Jul 252012
 

I got a lot of interesting reactions today, sitting with a “Christie Vilsack for Congress” sign while about ten thousand bicycle-across-Iowa folks peddled past my front yard in a small, rural town.

RAGBRAI stands for “[Des Moines] Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.” This is not a competition. It’s just thousands of people out for up to seven days in our insane summer heat, enjoying the camaraderie of “the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world.” Christie Vilsack is Iowa’s former First Lady and a Democrat running for the U.S. Congress in Iowa’s  4th District. She is opposing Republican incumbent Steve King, an “outspoken conservative who is a nationwide favorite of tea party activists.” My little town of Dayton, Iowa (population 837) is half-way through today’s 84-mile segment.

Today was a microcosm of the liberal ideals of community, fellowship, and social involvement. My 1880’s “workman’s Victorian” house was right on the route, just after the downtown events that included food concessions, a live band, and a dunking tank. As the bicyclists accelerated down a 1-block incline and past me, in my wheelchair by the curb with a political sign, I still had plenty of interactions.

Also, because my house fronts Main Street with a shade-tree-packed double lot, dozens of riders at a time stopped to take a break before heading down the long and hot road to Lehigh. My wife, Dianna, sent out a mostly-full pan of yesterday’s brownies. Everybody was so incredulous and thankful that she went back inside, cranked up her oven and made an additional five dozen large Snicker doodle cookies from scratch.

On the street, most riders smiled and waved or added a “good morning.” I figure I got a fair ration of exercise just sitting and waving back. Until the worst of the afternoon sun started taking its toll, most of these folks were having fun and were in an expansive and gregarious mood. You can’t have much of a conversation, passing by at 12 miles per hour, but you can share your good will and wave or call out a “good morning,” “hey,” “great hat,” or “thank-you” as appropriate to the moment.

Only four people in the six hours I was out were negative. It was nothing too strong – just an occasional “Obama is a socialist” or “I hope she loses.” It seemed fair enough; I was actually expecting more. Maybe this crowd was composed, more than usual, of people whose mommas had taught them that “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” You got to where you could see the people who glanced at the sign, clenched their jaw, and just starred sternly and unhappily ahead as they rolled by.

On the other hand, I got a LOT of approving finger-points, thumb-ups, smiles, “thank-yous,” and bell rings. I used to have a bell on my bike in the 1950s but this was unexpected at first. Two dings signal approval and come with a big smile. I liked to respond with a big wave, a big smile, and my own loud “thank-you.”

As the day wore on, there were even more thank-yous tossed my way. The expressions seemed more general than political. Having just enjoyed a church hospitality tent, a cold beer, and/or a dunk in a big water tank, the riders seemed to be taking me as an unexpected final representative of the city’s welcoming spirit as they headed out and onward. They seemed grateful to have someone to let know that they had been treated well and that they appreciated it.

I had a few short political conversations with the people taking a break under my trees. I wanted to stay low-key and didn’t shout out “Vote for Vilsack” or any such thing. Still, when you talk to someone in the grass, the sign suggests an obvious topic.

While I was passing out the first batch of fresh cookies and offering the last one on the pan, the fellow glanced at my sign and then asked, “I’m a Republican. Is it still okay to take it?” I just smiled and let him in on the secret, “Of course. Democrats believe that ‘we’re all in this together,’ that we’re all neighbors, and that we should all care about each other.” Maybe I shouldn’t have rubbed it in so pointedly, but he took his cookie, rolled his eyes, moaned a little, and told me to be sure to tell my wife that they were really, really good.

When the next batch of cookies came out, I took up where I’d left off. The next fellow under the tree, having had some time to think about the situation, took his snicker doodle, turned to the first fellow and said, “This is the kind of thing we’re thinking about when you call us socialists.”

As the day went on, the goodness of community just kept on as well. And, I’m not just patting myself on the back for getting out the water hose or fetching the kitchen trash can (which seemed to be particularly appreciated). People helped each other change punctured inner tubes. Someone made a detour to the first-aid station to get help for a stranger who had been weakened by the heat. People were at ease getting to know each other, telling stories, and exchanging ideas without getting cranky.

I’ve heard Christy Vilsack speak. She likes to tell a story about a small town where she lived. There was a well-used intersection that didn’t have stop or yield signs in any direction. She appreciated that neighbors just slowed down, took in the situation, and waved one or the other on through. Like most stories, it holds meaning and recommends future behavior. Such a story reflects on where her heart is and how she would govern.

I grieve for those who only care to look out for just themselves and for those they see as part of a limited “us.” However, I take heart on days like this, where so many people open an inclusive heart, accepting that we are all neighbors worthy of respect, concern, and support. What kind of candidate do you want representing you? What kind of representative will you vote for?

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 112012
 

This morning, one of our neighbors dropped off a clipping about Harry Truman. We had been discussing presidents after my column mentioning FDR. The piece was complimentary and praised President Truman especially for his modesty and humility after retiring back to his home in Independence, Missouri.

I have to tell you that I have a soft spot for Harry and Bess. I was raised across the river from Independence in Liberty, Missouri. How about those city names for symbolism? (Then again Peculiar and Normal are city names in Missouri. Go figure.) Kansas City still embraces “Give ‘em Hell Harry” as a beloved native son.

Anyway, the clipping mentioned his few personal assets including Bess’ house, an Army pension, and a special allowance granted by Congress. He did not “enjoy” Secret Service protection after leaving the White House. Harry declined corporate positions saying, “You don’t want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it’s not for sale.” Of course, this would be a great place to take a pot shot at the corporate interests that seem intent on buying power and influence in our government, and putting one of their own where he can sign their regressive legislation into law,  but that would be out of place and beneath me, so I won’t mention it here.

In balance, the clipping seemed to be a nostalgia piece for simpler, kinder, and gentler times. I like the comfortable, warm memories of earlier days that it invoked. That was a time when people knew what to expect, every man stood on his own two feet and was often too proud to take charity and too quiet to talk about his service in the Great War. Except, it wasn’t exactly like that at all. World War II killed an estimated 50-70 million people – over 2.5% of the world’s population. About 416,800 US servicemen gave their lives. It was a dangerous, disruptive, and complicated time.

Our current president is getting a lot of flak for personally authorizing selective drone attacks on targeted individuals (and any anyone in a twenty-foot radius.) The United States fire-bombed entire cities during World War II and President Truman personally authorized nuclear weapons over two large cities. Our current president is getting a lot of flak for limited support of other economies. President Truman signed the Marshall Plan to help rebuild seventeen countries of Western and Southern Europe. Our current president is getting a lot of flak for getting a law passed letting our gay and lesbian sons and daughters serve in the military. President Truman signed an Executive Order forcibly integrating the armed forces, letting our black neighbors serve their country.

The fact is that we now live in especially complicated and difficult times. And, I for one, am proud to support our current president – a complex man of family and community, yet gifted with courage, intelligence, vision, and the capacity to inspire us to nurture the goodness that we all hold and the empathy to care about our neighbors.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 112012
 

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt recently published research that has been taken to indicate that conservatives hold six key values while liberals hold only three. Naturally, some commentators have had a great time with this one. Haidt followed this up with a new book: “The Righteous Mind.”

This was all based on the results of a “Moral Foundations questionnaire” completed by 2,212 participants. In the end, both liberals and conservatives are seen to relate positively to the concepts of Fairness, Liberty and Caring for the weak.

This is all good and commendable, as far as it goes. However, I made a point of finding and viewing all of the Republican primary debates and heard something else. I was left with serious doubts about the consequences of many proposed policies… and the callous audience reactions to them. The virtues of Fairness and Caring for the weak seemed to be missing in action. Individual Liberties received a lot of emphasis but issues of civil Liberties were neglected. The overall take-away seemed to be: “If the weak can’t take care of themselves then that’s their own misfortune.”

In Haidt’s research, conservatives related positively to three additional values more than liberals did: Sanctity, Loyalty, and Respect for authority. However, nobody seemed to notice that all three relate to those things needed to bind tribes, religions, and authoritarian governments together in the face of a common enemy.

Liberals have characteristically moved beyond “because tradition or our leader says so” as guidance for thought. Liberals want to be personally convinced, rather than bow to superior force or status. Although this independent streak can make them awkward and unruly members of a team or bureaucracy, it makes them ideally suited for participatory Democracy.

It need not be a bad thing to leave some values and virtues behind. For instance, you just don’t hear anybody recommending “fealty” anymore. Fealty is the submission that a member of a lower social class owes to his master or king. Vows of chastity, obedience, poverty and silence are not so popular anymore either. Neither is the penance of self-flagellation or the piety of sacrificing children by fire.

If you have been following my earlier discussion of developmental stages, you can see why most liberals are able to look at these “missing” values and say, “been there, done that, moved on, but still have friends that…”

Finally, others, such as Integral Theorist Jeff Salzman, have pointed out that Haidt’s research simply omitted some values that are part of the “language of liberalism” that many conservatives have yet to fully embrace. These three additional values are Empathy, Pluralism, and Social Justice.

My point is this: Please think critically the next time someone tells you that another group doesn’t have values just because their values are not exactly the same as his.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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May 312012
 

Letter to the Editor

Fort Dodge Messenger

 (Published May 16, 2012)

In 1936, FDR (that would be President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the young whippersnappers) gave a speech in Madison Square Garden, New York, just days before his re-election. It was powerful; defiant; inspiring.

I was startled by how circumstances now reflect that time of monopoly, grave financial risk-taking, pocket government, and the resulting Great Depression. I was astonished at how FDR’s words could just as easily be coming from our current president.

“For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away.

Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair!

Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent. For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace, business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs.

We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.”

This speech was introduced as part of a “crusade to restore America to its own people.” FDR hoped that, as the forces of selfishness and lust for power had met their match in his first term, they would meet their master in his second.

FDR concluded: “…the recovery we seek, the recovery we are winning, is more than economic. In it are included justice and love and humility, not for ourselves as individuals alone, but for our Nation.”

After watching the recent PBS Frontline report on “Money, Power, and Wall Street,” I am more determined than ever to do what I can to help, yet again, restore America to its own people.

David Satterlee

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May 212012
 

Joe rolled his eyes after watching yet another cranky TV talking head take yet another pot shot at the other party’s candidate. “I just don’t get it,” Joe moaned, “They’re all crooks. If I even bother to vote this year, I’m tempted to just write in, ‘Someone Else.’” Linda looked at him quietly for a moment. If there was going to be a teachable moment, this was probably going to be it.

Linda had always been pretty quiet. Joe had always loved the gentleness in her touch, the light in her eyes, and the eagerness in her kiss. They had met in high school. Joe dated several of the pretty girls and Linda had let someone else take her to the Junior Prom. But, Linda loved Joe’s honest directness, his strong hands and character, and the attention and energy that he gave to the things he loved… and he said that he loved her.

Joe started working for his father early on. His dad owned a small, but reasonably successful, chain of retail stores. As soon as Joe could drive, he started driving a delivery truck for his Dad. Linda won a scholarship to a state university. Joe made the trip to see her the first weekend of every month. By the time she graduated and moved back home, Joe had been promoted to warehouse supervisor. They got married that fall, just like everybody always thought they would.

Linda took a breath. This was not a time to cite Macroeconomics or quote Noam Chomsky. So, Linda started, “The big difference between the political parties these days is all about who gets the goods. One party wants to make it easier to make a profit…”

Joe interrupted her: “There is nothing wrong with earning a profit. If you don’t earn a profit, you go out of business and then what good is that to anybody?”

Linda smiled her best disarming smile. “You’re absolutely right. Businesses and the people who buy from them keep money in circulation and make the economy healthier, and that is just as it should be. And, if a business makes a profit and wants to take a risk, they can invest in a new location, or a new product line, or something worthwhile. And, because they put their own money at risk, they stand to make an even greater profit and that’s a good thing too.”

Joe knew his woman well, so he just waited. The other shoe was about to drop. Linda regrouped, “The problem comes when you want to make your profits on transactions that put other people’s money at risk… or by buying and plundering other people’s companies and the pension plans of their employees. Some investors have even figured out how to keep profits while transferring risks and losses back into public society.”

Linda realized that she was going too fast when Joe replied, “Wha…?” It was quite obvious that he was experiencing some issues and had just barely not objected: “What the hell are you talking about?” Actually, that would have been better than some of her friends’ husbands who would just have gotten a beer and tuned in ESPN. All was not lost.

Linda remembered a paper that she had written for American History 202. “Actually this is nothing new. Andrew Jackson had a problem with the Second Bank of the United States. He said that those bankers had been using funds on deposit to speculate in commodities. And, when they won, they divided the profits, but when they lost they charged it to the bank. He said they were a den of vipers and thieves.

“Well damn.” Joe interjected, “I hope he closed them down.”

“He sure did,” Linda agreed, “and you can see how bad that kind of thing is. In fact, that is why the recent financial crisis was so hard on the country. That kind of financial abuse has been happening on a huge scale. And then, when their bad investments went south, it was us that had to bear the burden of the bailouts, protecting them from their losses, because they truly were too big to fail.”

Joe was still feeling angry. “The government should do something about that.”

“Well, your candidate actually sometimes did that kind of stuff for a living and his party is fighting hard for others like him to be able to keep on doing it. They want to keep on reducing government regulations that protect the public, people like me and you… and your dad with his business. I’m planning to vote for my candidate because I just can’t support such a den of vipers and thieves.”

Now Joe was feeling alarmed — with just the first twinges of regret. Some sort of penance was in order. He reached over, took Linda’s hands in his, and he promised to support her and vote for her when she ran for City Council.

©2012, David Satterlee

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Apr 102012
 

@ChumForThought – By David Satterlee – Throwing ideas into dangerous waters

“Chum” is the word for chopped fish that is thrown overboard to attract other fish – and especially sharks. Ideas are like chum for thought.

I believe that comparing ideas can be a force for good that attracts us to each other. Strangers often become friends as they talk and work together, uniting to solve mutual problems.

Many people like to avoid controversy like they would avoid swimming with sharks. You hear friends say “let’s talk about anything but politics and religion.” That’s completely understandable, and if a friend tells me that, I’ll be the first one to back off and respect their need for comfort without confrontation or fear.

However, as Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” I think it is good to compare notes and discuss ideas. We make both ourselves and our companion better for the time we spend trying to understand each other.

We become enemies by withdrawing and refusing to talk, empathize, think, or compromise. People who can’t talk together become suspicious and divided. They become fearful and hateful. They often resort to war to resolve their differences. Unthinking alienation is not the path to peace, security, and brotherhood.

The ability to communicate about issues, including our values, is what draws us together as friends, families, and communities. When we can communicate, we can work together to solve problems. We can unite for common goals and for our common good.

I believe that we become better people when we chose to compare and discuss ideas. It can useful to know what is going on and discuss events. But, it is often pointed out that gossip, by only discussing people, can be damaging. Coming together about ideas is best.

This column will focus on the practical side of practicing “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” I hope that you will find it to be encouraging and thought provoking… chum for thought.

©2012, David Satterlee

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Mar 022012
 

When did they decide that, because I’m a “liberal” that I like taxes? Hell, no! I don’t like taxes at all. But, here’s the difference. I know that I like what my taxes get for me.

I like my public library and the first responders who came when I needed them. I like free public schools, the teachers that inspired me, and the gifted teacher that my wife used to be. I like highways and bridges and reservoirs. I like clean water and clean air and fewer potholes.

I know that I don’t like having to do every fool thing for myself. I like the rule of law that says some gang can’t just waltz into my house, shoot me in the head, and take whatever they want. Granted, it sometimes happens, but not very often, and there are consequences.

So, not being stupid, I don’t want no government. I don’t want to “reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub” [Grover Norquist]. I want better government — government that is open, transparent, and efficient. I want regulations that help keep things fair and balanced. I want protections from toxic waste dumps, exploitation of children, and exorbitant banking fees.

How bad is it? I enjoyed the colorful description offered by the author of “Are We Too Dumb for Democracy?” – “Our democratic government is like a college grad’s first apartment. There’s crap everywhere, no one picks anything up, and there’s a slow-motion decay of apathy, carelessness, and confusion.” Plenty of fixing to do.

It gets worse. Our government is showing signs of becoming self-destructive. For instance, the willingness of House Republicans to default on our debts. They also refuse to vote on legislative ideas that they had previously endorsed because,this time,it came from the White House.

I have run across startling metaphors for this self-destructive trend:

  • “Circular firing squad”
  • “Has the Republican Party become a death cult? “
  • “…it certainly looks and sounds like a suicide pact has secretly been signed”
  • “…refuse to grab the lifeline that President Barack Obama threw them”
  • Scott Brown… drank the Kool-Aid, Jonestown-style

To the GOP: Lead, follow, or get out of the way. And, tear up your signed no-new-taxes pledges of allegiance to Grover Norquist.

To the DCCC: If you want a clear board to play on, run an every-state, every-district, everything-you-can-tilt campaign. We will help, but it will help to show us the danger. Like the Republicans, we get more excited when we feel the adrenaline of fear. It’s not pretty. It’s not what we’re about. But, you know I’m right.

To everybody else: Please spend time getting broadly informed. Don’t just parrot someone else’s talking points. Find out how it all works together so that we can all work together. Figure out what new problems will appear as unintended consequences of your favorite policy ideas. Now you’re getting ready. Get involved. Get results.

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Feb 212012
 

I was looking for a place to file these for future reference and decided this was as good a place as any. Besides, it’s good to share. “Share your toys,” my Mother always said. My God! I just realized that Mom was a closet liberal!

“Today’s so-called ‘conservatives’ don’t even know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.”
~Barry Goldwater

“I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all.”
~Alexis de Tocqueville

“Conservatism is the blind and fear-filled worship of dead radicals.”
~Mark Twain

“Conservatism discards Prescription, shrinks from Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected all respect for antiquity, it offers no redress for the present, and makes no preparation for the future.”
~Benjamin Disraeli

“Have you ever wondered why Republicans are so interested in encouraging people to volunteer in their communities? It’s because volunteers work for no pay. Republicans have been trying to get people to work for no pay for a long time.”
~George Carlin

“Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing. They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights. They favor minimum wage–the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing–but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.”
~Harry S. Truman

“Republicans are men of narrow vision, who are afraid of the future.”
~Jimmy Carter

“Latins for Republicans – it’s like roaches for Raid.”
~John Leguizamo

“A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward.”
~Franklin D. Roosevelt

“A conservative is a man who just sits and thinks, mostly sits.”
~Woodrow Wilson

“I like that about the Republicans; the evidence does not faze them, they are not bothered at all by the facts.”
~Bill Clinton

“A conservative is someone who makes no changes and consults his grandmother when in doubt.”
~Woodrow Wilson

“A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy.”
~Benjamin Disraeli

“A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!’.”
~William F. Buckley, Jr.

“Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.”
~John Stuart Mill

“Even as someone who’s labeled a conservative – I’m a Republican, I’m black, I’m heading up this organization in the Reagan administration – I can say that conservatives don’t exactly break their necks to tell blacks that they’re welcome.”
~Clarence Thomas

“In the United States I have always believed that there was a big difference between Conservative and stupid. Boy is it getting harder to prove that one by the minute.”
~Rick Mercer

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
~John Kenneth Galbraith

“When a nation’s young men are conservative, its funeral bell is already rung.”
~Henry Ward Beecher

“I wonder how many times you have to be hit on the head before you find out who’s hitting you? It’s about time that the people of America realized what the Republicans have been doing to them.”
~Harry Truman

“In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.”
~H. L. Mencken

“A conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they’re dead.”
~Leo Rosten

“Conservatives define themselves in terms of what they oppose.”
~George Will

“The Republicans are looking after the financial interests of the wealthiest individuals in this country.”
~Edward Kennedy

“Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.”
~William E. Gladstone

“Republicans don’t like people who talk about depressions. You can hardly blame them for that. You remember the old saying: Don’t talk about rope in the house where somebody has been hanged.”
~Harry Truman

“You have to have been a Republican to know how good it is to be a Democrat.”
~Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

“Brains, you know, are suspect in the Republican Party.”
~Walter J. Lippmann

“Herbert Hoover once ran on the slogan, “Two cars in every garage”. Apparently, the Republican candidate this year is running on the slogan, “Two families in every garage”.”
~Harry Truman

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a Republican. But I repeat myself.”
~Harry Truman

“Democrats legislate; Republicans investigate.”
~Lyndon Johnson

“A gathering of Democrats is more sweaty, disorderly, offhand, and rowdy than a gathering of Republicans; it is also likely to be more cheerful, imaginative, tolerant of dissent, and skillful at the game of give-and-take. A gathering of Republicans is more respectable, sober, purposeful, and businesslike than a gathering of Democrats; it is also likely to be more self-righteous, pompous, cut-and-dried, and just plain boring.”
~Clinton Rossiter

“The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then get elected and prove it.”
~P.J. O’Rourke

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Feb 072012
 

Source: Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton
Abstracted from page 87

In the 1980s, Wall Street and many large corporations embraced what was then a new idea—that publicly traded companies’ first and overwhelming obligation is to their shareholders. Until that time, most people thought that the corporation, which receives limited liability and other privileges under the law, owed an obligation to all of its stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities of which they are a part. This “shareholders first” philosophy created and ironic situation: the corporation was now supposed to be run primarily for the benefit of the shareholders, who have the biggest interest in its short-term profits but the smallest stake in its long-term success.

This approach has continued unchecked, amplified by the dramatic rise in executive compensation based more on short-term stock appreciation then long-term viability and by an even more explosive increase in funds dedicated to complex financial transactions. These deals generate huge incomes for those who put them together and for CEOs whose companies get a bump in stock prices, but they rarely create jobs for or raise the incomes of ordinary Americans.

Over the last 30 years this “financiaiization” of the American economy, combined with the anti-government tax cuts, weaker oversight of everything from banks to polluters, and, and the last decade, lax enforcement of our trade agreements, has created a “you’re on your own” economic and social policy that is the bedrock of anti-government governance.*

*This is not an oxymoron. Though they profess a hatred of government, they spend lots of time and money to get control of it.

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Jan 312012
 

I read the article in “The Daily Beast” – The Path to Victory in November for Barack Obama and the Democrats by Michael Tomasky. One of the comments pointed out that President Obama doesn’t get credit for all the changes that he has made to support America’s recovery and that he doesn’t spend enough time explaining the economic benefits of focusing on fairness to the wage-earners, just the social benefits. Here was my response:

“Yeah, I thought the connection was more intuitively obvious. Perhaps the dots need to be explicitly connected.

When businesses or investors get more money, they tend to take it out of circulation; they save it (Apple is now sitting on about $100 Billion) or buy things like bonds, mutual funds, or other companies. When businesses or private equity firms buy a business, they often take it apart, sell some pieces, and lay off employees as they squeeze operations for fast profit.

When private citizens get more money, they tend to spend it on products and services. This money continues to circulate multiple times as the people they give it to also spend it on products and services. Eventually, companies and/or taxes reduce the circulation. When the government gets more money it also tends to spend it on products and services. There is no truth to “trickle-down economics;” there is only “bubble-up investments.” However, if you let private citizens and progressive governments spend, you stimulate the virtuous cycle of a recirculating self-reinforcing economy.

There is an exception in the case of some conservative governments. Although a war can stimulate the economy through increased manufacturing and payrolls (as in WWII), It can also damage the economy if its costs are funded by printing money (as in Bush’s Iraq/Afghanistan). Plus, at the end of such a war investment, there is no significant tangible domestic benefit such as improved infrastructure.

Thus, President Obama is right to shift the emphasis from the last 30 years’ trend that favors robbing from the wage-earners (who make money by working) and favors making it easier for businesses, banks, and investors to make money from moving money. He is right to shift the emphasis from hoarding the fruits of American’s labors to planting, growing, nurturing, and replanting what we earn in ways that help more people to work and more people to earn more.”

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Dec 302011
 

Source: Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton
Abstracted from pages 34-35

From 1981 to 2009, the greatest accomplishment of the antigovernment Republicans was not to reduce the size of the Federal government but to stop paying for it. As a result, the national debt more than quadrupled from 1981 through 1992, then doubled again between 2001 and 2009, even before the financial meltdown, which then required more government spending—the financial-system bailout, increased unemployment, food stamp, and Medicaid expenditures, and the stimulus– to put a floor under the downturn.

At the same time, tax revenues declined as unemployment rose, businesses closed, and American spent less.

The PAYGO rule, which had done so much to ensure fiscal discipline, was scrapped, allowing the administration and Congress to enact both big tax cuts and big increases in spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan… We did all this on borrowed money, increasingly from overseas…

What did we do with the money? We didn’t invest it in new scientific and technological research, in rebuilding our manufacturing base, in reversing our fall from first to twelfth in the percentage of young adults with college degrees, in creating the millions of jobs that would flow from a serious response to climate change. Instead, we consumed it, in ways that distort our economy today and cloud our children’s tomorrows.

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Dec 292011
 

Source: Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton
Abstracted from pages 27, 28

Contrary to the current antigovernment movement’s claim to represent the intent of the framers [of the U.S. constitution], our founding fathers clearly intended to give us a government both limited and accountable enough to protect our liberties and strong and flexible enough to adapt to the challenge of each new era.

In other words, our constitution was designed by people who work idealistic but not ideological. There’s a big difference. You can have a philosophy that tends to be liberal or conservative but still be open to evidence, experience, and argument. That enables people with honest differences to find practical, principled compromise.

On the other hand, fervent insistence on an ideology makes evidence, experience, and argument irrelevant: if you posess the absolute truth, those who disagree are by definition wrong, and evidence of success or failure is irrelevant. There’s nothing to learn from the experience of other countries. Respectful arguments are a waste of time. compromise is weakness. And if your policies fail, you don’t abandon them; instead, you double down, asserting that they would have worked if only they had been carried it to their logical extreme.

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