How the Prison-Industrial Complex Destroys Lives Truth Out
Profits System 101 ZCommunications
The morning after a new videotape revealed new remarks by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney dismissing 47 percent of the nation who allegedly believe themselves to be "victims" and as "dependent" on the government for income, the Romney campaign struggled to recover what little balance it had. The outrageous, but sincere, statement by the former Massachusetts governor was made in response to a question. Exposing his basically anti-social and, significantly anti-American, views, he contended that there "are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."
Some observers maintained that this effectively seals the fate of a Romney campaign that even prior to the impolitic remarks was reeling, rocked by the constant controversies over its lies, distortions, and, frankly, weird statements.
Romney continued to say that "they will vote for this president no matter what. And the president starts off with 48, 49 . . . he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of people pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. He'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich, that's what they sell every four years."
Romney added that his "job is to not worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center, who are independent, who are thoughtful, who look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not."
The Obama campaign quickly pounced on the comments the following evening, with campaign manager Jim Messina declaring it "shocking."
Predicting "tepid growth and deficits" during the next four years under newly re-elected President Barack Obama, defeated presidential candidate Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), forecast little progress and even less cooperation on the part of his party. The former GOP vice-presidential candidate made his remarks before an audience of the National Review Institute in a speech entitled "The Principle of Prudence and the Conservative Renewal." "The horizon before us might seem narrow. But believe me: It's going to grow," he promised his conservative audience. "As the president implements his agenda, the results will fall far short of the rhetoric. And they won't be pretty. We will have tepid growth and deficits --health-care price controls and rationing."
Ryan and his fellow Republicans briefly mentioned considering whether to consider changing to be more palatable to the changing demographics of the electorate and roundly rejected it. Newt Gingrich summed it up, "It's not about ideology.. .. The people on the left are the people on the left, and they ask us to come to them -- which is absurd. Obama's a hard core left-winger. I want him to compromise with us on our terms." Wayne MacDonald, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party said, "not being sour-pusses on television or the radio" was key to a future GOP resurgence. Smiling more is key MacDonald and other leaders maintained, not ideology or policy, "Nobody is saying the Republican Party has to change our beliefs in any of our platform planks," MacDonald said. "This party wants to serve everybody that believes in our principles," he maintained.
Curly Haugland, a national committeeman from North Dakota was confident that President Obama will go to far and alienate masses of voters with his socialist program. "This administration is a socialist administration. There's no question about it. America's not a socialist country," he said.
As far as attracting minorities to the GOP, national party leader Rence Priebus was proud of his work over the past few years. "When it comes to young people, when it comes to new African-American leaders, Hispanic leaders, we really have done an incredible job over the last few years," Priebus said. Their problem, he said, was that they've "just done a lousy job bragging about it."GOP leaders insist no overhaul needed Politico
Once again we learn that the official establishment "left" is disturbed by the generous compromises President Barack Obama has offered the far right. While they feign surprise, do they forget the dozens of times this has happened in the past? From Supreme Court nominees to cabinet appointees, Barack Obama seems to always choose to err to the right, and never, ever, takes risks on behalf of social justice or the welfare of a particular constituency. When he falls on the side of compassion it is due to political expediency or the happy coincidence of a popular demand with favorable political circumstances.
The appointment of a commission to look at reforming Social Security and Medicare and other "entitlements" is but one example. Who did he appoint to this National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform? He appointed rabid defenders of the privileges of the wealthy, and figures who have spent their entire careers in the effort to reduce the living standards of working people, the poor, and other low-income people. The co-chairs President Obama appointed were former senator Alan Simpson, and Erskine Bowles, former Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton. The rest of the commission is loaded with extreme conservatives known for wanting to butcher Social Security and Medicare beyond recognition. Indeed, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Mike Crapo, and Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), some of the fiercest right-wingers in Congress, were all named to the commission by Obama.
The Commission was tasked with proposing "recommendations to the President that meaningfully improve the long-run fiscal outlook, including changes to address the growth of entitlement spending and the gap between the projected revenues and expenditures of the Federal Government." Addressing the "growth of entitlement spending" signifies the consensus view among the American and global ruling establishments that working people(sometimes referred to as "middle class"), and people with incomes dependent upon government transfers due to permanently crippled economies, must survive with significantly less food, healthcare, housing, education, and other necessities of life. Despite the lack of mass recognition of this grim reality, both establishment political parties in America are united in this view. The "hope" President Obama has spoke of in the past consists more of a notion that a few people, a minority of impoverished people, if given a decent chance, can achieve upward mobility with hard work and determination. There is no realistic prospect, much less a plan or strategy for masses of poor or low-income people to enjoy true upward social mobility. Indeed, the Simpson-Bowles Commission is dedicated to further immisserating the lives of the non-well-to-do, and especially the working poor. Not only will the lack of a real vacation remain the norm for most workers, now they must contend with working longer until retirement and a meager income after they retire.
It has been drummed into the heads of the American people over the past two decades that it is imperative that the payments to recipients of Social Security be cut. The Republican goal has been to completely end Social Security, and many Democrats have varying degrees of sympathy for this view while few are resolute defenders of the program. It would be clearly heresy and an outrage for someone to suggest that the paltry Social Security payments especially for the poorest recipients need to be drastically raised. Indeed, the notion that social security must be cut clashes with the pervasive narrative that Americans expect every generation to do better than the previous. It suggests a pessimism with regard to future prosperity. That the well-off and wealthy are promoting these views should come as no surprise, and the meager level of contemporary resistance to these affronts to mass well-being might well be deceiving.
The decline of the union movement might be seen as a harbinger of a long period of plutocratic dominance in the United States. This, however, would be assuming that no emerging social movement would rise to unite workers, the unemployed, low-income people and the poor in all of its diversity, to defeat these immoral plans.
The means of communication among aggrieved peoples have increased dramatically in the past two decades leading to a qualitatively different capacity to mobilize people quickly with a precision that eluded earlier technologies. Although recent polls have suggested that upwards of one-fourth of the population is sympathetic to socialist policies, little effort has been made by activists to enhance the political consciousness of people. Existing left-wing groups are small, ineffective and virtually irrelevant. Scattered individuals and grouplets maintain a minimum of social activism of a pro-socialist orientation. It is no wonder. Without material rewards, enhanced social or political status, and the prospect of being repressed makes true left-wing activism a losing proposition.
As previous decades have shown, however, it only takes a change in a view of the elements of the political situation for this to quickly change. Right now, however, a few lines of demarcation divide the views of true leftists from establishment leftists.
One of these distinctions involved a continued willingness to criticize the very basis of United States foreign policy. Despite the fact that there is a variety of reactionary and negative political forces in the international arena, the United States remains the most formidable obstacle to meaningful social change that will better the lives of millions upon millions of people. For example, there is no greater concentrated force arrayed against democracy, peace, progress, and social justices than the Saudi monarchy propped up by the United States of America.
Another distinction is the willingness to accept the fact that the election and reelection of President Barack Obama represents racial progress but, nevertheless the fundamental power dynamics of the United States system continue to oppress the hopes and aspirations of the vast majority of people in this country particularly racial and ethnic minorities, women, low-income workers, disabled, and the poor. That upward social mobility has declined under both Democratic and Republican administrations as both have shared the basic assumptions that form the consensus of the ruling establishment. For example, the unpopular policy of the privatization of education signifying the utter abandonment of public education in the United States, is a "bi-partisan" policy foisted on entire communities and regions by wealthy right-wing individuals and groups. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have implemented national policies that discourage democracy in education, encouraged privatization of schools, and undermine the role of teachers in education. There is an interest in African American communities in locally-controlled, democratically-controlled public education, President Obama has consistently acted against it. Similarly, on the issue of the criminalization of African Americans and the disproportionate incarceration of entire black communities, President Obama offers little hope and, on a practical level, has continued the government collusion with a burgeoning prison-industrial complex that, in many places, features a powerful school-to-prison pipeline.
An additional distinction is that genuine leftists share a realization that both the Democratic and Republican parties are united in their devotion to the needs of their wealthy funders. They will never take a consistently principled stand on the environment, foreign policy, food and product safety, education, healthcare and other critical aspects of domestic and foreign policy. They do not exist to enhance the well-being of the nation's population but rather to secure continued wealth and dominance for the establishment.
There is no benefit of pretending that President Barack Obama is any more than a middle-of-the-road Democrat, a product of the right-leaning Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). When he expresses admiration for President Ronald Reagan, who funded death squads the decimated entire communities in Mozambique, El Salvador and other places, it is not an aberration. When he appoints figure like former Senator Alan Simpson to head up a committee to make recommendations on social security, it is no aberration. If Bagram is another mass torture facility akin to Guantanamo, it is not by accident.
It is what it is.-Christopher B. Booker
Only hours into the new year, the Senate, and later the House of Representatives, passed an agreement averting what has been generally referred to as the "fiscal cliff." The long-simmering question of the "Bush tax cuts" was resolved by an agreement keeping the tax rates the same for individuals earning less than $400,000 per year and families making less than $450,000 per year. Rates for those with income exceeding those levels rise 3.6 percent to 39.6, the rates prevailing during the Clinton years.
Other changes in the tax code were made as well including a limitation on tax deductions on certain individuals and families earning in excess of $250,000, for individuals, and $300,000 for families, and the estate tax on property worth more than $5 million was increased from 35 to 40 percent. In addition, an adjustment to the Alternative Minimum Tax was made aimed at reducing taxes for certain middle-income individuals and families. Other features of the bill included an extension of long-term unemployment benefits for another year and an increase in the Social Security Payroll tax.
Following the announcement of South Carolina Senator Jim Demint's retirement from Congress to join the Heritage Foundation, African American Congressman Tim Scott, one of two African-American Republicans elected to the House in 2010, became the consensus front-runner to replace him. The decision, resting in the hands of South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, would make Scott the first African American Republican senator from the South since Reconstruction.
Congressman Scott, who owns an insurance agency, is stridently anti-labor. In 2011 he sponsored legislation that would allow employers to punish or relocate workers who join unions or participate in strikes. The same year he co-sponsored legislation that would take food stamp eligibility away from families whose members participate in a strike.
Like Senator Demint, Scott opposes almost every measure, however modest, aimed at resolving any of the the nation's problems. In opposing progress, however, he is likely to do so in the name of God. During the months-long 2011 debate over the debt ceiling Scott led his fellow tea party members in calling for President Barack Obama's impeachment and was one of the Republicans insisting that a balanced budget amendment accompany any debt ceiling legislation. Prior to voting "no" on the proposed compromise legislation, Scott and others had a pray-in. Later, Scott claiming direct divine intervention, voted "no" with his fellow conservatives.
Concerted national Republican efforts to suppress the African American voters backfired, according to experts on black politics. Chanelle Hardy, a vice president of the National Urban League acknowledged a significant drop in black voter enthusiasm prior to the election suggesting a lower black turnout for the 2012 election day citing scores of GOP efforts at the state level to suppress black voting. This was countered, however, by a black backlash against these efforts leading to a higher black turnout than expected.
Addressing the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, Hardy said, "We'd been struggling for many years in our communities with how we make the argument that our parents and grandparents had handed down to us: 'you must vote, because people fought and died for you to have the right to vote.'It starts to become a little less motivating the further away you get away from those really visceral memories of what it took to get to the polls," However, citing a 35-state effort to eliminate or minimize African American votes, Hardy said, "But then you bring back a 35 state assault on our ability to vote and it starts getting really reminiscent. All of the things our parents were telling us and our grandparents were telling us become visceral to a new generation."
The reality of a national effort so open that a few Republican spokesmen actually blurted out loud their intentions to eliminate enough black votes to achieve victory in their states and at the national level. The open effort served as a months-long stimulus for African American voter mobilization countering a clear and visible level of disappointment with certain policies of the Obama administration.
Efforts to suppress the voter of blacks and other Democratic-leaning constituencies did not occur in a vacuum. It has emerged alongside the burgeoning "birther" movement steeped in a contemptuous sneering racism reminiscent of the old "negro-as-beast" and Jim Crow eras. Birtherism represents an enthusiastic rejection of integration and multi-cultural tolerance. It is a crude in-your-face, yet cowardly, form of racism that does not care what facts or moral standards it flies in the face of.
Voter suppression sponsored by the right and Republicans, however, remains a threat. There is no doubt that, despite provoking a profound reaction from those alarmed about the possibility that their vote could be stolen, thousands of voters were discouraged from going to the polls. Following his successful campaign President Obama said, "I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time," adding "by the way, we have to fix that."
Proclaiming secession as "a deeply American principle" former Republican presidential hopeful Congressman Ron Paul sought to lend support to the dozens of states that have burgeoning secession movements. Paul, whose son Rand is a US Senator, said that the US "was born through secession" and that "some felt it was treasonous to secede from England, but those 'traitors' became our country's greatest patriots." Speaking of secession which means that some portion of a nation's territory is lost and transferred to another political entity or a new national territory, Paul nevertheless maintained that there "is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents."
Paul contended that the possibility of secession is necessary to prevent gross encroachments by the federal government. A flurry of petitions supporting secession followed the November 6, 2012 re-election of President Barack Obama. Texas, home of Ron Paul, has been a center of secessionist activity but there are active state secession movements in a number of states.
According to Michael Sneed of the Chicago Sun Times, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr, a 17-year veteran of the US. House of Representatives, is now working out a plea deal with federal authorities. Under investigation for the misuse of campaign funds to decorate his Washington home and, also, to purchase a $40,000 Rolex watch for a girlfriend,the embattled son of the Reverend Jesse Jackson has struggled with charges of corruption since he was implicated in a "pay for play" scheme to buy the old Senate seat held by Barack Obama conducted by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Despite his denials, Jackson's reputation, and, now perhaps his health has suffered from the weight of the allegations.
Recently re-elected to Congress garnering 64 percent of the vote, despite his prolonged stay at the Mayo Clinic for depression and bipolar disorder, Jackson's political career is at a crossroads even if he avoids a lengthy prison stay.
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