January 24, 2008, Issue #134 Part 1
This newsletter/calendar, published in New Paltz, N.Y., appears once a month, supplemented by additional listings of new activist events, usually sent to Valley readers only. Editor, Jack A Smith (who writes all the news articles that appear without a byline or credit to other publications). He is the former editor of the (U.S.) Guardian Newsweekly. Copy Editor, Donna Goodman. Calendar Editor, Rocco Rizzo. If you know someone who may benefit from this newsletter, ask them to subscribe at email@example.com. If you no longer wish to receive the newsletter, unsubscribe at the same address. Please send event listings to the above email address.
1. NEW YEAR EDITOR’S NOTE
2. NO NEWS TODAY — Sun Rises, Barn Burns, Dog Bites Man, Congress Okays War Budget.
3. STOP THE SIEGE OF GAZA! — Demonstrations will take place Jan. 25-26 in theU.S., Israel and locally to demand an end to Israel’s punishment of Gaza’s civilian population.
4. LESSER EVIL OR GREATER GOOD? — A discussion of the merits and demerits of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, and an inquiry: When will progressives finally choose the greater good in place of the lesser evil?
5. CHECK IT OUT — A list of a few interesting new articles from various publications, with web addresses.
6. BYE, BYE AMERICAN DREAM — This is part 4 of our series on poverty and inequality in the United States. The focus is on the many millions of people who are being rudely awakened from the American Dream when they find out through bitter experience that there is far less economic and social mobility in the United States than they presumed.
7. OBAMA’S INTERESTING COMMENT — He said something unusual at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in just a couple of paragraphs, which we reprint.
8. DON’T FALL FOR RON PAUL —The Texas libertarian seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency is good on the war and civil liberties — but much of the rest of his line i reactionary, racist, and injurious to working people and the poor. We explain why.
(This was sent to Hudson Valley readers ONLY Jan. 20)
1. NEW YEAR EDITOR’S NOTE:
Dear Readers: Here’s a belated Happy New Year message. 2008! We’re revved up. Between the war, the economy and the election this will be an important year. It is wonderful to be part of the movements for peace, justice, equality and ecological sanity. It’s a complex struggle, spanning generations and victory remain remote, but there’s no greater avocation or reward than trying to help create a better world for the 6,780,336,677 of us (as of 1 p.m. today). For some reason we worry about these people.
The circulation of our newsletter surpassed 3,500 regular readers in December. How about helping us break 4,000? There must be people among your friends, family and fellow workers who might benefit from exposure to a serious alternative political point of view. Send them a copy of this newsletter and suggest that they become regular readers. All they need do is send their name and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org for a free subscription.
We have done an unscientific survey of a few hundred readers and have extrapolated that 90-95% reside in New York’s Hudson Valley, where we live and organize. We estimate 99.9% of all readers strongly oppose the Iraq war, which is logical since the overwhelming majority of you have been signed up at rallies, public meetings and bus trips to antiwar protests in distant cities or were recommended by your antiwar friends. We think up to 20% of you hold anti-imperialist views similar to those that inform our articles. The great majority of our readers are liberals whom we try to further activate and acquaint with progressive and left perspectives. An estimated 150 readers were subscribers to the old Guardian Newsweekly (U.S.), which we used to edit from the mid-1960s to mid-‘80s.
We received more email communications from our readers in 2007 than ever before — some positive, some critical, some with suggestions. We appreciate and learn from them all, so don’t hesitate to let us know what you think. The article below titled, “Lesser Evil or Greater Good,” might well stimulate some comments since we adopt a quite skeptical stance toward the political party most readers will end up voting for in November.
We hope you also direct your attention to part four in our series on inequality and poverty in America, titled “Bye, Bye American Dream.” Ever time we finish gathering the statistics and putting together one of these articles we’re practically sputtering with indignation at what the corporate lords, wealthy masters and their political minions are doing to the majority of our people.
Have a good year friends.
2. NO NEWS TODAY: SUN RISES, BARN BURNS, DOG BITES MAN, CONGRESS OKAYS WAR BUDGET
The Democratic-controlled House and Senate have now approved the nearly $700 billion 2008 Pentagon pending bill that includes $189 billion to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House of Representatives passed the bill Jan. 16 by a vote of 39-46. The Senate vote Jan. 23 was 91-3.
All told, when all war-related expenditures are included — from those concealed in other budgets to such matters as the interest on the national debt derived from past wars — the real amount will be over a trillion dollars this year. This does not include anticipated supplemental money to continue the wars through the end of this year. It does include a 3.5% pay increase for the military, retroactive to Jan. 1.
A total of 43 Democrats (out of 232 in the House) voted against the bill, and three Republicans. Four New York House members out of 29 joined those voting against the war bill. They were Reps. Yevett Clarke, Jose Serrano, Edolphus Towns and Nydia Velazquez, all from New York City.
In the Senate, the opposition consisted of two Democrats (out of 49) — Sen. Robert Byrd (WV) and Sen. Russ Feingold (WI), joined by Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT). Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY) and Barack Obama (IL) were too preoccupied campaigning to vote but of course they would have voted in favor.
The “great debate” in Congress over the Iraq war appears to have become sidetracked this election year by consent of both ruling parties and the corporate mass media — a process that began several months before the current fear of an impending recession pushed the economy to the forefront of national interest.
The war budget for 2009 is waiting in the wings, along with 2010, 2011...
3. STOP THE SIEGE OF GAZA!
Demonstrations demanding an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza will take place Friday and Saturday, Jan. 25-26, in a number of U.S. cities including New York City (the 26th), and within Israel itself (also the 26th). We sent a long report to our Hudson Valley list two days ago, but there is new information, including protests Jan. 26 in Albany, and in Woodstock and Saugerties in Ulster County, plus information from Israel.
The entire Israeli peace movement is organizing a long convoy of cars that will attempt to bring supplies to the blockaded 1.5 million people of Gaza who are suffering from shortages of food, medicines, fuel and other vital necessities caused by the Israeli military’s sealing off the western Palestinian territory.
In a call to action, the peace group Gush Shalom announced: “End the siege! The cruel blockade of Gaza intensifies the hatred, intensifies the bloodshed. All Israeli peace movements, in cooperation with Gaza human rights activists, will participate on January 26 in a large convoy to bring essential supplies to the Gaza Strip, express their protest, and demand: lift the blockade!” Join the convoy! Take your family with you!” (Details about the Israeli action and a listing of the various groups involved are further down. The full text of the statement from Gush Shalom is at http://gush-shalom.org.toibillboard.info/gaza_eng.htm.
The New York City protest will begin at 1 p.m. Jan. 26 in front of the Israeli Embassy on 43rd St. and 2nd Ave. in Manhattan. Some Valley activists will be traveling down to the city, others will demonstrate locally. The coalition initiating the protest is composed of the National Council of Arab Americans, Free Palestine Alliance, Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, Palestinian American Women’s Association, Al-Awda Palestine Right of Return Coalition, and the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). Also supporting the international actions are Jewish Voices for Peace, U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Palestinian Rights Committee, and other antiwar and progressive organizations.
Demonstrations on Jan. 25, Friday, will take place in Washington at the Israeli Embassy, and San Francisco at the Israeli Consulate. Also, Seattle, St. Paul, San Diego, St. Louis, Philadelphia, New Haven, and Costa Mesa (CA).
On the 26th, Saturday, in addition to New York City, there will be protests in Anaheim (CA), Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Charlotte/Chapel Hill//Durham (NC), Eugene (OR) and other locations. The Chicago protest will be on Jan. 29. There will be other actions but these are all we know so far.
The Jan. 26 vigil in Woodstock takes place 2:30-3:30 p.m. at the Village Green, and in Saugerties 12 noon-1 p.m. at the corner of Market and Main Sts. Both are “in support of Israelis for peace who say ‘Lift the Blockade.’”
The Albany action will be a 5-6 p.m. vigil at the corner of New Scotland Ave. and Manning Blvd. with signs calling for an end to U.S. support of the Israeli siege and an immediate cease-fire.
The following statement about the Israeli peace movement was written by Jane Toby, an organizer of the Woodstock/Saugerties vigils: “Today I received a letter from Israeli organizations, deploring their government's decision to cut off electricity, fuel, (hence, water), foodstuffs, medicines and humanitarian supplies to the civilians of Gaza. They say, ‘Such an action constitutes a clear and unequivocal crime against humanity.’
“These Israeli organizations call on the American government to censure Israel's actions and end civilian attacks. They call on the Jews of the world, their rabbis and communal leaders to speak out against this grave offense to the moral core of Jewish values. They condemn attacks on all civilians including the residents of Sderot. The attacks on Sderot, they realize, do not justify the massive disproportionality of Israeli sanctions on over 1.5 million Gaza civilians.
“This Saturday, Jan. 26, a relief convoy of supplies headed by peace and human rights organizations will travel from Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beer Sheva to the Gaza Strip border where Israelis will demonstrate along with a parallel Palestinian demonstration in the Strip. They will appeal to the army for immediate permission for the goods to be allowed into the Strip. Nearby kibbutzim within the range of Qassam rockets and mortars have offered their warehouses for storage of the convoy's goods.
“Participating Israeli organizations are: Gush Shalom, Combatants for Peace, Coalition of Women for Peace, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Bat Shalom, Bat Tzafon for Peace and Equality, Balad, Hadash, Adalah, Tarabut-Hithabrut, Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, AIC - The Alternative Information Center, Psychoactive - Mental Health Workers for Human Rights, Active Stills, The Students Coalition (Tel Aviv University), New Profile, Machsom Watch, PCATI - The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Yesh Gvul, Gisha and Local Television on the Internet. Contributions to the purchase of supplies may be sent to P.O. Box 3322, Tel Aviv 61033 and checks may be made out to “Gush Shalom” and labeled “For the Gaza convoy.”
According to a report from ANSWER Tuesday:
The crisis is growing more severe by the day. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the World Food Program, which together supply food to more than two-thirds of the population, have stated that unless the blockade is lifted they will be forced to stop operations by this weekend. A cut-off in aid would threaten an already food-deprived population with mass starvation. The great majority of Gaza residents are from refugee families, driven out of other parts of Palestine when the state of Israel was created in 1948.
The Israeli government imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Hamas party was democratically elected in January 2006. The Bush administration backed Israel’s action. Last week, Israel tightened the blockade, sealing off Gaza, supposedly because of Palestinian attacks by the military wing of Hamas. Yet, on Dec, 23, 2007, Israel rejected Hamas’ call for ceasefire negotiations. Since then, Israeli air and ground attacks have killed dozens of Palestinians and wounded hundreds more in Gaza, most of them civilians. In 2007, 373 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and the West Bank, compared to 13 Israeli deaths.
The Israeli blockade is in clear violation of international law, which strictly forbids collective punishment and labels it a war crime. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) states in part: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”
Collective punishment is a war crime. Imposing a blockade on the population in Gaza is undeniably a form of collective punishment. The U.S. government, which gives billions of dollars in military and economic aid to Israel every year, shares the guilt for this war crime.
4. LESSER EVIL OR GREATER GOOD?
We assume the majority of antiwar activists and political progressives are planning to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate in the 2008 elections, as most of them did in 2004.
Four years ago, those who read our articles at the time will remember that we were sharply critical of the candidacy of Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry, who ran on the pledge to win the Iraq war if elected. Even though over 75% of Democratic voters were against the war in the fall of 2004, all but a relative handful supported Kerry on Election Day.
This year, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama are the Democratic frontrunners (we’ll get to Edwards and Kucinich later in this article), and one or the other probably will prevail in the primaries and proceed to the White House, given the gross unpopularity of the Republican Party after two terms of reactionary George W. Bush.
It will be very difficult for the Democrats to loose this election. But their political centrism, excessive caution and dithering makes a defeat not entirely impossible even though the Republican candidates for nomination constitute the most alarming collection of opportunists, buffoons and neoconservative hyper-imperialists imaginable. Rep. Ron Paul appears to be the exception because of his defense of civil liberties and opposition to the Iraq war, but his extreme conservative/libertarian program rules him out of progressive consideration (see article below).
In our view there are positive and negative elements to each of the leading Democrats, with the emphasis on the negative. Let us explain, starting with the positive: It is unquestionably an advance for American society that either a woman or an African American man may well be popularly elected President of the United States in November.
This development is the latest stage in nearly two centuries of struggle in the U.S. against the social, political and economic oppression of women, and against slavery, Jim Crow apartheid and racial inequality. The collapsing sexist and racist opposition to electing any candidate other than a white man represents an extraordinary change in the thinking and mores of the American people, and stands as a tribute to struggle led by Martin Luther King Jr. and to the popular uprisings for peace, justice and equality throughout the 1960s to mid-1970s.
These struggles still have a distance to go before women and African Americans attain full equal rights in our country. But one senses an acceleration in the stride toward social progress in the mere fact that representatives of both these communities are getting close to exercising national political leadership.
Of course, there is a chance that former Sen. John Edwards may still obtain the nomination if Clinton and Obama cancel each other out in the primaries, which is doubtful, but this would amount to a pause, not an obstacle for women and blacks.
Clinton and Obama virtually share the same political positions with insignificant shades of difference. Edwards essentially agrees completely with their approach to foreign affairs, which posits that Washington must lead the world and expand its hegemony. The three march in lockstep, from their willingness to shovel endless tax dollars into the maw of Washington’s military machine to their total support for Israel’s suppression of the Palestinians. But on some domestic matters Edwards has positioned himself as a populist. His candidacy likewise contains positive and negative elements — the positive being his anti-corporate rhetoric, condemnation of poverty in America, and recent motion to the left of his two adversaries on the question of Iraq.
After eight years of Bush’s right wing governance, including three ongoing wars (don’t forget the “war on terrorism”), an assault on constitutional liberties, and a virtual class war against the American working class, lower middle class and the poor, it is understandable that many voters with progressive leanings view all three contenders for the Democratic nomination with a sense of relief, if not always enthusiasm.
Now we turn to the negative side of the Democratic frontrunners, starting with a simple truism: The ascendancy to the Oval Office of a woman, or a black, or a populist, or “anybody but Bush,” does not necessarily portend a politically progressive presidency.
For example, given the degree of racism and sexism in the United States, it was socially progressive in itself that a white woman (Madeleine Albright), a black man (Colin Powell) and black woman (Condoleezza Rice), were selected as first of their gender and color to serve as secretaries of state for the world’s most powerful country. They broke barriers of prejudice in so serving, and that was a plus. But each shared the view that “indispensable” America deserved to function as the world’s dominant power on the basis of its economic, political, military and supposed moral superiority. They thus promoted the interests of U.S. militarism, hegemony, imperialism, and war — a great political minus that is shared to one degree or another by the three “hopefuls” under discussion.
In a society divided by social classes such as ours, the principal issue involved in evaluating the presidential potential of Clinton, Obama and Edwards is not whether each will be better than Bush or the probable Republican candidate, which is taken for granted. It is whose interests will they primarily serve in actual practice and not in ephemeral campaign promises.
The candidates have two main choices within our present socioeconomic construct: (1) To principally attend to the interests of the great majority of the American people in terms of basic services, social welfare, economic well-being, and at least a touch of the good life, or (2) to principally gratify the interests of big business, corporate greed, the institutions of finance and investment and the small percentage of the population that possess the great bulk of the nation’s wealth.
Historically, American politicians and presidents have catered to the interests of wealth and power — the rationale being that a portion of the advantages bestowed upon the elite eventually trickles down to the masses of people. There is no indication that any of the viable 2008 candidates will manage to reverse this equation or do more than tinker with notions of social change beneficial to the great majority of American workers.
The three leading Democratic candidates incessantly campaign for “change” but do not define what their change means or explain how it will be brought about. Their reluctance to elaborate is because the change they really have in mind is so insignificant that a healthy ant could drag it back to the colony without assistance from a peer. So far, their most impressive political credential in terms of change is that they are not George W. Bush.
Politically, Clinton is a centrist, leaning toward the center-right domestically and internationally. She has long since left liberalism behind. Her position on the war has been obfuscating and opportunist.
Obama is a centrist with no intention of leaning left who seems to stand primarily for an intangible “hope,” an apolitical “unity,” and the vacuity of generational politics. He has even been criticized several times by liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman for seeming to attack some of Clinton’s positions from the right, not the left. Edwards is a centrist as well, though now making populist overtures to the electorate.
Of the three possibilities Edwards conveys the impression he is further to the left on the key issues of labor, the war and economic inequality. He has been sharply critical of corporate privilege and exploitation and has excoriated the political system’s indifference to poverty and economic inequality. He shuns corporate lobbyists and money. Edwards articulates the goal of ending poverty in the U.S. within 30 years, and has introduced a dozen or so concrete suggestions to bring this about. His program is too cautious and inadequate to the task, but at least he is pressing the issue. It is important to remember that if Edwards is elected, he cannot be unaware that his own party will block any effort beyond the superficial to transform his anti-corporate campaign rhetoric into reality.
Liberal Sen. Russ Feingold was critical of Edwards Jan. 18: “The one [candidate] that is the most problematic is [John] Edwards, who voted for the Patriot Act, [but now] campaigns against it. Voted for No Child Left Behind, campaigns against it. Voted for the China trade deal, campaigns against it. Voted for the Iraq War…. He used my voting record exactly as his platform, even though he had the opposite voting record.”
Each of these candidates, to one extent to another, is in liege to those who ultimately control the Democratic Party — an institution nearly as beholden to Wall St., big business and wealth as its reactionary opposite number. As Washington Post columnist Harold Myerson wrote Jan. 16, “When it comes to reining in Wall Street… the Democrats have been AWOL almost as much as the Republicans have been — not least because their presidential candidates get so much money from Wall Street.”
Even as it continues to attract a large liberal constituency and enjoys the backing of organized labor — both of which give infinitely more to the Democratic Party than the trifle offered in return — the party continues to situate itself ever more comfortably in the political center/center-right, and has long since eviscerated its center-left wing. The Progressive Caucus in the House has about 70 members that adopt liberal positions but they are not only an oft-outvoted minority within their own congressional delegation but in almost all cases follow Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s centrist political leadership.
The small remaining center-left is led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, the most progressive of the Democrats seeking the nomination. His program on nearly every issue — from the war in Iraq to same-sex marriage rights and many issues in between — is to the left of the three leading prospects, and his colleagues in the Progressive Caucus as well. Democratic leaders have done their best to isolate Kucinich, who calls for congressional de-funding of the Iraq war and impeachment, positions they oppose. The national corporate media has virtually excluded him from news coverage. Kucinich entered the 2004 primaries as the left candidate as well, but at the convention he urged his followers to support pro-war John Kerry, and is expected to back the party’s nominee when the decision is made this year. This allows him to “live to fight another day,” but undermines his message.
In a long interview in the Jan. 19 Philadelphia Inquirer, Kucinich was asked by reporter Chris Hedges, “Why has the Democratic Party not done what it should do?” He answered: “Lack of commitment to Democratic principles. No understanding of the period of history we're in. Failure to appreciate the necessity of the coequality of Congress. Unwillingness to assert Congressional authority in key areas which makes the people's House paramount to protecting democracy. The institutionalized influence of corporate America through the Democratic leadership council. Those are just a few. (The interview is at http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/74268.
A harbinger of the anticipated performance of Clinton, Obama and Edwards is contained in the distinctly mediocre record of the Democratic majority since gaining control of the House and Senate in November 2006. Aside from the passage of a welcome but inadequate increase in the minimum wage, a failed but worthwhile attempt to eliminate a tax loophole that enriched certain multimillionaires, a modest package of energy enhancements, and a few minor but liberal accomplishments, the Democrats have been almost obsessively cautious and conservative.
A number of progressive House Democrats seek to alleviate some of the hardship faced by nearly 40 million Americans living in poverty, but there isn’t enough support to pass serious legislation. An Out-of-Poverty Caucus was formed in the House last year by some two dozen members. California’s Rep. Barbara Lee, a leader of the caucus, initiated an anti-poverty resolution that was unanimously approved by the House (with the Senate concurring) on Jan. 22, declaring, “it is the sense of Congress that the United States should set a national goal of cutting poverty in half over the next 10 years.” Unfortunately, it was a non-binding resolution without any specific action to be taken and will be ignored. This measure was the best Lee of could extract from an essentially indifferent Congress, but she views it as a first step, and undoubtedly will persist.
Liberal Democrat writer, radio host, and witty gadfly Jim Hightower, in referring to “the capitulation Congress,” had this to say about congressional Democrats Jan. 14: “The damage now being done to America's political psyche by the Democrats' fizzle is way out of the ordinary…. It is not some vague funk that's afflicting the public, not some general ennui caused by seven years of Bushdom. Rather, it's a growing despair — and a rising national embarrassment — brought on by an ongoing series of specific, disheartening collapses by Democrats, who are turning out to be weaker than Canadian hot sauce.” (http://www.alternet.org/story/72875/)
Congressional Democrats seem unable to construct a comprehensive program for immigration reform capable of deflecting the GOP’s hyper-nationalist thrust. They have advanced no serious challenges to the Bush Administration’s conduct of foreign policy, and won’t venture to impeach perhaps the most dangerous and duplicitous president and vice president in history.
The new Democratic Congress is failing the American people on the critical question of the subversion of civil liberties. The Democrats helped to pass Bush’s bill expanding warrantless spying. They also initiated on their own the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act,” known as HR 1955, which passed the house Oct. 23 by a vote of 404-6. It’s as bad as it sounds (and will write about it in the next issue). The Democratic Senate is soon expected to approve this appalling legislation. The Guantanamo prison camp remains open for business. The use of torture seems to be legal these days. And needless to say, the Patriot Act still hovers over our freedoms and privacy, patiently biding its time until our time is up.
The refusal of the "antiwar" Democratic House and Senate to defund the Iraq adventure will insure the continuing U.S. occupation and control of that broken and victimized country. The Democrats claim their hands are tied because Bush vetoed their several withdraw provisos attached to war funding bills. Actually, all they need do is refuse an Administration request for war money and then forcefully take their case to the people until the White House agrees to their terms. The trepidation of the party leadership in this matter is often ascribed to its craven fear of being criticized by the know-nothing war lovers as “soft on terrorism” or “lacking patriotism.” But that’s only part of the reason.
The Democratic Party’s public posture is that of desiring to “withdraw the troops,” but the policy in practice is to support a prolonged and partial withdrawal that will keep U.S. troops in Iraq for many years.
Why? Three reasons: (1) To avoid a defeat like Vietnam that might weaken the American government’s pretensions to world supremacy. (2) To control a country with enormous reserves of petroleum that Washington covets, and which is also located in a strategic sector of the world over which the U.S. is determined to extend its hegemony. (3) To make sure Uncle Sam does not simply walk away whistling an idle tune from a $2 trillion investment without extracting some financial and political compensation, no matter how long it takes.
Since much of the U.S. antiwar movement and most peace voters are going to support Democrats in November no matter how they equivocate over ending the war, the mass public political pressure required to force the speedy withdrawal of all American troops is becoming increasingly diluted, despite the large size of the opposition. The ANSWER Coalition and other groups with anti-imperialist perspectives will continue to be critical of the Democrats as well as the Republicans throughout the election campaign because they recognize there are two war parties, not just one. But the largest sector of the peace movement will focus its anger almost exclusively on the Republicans, as it did in 2004, in effect extending carte blanche to Democratic politicians who ultimately desire a prolonged, partial withdrawal and long occupation.
The Democrats and their leading candidates for the nomination are not indifferent to the interests of the great majority of the American people. They do care, in their way, and they are better than the Republicans. But they always will principally serve the interests of big business, wealth and Washington’s unipolar world leadership. As long as they do, there will be inadequate social programs and protections for working people at home, and an aggressive foreign policy abroad.
As customary in a society where the political left and the union movement have been beaten down, and progressive-thinking people have no serious organization or leadership, nearly all the antiwar and pro-civil liberties liberals and those on the center-left will end up supporting the “lesser evil” Democrats in November. In effect, this sanctions and perpetuates whatever the degree of “evil” is being supported in the process of rejecting a “greater evil.”
This raises a question: When will a substantial number of Americans finally decide to build a mass political party representing their own interests as peace-minded working people, and when will progressives finally choose the “greater good” in place of the “lesser evil” and work to bring it about?”
As a first step toward a better world, a left oriented mass mainstream party would espouse policies similar to those propagated by the moderate progressive parties in Europe. These parties do not go far enough, but they have managed to legislate programs for their people far in advance of what will ever be forthcoming from our present two-party system.
The leading candidates for the presidential nomination keep talking excitedly about their commitment to change in America. But none of them are willing to sharply cut the militarist budget, or to reconfigure U.S. foreign policy so that it is no longer based on hegemony and armed might. Not one will significantly reduce the number of Americans living in poverty, or sufficiently raise the taxes on the rich and corporations to approximate the semblance of progressive taxation. Not one will bring about universal single-payer health care. Not one will take the steps necessary to truly end racial inequality or rampant economic inequality in America.
It will be good for the right wing to be defeated in November. But a Democratic victory will not bring about the changes in domestic and international policies required to creatively contribute toward resolving the grave economic, social, political and environment challenges that confront the United States and the world in the 21st century. Our two ruling parties are part of the political problem, not the solution, and adequate change will not be possible as long as America remains governed exclusively by the right wing and the center/center-right.
5. CHECK IT OUT
THE TRAVELS OF GEORGE BUSH: We frequently skip reading Maureen Dowd’s column in the New York Times because she’s often petty and gossipy when she excoriates some of her favorite human targets, but she’s an engaging writer and when she’s good — such as when her target is George W. Bush, known to her as W, she’s excellent. Her Jan. 20 column was about W’s trip to the Middle East, where she traveled in the media entourage. Here’s the first paragraph, followed by the web address: “When President Bush finished doing his sword dances and Arabian stallion inspections, when he finished making a speech in Abu Dhabi on the importance of freedom that fell flat, when he finished lounging in his fur-lined George of Arabia robe in the Saudi king’s tent, he came home.” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/20/opinion/20dowd.html?ref=todayspaper&pagewa nted=print.
RAISING SMART KIDS: Scientific American magazine has published an article on bringing up children that any parent, grandparent or perspective parent will find extremely interesting. The title is, The Secret of Raising Smart Kids. The main point: “Don't tell your kids that they are [smart]. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on effort — not on intelligence or ability — is key to success in school and in life.” Find it at www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-secret-to-raising-smart-kids&print=t rue.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END: Columbia University’s Professor Eric Foner, one of the great American historians, wrote an important article about the 200th anniversary of a major event that took place on Jan. 1 that most people knew little about: From that day on, the importation of slaves into America was banned. Congress passed the law during 1807 and it took effect on the first day of 2008. “For years thereafter,” Foner wrote, “free African-Americans celebrated Jan. 1 as an alternative to July 4, when, in their view, patriotic orators hypocritically proclaimed the slave-owning United States a land of liberty.” Foner’s article is educational and, for many of us, throws new light on the subject of slavery, which of course continued in the U.S. on the basis of the existing slave population until the Civil War finally discontinued this shameful practice. It was replaced, after the breakdown of Reconstruction, with Jim Crow segregation up to the Civil Rights era a hundred years later. It is available at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/30/opinion/30foner.html?em&ex=1199163600&en=3 8b74fe1ac05593c&ei=5087%0A.
CHARLIE WILSON’S (PROPAGANDA) WAR: Articles proliferated throughout the progressive and left press attacking the new film “Charlie Wilson’s War” when it began circulating across the U.S. a few weeks ago. And for good reason: it’s not only historically inaccurate, which is hardly a new phenomenon in Hollywood filmdom, but a classic example of imperialist propaganda. Of the many reviews, the one by Chalmers Johnson has the most information. Johnson is the author of the three essential contemporary books about the United States, now known as the Blowback Trilogy — Blowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (paperbound edition, January 2008). Go for it, at www.tomdispatch.com/post/174877/chalmers_johnson_an_imperialist_comedy.
6. BYE, BYE AMERICAN DREAM
(Fourth of a series on poverty and inequality in America)
The vaunted concept of the “American Dream” suggests that the United States — quite uniquely among nations — offers a secure, ever-improving standard of living to anyone who works diligently, and that one’s industrious children and grandchildren will continue to advance in economic and social status, generation after generation.
This notion has been greatly exaggerated but it is of course true that descendants of many millions of poor and oppressed mostly European immigrants did manage over time to enjoy significantly improved economic and social conditions, for their children if not themselves. And to this day, educated, skilled and middle class documented immigrants are usually able to live fairly well in the United States.
The American Dream, however, for the majority of Americans (and almost all undocumented immigrants), has become one of the great casualties of the economic class war waged by big business and private wealth against the working people of our country.
According to a study by the Century Foundation titled “Rags to Riches?,” evidence “shows that there is much less mobility in the United States than most people assume. Horatio Alger notwithstanding, rags to rags and riches to riches are now the norm in this country to a greater degree than in many other developed nations…. Substantial evidence [shows] that citizens of other advanced countries are more likely to climb the economic ladder successfully than Americans.”
Another study, this one released last May by the Economic Mobility Project and titled, “Is the American Dream Alive and Well?,” points out that “The last 30 years has seen a considerable drop-off in median household income growth compared to earlier generations. And, by some measurements, we are actually a less mobile society than many other nations, including Canada, France, Germany and most Scandinavian countries.”
Noting that the American Dream is “turning into a nightmare for a very large segment of the population,” sociology Professor Fred Block of the University of California recently wrote the following in an article published by the Longview Institute: “Millions of families are now working as hard as they can without making any progress. For some, it means being stuck in bad neighborhoods with lousy schools so their highest aspiration becomes to keep their kids alive, away from drugs, and out of jail. For others, it means having inadequate health insurance so that even a small medical problem becomes a huge financial crisis. And for still others, it means that even when their children do well in high school, there are simply no resources for college or learning technical skills. In all these cases the results are the same; the children have little chance to do better than their parents…. We are back to the old European model in which children end up doing the same work as their parents.”
Despite continuous revelations about the growing inequality and barriers to economic and social mobility in the U.S., Washington still hypes the American Dream as proof of the continuing economic, social and moral superiority of the United States vis-à-vis all other nations in the world. In addition, the Economic Mobility Project suggests with exactitude: “The belief in America as a land of opportunity may also explain why rising inequality in the United States has yielded so little in terms of responsiveness from policy makers: if the American Dream is alive and well, then there is little need for government intervention to smooth the rough edges of capitalism.”
Let’s look at the socioeconomic reality in the U.S. on the basis of up-to-date statistics at the start of this new year, then return to the American Dream to investigate why it is “turning into a nightmare” for many in the working class, the lower middle class and the poor at the bottom of the class system.
According to a Dec. 20 year end report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), about one in eight Americans — 36.5 million — lives in poverty, which is defined as $10,210 for a year for one person; $13,690 for a household of two; $17,170 for three; $20,650 for four). Of this number, a total of 15.4 million experience extreme poverty with a cash income below half the poverty standard — less than $10,000 for a family of four.
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) says an income of twice the poverty level is generally adequate for individuals and families. Those earning below twice-poverty are considered to have a low income, and those with incomes below the poverty level are considered poor. Combined, they account for 68% of the work force.
CBPP reports that “16 million low income households either paid more for rent and utilities than the federal government says is affordable or lived in overcrowded or substandard housing.” Another 12.6 million households (about 36 million people) “lacked access to adequate food at some point during the year because they didn’t have enough money for groceries.” About
1. 5 million families received foreclosure notices in 2007, twice the number of the year before, and many more will lose their homes this year. And 47 million Americans are without health insurance.
The National Center for Children in Poverty reported in November that about 40% of the nation’s children, almost 29 million, live in low-income or poor households. A total of 17%, 13 million, reside with families below the official poverty line, an increase of 1.2 million since 2000. Some 10% of white children live in poverty families, as do 33% of African American children, 27% of Latino children, and 40% of Native American children. Because of their much greater number in the population, whites comprise the largest poor group among children. About 20% of poor children lack health insurance, compared to 11% for all children. At least 16% of households with children experience food insecurity.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors released its annual report on big city hunger and homelessness Dec. 17, showing that deep poverty is increasing throughout urban America. In comments introducing this year’s study, Conference President Douglas Palmer, the Mayor of Trenton, NJ, declared: "Although 87% of our nation's wealth is generated in our cities, hunger and homelessness persist in most of our country's cities and urban centers." The report revealed that more than half the 23 cities taking part in the survey turned away people in need “some or all” of the time. Some 80% of the cities reported that requests for food aid increased 12% in 2007 and 19 of the cities anticipated larger increases this year.
The report stated that hunger and homelessness were exacerbated by the “recent spike in foreclosures, the increased cost of living in general and the increased cost of food.” Food banks throughout the country have been running out of supplies because of increasing demand coupled with inadequate government programs and cutbacks. A coalition of many food-supply groups called the National Anti-Hunger Organizations has declared that “more than 35 million people in the United States live in households that face a constant struggle against hunger.
The growing gap between rich and poor/low income Americans was revealed Dec. 14 in a sobering report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). For example, in the three years between 2003 and 2005, according to the New York Times, the richest 1% of the population experienced an increase in its already high income that was greater than the total income of the poorest 20% of the American people. That means in 2005 some 3 million Americans got a raise in income that amounted to $524.4 billion, while the total intake of 60 million people was $383.4 billion.
The total income of the top 1% in 2005 (including the raise) equaled the total income of 166 million individuals. Thus, it took 55 working people within this cohort of 166 million to earn what one member of the top 1% earned. The Times also reported that tax returns show that the top 10% of Americans today “enjoyed their greatest share of income since 1928 and 1929,” a boom time that ended in the stock market crash of September/October 1929 that brought about the Great Depression.
Interestingly, the top 1% possessed a significantly higher share of the national wealth in the first decades of the 20th century — 40% as opposed to around 25% today. What happened? Mainly the Depression and a decade of New Deal reforms that ultimately brought in higher estate and income taxes — the very reforms and tax policies that have been gradually eroded in recent decades and accelerated under the Bush regime.
The U.S. government divides the American people into five yearly quintiles, each representing 20% of the population, from the lowest fifth to the top fifth. Extrapolating from the CBO report, the CBPP shows that (in inflation adjusted 2005 dollars) the lowest fifth of the American people earned $14,400 in 1979 and 26 years later, in 2005, earned $15,300 — an increase of 6% or $900. The middle fifth earned the equivalent of $41,500 in 1979 and in 2005 earned $50,200 — an increase of 21% or $8,700. The top fifth earned $95,700 in 1979 and in 2005 averaged $172,200 — an increase of 80% or $76,500. But get this: the top 1% (which is part of the top fifth, of course) earned $326,400 in 1979, and in 2005 received $1,071,500, an increase or 228% or $745,100.
Commenting on such figures in the New York Times Jan. 19, liberal columnist Bob Herbert wrote: “The peak income year for the bottom 90% of Americans was way back in 1973 [six years before the CBO calculation began] — when the average income per taxpayer (adjusted for inflation) was $33,001. That is nearly $4,000 higher than the average in 2005…. Big business and the federal government have worked hand in hand to squeeze the daylights out of working people, stripping them (in an era of downsizing and globalization) of much of their bargaining power while ferociously pursuing fiscal policies that radically favored the privileged few.”
At the very pinnacle of the American class hierarchy are the 14,000 households that inhabit the top 0.01% of the population. According to John Bellamy Foster in the July–August 2006 Monthly Review: “Over the years 1950 to 1970, for each additional dollar made by those in the bottom 90% of income earners, those in the top 0.01% received an additional $162. In contrast, from 1990 to 2002, for every added dollar made by those in the bottom 90%, those in the uppermost 0.01% made an additional $18,000.”
Government programs such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income, help tens of millions of people but they are far too limited and underfunded to have a substantial impact on the poverty and immiseration that is increasingly affecting America’s working families.
This extreme inequality, which has been accelerating since the mid-1970s, only concerns income, not assets. When assets are included, the top 5% (the privileged 15 million out of a population of 300 million) virtually own America. Consequently, the views of this advantaged component and its representatives in Washington exercise a decisive influence in the nation’s key economic, political and governmental affairs. Such views certainly prevail in terms of blocking any possibility of infusing economic democracy into our political democracy — an occurrence that would not only give genuine substance to democracy but also tend to threaten the hierarchy of wealth.
The impending (or already existing) periodic recession endemic to capitalism may well exacerbate the plight of the majority of America’s working people this year and perhaps next. Traditionally, according to EPI’s Jared Bernstein, recessions increase unemployment by three million or more workers, and lower the earnings of middle-income families by some $2,500, about 4%, if the recovery is relatively jobless, as was the case after the 2002 recession. He predicts a recession this year could have a steeper impact on low-income families. Bernstein’s worst case scenario is that “we could end up adding 5.5 million people to the poverty rolls, including 1.7 million children.”
The Bush Administration and congressional Democrats have agreed to an approximately $150 billion economic “stimulus” package of incentives to reduce recession’s impact, but a compromise is still being worked out in Washington at this writing and it’s best to await the out come before commenting.
In a Jan. 18 letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney wrote: “While it is appropriate for Congress to focus on measures that have an immediate economic impact… this is no excuse to put our heads in the sand and do nothing about the underlying longer-term problems afflicting our economy. Wage stagnation, which began in the 1970s, has led to longer working hours, higher consumer debt, and increasing reliance on home equities. But today home values are plummeting, home foreclosures are on the rise, consumer debt is reaching unsustainable levels, and prices for energy, health care, and education are soaring out of reach for many working families.”
This brings us back to the devastation of the American Dream and one of its principal causes — the fact that family wealth, or lack of it, in one generation has a commanding role in determining the economic fate of that family’s future generations. Between 2000 and 2050, according to the New York Times Oct. 28, an astonishing $41 trillion in private family wealth will be transferred to the next family generations. The biggest worry facing those rich families, the newspaper suggested, is the fear that their children may “end up squandering the huge sums of money their parents give them.”
Many millions of Americans inherit small sums at the most. Low wage families don’t have much to inherit, and it’s doubtful that the one in five poor Americans who manages to live on $7 a day has ever inherited anything but troubles, society’s indifference and the sense of being disposable. The sons and daughters of the top 10% inherit virtually everything. Some people think the poor need the rich in order to survive, but it’s the other way around. As Voltaire put it in the 1700s, “The comfort of the rich requires an abundant supply of the poor.”
According to the Century Foundation’s “Rags to Riches?” survey, “Of those born into the bottom [lowest] fifth of the income distribution, 42% end up where they started — at the bottom. Another 24% of those born into the bottom fifth move up slightly to the next-to-bottom [low income] quintile. Only 7% of those born into the bottom fifth end up in the top tier — providing the relatively rare rags-to-riches stories that Americans celebrate. Conversely, nearly 40% of those who are born into the top quintile remain there, while barely 6% of those born into the top 20% end up in the bottom fifth. So a person born into the top quintile is more than five times as likely to end up at the top as a person born into the bottom quintile.”
The Economic Mobility Project’s report noted, “most studies find that, in America, about half of the advantages of having a parent with a high income are passed on to the next generation. This means that one of the biggest predictors of an American child’s future economic success — the identity and characteristics of his or her parents — is predetermined and outside that child’s control. To be sure, the apple can fall far from the tree and often does in individual cases, but relative to other factors, the tree dominates the picture. These findings are more striking when put in comparative context. There is little available evidence that the United States has more relative mobility than other advanced nations. If anything, the data seem to suggest the opposite. Using the relationship between parents’ and children’s incomes as an indicator of relative mobility, data show that…. Germany is 1. 5 times more mobile than the United States, Canada nearly 2.5 times more mobile, and Denmark 3 times more mobile.”
At the same time, this study recognized that the economic growth or decline within a society also determines whether individuals move up or down the economic ladder. The Mobility Project reported that “men in their 30s today earn less than men in their fathers’ generation [at that age, and that American] family income growth has slowed.” Despite this, however, many family incomes have risen because more women have gone to work. For a number of families, it now takes two incomes to maintain a standard of living approximating what one income could handle a few decades ago. The report mentions one of the reasons why:
“For nearly 30 years after the end of World War II, productivity growth and median household income rose together in lockstep. Then, beginning in the mid–1970s, we see a growing gulf between the two, which widens dramatically at the turn of the century.... The benefits of productivity growth have not been broadly shared in recent years.”
This change is the product of a conscious policy by big business and government allies to extract greater profits at the expense of workers, as we explained in some detail in part 3 of this series. During these past three decades wages have stagnated, the minimum wage lost its buying power, median incomes fell, retirement pensions were slashed, welfare was crippled, unions were weakened, and politicians lost interest in social programs for the working class, lower middle class and the poor.
Meanwhile, corporate profits expanded explosively, and the rich got immensely richer and more powerful. It is amazing how they get away with this. You’d think people would be rioting in the streets.
(To be concluded in the next issue)
7. OBAMA’S INTERESTING COMMENT
During his talk at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church Jan. 20 on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s birth, Sen. Barack Obama introduced a couple of paragraphs that are not usually included in political campaign speeches. The candidate for the Democratic nomination told the largely black audience:
“For most of this country's history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man's inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays - on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.
“And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.
“We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.
“Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.”
8. DON’T FALL FOR RON PAUL
What do you know about Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), the long-shot contender for the Republican presidential nomination?
In recent weeks, a small number of liberals and some leftists, such as The Nation’s Alexander Cockburn, outspoken anti-imperialist Stan Goff, and DissidentVoice.org editor Joshua Frank, have been tilting toward Paul out of disgust with the Democratic Party’s continuing support for the Iraq war and its weak defense of civil liberties.
We first became aware of this feisty right wing libertarian during President Bill Clinton’s unjust and illegal bombing war against Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999 when much of the mainstream antiwar movement was silent. Paul was very outspoken in opposition, and we were impressed. There was no need at the time to be concerned with his other views.
We next heard of him two years later in the fall of 2001, when he was a vociferous opponent of the post 9/11 Patriot Act, which in October of that year passed the House 357-66 (145 Democrats voted yes and 62 voted no) and the Senate 98-1 (one Democrat voted no — Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold). Paul was one of three Republicans who voted against this bill and he has been campaigning against it ever since. We were impressed, and didn’t feel the need to dwell on his shortcomings.
In addition, a few other aspects of his libertarian program appealed to progressives. Paul calls for getting rid of the counterproductive, draconian anti-drug laws, opposes Washington’s Cold War trade restrictions on Cuba, and wants to get rid of NAFTA and CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). We were impressed and ignored his ideological positions because he was a maverick member of the House of Representatives from Texas without national influence outside libertarian circles.
But that’s as far as it goes. He is now a presidential candidate with a large bankroll and a national outreach at a time when some people who do not fully understand his populist-flavored ultra-conservatism may be drawn into his orbit. Progressives and the left can no longer afford to ignore his other positions, which overflow with contradictions — the upshot being that the negatives far outweigh his acknowledged positives.
We believe the “other side” of Rep. Paul shows him to be a reactionary and racist, an ultra-nationalist with isolationist tendencies. Were it ever implemented, his full program — based on an extreme individualism that rejects any support for the multitudes, and ruthless free market capitalism of an earlier age — would remove whatever restraints there are on the corporations and the wealthy and allow them to completely dominate our society.
Paul has been influenced by the views of Ludwig von Mises and his Austrian school of libertarian thinking, and the writer Ayn Rand, whose best selling novels are monuments to individualism and selfish egotism. Mises, who died in 1973, believed that "There is no kind of freedom and liberty other than the kind which the market economy brings about." His glorification of raw, unregulated capitalism is shared by most libertarians, including Paul. As such he despises “big government,” particularly when it interferes with big business in any way, and is passionately opposed to taxation, especially when a portion of tax revenue is redistributed to the poor or working class in the form of social programs. In his world, only individuals have rights, not majorities or minorities or groups of people.
Many followers of views such as Paul’s think of themselves as Jeffersonians, idealizing this slave-owning president’s support for “state’s rights” and his opposition to federalism and a strong central government. This in a way is reminiscent of how many neoconservatives fancy themselves Wilsonians, idealizing this World War I president’s call for spreading democracy worldwide. In the Jeffersonian case, their opposition to federal government would lead them in the early 2000s (as opposed to Jefferson’s early 1800s) to a society ever more deeply in thrall to powerful corporations and wealthy individuals — creating the “freedom” of the subservient. In the Wilsonian case it already has led to imperialism and war — democratization via the tip of a bayonet.
Here, briefly, are some of Paul’s political positions. There will be further comment on a few of them below.
On Government: Paul wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and replace it with — nothing. If that didn’t work at first, he’d replace it with a national sales tax until it could be eliminated. The objective is to starve government down to minuscule size, principally so it would no longer interfere with business, property ownership, and the predilections of the individual (which are considered to be superior to those of social collective). He would eliminate the Energy Dept., Commerce Dept., Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, FEMA, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and Federal Reserve. He’s keep the U.S. Post Office, at least at first, but allow competition from privately owned “Post Offices.” A number of federal powers would devolve to the individual states, including capital punishment (which he supports).
On Social Programs: He would eliminate all social welfare programs. He opposes universal health care, Medicaid and Medicare. He says he want to protect Social Security and keep it solvent — for now.
On Labor and Work: He opposes trade unions and the minimum wage, and favors existing restrictions on labor organizing. He seems to be against every law that protects the rights of workers against management.
On Women: Paul is "an unshakable foe of abortion," referring to it as state sanctioned mass murder. He wants to repeal Roe v. Wade. The concept of equal pay for equal work, and laws against sexual harassment are anathema to him. If pay is unequal, that is the choice of the market place — need more be said? And if a woman is sexually harassed on the job, Paul has indicated she should just get another job.
On Minorities: Paul holds that “The true antidote to racism is liberty. Liberty means having a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims.” This means that members of oppressed groups would lodge individual claims the way it was before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which, by the way, he opposes). He is against any laws that benefit African Americans as a group. For many years, Paul’s political newsletter was replete with racist material, which we will discuss below, along with his backward position on immigration reform.
On Foreign Affairs: Paul is in favor of a non-interventionist foreign policy. This is good, but he also wants the United States to quit the United Nations and to extricate itself from foreign treaties and the world’s problems. At the same time he wants to close down Washington’s foreign military outposts and bring the troops back to guard fortress America. He also wants to trim the Pentagon budget in line with creating a smaller government. Closing down the foreign bases and reducing the war budget gets him a plus.
On Education: He would abolish the U.S. Department of Education, delegating some of its duties to the states. He would not spend any federal tax money for public education, leaving it up to local taxes. He would grant a tax credit of up to $5,000 per student to families to help pay for this kind of education, including for home schooling or private and parochial schools. He would end all federal aid to higher education and Pell Grants to students, replacing such benefits with a tax deduction.
On The Environment: Paul does not want the U.S. to join the Kyoto Protocol or its international successors. He thinks the treaty is an example of “anti-Americanism” because it would abridge the rights of U.S. business and private property. He believes that “lack of respect for property rights has led to many environmental problems.” He says, “Individuals, businesses, localities, and states must be free to negotiate environmental standards,” but not the federal government. “In a free market,” he continues, “no one is allowed to pollute his neighbor's land, air, or water. If your property is being damaged, you have every right to sue the polluter, and government should protect that right. After paying damages, the polluter's production and sale costs rise, making it unprofitable to continue doing business the same way.” This might work in a small Hudson Valley town, but he’s proposing this quaint methodology as an antidote to the gathering worldwide environmental catastrophe.
On Business And Capitalism: Up goes the “Don’t Tread On Me!” flag. And get rid of laws and regulations that impede the rights of property owners, corporations, etc., that interfere with the accumulation of profits and wealth or undermine the ineffable magic of the marketplace.
Paul’s view of non-documented immigrants is among the worst of a bad lot in this election campaign. The text of his latest TV commercial has a harsh far right tone, sounding far more authoritarian than libertarian. While the video shows “wetbacks” swimming across the Rio Grande, among similar views, the announcer intones, "Ron Paul wants border security now. Physically secure the border. No amnesty. No welfare to illegal aliens. End birthright citizenship. No more student visas from terrorist nations."
The birthright clause in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, adopted soon after the Civil War mainly to establish the citizenship of former slaves, states that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens….” Paul has been trying to get rid of the clause for years, mainly — in our opinion — so that infants born in the U.S. to non-citizen Mexicans, documented or not, cannot automatically obtain U.S. citizenship. He also opposes any social services for undocumented immigrants. The video of Paul’s commercial is worth viewing to better grasp what he is up to at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T-iJKwskH4.
Some enlightened libertarians were aghast at this commercial’s appeal to the racists and the far right. Justin Raimondo, editor of the respected and anti-militarist libertarian-sponsored website AntiWar.com, where many of Paul’s articles appear, said the ad was disgraceful and “rarely has a more ignorant proposal been advanced.”
According to Stewart Stout in the Feb. 1 issue Liberation, a new bimonthly left newspaper, “Paul is supported by none other than arch-racist David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and Don Black, co-founder of the white supremacist website Stormfront. Paul has not condemned these supporters or returned their donations…. As for workers’ rights, Paul opposes the eight-hour day and the minimum wage. He opposes laws banning child labor and other legislation that ensures safe working conditions. He is against unemployment insurance, welfare and food stamps. He would like to see Social Security gradually eliminated. In Congress, Paul has voted consistently against strengthening workers’ rights and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and on Dec. 5, 2007, became the first presidential candidate to cross the picket line of striking writers in Hollywood so that he could appear on ABC’s "The View.” http://www.pslweb.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7965&news_iv_ctrl=1261.
A Dec. 26 article in CounterPunch by Sherry Wolf addressed Paul’s attachment to individualism: “A its core, the fetishism of individualism that underlies libertarianism leads to the denial of rights to the very people most radicals aim to champion-workers, immigrants, Blacks, women, gays, and any group that lacks the economic power to impose their individual rights on others…. To advocate for society to be organized on the basis of strict individualism, as libertarians do, is to argue that everyone has the right to do whatever he or she wants. Sounds nice in the abstract, perhaps. But what happens when the desires of one individual infringe on the desires of another? Libertarians like Paul don't shy away from the logical ramifications of their argument. ‘The dictatorial power of a majority’ he argues ought to be replaced by the unencumbered power of individuals — in other words, the dictatorial power of a minority.” http://www.counterpunch.org/wolf12122007.html
On Jan. 10, CNN reported that “A series of newsletters in the name of GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul contain several racist remarks…. None of the newsletters CNN found says who wrote them, but each was published under Paul's name between his stints as a U.S. congressman from Texas.
“…. The controversial newsletters include rants against the Israeli lobby, gays, AIDS victims and Martin Luther King Jr. — described as a ‘pro-Communist philanderer.’ One newsletter, from June 1992, right after the L. A. riots, says ‘order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.’ Another says, ‘The criminals who terrorize our cities — in riots and on every non-riot day — are not exclusively young black males, but they largely are. As children, they are trained to hate whites, to believe that white oppression is responsible for all black ills, to 'fight the power,' to steal and loot as much money from the white enemy as possible.”
“In some excerpts, the reader may be led to believe the words are indeed from Paul, a resident of Lake Jackson, Texas. In the ‘Ron Paul Political Report’ from October 1992, the writer describes carjacking as the ‘hip-hop thing to do among the urban youth who play unsuspecting whites like pianos.’ The author then offers advice from others on how to avoid being carjacked, including ‘an ex-cop I know,’ and says, ‘I frankly don't know what to make of such advice, but even in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I've urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.’”
Paul told CNN he never wrote any such articles and had “no idea” who did, suggesting quite unbelievably that he neither read his own newsletter nor knew who was doing the writing.
There you have it. Paul’s views intersect with those of progressives in a few instances. Good. Every voice counts. But in our view, much of his program is reactionary, racist, and injurious to working people and the poor. END