Friday, August 31, 2012


During his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, Mitt Romney repeatedly asked the crowd if they were better off today than they were 4 years ago.  If this had been an audience of honest brokers, they would have answered in unison, "...yes we are!"  4 years ago, 2008, by almost any measure we are better off today.  Now, Romney was referring to President Obama in his remarks and trying to tar him with the same brush Ronald Reagan used on Jimmy Carter.  However, Obama didn't become president until January 20, 2009, so 4 years ago, in August of 2008, President Bush was in charge and the fiscal meltdown was his baby.  Romney couldn't even get the dates right let alone the facts.

     Four years ago the unemployment rate was over 11% in many parts of the nation.  The economy was shedding jobs at a desperate rate.  The banking system was in shambles.  President Bush had forced the TARP (Troubled Asset Recovery Program) legislation through Congress.  Over $700 billion of taxpayer's money thrown at Wall Street with no oversight or mandates as to how the banks had to use the money. (they sat on most of it...refused to lend...and made profits at average American's expense)  Wall Street was cratering and the global economy was reeling from the American contagion.

     Today, the surviving banks are bigger and more profitable than ever.  They are making money hand over fist.    The American financial system is the envy of the world and in better shape than any European Union member including Germany, and in better shape than China.  Today, banks have been forced to have more capital on reserve and Congress passed the Dodd/Frank Financial Services Reform.  It is not the best, but among other things it could impose the Volker rule prohibiting banks from gambling with your federally insured deposits in the hope of staving off another disaster.  Today, the dollar is the strongest currency in the world and inflation is barely noticeable.  (regressive pundits predicted when Obama's economic stimulus package was passed the dollar would crash and inflation would blow out of control)  The United States is able to borrow money, sell Treasury notes, at a negative interest rate.  People, and nations, are willing to pay us to shelter their assets because we are the safest haven in the world.  Today, bank lending is at its highest level in years.  Today, the stock market is over 13,000 and holding.  Today, we have had 17 straight quarters of job growth and the unemployment rate is 8.3%.  Yes, we are better off.

     Four years ago, pundits were predicting the end of the American auto industry.  The Big 3 were going to go out of business and shutter all their factories.  The ripple effect would destroy all the companies who made up the auto supply chain and numerous other industries would be crippled as well.  The economies of a number of mid-west states would be decimated.

     Today, the auto companies are a true success story.  Bailed out by Obama, (both Romney and Ryan say they would have let them go bust) They are making money, re-hiring workers and re-opening plants, re-building the economies of states like Michigan and the unemployment rate in those states is less than the national average.  Ironically, it is poor European sales which are hurting Detroit's bottom line.  We are in much better shape than any number of members of the European Union.  Yes, we are better off.

     Four years ago, young Americans were dying in two immoral and failed wars.  Under Bush, Afghanistan became an after thought.  The Taliban and Al Qaida had grown strong and rebuilt.  The Afghan government barely held on to control of Kabul.  Resources had been drained from Afghanistan and diverted to Iraq.  Iraq was a basket case held together by 140,000 American troops and an equal number of contractors and mercenaries.  The Kurds in the north wanted independence and the Sunnis couldn't stand the Shiite and vice versa.  The war in Iraq created a power vacuum that was quickly filled by Iran.  The U.S. was seen by most of the peoples of the world as a pariah state.  We were spending billions a month, borrowing every dollar and adding to the national debt, with nothing to show for it except more dead or wounded young soldiers.

     Today, American is out of Iraq.  (this nation we "saved" is now letting Iran use its banks to get around economic sanctions imposed by the U.S.)  Americans are no longer dying for nothing.  In Afghanistan, the Taliban have been driven into Pakistan and hold no ground.  American troops will be out by 2014 unless Romney and Ryan decide to keep them there for God-knows how long.  Afghanistan is not a success story, but Americans will no longer be dying there and it is better off than it was 4 years ago.

     Today, gay Americans who want to serve their country, and possibly sacrifice their lives in its cause, can do so openly and without fear of being thrown out.   4 years ago, gays in the military were being hunted and expelled because of bigotry and prejudice.  Today, women can aspire to serve their country in combat...something they were kept from 4 years ago.  (Romney and Ryan would reverse both of these progressive gains).  Yes we are better off.

     It shouldn't be lost on anyone how Obama has disengaged the American military from disastrous and immoral overseas adventurism.  Romney promises to go to war in Syria and Iran and is employing and listening to the very same neo-cons who were the architects of the disastrous foreign policies which resulted in the debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

     Four years ago, the housing market, which is a major component of a strong economy, was disintegrating.  Millions of homes were lost to foreclosure.  Prices dropped to lows not seen in 40 years.  The ripple effect was to devastate everything from the furniture industry to appliances and cities saw their property taxes melting away along with their ability to deliver services.

     Today, Toll Brothers Home builders have reported profits, which have increased by over 100%.  Home prices are rising in the top 20 markets.  Home Depot and Lowes report strong sales.  Banks have been forced to change their foreclosure policies.  They will pay over $25 billion in penalties for all the illegal tactics they used to steal people's houses.  There are now worries there isn't enough supply to meet demand.  Yes, we are better off.

     Four years ago if you or your child had a pre-existing health condition, it was almost impossible to get health insurance.  Four years ago, health insurance companies could charge women higher premiums than men.  Four years ago those same insurance companies could cap how much they would pay for an illness, meaning one catastrophic illness could financially ruin a family.   Four years ago your child was dropped from your insurance when they reached the age of 23, and four years ago, there was no requirement as to how much of your premiums had to be spent on actual health care.

     Today, the Affordable Care Act ends these and many other shortcomings and abuses in the health care industry.  This legislation also reduces the deficit over ten years and slows the rising cost of health care, which is considered a direct threat to our economic health in the future.  (Romney and Ryan promise to repeal the ACA and reverse all of these gains)  Yes, we are better off.

     Four years ago, Bush and the Republicans will still talking tough about what they were going to do when they found Osama Bin Laden.  They had no idea where he was and Al Qaida was increasing in strength in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other nations in the Mideast.

     Today, Bin Laden is dead...most of Al Qaida's leadership is dead...the number two of the Haquani network is dead...the head of Al Qaida in Yemen is dead...El Shababb in Somalia is on the run...Yes, we are better off.

     Are things in this country all sunshine and roses today?  No!  Unemployment is too high.  Youth unemployment is a scandal as is the unemployment rate for minorities.  Dodd/Frank isn't strong enough.  Underwater homeowners need more help.  Someone on Wall Street needs to go to jail.  Iran is still a flash point.  (Romney and Ryan say they want to go to war with Iran if necessary.  It would be a disaster of a policy and make Iraq look like a walk in the park)  No one has a solution as to what to do about the civil war in Syria.  (except John McCain and Romney and Ryan who want to use the American military and arm the rebels without knowing who they are or even if this would end up arming Al Qaida like when we armed the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan)  The European Unions could still drag us under and China is flexing its muscles in the South China Sea.  College is too expensive...gas as well.  However, today America is on the path to energy independence which certainly wasn't the case four years ago.
     There is no measure, no metric from August of 2008 where we are not better off today than we were four years ago.  It tells you how awful it was then that even some improvement moves us to a better place than where we were at then.  Actually there is one area where we are not better off....4 years ago the gap between the uber-rich and middle class Americans was not as wide as it is today.  4 years ago the 1% were not as rich as they are today.  How do you think those numbers will look 4 years from now if Romney is elected president?

P.S. I invite you to add to this list of ways in which we are better off today than four years ago.  I'm sure I missed quite a bit, but someone had to speak truth to fiction.


  1. Bernie, it is so great to read your blog. I don't always remember, but when I do it is a pleasure -- I can almost hear your voice with your words.

    I so miss you on the radio (don't want to give their call letters, go figure), and I am only 55, lol.

    I started listening to (call letters) when I was ten years old. Not many 55 year olds can say they actually heard Ira Blue live!

    How things have changed. Fortunately there are still some outposts like yourself and even some good Left Radio left;-)

  2. Another outstanding blog post Mr. Ward

  3. posted to a forum inside the Open Discussion group at www dot chess dot com...

    So how do chess players of the world use our combined problem solving abilities to deal with the attack on human beings that our incarceration system represents?
    Do you suppose the fact that so much of it is privatized to for-profit companies is part of the picture?

    There are more people in American prisons per capita than in Russia or China. Most crimes are the result of drug addiction. If we provided addicts with medical and social help, there would be a lot fewer people in prison. Putting people in prison for reasons other than violent crimes makes no sense.

    Prostitutes, whether willing or not, do it for social reasons, drug addiction, lack of skills and education to make a legal living. People are imprisoned for tax problems when fines and public service would be a better option. Nowadays an American citizen can be arrested and put in prison without a lawyer or fair trial because he is suspected of being a terrorist.

    This is done on an international basis. Bobby Fischer was held in jail in Japan for 9 months because he spoke out on a radio program. If anyone protests any of this he is of course a nut.

    response from Elroch...

    If I recall, Bobby Fischer was held in response to requests from US law enforcement to extradite him for his breaking of the trade sanctions on Yugoslavia during the Balkans War.
    And the recordings I have heard of him on Philippines radio I would describe as vitriolic anti-semitic rants rather than "speaking out".

    response from me...

    Elroch, I have read the words of Robert J. Fischer on the subject of Jews and what they are responsible for in the world, and I find nothing anti-Semitic or even vitriolic.
    You see, the political assertions made by Fischer, me and others have nothing at all to do with 'Semitic', which is the name of a Race that includes Arabs as well as Jews ---
    Calling me anti-Semitic is like calling someone who disagrees with you as anti-Caucasian.

    As for 'vitriolic', it is useful to recall that Oil of Vitriol is a strong acid that attacks carbon-based matter. It seems to me that the way Zionists have behaved in this past Century is a lot more Vitriolic than any words uttered by our Champion from Brooklyn, NY.
    I am from Brooklyn too and we have a tendency to speak our truth to power even if it does come off as confrontational.

    Say Amen to that, bro... whasamatter ya gotta problem wid dat?

  4. Bobby Fischer had a Jewish mother and probably a Jewish biological father as well (his biological father was likely a Jewish-Hungarian scientist named Paul Nemenyi, and not Hans-Gerhardt Fischer). While perhaps some of his anti-Zionist comments may have a bit of truth in them, he (Bobby Fischer) went too far in his vicious anti-Jewish rhetoric, labelling all Jews as "a filthy, bastard people", praising Hitler, celebrating 9/11 and so forth. Look at some of the youtube clips about him, for example "The Mad Genius of Bobby Fischer."

    As a chess player, I admire and respect his genius, but he was a tragically eccentric fellow nonetheless.

  5. In the book "Reefer Madness", Eric Schlosser makes the argument that if marijuana were decriminalized and controlled, it would save U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars every year. A great many incarcerations are due to pot-related offenses; if pot were decriminalized, the U.S. government could regulate and tax it, the prison system would be less burdened, and the police would have time and resources to deal with much more important issues.

    Schlosser emphasizes that driving while high on MJ, selling or giving it to minors, using it in public or cultivating huge amounts of it should remain illegal. He also doesn't seem keen on decriminalizing harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin.