Ignore the Spin: This Debt Ceiling Crisis is Not Politics as Usual

by John Light, BillMoyers.com, October 9, 2013

Never before has a minority party linked controversial legislative demands with a threat to shut down the government or imperil the global economy. But House Republicans would have you believe otherwise.

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal this morning, Rep. Paul Ryan writes that president Obama “says he ‘will not negotiate’ on the debt ceiling. He claims that such negotiations would be unprecedented. But many presidents have negotiated on the debt ceiling—including him. ”

Ryan was referring to a speech given in September before the Business Roundtable — an association of CEOs of large US companies — in which the president said, “You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt ceiling being used to extort a president or a governing party, and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and have nothing to do with the debt.”

Ryan continued: “He’s refusing to talk, even though the federal government is about to hit the debt ceiling. That’s a shame — because this doesn’t have to be another crisis. It could be a breakthrough.”

But that’s spin: Negotiating would set a dangerous precedent, because Obama’s right that this time really is different. Here are three reasons why.

1. Republicans are testing a new strategy of refusing to negotiate until crisis point

Republican lawmakers such as Ryan push the narrative that Democrats and the president won’t negotiate — but in fact, as Alex Seitz-Wald writes for the National Journal, Democrats requested a conference on the budget with Republicans 19 times between April and October. Republicans blocked all 19 requests. Now that the government is in crisis, Republicans say they want to negotiate, hoping that Democrats feel backed into a corner. But Democrats know that if they accept that paradigm, they’ll be right back in that corner in a few month’s time.

2. The debt ceiling is becoming a more common, and more dangerous, negotiating tool

John Boehner recently claimed that linking the budget to the debt ceiling (and thereby risking default if budget negotiations get ugly) is routine. This, in fact, is not true, writes Richard Kogan, a former Senior Adviser at the Office of Management and Budget. Boehner cited seven debt ceiling increases from Reagan through Clinton tied to budget measures — but, in fact, since Reagan was inaugurated, Congress has rasied the debt ceiling 45 times.

Ryan and others also claim that holding the debt ceiling hostage is something both parties do. Slate’s Dave Weigel runs through why the handful of times Democrats did not quickly give the president a debt limit increase have few parallels to today — in every case, a clean debt ceiling increase got through before the country got close to the impasse we’re at now. Weigel writes:

Raising the debt limit has always been unpopular, and tough to explain to voters. A few times, Democrats balked at raising it for a few days to make a point, then caved in. Many more times, they’ve just voted for the damn thing. John Boehner’s Republicans have only ever agreed to raise the debt limit if they won major policy concessions from the president. Both parties don’t do it. One party does it.

3. Some are actually willing to default

Lastly, this time is different because, for the first time in history, a large contingent of the minority party, The New York Times reports today, “isn’t buying the apocalyptic warnings that a default on United States government debt would lead to a global economic cataclysm.”

“I think we need to have that moment where we realize [we’re] going broke,” Ted Yoho (R-FL) told The Washington Post, arguing for default. “I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets.”

The Post’s Ezra Klein called this kind of thinking “terrifying,” writing:

Analogies between the finances of families and government are typically pretty flawed. But there’s one worth drawing here: That moment when a family realizes it’s broke and stops paying their mortgage, credit card bill, etc? It’s not a good moment for them. It’s a moment that wrecks their credit score and makes it harder for them to be “not-broke” ever again. To try and improve the U.S.’s finances by sharply and permanently increasing its borrowing costs is like trying to prove to your sister that her house is a firetrap by actually setting it on fire. But Yoho and friends are getting plaudits from the cramped, closed information loop they favor.

Yoho and like-minded colleagues brought America to one brink — government shutdown — looked over the edge, and then dove right in. The fact that they are willing to approach another with the intention to leap into it is, truly, unprecedented.

John Light writes blog posts and works on multimedia projects for BillMoyers.com. Before joining the Moyers team, he worked as a public radio producer. A New Jersey native, John studied history and film at Oberlin College and holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

http://billmoyers.com/2013/10/09/why-this-debt-ceiling-crisis-really-is-different/

The Koch Brothers’ “Samson Option”

By Robert Parry, Consortium News posted on truth-out.org, October 9, 2013

The Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires who provoked the government shutdown and now are angling for an even more devastating credit default see themselves as the people who deserve to rule the United States without interference from lesser citizens, especially those with darker-colored skin.

Their “masters of the universe” world view is that they or their daddies or their daddies’ daddies were the ones who “built America” and, thus, it’s their right to tear down the remarkable edifice of U.S. law, politics and economics created over the past two-plus centuries — if the country’s less-deserving inhabitants insist on raising taxes on the rich to fund programs benefiting the poor and the middle class.

That is what we’re watching now, what might be called the Koch Brothers’ “Samson Option,” pulling down the temple to destroy their enemies even if doing so is also destructive to them and their fortunes.

Charles and David Koch and other right-wing billionaires and near-billionaires are blind with anger after wasting millions of dollars on Mitt Romney, Karl Rove and the Republican Party in a failed attempt to defeat Barack Obama, the Democrats and health-care reform. These were the guys who smirked knowingly when Romney sneered at “the 47 percent” of Americans who receive some government help; they got snappish when Obama called them “fat cats”; they demanded the honorific title of “job creators.”

Then, they had to sit in their plush party rooms waiting to celebrate Romney’s victory only to be frustrated by a coalition of voters led by African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and young urban whites who are comfortable in a more diverse country.

Despite all the money and electoral tricks, the Koch Brothers and friends failed to block the reelection of the first African-American president; they watched the Democrats defy the odds and retain the Senate; and they barely managed to hold onto a slender Republican House “majority” through aggressive gerrymandering and other anti-democratic anomalies that overcame the GOP’s loss in the popular vote of about 1½ million ballots.

To make matters worse, these rich white guys had to listen to endless commentary about the coming demographic changes and the need for Republicans to improve their image with racial and ethnic minorities. Through a blinding rage, the Right’s billionaires plotted revenge.

Plotting Obama’s Downfall

Of course, many pragmatic rich folk understand how the extraordinary U.S. system – built by the sweat and ingenuity of countless “average Americans” and protected by the blood of heroic common citizens – has made their fortunes possible. These patriotic multi-millionaires cringe at the spectacle of a U.S. government shutdown and panic at the thought of defaulting on U.S. debt.

But the right-wing billionaires and their political front groups welcome the current chaos. Indeed, they began planning today’s fiscal crisis as soon as their stunning defeat of last November sank in. Rather than behave as a loyal opposition, the Right started plotting soon after Obama took the oath of office a second time, as the New York Times reported:

“Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.

“Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed ‘blueprint to defunding Obamacare,’ signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups. It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government. …

“To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known. …

“Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.

“The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.”

The Right also has relied on its well-financed propaganda machine to obscure for millions of Americans what is actually underway in Washington. The curtain on that was lifted briefly on Sunday with the recognition that the Democrats agreed to the budget terms demanded by House Speaker John Boehner, who then double-crossed them.

On TV interview shows, Boehner conceded that he had struck a deal with the Democrats in which the Senate would accept the lower House budget figures, which included the so-called “sequester” cuts, in exchange for passage of a continuing resolution to keep the government going.

Reneging on a Deal

As the Times reported, “the speaker acknowledged that in July he had gone to the Senate majority leader, Senator Harry Reid … and offered to have the House pass a clean financing resolution. [Boehner’s] proposal would have set spending levels $70 billion lower than Democrats wanted, but would have no contentious add-ons like changing the health-care law. Democrats accepted, but they say Mr. Boehner then reneged under pressure from Tea Party conservatives.”

So, Boehner had laid out terms for a deal that the Democrats disliked but agreed to accept, only to see Boehner pocket their major concession, tack on a host of new demands including stopping health-care reform, and then berating them with the “talking point” that it was the Democrats who wouldn’t negotiate.

There was also the point that House Republicans had refused for six months to appoint members of a conference committee to hammer out budget differences between the House and Senate.

If not for the powerful right-wing media which continues to repeat the “Democrats won’t negotiate” mantra, the American public would have no doubt who provoked the current crisis. But what’s even more significant is what this right-wing strategy means to the future of American democracy.

The position of the Koch Brothers and other right-wing plutocrats is that democracy itself is the problem. It’s bad enough that they have to listen to views that they disagree with; they certainly shouldn’t have to sit back and watch these lesser beings elect leaders and enact policies that involve raising taxes on the rich to provide benefits to other Americans.

While reflective of “free-market” extremism, this right-wing view also has a racial component, since the Right’s billionaires have relied on Tea Party foot soldiers to fight these political wars – and many of those white populist right-wingers are attracted by neo-Confederate ideology, i.e. the supposed “rights” of states to ignore federal mandates, especially those designed to help blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

“States’ rights” have had a long and grim history in the United States, touted from the early years of the Republic as necessary to defend slavery, then leading to the Civil War and to a near-century of Jim Crow racial segregation.

After the civil rights movement of the 1960s, opportunistic Republicans, such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, saw their chance to snatch the South by playing to white resentment against integration. So, they played up their commitment to “states’ rights” and were rewarded by switching the Deep South from the Democrats to the GOP.

Danger of Fair Elections

Today, however, the Right fears that the nation’s demographic changes could mean that fair elections would end frequently with the selection of candidates who favor stronger federal action to address problems confronting the nation and the world, from the economic risk posed by the concentration of wealth in the top one percent to the existential threat posed by global warming.

An energetic federal government is needed to address these challenges. If the Great American Middle Class is to survive, Congress will have to raise taxes on the rich and invest that money in national infrastructure, cutting-edge research, affordable education, expanded health care and other domestic programs. If global warming is to be slowed and eventually reversed, the federal government must move quickly to reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions while revamping the U.S. energy system.

But the Right wants to prevent such government activism. So, it has developed strategies to give more weight to the votes of white Republicans and less weight to the votes of blacks, Hispanics and other groups that tend to go Democratic. That’s why organizations supported by the Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires have backed Republican efforts to impose strict voter ID laws, reduce voting hours and aggressively gerrymander congressional districts to lump Democratic votes in one while ensuring solid Republican majorities in others.

The Right is implementing a strategy as old as the southern poll tax and literacy tests for blacks, i.e. the need to negate post-Civil War amendments that guaranteed equal rights under the law and the right to vote regardless of the color of a person’s skin.

Today’s right-wing strategy follows the thinking of urbane conservative William F. Buckley, who explained in 1957 – when Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders were agitating for enforcement of post-Civil War provisions – that “The white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.”

Now the Buckley doctrine is being applied nationwide. But the problem for the Right is that even with all the voter suppression and shorter voting hours creating nightmarish lines especially in minority neighborhoods, the American people still reelected Barack Obama and favored Democrats over Republicans for Congress.

Thanks to gerrymandering and other anti-democratic moves, the Right still has a tenuous foothold through its control of the House and can count on the Senate GOP minority to filibuster nearly everything.

However, for the Right to have the power to implement policies of its choice, a new strategy was needed. It surfaced first in 2011 with the threat to default on the nation’s debt, which coerced President Obama into accepting severe cuts in federal spending, called the “sequester.”

Now, in 2013, the Republican Right has doubled down on that strategy, merging a government shutdown with an impending credit default in an effort to extort more concessions from Obama and the Democrats. But the larger goal is to create a new constitutional structure in which the Right, regardless of its minority status, gets to dictate what the federal government can and cannot do.

To make this strategy work, however, requires a readiness to play Samson and to pull down the temple on your enemies as well as yourself. That appears to be the extreme option that the Koch Brothers and their fellow right-wing billionaires have chosen. If they can’t rule America, they will reduce the country to economic rubble through a fiscal crisis and a premeditated financial collapse.

Then, perhaps out of the rubble, a chastened American people will emerge to accept their subordinate position in this new plutocratic structure. In the future, they will know better than to do something that the Koch Brothers and their right-wing friends don’t like.

All that stuff about a government of the people, by the people and for the people will finally have perished from the earth.

http://truth-out.org/news/item/19331-the-koch-brothers-samson-option

Has the 1 Percent Committed Treason?

By Robert Reich, RobertReich.org, July 15, 2013 http://robertreich.org/

Permit me an impertinent question (or three).

Suppose a small group of extremely wealthy people sought to systematically destroy the U.S. government by (1) finding and bankrolling new candidates pledged to shrinking and dismembering it; (2) intimidating or bribing many current senators and representatives to block all proposed legislation, prevent the appointment of presidential nominees, eliminate funds to implement and enforce laws, and threaten to default on the nation’s debt; (3) taking over state governments in order to redistrict, gerrymander, require voter IDs, purge voter rolls, and otherwise suppress the votes of the majority in federal elections; (4) running a vast PR campaign designed to convince the American public of certain big lies, such as climate change is a hoax, and (5) buying up the media so the public cannot know the truth.

Would you call this treason?

If not, what would you call it?

And what would you do about it?

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When Election Regulators Are Mocked

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, April 13, 2013

Excerpt

It is an open scandal in Washington that the Federal Election Commission is completely ossified as the referee and penalizer of abuses in national politics.

Karl Rove’s powerful Crossroads GPS money machine cruelly underlined the agency’s impotence last week with a snippy rebuff of a legitimate inquiry from the commission staff about the shadowy sources of the group’s war chest. Crossroads GPS archly replied that continued inquiries on the matter “are unnecessary,” but that if they keep coming, it will offer the same unrevealing response.

This was no niggling issue. The election commission was asking for more details about the operation’s 2012 fourth-quarter report showing more than $50 million in independent expenditures but not a sign of who donated the money. The insulting rebuke to the agency should be thrown back with a unanimous demand that election law be obeyed. But this is the F.E.C., one of the sorrier federal agencies, where standoffs engineered by the three Republican commissioners on the six-seat panel have stymied efforts to write regulations and enforce them.

The result is a mounting backlog of complaints about blatant campaign abuses. Campaign operatives flout the law, knowing that the commission is toothless. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision deregulating campaign spending by corporations and unions has yet to be spelled out in F.E.C. rules needed by campaign operations…[it is] a gaping failure in a democracy that is increasingly exploited by scheming professionals.

Full text

It is an open scandal in Washington that the Federal Election Commission is completely ossified as the referee and penalizer of abuses in national politics.

Karl Rove’s powerful Crossroads GPS money machine cruelly underlined the agency’s impotence last week with a snippy rebuff of a legitimate inquiry from the commission staff about the shadowy sources of the group’s war chest. Crossroads GPS archly replied that continued inquiries on the matter “are unnecessary,” but that if they keep coming, it will offer the same unrevealing response.

This was no niggling issue. The election commission was asking for more details about the operation’s 2012 fourth-quarter report showing more than $50 million in independent expenditures but not a sign of who donated the money. The insulting rebuke to the agency should be thrown back with a unanimous demand that election law be obeyed. But this is the F.E.C., one of the sorrier federal agencies, where standoffs engineered by the three Republican commissioners on the six-seat panel have stymied efforts to write regulations and enforce them.

The result is a mounting backlog of complaints about blatant campaign abuses. Campaign operatives flout the law, knowing that the commission is toothless. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision deregulating campaign spending by corporations and unions has yet to be spelled out in F.E.C. rules needed by campaign operations. “Everything gets objected to,” Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner, told the journal CQ Roll Call. “Everything requires a lengthy discussion.”

At the end of this month the F.E.C., already with one unfilled vacancy, will have five members continuing to sit though their terms have expired. President Obama should fulfill his old campaign promise to nominate independent professionals to the commission. Senate Republicans would doubtlessly block his choices, but it would draw public attention to a gaping failure in a democracy that is increasingly exploited by scheming professionals.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/opinion/sunday/the-federal-election-commission-is-mocked.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130414&_r=0

The Sequester and the Tea Party Plot

by  Robert Reich, Huffington Post,  03/01/2013

Excerpt

Imagine a plot to undermine the government of the United States, to destroy much of its capacity to do the public’s business, and to sow distrust among the population.

Imagine further that the plotters infiltrate Congress and state governments, reshape their districts to give them disproportionate influence in Washington, and use the media to spread big lies about the government.

Finally, imagine they not only paralyze the government but are on the verge of dismantling pieces of it.

Far-fetched? Perhaps. But take a look at what’s been happening in Washington and many state capitals since Tea Party fanatics gained effective control of the Republican Party, and you’d be forgiven if you see parallelsWhat they set out to do was not simply change Washington but eviscerate the U.S. government — “drown it in the bathtub,” in the words of their guru Grover Norquist…They knew the only way to dismember the federal government was through large spending cuts without tax increases.

Nor do they seem to mind the higher unemployment their strategy will almost certainly bring about….

A conspiracy theorist might think they welcome more joblessness because they want Americans to be even more fearful and angry. Tea Partiers use fear and anger in their war against the government — blaming the anemic recovery on government deficits and the government’s size, and selling a poisonous snake-oil of austerity economics and trickle-down economics as the remedy.

They likewise use the disruption and paralysis they’ve sown in Washington to persuade Americans government is necessarily dysfunctional, and politics inherently bad. Their continuing showdowns and standoffs are, in this sense, part of the plot…Tea Partiers now running the GOP are serious only about dismembering the government.

And he seems to accept that the budget deficit is the largest economic problem facing the nation, when in reality the largest problem is continuing high unemployment (some 20 million Americans unemployed or under-employed), declining real wages, and widening inequality. Deficit reduction now or in the near-term will only make these worse.

the President … should stop talking about the budget deficit and start talking about jobs and wages, and widening inequality – as he did in the campaign. And he should give up all hope of making a deal with the Tea Partiers who now run the Republican Party.

Instead, the President should let the public see the Tea Partiers for who they are — a small, radical minority intent on dismantling the government of the United States. As long as they are allowed to dictate the terms of public debate they will continue to hold the rest of us hostage to their extremism.

Full text

Imagine a plot to undermine the government of the United States, to destroy much of its capacity to do the public’s business, and to sow distrust among the population.

Imagine further that the plotters infiltrate Congress and state governments, reshape their districts to give them disproportionate influence in Washington, and use the media to spread big lies about the government.

Finally, imagine they not only paralyze the government but are on the verge of dismantling pieces of it.

Far-fetched? Perhaps. But take a look at what’s been happening in Washington and many state capitals since Tea Party fanatics gained effective control of the Republican Party, and you’d be forgiven if you see parallels.

Tea Party Republicans are crowing about the “sequestration” cuts beginning today (Friday). “This will be the first significant tea party victory in that we got what we set out to do in changing Washington,” says Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), a Tea Partier who was first elected in 2010.

Sequestration is only the start. What they set out to do was not simply change Washington but eviscerate the U.S. government — “drown it in the bathtub,” in the words of their guru Grover Norquist – slashing Social Security and Medicare, ending worker protections we’ve had since the 1930s, eroding civil rights and voting rights, terminating programs that have helped the poor for generations, and making it impossible for the government to invest in our future.

Sequestration grew out of a strategy hatched soon after they took over the House in 2011, to achieve their goals by holding hostage the full faith and credit of the United States — notwithstanding the Constitution’s instruction that the public debt of the United States “not be questioned.”

To avoid default on the public debt, the White House and House Republicans agreed to harsh and arbitrary “sequestered” spending cuts if they couldn’t come up with a more reasonable deal in the interim. But the Tea Partiers had no intention of agreeing to anything more reasonable. They knew the only way to dismember the federal government was through large spending cuts without tax increases.

Nor do they seem to mind the higher unemployment their strategy will almost certainly bring about. Sequestration combined with January’s fiscal cliff deal is expected to slow economic growth by 1.5 percentage points this year – dangerous for an economy now crawling at about 2 percent. It will be even worse if the Tea Partiers refuse to extend the government’s spending authority, which expires March 27.

A conspiracy theorist might think they welcome more joblessness because they want Americans to be even more fearful and angry. Tea Partiers use fear and anger in their war against the government — blaming the anemic recovery on government deficits and the government’s size, and selling a poisonous snake-oil of austerity economics and trickle-down economics as the remedy.

They likewise use the disruption and paralysis they’ve sown in Washington to persuade Americans government is necessarily dysfunctional, and politics inherently bad. Their continuing showdowns and standoffs are, in this sense, part of the plot.

What is the President’s response? He still wants a so-called “grand bargain” of “balanced” spending cuts (including cuts in the projected growth of Social Security and Medicare) combined with tax increases on the wealthy. So far, though, he has agreed to a gross imbalance — $1.5 trillion in cuts to Republicans’ $600 billion in tax increases on the rich.

The President apparently believes Republicans are serious about deficit reduction, when in fact the Tea Partiers now running the GOP are serious only about dismembering the government.

And he seems to accept that the budget deficit is the largest economic problem facing the nation, when in reality the largest problem is continuing high unemployment (some 20 million Americans unemployed or under-employed), declining real wages, and widening inequality. Deficit reduction now or in the near-term will only make these worse.

Besides, the deficit is now down to about 5 percent of GDP — where it was when Bill Clinton took office. It is projected to mushroom in later years mainly because healthcare costs are expected to rise faster than the economy is expected to grow, and the American population is aging. These trends have little or nothing to do with government programs. In fact, Medicare is far more efficient than private health insurance.

I suggest the President forget about a “grand bargain.” In fact, he should stop talking about the budget deficit and start talking about jobs and wages, and widening inequality – as he did in the campaign. And he should give up all hope of making a deal with the Tea Partiers who now run the Republican Party.

Instead, the President should let the public see the Tea Partiers for who they are — a small, radical minority intent on dismantling the government of the United States. As long as they are allowed to dictate the terms of public debate they will continue to hold the rest of us hostage to their extremism.

ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest is an e-book, “Beyond Outrage,” now available in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/sequestration-tea-party_b_2788453.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=030113&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BlogEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

America’s White Male Problem

AlterNet [1] / By Frank Schaeffer [2] January 4, 2013

The American political process is being hijacked by a reckless, whining dangerous gang of psychologically damaged white men who are far-right ideologues. I used to be one of them. It’s time to tell the truth about our white male problem…the continuous attempt by the white far-right in Congress to shut down the government rather than work with our black president has a lot to do with racism… This has less to do with politics and more to do with the fear and mental illness that grips a willfully ignorant minority of white males. But the mainstream media is talking about everything but the underlying racial, cultural and mental health issues afflicting the white male minority of far-right congressmen holding us all hostage. And the extreme insanity of the right-wing rhetoric over the last four years, from “birther” to Obama-is-a-Muslim etc., conclusively points to something other than politics…Overlay a map of the states with the safe gerrymandered congressional districts that sent us the Tea Party Republicans hijacking our country and you’ll find it’s the same map by and large of the former slave states…

The anxiety of losing white long-held power at the expense of minority and marginalized constituencies like women and gays has metastasized into outright hatred of everything and anything President Obama would suggest. Racism has combined with fear…The fear is of a world in which white (mostly) evangelical Republicans lose power… forever. …The mainstream media doesn’t have the courage to say it…The truth of the matter is that there is a subculture of frightened white Republicans who see their own government as a threat. They’ve embraced ignorance and a fact-free life that denies evolution, gay-rights, the demographic changes in America, and above all, the fact that their fellow countrymen have rescinded our entire history of racist bigotry and voted for a black man for president. They just can’t accept this...The real problem we face is racism, bigotry and willful ignorance in the face of our changing demographics, spiritual beliefs and the challenge that postmodern thought poses to people stuck in Bronze Age thinking. These haters are a minority in the South, but they have  – through gerrymandering — given the whole South a black eye. The millions of tolerant Southern white men, women and all the rest of us wherever we’re from need to rise up and condemn this charade.

 Full text

The American political process is being hijacked by a reckless, whining dangerous gang of psychologically damaged white men who are far-right ideologues. I used to be one of them. It’s time to tell the truth about our white male problem.

Not everyone who disagrees with the president is a racist. Not even most people who do are. But the continuous attempt by the white far-right in Congress to shut down the government rather than work with our black president has a lot to do with racism. And lurching from manufactured crisis to crisis isn’t about politics; it’s about pathology. It doesn’t make sense politically to take the blame for risking America’s future — and the Republicans know they will take the blame — so how can we conclude other than something else is going on here?

I’m not talking about the white young male mass murderers we’re afflicted with carrying assault rifles courtesy of the NRA. I’m talking about the white far-right males who hijacked the 112th Congress and are set to destroy the 113th. They have metaphorically done to our country what the killer in Newtown literally did to 20 children, and for the same apparent reason: alienation from the mainstream and retreat to a paranoid delusional fantasy land of — literal — mental impairment.

This has less to do with politics and more to do with the fear and mental illness that grips a willfully ignorant minority of white males. But the mainstream media is talking about everything but the underlying racial, cultural and mental health issues afflicting the white male minority of far-right congressmen holding us all hostage. And the extreme insanity of the right-wing rhetoric over the last four years, from “birther” to Obama-is-a-Muslim etc., conclusively points to something other than politics.

The manufactured crisis we face are not about economics. These self-inflicted wounds are about a few people’s fear of being marginalized.

It’s not considered polite to mention race anymore. But I’m going to mention it anyway. We have a white problem.

I’m a 60-year-old white male father and grandfather. My son served in the Marines. I own a gun. I have handwritten notes from George Bush Sr, Jr, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford both to me and to my late father expressing gratitude for our contributions to the “fight” for traditional values and the Republican “cause.” Been there, done that!

I spent my youth not only as part of the Republican Party but helping to organize the culture wars that have come near to destroying our country. I have worked with the very kind of people who are now the hard-core Republican right. But I have changed my views. I may not be one of them any longer, but I bring an insider’s knowledge to the table.

Overlay a map of the states with the safe gerrymandered congressional districts that sent us the Tea Party Republicans hijacking our country and you’ll find it’s the same map by and large of the former slave states.

The anxiety of losing white long-held power at the expense of minority and marginalized constituencies like women and gays has metastasized into outright hatred of everything and anything President Obama would suggest. Racism has combined with fear.

The fear is of a world in which white (mostly) evangelical Republicans lose power… forever. The country has moved on, but the safe Republican gerrymandered districts have not. These folks are literally living in a fool’s paradise whose time has come and gone.

The white Republican hijackers of our Congress talk about smaller federal government and out-of-control federal spending, states’ rights and the Defense of Marriage Act. These are the defenders of 30-round magazines and personal arsenals, Kevlar-piercing cop-killing bullets, access to unlimited numbers of semiautomatic weapons and lethal handguns carried in public — all in the name of the Second Amendment.

The mainstream media doesn’t have the courage to say it, but the Second Amendment “defense” is nothing to do with today’s loud defense of “gun rights.” The truth of the matter is that there is a subculture of frightened white Republicans who see their own government as a threat. They’ve embraced ignorance and a fact-free life that denies evolution, gay-rights, the demographic changes in America, and above all, the fact that their fellow countrymen have rescinded our entire history of racist bigotry and voted for a black man for president. They just can’t accept this.

The common thread that runs through the Republicans’ “issues” of the day has little to do with those issues per se. What it’s really about is the fear of a future in which traditional white male power structures dissolve.

The true crux of the friction with the White House and the Democrats and indeed with most Americans — including most women living in the South and many Southern men as well — lies in the racial history of Reconstruction, Jim Crow and slavery.

The lies about our federal government — that somehow they are in league with the United Nations, to the point where we can’t even sign an international declaration on the rights of the handicapped! – have nothing to do with the stated objectives. This is like a family argument where an uncle shows up at the dinner table and argues with everyone not because he actually disagrees but because he’s feeling alienated from the family.

Simple palpable hatred drives these people to willful ignorance. The white males insisting on carrying guns (in a country where violent crime is way down!) are scared, not of muggers, but of the fact that their imaginary reality is coming unstuck.

They’re too smart to believe that Fox News spin on reality is reality. Most of these folks are too smart to believe in their evangelical theology either. I’ll bet at heart many are atheists or at least doubters, well aware of the hypocrisies and inanities of evangelical Christianity. But they put on an act of upholding what they believe are the traditional standards we need to live by, which really boils down to little more than white resentment.

These Republicans are from safely gerrymandered districts so they have little to lose and something to gain by “holding the line” against public opinion and the president, even if it continually pushes the country to the brink.

The fact is that many flag-waving American Republican males these days are horribly unpatriotic. Not since the 1960s and the far-left of the Weather Underground have we seen people who hate America so deeply. Some of the Republican “patriots” hate this country so much they join secessionist movements and interpret their “right to bear arms” as a right to build personal arsenals against that day when the federal government comes to “take away our freedoms.”

House Republicans like to say that Americans voted for a divided government. They say that “gridlock” is what becomes it. But that’s not true. The Democrats won 50.6% of the votes for president, to 47.8% for the Republicans; 53.6% of the votes for the Senate, to 42.9% for the Republicans.

A state of panic exists because Republican members of Congress demand a state of paralysis. They want to freeze the world as it is because the new world doesn’t have room for white male bigots who base their lives on Bronze Age mythology and white, privileged, Jeffersonian-style institutional racism. Their real ideology has nothing to do with gun rights, fighting against abortion or reducing the size of the federal deficit, but has everything to do with their own personal psychological turmoil.

These people are literally ill with fear. And their world is turning lopsided. There is a black man in the White House and he’s winning, and worst of all he’s self-evidently smarter than they are. He’s not even angry!

It is time for the mainstream media to stop playing the Republican extremists’ game. Let’s talk about racism and white Southern males who can’t get with the program. Let’s talk about what’s really going on with gun rights, which has nothing to do with hunting or home protection or even the Second Amendment, but has everything to do with the delusional paranoia of people who really believe the world is out to get them because it’s changing.

Let’s talk about the fact that there never was a fiscal cliff, just a dysfunctional Congress hijacked by the white males who turned the Tea Party into their cry of anguish.

The real problem we face is racism, bigotry and willful ignorance in the face of our changing demographics, spiritual beliefs and the challenge that postmodern thought poses to people stuck in Bronze Age thinking. These haters are a minority in the South, but they have  – through gerrymandering — given the whole South a black eye. The millions of tolerant Southern white men, women and all the rest of us wherever we’re from need to rise up and condemn this charade.

The real problem we face is not economics or gun ownership or what happens to Planned Parenthood, but how we can reintegrate a few hurting marginalized white males in Congress and their most ardent delusional supporters into a better future while stopping them from using self-created political stalemate to burn down the house we all share.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/americas-white-male-problem

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/frank-schaeffer
[3] http://www.alternet.org/tags/white
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/race
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/politics-0
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/culture-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/united-states
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/slavery
[9] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Guilty of Sedition? How the Right Is Undermining Our Government’s Authority and Capability to Run the Country by Sara Robinson

Campaign for America’s Future, April 6, 2010

 Excerpt
      Sedition: Crime of creating a revolt, disturbance, or violence against lawful civil authority with the intent to cause its overthrow or destruction — Brittanica Concise Dictionary

…When the indictments against the Hutaree [militia] were unsealed last week, the S-word [sedition] was right there, front and center, in Count One. The Justice Department accused them of “seditious conspiracy,” charging that the defendants “did knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and other persons known and unknown…to levy war against the United States, and to prevent, hinder, and delay by force the execution of any United States law.”

This is very serious stuff. But the Hutaree are getting nailed for sedition only because they crossed the line with inches to spare. They’re by no means the only ones. Advocating, encouraging, and sanctioning sedition is the new norm on the conservative side…

a wake-up call for progressives…it’s time to openly confront the fact that conservatives have spent the past 40 years systematically delegitimizing the very idea of US government. When they’re in power, they mismanage it and defund it. When they’re out of power, they refuse to participate in running the country at all — indeed, they throw all their energy into thwarting the democratic process any way they can. When they need to win an election, they use violent, polarizing, eliminationist language against their opponents to motivate their base. This is sedition in slow motion, a gradual corrosive undermining of the government’s authority and capability to run the country. And it’s been at the core of their politics going all the way back to Goldwater…

“sedition,” it’s essential that we understand the strict definition of the word — and use it carefully and precisely, lest it lose all meaning…

Here’s the defining line we need to hold on to. People who promote subversive ideas, no matter how dangerous those ideas might seem, are completely protected under the First Amendment. Even calling for the overthrow of the government is protected (though not benign, as we’ll see later, because it creates justification, permission, and incitement to seditious acts). That’s why the conservatives have been safe — so far.

It’s only when those people start actively planning and implementing a government rebellion that it turns into criminal sedition….

one of the cardinal signs these experts watch and listen for is a fundamental shift in rhetoric…in the latter stage, the talk turns overtly eliminationist, and the group starts expressing its clear desire and intention to eradicate specific enemies…they’ve officially crossed the line into sedition…

These narratives are coupled with a rising us-versus-them blaming of progressives for all the problems of the country…

This seditious intent is expressed even more directly in the increasingly overt firearms displays at right-wing events…The right to carry guns in public is now an essential symbol of how the the right defines freedom.

These escalating armed demonstrations…are a clear signal that these folks …have already decided that democracy is futile, and taking up arms is the only appropriate response to the threats we now face…

within the past year…the number of right-wing militias has more than doubled to over 500…What these folks are telling us is that they no longer recognize the government’s sole franchise on the use of force; and they’re actively organizing to seize at least some of that power for themselves.

Most alarming of all: these right-wing warriors have also advanced to actual target acquisition. This should worry us, because law enforcement and terrorism experts know that when groups like this get to where they’re settling on specific targets, they’re the final stages of gearing up for violent confrontation…

the first step in stopping sedition is making sure everybody knows exactly what it is when they see it…puts the short-term needs of the Republican party ahead of the long-term viability of the American democracy they’ve sworn to uphold… They need to choose whose side they’re on: America’s, or their own. 

Full text

It’s time to openly confront the fact that conservatives have spent the past 40 years systematically delegitimizing the very idea of US government. 
  
      Sedition: Crime of creating a revolt, disturbance, or violence against lawful civil authority with the intent to cause its overthrow or destruction — Brittanica Concise Dictionary

Well, finally. It’s high time somebody had the guts to say the S-word — sedition — right out loud.

When the indictments against the Hutaree were unsealed last week, the S-word was right there, front and center, in Count One. The Justice Department accused them of “seditious conspiracy,” charging that the defendants “did knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and other persons known and unknown…to levy war against the United States, and to prevent, hinder, and delay by force the execution of any United States law.”

This is very serious stuff. But the Hutaree are getting nailed for sedition only because they crossed the line with inches to spare. They’re by no means the only ones. Advocating, encouraging, and sanctioning sedition is the new norm on the conservative side.

We saw it again last Thursday, when the Guardians of the Free Republics — a Sovereign Citizen group that believes that the oath of office taken by state governors is invalid under their twisted Bizarroland interpretation of the Constitution — sent letters to most or all sitting state governors telling them to either a) take what they consider to be a legitimate oath of office; b) stand down; or c) or be removed “non-violently” within three days. The FBI, rightly, regards this as a potentially seditious threat against the governors.

These two events are a wake-up call for progressives. They’re telling us that it’s time to openly confront the fact that conservatives have spent the past 40 years systematically delegitimizing the very idea of US government. When they’re in power, they mismanage it and defund it. When they’re out of power, they refuse to participate in running the country at all — indeed, they throw all their energy into thwarting the democratic process any way they can. When they need to win an election, they use violent, polarizing, eliminationist language against their opponents to motivate their base. This is sedition in slow motion, a gradual corrosive undermining of the government’s authority and capability to run the country. And it’s been at the core of their politics going all the way back to Goldwater.

This long assault has gone into overdrive since Obama’s inauguration, as the rhetoric has ratcheted up from overheated to perfervid. We’ve reached the point where you can’t go a week without hearing some prominent right wing leader calling for outright sedition — an immediate and defiant populist uprising against some legitimate form of government authority.

Moderates and liberals are responding to this rising threat with feckless calls for “a return to civility,” as all that’s needed to put things right again is a stern talking-to from Miss Manners. Though that couldn’t hurt, the sad fact is that we’re well past the point where it’s just a matter of conservatives behaving like tantrum-throwing spoiled brats (though they are). When a mob is surrounding your house with torches and telling you they intend to burn it down, “civility” really isn’t the issue any more.

At that point — and we’re there — criminal intent and action become the real issues. Progressives need to realize that the right began defiantly dancing back and forth over the legal line, daring us to do something about it, quite some time ago. And it’s high time we called it out — and, where appropriate, start prosecuting it — for exactly what it is.

What is Sedition?
Before we start throwing around inflammatory terms like “sedition,” it’s essential that we understand the strict definition of the word — and use it carefully and precisely, lest it lose all meaning.

(That’s what happened with the word “fascism,” which has been distorted into meaninglessness by hyperbolic overuse on the left and willful redefinition on the right. Once a word is abused to death this way, it’s very hard to recapture it and restore its original meaning. And that’s no small thing, because losing the word makes it functionally impossible to even discuss the political idea the word represents. Worse: as Orwell told us, when we no longer have the language to describe what we’re dealing with, we also lose our ability to deal effectively with fascism at all. That’s a real danger with loaded words — so, please, let’s be extremely careful about how we brandish this one.)

Here’s the defining line we need to hold on to. People who promote subversive ideas, no matter how dangerous those ideas might seem, are completely protected under the First Amendment. Even calling for the overthrow of the government is protected (though not benign, as we’ll see later, because it creates justification, permission, and incitement to seditious acts). That’s why the conservatives have been safe — so far.

It’s only when those people start actively planning and implementing a government rebellion that it turns into criminal sedition. In this case: the weird rantings on the Hutaree website — not seditious. The group’s allegedly operational plans to assassinate a police officer, ambush the resulting funeral, and thus bring on a national militia uprising — absolutely seditious, if the charges stick.

This bright-line distinction, which has been part of American sedition law for the past 50 years, parallels closely the line drawn by terrorism analysts in sussing out which groups are benign and which ones are headed for trouble. As I’ve noted before, one of the cardinal signs these experts watch and listen for is a fundamental shift in rhetoric. In the early stages of dissent, groups establish the lines of conflict by obsessively focusing on their enemies and loudly denouncing their essential evilness. You hear this kind of talk in politics all the time these days. It’s always ugly, but not inherently dangerous.

But in the latter stage, the talk turns overtly eliminationist, and the group starts expressing its clear desire and intention to eradicate specific enemies. When they shift to that second stage, it’s a sign that they have mentally committed themselves to violent action, and are more likely to be actively acquiring arms, selecting targets, and getting ready to act in the near future. When a group enters this planning stage in an attack on government offices or officials, they’ve officially crossed the line into sedition.

Sedition on The Right
Openly advocating acts of sedition has become the conservatives’ main political stock in trade over the past year. (The SPLC offers a strong summary here.) You hear it everywhere from Rush to Glenn to Michelle Malkin to Michelle Bachman. Everybody on the right is now roundly convinced that the fairly-elected President of the United States isn’t even a citizen. He’s a Muslim, and thus in treasonous league with terrorists. The main goal of his administration is to turn the country over to the One World Government. He’s a socialist. He’s a fascist. All of these are direct attacks on Obama’s fundamental legitimacy and authority to lead the country — and thus a deliberate incitement to revolt against his administration.

These narratives are coupled with a rising us-versus-them blaming of progressives for all the problems of the country. These days, the screeds typically sound like free-market fundamentalists freebasing Hitler: they’re clouded over with the typical eliminationist vitriol that reduces liberals to subhuman vermin that must be violently exterminated from the body politic in order to restore the virtue of the country. (For those who groove on that sort of thing, there’s even a slight dash of anti-Semitism in the mix.) This is dangerous stuff. And in the context of the conservatives’ longstanding effort to delegitimize the government, it’s also an open invitation to sedition.

This seditious intent is expressed even more directly in the increasingly overt firearms displays at right-wing events. The media took to their fainting couches, aghast, when a small handful of people showed up packing heat at last summer’s Tea Party disruptions. Now, we’ve advanced the point where not one, but two, 100% gun-toting marches on Washington, DC are planned for this coming April 19. Their organizers are hoping the marches will draw tens of thousands of armed protestors. Get used to seeing guns in the streets wherever the law allows — because the conservatives have told their base explicitly that they need to be “exercising their rights” on this front to the fullest extent. The right to carry guns in public is now an essential symbol of how the the right defines freedom.

These escalating armed demonstrations, accompanied by belligerent sloganeering, are a clear signal that these folks are done talking — and, worse, have already decided that democracy is futile, and taking up arms is the only appropriate response to the threats we now face. They’re carrying weapons to scare us weak-kneed girly libs into submission, and to show us they mean business. Growing up in gun country, I was taught at my daddy’s knee that when someone says they’re going to shoot you, it’s always a good idea to take them at their word and handle yourself accordingly. Right now, I think that’s good advice for anybody in America who considers themselves a member of the reality-based community.

But it’s not just armed individuals. They’re also forming more and more armed groups, which are gearing up for a fight. For the past five years, armed Minutemen have been usurping the job of the US Border Patrol. And within the past year, according to the SPLC, the number of right-wing militias has more than doubled to over 500, many of which present themselves as alternative law-enforcement posses that are adjunct to the ones staffed by the county sheriffs.

What these folks are telling us is that they no longer recognize the government’s sole franchise on the use of force; and they’re actively organizing to seize at least some of that power for themselves.

Most alarming of all: these right-wing warriors have also advanced to actual target acquisition. This should worry us, because law enforcement and terrorism experts know that when groups like this get to where they’re settling on specific targets, they’re the final stages of gearing up for violent confrontation.

When Bernard Goldberg wrote a book listing the “100 people who are destroying America” — which included some government officials — he was writing a target list with seditious intent. (And at least one guy took him up on it, in his own deranged way.)

When the “spiritual warriors” of the Transformations movement proudly announce that they’ve mapped every town in America — literally creating target maps of “demonic activity” that pinpoint government offices, non-Evangelical houses of worship, clinics, theaters, Indian mounds and sites; or even just households with Muslims, neo-pagans, Goth-baby teenagers, or Obama stickers on their cars — they’re putting us on notice that they’ve identified the specific people and places that need to be “cleansed” in order to purify their communities. According to researchers Rachel Tabachnik and Bruce Wilson, these “transformation” attempts have already become government-level issues in New Jersey, Arizona, Texas, and Hawaii.

At present, they claim that they’re only mapping their neighborhoods so they can pray over us all; and their attempts to take over local government are being done by purely democratic means. But, as has often happened before (yes, the Nazis started out just this way), the day may come when they’ll decide that mere prayer and organizing is not enough. Like any street gang, they’ve taken proprietary responsibility for a piece of turf; and they believe God is holding them accountable for everything that happens there. The resulting performance pressure is a perfect setup to justify more aggressive cleansing tactics if they can’t convert the town by peaceful means.

And some of these groups have already effectively crossed the line, in spirit if not in prosecutable fact. When the Christian dominionists train up “Joel’s Army” by sending their sons to the US armed services so they can get the combat experience they’ll need to set up a worldwide theocracy, that’s evidence of an active plan to effect an armed government takeover. When senior US military officers put their commitment to Jesus ahead of their commitment to uphold the Constitution and regard the military as God’s force in the world, we should be very afraid.

For years now, we’ve dismissed all of this as crazy talk, the rantings of a loony fringe that will never get enough traction to become a material threat to our democracy. But we’re well past the point where it’s no longer quaint and funny, or an embarrassing breach of democratic etiquette that polite people should just ignore.

It’s time to confront the sobering fact that the entire right wing — including the GOP establishment, which encourages, endorses, and echoes these sentiments almost every time its officials appear in public — is now issuing nearly constant invitations to criminal sedition. They’re creating a climate and using language that emboldens the handful of sociopaths in our midst who are always spoiling for a fight. They’ve given their newly-expanded corps of flying monkeys permission to brandish their guns in public, empowered their militias, promised them glory, and are now telling them explicitly which targets to hit.

We’d be idiots not to regard this as an overt threat. Especially when they keep telling us, very explicitly, that they mean it to be. When somebody says they’re going to shoot you, believe them.

We need to start talking about this for what it is, and calling it out whenever it happens. Leonard Zeskind points out that the feds have never been able to make a sedition charge stick against a right-wing group (if the Hutaree are convicted, it’ll be a first); but the first step in stopping sedition is making sure everybody knows exactly what it is when they see it. And that means calling out the S-word every time we see the conservatives defiantly flinging their hands and feet out over that line to score a few cheap political points.

The challenge I once threw down on the conservatives still stands. Do they want a civil war? Are they out to overthrow the US government?

If this is just political grandstanding to energize the base, they’re playing with fire, and they need to bring this incendiary campaign to a screeching halt. Right now. This Mickey Mouse pussyfooting around, play-acting at sedition is criminally dangerous chickenshit politics that puts the short-term needs of the Republican party ahead of the long-term viability of the American democracy they’ve sworn to uphold. In case the party leaders haven’t noticed, their base has taken them as seriously as a heart attack — and they’re genuinely making ready for armed revolt.

On the other hand, if seditious overthrow is what they intend, let them stand up, follow through, and face the charges. They’re either Americans, committed to working in good faith within the democratic process to create our common future; or else they’re seditionists in intention or fact — and thus enemies of the state, plain and simple.

For the good of the country, we cannot continue to let them have it both ways. They need to choose whose side they’re on: America’s, or their own.

Sara Robinson is a Fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future, and a consulting partner with the Cognitive Policy Works in Seattle. One of the few trained social futurists in North America, she has blogged on authoritarian and extremist movements at Orcinus since 2006, and is a founding member of Group News Blog.

http://www.alternet.org/story/146322/guilty_of_sedition_how_the_right_is_undermining_our_government%27s_authority_and_capability_to_run_the_country