just tells the Democratic Majority Leader that no GOP Senators are willing to allow a vote – or even a debate – on an issue. It’s filibuster by default.
Lately, Majority Leader Harry Reid has implemented some reforms that have unclogged the Congressional constipation regarding my nominees. Thanks, Harry. What the hell took you so long?
I know you were trying to be collegial. I understand. I’ve tried to be that guy, too. But enough’s enough, right? Glad you finally gave ’em hell, Harry.
So, why is it that Republicans aren’t willing to cooperate at all with my administration? Why did Majority Leader McConnell, the senior Senator from Kentucky, announce early in my tenure that his number one priority was to make me a one-term President?
Why wasn’t this eminent Republican leader’s first priority to improve the economy, repair our nation’s failing, outdated infrastructure and improve the lives of working Americans? Why was I his target?
I know I’m not supposed to say it – but sometimes I’ve got to wonder if that good old Southern boy just can’t allow himself to work side by side with a black President. Is that the problem, Mitch?
I’m just sayin’…
Look, America. This nation is not going backward. And I’m not going to give up. The arc of history bends toward freedom and tolerance – and the GOP must get on board and help us move forward into this new century – dealing with the problems of poverty and the obscene disparity of wealth in our nation, our global environmental crisis, the scourge of gun violence, malfeasance and amorality on Wall Street, and all the other issues that must be dealt with in order for America – and the world – to survive and grow in peace and prosperity.
But if my Republican friends continue to be the party of obstruction, intolerance and willful ignorance, they will eventually be consigned to the dustbin of history.
Starting with the mid-term elections later this year.
I’m angry, America. I’m pissed. I’ve lost faith in the possibility of my Republican friends putting aside partisanship and idealogical extremism in favor of the general welfare. But I haven’t lost faith in you, my fellow Americans. I believe in the wisdom and goodness and tolerance of the vast majority of the American people who truly embrace the ideals our nation was founded on: freedom, equality and justice for all.
As President Abraham Lincoln said in his first Inaugural Address, at one of the gravest moments in our nation’s history:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
What should a progressive liberal Democrat think about President Obama’s intention to bomb Syria?
What should progressives think about a Nobel Peace Prize laureate launching a punitive military strike against the Assad regime?
What are the political dangers that President Obama faces as he awaits a Congressional vote to authorize the use of force against the Syrian regime?
I’ve heard all these questions and more debated over and over on radio and TV in recent weeks by the usual parade of talking heads – folks who’ve been mostly wrong on everything since 9-11 and George Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
Generally on channels like FOX, CNN, MSNBC and the network Sunday morning shows the debate about Obama and Syria plays out in the context of a political game in which Obama is either the winner or the loser depending upon the speaker’s own political bias or the pundit’s ability to foresee the future in ways that President Obama evidently cannot.
I’ve listened to all this crosstalk (it can’t be called “debate” or “argument” – which both require that some listening be done) and I think the chattering class and political grandstanders are largely ignoring the central question: the one that I believe is foremost on Obama’s mind.
How should the United States respond to the use of chemical weapons by a dictator against his own people?
Liberals and progressives like me (though not necessarily Democratic politicians) are uncomfortable with the use of force. We don’t like military answers to problems that can be solved diplomatically. Unlike uber-hawks like Senator John McCain, we don’t see the sledgehammer as the only tool in the arsenal of democracy.
We on the left have been gratified by President Obama’s diplomatic outreach to the Muslim world and his reticence to swing our military sledgehammer in the china shop of international relations. Many of the talking heads and politicians clucking today squawked that Obama was too slow to launch a strike against Gaddafi in Libya. I was pleased that, when Obama did move against the Gaddafi regime, he did so in a limited and effective way — just as he did in taking out Osama bin Laden.
So, when this President urges a military response to Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons I am far less cynical than I would be if Bush and Cheney were still in charge. And that’s not a partisan political calculation: it’s a matter of observation and unfortunate experience.
Having wound down two costly and controversial wars of choice that have eroded American prestige abroad and the public’s faith in government at home, President Obama surely hoped that the situation in Syria would not escalate to the point where the U.S. would have to consider launching cruise missiles to hold Bashar Assad accountable to international law and standards of human decency.
The thought of bombing someone in retaliation for committing war crimes is hard for peace-loving people to wrap their heads around.
But what are the options?
Getting the United Nations on board is impossible because Russia and China (who have their own obvious reasons for protecting the prerogatives of dictators) will use their Security Council veto to block any UN move against Assad’s regime. The fractious Europeans and the war-weary Brits will not be any help. And our allies among Syria’s neighbors – Turkey, the Saudis, the smaller oil states and Israel – would like to see Assad spanked hard for his transgressions but they rightly fear the chaos that could follow regime change in Syria. The Syrian refugee problem in Turkey and Jordan is already a crisis after years of brutal civil war — and what’s happened in Libya and Egypt after the ousters of Gaddafi and Mubarak does not augur well for a peaceful post-Assad transition in Syria.
With all these factors in play, President Obama still feels that the United States must take the lead and defend mankind against the use of chemical weapons by a despot. Clearly, in threatening military action against Assad, Obama intends to fire a shot across the bow of the young despot in North Korea and the religious despots in Iran whose pursuit of nuclear weapons pose even greater dangers to humanity.
So, all that said — how should the United States respond to the use of chemical weapons by a dictator against his own people? I’m glad that the U.S. Congress will be debating that question.
Two things bothered me most about Obama’s run-up to military action in Syria. My first concern was that Obama was ready to act before the United Nations inspectors had finished their investigation and reported their findings. That felt too much like Bush chasing the weapons inspectors out of Iraq so he could start his war. My second concern was that Obama was ready to go to war in Syria (because that’s what firing cruise missiles is, let’s face it) without authorization from Congress.
I don’t know whether the vote in Parliament and Prime Minister Cameron’s decision to bow to the will of his legislature was the deciding factor that led Obama to seek a vote in Congress, but I’m glad he’s doing it. It’s essential to our democracy to debate matters of war and peace.
It’s also good to see John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi both supporting President Obama: a rare display of bipartisanship. Of course, such displays of bipartisanship are what led Hillary Clinton and other Democrats to endorse President Bush’s cowboy adventure in Iraq. But it appears that the lessons learned in the Iraq war vote have led lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to craft a resolution that ensures a strike against Syria will be limited, specific and short-term, with no “boots on the ground”. (BTW – Does every pundit have to say “boots on the ground”? Can’t someone please say “ground troops” or “infantry” or “ground forces”?)
I hope Congress focuses their debate on the question of how the United States should respond to the use of chemical weapons by a dictator against his own people. Leave the domestic political games behind. Take a stand based on what’s best for humanity – and with an eye toward the message this vote will send to North Korea and Iran. (Alas, there are bad guys in the world.)
President Obama clearly has little to gain in this whole affair. For himself, that is. But he doesn’t appear to be concerned about his own political fortunes or the mid-term elections or any of the things that the pundits focus on so relentlessly. There have been times in the past 100 years when American strength and resolve stood as a bulwark between oppressed people and the evil forces that threatened them. I believe that’s how President Obama sees this moment in Syria and why he feels The United States must take action to hold Bashar Assad accountable for his criminal use of lethal gas against his own citizens.
And that’s why I stand by President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry — and I urge my representatives to vote in favor of authorizing the use of force against the Assad regime.
President Obama & Vice President Biden share a moment of relief after the Debt Ceiling was lifted.
Now that the debt ceiling fight is over, the newspaper scribes in the Washington press corps and the pundits on television (“the dunderpates”, as my wife calls them) prattle on about the winners and losers in this sorry showdown.
President Obama is the loser because he caved to the Tea Party minority. Obama’s the winner because he showed Americans that the GOP is ruled by its radical Tea Party minority. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is the winner because he sidestepped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the final negotiations with The White House. Speaker John Boehner is the loser because he couldn’t control his caucus in the House. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Lost in all this claptrap is the biggest loser: the American people. It’s a sad commentary on our news media that the reporters and talking heads who dominate the public discourse are so insulated from normal working lives, so infatuated with politics-as-sport, that they cannot see outside their own sandbox.
However, if the media ever managed to crane their craven heads above the Beltway, they might be forced to tell a story too complicated and nuanced for front-page headlines and television sound bites. The American people, it appears, can actually sort through GOP bullshit – even if smug, self-satisfied hacks like David Gregory (Meet the Press) and paid flacks like Chris Wallace (Fox News Sunday) can’t or won’t. According to the latest CNN poll, a large plurality of the American electorate were not swayed by the GOP-Tea Party’s no-taxes, cuts-only Siren song.
Yet, somehow, despite the fact that 60% of Americans agree with President Obama about his oft-stated “balanced approach” to deficit reduction, the bullhorns in the mainstream media keep blaring the Big Story of Tea Party success. (We’ll keep FOX out of the discussion. It’s not a news organization: it’s a propaganda arm of the GOP.)
GOP Congressman Walsh was a big cheerleader for default. Turns out, he had already defaulted on his own kids.
The more nuanced story is that, while the Tea Party fanatics may have won a political victory by moving the debt ceiling deal far off to the right – it looks like they’ve lost the larger battle for American hearts and minds. And that could cost them dearly in the 2012 elections. Not to mention the wrench these Tea Party bomb-throwers and their enablers in the Republican Congressional leadership just threw into the works of the GOP’s normally cozy relationship with Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce. Something tells me you won’t see too many Tea Partiers backed by the Chamber in 2012.
Looking ahead to 2012, the Conventional Wisdom is that President Obama has been grievously wounded in the debt ceiling fight. And it’s clear that he took a hit to his approval rating and his reputation for political cool. Yet, according to the latest CNN poll, the American people have judged that Obama came out of the debt ceiling debacle well ahead of Congress – and far ahead of GOP Congressional leaders. In fact, nearly 70% of those polled disapprove of how GOP leaders behaved during the rancorous debt ceiling negotiations — a scathing indictment of Sen. McConnell, whom the Beltway intelligentsia has declared the winner in this fight.
Now, if you (like me) are a regular reader of left wing-Democratic-progressive websites like Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo and The Huffington Post (which isn’t all that progressive anymore) – you’d think that every Liberal is frustrated and angry — and that all Democrats are up in arms, feeling betrayed by Obama’s capitulation to Tea Party brinkmanship. Calls for a Democratic primary challenge to the President have gone out – and a general alarum has been sounded. However, the latest Gallup poll provides a very different perspective on how left-of-center folks feel about the debt ceiling agreement.
Shocking, huh? A plurality of Democrats and Liberals approve of the debt ceiling agreement — and Republicans and Conservatives (those the mainstream media claim were the victors in this battle royal) don’t like the deal at all.
Of course, this poll reflects something most of us already know: liberals and Democrats have a more positive and realistic attitude toward American government. (At least we don’t hate it.) But these poll results also signal peril for the Tea Baggers. Usually, when political leaders make a big deal their constituents don’t like, it’s a bad sign for them in the next election cycle.
We don’t hear much in the media about how this debt ceiling debacle has damaged the right-wingers. The Beltway Wise Men say it’s all doom and gloom for Obama and the Democrats. But at least at this moment, the American people aren’t buying that bullshit narrative.
Now, please forgive me. I’m going to use the F-word.
I suggest that there’s a larger political narrative in America that we (and the national media) should be focused on right now — something that David Gregory and Chris Wallace wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. I know it’s not nice to use the F-word in polite political discourse — but since Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, The United States has been creeping towards fascism. The post-9-11 environment and the cynical exploitation of misguided Tea Party populism has accelerated our fascist drift.
I know that intelligent, dignified and reasonable people shouldn’t throw the term “fascist” around lightly — and the “fascist” label has been seriously misused, mischaracterized and misunderstood.
After all, the Tea Party-GOP crowd has alternately lambasted President Obama as both a left-wing Socialist and a right-wing Fascist: mutually exclusive condemnations.
“As an economic system, fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer.
The word derives from fasces, the Roman symbol of collectivism and power: a tied bundle of rods with a protruding ax. In its day (the 1920s and 1930s), fascism was seen as the happy medium between boom-and-bust-prone liberal capitalism, with its alleged class conflict, wasteful competition, and profit-oriented egoism, and revolutionary Marxism, with its violent and socially divisive persecution of the bourgeoisie.”
“Under fascism, the state, through official cartels, controlled all aspects of manufacturing, commerce, finance, and agriculture…The consequent burdening of manufacturers gave advantages to foreign firms wishing to export.”
“Fascism embodied corporatism, in which political representation was based on trade and industry rather than on geography…Corporatism was intended to avert unsettling divisions within the nation, such as lockouts and union strikes. The price of such forced “harmony” was the loss of the ability to bargain and move about freely.”
Here’s a simpler definition…
Fascism: “The merging of state and corporate interests.”
Modern American Fascism is more subtle than the Mussolini version in the mid 20th Century. Corporate interests exert their control over the U.S. government in less overt ways than they did in Italy in the 30’s and 40’s. In today’s American strain of fascism, it’s not the U.S. Government that’s in charge. Instead, through campaign donations, lobbying and revolving door cronyism, Corporate Oligarchs exert their control over a Government that increasingly serves corporate interests.
The problem is bad and getting worse. Since the Scalia-Roberts-Thomas-Alito axis on the U.S. Supreme Court established corporate personhood and opened the sluice gates for billions of corrupting corporate dollars to flow anonymously into our electoral system, the slide toward oligarchy by U.S. CEOs and their Congressional minions has advanced with scant resistance by what passes for an American left. (Though we saw vigorous resistance to the fascist agenda in Wisconsin earlier this year.)
And what of this union-bashing, union-busting agenda that a cabal of GOP governors are pushing? What about all these bipartisan “Free Trade” deals that have benefitted the bottom lines of multi-national corporations while hollowing out our U.S. manufacturing base and driving our wages lower? This agenda is clearly not in the best interest of the American People, so who does it serve? Corporate fat cats. That’s who.
Just this week, the paychecks of thousands of airline employees, FAA employees, and construction workers on airport improvement projects were held hostage when the GOP-led House, at the behest of Delta Airlines, tried to attach an anti-union provision in the bill authorizing funding for the FAA. Delta wants to bust their employees’ labor unions and Delta’s toadies in the GOP House stood ready to do their bidding — even at the risk of thousands of American jobs in an already-bad economy: not to mention threatening the safety of the traveling public. Again. Who are John Boehner and Eric Cantor serving with this dangerous game of political chicken? Corporate Big Money. That’s who.
Maybe it’s time to call these guys what their actions reveal them to be: American Fascists.
Here are some enlightening passages from Hartmann’s article. I urge you to read the whole thing:
In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?” Vice President Wallace’s answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan. ”The really dangerous American fascists,” Wallace wrote, “are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”
In this, Wallace was using the classic definition of the word “fascist” – the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.) As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.” Mussolini was quite straightforward about all this.
V.P. Wallace and the great Pete Seeger.
“If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings,” Vice President Wallace wrote in his 1944 Times article, “then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. … They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.”
“American fascism will not be really dangerous,” Wallace added in the next paragraph, “until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information…”
“Still another danger,” Wallace continued, “is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.”
As Wallace wrote, some in big business “are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage.” He added, “Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise [companies]. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.”
Wallace continued: ”The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice.”
“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact,” Wallace wrote. “Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy.”
In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism the Vice President of the United States saw rising in America, he added, “They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”
For another view of Vice President Wallace, you can check out this link and draw your own conclusion.
When you pause to consider it, the Fascist agenda that Wallace warned about — as championed by most of the Republican Party (and too many conservative Blue Dog Democrats) — is making frightening progress. Let’s evaluate where we stand today against these clear warning signs…
Heck, this looks like the Unofficial Republican Party platform!
Are the Tea Party extremists fascists? Are today’s Congressional Republicans fascists? Are “Free Trade”-supporting Democrats fascists? Is President Obama a fascist? Do you think I’m completely off-the-wall for even raising the possibility of American Fascism? Can it really happen here? You decide. But, before you dismiss this article as the ravings of a Liberal loon – please do some research. You might be surprised by what you’ll learn.
We don't want these guys to get reinforcements, do we?
One thing to consider: the President elected in 2012 will probably have the opportunity to appoint two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court — and it’s likely they’re be replacing old liberals who have stood as a bulwark against the Fascist Faction on the court. Whatever else you want to say about him, President Obama’s two picks (Sotomayor and Kagan) have been reliable votes in opposition to Scalia and his gang of black-robed corporate shills.
I hate to use the F word again — but if we don’t turn out the progressive vote for President Obama and the Democratic Party in 2012 — our democracy will be in F-ing trouble.
Pete Seeger's buddy Woody Guthrie knew who America's enemy was. (Check out the sticker on his guitar.)
Whatever else you think about today’s vote in the House of Representatives to approve the Debt Ceiling bill – there’s one thing from which we can all draw a truly bipartisan measure of joy: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ return to Congress for the first time since she was shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2011.
I was watching the vote tally on C-Span when sustained bipartisan applause rang out. At first, I couldn’t understand the celebration: the vote had not been settled at that point. Then, the C-Span announcer told us what the fuss was all about. Gabby Giffords had arrived on the floor to cast a vote in favor of the favor of the bill to raise the debt ceiling.
“I had to be here for this vote,” she said. “I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy.”
Some might take issue with whether today’s vote will ultimately help or hurt our economy – but setting politics aside for a moment, let’s simply marvel at this woman’s strength, resilience and grace.
I’m sure she didn’t mean to steal Speaker John Boehner’s thunder – though he’s probably very glad she did. In a chamber that had seen weeks of escalating rancor and polarization, colleagues from both sides of the aisle embraced her.
May her remarkable healing continue – and let our national healing begin.
I’ve had enough. I’m tired of dealing with babies.
This whole Debt Ceiling “crisis” has made it clear to me that, with the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives, we are dealing with political babies.
As a parent of three grown children, I know what a pain it is to deal with babies.
First of all, babies don’t know anything. All they know is what they want. And when they don’t get what they want, they cry.
Wahhhhh! Wahhhhh! Wahhhhh!
I will never understand why so many working class Midwestern Americans voted for these Tea Party-GOP babies in 2010 – but they did.
And now, political adults – both Democrats and Republicans – find they must contend with all these whiny, itty-bitty, small minded ultra-conservative babies in the U.S. House of Representatives who have no clue what it is to govern the greatest democracy in the western world.
As though they were simply playing with blocks in the safety of their padded playpens, these know-nothing GOP babies have no clear idea of the impact that their actions will have outside of their playpen.
I hope that the Government Adults – President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McChinless, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Speaker “Boo-Hoo” Boehner – are finally able to quiet the Tea Party babies and put them down for a long nap, just in time to raise the Debt Ceiling and move on with the grown-up business of government.
American patriot Thomas Paine served in George Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War as an aide-de-camp to General Nathanael Greene. In the desperate winter of ’76, the war was going badly — and Washington’s valiant, weary, and ill-equipped troops were in retreat.
The revolutionary cause was in dire jeopardy, when Paine took up his pen to rally his nascent nation’s flagging spirits.
Realizing that “it was necessary that the country should be strongly animated,” Paine wrote a series of popular pamphlets collectively titled The American Crisis. The first of these broadsides was published on December 23, 1776 – and General Washington found it so inspiring that he had it read to his soldiers at Valley Forge.
Today, as we suffer through this trumped-up Debt Ceiling crisis, it is once again “necessary that the country should be strongly animated.”
Therefore, with apologies to Thomas Paine…
These are the times that try Progressive’s souls. Some summer Liberals and sunshine Democrats will, in this crisis, shrink from their core values; but he that stands by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid now, deserves the love and thanks of every working man and woman in America.
The GOP-Tea Party, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. The Grand Debt Ceiling Bargain we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is Tax Fairness – with increases on the Wealthy, Big Business and Wall Street only — that gives Shared Sacrifice any real meaning.
Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon The Common Good; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as The Full Faith and Credit of The United States should not be highly rated by Standard & Poor’s. (Though such a Downgrade looks increasingly possible.)
The GOP, with Fox News to enforce its Bullshit, has declared that they have a right (not only NOT to TAX) but “to BIND all working people in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER” to economic slavery, for so unlimited an economic power can belong only to George Bush’s God of Prosperity, the Koch Brothers, Republicans, Millionaires and Billionaires.
We have none to blame but ourselves, but no great deal is lost yet. All that Boehner, McConnell and Cantor have been doing for these past few months is rather a Ravage than a Conquest. They have over-reached and will be quickly repulsed by the voters. By 2012, with a little resolution on the part of working class Americans – resulting in a Democratic landslide — we will soon recover.
I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up the American People to Economic Destruction by Tea Party Fools and GOP Corporatist Greed, or leave President Obama and the Democrats to perish who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of Default by every decent method which wisdom could invent.
Neither have I so much of the infidel in me, as to suppose that The Almighty has relinquished the Government of The United States, and given us up to the madness of small-minded religious zealots like Michele Bachmann and Jim DeMint; and as I do not, I cannot see on what grounds McConnell, Boehner and Cantor can hold Americans over an economic barrel.
‘Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic (like this artificial Debt Ceiling Crisis) will sometimes run through a country. Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their peculiar advantage is that they are the touchstones of sincerity (Democrats) and hypocrisy (Republicans), and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered. They sift out the hidden thoughts of Conservatives, and hold them up in public to the world.
I shall not now attempt to give all the particulars of our negotiations with the GOP; suffice it for the present to say, that the Democratic Party and President Obama, though greatly harassed and fatigued, bore these Debt Limit negotiations with a manly and bipartisan spirit. All their wishes centered in one, which was, that the country would turn out and help them to drive the Republicans out come the Election of 2012.
I have been tender in raising the cry against the Tea Party radicals, and have used numberless arguments to show their danger, but it will not do to sacrifice our country either to their folly or their baseness. The Time of Decision is now arrived, in which either Tea Party Republicans or Democrats must change our sentiments, or one or both must fall.
And what is a Tea Party Republican? Good God! What is he? I should not be afraid to stand with a hundred brave, steadfast Democratic Union Men against a thousand Tea Partiers. Every GOP-Tea Party member is a dupe or a coward; for servile, slavish, and corporate-interested fear is the foundation of Tea Partyism; and a man under such misguided influence, though he may be selfish and confused, can never be brave.
But, before the line of irrecoverable separation be drawn between American Liberals and Conservatives, let us reason the matter together: FOX News is as much rejected by reality as the American cause is injured by FOX News. Rupert “Phone Hacker” Murdoch and his Corporate Paymasters expect you to take up arms and flock to their standard. Your opinions are of no use to The Right, unless you support them without thinking, for ’tis Zombies, and not Thinking Men, that they want.
I once felt that kind of anger, which a man ought to feel, against the mean principles that are held by the Republicans. “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have prosperity.” But today, let every Progressive American awaken to his duty. For though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to flare, the embers can never expire.
I call not upon a few, but upon all Progressives: not on this Blue State or that Purple State, but on every state: up and help us; lay your shoulders to the wheel; better have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake. Let it be told to the future world, that in the heat of the summer of 2011, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it.
If President Obama and the Congress cannot avoid the ignominy of National Default, it matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil will reach you all. The far and the near, the rich and the poor, will suffer or rejoice alike.
The blood of Democratic children will curse their cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole, and made them happy. I love the Liberal that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little GOP minds to shrink; but the Progressive whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto Election Day.
Let them call me Liberal and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to GOP politicians who are stupid, stubborn, worthless and brutish — and fleeing with tax-cutting, budget-slashing terror from the orphan, the widow, and the unemployed of America.
There are cases that cannot be overdone by language, and there are persons who see not the full extent of the evil that threatens them. It is the madness of folly to expect statesmanship from Republicans who have refused to do political and social justice. The GOP’s first object is, partly by threats and partly by false promises, to fleece the American people before agreeing to pay their lawful debts.
I see no real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it. The sign of fear has not been seen in our Liberal Camp. Our new Progressive Democratic Army is recruiting fast, and we shall be able to open the 2012 Campaign with tens of millions of voters, well educated and mobilized.
By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission, the sad choice of a variety of evils — a ravaged country — crumbling cities — infrastructure without repair, and a shrinking Middle Class without hope — our homes turned into foreclosures, and our children to provide for, whose American Dream will be less than our own. Look on this picture and weep over it! And if there yet remains one thoughtless FOX viewer who believes it not, let him suffer the consequences unlamented.
Awake, Senate Democrats! Arise, President Obama! The GOP is mercifully inviting you to barbarous destruction (in a bipartisan fashion, of course), and men must be either rogues or fools that will not see it. I dwell not upon the vapors of imagination; I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as A, B, C, hold up truth to your eyes.
Let the Bush Tax Cuts expire! Cut the Pentagon’s bloated budget! Let Medicare negotiate deals with the Drug Companies! Collect a fair share of taxes from Corporations and Wall Street Financiers that have reaped such an ungodly percentage of our National Treasure! Leave Social Security and our National Health alone! Do these things, and the blessings of Prosperity will be upon our Nation once again.
“If I went to work in a factory, the first thing I would do is join a union.”Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In the mid 20th Century, back in the day when the postwar United States was the preeminent world power, we could boast a robust and growing organized labor movement which improved conditions for working Americans — union and non-union alike — and helped to build the great middle class in this country. But the labor movement – union men and women alike – paid in blood to give generations of their fellow workers a share of the American Dream.
Big Business didn’t just give Americans the 5-day working week, the 8-hour workday, and vacation and overtime pay. The Robber Barons didn’t give up Dickensian child labor without a fight. Do you think you’d have a pension today if your union brothers and sisters hadn’t fought for it? Many brave men and women in the Labor Movement died to win these basic workplace conditions. We take for granted so much of what organized labor earned for us over nearly two centuries of heroic struggle.
But the battle for workers’ rights didn’t end back in the 1930’s and 40’s. There’s been no final victory. Rather, the struggle for economic justice in the workplace is ongoing. And for the past three decades, American workers have been losing what little we’ve gained.
Ever since President Ronald Reagan broke the air traffic controllers strike in the summer of 1981, the right wing has mounted a steady counter-attack against organized labor. In 1983, 20% of U.S. workers were union members. By 2009, only 12% of American workers were unionized. Today, 30 years after Reagan renewed the right wing assault on labor unions, only one in 10 workers are union members. That’s right. Union membership has been cut by half since Reagan took office.
And the anti-union drumbeat continues.
Today, revenue-strapped GOP governors complain that hard-earned public employee pensions are generous boondoggles we can’t afford. Teachers unions are constantly under attack — as though earning about $40 thousand dollars a year for heroically schooling America’s youth (while working most weekends grading papers and spending personal funds for school supplies) is too high a price to pay for an educated electorate. Right wing politicians call out nurses and firefighters as overpaid unionists with luxurious benefit packages. Meanwhile, in the halls of Congress, contemporary union-busters are taking steps to weaken unions and limit American workers’ ability to bargain collectively.
Greedy elitists have been working very hard for the past three decades to give unions a bad name.
The Republicans and their corporate overlords have managed to confuse a shockingly large percentage of blue-collar lunch-bucket working Americans to buy into their anti-union rhetoric – despite the fact that the gap between executive and worker pay has become truly obscene.
In 1965, American CEOs earned 24 times what the average worker in their company took home. By 1978, the CEOs got paid 35 times more than their average employee. That figure rose to 71 times more in 1989. By 2005, CEO pay had risen astronomically.
Blue collar, Joe the Plumber Republicans might be shocked to learn that the average American CEO in 2005 earned 262 times the pay of their average worker. In other words, CEOs earned more in one day than an average worker earned in 52 weeks. And in the last five years, it’s only gotten worse. Today, according to the accounting firm, Towers Perrin, the average CEO is paid 500 times more than the average worker.
And that’s only half the story. Working class fans of conservative supply side economic theory should know: nothing trickled down.
While the top corporate executives were lining their pockets, the wages of working Americans declined in real dollars.
In 1979 the average hourly wage in the U.S. was equal to $15.91 in 2001 dollars. By 1989 it was only $16.63 per hour: a gain of just 7 measly cents a year for the entire Reagan decade. (In case you already forgot: CEO pay during that same period rose from 35 times what workers earned to 71 times what the guy on the line made.)
During the Clinton years, there was a slight up-tick in workers wages. Between 1995 and 2000, the average wage rose to $18.33 per hour, driven in part by higher pay for college-educated workers in the tech and service sectors.
But for the more than 100 million laborers without a college degree, average inflation-adjusted hourly wages at the end of 2000 were less than they were in 1979.
That’s what blue collar Reagan Democrats got for switching their allegiance from a union-friendly party to a union-busting party. Reagan and his corporate cronies waved the flag at hardworking blue collar Americans, puffed them up with pride about that “shining city on a hill”, riled them up about abortion and gay marriage – and then robbed them blind. The right wing is still doing it. And working class people are still falling for it.
The shameless profit-grab at the top of the corporate food chain has taken place while for the past 30 years U.S. worker productivity rose steadily as wages remained flat.
Since Ronald Reagan took office in 1980, American worker productivity has increased by nearly 40%. Yet, I remind you, real hourly wages for workers have declined since Reagan’s inauguration.
So who got the reward from all that increased worker productivity? Who got the big performance bonuses? The CEO’s, upper management and Wall Street middlemen did. (Of course, today’s grease monkey, shipping clerk, loading dock foreman, or self-styled Joe plumber can dream of one day becoming a CEO or stock trader himself himself. Or he can play the lottery.)
Workers have fallen behind while the fat cats stuffed record profits into their bulging pockets. (All the while crying that the unions were making it impossible for their companies to compete.) Yet the corporate elite aren’t satiated with their outsized slice of the economic pie. So, their right wing tools in government are stepping up their attacks on organized labor.
In my own home state of Ohio, newly-elected Republican Governor John Kasich proposes to deny the right of 14,000 state-financed child care and home care workers to unionize. He also wants to ban strikes by teachers, much the way some states bar strikes by the police and firefighters.
“If they want to strike, they should be fired,” Mr. Kasich said in a speech. “They’ve got good jobs, they’ve got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?”
By the way, this is the same Governor Kasich who has complained (rightly) that white-collar state employees are not paid enough to attract the best candidates to public service in Ohio. (In the GOP worldview, what’s good for college educated white-collar workers need not be shared by lowly blue-collar workers. Yet they have the nerve to call Democrats “elitists”.)
The right wing attacks the labor movement to convince blue collar Americans that unions are simply greedy and corrupt. This anti-union calumny is promoted by the GOP and bankrolled by big business execs and Wall Street moneymen whose own greed and corruption was manifest in the final years of the Bush administration. (BTW, it was blue-collar working Americans whose hard-earned payroll and income taxes bailed these A-holes out.)
Of course, there have certainly been some illegal shenanigans now and then in the annals of organized labor. (We still don’t know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.) But that doesn’t change the fact that the union movement in America has been a force for good in this country. And that union men and women paid for what we now take for granted in the workplace with their freedom and their lives.
Listen up, my working class friends who vote Republican: I’m talking to YOU. It’s time for a history lesson. A history, alas, that you can no longer read about in most public school textbooks, thanks to conservative members of your local school board.
April 27, 1825: Carpenters in Boston are the first to strike for a 10-hour workday.
July 1835: Child laborers in the silk mills of Paterson, New Jersey strike so they only have to work an 11-hour day — 6 days a week.
July 1851: Two railroad strikers are shot dead by the state militia in Portage, New York.
January 13, 1874: Unemployed workers demonstrating in NYC’s Tompkins Square Park are attacked by mounted cops who charge into the crowd, beating men, women and children with billy-clubs. There are hundreds of casualties, but the Police Commissioner says, “It was the most glorious sight I ever saw.”
September 5, 1882: 30,000 workers march in the first Labor Day parade in New York City.
May 1, 1886:Bay View Tragedy. About 2,000 Polish workers walk off their jobs in Milwaukee in protest of the ten-hour workday. They march through the city, gathering other workers until they are 16,000 strong and gather at Rolling Mills, sleeping in nearby fields. Wisconsin Governor Jeremiah Rusk calls out the state militia, and on May 5th, as the workers chant for an eight-hour workday, the commanding officer of the militia orders his men to shoot into the crowd (some of whom were armed with sticks, bricks, and scythes) killing seven, including a child.
October 4, 1887: The Louisiana Militia, aided by bands of “prominent citizens,” shoot 35 unarmed black sugar workers striking to gain a dollar-per-day wage. They also lynch two strike leaders.
May 11 to July 10, 1894: A nationwide strike against the Pullman Company begins when workers walk off the job after their wages are drastically reduced. On July 5, the 1892 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago is set ablaze, and the mobs begin burning and looting railroad cars and fighting police in the streets. On July 10, 14,000 federal and state troops succeeded in putting down the strike, killing 34 American Railway Union members. Strike leaders, including Eugene Debs, are imprisoned for violating injunctions, causing disintegration of the union.
September 1897: The Lattimer Massacre. 19 unarmed striking coal miners are killed and 36 wounded by a county sheriff’s posse for refusing to disperse near Hazelton, PA. Most of the victims are shot in the back.
March 25, 1911: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, occupying the top three floors of a ten-story building in New York City, is consumed by fire. 147 people, mostly women and young girls working in sweatshop conditions are killed. Greatly adding to the death toll was the incredible fact that Triangle bosses had locked the factory doors from the outside to keep the ladies from taking breaks.
June 11, 1913: Cops gun down three maritime workers (one of whom is killed) who are striking against the United Fruit Company in New Orleans.
1914: According to the Commission on Industrial Relations, approximately 35,000 workers were killed in industrial accidents and 700,000 workers were injured in the U.S.
April 20, 1914: The “Ludlow Massacre.” In an attempt to force strikers at Colorado’s Ludlow Mine Field to go back to work, company “guards” (hired by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and other mine operators) attack a union tent camp with machine guns, then set it afire — killing five men, two women and twevlve children.
January 9, 1915: The famous labor leader Joe Hill is arrested in Salt Lake City and convicted on trumped up murder charges. Despite worldwide protests and two attempts to intervene by President Woodrow Wilson. Hill is later executed. In a letter written shortly before his death, Hill urged his supporters, “Don’t mourn – organize!”
August 19, 1916: Strikebreakers attack picketing strikers in Everett, Washington, while local police refuse to intervene.
Three days later, 22 union men attempting to speak out are arrested. On October 30, vigilantes force union speakers to run a gauntlet, whipping, tripping and kicking them, and impaling them against a spiked cattle guard at the end of the gauntlet.
In response, the union calls for a meeting on November 5 – but when the union men arrive, they are fired upon. Seven people are killed in The Everett Massacre (also known as Bloody Sunday) and 50 are wounded. An unknown number wind up missing.
March 15, 1917: The Supreme Court approves the Eight-Hour Act under the threat of a national railway strike.
March 7, 1932: Police kill striking workers at Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan plant.
October 10, 1933: 18,000 cotton workers go on strike in Pixley, California. Four are killed before the workers win a pay hike.
1934: During the Electric Auto-Lite Strike in Toledo, Ohio, 1,300 National Guardsmen including three machine gun companies are called in to break up as many as 10,000 strikers and protesters. Two strikers are killed and over two hundred wounded.
September 1-22, 1934: A strike in Woonsocket, Rhode Island results in the deaths of three workers. Over 420,000 workers ultimately go on strike.
1935: The National Labor Relations Act is passed. It guarantees covered workers the right to organize and join labor movements, to choose representatives bargain collectively, and to strike.
May 30, 1937: Police kill 10 and wound 30 during the “Memorial Day Massacre” at the Republic Steel plant in Chicago.
June 25, 1938: The Wages and Hours Act passes, banning child labor and setting the 40-hour work week. It establishes minimum wages and maximum hours for all workers engaged in covered “interstate commerce.”
That’s the basic progressive history of labor unions before Ronald Reagan (himself a former Screen Actors Guild union president) began his successful counter-attack against organized labor.
The fact is that unions have a positive impact on the wages and working conditions of unionized and non-unionized workers alike.
Unions raise the pay of unionized workers by roughly 20% — and raise compensation, including both wages and benefits, by 28%. Plus, unions raise wages more for blue-collar than for white-collar workers — and more for workers who do not have a college degree. Unions force nonunion employers to follow suit. Organized labor’s impact on total nonunion wages is almost as big as its impact on union wages.
Wake up, working class Americans! Conservative GOP anti-union politicians are not on your side. Organized labor is on your side.
As Woody Guthrie sang, “You can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union!”
Here’s the legendary Pete Seeger (who I’ve had the honor to interview and see perform) with Woody’s son, Arlo Guthrie singing “Union Maid”.
And finally, here’s old Pete throwing down the gauntlet. “Which Side Are You On?”
Today, December 15th 2010 is the 219th birthday of the Bill of Rights.
And while constitutional scholars — from former constitutional law professor President Barack Obama, to Supreme Court Justice Antonin “Original Intent” Scalia, to Christine “Really? Separation of Church and State is in the First Amendment? It says that? Really?” O’Donnell – may differ on their interpretations of the Bill of Rights, there is little debate that the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution (ratified by three-fourths of the states on December 15, 1791) provide Americans with freedoms and protections that have inspired the world and made American citizenship a privilege.
And that previous sentence is just about as long-winded and complex as many of the amendments in the Bill of Rights.
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to free assembly, the right to petition the government for redress – and the little clause that stumped the failed Delaware Senate candidate/witch: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The Second Amendment gives us all the right to keep and bear arms. In other words, we can all have guns, right? Now, what the amendment actually says is, “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” So I guess we must all be part of a well-regulated militia, right? Is the NRA a well-regulated militia? I know the Aryan Nation is. (So glad those boys have automatic weapons, aren’t you?)
The Third Amendment prohibits the government from quartering troops in your house without your consent. I know we’ve all dealt with this problem at one time or another — usually around the holidays. Your house is already filled with visiting relatives – and a battalion of Marine infantry shows up at your door hoping to squeeze into your guest room for the night. Thanks to the Bill of Rights, you can point them in the direction of the nearest Holiday Inn.
The Fourth Amendment provides protection from unreasonable search and seizure. Unless, of course, you are a poor young non-Caucasian male suspected of having drugs in your home, or you’re on a terrorist watch list, or your electronic mail is swept up in an elaborate intelligence gathering effort, or… (Let’s face it. After the Patriot Act, the ‘ol Fourth Amendment has taken a beating.)
The Fifth Amendment provides due process in legal proceedings and protections against double jeopardy and self-incrimination. This is another amendment that conservatives don’t like. They think it’s too soft on criminal suspects and suspected terrorists. Unless, of course, conservatives are the ones under indictment. (Which happens a lot.) Then due process is a good thing to observe.
The Sixth Amendment provides for trial by jury and enumerates the rights of the accused. But what about victims rights? I can hear Rush Limbaugh now. “Those damn bleeding-heart liberal Framers!”
The Seventh Amendment provides for civil trial by jury. It is the most boring amendment. (In fact, I feel asleep writing that last sentence.)
However, you gotta love that the Seventh Amendment actually says, “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved…”
Did I mention they ratified this thing in 1791?
The Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail and bars cruel and unusual punishment. This is another amendment that’s been taking a beating lately.
Actually, it’s been waterboarded.
The Ninth Amendment is a catchall. It protects rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution. Like the right to enjoy macaroni and cheese in church without having to share it with a soldier who is reading a naughty magazine. Stuff like that. I think.
The Tenth Amendment is another grab bag. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Read that ten times fast. C’mon, Justice Scalia. I dare you.
So, happy birthday to our poor, beleaguered, bloodied-but-still-standing Bill of Rights!