Archive for August, 2015

The Horse is Dead Already….

When he ran for County Executive, I put up a lawn sign supporting Tarik Abdelazim. I have since come to regret doing so despite the incompetence of his opponent. His campaign against Binghamton Mayor Rich David’s attempt to convert an urban wasteland into a useful attractive, space is simply gratuitous politics. But that is of a piece with the unnecessary, divisive stunts he, I understand, talked former Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan into—the infamous war clock among them. It is not that we need not be aware of the cost of war but that it is not a city issue and certainly not worth the ill-will it generated. It is time for us Democrats to develop potential candidates who are willing to compromise and refrain from picking stupid fights. Mr. Abdelazim needs to be put on the shelf.

You can read Mr. Abdelazim’s latest temper tantrum at:

http://www.pressconnects.com/story/opinion/2015/08/27/guest-viewpoint-parking-project/71275000/

Whither America?

The thirty-four years since the “Reagan Revolution” have not been good for the average American. In that time the US has gone from third in standard of living to fifteenth. Our middle class, once the envy of the world, now ranks in the mid-thirties. Our pre-college educational system is the worst in the developed worlds. Our public universities, while still generally good, are the most expensive in the world. Our national debt has risen from 32.5% to 103.6% of GDP. The amount of that debt owed to Social Security, i.e. to the American middle and working classes, has quadrupled from 7% to 28.5% of GDP. The median growth rate of US wages dropped from 9% per year in 1980 to -2% in 2010 from which it had recovered to only 1.5% by 2012. Unemployment rose rapidly under Reagan to the highest since the Great Depression and has never fully returned to post-WW II levels. In other words, the US has been in a state of steady decline under conservative rule.

But the situation is actually much worse. Since 1980, more than $25T has been transferred from working Americans to the very wealthy through massive tax cuts. Meanwhile, American police have become militarized to a level that would shock many dictators. Nearly 10% of firearm homicides in the US are committed by on-duty police. The number of guns in private hands now exceeds the population of the country. The simplest confrontation with police or citizen can be fatal. Our public infrastructure needs between $2T and $5T just for deferred maintenance. The cost of bringing it up to world standards is perhaps twice that. Our passenger rail system is barely above third world standards and our airlines are worse. This is certainly not the America in whose military I served for seven years.

The good news is that the American people seem to waking up to the fact that we are not exceptional or even average. The bad news is that the country is strongly divided into fascist, theocratic, libertarian, and socialist camps completely unwilling to compromise. The fact that Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, Ron and Rand Paul, and Bernie Sanders are speaking to large crowds speaks to the dissatisfaction abroad in the land. The fact that none of them is even remotely qualified to be president should frighten us all. The fact that the sanest of the other potential candidates have demonstrated little in the way of leadership should add to that concern.

At this point the reader may be asking, “What is your solution?” Well, frankly, I do not really have one. The 2016 election is shaping up to be a choice between the lesser of evils. For me, that is an easy choice given the utter incompetence of the Republican slate. My guess is that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination and go on to win the White House. Her recent moves toward the left give me hope that she will continue and extend President Obama’s progressive policies. On the other hand, the well-oiled right wing hate machine is likely to make it as difficult for her to govern as it has for the current president. Hopefully she will have learned from Obama’s failed attempt at bipartisanship that she will have to be tough and uncompromising. She is said to be an admirer of Eleanor Roosevelt; she needs to learn from her husband, Franklin, how to appeal to the public and out-maneuver the Congressional right wing. If she can do that, she will go down in history not only as the first woman president but as the president who start to end the long dark age of Reaganism.

Donald il Duce

To understand the success of Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican Party presidential nomination, one need only look to 1920s Italy. The country was deeply in debt because of its involvement in WW I. Industrial and agricultural workers were upset about the declining buying power of their wages. Powerful corporations controlled the economy. People were frightened and angry. From that tinderbox rose the flames of fascism.

The National Fascist Party under Benito Mussolini ran on a platform of restoring Italy’s historic greatness, of ending labor unions, of banning the use of any language besides Italian, of banning contraception, of removing women from the work force, of deporting Jews, of granting corporations unlimited control of the economy, and of fighting communism and socialism. If you have been listening to Donald Trump, this will sound very familiar. In fact, there is virtually no difference between Mussolini’s politics and Trump’s.    

Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” echoes Mussolini’s called for Italy to restore the mantel of the Roman Empire.  Like Mussolini, Trump opposes labor unions. He has called for English to be made the national language of the US. He opposes reproductive rights of women. He has stated that women should not compete with men in the workplace. He has famously called for deporting 11 million immigrants who he has branded rapists. He is a corporatist of the first order. And, of course, he is virulently anti-socialist.

Now some will say that 2015 America is not 1925 Italy and that is certainly true. But to ignore rise of fascism in the US is to court disaster. Yes, it CAN happen here. It is happening here. The elements that led to the rise of fascism in Italy are present in the US today. Our country is deeply in debt because of endless, unnecessary wars and a bloated military industrial complex.  The real income of ordinary Americans has been declining steadily for the past generation. A small number of very wealthy individuals control our supposedly democratic institutions. Powerful corporations export our jobs, pay little or no taxes, and control our elections. People are frightened and angry. The US today is a political tinderbox. And Donald Trump is our Duce.