Tom Rinaldo's Journal
Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 05:39 PM
Number of posts: 16,068
Number of posts: 16,068
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Nothing is the same this time around, other than the fact that Barack Obama once again got elected President. He isn’t the same as he was four years ago. The nation isn’t the same as it was four years ago. Even the Republicans aren’t the same as they were four years ago, and now they have lost the element of surprise that played such a large part in their ambush of a then first term President. I’m a long time hard core cynic of Republican politics, and I’ll admit that they caught me off guard at first also. I honestly didn’t expect Republicans to rival Stalinists of old in the lock step unbending public unity of their Party Line – full bore un-nuanced opposition to anything and everything that the newly elected President Obama proposed.
I can’t fully fault the President for failing to see it all coming. A lot had changed since the Republicans in Congress impeached the last Democratic President. Nine Eleven happened for one, and Democrats and Republicans frequently worked closely together in the months and years that followed to respond as one nation to an attack on American soil. Obama took office in the midst of another major crisis, a global economic melt down. The times again called for laying aside partisan differences wherever possible, so no doubt Obama didn’t anticipate Republicans holding a secret war council on the day of his first inauguration to plot defiance toward his every step. But now he’s seen it all, and so has the nation.
In January of 2009 we were, by and large, a frightened people. Most of us put our hope in a newly elected President, but fewer of us were firmly convinced that he had all the right answers. Obama was as yet untested and therefore he was also unproven, which left the Republicans room to sow their seeds of doubt. People, lots of people, were angry over what was happening to our economy, and anger breeds bitterness and the President is an obvious target when times are hard and stay hard.
Republicans milked that anger, and because President Obama made it his priority to fix our financial system rather than to demonize it, that gave the Right the opening they needed to demonize government instead. Hence the emergence of the “Tea Party” movement and the red electoral mid term tide that restored the House to Republicans in 2010. I don’t need to go into all those details because all of us were there, and that’s the point. We all saw that movie, we all were actors in it, America knows how it all played out and there is no need for any spoiler alerts. We even had another national election that rehashed everything that happened and Barack Obama won it, soundly.
America reelected the President and gave Democrats more seats in both he House and Senate. Despite what George W. Bush used to like to say, the voters are the real deciders in America and they decided – and did so without equivocating. Republicans may still hold a (smaller) majority of seats in the House of Representatives due to their gerrymandering after 2010, but Democrats got more votes. Voters don’t like to be ignored. They want our problems fixed and they chose a team to fix them, and this time they did so with their eyes wide open with none of the guess work that 2008 entailed.
We have fully experienced Republican imposed gridlock; it did not win rave reviews. If Republicans choose obstruction again they do so at their own deep peril. They don’t possess a winning hand, our economy is recovering. Mitt Romney tried to slip in under the recession wire and ride a rebounding economy to 8 years in the White House. He was confident promising voters 12 million new jobs because that is what experts agree can be expected naturally from a recovering U.S. economy. Americans wants to put the Great Recession behind us, and that means putting the politics of the Great Recession behind us also.
Public approval for the Tea Party has plummeted since 2010 and Sarah Palin is little more than a punch line for political jokes. America has little patience now for more of those extremist antics. Choose wisely G.O.P. The course they have been plotting is headed toward the Whigs.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Tue Jan 22, 2013, 08:36 PM (18 replies)
What will Wall Street do? The Republican Party has been their go to team for most of the last century. Sure Wall Street curried favor among some Democrats also. They are after all the folks who brought us hedge funds. But .to sell their interests to the voting public, Wall Street long ago positioned Republicans as the “Daddy” Party in American politics; the “Father knows best” eat your spinach Party. Wall Streets interests require deft promotion because Big Money is not all that popular in a Democracy where most people, to varying degrees, must struggle to get by. So Republicans were billed as the ‘grown ups” in the room, to contrast with those “flakey” to the point of “radical” liberals who, Republicans asserted, controlled the Democratic Party. Well that game plan has sure been shot to hell. Cue the pyrotechnics over our nation’s debt ceiling.
From the post World War Two days through the close of the 20th Century, Wall Street for the most part fronted Republicans who, by and large, didn’t pick ugly fights with well intentioned liberal goals, just with all the methods advocated to achieve them. The first major glitch in that playbook arrived with the Goldwater movement, which stunned the Republican Establishment in 1964 by defeating Nelson Rockefeller for the Republican Presidential nomination. LBJ’s subsequent landslide victory helped shove the social conservative genie back into its class glass bottle for nearly a generation, but 1964 exposed Wall Streets political Achilles heel. Staid candidates may reassure the general electorate, but staid doesn’t inspire a movement, and to cobble together national electoral majorities Republicans need social value conservative foot soldiers in the trenches to energize their sober centrist appeals. The trick lay in excluding them from the halls of power.
From Big Money’s perspective, Reaganism hit the sweet spot, all the fervor with little loss of real control. Wall Street could, and did, do business with Ronald Reagan, who mostly only frightened off the liberals. But right wing populism can be like crack cocaine. Wall Street soared on the Rush, but soon became dependent to it. Fear and anger bred votes that they came to bank on. Economic populists, for self evident reasons, are problematic for Wall Street to manage but “traditional values” populism posed no such conflict of interest. Increasingly there wasn’t a regressive social movement that Republicans refused to flirt with. But like Frankenstein’s Monster, the coalition that Wall Street helped stitch together developed a life of its own.
They were supposed to stay under the radar. They were supposed to settle for table scraps plus an occasional bone thrown to them. In Washington and on Wall Street the lessons from 1964 were forgotten. Give smoldering ashes oxygen and flames will reignite. Quietly but unambiguously, the John Birch Society strode back in from the cold, as an official sponsor of the CPAC Conference which major candidates for the Republican 2012 Presidential nomination addressed. In the hills and hollows where the KKK once gathered, Right Wing Militias stage military exercises while racism itself is reinvigorated through a “Birtherism” movement obsessed with denying the legitimacy of America’s first African American President.
The Right is embarked on a forced march away from America’s center, with the Republican Party now held as hostage with large portions of that Party showing clear signs of Stockholm syndrome. When there no longer are any holds barred do major financial interests still have a hold on the Right? When virulent conspiracy theories center on the U.N. in N.Y.C, how distant can Wall Street remain? Just how safe is that bet Wall Street made on social conservatism? Its Chosen Son just went down in flames; all the money in the world couldn’t save Mitt Romney from the company he was forced to keep. The litany of litmus tests the New Right forced Romney to pass disqualified him to a broad swath of voters.
The Center refuses to hold and the New Right isn’t strong enough to carry the Republican Party on its own, not on a national scale at least. The Right, for practical purposes, is maxed out. It might yet grow more extreme but it will not grow larger. For every new voter it attracts a former one is repelled, and even that temporary stasis is slipping away as the aged die and a white majority erodes.
This nation has war fatigue but Republicans want more war, or at least more Americans left behind in countries we are trying to exit. Attempts to resurrect the Cold War have not proved very popular. America no longer favors the Republican Party to govern our foreign affairs. Republicans used to reliably win elections by playing to homophobia, but today that tack works against them more often than not. Republicans heavily courted fundamentalists and wound up in a war on science, which is seldom a long term winning strategy. Their embrace of traditional gun culture morphed into defending expanded ammo clips for Survivalists and anti-Government rebels. Opposition to Abortion broadened to attacks on contraceptives, and now rape is heard described as a means of procreation.
Fifty years of branding have been overturned in five. Republicans once were cast as realists with their feet firmly planted on the ground. The Democrats, it was said, were the wild eyed dreamers. That is not how it seems today. The Right embraces brinksmanship as their favored tactic; Shutting down the government slides from being a threat toward a desired outcome.
The self professed custodians of our nations treasure are preparing to play craps with the full faith and credit of the United States of America, and that does not make “The Market” happy. Wall Street, literally, was hit hard by Super Storm Sandy, and the overwhelming majority of House Republicans just voted against bailing New York out. Who can Wall Street turn to, to carry their water now?
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Jan 16, 2013, 11:57 AM (12 replies)
It's about the arsenals, it's about preparing for combat, it's not about hunting. But almost no one is willing to raise this in national debate - with a few rare exceptions like Chris Mathews recently:
"A small but increasingly influential element of the Republican Right opposes all efforts to regulate assault rifles, semi-automatic weapons, and high capacity ammo magazines precisely because they are effective in combat situations, but no one seems willing to say it. All of the eminently reasonable comments about hunters not needing automatic weapons to bag a deer miss the point completely. The NRA tries to muddy the waters whenever they can but no one seriously tries to make a case for hunters needing semi-automatic pistols with large ammo magazines. Even the NRA knows no one would buy that line. So instead they raise the specter of "a slippery slope" that begins with machine guns banned and ends with hunting outlawed. They then shift the focus to crime and personal security, because they know only a shrinking small minority of Americans still hunt or engage in sport gunmanship.
But an insistence that individuals need access to semi-automatic weapons to protect themselves is irrational, if the threat envisioned is common crime. If the solution to street crime is arming the public with semi-automatic weapons, than the cure is far more deadly than the disease. Innocent bystanders already are killed in shootouts. No one is safer if threatened individuals begin spraying their near vicinity with a hail of bullets. Semi-automatic assault rifles are offensive weapons, designed to kill large numbers of people. A standard pistol or a shotgun is far better suited for defensive use, unless of course you are defending yourself against a hoard of heavily armed attackers
Which begs the obvious unasked question: Is that why the most unflinching opponents of reasonable gun control measures refuse to give an inch? Are they arming themselves with the weapons most appropriate for future combat scenarios? I think it naïve to assume that the answer to that question is anything other than yes. Right wing militias have been forming for decades, training for overt military confrontations. Mainstream candidates for the U.S. Senate now talk openly about “Second Amendment remedies”. Increasingly the phrase, “Government is the enemy” has taken on literal implications. And then there are the survivalists, large segments of which believe that in some coming apocalypse roving lawless mobs will descend upon rob and kill anyone who had the foresight to assemble the provisions needed to weather the collapse of civilization. Heavy weaponry will be needed, they believe, to survive that approaching crimson dawn.
Would most of the individuals now motivated to defend themselves against the specter of a full blown “Communist Fascist U.S. Government”, or the inevitable Zombie hoards, hesitate before actually turning their combat weaponry against fellow American citizens over perceived but non-existent threats? I like to think most would, if push ever came to gun. That might prevent a future slaughter along the lines of a civil war, but it doesn’t help us now. In subservience to their paranoid delusions sane gun regulations are off the table today. American is held hostage to right wing political zealotry that accepts increasing mayhem and slaughter on American streets as unfortunate but necessary collateral damage. It is time to face that reality.
December 15, 2012"
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Thu Jan 10, 2013, 06:16 PM (11 replies)
Getting weaker, losing weight. There's isn't enough income to buy more food, so the solution is: Tell her to burn less calories. That is the Republican position. The other night I watched the CNN Special "The Coming Storms" about climate change and the increase in severe weather events. Sure, it was sobering, but grim as that special was it didn't surprise me with anything I didn't already know. Except in one small specific instance, a minor detail actually.
While covering Super Storm Sandy the vulnerability of our infra structure was raised, specifically the major transformer stations in the New York area that our power grid depends on. If I remember correctly there are about 150 such stations, all designed to last for 40 years. Their current actual average age? 42 years. Arguing that severe spending cuts will restore health to our economy is like saying a starving child will recover if she is taught to consume less calories.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Tue Jan 8, 2013, 09:35 AM (17 replies)
Granted, opinions on this board about President Obama’s ongoing role in fiscal talks range from calling him a masterful strategist to a piss poor negotiator. Common sense argues that the truth likely lies somewhere in between. But from our perspective of grassroots democratic activists, it really doesn’t matter. The President has his role to play, and we have ours. Even if Obama is a Ninth Dimension Grand Chess Master, the act of our observing how he plays the game changes the game itself. When we stand on the sidelines and cheer or jeer, we are simultaneously part of that game, no matter how small our individual roles. The position of pawns alters the field of battle.
Call it physics, call it chess, call it politics or the democratic process; not only does the game effect us, we are the frigging game. We’re in the stands, we’re on the field, and we even own the team. My feelings about President Obama, love him or hate him (and I’ll say more about that below), are inconsequential compared to the “games” ultimate outcome. More than any other person in America, the President’s role in determining our future is crucial; such is the power of the office he holds. Like millions of other Americans, I worked hard to put Barack Obama back into that office. Like millions of other Americans I still celebrate his victory. But the election now is over and my role in the game has shifted.
Constitutionally Obama can call on and expect my loyalty as he would of any American citizen, politically though it’s a different matter. As a candidate I made it my duty to help carry Barack Obama over the finish line to victory in November. But the nature of my loyalty is fundamentally different in regards to him as an office holder; it shifts back onto the agenda that Obama represented as my candidate. It does so whether I like him or hate him as an individual, whether I deeply respect or disparage of his political skills. It does so without being personal, personally I wish Obama only well.
What the President needs from me now is simple. When I back him on an issue he needs to world to know, and I’m sure he feels the same way about us all. When he takes a stand, and I support that stand, he deserves and needs my vocal support. He should count on that wind at his back when he leads us where we asked him to head. However Obama no longer needs my help convincing people to make him President. He is President. Now it is about results. How, as activists, do we help achieve the best possible outcomes on issues? Not, I would argue, through loyalty to a man, but rather to a mission. And if that mission wavers, it is right to cry out an alarm. This does not harm Obama, nor does it hurt either his cause or our own, assuming that cause is one and the same.
Because we are in the game even as we observe it, our reactions can affect outcomes. If a squeaky wheel gets the grease than a silent wheel will rust in peace. And that’s how it’s been for liberals for too long. There’s a cliché in politics that pundits love to tell, all of us have heard it. When complaining from the Right equals complaining from the Left, that’s the true place for a compromise. What does our loyalty to Obama, the man, bring him, when our relative passivity only serves to weaken his negotiating hand – if his aim is the same as ours? And in an instance when it may not be, when Obama might welcome a deal that we reject, what interest does our loyalty then serve?
There is no harm in advocating for what we actually believe in, especially when the ball remains in play and the outcome is not yet certain. There is no harm in making an alternate case, when the case that is being made falls short in its dimensions. And there is no harm is seeking more, when less is not close to being enough. They are voices that should be hear regardless of the outcome.
I like Barack Obama, I like him a lot actually. In the realm of national politics I think he’s about as honest as they come. I find him sincere, and I find him compassionate. President Obama has many leadership qualities that I admire, and it often makes me proud to hear him speak on behalf of our nation. Our President is a very intelligent man. When the Left goes off key and begins to sound too strident for mainstream American ears, Obama knows how to play us off against the middle to his benefit. I can’t begrudge him that talent, it makes for effective politics. He knows both how and when to milk the stance: “I’m willing to disappoint some on my own side” to strengthen his overall standing. Obama can take care of himself
But there are times when the Left speaks loudly and eloquently in a language that most Americans understand and respond to immediately. It happens on the topic of income inequality regularly, and it does on defending the most vulnerable among us also. I don’t need to be insulting toward our President to make this observation; he is acclimated toward the status quo. Obama’s orientation is to accommodate powerful existing interests, to grant them choice seats at the table, while working to moderately improve the lives of average Americans.
Sometimes that method reaches the best achievable results, other times it undersells the chance for more significant and beneficial changes. I know this for certain though. The more the Left succeeds in shifting the political center in America away from the Right, the more good work this President will accomplish. .
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sun Jan 6, 2013, 08:00 PM (5 replies)
In a few weeks we will have spent all of our new tax revenue for 2013 dealing with a single weather related emergency. 61 Billion for Sandy times ten comes to 610 Billion Dollars - damn close to the amount of new revenue the fiscal cliff deal is projected to bring into the treasury over the next decade. More frequent Super Storms are forecast to hit the U.S. in coming years due to global climate change. It could be that we just failed to raise the new revenue needed just to pay for all of the weather disasters likely to hit the U.S. over the next ten years if they start becoming annual events. And already Republicans are making their predictable grumbling noises about not appropriating money to respond to national disasters without simultaneously cutting spending somewhere else.
Conservatives insist that we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Well increasingly it looks like we now face a huge spending problem in part because of their decade long denial of the science of global warming.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Thu Jan 3, 2013, 04:02 PM (4 replies)
I am inclined to believe that this was the best deal we could get with this President, with this Congress, at this time. Assuming the House passes it, a lot of major questions and decisions just got kicked down the road, but not very far down that road. "The game" is heading into extra innings. The final score remains undetermined.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Tue Jan 1, 2013, 08:02 AM (38 replies)
People knoicking at the door to announce that someone's ultimate dream fantasy has just come true: You won! You're Rich!!! Do you know what their current ultimate windfall promise to some lucky American is? It's that you might open your front door to discover that YOU HAVE WON $5,000 A WEEK FOR LIFE!!!
Party Time! Tears, Cheers! That comes to an annual income of $260,000 a year! And if the current fiscal cliff negotiations go through as outlined, your family will still be able to earn another $190,000 a year on top of that without having a cent of your temporary Bush tax cuts taken away.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Mon Dec 31, 2012, 08:06 PM (10 replies)
Mid field has as much turf extending to the right as it does to the left. And when a team runs a fullback up the middle he plows into the center of the opposing line. Middle still means middle in football, but obviously not in American politics. Families earning $250,000 or more per year fall into the top 2% of income earners in America today, yet many talking heads insist (with strong Republican and some Democratic backing) that income level still falls within "the Middle Class". WTF? Since when does sitting on the two yard line place you in the middle of the field?
I hear the arguments that emanate from a privileged bubble. It’s true that a really nice home costs a lot more in some areas than in others. So do really nice restaurants. Areas that are desirable to live in for one reason or another often have higher costs than less desirable areas, all of this is true. So? The vast majority of Americans are priced out of living in nice homes in those areas; that is a fact of life. Have we gotten to the point where being wealthy in America is defined as the ability to write unlimited blank checks, and everyone who can’t gets called “Middle Class”?
Watching TV earlier today I was told about the challenges facing a “Middle Class” family earning $250,000 annually while living in a nice neighborhood in an expensive city with two kids in college each costing them $30,000 a year in tuition. The message, I assume, was that “these people are not rich.” Maybe yes and maybe no; rich to an extent is a subjective marker. Here is what is not subjective though. They still earn more than 98% of American families. If they can’t easily afford everything they want, what about the rest of us? There are parents working full time in the exact same expensive cities, in jobs paying at or near the minimum wage. How many families in America have kids who can’t afford to go to college at all, not even to public universities, without first being burdened with a life time of college loan debts?
Really, what is the point of language anyway when we gladly make a mockery of a words obvious meaning? The top 2% equals the 98th percentile. Perform that well in school and an A+ grade is assured, even if two people in a hundred might score a fraction higher. Yet when it comes to personal incomes middle essentially is being defined as less than a rarified maximum. That’s like saying that the Rockies can’t be mountains because the Himalayas are higher.
And here’s the thing. Even under Obama’s initial proposal everyone gets a tax cut on the first quarter million they make each year. If 98% of us really fall into the “Middle Class”, we all will keep our tax cut on that “middle class” income. That means for anyone out there having to scrape by on just $285,000 a year, Uncle Sam would only get another small nibble on $35,000 of that total figure. The total average annual income for seniors on Social Security is barely over a third of that. Yet Social Security may remain at risk for budget cuts next year, while we worry about the fortunes of families only making $300,000 a year, because we can’t ask them for more sacrifices; they are the “Middle Class”.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sun Dec 30, 2012, 04:30 PM (19 replies)
When Congress talks about taking money away from the elderly and the sick and the disabled; when Congress talks about cutting essential services for the impoverished and the working poor; when Congress debates whether it can afford to pay for the losses from Hurricane Sandy: THAT IS A REVENUE PROBLEM - not a "spending problem. If we have a spending problem it is that we aren't spending enough, not nearly enough, on upgrading this nation's infra structure to remain economically competitive in the global economy, and THAT is a revenue problem.
Why do we have a revenue problem? Because corporate lobbyists write our tax codes and billionaires buy a Congressional team to play ball with them the way George Steinbrenner bought free agents for the Yankees. The rich have done fabulously well in America since Ronald Reagan became President, the rest of us of fared poorly.
Every last dollar that the wealthy manage to permanently keep from George W. Bush's temporary tax cuts is clawed from the flesh of those who must struggle to survive while the rich still thrive. There is no such thing as "austerity" for the top 2% in America - at worse they might face some pangs of delayed gratification, or be forced to get by with only owning one or two very comfortable homes.
Social Security was adequately funded, the surplus was dispersed as tax breaks for those who never needed them. The American people want Social security protected, not "strengthened" by shaving back benefits and pretending that less equals more. We know where the revenues we paid for went. The Democratic Party can't pretend not to know also, and it will pay a price if it tries to. If the elites that the Republican Party works for want to maintain the stable social fabric that provides for them so well, now is the time for them to reign in their attack dogs.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Fri Dec 28, 2012, 09:15 AM (31 replies)