How Broken Are We Politically

As the nation was mired in the Great Recession, the number one priority of Congressional Republicans was not fixing the economy, but rather attempting to make damn sure Obama was only a one term president.  The result of this priority?  What may be the most unpopular Congress in history A historic amount of filibusters.  A tepid recovery while Republicans grind the legislative process to a halt.

And with Romney’s main attack on the President being how he failed to fix the economy, this strategy may actually pay off.  Think about what that could mean for our system of politics in the future.  With this being a proven strategy, gridlock could become the norm.  Anytime the opposition party claimed control of the House, or at least kept the Presidents party from obtaining the votes required for cloture in the Senate, they could effectively shut government down and lay the blame at the Presidents feet.  Yes, many of them will get thrown out as well, but in the larger picture, they would really just be “taking one for the team.”

And how does one get elected to Congress in the brave new world that Citizens’ United has created?  Let’s look to Ohio, where Sen. Sherrod Brown is in a very close race for re-election against Josh Mandel, who may be the single worst Senate candidate in America this year.  As the Youngstown Vindicator wrote in their endorsement of Brown:

If there were a dictionary entry for such political mendacity, it could carry the picture of Josh Mandel, Ohio’s current treasurer and the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

….

Mandel was asked about an issue that he has been quite vocal about, the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler Corp. In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Mandel called Brown’s vote for the bailout “un-American.” But he refused to answer the simple question: Had he been in the Senate would he have voted for or against the bailout? A yes or no would have sufficed. He would have been welcome to explain his answer at length — had he chosen to answer. We can only wonder if his tortured evasions of the question were as painful for him as they were for the editors.

There have been three debates between Sen. Brown and Mandel, and unwillingness to answer direct questions seems to be one of Mandel’s few constant features:

When Mandel was asked directly if he would have support the Ryan budget that his own party has endorsed, the 35-year-old newcomer to national politics didn’t give a yes or no

This race should be a blow out.  But….  As read at the Daily Kos:

Watching Josh Mandel stumble through three debates with shifting policy positions and a lack of command of the issues, you have to wonder how this has become a single digit race for Brown. Here’s how: more than $26 million in dark money spent on ads attacking Brown, $20 million of it from secret groups that are concealing the identity of their donors.

From Businessweek.com:

In an election-year awash in money coming from mysterious groups such as American Commitment, Ohio has become the epicenter of secret money and Brown the favored target. Outside groups have spent more than $26 million against him, both parties said. Of that, more than $20 million came from groups that hide the identities of their donors.

It’s an emblem of what has happened in the aftermath of court rulings that have paved the way for unions, corporations, and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections.

“This would not be a race if it were not for that $25 million,” Brown said in an interview. “It would not be on anybody’s map.”

An Ohio resident who comments at the Kos, frenchconnection, spells out why this is so disturbing:

I get the feeling that this whole campaign is Rove and Dick Armey (never has a name been so fitting in the history of names) trying to see if they can just up and buy a Senate seat. They could not have chosen a candidate that is more unqualified and unappealing. Mandel is angry and makes blunders at every move. Nobody likes him, but the dark money has flooded Ohio with so much negative imagery of Brown as a socialist and a radical. I fear that if they are able to make this happen that they will have a model upon which to draw for future campaigns. They are writing the post Citizens’ United blueprint right here in Ohio

20 million dollars of anonymous money to take down one progressive Senator.  Money spent with no threat of backlash, no strings, no “why are you trying to influence politics in Ohio,” no questioning of ulterior motives.

And now to this political landscape we can add the latest missive from the Tea Party.  While Congressional Republicans will act shocked, shocked and offended I tell you, if you suggest that they are sabotaging the economy for political gain, the Tea Party has positively taken ownership of the idea.  The Tea Party Nation recently sent a message from conservative activist Melissa Brookstone to their members.  As ThinkProgress reports:

Now influential Tea Party leaders are throwing caution to the wind and openly lobbying business owners to stop hiring in order to hurt Obama politically. This week, Right Wing Watch picked up on a message Tea Party Nation sent to their members from conservative activist Melissa Brookstone.

In a rambling letter titled “Call For A Strike of American Small Businesses Against The Movement for Global Socialism,” Brookstone urges businesses “not hire a single person” to protest “this new dictator”:

Resolved that: The current administration and Democrat majority in the Senate, in conjunction with Progressive socialists from all around the country, especially those from Hollywood and the left leaning news media (Indeed, most of the news media.) have worked in unison to advance an anti-business, an anti-free market, and an anti-capitalist (anti-individual rights and property ownership) agenda. […]

I, an American small business owner, part of the class that produces the vast majority of real, wealth producing jobs in this country, hereby resolve that I will not hire a single person until this war against business and my country is stopped.

Brookstone cites Democrats’ support of the Occupy Wall Street movement as proof that Obama, media elites, and the like are “against business, private property ownership and capitalism.” Although she fails to explain how a freeze on hiring would send a bold pro-business message, given that such a boycott would further damage the economy and exacerbate high national unemployment.

But these Tea Partiers are only too happy to put politics ahead of the well-being of 14 million unemployed Americans, not to mention the businesses who are looking for qualified workers.

How broken are we?

 

 

 

Scott Adams Proves Once Again That You Can Draw a Funny Comic and Still Be a Moron.

Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert.  Full disclosure:  I like Dilbert.  In fact, when looked at in comparison to the other comic strips my newspaper provides, I’d be willing to say it is my 3rd favorite strip.  (Once again, out of the limited choices my paper provides.  And that isn’t counting Doonesbury, since my newspaper spares the feelings of God fearing conservative kids by putting Doonesbury on the opinion page instead of the comics page.  Of course, they also run rightwing propaganda comic Mallard Fillmore on the Sunday Comics page.  Which I guess is my newspapers way of saying that ducks spouting rightwing talking points is acceptable children’s fodder while humans with progressive views are strictly adults only.  But I digress….)

Much more after the jump…..

Continue reading

Getting Away From Politics for a Bit….

But first, let me point out that the new Gallup tracker has Romney at 51% with likely voters.  That is a 7 point lead.  Call it an outlier or use it for motivation.  Gallup is seeing a race no one else is seeing, not even Rasmussen.  PPP meanwhile has debuted their tracking poll, and the first day has the race deadlocked at 48%.

And because the entire world has gone insane and I just linked to Rasmussen to counter a Gallup poll, I am taking a few days off from politics.  Seriously, linking to Ras just felt like the first time I linked to the HuffPo.  I feel dirty and need a shower.

Perhaps when I start posting about politics again, Romney will have had time to figure out his opinions on equal pay and abortion while discovering a way to make the math add up on his tax plan.

But I doubt it.

At least he has binders full of women!

A Message to Honest Members of the GOP

In the first presidential debate, no matter what your political affiliation happened to be, we could all agree on one thing; Romney won, Obama lost.  We could argue for a week (and some did) over why he lost, or if he really lost on substance or style, and so on, but the fact remains; Romney won, Obama lost.  This was a true bipartisan opinion.  Hell, poor Andrew Sullivan had to be talked back in off the damn ledge judging by his hilariously over the top reaction to the first debate.

Can we agree on that?  After one debate, the scorecard was definitely Romney 1, Obama 0.

So now, on the day after the second debate, I know I am going to hear various things from the right wing spin machine.  “The moderator was in the tank for Obama!” or “There were plants asking questions!” (I’m looking right at you, Malkin.)

So for those honest members of the GOP, I’m asking you to step outside of your right wing media bubble and admit reality.  It may be difficult, but you’ll feel better once you get it off your chest.

Obama beat Romney so badly last night it made Biden/Ryan look like a draw.

I’m not asking you to give up on your guy.  I’m not asking you to vote for Obama. (Although you really probably should, but I doubt I have any chance of changing your mind.)

I’m just asking you to admit reality.  That after two debates, the scorecard now reads Romney 1, Obama 1.  That Obama turned in probably the best debate performance of his political career last night, and Romney stepped on a land mine with his “gotcha” trap that wasn’t.  For christs sake, he got live fact checked by the moderator.

Last time, our guy got smoked.  Last night, it was your guys turn.

Deal with it.

So, Have You Heard About Sensata?

In any sane country, Mitt Romney’s constant mendacity would have already disqualified him from being elected dog catcher, let alone president.  If Mitt Romney told me the sky was blue, I not only would go outside to check, but after seeing the sky was actually blue I would schedule an appointment with an optometrist to see what was wrong with my eyes.

But this is America, not only the land of the low information voter, but also the land where an obvious propaganda machine is the top rated news source.

And so the election for president is now effectively tied.  And while the Sensata story should doom Romney to a landslide loss, the mainstream media, in the tank for Obama of course, will more than likely mainly ignore the story because they aren’t journalists anymore, they are infotainers.  (By the way, does anyone know where American Journalism is buried?  Because I’d like to lay some flowers at the grave.)

Anyway, the workers at Sensata are doing everything they can to get their story out to the American public.  So I will do my part to publicize it.  It is my policy not to ask for shares or likes here at Foster Disbelief, but if this story disturbs you, please either share this post or one of the news stories on Sensata.

There’s a plant in Freeport that makes sensors and controls for cars and airplanes. It’s owned by Sensata Technologies, a company that Bain bought in 2006, somewhere between four and seven years after Mr. Romney left the company. Last year, Sensata announced that it was moving the plant to China at the end of 2012 and laying off all 170 workers, and now those workers are asking Mr. Romney to intervene with his colleagues to save their jobs.  New York Times

Yes, Romney was already gone from Bain when the company bought Sensata.  But these are the practices that Romney instilled at Bain.  From the same NYT piece:

Nonetheless, Mr. Romney remains deeply tied to business decisions like this. As Bain’s founder, he established its business model, which is to wring the maximum efficiency from a company for the benefit of Bain’s investors, even if that means closing plants, shipping jobs to China, and laying off American workers. That’s how private equity often works, and Bain has done it many times before, sometimes to the benefit of a company’s workers, and sometimes to their detriment.

When Bain first led a buyout of Sensata, in fact, it laid off hundreds of American workers and sent their jobs offshore. As the Times reported, the Labor Department spent $780,000 retraining some of the laid-off employees.

In addition, Mr. Romney’s generous retirement agreement ensures that he continues to profit from the deals and decisions that Bain makes. He owns about $8 million worth of Bain funds that hold 51 percent of Sensata’s shares. If Sensata saves money by closing the Freeport plant, that could add money to Mr. Romney’s trust accounts, now or after the election.

Several Sensata workers traveled to the RNC to express their fears.  From the HuffPo:

And that’s how Penniston — who described herself as being apolitical until now — found herself on the outskirts of the Republican National Convention, with three Sensata employees from back home holding signs like “Mitt/Bain Is Shipping My Job To China.”

“I’m a single mother with two daughters, and I don’t know how I’ll support my family,” Penniston, a six-year Sensata veteran, told HuffPost. “I’ll have to move out of state to where there are better paying jobs or go to school. I’m worried about a lot of stuff — food, utilities, juggling bills.”

Outsourcing has emerged as a major theme in the 2012 presidential campaign, with the Obama camp hammering Romney for Bain ventures that either sent or helped send U.S. jobs out of the country. The campaign theme is meant to tap into the resentment and disappointment of workers in communities where factories have closed and jobs have disappeared, laying the blame at the feet of venture capital.

At “Romneyville,” an Occupy Wall Street-style activism hub in Tampa established for the RNC, Penniston was joined by colleagues Tom Gaulrapp, Cheryl Randeker and Bonnie Borman, all of whom made the trek from Illinois and expect to lose their jobs back home soon. As small-town, working-class Midwesterners, the Sensata employees looked a touch out of place among the small sea of anti-establishment, lefty protester types who’d set up tents at the encampment.

In separate interviews, none of the workers volunteered praise for President Barack Obama or attacked the GOP platform generally. Instead, they spoke passionately against Romney and Bain, lamenting the loss of what they described as some of the few remaining manufacturing jobs in their area. When pressed, they said it didn’t matter that Romney hasn’t actually called the shots at Bain for years. He helped found the firm and profited from it, and so they blame him for their impending job losses.

Insult to injury?  Being forced to train your Chinese replacements.  From the Guardian:

The shock of losing a precious job in a town afflicted by high unemployment is always hard. A foundation for a stable family life and secure home instantly disappears, replaced with a future filled with fears over health insurance, missed mortgage payments and the potential for a slip below the breadline.

But for Bonnie Borman – and 170 other men and women in Freeport, Illinois – there is a brutal twist to the torture. Borman, 52, and the other workers of a soon-to-be-shuttered car parts plant are personally training the Chinese workers who will replace them.

It’s a surreal experience, they say. For months they have watched their plant being dismantled and shipped to China, piece by piece, as they show teams of Chinese workers how to do the jobs they have dedicated their lives to.

“It’s not easy to get up in the morning, training them to do your job so that you can be made unemployed,” said Borman, pictured, a mother of three who has worked for 23 years at the Sensata auto sensors plant.

Borman knows her eventual fate in the stricken economy that surrounds Freeport. “I am going to be competing for minimum wage jobs with my own daughter,” she said.

There have been reports that the plant took down the American flag and flew a Chinese flag while training the replacements.  This is not true.  They only took down the American flag.  From Bainport.com:

There seems to be some confusion about whether or not our Sensata plant took down our American flag and replaced it with the Chinese flag. Here is the truth. Sensata took down our American flag on the day they flew in our Chinese replacements that we were forced to train. They put our American flag back up after the Chinese workers left. They never flew the Chinese flag.

And Romney will rake in the cash from the closing.  From ThinkProgress:

Romney held a direct investment in Sensata through one fund titled “Bain Capital Fund IX, L.P.,” dated December 31, 2009, meaning he has likely financially benefited from Bain’s ownership of the company in the past, and could benefit from the plant’s closure and the outsourcing of the jobs to China. According to his 2011 personal financial disclosure, Romney still holds the Bain Capital fund that contains the Sensata investment.

Romney has a history of outsourcing jobs as the chief executive of Bain Capital. The Washington Post reported in June that under Romney’s leadership Bain “invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India.” Other companies in which the firm invested sent jobs to Mexico and other low-wage countries around the world.

While that history might be politically toxic, Romney’s proposals wouldn’t stop the outsourcing of American jobs. In fact, his plan to reform the corporate tax code by instituting a territorial tax system would make it easier for American companies to outsource jobs, while at the same time encouraging them to store even more money in offshore tax havens.

No matter what Mitt Romney’s personal involvement in this particular closing is, the fact remains that this is the Romney legacy at Bain.  For all his talk of job creation and being tough on China, his business career consisted of dismantling American factories and shipping the jobs off to low wage nations.  Does anyone actually think his policies as president would be radically different than his policies at Bain?

As the Daily Kos reports, this story is getting some traction in the media.

Sensata Technologies workers have been fighting for months to let the world know what Bain Capital and Mitt Romney were doing to them: packing up a profitable plant in Illinois and sending the jobs to China, forcing American workers to train the Chinese workers who would ultimately replace them. Mitt Romney still isn’t acknowledging his responsibility, either for the way of doing business he set up at Bain or for the millions he personally has invested in the funds that control Sensata. But the Sensata story is catching fire, and the workers are letting voters know what a Romney jobs plan looks like.

  • Sensata worker Mary Jo Kerr was on The Ed Showon Monday night, saying she had initially liked Romney before she learned his connection to Bain and Sensata. About Romney’s campaign claims, she says that “he’s just a bold-faced liar. He’s going out there saying ‘I’m going to create American jobs’ when no, he’s not, he’s profiting off of jobs going overseas.”The Ed Show will go on the road to Freeport, Illinois, on Friday.
  • Bainport, the camp workers have set up across the street from the Sensata factory, is getting a visit from Sen. Dick Durbin, along with Democratic congressional candidate Cheri Bustos, on Tuesday morning.The Rev. Al Sharpton will visit Bainport on Saturday.
  • Workers not just from Sensata but from other Bain-owned companies rallied outside Bain headquartersin Manhattan on Monday. “I was unemployed for two years and the job at Burlington is the only job I could find. I know I’m not the only one with that experience,” Burlington Coat Factory employee Richard Hooten said. “My mother and I have had to move to a series of smaller and cheaper apartments. Even so, I can’t afford both rent and healthcare. What’s going to happen when these are the only jobs we can find? None of us will be able to get by.”The workers are going to Long Island to tell their stories outside Tuesday night’s presidential debate.

This is the Romney Economy.

 

Presented Without Comment

As you may have noticed if you are a frequent visitor, sometimes an article makes my point much more eloquently than I ever could.  I really have nothing else to add to the article; it stands on its own, but I still want to share it with my readers.  Hence, Presented Without Comment.

The Self-Destruction of the 1 Percent, by Chrystia Freeland in the New York Times:

IN the early 14th century, Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe. At the heart of its economy was the colleganza, a basic form of joint-stock company created to finance a single trade expedition. The brilliance of the colleganza was that it opened the economy to new entrants, allowing risk-taking entrepreneurs to share in the financial upside with the established businessmen who financed their merchant voyages.

Venice’s elites were the chief beneficiaries. Like all open economies, theirs was turbulent. Today, we think of social mobility as a good thing. But if you are on top, mobility also means competition. In 1315, when the Venetian city-state was at the height of its economic powers, the upper class acted to lock in its privileges, putting a formal stop to social mobility with the publication of the Libro d’Oro, or Book of Gold, an official register of the nobility. If you weren’t on it, you couldn’t join the ruling oligarchy.

The political shift, which had begun nearly two decades earlier, was so striking a change that the Venetians gave it a name: La Serrata, or the closure. It wasn’t long before the political Serrata became an economic one, too. Under the control of the oligarchs, Venice gradually cut off commercial opportunities for new entrants. Eventually, the colleganza was banned. The reigning elites were acting in their immediate self-interest, but in the longer term, La Serrata was the beginning of the end for them, and for Venetian prosperity more generally. By 1500, Venice’s population was smaller than it had been in 1330. In the 17th and 18th centuries, as the rest of Europe grew, the city continued to shrink.

The story of Venice’s rise and fall is told by the scholars Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, in their book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty,” as an illustration of their thesis that what separates successful states from failed ones is whether their governing institutions are inclusive or extractive. Extractive states are controlled by ruling elites whose objective is to extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Inclusive states give everyone access to economic opportunity; often, greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity, which creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness.

The history of the United States can be read as one such virtuous circle. But as the story of Venice shows, virtuous circles can be broken. Elites that have prospered from inclusive systems can be tempted to pull up the ladder they climbed to the top. Eventually, their societies become extractive and their economies languish.

That was the future predicted by Karl Marx, who wrote that capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction. And it is the danger America faces today, as the 1 percent pulls away from everyone else and pursues an economic, political and social agenda that will increase that gap even further — ultimately destroying the open system that made America rich and allowed its 1 percent to thrive in the first place.

Go spend a few minutes reading the whole article.  You can read my drivel anytime.