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Americans on the Brink April 12, 2010

Posted by Kate Ryan in Bank Bail-Out, Democrats, Economy, National Politics, popular culture, Republicans, Tea Party, Tea Party Activism.
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Yesterday was a typical secular Sunday in my household.   An early riser by nature, I drove off at 8 am to get doughnuts and a paper, and was comfortably ensconced in my recliner in time to watch the Sunday news shows.  During the roundtable feature on “Meet the Press”, host David Gregory was asking the panelists to comment on the retirement of Justice Stevens and any potential Obama nominee to the high court.  Conservative columnist David Brooks supported the idea that the President should choose someone outside the judiciary this time.  Brooks placed it in the context of the current political climate:

“Listen, there’s a social context here.  We have become a divided society based on college education and non-college education.  People without high school–without college degrees, much lower incomes, much higher divorce rates, much less social trust.  They take a look at people running Washington and running corporations, and they say, ‘Those people don’t get me.’ And that’s behind a lot of the anger we see in the country.  And every single issue reflects that in some way. ”

Brooks’ comment got me thinking about the anger in America these days and, I have to say, I disagree with his reasoning.  Americans are not angry because the people in charge don’t “get” them.   They are angry because they are afraid.  They see that country is changing culturally, racially, and economically – perhaps not to their perceived advantage – and this scares the hell out of them.  They feel powerless in the face of this change and are lashing out at anyone and everyone that they feel are responsible.   Unfortunately, they are lashing out at the wrong people entirely.

For the working and middle classes in America, the last 30 years has been a steady and planned destruction.  Beginning with Ronald Reagan’s first tax cuts in 1981, through the paroxysms of globalization and free trade, to the near-collapse of the American economy at the hands of Wall Street bankers, average Americans are losing ground.  If you are lucky enough to have a full-time job, wages and salaries have been stagnant or decreasing.  The cost of living is getting ever higher.  Family lives are suffering because we have to work more and longer hours just to make ends meet.  Teen pregnancy, drug use, and crime are rising because too many parents can’t be home to supervise their children.   Household debt is crushing, health insurance or medical costs are crushing, our pensions are gone in favor of 401Ks that have been decimated by the economic meltdown….the list goes on. 

In the mean time, we have bloated our military budget beyond all reasonableness and have pursued two expensive and largely unnecessary wars – a third if you consider the next to useless “war on drugs”.  We have looted our treasury to enrich political contributors and lobbyists with taxpayer money.  We have ignored the health and well-being of our fellow citizens by gutting every paltry social safety net that we ever provided. We have allowed our roads, bridges, railways, and air-traffic control system to disintegrate in favor of shoveling over 90% of the country’s wealth to the richest 1% of its citizens.

Most of the above can be laid squarely at the feet of Republicans and Conservatives.  Tax cuts for the wealthy, union-busting, incentives to off-shore jobs, deregulation of banks and Wall Street, pursuit of “law and order”, pre-emptive war, destruction of private pensions, ballooning budget deficits…all what the Conservatives want for us.  Now they sit in Congress, gleefully blocking anything that would make things better for the average American out there, and the American people are finally angry.


To me, that is mind-boggling.   I look at the faces in the crowds at Tea Party protests and see a lot of people who look like my parents, my brothers, my friends and neighbors.  Just regular old working-class shmoes that have the simple desire to see their children do better than they did.   They are motivated by a strong desire to just go back to the time when a guy could graduate from high school, get a manufacturing job that paid well enough so that the wife could stay home and raise the kids, maybe take a vacation every summer, and the kids could go to college – graduate without being a bazillion dollars in debt –  and get an even better life.   

What the Tea Party activists need to realize is that this particular vision of America is gone forever.  What they need to realize is that by embracing change, they will be able to shape change, and that will guarantee the better future we are looking for.  What they also need to realize is that voting for people and parties that are working against their interests will never get them there.

In the 1995 film, “The Usual Suspects”, Kevin Spacey’s character Verbal Kint says, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist”.  The greatest trick the Republicans ever pulled was convincing ordinary Americans that they were just like them.


I’m Back! Did you Miss Me? November 4, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Barack Obama, Democrats, Economy, Health Care, National Politics, Obama Administration.
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relaxed_kittenIn case any of you were wondering, my kitchen table has taken a very much-needed vacation from the blogosphere.  Thanks to all of you regular readers who stuck with me and sent messages wondering if I were sick or expired.  Obviously, neither was true, but as October wore on I believed my left-wing head was going to explode.  A vacation was certainly in order.

The reason for my distress, of course, is the fact that the change I believed in seems to have turned into the same old crap dressed up like change.  The Health Care reform debate finished me off.  We want a public option, no we don’t, how about a trigger?  Well, we got Olympia Snowe, NOT!  Harry Reid says the public option is back in.  Oh, wait, he doesn’t have the votes.  Traitor Joe Lieberman is rearing his (very) ugly head.  At least the Speaker of the House supports a robust public option – oops – no she doesn’t.  She watered it down in the final bill.  Mary Landrieu supports the trigger, and Joe Lieberman will not vote to filibuster.  Oh, wait, yes he will.


There is a growing sense of frustration – not just in me, but in many Progressives, Liberals, and Independents who supported President Obama’s election just one year ago.  While we understand that it is more difficult to govern than to electioneer, but the pace of this administration has just been too damn slow.  Instead of taking the bulls by the horns and forcing the necessary changes, the Obama administration has played their agenda carefully and pragmatically.  In doing so, they have lost momentum and support.

Take health care, for instance.  President Obama should have told Congress – “I want a bill on my desk June 1st.  It has to do x, y, and z.  It has to have a medicare for all option.  It should be deficit-neutral, but that’s not the most important thing.  Do it.”  At that time, the momentum was there.  There had been no tea parties, no disruptive town-halls, no Glenn Beck.  The Republicans were in disarray and could not have mounted a strong opposition.  Had they threatened a filibuster, the time was ripe to call their bluffs.  The American people were in a mood to want this President to succeed and would have railed against the Republicans as obstructionist.  Instead, the endless delays and efforts for bipartisanship have led to a reform bill that is so weak that it is being set up to fail.  The President seems willing to accept this garbage just to check off a “win” box next to his name.

The same is true with the economy.  Everyone KNEW that unemployment was going to be a big problem.  The administration even mentioned it in the stimulus legislation.  But instead of a huge jobs bill, we got big chunks of money going to near-broke state governments that has mostly been used to prop up the state governments.  The financial bail-outs did little to get money to regular folks like you and me, in fact, many of us are feeling more squeezed than ever.  But we are expected to celebrate a 150-point rise in the Dow.  Huh?  That doesn’t pay the heat bill.

I heard one of the talking heads on TV the other day saying that the President’s sliding approval ratings are an indication that the American people believe he is trying to do too much.  Guess again.  They are an indication that he is not doing enough.   We didn’t just send Barack Obama to the White House.  We gave him majorities in Congress to ensure that stuff gets done.  We expect more leadership from this President to get his troops in line.  I hate to say it, but you have to admire the Republican’s ability to bully everyone into position.  This guy needs that kind of “cock-sucker-ness” in his circle (maybe James Carville is available).

Last night’s election results had lessons for this President and the Democratic party that I hope they will heed.  First, New Jersey and Virginia showed that if the jobs don’t come back, this party is toast.  Second, and more important, was NY 23.  Democrats are crowing that the Republican’s “ideological purity” test didn’t seem to work.  It came close, though, and had the Conservative candidate gone through a primary with  the chosen Republican, he very well may have won a district that no Democrat had ever won before.  Huge numbers of base voters turned out to vote and very nearly swung the race the other way.  By the same token, liberal and progressive base voters stayed home in New Jersey and Virginia, and handed the win to the Republicans.  

 The message of these elections, I believe, is clear.  Ignore your base at your peril.  There SHOULD be an ideological purity test for candidates.  They can run in the general elections as being moderate to attract Independent voters, but their core principles should be shared by all of them.

Great to be back!