Conservatism

Conservatism Today


Conservatism can be defined in many ways, although dictionary definitions typically use the word itself as a descriptor: We should conserve the values and ideas of the past.  Surely, there is some good sense in that.

Another definition, the attribution to which I have not found, defines today’s conservatism this way: Conservatism has become the search for a superior moral justification for self-interest.  That certainly fits well with Paul Ryan’s budget, which calls for $1.1 trillion of tax cuts for wealthy and super-wealthy people.  That’s a lot of self-interest.

Conservatism has evolved from traditional bedrock values to something hateful and uncaring.  It is an expression of the vitriol that permeates society today, the pervasive view that if someone disagrees they must be some form of low life and perhaps unpatriotic.  The focus of today’s conservatism is fiscal, along with a testosterone fueled national defense and war making capability.  That’s it.

Today’s conservatives seem to have strange ideas about why they lost the last presidential election, lost seats in the House and lost the congressional popular vote count.  They don’t think it was because their ideas were unpopular, nor because they were disrespecting of huge segments of the American public and not because they lied and got caught.  They think it was because they didn’t couch their message in the right terms.  They just don’t get it.

People don’t want what they are selling.  It really is that simple.  Their trying to win upcoming elections by “enlarging the tent” to include people of color makes no sense, because once those recruited are in the tent the conservatives are going to metaphorically club them over the head and steal their wallets.  Here’s an example.

As mentioned, Ryan’s new budget proposes $1.1 trillion in tax savings for the wealthy, revenue that would be lost to the federal government.  What is interesting is that when Ryan is questioned about the cost to the government of his gift to the wealthy he declares that it will be paid for through some undefined magical process, perhaps a deus ex machina contraption from days gone by.  That’s what Reagan sold to the American people as “supply side economics” 33 years ago and which was described by President Bush the First as “voodoo economics.”  Bush was right.  It was voodoo then and it is voodoo now.  There is no deus ex machina that could restore that loss of revenue and save us from our self-inflicted national impoverishment.

All that would be accomplished would be to make fabulously wealthy people even wealthier and cut funds for critical national needs.  That is exactly what Ryan proposed and which was overwhelmingly rejected by Americans in the last election.  Regardless, Ryan plods on with his same tired ideas, now in a nifty new green wrapper.  His sleight of hand, though, hides his mean ideas, that taxes and costs will inevitably go up for all but the rich, including the newbies in that conservative tent.  That’s the wallet theft.

Meanwhile, there are other provisions to Ryan’s budget.  Everyone agrees that at some point Medicare will become too expensive.  Ryan’s plan to deal with that is to give each senior a voucher to go to the private healthcare insurance market and buy their own medical insurance policy.

  • Never mind that seniors are, by definition, older and therefore a poorer risk for those insurance companies who may not offer them coverage at all.
  • Never mind that many of our seniors will have pre-existing conditions that insurance companies will refuse to cover.
  • Never mind that those vouchers couldn’t possibly cover the cost of a medical insurance policy and will necessarily mean that seniors will have to take a lot of money out of their piggy banks to pay for their policies.  That assumes that they have enough in those piggy banks both to pay for their policies and also to eat.

Ryan offers absolutely no detail about how his proposal that would kill Medicare is not a proposal to kill Medicare.  Apparently, we should just trust him.  How well did that trust process work for us when President Bush started the war in Iraq on disinformation?

This third iteration of Ryan’s budget proposal is just another effort to kill social programs that so-called conservatives have been trying to kill for decades.  Doing that and making wealthy people even wealthier while leaving everyone else to scramble for crumbs is today’s conservatism.  There is nothing remotely conservative in the historical sense of the word in Paul Ryan’s budget thumping or in the hearts of today’s self-interested conservatives.


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Mitt Romney Can’t and Neither Can Bob Dold


Yes, of course Mitt Romney is smart.  He’s cunning and he’s been enormously successful.  He’s persistent and focused and undaunted by challenge.

Yet Mitt Romney can’t seem to say anything that is true.  He can’t seem to say anything that doesn’t contradict his own words and actions.  And he can’t seem to say anything that has detailed substance.  He simply can’t.

We just had a family reunion, with its predictable mix of political views, but the most significant ones came from family members who are sick of hearing stupid political fantasy displace fact, sick of leaders who don’t lead and sick of our eunuch government.  Mostly, they are sick of politicians sounding like ten-year-olds on a playground calling others ugly names, vying to see who can say the meanest thing and, thus, become the biggest jerk on the playground.

Mitt Romney is now the most visible contestant in that game to be the biggest jerk.  He makes up so much fantasy-as-politics and the outpouring of his lies is so voluminous that many Americans, like some of my family members, more than anything just want him to go away and have pledged to refuse to vote in November.  Such is the effect of the screeching drone of political dumbspeak that floods our news.  That is dangerous, because it serves the radical dumbspeak droners so well and abandons all the rest of America.

We in the Illinois Tenth Congressional District have elected moderates for some time.  For a dozen years Mark Kirk was our representative.  The good people of Illinois then elected him to the senate and he was replaced in the House by Stepford wife, Bob Dold.  Each is soft spoken.  Each appears to be compassionate.

Except neither of them is a moderate.  Each of them votes in near-lockstep with the Republican fringe crazies.  They support the big money ruling class and mask their bigotry with their moderate demeanor.

By November 6 Dold will have asked for your vote dozens of times.  He will have attempted to justify that by telling you that he is fighting to save your Medicare, but he will somehow forget to tell you that he has twice voted for Paul Ryan’s Medicare Ruination Plan.  He will tell you that he’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs, but he won’t remind you that he voted against every job creating bill except the one for veterans and that he had to be shamed into voting for that.

All of that is to say that Bob Dold is no moderate.  He’s a right wing crazy in a pleasant looking package, just like Mitt Romney.  Don’t be fooled by appearances.  Judge him by what he has done and you’ll want him to disappear.  That would be best because neither one of them can do anything you want them to do.

The point is that anyone dropping out of the process only serves to keep the radical playground jerks in place and assure that they continue flooding your news with lies and salacious innuendo.  You can stop that by getting past your disgust over the political dumbspeak and showing up to vote in November.


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Common Wisdom


We all know that the country is center-right.  Perhaps it’s there as a result of a pendulum swing from the socially farther left pendulum of the 60’s and the politicians and pundits now like to tell us we’re center-right almost as throw-away line.  Or maybe people just keep saying that and have done so for such a long time that we’ve come to believe it, but repetition doesn’t make the claim accurate.  Take a look at just a few issues before us.

Jobs – About 306 million of we 307 million Americans want the government to take energetic action to ramp up the economy and create jobs.  The noise from the far right is the only thing that is making it seem like there is huge opposition to that.  As a nation, we are left of center now on jobs.

Voting rights – Americans believe overwhelmingly that all of us over the age of 18, with the possible exception of convicted felons, should vote.  That’s pretty much smack dab in the center, not center-right.  On the other hand, there are Republican strategists who have openly stated that the only people they want to vote are those who will vote Republican.

In the 2010 election many states voted far right legislators into office and they have enacted laws they have fraudulently proclaimed are to protect us from a blight of voting fraud.  The thing is that voting fraud almost never happens – not even in Chicago.  These laws serve solely as an obstacle to voting for young people, the elderly, the poor and those in minorities who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.  Let’s see, righty R’s preventing D’s from voting.  Hmmm.

Immigration – Most of us believe that if people do something wrong that they should bear the consequences.  And most of us believe that children of illegal immigrants, born in this country and who have broken no laws should not bear those consequences.  Righties don’t want to pass the Dream Act and they are completely out of step with the majority of Americans.  The R’s continue to oppose it because they’re afraid they’ll get “primaried” in the next election by a fanatic on the lunatic right fringe.  That keeps them disconnected from everyone but the aforementioned lunatic right fringe.

This issue is complex, but as a nation we’re pretty much in the center.

Taxes on the wealthy – Depending on the week and the poll, anywhere between 62 – 80% of Americans favor increased taxes on the rich.  Only the righties who signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes, along with some already wealthy people are opposed to that.  That is to say, the country is center-left on this issue.

Contraception – Do you really need an explanation about this?  Even 98% of Catholic women have used some form of birth control and only some fundamentalist righties have a problem with it.  It’s just that a few of them have very loud voices.  We Americans are far left in favor of contraception.

Women’s choice – The majority of Americans continue to be pro-choice, although by a smaller margin now than in past decades.  In part that’s because of the loss of institutional memory of how things used to be before Roe v. Wade.  It wasn’t pretty.  We are center-left on this.

Global warming – It’s not just all the environmental scientists; most Americans believe that the Earth is getting warmer and that mankind’s activities like burning fossil fuels is contributing to it.  The only question is why anyone denies that.  To find the answer, follow the money.  It’s way on the right.  (Ref: “And another thing” below)

Social Security & Medicare – These are the two most popular programs ever created by the federal government and America is far left on them.  Only the righties want to abolish or privatize them.

Note to budget hawk absolutist righties: We made a contract with the American people, who pre-paid for these services and we must keep our word.  I know you’ll understand that.

Education – The righties want to abolish the Department of Education at both the federal and state levels.  They are starving schools of funds, so teachers, administrators and janitors are being laid off.  School maintenance and improvement projects are being halted and the disparity between the education of our poor children and the rich kids who get to go to elite schools continues to widen.  Our children are suffering, their future becomes bleaker every day we fail them and we are putting the future of America in peril.

Americans don’t like this.  They want their children to be educated and think public education is a very good thing.  The righties are completely out of sync with America on this.  This country is way left on education.

Healthcare – Most Americans want the government to do more to fix it.  All that is standing in the way is the resistance borne of the hundreds of billions of dollars being collected every year by the medical insurance companies, big pharma, big hospitals and a few others.  We’ve tried letting the market fix this.  That has resulted in our having the most expensive healthcare in the world, while at the same time we’re getting just middling results.  Only the far righties with megaphones attached to their faces think that continuing to let the free market work is the solution.  We want affordable healthcare and are at least center-left on this issue.

The list can go on until sunrise.  Those saying that we are a center-right nation have either bought into the Big Lie or think they will benefit by making you believe it.

It turns out that the common wisdom isn’t so common, nor is it so very wise after all.

—————————————————————————–

And another thing .  .  .

Have you seen the TV commercials with the pleasant looking blonde lady in a black pants suit talking about American energy?  She tells us how plentiful it is and all we have to do is go get it.  As an example, she walks across a map of the lower 48 and tells us about, ”  .  .  . tapping Canadian oil sands for U.S. consumers.”  Sounds great.

Except the plan for the Canadian oil sands crude is to transport that heaviest, dirtiest crude oil with the greatest global warming footprint via the XL Pipeline to our gulf coast for exporting to other nations.  I need for them to explain once again how that stuff is for U.S. consumers because I’m not seeing how exporting it makes it for us.

One last comment: That ad and the others like it are sponsored by the American Petroleum Industry, the promotional organization of Big Oil.  Just so you know.

“We move through life like a man in a rowboat, looking back even as we move forward.” – William Landay


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

How Gullible Are We?


President Bush had intelligence information in advance of 9/11 that clearly and plainly warned of a plot by al Qaeda to attack America.  He was told that they might use airplanes and that an attack was imminent.  And he dismissed all of it and even belittled an agent who brought him information, saying, “Alright, you’ve covered your ass”.  How interesting that Bush’s thinking process was about ass covering, rather than protecting and defending America.

That he didn’t read his briefings and dismissed critical national security information merely provides more examples of his lifelong unwillingness to learn.  Some are dedicated to ignorance.  That’s not shocking.  Here’s what is.

After over 2,800 of our countrymen and scores of foreign nationals were killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania, Bush and Cheney actually told us that they had protected America from terrorist attacks.  Yet not even that oft-repeated lie was not what was most shocking.  The truly shocking part is that the majority of Americans believed them.  How gullible are we?

They told us that they didn’t authorize torture.  Yet on February 14, 2010, the former Vice President admitted in an interview that he did authorize torture and that he had directed his aides to manipulate the legal issues so that he could get away with it.  Before that, though, he told the lie that, “America doesn’t torture,” even after it was public knowledge that prisoners who had been convicted of nothing at all were being waterboarded, something that has been recognized as torture since the Spanish Inquisition.  And the majority of us bought the lies.  How gullible are we?

Dick Armey, Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty are high on their Tea Bagging fantasies.  They’re playing on peoples’ sensibilities, demanding small government and low taxes and they rally their true believers in hatred of anything that isn’t them, which attracts a generous sampling of white supremacist groups and immigrant and gay haters.  Disappointingly, mainstream Republicans are sucking up to these extremists for fear of losing a few votes.  That’s because what is important to them is staying in power, not what’s best for America.

Many people buy the extremist arguments, talking about the stimulus package as though there would be no adverse impact of doing things differently.  But there would be.

If we end the stimulus, the programs that the money would have funded will end.  People will lose their jobs, as will all the people who make the things those then-unemployed folks would have purchased.  It’s a multiplier effect of job losses.

So, let’s try a little test of their dedication to the Tea Bag.  We’ll get a bunch of Tea Baggers together and ask to see a show of hands of everyone who is willing to lose his or her job so that we can shrink the size of government and lower taxes for everyone.  Note that we’ll want to do our very best work at minimizing government, so we won’t supply any unemployment benefits to them.  Do you think anyone will raise a hand?  Likely not, but hundreds of thousands of Americans are having temper tantrums over government spending anyway.  How gullible are we?

178 Republican representatives voted against the stimulus package.  That’s all of the Republican representatives.  At least 111 of the NO voters have gone home to their districts and smiled at ribbon cutting ceremonies and at the handing out of oversized checks, bragging about the jobs that will be generated for their constituents because of the stimulus money they brought with them.  They were proud to bring home the bacon, this from a bill they voted against.  And most of those hypocrites will be reelected.  How gullible are we?

Democracy requires an enlightened citizenry, Thomas Jefferson told us.  Unfortunately, those with the loud megaphones are interested only in themselves and their power, so they play us by filling our ears with lies and misinformation.  They manipulate us and play us for fools.

One last time: Just how gullible are we?


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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