Sunday, April 12, 2009

Is the Republican budget another Bridge to Nowhere?

The Republicans in the Congress released their budget plan and with it their alternative to the plan laid out by President Obama. the document ran a grand total of 13 pages, as Newsweek reported, and to say it was light on specifics would be as much an understatement as saying Rush Limbaugh likes cigars, prescription drugs, and homage-paying heads of the Republican party. The Republican party has been the party of the rich, white and male ever since that fateful day when the party approved a Southern strategy that emphasized the disenfranchisement of the white voter and accused the Democrats of selling out when they supported the Voting Rights and the Civil Rights Acts. They committed to serving the upper class at the expense of the poor and middle class. The "Solid Republican South" was the result of that strategy and it served them well politically for quite some time. They continued receiving more money from the rich and powerful than the Dems and used it to dominate election after election. The party, or rather, Regressives in the party, opposed every piec of Progressive legislation from the New Deal on. They opposed Social Security and the creation of the SEC and any banking regulation. They opposed Medicare and Head Start. They opposed the creation of the Farm Labor Standards Act, National Labor Relations Board and the idea of a minimum wage. Their support for deregulation and a totally free market financial system sowed the seeds of th Savings and Loan meltdown and the latest fiscal crisis. Their's was not the gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; but rather, Milton, Alan, Dick and Ronnie. For 75 years, Republicans in Congress fought a guerilla war to dismantle the New Deal, New
Frontier and the Great Society. They attacked and tore down every firewall that Roosevelt had erected to prevent another national financial meltdown. Under both Reagan and Bush they ran up deficits on purpose so as David Stockman said, to cut off the oxygen to social programs that they did not have the votes to kill. By creating huge deficits, they could reduce social spending without leaving any tell-tale fingerprints. It is no accident that Bush the younger took the surplus he inherited and gave it to the rich in the form of tax cuts, and an unnecessary and destructive war in Iraq, which benefitted his allies in the defense contracting community and oil and gas industry while running up deficits that are unprecedented in American history. They did it on purpose. Thirteen pages represent the sum total of Republican ideas about everything from credit default swaps to housing foreclosures and millions of jobs lost. Thirteen pages represent their new ideas about how to handle this crisis. While they ran the Congress and the White House they expanded government, engaged in foreign adventures, ran up deficits and deregulated and encouraged a financial system that rewarded greed and avarice and attacked anyone who dared to say the emperor had no clothes. Thirteen pages represents the party most closely identified with a free market capitalist system that has completely failed. Thirteen pages represents their attacks on the President which can be summarized as "...he is spending too much, regulating too much, taxing too much, running up the deficits too much and expanding government too much. They defend the capitalism that has wrecked the global economy and attacked Obama's ideas about re-regulation , national health care and a new energy strategy as rampant socialism. Thirteen pages represents the intellectual candle power of this political party which left this nation in shambles after eight years of stewardship. Maybe it's time that Rush becomes the new head of the party. Thirteen pages will guarantee that Obama fails. There are plenty of places to criticize the President and his ideas. Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman says he doesn't go far enough. Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, chairman of the Budget Committee, says he goes too far. But thirteen pages...
What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.
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Saturday, April 11, 2009


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Mexico to meet with President Calderone. She was sent to meet him by President Obama in order to assure the American people that violence in Mexico would not spill over into the United States. Secretary Clinton promised more federal agents and a crackdown on the money and weapons that flow from the United States to Mexico. At the same time Republican Senator Joe Lieberman (I know he is not but he might as well be) told Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano he was going to appropriate three hundred sixty five million dollars to fight Mexican violence even though Secretary Napolitano did not ask for the extra money.
Among other pronouncements made by Secretary Clinton was that the United States and Mexico show responsibility for the violence and the drug trade since Americans seem to have an unquenchable thirst for drugs. She called on Americans to stop desiring, using, and paying for illegal drugs. She sounded like a 21st century Aimee Semple McPherson.
Is it possible that there is a better solution and one which could appeal to Regressives, Progressives, and Libertarians? Why can't we stress the solution of personal responsibility and choice? Why can't we let every American decide for themselves if they wish to use drugs? Why can't we let problems caused by drug use be handled by friends, family and the local community rather than the Federal Government? Why can't we let the same people who decide about using caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol make decisions regarding marijuana, cocaine, and heroin? It is time to admit that the War on Drugs has failed. It is time to admit that doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is insane. Pablo Escobar has been replaced by Joaquin Guzman Loera. Columbian cartels have been replaced by Mexican cartels. The cost of this war continues to rise and yet there is no definition of victory nor is there any exit strategy. Even worse, this war has become a national security issue with the profits from the drug trade funding Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups; the Afghan poppy fields being especially profitable.
This whole enterprise was doomed to failure because demand always outpaces supply.
Not only is this ongoing folly hurting us in terms of national security, it has also resulted in a serious erosion of our civil liberties and the expansion of government control and surveillance
into the personal lives of individual Americans which is supposed to outrage Gingrichian Regressives to no end. Our Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections have been seriously eroded. Protections against unreasonable search and seizure and self incrimination are almost non-existent. Conspiracy laws enable the government to arrest and imprison Americans without physical evidence of wrong-doing.
If this effort is as complete a failure as it seems, then where is the pressure coming from to continue to do what does not work? And who is resisting calls to try a different approach? As in all things the easiest answer is to follow the money. Who is benefiting from this war? Who
are the drug war versions of Kellogg, Brown & Root? Imagine drugs as he commodity of an industry. Who works for that industry?
-Politicians use the drug war to get elected. Being tough on crime is he bread and butter of campaigns. Politicians also bring federal drug money (states do the same thing) home to fund local law enforcement as well.
-Legal system- judges, lawyers (both sides of the issue)
-Law Enforcement- DEA, FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security, ATF, ICE, National Guard, state and local police(asset forfeiture laws)
-Prisons- construction jobs, guards, medical, etc.
-Media- TV, radio, newspapers live off of drug stories, violence, sensationalism, fear and drama.
When you add it up, the drug war is a multi-billion dollar jobs program. Any attempt to change how drugs are handled would have all these special interest groups screaming bloody murder. Imagine what would happen to the budgets of just the DEA, FBI, and Homeland Security if drug related crimes were eliminated. Imagine what would have to happen to the budgets of the Center for Disease Control, National Institute of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The drug trade is a classic capitalist system. They have the supply and we have the demand.
There is such a profit motive that people are willing to risk life and limb to engage in this activity. The threat of imminent death does nothing to dampen the spirit of these entrepreneurial Adam Smiths. Why not let the American corporations make that profit? Why not let the American government tax these profits? Can you picture any backwater Mexican, Columbian or Afghani cartel that could compete with the amoral, rapacious, ethically challenged American corporation? American corporate leaders, the next generation of Skull and Bones and Ivy League progeny, would chew up mister Guzman and his cohorts and spit them out.
The President is going to send thousands of troops and civilians to Afghanistan. He says they will try to end the Poppy trade which is financing global terrorism and the Taliban in particular. If American companies could distribute heroin, they would simply buy up the Poppy fields and make them an American asset. It wasn't so long ago that the oil industry generated a war and killed over a million Iraqi's to get their hands on the Iraqi oil fields. What mountains do you think hey would move to get the Poppy fields of Afghanistan or the Coca fields of Columbia?
This idea lets loose the free market forces of capitalism on a new industry and it is not a radical proposal. You can already see the ads and corporate sponsorships including the Super Bowl. (Don't you dare suggest that American corporations would be ashamed or embarrassed to advertise drugs at a sports event.)
Critics will argue that we will hook a whole new generation on drugs. People will squander their money, abandon their families, endanger their health and undermine the stability of this nation. People already squander their wealth on drugs (remember Hillary Clinton says it is our unquenchable desire for drugs which is causing these drug wars). People are already seeing families destroyed and that is just with alcohol and prescription drugs. (Rush Limbaugh anyone?) People are already seeing their families and communities devastated.
It is time to admit that the criminal justice approach to drugs has failed miserably. Hell, the CIA was flying heroin in from the Golden Triangle during the Vietnam War and bringing in cocaine from South America to fund its black bag operations around the world. They wouldn't be able to do that anymore either.
If death, dismemberment, social chaos, prison sentences, family disintegration and personal destruction won't stop people from doing drugs; then it is time for a new model, a paradigm shift. Make it a public health concern rather than the purvey of law enforcement.
President Obama said in his inauguration address that he would review every government program; and he would shut down any that were costing taxpayers money and not accomplishing their goal or contributing to our national objectives. Mr. President, the War on Drugs is wasting billions of tax dollars. It has watered down or diminished our civil liberties.
It has decimated communities across this nation, minority communities in particular. It has failed by every logical metric you wish to use. Keep your word and shut it down. Call on Americans to take responsibility for their choices. Issue a call for local church, civic and health care groups to step up and address any fallout from drug abuse. Choose a new model that comes from the ground up and not the top down. (New Federalism anyone?) You have already taken a step in that direction when your Attorney General announced that the Federal government will no longer be raiding medical marijuana dispensers in states where the people have voted to legalize medical marijuana. Tell the DEA, Thanks, but we don't need you anymore. Tell the FBI to refocus on Wall Street instead of Main Street. Tell local cops to start walking beats again and give up dreams of selling mansions and fancy cars to get money for their operations. Tell a lot of DA's and Justice Department lawyers, along with defense attorneys to start chasing ambulances again because this gravy train is derailed.
It's time to say the emperor has no clothes. It's time to listen to those who believe government is not the answer to all things and that personal responsibility is a good thing. It's time to take precious resources and use them to enhance quality of life rather than escalate a war with no victors. It's time for taxpayers outraged by corporate bonuses to be outraged by billions of dollars going to a futile enterprise. It's time for Regressives, Progressives, Libertarians and all people of good will to admit that we have to try something new.
What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.
Please send them to