Posts tagged ‘Barack Obama’

He’s the Best Government Employee We’ve Got


What is it that Republicans hate so much about the mailman? It isn’t that he’s a drain on the taxpayers’ money: since 1971 he hasn’t taken a nickel of it. The government no longer pays postal salaries. The mailmen pay them themselves, with the money they get by selling the stamps that you put on your Christmas cards to send anywhere you want them to go, from New York to Nigeria. Most Americans think the mailman is a good guy, too. That’s why, for six straight years, it has been named the most trusted aspect of government.

Yet the Republican Party once again is clamoring to cut it back, shut it down, or at least privatize it. Why would any sane person be doing that when in the last four years of nation-wide recession and physical losses the Postal Service hasn’t lost money but instead has shown an operational profit of $700 million? True, their budgets don’t display that as profit. Instead they show a $13 billion loss That’s because the budgets lie.

Starting as far back as1971, when Richard Nixon’s Postal Reorganization Act became law, and going right through 2006, when George W. Bush’s Postal Accountability and Enforcement Act redefined “accountability” in a way never seen on land or sea before, Republican administrations have piled unmeetable obligations on the Postal Service.

Obligations like what?

Well, like requiring the Postal Service to pre-pay all the health care benefits their employees would be entitled to when they finally retired. In other words, the postal service was ordered to pay out of current income every dollar it would ever have to pay for every employee it would ever have. Just to make clear how preposterous any such provision is, that would include paying the retirement benefits for future employees who haven’t even been born yet.

That isn’t fiscal prudence. That’s cold-blooded assassination.

Draw your own conclusions, but I guess you know what I think. That is that there’s really only one good way to prevent this and other cold-blooded outrages, and that’s to throw the rascals out and elect a Democratic President and House of Representatives, and a larger Democratic majority in the Senate to take away the Republican sledgehammer of the filibuster. Don’t tell me that some Democrats are as bad as the Republicans. If you’re talking morality, that’s true. But the Democrats vote their own way while the GOP — that’s “Greedy Old Party” now — has reshaped itself into a battering ram that has only one central purpose: making sure that Barack Obama can’t accomplish anything.

So, this one time, hold your nose and vote the solid Democratic ticket.

(By which, in this case, I mean Washington)

Clockwise from left: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich.

Clockwise from left: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich.

When Obama failed to get enough Democratic Senators to support his 2009 bill to join our country to the rest of the civilized world in reducing greenhouse emissions, he lost his chance of success for at least that season, because then the Republicans took Congress in 2010 and the whole Republican Party launched on a concerted drive to convince American voters that climate science was still speculative. (It isn’t. At least two dozen major scientific societies, from the American Geophysical Union to the Royal Meteorological Society (U.K.), support the consensual findings of a rising global temperature brought about by an increasing carbon burden from burning fossil fuels.)

And yet the candidates resolutely refuse to take a stand on an issue which seriously threatens the survival of many human beings. Not one of the four surviving Republican candidates has made this issue part of his platform. Only one, Newt Gingrich, has said anything at all on the subject, and that, after coming down forcefully on both sides of the subject at one time or another, was only, “I actually don’t know whether global warming is occurring.”

And onetime hopeful candidate Jon Huntsman, who started out his campaign with the statement, “To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming,” is now supporting Romney, who is far less forthright.

You know what the really scary part is? It’s that the Republican primary voters have kept these know-nothing people   and no better informed ones   in the race to run the most powerful nation in the world.

Clockwise, from left: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich.

Clockwise, from left: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich.

Question: Who is the best of the four remaining Republican candidates?

Answer: There is no best of these four professional politicians.

None of them has proposed remedial action for, or even shown they know a problem exists with, the most serious problem we and the rest of the world faces, namely the mounting ferocity of weather disasters, caused primarily by global warming. Every one of them, to the extent that they have programs for the future at all, is on a track that will make the problem worse instead of ameliorating it.

Question: Did President Obama speak to these dangerously worsening weather problems in his State of the Union address?

Answer: No, but his options are still open. I do devoutly hope he will, once the election gets close.. He is the only remaining hope we have. If he doesn’t see the danger we are in, and propose measures to minimize it, then we have no hope for at least the next four years, and by four years from now it is very likely to be too late.

Pres. George W. Bush on vacation in a scene from Lions Gate Films Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004).

Pres. George W. Bush on vacation in a scene from Lions Gate Films' Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004).

Don’t the right-wing politicians ever run out of just plain lies? Like the other day Donald Trump babbled that President Obama “takes more vacations than any human being I’ve ever seen,” specifically including former President George W. Bush. But the fact is that at the same point in their presidencies Obama has taken all or parts of 38 vacation days, while Bush had taken 102 days, while days spent at Camp David for Obama were 32, and for Bush 123.

You might think a responsible human being would at least apologize for the fibs. Well, probably a responsible human being would.

If you don't have health insurance, the emergency room may be your only option for medical treatment. (Photo by Leah A. Zeldes.)

If you don't have health insurance, the emergency room may be your only option for medical treatment. (Photo by Leah A. Zeldes.)

Let’s make believe you’re a poor person. (I know that’s a stretch, but let’s go with it.) A member of your family gets a fever and other signs of something wrong, so you want to take him to a doctor. The trouble is the only insurance you have is government-sponsored Medicaid, and good luck trying to find a doctor who will take it. Or maybe you don’t even have Medicaid, so you’re even worse off. So what do you do. Simple. You take your sick one to the nearest emergency room, where they aren’t allowed to turn anyone down.

That’s, for you, a good solution to an otherwise hopeless problem, and over the last thirty years or so the number of people who took that step because they had no better choice in the U.S.A. went up some 35 percent. This put a big strain on the cost of running a hospital, with the result that many hospitals couldn’t afford to keep their emergency rooms open. But they couldn’t close the ERs unless they closed the whole hospital … and now you know why 27 percent of all American hospitals (psychiatric hospitals not included) have closed their doors since 1990.

If Obamacare is allowed to proceed as the legislation directs, that problem should be pretty well solved within the next few years. That’s assuming that the Republican Party doesn’t succeed in repealing it for the sake of higher profits for the medical industry, which they are at present trying their best to do.

(And the Poor Get Children)
Sheet music, “Ain't We Got Fun?” 1921, music by Richard A. Whiting, lyrics by Raymond B. Egan and Gus Kahn

There's nothing sure but
The rich get rich
And the poor get children
In the mean time,
In between time,
Ain't we got fun?

—“Ain't We Got Fun?” 1921, music by Richard A. Whiting, lyrics by Raymond B. Egan and Gus Kahn.

Remember that old song? Of course it was just meant as a joke, wasn’t it?

Well, let’s check it out. What the Republican Party* has been telling us for some years is that when anybody’s income goes up, most likely everyone else’s does at the same time. As they put it, “a rising tide raises all boats.”

By gosh, when you look at the numbers, you have to admit they’re right. Well, sort of right. According to the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, who have been looking up the statistics, the average American income — that’s for all of us, from paupers to super-rich — did go up a little in the years from 2002 to 2007. (Let’s not talk about what happened after that just now.)

However, the tide didn’t exactly come in to the same depth for all of. For most of us, the 99 percent of all incomes that includes you and me and the president of the United States and quite a few people who are driving $91,000 Mercedeses, our real income rose just 1.3 percent per year.

That other 1 percent of us, though, they collectively did quite a lot better than that. About seven times better, as a matter of fact. The income of that 1 per cent of the population who are the richest of all went up not a skinny 1.3 percent but a hefty 10 percent per year every year over the same period.

That’s not bad for the super-rich, right? It is especially profitable when you add in the fact that that same Republican Party, or at least those members of it who have been elected to Congress, has been steamrollering hard bargains in return for every concession they make to the rest of us. For example, in return for extending the term of unemployment insurance, as President Obama wanted for the millions of out-of-work men and women whose existing insurance was running out, the Republican negotiators extracted a commitment to leave intact the George W. Bush open-handed gift to the super-rich of most of a trillion dollars in tax forgiveness.

So why are the richest among us so avaricious about getting super-richer and super-richer still? The only fair term for it is overweening naked greed, that’s all. And they’ve got our country’s congressional legislators, the ones that are supposed to be working for us all, busily helping them get richer and richer, as fast as they can.

* (Disclaimer. The remarks that appear here are not only political, they are partisan. In this case, I’ve specifically named the Republican Party as the guiltier ones here, but I don’t want anyone to think I am not aware that there are Democrats — in particular, let’s say, the Senate’s Oil Democrats who systematically whittled down the regulations that might have prevented the Gulf oil catastrophe and their Coal Democrat pals who have systematically destroyed a large part of Appalachian riverways and scenic beauty. — who are just as reprehensible. But those sins aren’t the ones I’m talking about right now.

(The sorrowful truth is that there are very few persons sitting in either the Senate or the House of Representatives — to say nothing of all the lesser state and local voting bodies in the country — who do not take money from lobbyists, in sums small and great, and do favors, again little favors or big, for those same lobbyists. We’ll have more to say about lobbyists in the near future.)