Now and then politicians let their tongues slip and tell the public what they really think about certain things. Last November, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich shared what most astute observers of Fox News already know about the right-wing news network, but what no conservative will ever admit – that much of what is said on the network is not factual and is often complete rubbish. When a woman asked Gingrich a complicated question about the Obama Administration’s AIDS policy at a gathering in South Carolina, Newt indicated that the information presented in the question was new to him and that he did not know enough to give a response. (Gingrich should be given credit for being honest about that and not trying to make up an answer from thinair on something he didn’t know about - or something for which he didn’t have a pre-rehearsed, memorized talking point.) Then Gingrich said, “One of the real changes that comes when you start running for President -- as opposed to being an analyst on Fox -- is I have to actually know what I'm talking about.”Read more
I realize that a posting on class warfare may seem about 6 months behind the times. Accusations of “Class Warfare” reached a fever pitch some months back amidst calls for a “millionaires tax,” the headline-grabbing “we are the 99%!” cry of the Occupy movement and Warren Buffet’s disclosure that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. The best synthesis of the discourse that I saw was provided, of course, by Jon Stewart .
The topic was brought to mind again recently when I read a NY Times article on the increasing number of conservative, middle-class Americans who receive some sort of government assistance .
In the article I learned that not only does the lowest income quintile receive 36% of all forms of government aid (down from 54% in 1980), but also that the top quintile actually took home about 12% of all aid. Additionally, a survey referenced in the article found that a plurality of respondents incorrectly named “programs for the poor” as the fastest-growing benefits program in the U.S.
I bring up these two points specifically because they are important in the larger context of the national debate surrounding topics like income inequality, budgets for social programs and class. The article illustrates what all poor people already know, which is that the answers to questions like who gets what from the government, and where should we be looking to make cuts, are seriously obscured by misinformation.
When imagery of animals digging through garbage, and terms like “welfare queen” and “parasite” are used on national television to describe those receiving government assistance (watch the Stewart clip!), it is clear that there is actually a concerted effort by some on the right to frame the debate in falsehoods.
While the right would have you believe that those receiving government assistance are lazy, greedy, black single mothers of 6, the numbers tell a different story. First, the large majority of all recipients of social programs are either children or the elderly. In FY 2011 nearly 75% of those receiving federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits were children . Medicare and Social Security, which together make up the government’s largest expenditure, are both only available to the elderly.
Okay, so most aid money goes to children and the poor (not counting the billions in tax breaks for big companies), but I bet the rest of them are just lazy, right? As mentioned above, almost 65% of all government aid goes to those above the lowest income quintile. Believe it or not rich folks, you can work hard and still have trouble making ends meet.
The TANF program, for example, contains employment requirements . And there are millions of working Americans who have seen their real wages decrease for decades, making government assistance necessary for things like health care, education, energy and housing. The price tags for these necessities have all skyrocketed, especially compared to most consumer goods, making the Heritage Foundation’s attacks on the poor for having televisions and microwaves seem particularly disgusting .
From 1970 to 2010 real wages for American workers declined by 28%, while national GDP nearly doubled . So who saw the gains from the growth in GDP? Over the same time period the top 0.1% of earners saw their share of national income rise by 385% !
The dishonest discourse fomented by the right has very serious consequences for all of us, and particularly the most vulnerable in our society. When the millionaires in Washington DC decide to ignore our woefully underfunded schools, choose to prioritize prisons over housing, and do nothing to fix healthcare, there are serious consequences. Over 46 million Americans live below the poverty line, the highest rate in the 52 years that the Census Bureau has published statistics on it , the U.S., with over 2.3 million people in prison, has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world , and an estimated 45,000 premature deaths occur each year because of lack of access to health care .
But despite reality, the right continues to ignore these problems and dismiss those who raise issue of equality as 'divisive'. Rick Santorum (a millionaire) even criticized Mitt Romney (a multi-millionaire) for using the term “middle class,” because he believes it is a Democratic term used to divide society . Which society is he is living in that he doesn’t see how very much divided we already are?
Yes, there is certainly a Class War raging, and I’ll give you one guess as to who is winning it.
The 28% figure takes into account the (non)wages received from the unemployed as well. Real wages over this period for only employed individuals dropped by a smaller, but still alarming, amount.
The first is KeepingHisWord.com. This site is focused on detailing Obama's accomplishments as president.
The other two are more negative tone; these sites rebut the attacks of the president by the Republican candidates and air the dirty laundry of these rivals.
Jimmy Jones on the Doctrine and Covenants (A Book of Revelations received by Joseph Smith):
One of the great challenges in Christianity, and especially Mormonism, lies in determining which scriptural passages represent unique advice to an individual and which represent broad principles to be applied to the faith as a whole. While most agree that portions discussing the atoning sacrifice of Christ illustrate an eternal, salvational principle, very few people would read the Doctrine and Covenants and claim that every individual has been asked to build a house for Joseph Smith. Many passages lie somewhere in between, however, and infuse the scriptures with ambiguity. When Alma told Corianton that forsaking his ministry and committing sexual transgression was second only to murder, does this reflect the eternal severity of premarital sex, or a father’s private counsel to his son? A complicating question is whether Alma referred to Corianton’s sin of fornication or of forsaking his ministry in favor of his own desire, walking after the lusts of his own heart; the accompanying passages about denying the Holy Ghost lead me to conclude the latter. This particular passage has no corroboration in the body of the scriptures, was given in private between two individuals rather than over a pulpit to a congregation, and the evidently eternal principles established in this tale (Alma 36-42) seem disconnected from this portion of the conversation. Yet the murder-like severity of premarital sex is frequently treated as unequivocal and universal.
Throughout the GOP primaries Newt Gingrich has mentioned the name of Reagan 3.2 times per debate. He continues to invoke his name trying to piggyback on his popularity and drive association with The Gipper. The other candidates have not exhausted this approach to the level of the previous Speaker, which is ironic given Mr. Gingrich constantly disagreed with President Reagan’s politics. To Mr. Gingrich I say, you are no Reagan...and for that matter, Reagan was no Reagan.
The conservative movement holds up President Reagan as a beacon of light, an example to all Republicans. The Tea Party themselves use Reagan's name as a synonym for deity. Certain forgotten (or ignored) facts about our 40th president make this name jockeying borderline laughable. Reagan was not a small government Republican, nor would he be a friend to the Tea Party today. Reagan’s mix of compromise on positions and issues changed with experience, and would drive today’s Republican Party crazy. Many have forgotten that Reagan began his political career as a liberal Democrat. His conversion to the conservative movement came upon marrying his second wife, Nancy, and through the presidencies of Eisenhower, Nixon, and influence of Goldwater. Although Reagan campaigned on conservative principles, he did raise taxes both as Governor and President to balance the budget. Adjusted for inflation those tax increases were the largest the country had ever seen.
Reagan’s social platforms would disqualify him from today's Republican Party. Ronald Reagan was borderline religious and there is very little record of him attending church before, during, or after his presidency. Reagan saw the Christian faith as a buffer to communism and used religion as a weapon. One of the first bills Reagan signed as Governor of California was the “Therapeutic Abortion Act” which led to two million abortions in the state. Reagan signed the first “no fault” divorce legislation and is still the only divorced President that has led this nation. Reagan was also vocal in opposing a California initiative that would have banned gays and lesbians from working in public schools. Reagan signed an amnesty bill that provided citizenship to three million illegal immigrants understanding the labor impact to our Nation’s economy. It is difficult to believe that Reagan would be supportive of building walls around our borders, while working to tear down walls in Eastern Europe.
To be fair, Reagan campaigned on values aligning with the conservative movement including smaller government, strong defense, less welfare, lower taxes, and less government in people’s personal lives (Patriot Act would have been DOA). On several of these principles he was true to his core. Unions weakened under Reagan, taxes were lowered, and defense spending flourished. Perhaps the most notable anti-Union action came with the firing of 12,000 governmental air traffic controllers who went on strike, which empowered the private sector to overcome their fear of unions. Many have called Reagan an economic mind, but there is no substantial evidence to back such a claim. His embracing of supply-side economics demonstrates his weakness in this area and the real economic genius of the period was Paul Volcker (today, Mr. Volcker serves on President Obama’s economic policy board, and has been written off by the same conservatives who embraced his policies in the 1980’s). Reagan did understand the conceptual idea of the Laffer Curve which drove Reagan’s desire to lower taxes. Reagan also froze the minimum wage, a move that is supported by free market theory.
Reagan’s popularity was based on the same reason Newt Gingrich loathed the man, his ability to compromise and to respect his political opponents. It is not a secret that President Reagan’s biggest political opponent was Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil. Nor was it a secret that when working hours were over the President would have opposing Democrats over for a beer. One time after a feud President Reagan called O’Neil up for a truce in which the Speaker replied, “Old buddy, that's politics--after 6 o'clock we can be friends; but before 6, its politics.” O’Neil passed Reagan’s tax cuts and Reagan signed O’Neil’s social programs. Although partisanship was starting to build in Washington it was Newt’s frustration with the compromising hand of Reagan that led him to construct “The New Deal”. Newt was no Reagan Republican, opposing President Clinton at every turn, even to the point of shutting down government. The rise of extreme partisanship was beginning and Newt was the architect. Reagan’s reelection was a monstrous landslide in 1984, and his popularity was driven through his ability to unite both parties.
Reagan’s management of the cold war is also a stark difference to how Newt and Republicans think today. At the near conclusion of the Cold War President Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of communist Russia. This infuriated Newt and others from Reagan’s own party. Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to disarm and worked together to remove nuclear arsenal across the globe. Reagan and Gorbachev surprised both of their countries with the agreement and compromise was the pinnacle of Reagan’s success. Given the tone and rhetoric from the right today, it is safe to say Reagan would have been portrayed as weak and an enemy to the United States.
For Newt and other Republicans who use Reagan’s name as a political weapon I would say, stop. Reagan would not be your friend today. The Republican Party would not embrace his compromising spirit, economic and tax policy, and perceived weak positions on social issues. In the 2008 primaries, Obama and Clinton argued about who could come to the middle. Today, the Republican Party members are arguing about who can move furthest to the right. There is little question which of these positions Reagan would support.
(This week marks President Reagan’s 101st birthday).
I tried to stay rather upbeat (and nice) in my last post when I expressed my primary reason for supporting President Obama (expansion of access to healthcare in America), but in reality, I am not completely satisfied with how everything turned out. I am disappointed that we did not get the public option. While many in the far-left Democratic camp wanted a single payer system, I feel that this might be too much, too far, too Canada to ever get passed in Washington D.C. However, I wish that more moderate Democrats and Republicans would have gone "all in" and gotten us the public option; I suppose they were afraid of what might happen (and ultimately did happen) back home at election time. Yes, it appeared that many senators and representatives, in hopes of preserving their jobs in congress, carefully walked the edge of the healthcare blade in hopes that they would not be implicated by the far right when the final tally of votes was taken. But alas, the bloodletting of the 2010 congressional elections seemed to come straight out of the Rambo film franchise; the tea party republicans went for the gut, and bloody entrails were scattered across the ground. The moderate Dems and Repubs lost their jobs in such high numbers the unemployment rate ticked up half a percentage point (and yes, Obama was blamed for that too.) Even the beloved (but not far enough to the right?) Bob Bennett, Senator from Utah and grandson of Heber J. Grant, lost out to a tea party candidate, the some nameless son of Rex E. Lee, former president of BYU.
Even with the healthcare reform, millions of Americans will still be without coverage without a public option in place. I don't see anything Christian about the refusal to provide healthcare to American citizens, and their reasons always involve some sort of judgment of the poor: they're without healthcare because they don't want to work; they're lazy, they want free handouts; they don't take care of their health; it is their fault they are fat, or smoke, or don't exercise, or eat Krispy Kremes, (insert whatever you want to here - just be aware that wealthy people are perfectly healthy and never eat doughnuts or smoke cigarettes and thus deserve their healthcare.) I've become so frustrated with the Christian Right that I'm somewhat pleased that they don't claim us Mormons as Christian; in fact, it's gotten to the point that when I'm asked if I'm Christian, I feel as if I want to answer, "Heck no. I'm Mormon."
I know that name-calling happens on both sides of the political spectrum, but the raucousness that ensued during the healthcare debate in congress (the town hall meetings, Sarah Palin's death panel, charges of socialism) seemed to come very heavily from the conservatives. This wailing and gnashing of teeth only served to strengthen my feeling of resolve that Obama's plan was not only moral, but the right plan for America. He advocated a moderate plan that even the insurance companies could stand behind, and it's actually such a middle-of the road stance that many in Obama's own party disapproved.
I personally felt saddened by the loss of the public option, and my very liberal sister and I discussed the issue numerous times over the phone. She was angry that President Obama didn't fight harder for the public option: "Why is he being so weak? Why isn't he standing up to those Hatriots in Washington?" But I told her then, and I say it now: in the end, Obama's willingness to compromise and let it go only proved his skills as a leader. Healthcare reform was passed, millions more can now be covered. While Republicans dig in their heels on anything that Obama proposes and supports, he continues on. And so do we continue on in our support of him. Obama 2012.
I was at the National Hispanic Medical Society conference in Washington DC when the House agreed to the Senate's amendment of the Affordable Care Act, on March 23, 2010. The energy and excitement was electrifying! My feelings that day are the same today--the Affordable Care Act is monumental and critical for our country. Indeed, it is one of the primary reasons why I support Obama wholeheartedly.
My favorite facts about the Affordable Care Act:
- Expands health care to 32 MILLION Americans
- Insurance companies are prevented from dropping sick people
- Insurance companies cannot deny children coverage if they have a pre-existing condition
- No lifetime caps on coverage
- Cost: $940bn over 10 years; but it would reduce deficit by $143bn by tackling fraud, abuse, and waste
- Expands women's health preventative coverage, including services such as well-woman visits, mammograms, domestic violence screening, screening for STIs, and access to birth control without charge
Of the Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama said "A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, 'Huh. It works. It makes sense.'"
One of the most controversial aspects of the Affordable Care Act is this concept of the "individual mandate" or requiring people to have insurance. The individual mandate is really important because it reduces the overall costs of health care for everyone. But don't take my word for it. Heck, (not h-e-ll, we are mormons after all) don't take Barack Obama's word for it!
"If you don't want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn't have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care. So we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility. Either get the insurance or help pay for your care."
Mitt Romney, defending the 2006 Massachusetts Health Reform in a debate with Rick Santorum, Jacksonville, Florida, 1/26/12
YES! More cowbell. At a time when partisan politics have harshly criticized the 2010 US health care reform, I long to hear Mitt Romney defend the Massachusetts Health Reform! I believe there are far more important reasons for health reform (like, uhh, helping people), but it is soooo refreshing to hear it defended in 'Republican speak'.
I'm not the only one who feels good about this. Of Romney's words, Prof. John McDonough from Harvard School of Public Health said, "Romney has given in this entire presidential campaign last evening what I believe is the most effective and persuasive rationale and defense of the individual mandate."
A recent study reports that Taxachusetts (as my in-laws so lovingly call it) is doing very well after the 2006 health initiative. Access to health care remains high, emergency room visits are down, and there has been some improvements in health outcomes.
"I gotta fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!"
President Barack Obama, you gained my (second) vote on March 23, 2010. And I personally thank you for on behalf of all 32 million Americans who will now have access to health care!
Post by Doctor LauraClubFancy, your health care correspondent-
As a proud member of the Religious Left – and a Mormon – I understand that membership in the Church does not require a specific, pre-defined stance on important social issues. That said, I am regularly baffled by the vastly different interpretations that some members of my church arrive at on social issues, when ostensibly working with the same set of religious texts and modern-day revelations that serve to guide my own morals and beliefs.
Many social issues, from capital punishment to war, funding for the social safety net to environmental stewardship, are clearly related to Church doctrines and teachings. Yet the second greatest commandment that we have ever been given, to love our neighbors as ourselves, seems to often be absent from the analysis of social issues by the Religious Right, Church members included.
Add to this list the issue of immigration. The NY Times recently ran a story about how the immigration stance of America’s most well-known Mormon, Mitt Romney, is at odds with the official position of the Church.
The Church recently supported the Utah Compact, a declaration calling for humane treatment of immigrants and condemning deportation policies that separate families. They have also taken the rare step of publically getting involved in the immigration debate, “issu[ing] a series of increasingly explicit statements in favor of allowing some illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work”, and acting as a “…defining factor in passing…immigration legislation” in Utah (which, while far from perfect, was opposed by anti-immigrant groups in the state).
And Romney? Well, lets just say that on this issue he has chosen another tack. He supports the Dream Act, or at least the part that would give citizenship to immigrants who put their lives on the line fighting wars to protect American economic interests, which neither he nor his own sons felt any compulsion to become personally involved with. He slammed Newt Gingrich (and I feel a little nauseous defending the Newt) for suggesting that breaking up families that have been longstanding contributing members of our communities is bad for everyone involved. And he made Rick Perry look reasonable (Perry!) when Perry suggested that undocumented residents who were brought to this country as children should not be punished for their parent’s actions, which Romney pounced on as “amnesty”.
Now I know that I probably shouldn’t read too much into Romney’s stance on immigration, as it is subject to change depending on what crowd he is speaking to, but it makes me wonder how he defines “loving” and “neighbor”. I am not suggesting a free-for-all at the southern border, but I do believe that if Romney, and the rest of the Religious Right, really thought of the brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking foreigners they call “illegals” as their literal brothers and sisters (which our doctrine teaches us they are), they might treat them a little differently than they do now.
My principal reason for backing President Obama is his support and initiation of healthcare reform, and ultimately his signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law in 2010. Republicans have pejoratively labeled it Obamacare; meanwhile President Obama has embraced the term, saying, "I have no problem with people saying Obama cares. I do care." I care too, and this issue is the political lynchpin for me. I cannot support any candidate who does not appreciate or understand the need for an expansion of access to healthcare in this country. Healthcare should not be a privilege of the wealthy, but a right for all. I believe that if we can get behind public monies for libraries, sports arenas, museums, parks, wildlife protection, and Bombs over Baghdad, then we should also ensure healthcare access.
And so you might further see my point: are you aware that through local tax payer money, you (and your children) can check out Saw I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and Saw: the Final Chapter from the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System? And I just checked - you can get it at the Salt Lake City Library as well.
My belief is that providing healthcare is the right thing to do; it is the Christian thing to do, and this aligns with my Mormon faith. I echo the words written by Boyd Peterson in his essay entitled, Why I'm a Mormon Democrat:
"I believe that the Democratic party takes the strongest position on many moral issues. For example, King Benjamin's address in the Book of Mormon admonishes us to prioritize, 'feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants' (Mosiah 4:26). I believe the Democratic party works harder to protect and defend these moral priorities."
And so I feel about President Obama. When I decided to vote for Barack Obama, I did so with the belief that he would bring change to America and especially its healthcare system. Of course, there is more to be done. However, President Obama has fulfilled his promise of change in so many ways; therefore, I will continue to support him and his presidency.
In addressing the specific issue of healthcare, I like these two quotations, one from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the second from the American Medical Student Association:
"Our approach to health care is shaped by a simple but fundamental principle: 'Every person has a right to adequate health care. This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons, who are made in the image of God.' Health care is more than a commodity; it is a basic human right, an essential safeguard of human life and dignity. We believe our people's health care should not depend on where they work, how much their parents earn, or where they live. Our constant teaching that each human life must be protected and human dignity promoted leads us to insist that all people have a right to health care."
USCCB - June 18, 1993, "A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform."
"In a time when thousands of people lose their health insurance every day, when health care is becoming elusive to even well-to-do Americans, and when any person is just one pink slip away from becoming uninsured, it becomes clear that health care for all is not just important to achieve, but imperative.
At its root, the lack of health care for all in America is fundamentally a moral issue. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not have some form of universal health care (defined as a basic guarantee of health care to all of its citizens). While other countries have declared health care to be a basic right, the United States treats health care as a privilege, only available to those who can afford it...
Americans purport to believe in equal opportunity. Yet, in the current situation, those who do not have health care are at risk for financial ruin and poorer health, both of which disadvantage them in society and thereby do not give them equal opportunity...
The Declaration of Independence states there are certain 'inalienable rights', including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If Americans believe in an inalienable right to life, how can we tolerate a system that denies people lifesaving medications and treatments? Similarly, if Americans believe in an inalienable
right to the pursuit of happiness, how can we allow millions of dreams to be smashed by the financial and physical consequences of uninsurance?"
AMSA - Aug. 27, 2009, "The Case for Universal Healthcare."
It feels dang good to be on the right side of history on this one.