IBI Watch 4/24/11

24 04 2011


What Kind of Country Do We Want, Anyway?

The polarization only gets deeper these days.  At both the federal and state levels, we are told by ‘fiscal conservatives’ that the only way to solve our budget problems, long and short term, is to cut deeply into discretionary spending – social programs, education, public transit, etc..  That’s necessary, you see, because any change in taxes – other than further tax cuts for the wealthy, of course – would endanger the economic recovery.  The wealthy, those blessed and holy ‘job creators’ just won’t tolerate any further taxes.  And if you don’t share this extreme point of view, you’re an unholy socialist.  That’s the false choice pushed by right-wing pundits and corporate media.

I have always been an FDR Democrat.  Capitalism, with wise regulation to round off the sharp edges, offers the best hope for material prosperity plus attention to the common good.  Quaint, eh?

This week, I have many links that provide a variety of angles on this crucial debate.

First – take a look at developments in the modern movement – basically, the core of the Tea Party – that is reviving interest in that proponent of ‘rugged individualism,’ Ayn Rand.  It’s probably no surprise that the pitchman for what might be called the ‘cuts only’ federal budget plan – Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan – is a big Rand fan.  Next – you might think that a new movie based on Rand’s most famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, would add new energy to the Rand revival.  But critics are not impressed.  Would you believe Michael Gerson – not too long ago George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter – has nothing but ridicule for the effort?  Read his Washington Post column at the second link.  At the third link – Stephen Colbert at his best, satirizing the high priestess of greed.

http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/150680/the_truth_about_gop_hero_ayn_rand/?page=1

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ayn-rands-adult-onset-adolescence/2011/04/21/AFv2JyKE_story.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-tIY99QFFk&feature=share

OK, it’s reasonable to wonder – Why is Ayn Rand so important?  She died in 1982, after all.  Here is why – her philosophy is a strong motivating factor for those who wish, like Grover Norquist, to shrink the evil, tax-sucking government down to nothing.  And we also have to think about ongoing efforts to unify the Tea Party – the Tea in ‘Tea Party’ after all stands for Taxed Enough Already – with those who favor an American theocracy.

Foremost in that unholy crusade is David Barton.  This American Ayatollah has been called ‘the single most important historian in America.’ And why is he important?  First – he was instrumental in securing President W’s second term.  And second, and far more significantly, he is the ideological darling of the likes of GOP presidential hopefuls – Michele Bachmann, Mike Huckabee (current front-runner BTW), and Newt Gingrich.  When you view this short video, you will understand why this guy must be stopped.  He makes Karl Rove look like a sensible middle-of-the –roader.

http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/564372/right-wing_crackpot_%27historian%27_barton_exposed_by_peter_montgomery_and_lawrence_o%27donnell/

Our modern right-wing wants us all to believe that the wealthy are taxed, taxed to death, they tell us.  The taxes are so high, they are stifling initiative, and must be cut.  Got it? Good.  Now check these links for the real story.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/our-low-low-taxes/

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/zombie-tax-lies/

http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2011/04/20/house-gop-tax-lie/

So, what kind of a country do we want?  Well, it’s hard to find the real choices in mainstream media.  There actually is a reasonable alternative to Ryan’s slash and burn approach.  Once you accept the fact that taxes are historically low, it becomes clear that any thoughtful, sustainable,  reality-based solution must include both spending cuts and some tax restoration. First link – why an educated (non-propagandized) public would support such a plan.  Second, such a progressive alternative does exist (though it’s a well-kept secret).  Third link – charts, we got ‘em.  David Morris – founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance – has assembled an impressive collection of ten charts showing how America really is exceptional – though not in the ways the starry-eyed likes of Michele Bachmann would have us believe.  The link takes you right to the charts; his in-depth article also merits a read.

http://www.alternet.org/economy/150715/the_public_overwhelmingly_wants_it%3A_why_is_taxing_the_rich_so_hard/?page=1

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/the-progressive-budget-alternative/

http://www.alternet.org/story/150691/we%27re_?page=5

Transit – Good for the Environment, the Economy, and Equality

One of the main areas of public service that faces severe cutbacks is public transit.  Right here in Minnesota – the state that once worked – our Republican-controlled legislature is trying its damnedest to take our 5 billion dollar budget deficit out of the hide of programs that benefit the common good.  Read up here on what is at stake and what the public thinks about it.  (Full disclosure – the Metropolitan Council is my employer.)  Final link takes you to a fine radio documentary that looks at transit in a broader context, including racial politics.

http://www.metrocouncil.org/newsletter/transit2011/TLCMar31.htm

http://www.minnpost.com/stories/2011/04/22/27710/transit_advocates_get_their_chance_to_lambaste_gop_budget_cuts

http://transportationnation.org/backofthebus/

Where Our Money Goes

Quick – while it’s fresh.  Go to your federal tax return, and write down your total tax.  Then, go to the first link.  Use the calculator to see what the government is spending your money on.  Then, if you are still not convinced that we need to do something about the national debt – and especially if you think it can be done without some level of tax restoration – take a look at the next, very scary link.

http://www.thirdway.org/taxreceipt

http://www.usdebtclock.org/index.html

Manmade Climate Chaos – Towards More Knowledge, Less Ignorance

Pretend ignorance (what I call Pignorance) got a boost this weekend from an unusual source.  It’s not often I say ‘Shame on NPR,’ but there it is, ‘Shame on NPR!’  What we got from All Things Considered’s Linda Wertheimer was a softball, context-free interview with a well-known climate change denier.  John Christy basically took the ‘there’s no connection, end of discussion’ approach in ‘explaining’  the crazy weather we have seen in America this spring and around the world the past few years.  No mention of skyrocketing atmospheric carbon dioxide from our tailpipes and smokestacks, no mention of the global temperature records set and broken the last few decades.  It’s simply, ‘natural phenomena, case closed, now go away and shut up.’  You can read some reader comments at the bottom of the transcript, and/or check some of my links.  The last couple deal with the long term.  I hold out hope for the next generation of young people.  As you will see, there is some reason for hope.  But remember, these youth are propagandized by their parents’ generation.  That would be myself and my baby boomer cohorts – we who have in shocking numbers sold our souls to pignorance.  (Second link is a very wise exploration of the pignorance concept.)

http://www.npr.org/2011/04/23/135663193/u-s-experiences-wild-weather

http://m.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/index/#Responses

http://climateprogress.org/2011/03/29/nasa-james-hansen-sure-bet-decade-warmest-in-history/

http://truthout.org/power-shift-how-youth-climate-movement-changing-game/1303575008

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/climate-weather/stories/teens-have-mixed-understanding-of-climate-change

Solar and Pedal Power – Two Solution Puzzle Pieces

First link – solar is catching on – though most of us wish it would hurry.  Next two links – it may be easier than you think to get into bicycling, and it’s also pretty easy to find a decent, affordable second-hand bike.  Just don’t send one to me – my wife might abandon me for a second-hand replacement husband if I bring home any more two-wheelers!

http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/blogs/panel-that-works-in-the-dark-puts-solar-on-fast-track-to-ubiqu

http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/transportation/stories/how-to-buy-a-great-used-bicycle?hpt=Sbin

http://www.startribune.com/opinion/otherviews/120420274.html

“Our goal is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all human beings and all other creatures — an environment without ugliness, without poverty, without discrimination, without hunger and without war. Our goal is a decent environment in its deepest and broadest sense

-Gaylord Nelson

Contributed  links to this posting – Jeff Carlson,  Allyson Harper, Steve Hunstad, Dave Vessel

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