Monday, April 15, 2013

If You Liked Romney's 5 Point Plan, Vote for Obama

This article was originally posted on Policymic, 09/2012

So I watched the RNC.  There were no surprises, thedelusional theatrics of the Paul-bearers aside.  The official selection of Willard Mitt Romney as the presidential candidate of the Republican Party went off without a hitch. 
It's tempting to try to catalogue all the lies spoken, or to attack the retrograde attitudes of the attendees and speakers of the RNC, but to be honest I find nothing particularly rewarding to be found in wading through that morass. Doubtless some people are still surprised by whatever  latest incidence of hateful small-mindedness has emanated from the Republican Party, whether its the harassing of black camera-women, or unsolicited and incorrect opinions on the legitimacy of rape, but better writers than I have that subject covered.
The same goes for Romney himself. If you're truly interested in what exactly he did at Bain Capital or how successful it was, there are plenty of sources. If for whatever reason you want to read 533 of 'Mitten's''s untruths, well, there's a place you can do that too.
Yes, the entire thing was self-congratulatory lies on a scale not to be rivaled until the DNC opens its doors next week, a fact as tiresome as it is true.
 However there were a few points of actual content at the convention, amidst the digs at Obama's supposed kowtowing to the forces of evil and the gratingly repeated references to Romney's frugality. In his acceptance speech, Romney laid out a five point plan he said would create 12 million jobs.  
First, he pledged to make North America energy independent by 2020, using domestic sources of oil, gas, and nuclear power. Setting aside whether or not this may be technically possible, it's certainly not politically feasible for someone operating within the narrow bounds of actions acceptable to the US political system.  But that's his claim, and good for him, I'm sure it's a sound plan - obviously his competition must agree somewhat, since the Obama administration has opened the Arctic ocean to oil drilling, advocated for "clean coal," and promoted the use of nuclear power, supporting the construction of two new nuclear plants in Georgia.  Presumably the Obama administration also agrees with the claim that too much regulation of energy producers is a bad thing, since the EPA is now launching fewer enforcement actions than any year since 2002.
Second, Romney had a few words to say about education, claiming that every parent should have a choice about what school their children attend.  Unless this is a subtle statement in support ofKelly Williams-Bolar and Tanya McDowell— both black women imprisoned for sending their children to school districts outside their own — then it's safe to say that the Romney campaign is making the promotion of charter schools part of their platform. 
And why wouldn't they? Charter schools are popular at the moment (regardless of their actual results). So popular, in fact, that the Obama administration has vocally supported them,, as well as calling for "merit pay" for teachers, another educational issue supported by Republicans. It should go without saying that claims about the vast and malignant power of teacher's unions made at the RNC fall rather flat when the unions' supposed pawn in the White House is in opposition to them on their most important issues.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Romney's third point in his plan has also been shared by Obama.  Mittens pledged to "make trade work for America by forging new trade agreements." 
Certainly he didn't mean replacing NAFTA, which has had such ruinous effects on workers in the US as well as Mexico, with something more fair.  After all, no rational businessman would want to be forced to hire American workers who might demand pensions or safe workplaces when he could hire Mexicans willing to work for a pittance since being forced off their farms.  And we do know that Romney is a rational businessman, willing to drive a mile to save fifty cents on paperclips as we heard last night. So we can presume that any new trade agreements will be more of the same — "free" trade that eliminates protective tariffs and allows for easy movement of capital (but not labor!) across borders. 
The thing is, the four years of the Obama administration have seen exactly that, with trade dealsbeing signed with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama over the protests of domestic unions and foreign workers. A proposed free trade agreement covering much of the Pacific basin, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, is also being negotiated.
Romney's last two points in his plan — cutting the deficit and supporting small business — are shared by Obama as well. Both of them are agreeable phrases that always poll well but are fairly hazy when it comes time to translate them into policy.
Both campaigns accuse each other of proposing economic plans that will result in monstrous increases in the national debt and budget deficit (and of "increasing taxes on the middle class" for that matter) and it's entirely possible both are partially correct, given the history of the last 12 years. Both campaigns accuse the other of destroying small business, Obama through burdensome taxation and Romney through promoting cutthroat competition with larger more powerful companies. 
The truth is that both of these issues are red herring — national debt and deficits do not work the same way household debt does, and small businesses are simply not the pathfinders to economic recovery nor are they even the most important constituent of the economy.  When either campaign brings up these platitudes, it's best to take whatever they say with a large grain of salt.
About the only concrete policy difference outlined in the five points plan was the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. This is particularly funny in light of how closely it was modeled on Romney's own health plan in Massachusetts, after originally being conceived by the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation some years back. 
And that really sums up this election in a nutshell — the Republican Party of 2012 is running against its own platforms and policy proposals from elections past. No matter how many aggressively ignorant Republicans shout about the Constitution, no matter how much whinging about the unfathomable evil of a Romney administration Democrats produce, from now until November, the difference between your two options is depressingly slim. You can vote for drone strikes, bank bailouts, and "free" trade, or you can vote for drone strikes, bank bailouts, "free" trade, and a coiffed hairdo. Democracy!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

What it costs to gain a seat in Congress:

Democracy of, by and for the wealthy

This article was originally published on Liberation News, 04/13/2013
The U.S. political establishment likes to claim that this country is one of if not the most democratic states in the world. Other countries opposing its agenda are lambasted as “undemocratic” whatever their actual governments and objectives may be, and the “spread of democracy” is often cited as pretext for U.S. military and covert intervention in other nations.
At home, pundits and politicians say that the U.S. system of representative government and universal suffrage guarantees every citizen a voice in government. Domestic voices calling for revolutionary change—especially those who advocate moving beyond the capitalist system—are labeled as opponents of democracy, just as governments of countries targeted for regime-change are.
Much of the legitimacy of the current system of government in the U.S. is based around this story—that the U.S. government and society is democratic and that the wishes of the people are carried out by their representatives. So how accurate is this story, and how democratic is the USA really?
A study recently conducted by, a group devoted to campaign finance reform, revealed that in the 2012 election, the average cost of a successful Senate campaign was a staggering $10,476,451. A seat in the House cost, on average, $1,689,580. The group compared these figures to the median household income in the U.S., $52,762, and the median home value, $186,200.
What do these numbers mean? Obviously the cost of running an election campaign for national office in the U.S. puts it far beyond the means of the average citizen. Many workers, especially those working minimum-wage jobs and living paycheck to paycheck, would be unable to leave work long enough to run for election and still pay their bills, even leaving aside the massive expenditures required to sustain a campaign.
It follows from this that to win high office in the United States, you must either be (at least) a millionaire, or be able to seek and win the approval of people or organizations with millions to spend on a political campaign. Since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, corporations can spend without limit to make sure that candidates who will reliably serve their interests are elected.
'The principle governing this country's supposed democracy is far less “one person, one vote” than it is “money talks,"'
This ensures that the views and demands of the working class receive minimal attention in national government. The principle governing this country's supposed democracy is far less “one person, one vote” than it is “money talks,” and the end result of that principle is that voters may choose between two or three people who have been vetted and found acceptable by the established representatives of the capitalist class. In other words, we get to choose who in elected office will be oppressing us for the next two or four years.
This sort of false choice is emblematic of the problems inherent in most freedoms to be found in an ostensibly liberal capitalist society. Citizens are often (although not always) free to consume whatever news sources they like—although most of the news is presented from the viewpoint of people wealthy enough to own a printing press, broadcasting station or TV network. Citizens are free to go where they want—if they can afford to. 
Democracy for the minority
The Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin said: “In capitalist society, under the conditions most favorable to its development, we have more or less complete democracy in the democratic republic. But this democracy is always bound by the narrow framework of capitalist exploitation and consequently always remains, in reality, a democracy for the minority, only for the possessing classes, only for the rich.” 
This is a problem that cannot be solved without a revolutionary struggle against capitalism, a struggle grounded in militant action in the streets against false choices and against the rule of, by and for the rich. It must be a fight for real majority rule.