Yearly Archives: 2011

2011: Did Nothing Congress

‘tis the season for retrospectives. That is not intended to be anti-Christmas, but so many of us aren’t participating this year, I’d just like to move on.

In some ways, 2011 felt like 1979 – just a preamble to 1980. An election year. A first term, Nobel Prize winning Democrat in the White House. Lousy economy. Bailouts in the news. Religious fanatics, conspiring with the Republicans to hold the country hostage. All we need now is an aging, former liberal Democrat, union member, once divorced, actor turned racist, anti-abortion, anti-welfare, anti-protest, NRA member, governor and serial presidential candidate, to step forward and take credit for turning the economy around, while increasing the size of government and national debt. Enough of looking back to the past, let’s get to looking back to the present.

America held hostageStarting with the hostage situation.

The Democrats in the Senate, led by Harry Reid, have a small majority, 51 to 47. As we know from our civic lessons, all a majority in the Senate gets you is a better selection of offices  – it takes 60 votes to pass anything. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, stated early on, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Using filibusters and secret holds, the Republicans have effectively shut down the Senate and any chance at ending the greatest depression since the invention of Prozac (aka: Bush’s Recession; Obama’s Economy; Why life sucks; Economic reality of the 99%). Time will tell if Republicans’ efforts to further destroy the American economy, combined with voter suppression and gerrymandering, will be enough to unseat this popular sitting president. We could, of course, just poll the “people” who will be doing most of the voting next year, corporate America, and we’d find out quickly how we are going to vote.

House Republicans of the 112th Congress are led by John Boehner and Eric Cantor and hold a solid majority, 242 to 192.

“The numbers: Republicans have introduced 44 bills on abortion, 99 on religion, 71 on family relationships, 36 on marriage, 67 on firearms/gun control, 522 on taxation, 445 on ‘government investigations,’ and zero on job creation.” – DailyKos

Politifact, don’t you just love them, corrected the DailyKos post, stating “In reality, then, six of these seven jobs-related categories included more bills than either abortion or marriage, and four of the seven included more bills than religion, family relationships or firearms.” (Author’s note: none of them passed.)

It is is little wonder that no polling company can find enough Americans who approve of Congress to cover the margin of error – currently about 5%.

“Congress is ending what may be its least productive year on record after government shutdown threats, the collapse of debt-reduction talks and little action to fix the worst U.S. economy since the Great Depression. Just 62 bills were signed into law through November this year, meaning that 2011 may fall short of the 88 laws enacted in 1995, the lowest number since the Congressional Record began keeping an annual tally in 1947.” – Bloomberg

“The latest Resume of Congressional Activity shows that from Jan. 5 through Nov. 30, 2011, the House of Representatives passed only 326 of the 4,191 bills introduced, the lowest number of bills passed in the last 10 non-election years. The Senate had its least productive year since 1995, passing only 368 of 2,336 bills introduced. “Bills” includes all forms of legislation, including bills, simple resolutions, joint resolutions and concurrent resolutions.” – Robert Longley

The combined annual expense to operate the House and Senate is about $5 billion. See if you think you got your money’s worth. Here’s everything they accomplished (bills passed both houses and were signed or expected to be signed by President Obama):

  • Extended the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act through May 31, 2011, then through June 30, 2011 (separate bills).
  • Named eleven post offices and two courthouses, while designating another courthouse under construction (separate bills).
  • Extended the Patriot Act until December 8, 2011 and added authority for roving electronic surveillance.
  • Amended the Continuing Appropriations Act to keep the government open through March 18, 2011, then through April 15, 2011, then through September 30, 2011, then through October 1, 2011, then through October 4, 2011, then through November 18, 2011, then through September 30, 2012. They also had to pass it one other time to include certain agencies they left off other times. (All, of course, separate bills.) In doing so, they also funded disaster relief, import restrictions from Burma, limiting loan guarantees, giving the USPS a reprieve from having to make a $5.5 billion payment to their pension fund, and, of course, each time, waiting until the last moment and cutting some agencies for no particular reason other than a lobbyist didn’t tell them not to do so.
  • Extended the Surface Transportation Act that funds highway construction from the Highway Trust Fund through September 30, 2011, then through March 31,2012, while adding some things the money could be spent on as long as it wasn’t mass transit, plus, for some reason, added money so mostly rich people could fly on charter jets from “under served” airports underwritten by the government.
  • Extended the Airport and Airway Extension Act through April 1, 2011, then through June 30, 2011, then through July 31, 2011, then through September 16th, then through October 31, 2011, etc. (each separate bills)- in one of the bills, they also limited an amount for which a victim can sue should they be attacked by a terrorist when an airplane is involved.
  • Repealed the IRS code removing the requirement to report purchases or rents of $600 or more; and increase the health care tax credit for people less than 400% of the poverty line in 2013. Later, they repealed a 3% withholding requirement on certain payments to certain vendors for certain payments somehow indirectly related to healthcare.
  • Funded defense department spending through September 30, 2011, then again, but this time buried in a continuing resolution, then finally… (see last bullet)
  • Appointed three people and reappointed another to the Smithsonian Board of Regents (separate bills).
  • Changed the date when the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act was to end to December 31, 2011.
  • Authorized appropriations for the CIA and other intelligence agencies through September 30, 2011.
  • Passed the Budget Control Act, which set up that crazy super committee to cut spending, but it didn’t, so spending will automatically be cut from defense and discretionary spending, but not Social Security or Medicare, after the next president takes office, unless Congress and the President change it first.
  • Restored GI Bill Fairness providing educational assistance for post 9/11 vets.
  • Amended the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act to apply the limit on lead in children’s products, while giving it greater authority, it also provided greater discretion for future administrations could undo it.
  • Passed Patent “reform” changing the patent award to the “first to invent” instead of “first to file” as long as the “first to invent” did so within a year of the “first to file.”
  • Re-authorized spending to combat autism.
  • Amended Title IV of Social Security Act to allow spending on study and assistance for children born to methamphetamine or living in abusive foster care situations, plus some other stuff, minus some other stuff.
  • Extended block grants to states for temporary assistance of needy families and related programs through December 31, 2011.
  • Authorized Department of Veterans Affairs to lease some office space, required them to audit some programs and extended authority to provide some services for homeless and mentally ill vets.
  • Extended duty-free treatment for goods brought in from certain countries, while also allowing states to change their rules so they could recover overpayment from Medicare.
  • Approved the USA-Korea; USA-Colombia; and the USA-Panama free trade agreements.
  • Extended the Parole Commission.
  • Clarified the jurisdiction of the Interior Department over the Cragin Dam and reservoir; clarified the authority of the Forest Service regarding allowing ski areas and collection off fees; clarified the provisions related to litigation against Federal officers, agencies or courts; clarified the appeal time in civil actions to which US officers or employees are parties, and directed the Interior Department to allow a special break for a water project in Utah (separate bills).
  • Amended the Veteran’s Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment to be consistent with Social Security COLA.
  • Authorized the Department of Homeland Security, I kid you not, to create “Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards” that pay travel expenses for businesses in Asia-Pacific under the belief that is good for US economic growth.
  • Amended the Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act to require sexual assault risk-reduction and response training and allow the establishment of victims advocates.
  • Amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow spouses and children of active-duty service abroad in the Armed Forces to petition for permanent resident status and not be deported while their spouse or parent was fighting one of our wars.
  • Authorized a Gold Medal to honor the Montford Point (NC) Marines for their service during WWII.
  • Authorized the vessels competing in the 2011 America’s Cup to represent USA.
  • And finally, they betrayed every American by passing the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2012. Buried in the bill to fund our troops, defense contractors and the rest of the military industrial complex, our leaders conspired to find a way to deny all of us our rights to due process. Our President, any of our presidents can now abduct you, ship you off to Guantánamo, torture you and detain you without charge or trial “until the end of hostilities.” The hostilities have gone on for more than a decade and few politicians, and even fewer lobbyists want this undeclared war to ever end. The bill does, however, specifically declare war on us and every other suspicious person in the world, wherever they are. Our President and our future presidents are required, yes, required to use military force on anyone who is a part, has aided or associated with anyone who has made a belligerent act against the United States or any of its partners. Be careful you don’t dial a wrong number or a missile from a drone may find your front door. Why, 10 years in to an undeclared war on a tactic, do we need to give presidents more power? If the war were to save liberty, we have just surrendered. Should you have the audacity of hope that the Supreme Court will overturn this? There is no reason to hope. The Supremes have always looked the other way on war powers and, recently, undeclared war powers. The only audacious hope in this bill is for President Obama to end all hostilities – please pray for peace on earth. While you are at it, pray that our President doesn’t decide Occupy is supporting hostilities.

Here’s some of what they didn’t or haven’t passed for 2011:

  • Any aspect of President Obama’s Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Initiative. Especially,  the Doc Fix, passed every year for more than a half a century, and will mean that doctors and medical providers will receive 27 percent less beginning January 1, 2011 and causing all kinds of problems for providers and their patients; and the extension of the last year’s payroll tax cut or President Obama’s version – the result is a tax increase on everyone in the US making below $106,800 have a tax increase. The House passed a version addressing these issues wrapped up with a bunch of toxic partisan riders; the Senate stripped out all the partisan junk, which they said publicly that they would, shorten the bill’s effect to two months, sent it back to the House and adjourned until January; now Boehner & Company is pitching a fit – stay tuned.
  • Any aspect of immigration reform.
  • Most of the 200 Dodd-Frank rules protecting us from another Wall Street collapse.
  • Doing anything to help the millions of Americans in foreclosure.
  • Doing anything to correct the problem that prevent student loans from being included in bankruptcy.
  • Voting on 80 Federal Judgeships vacancies with 43 pending nominations including some positions that have been vacant since January of 2009, or 77 political appointments that had cleared committee, but were still under secret hold by Republican Senators.
  • Closing any of the corporate tax loopholes given to the wealthiest corporations.
  • Any positive movement to stop or reverse the offshoring of American jobs.
  • Any positive reaction to the horrible events around the world that should have led to common sense gun laws.
  • Any positive reaction to the Fukishima meltdown which should have led to common sense nuclear regulation – we are still building ours in Georgia.
  • Any positive reaction to the Gulf Spill that would lead to common sense laws limiting offshore drilling.
  • Any movement on decriminalizing, medical or otherwise, marijuana, which if anything, is a gateway drug to the prison system.
  • Any movement on tax reform, campaign finance reform, or affirming that corporations are not and never have been people.
  • Any movement on anything to do with the greatest threat to us all: man-made global climate change.

On to politics.

Relax, I’m not going to review the Republican circus, though I truly believe it would have been more fun and there would have been better candidates if Fox had sponsored it as, “American Political Idol” complete with Simon and toll-free numbers for weekly voting.

Ending on a more positive note, here are just a few of good things that occurred in 2011:

  • We didn’t invade Iran.
  • Occupy Wall Street for protesting “social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, as well as corruption, and the undue influence of corporations” (wikipedia) which has spread to hundreds of cities around the world.
  • Our troops have officially come home from Iraq – a serious reason to cheer – leaving only about 17,000-20,000 State Department personnel and their private and well-armed security forces.
  • Osama Bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi are no longer justification for war. Even Kim Jong Il is gone. They’ll have to find a new boogieman.
  • We no longer have to pretend Pakistan is our good friend, but have been reminded that every nation with nuclear capacity should be.
  • We haven’t caused serious harm to the “Arab Spring.”
  • Teapublicans were unsuccessful at shutting down our government or forcing us into default and causing a worldwide financial meltdown beyond our imagination – at least, so far.
  • We haven’t yet approved the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • The multi-trillion dollar bailouts have worked their magic as CEO pay finally shoots up another 36.5% last year.
  • Foreclosures have actually slowed down some in some states.
  • Some of the 13+ million long-term unemployed have joined the 10+ million who already stopped going to the unemployment office causing the unemployment rate to drop way down to 8.6% – look for more to stop looking next year as five million will lose their unemployment benefits and the rate could fall to 6 or 7% by election date.
  • The Euro hasn’t failed, yet, but has slipped enough against the dollar to make those in the 1% get to save big time on their next European vacation. Stay tuned, what Germany couldn’t do in war, they may soon do by banking.
  • Sara Palin, Jeb Bush nor Haley Barbour have yet announced their candidacy.

Happy holidays.

 

Update December 23, 2011; 8:51 AM EST: After wasted expensive days of politcal banter, threats, encouragements, puppeted talking points, invented distortions, face-saving attempts and the like, it appears that the Boehner (not pronounced boner) is going to allow the House to vote on the Senate bill authorizing a two month extension of unemployment benefits, the payroll tax cut and the docfix. The bill also would require President Obama and the State Department to make a decision on whether to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, which is unlikely to be authorized, as the required studies by the EPA and the State Department will not have been completed in two months, but should allow the electioneering Republicans to point at the President as a job killer when, as expected and likely required by law, he rejects permitting. As an aside, there has been a majority willing to vote for this measure for some time. Boehner, however, did not want the bill passed by Democrats and reasoned Republicans who would split from the Teapublican caucus. This story will be updated again, once the bill passes or fails – or, when the author returns from holiday travel.

What's the tipping point?

Last week I canceled a trip to be with our grandchildren for Thanksgiving. The tipping point that forced the decision was a combination of unexpected medical co-pays on top of some un-budgeted car repair. While heartbreaking, it was not particularly serious and we expect to visit in a couple of weeks, but it made me wonder. I have made a living as a marketing version of the canary in a coal mine – a preeminent consumer of sorts. For whatever reason, I seem to experience things months or more before others. If something so insignificant could force my decision, could we, the formerly solid middle class, be on the edge of a more dramatic shift?

Hard working families all over our great country are facing tough economic decisions every day. Uncomfortable decisions. Decisions that seem different in scale than they used to be. Admittedly, living within a budget is a responsible and necessary way for each of us to live and manage our money. But what cumulative toll has the horrible economy taken on the type and frequency of such difficult decisions?

The Census Bureau defines poverty as $22,350 annually for a family of four, and near-poor as people within 200% above the poverty line. Officially, one in three Americans is poor or near-poor. Unofficially, it is at least one in two. The real life definition should also include people who are one unexpected event from being without money. Cash poor is not the same thing as poor, but it feels like it for a time and easily can become permanent.

Most of us have have taken some hits in the last few years. Someone in the family was laid off. Someone got sick. Someone entered the work force, but couldn’t find work adequate to pay their college loans. Credit lines dried up with house value. The house didn’t sell. The investment was made worthless. Your health insurance was cancelled, or only offered at a price greater than your house payment. But you endured. Party on.

There are Dominossteps down the ladder for the middle class near poor. Liquidate stocks and savings. Cash in retirement accounts. Sell your house for a smaller house. Sell that house for an apartment. Then a smaller apartment. Give up the life insurance you’ve paid on for twenty years. Give up the private schools. Gave up the extra car. Give up Whole Foods for Publix, then BigLots, then dumpster diving for food. Give up the malls for Walmart, then the charity store. Cancel cable and the newspaper. Unhook the land lines. Postpone preventative maintenance – dental care, health check ups, car tune-ups or new tires, overlook the minor car accident and cash the check. Let the dog die.

The middle class can take some hits. Americans are resilient. We can get smaller and leaner. We can do without. We can ask for help from friends or family. Wishing won’t change it. Remembering accrued disappointment makes it worse.

There must be a point in the spiral – the time or convergence of events, that leaves no options. The moment when all that you have worked for is gone. The time when you change economic classes. When there is no pretending.

A tipping point was first defined in physics as that “small amount of weight to a balanced object that can cause it to suddenly and completely topple.” Al Gore speaks of a tipping point for our environment – when it is too late to avoid the catastrophe that awaits. Is there a tipping point for the middle class? A moment when one extra burden, no matter its size or intended consequence, can cause millions, perhaps, tens of millions of families, to suddenly and completely topple?

What could be the tipping point?

  • This Great Recession is now entering its third year. Extended unemployment benefits, pitiful as they are, are about to expire and we do not have a Congress that will extend them.
  • The temporary payroll tax break is also expiring next month. The jury is out whether the Tea Party will make a deal to extend this tax break for working Americans. In real terms, the disappearance of payroll tax relief will cost the “average” worker about $2,000 next year. Will that be the tipping point?
  • The Bush tax cuts, now in their 10th year, are set to expire at the end of 2012. Included with the 4.6% increase in tax for the wealthy, is a 3% tax increase for most of the middle class – about $2,600 for a family of four – could that be the tipping point?
  • If the Tea Party holds Medicare hostage and Congress doesn’t pass the Medicare “doc-fix” by the end of 2011, something that has been passed every year for almost half a century, doctor and hospital reimbursements will be reduced by 27%. Will your doctor accept Medicare? Will that be the tipping point for millions of our seniors who are barely making ends meet?
  • Gas prices are rising again. Will that tip us?
  • The rising price of rents?
  • Next year’s expected Health Insurance co-pay increases?
  • The rising average credit card rates, fees and penalties? Or debit card charges?
  • Or will it be just one more group of layoffs that causes consumption to drop just enough for business to grind to a halt?
  • Or maybe it will just be something simple happening to one more family. A child who comes home sick from school that causes you to miss work that gets you fired? A speeding ticket that must be paid and causes you to miss a payment on a credit card that causes the rates on all your cards to go to 33.65%, plus late payments and interest on late payments, that can never be caught up? Or your furnace goes out? Or will a parent lose their job and helping them puts your family in the economic spiral?  Or, God forbid, you lose your spouse?

Just a few years ago, the monthly budget’s rounding error for the middle class near-poor was in the hundreds. Now, every penny is counted. They had a stack of credit cards with zero interest rates and seemingly unlimited credit lines. An unexpected expense would just go on the card. Since that time, home values have shrunk and with it, credit lines and flexibility.

The middle class near-poor may not look much different at a casual glance. They may decorate trees for Christmas, but they’ll wrap empty gifts under the tree. 2011 will be another year when Christmas giving will be postponed or homemade. The middle class near-poor are just one more bad thing away from the bottom and none of us are prepared for how to make it there. There is no longer any social safety net. The food kitchens are full and the pantries emptying more quickly than filled. Our government has borrowed all they will borrow and nothing else is expected until after the fall election, or the next.

How long will it take to recover? If all things go well, and they may not, the US economy will take a decade or more just to get back to where we were when Bush left. Another decade to get back to where we were when Clinton left. Given the life expectancy in poverty, two decades will go a long way toward wiping out poverty. The economy can come back more quickly, but only if and only when everyone can have a job and be back in the economy as consumers.

Trying not to leave this story on a gloomy note, there are things you can do.

  • You can join the 99%, occupy and march on Washington and call for repealing laws that caused the grotesque financial inequity in our nation.
  •  You can demand your Congress person do every stinking little thing they can do or spend to get rid of the extra weights on the middle class, the near-poor and those already in poverty. Tell them to stop listening to lobbyists and do what is right for the people they should be representing. Tell them to shut up with the election year fear mongering on issues meaningless to the economy and do something good before we vote them out of office.  Tell them specifically to vote for what’s left of Obama’s jobs initiative, for extension of jobless benefits, extension of the payroll tax cuts, the Medicare “doc-fix” and making permanent the Bush tax cuts for the middle class. Tell them to keep their hands off of Wall Street reform that protects American consumers. Tell them to stop trying to undermine health care reform, but be part of the Congress that will fix it. Tell them to break up the companies too large and with too many lobbyists to fail. Tell them to end special breaks for dirty industries. Tell them to quit wasting money on wars we don’t pay for. Tell them to keep investing in schools and re-training. And most of all, tell them to get to work on the peoples’ business.
  • Watch for the warning signs and stay in touch with those friends who seem to drop out of your circle – they’ll need your friendship.
  • Volunteer and help those who need it now.
  • Get involved with non-profits – each of which is still reeling from the terrible economy and from Bush ending the inheritance tax, but that’s another story. Help people who can’t find work to start a small businesses and teach them how to make it successful. Help feed the hungry. Help teach, mentor and take care of children. Get involved to help seniors and the disabled.
  • If you are in the top 30%, keep giving to charities which help people. Put some of your money toward micro-loans to launch new small businesses.
  • If you are a 1% executive, it is time to fire your lobbyist, take a pay cut and use the money to hire people who need jobs – especially those who have been out of work for a while or been fighting our wars.
  • If you think you are at the tipping point, reach out to agencies who can help you land more softly and not on the street.

Debate Du Jour

cbs-debate-screenshotAfter a long day of college football and poignant play-by-play announcer comments on the rape of children and the effect on Joe Paterno, an estimated 612 channel changes between games – each accompanied by a “where are my glasses moment,” an unrehearsed comedy segment using picture-in-picture mode on our not-wide-enough-screen-TV, and a frustrating trip to NetFlix “New Arrivals” which all pre-date the birth of the parents of our grand-children, we decided on a survivor show: the “CBS News/National Journal South Carolina Republican Debate.”

Eight candidates. Each seeking to find the heart of the Republican voter and ride their hate toward final victory in November to overthrow four long years under the iron-will of the Democrat (insert your preferred insult here) who has spent his entire time in office trying to undo the problems created by the last Republican vice-president and his henchman, George Bush.

Can Cain harass Bachmann saying “9-9-9” or by “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan”? Can Perry remember what he’d forgotten? Can Huntsman get a question from the moderator? Can Santorum get past audience snickers? Can Newt be more sanctimonious? Can Bachmann think of anything new to say? Can Paul continue to sound sensible? Can Romney again calm the debate with the black hole of his personal charisma? And will they, one-by-one, convincingly kiss the “ring” of Jim DeMint? These were the questions we wanted answered.

The subject: national security and foreign policy. The entire debate, including commercials, was an hour and a half. You can watch it at CBS.com, read the transcript, their fact check or winners and losers. Here’s what I heard.

  • Bachmann, Huntsman and Santorum recognize that foreign policy is complicated and that it is dangerous to give simple answers to complicated questions.
  • Romney and Cain recognize that it is best not to answer questions, simple or otherwise, with specifics and that it is dangerous in politics to give answers, simple or otherwise.
  • Newt prefers to agree in general with other candidates so he’s not really on the record, while speaking as if he knows the inside jargon the others don’t.
  • Perry worked very hard this week and delivered a few carefully rehearsed lines reinforced by the extensive experience that he gained as governor of a state where he can see Mexico.
  • Paul spoke his mind clearly and saw no reason to give long answers to questions that were, inherently, absurd.

For specifics on issues, I carefully charted the candidates’ answers below. Enjoy:

Chart: How would you prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons?

Chart: Your appraisal of the combat situation in Afghanistan and how would you change it?

Chart: Sending troops into Pakistan?

Chart: Foreign Aid?

Chart: Thinking outside the box?

Chart: Listening to the right people before making a decision?

Chart: Torture?

Chart: Are we engaged in financial warefare with China?

Chart: Spending?

Chart: The Arab Spring?

Chart: Syria?

Chart: What about Gitmo?

Note: this post was updated on Monday, November 14, 2011 to correct a misspelled word in the torture chart.

We are only represented by pollsters

John Boehner with fingers in his earsYou share your Congressperson with 705,761 neighbors1. How could they possibly represent you?

Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution states that “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand2” Clearly, the founding fathers, felt that 30,000 was a pretty good number. Power, true to its nature, was something our Congresses seldom wished to share. Once the House got to 435 members, they kept it that way. Had they stayed with the intent of our fore parents, the next House session would convene with 10,233 members. Wouldn’t that be cool?

The districts would be way too small to require huge campaign spending – now averaging $1,362,239 per winner3. Anyone with a good facebook following could run. Party affiliation wouldn’t have the clout and new political parties could spring up in your block or your college dorm. Candidates would be forced to speak to the mob – and pander to the mob. Instead of representing big bizness, they would have to represent you and your bizness. Candidates would have to address local issues. With an average of only 22,500 of voting age and not in prison in each district, your vote would matter again. Minorities wouldn’t necessarily be minorities in their districts. The House of Representatives could look and sound like us, rather than them. Your representative wouldn’t have to be rich or a career brown-noser to run. And, it would be so much harder for a just say no do nothing Congress to get away with it. Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Other than the obvious out-and-out bribery, lobbyists are represented by the House of Representatives because they know your Congressperson. Lobbyists buy your representatives and their staff meals, take them on trips, pay them to speak at their corporate outings and just hang out with them at the club. We don’t get to do that, because once they go to DC, they only come back for weekends – and they don’t want to hang out with us.

The only way we are represented in Congress is by pollsters. Makes me want to be a bit nicer to them were they to call, but they can’t. Like 26.6% of American households4, I don’t have a landline phone anymore, just my cellphone. In general, little polling is conducted district by district anyway. Most of what my Congressperson knows is what everyone with a landline telephone is thinking, not me and certainly not my neighbors.

In fairness, some Congresspeople have their staff report what people are pissed off about who call their office, email or fax.  Seldom are those reports broken down by voters in their district and none of them account for the wacko robofax, emails or tweets they get from sponsored activism.

We could get together district by district and hire a lobbyist to represent us. Someone who we choose and pay to tell our Congressperson what we are thinking. But that is what we pay our Congressperson to do.

Then there’s that problem with what our representatives are actually doing anyway. Being qualified to serve, no longer requires experience in the complicated machinations of government. No longer do our representatives need an understanding of law, lawmaking and constitutional issues; foreign policy; navigating the bureaucracy; civil service; the workings of the Treasury, or even the difference between the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. No longer do we seek representatives who are curious, smart, resourceful, schooled in history, well-read or well-traveled. Those are skills unnecessary in service to we the people.

These days, Congress is run by professional staffers and lobbyists. The staffers control their schedule, write their speeches and tell them what side of each issue they should be on. Staffers working with lobbyists write all the legislation. If you need something done, best go straight to a staffer, though unelected, there’s a much better chance they’ll represent your issue. That is, if your issue is something that will generate campaign contributions.

1Population based on 2010 Census and after redistricting is completed.
2Slaves were counted as three-fifths of one person.
3 Campaign Finance Institute – By the way, it cost $7,500,0052 per Senate winner. If you took the NY Senate race out of the average, it only averaged $4,737,365 per winner.
4 CDC Survey

Hart to Cain: Don't you dare

Photo of Donna Rice sitting on the knees of Gary Hart on the ship Monkey Business, the climactic image that ended Hart's 1988 presidential campaign.“Follow me around. I don’t care. I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’ll be very bored.”

That was presidential candidate Senator Gary Hart’s famous dare to the press corp in response to rumors of an affair. Funny thing about a dare to journalists, they’ll take it. They still do.

When reporters for the Miami Herald, who were already staking out Hart’s DC townhouse, broke a story about seeing a woman leaving the same evening of the dare, Hart claimed they couldn’t have seen both entrances and didn’t have the facts. Which, of course, led to the publishing of the famous photo of Senator Hart on a Miami dock wearing a tee-shirt from the boat “Monkey Business” and with 29-year old actress Donna Rice* in his lap. A week later he was out of the race.

Last week, another presidential contender dared the press.

During Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.

The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. – Politico story by Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman, Anna Palmer and Ken Vogel.

Addressing the National Press Club, Mr. Cain said that he “had never sexually harassed anyone.” He said that, while he was chairman of the National Restaurant Association, he had been, “falsely accused of sexual harassment.” That the charges were “thoroughly investigated” and “it had no basis. As for the settlement, I am unaware of any sort of settlement.” Mr. Cain then began suggesting that the reporters hadn’t done their job — belittling the story and dismissing it as “anonymous sources when there is no basis for the accusation.” When asked at the Press Club if he was going to request that the association release the files to shoot down the allegations, he said, “No, there’s nothing to shoot down.” Then he dared the press, “Enough said, there’s nothing there to dig up.”

One thing you can count on: more will be dug up. Everything will get out. It always does. The working press still does.

Herman Cain had a chance to get in front of this story. Something that occurred 20 years ago is not necessarily damning in politics – Robert Byrd’s membership in the KKK, comes to mind. But Mr. Cain did not get in front of the story. Instead, he dared the press. Blamed the press. Suggested the press is out to get him. Parsed the difference between “agreement” and “settlement.” Blamed the women who had brought the allegations. Suggested it was a liberal lynching. Suggested that the Perry camp had leaked it for political gain. He has said almost everything, but the truth – whatever the truth is. He has acted indignant, angry, patronizing, and dismissive.

I’m no expert on hubris, but I do know a bit about embarrassment. I remember every painful detail of each embarrassing moment going back to when I was five. Had I ever been accused of sexual harassment, it would make my list. Had I been the ceo of the board of a national lobby group, I would have been truly humbled.

Sexual harassment is real. Just the possibility of the perception is enough in my book for a sincere and heartfelt apology. A promise to change ways and learn from the mistake. Pretty much, confess, repent and be saved process that so many of faith embrace.

Mr. Cain is a member of the last generation who lived during the time when propositioning or making sexual innuendo to someone who works for you, was acceptable. There is only one place left in American business where it still is acceptable: the boardroom. And there is only one group who can get away with it: the one percent.

 

* Full disclosure: When this story broke, CNN was desperate for some footage of Ms. Rice as an actress. CNN contacted Porter Creative (now CP+B), the creative firm that had produced the only commercial Donna Rice had ever done. Meg Gerrish, a frequent Dew writer, produced the spot. I was her client at the ad agency. In the spot, Donna played a bride. The spot she was in was for Piggly Wiggly.

Survivor: Occupy Wall Street

Close your eyes and imagine for a moment. No, stop. That won’t work, you need to know more, so keep reading. Here’s the idea. A new prime time reality series based on another prime time series based on a successful European series and based on reality: Survivor Occupy Wall Street. A different show each night of each week.

Monday: Survivor Occupy Wall Street – Red State
Tuesday: Survivor Occupy Wall Street – Blue State
Wednesday: Survivor Occupy Wall Street – Toss Up State
Thursday: Survivor Occupy Wall Street – Los Angeles
Friday: Survivor Occupy Wall Street – Miami
Saturday: Survivor Wall Street – Las Vegas
Sunday: Survivor Wall Street – New York

Survivor Occupy Wall StreetBorrowed from CBS, the rules of Survivor Occupy Wall Street are simple: average Americans are abandoned in the middle of some of the most unforgiving places on earth – public parks near financial districts. Divided into teams, they participate in the daily routine of OWS – mic checks, speeches, seeking unanimity, listing grievances, protesting wealth disparity, chanting about tax fairness and student loans, protecting speech and human rights, being non-partisan, finding common ground, singing protest songs, attending rallies, making signs, marching, sitting-in, demonstrating, confronting police, blogging, tweeting, keeping the parks clean, sleeping in tents, publicly urinating, being used as backgrounds for media reports, staying out of jail, acting gratuitously toward politicians – plus, challenges given by host Jeff Probst. Every three days, the losing tribe must trek to Tribal Council to vote out one of their own. Halfway through the game, the challenges shift to individual competitions when the tribes attempt to find consensus to merge and become one. Now the game is every contestant for themselves while acting as if they are in solidarity for the people in the peaceful struggle against financial inequality.

The game is simple: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast, by winning immunity, thus not being eligible to have votes cast against yourself. However, the players must be careful about who they send packing – because after the merge, a jury of previously voted out contestants begins to form, and each week they return to watch the Tribal Council ceremony. At the end of the game, they vote for one of the members in the finals to win one million dollars and become the next Survivor to go from the 99% to the 1%!

Generally, each season begins with a twist – something different to surprise the new castaways. In our version, one team in each city is chosen by Fox News, the other by MSNBC. Survivor Occupy Wall Street is a game of struggle to reclaim power, adaptation of a coherent demands, and the final two or three of each season are the players most able to adapt to their surroundings and to the politics of the people they are playing with. Survivor focuses on the people, and the social commentary that surrounds them and their politics. The game revolves around how these players can Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast. Tonight they march to One Police Plaza.

Mic Check

Occupy Atlanta at the State CapitalSaturday was a day of occupation and solidarity in cites around the world. In Atlanta, there was a march from “Troy Davis Park,” the name used by the occupying residents of Woodruff Park, to the state capital.

Economic Refugee Camps
Occupy Atlanta is a populist movement. It is not affiliated with any political party and vows not to be hijacked either. It is, at least by intent, neither liberal or conservative. Those in the camps are, generally, young or homeless. They are symbolic refugees in the richest country in the world. They are our surrogates.

Occupy Atlanta at Troy Davis/Woodruff ParkThey represent the tens of millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed and cannot find work to sustain their lives. They represent the millions of homeless men and women who have lost everything in their path to the American dream. They represent all of those whose lives have been upended by the richest one percent among us who have gamed the system. They represent those who fought for our nation and returned to find there were no opportunities in the land of opportunity. They are standing in for those of us who live off peanut butter and oatmeal. Those of us who live day to to day and are just one missing paycheck from being homeless. Those of us whose homes have been repossessed or sold by bankers with fake documents. Those of us who borrowed tens of thousands or more for college tuition, only to find no work. Those of us whose homes are worth less than we paid. Those of us who put their faith in the system and were betrayed by their leaders who have been bribed by lobbyist shills of the one-percenters. Those of us who had the audacity of hope and had it crushed by compromise and a just-say-no Congress. Those of us who believed in the Republicans or the Democrats to do the right thing and were lied to. They may not look like us, but they are us. They are “we the people.” They are the 99%.

Violinist at Occupy Atlanta at Troy Davis/Woodruff ParkThe urban campers seem to be motivated by the deep sense that something is fundamentally wrong in our nation and the world. That something must to be changed. They are earnest and brave. They have given up their lives to stand in and stand up for us.

The rally to the capital was “organized” by MoveOn.org, and not without some discontent from the folks at Occupy Atlanta who expressed concern that MoveOn was attempting to subvert the Occupy movement to support President Obama.

The march and rally was a diverse crowd. Aging activists. Middleclass believers. People of all walks, skin color, origin, hair length, wardrobe choice and life experience.

Occupy Atlanta is not the sixties antiwar movement. The sixties may have been easy in comparison – one real issue, one solution. This time, the issues are complicated.

Signs at Occupy Atlanta rally at the Capital StepsI had a deep feeling that something was different while listening to those on the capital steps who walked up to the microphone or took the people’s mic, and said, “mic check.” This was the real deal. The speakers were not polished. The talking points were largely unrehearsed. Anyone could take the mic. It was messy. There was chaos – confusion, sure, but more in the definition of “the infinity of space or formless matter supposed to have preceded the existence of the ordered universe.”

The goal of the rally was not to convince, but to be heard. Some at the mic sounded eerily like the tea partiers. Some seemed awkward Obama apologists. Some had watched too many television pundits or listened to too much talk radio.

All, however, were seeking change. All were challenging each other to find solutions. Some argued that we the people can make the jobs and change America and the world. Others just told stories of hardship and overcoming since the economic collapse. The banksters and multi-national corporations were a consistent target of the anger. The bailout money was blamed as a missed opportunity. The war a terrible waste of our people and our treasure. That the wealth disparity was terribly wrong and had to be fixed. They spoke of the need for justice – social, and for those on Wall Street. But each came back to the need for jobs.

Occupy Wall Street’s goal is not to overthrow the government, but a revolution to overthrow the status quo. The movement is seeking the people’s solution from the people’s voice.

I don’t pretend to know what it takes to motivate one person to get off their couch and into the street. Perhaps, it will take a second wave of bank failures and layoffs. Or another Selma moment. Or a leader who could emerge inspired by yesterday’s dedication of the MLK memorial, realizing the civil rights movement is part of the human rights movement and so much work is left to be done. But as Chris Hedges wrote today in Truth-Out.org, it is “A Movement Too Big to Fail.”

One month old today:
Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future. – OccupyWallSt.org

 

 

 

________________
Post updated 10.18.11 9:53 am. Author’s note: It has come to my attention that I, nor my editors, could save me from my embarrassing blunder that my “playfully anthropomorphizing” [NYT] of microphone, should not be “Mike,” it should be “Mic.” The post has been updated to make sure every reader knows the potential that I have for stupid.

Meet the real Georgia killers

georgia board of pardonsMeet the five people responsible for the death of Troy Davis – the Georgia Board of Pardons. We don’t know how they voted. It is possible that one or two of these people is innocent. As a group, however, they conspired and announced their death sentence. Troy Davis will be killed on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 7:00PM.

(Update: Troy Davis was executed by the State of Georgia and pronounced dead at 11:08PM. Witnesses reported that his last words from gurney with the needle already in were addressed to the victim’s family and his prison guards, “I’d like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I’m not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask … is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight. For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls.”)

Troy Davis was convicted in 1989 for the murder of Savannah of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail. No physical evidence linking Davis to the murder was presented at the trial. No gun was ever found. Seven of the nine witnesses in his trial have since recanted their testimony – several later testified they had been coerced by the police and the prosecution. An eighth witness, Redd Coles, has admitted that he was the killer.

“Calls for Davis to be spared execution have been made by numerous dignitaries, including former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former FBI Director William Sessions, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher and Larry Thompson, the former deputy U.S. attorney general. Davis’ advocates, including Amnesty International and the NAACP, have used social media to rally worldwide support. Last week, Davis’ supporters presented the parole board with the names of more than 663,000 people asking that Davis be granted clemency.” – AJC.com

The Troy Davis case has been problematic since the beginning and is a poster child of what can go wrong, even in modern day Georgia, when political pressure to convict in a police shooting meets a poor black defendant. (Wikipedia has a quick overview.)

“This has been an extraordinary legal saga since the murder in 1989, and two years ago the United States Supreme Court did something it almost never does – instructed a District Court in Georgia to take another look at the case, hold a hearing,” Toobin said.
A Savannah judge did just that, Toobin said, and issued a 170-page opinion saying that, despite the recanted testimony, “there is no substantial doubt cast on the verdict as far as this judge could tell.”  – CNN News Blogs

The argument of whether the death penalty is just or effective aside, no one should be sentenced to death when there are such questions of guilt. Commuting the sentence to life in prison would hardly have been much of a compromise for society. The members of the Georgia Board of Pardons, all appointed by Sonny Perdue, may have done their political duties, but should never sleep well again. This is not justice.

The following is from the Georgia Board of Pardons web site:

Chairman James E. Donald

Chairman James E. Donald (click here for his facebook page) began his term as Chairman of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles July 1, 2010.  Chairman Donald was elected to the position by the Board Members in June.

Chairman Donald is the former Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, and was the driving force behind groundbreaking transformations in one of the State’s largest departments. As Commissioner, Mr. Donald oversaw the fifth largest prison system in the nation, some 200,000 felons in prison or on probation, 15,000 employees, of whom 10,000 are sworn peace officers, and an annual budget of more than $1.2 billion.

Mr. Donald’s commitment to Governor Perdue’s vision of a safer, healthier, better educated and best-managed Georgia has resulted in several revolutionary initiatives. Under his leadership, relocation of the Corrections Headquarters and its Training Academy to Tift Campus in Forsyth, Georgia began. This decision will save Georgia taxpayers $4 million annually. Additionally, his decisions to realign and reduce staff positions in the central office, combine many facilities and probation support functions, and transform medical support practices are estimated to have saved taxpayers over $16 million.

Also, Mr. Donald opened and began operating seven new 200-bed Pre-Release Centers, 10 new Faith and Character-based dormitories, six new “non-resident” Day Reporting Centers, and added over 2,000 new beds for transition centers or work release programs.

Prior to his appointment as the Commissioner of Corrections in 2004, Mr. Donald retired as a Major General of the United States Army Forces Command. He earned the Bronze Star for his bold leadership as a Task Force Commander with the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” during Gulf War I. He also served as Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Pacific, Assistant Division Commander to the 25th Infantry Division, and Director of Operations/J3 U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.

Mr. Donald is a native of Jackson, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History. He earned his Master of Public Administration from the University of Missouri. He is an avid supporter of his church and community activities, and serves as a member of several government and civic boards.

Vice Chairman Albert Murray

Vice Chairman Albert Murray was appointed to the Board on May 15, 2010, by Governor Sonny Perdue.  He was elected by the Board to the position of Vice Chairman in June and began serving in that role on July 1, 2010.

Mr. Murray began his service to troubled youth in his native state of Tennessee, including being appointed to assistant commissioner of juvenile services for the state of Tennessee. His successful career in Tennessee resulted in his appointment as the first commissioner of the newly created Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority in 1996. During 2003, Mr. Murray served as Deputy Commissioner of Programs for the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Mr. Murray was sworn in as Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice on January 23, 2004. He ended his tenure May 14, 2010, as the longest serving juvenile justice commissioner in Georgia’s history. Included in his many accomplishments as Commissioner of DJJ, is a SACS accredited school program, new and strengthened community programs, a newly created victims advocacy component and expanded training opportunities for staff. A major accomplishment as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice was the completion of all requirements for the release of the agency’s memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on May 5, 2009, ending eleven years of federal oversight.

Mr. Murray has a wife, Connie, and two adult daughters, Andrea and Camille.

Member Terry Barnard

Member and former State Representative Terry E. Barnard served nearly 16 years in the Georgia House of Representatives prior to being appointed to the State Board of Pardons and Parole. During his 8-term tenure, the Coastal Georgia Lawmaker faithfully served the state as a member of several key House Committees to include Appropriations, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Children and Youth, Rules and State Institutions and Property, where he served as the distinguished Chairman for 6 years.

Mr. Barnard joins the State Board of Pardons and Parole with a vast intuitional knowledge of the Georgia Department of Corrections from a legislative perspective. Passionate and persuasive, since 1994, Rep. Barnard shepherded every bill introduced into the Georgia Legislature that had any impact on the Department of Corrections.

In 1995-1996 Mr. Barnard guided through the Georgia House, the frame work for the State Sex Offenders Registry and Sexual Predators Review Board. Today with just a click of a mouse interested parties may see if a convicted sex offender is living in a neighborhood of interest.

Mr. Barnard is a native of Tattnall County having been born in Reidsville in 1957; he and his wife Susan make their home at Shellman Bluff on the Georgia Coast. He is a graduate of Atlantic Community College and has a strong background in business. He has owned and operated several businesses, among those a Real Estate Brokerage. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, he served as Vice President and Manager of First Citizens Bank of Reidsville, and as a regional marketing director for Green Tree Acceptance, a national mortgage lender.

He is involved in a local Baptist Church and takes part in many community events and activities.

Member Robert E. Keller

Member Robert E. Keller from Clayton County was appointed to the Board by Governor Sonny Perdue on January 3, 2007.

Mr. Keller served as executive counsel of the  Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia. He is the former chairman of that organization.   Before joining the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, he served as both assistant district attorney and district attorney of Clayton County. He also maintained a private practice from 1974-1977. Keller served as a member of the Georgia Board of Public Safety, the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Judicial Retirement System, the Georgia Code Revision Plan Committee and the Commission to Assess Crime Laboratory Needs into the 21st Century. He served as vice-chair of the Governor’s Commission on Certainty in Sentencing. Keller earned a bachelor’s degree from Birmingham Southern College and a law degree from Emory Law School. Mr. Keller brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the criminal justice system, and his reputation and credibility among the judiciary and prosecutors is highly admired.

Member L. Gale Buckner

Member L. Gale Buckner was appointed to the Board on January 1, 2005 by Governor Sonny Perdue. Ms. Buckner received her Bachelors  Degree from Georgia State University, and her Graduate Degree from Brenau University.

Ms. Buckner brings a broad base of experience to the Board. She started her career as a communications officer at the Chatsworth Police Department, rising to the level of Sergeant and was honored as Officer of the Year. She began her service with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in 1981 as an undercover operative, and specialized in corruption and white-collar crime cases, earning the Director’s Award for Outstanding Investigations in 1984. While at GBI, she also served as Director of Personnel facilitating the modernization of human resource projects, and as Director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs coordinating legislative activities both with the Georgia General Assembly and with the U.S. Congress. She is a graduate of the 169th session of the FBI National Academy.

In 2000, Ms. Buckner was appointed Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Office of the Governor. Under her leadership, the agency administered $100 million annually in federal grant monies for Georgia’s criminal justice community, received three national awards for its State Analysis Center, and also served as Georgia’s Crime Victims Compensation Board which provides offender-generated dollars to the innocent victims of violent crime. Ms. Buckner coordinated criminal justice policy initiatives regarding offender reentry, victims services, and other public safety projects during her tenure.

During her distinguished career, Ms. Buckner has served as a member of many law enforcement associations and advisory boards including the National Criminal Justice Association, the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange, the International Association of Women Police, the National Center for Women and Policing, the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, the Georgia Child Fatality Review Panel, and the Georgia DARE Advisory Board. She is also a member of the Parole Association of Georgia, the Peace Officers Association of Georgia, and state and national Chiefs of Police Associations.

She is the recipient of the 2002 Distinguished Alumni Award from Georgia State University, and the 2001 Secretary of State Outstanding Leadership as a Georgia Woman in Public Safety Award. Ms. Buckner has worked in many arenas of the criminal justice system, and has a unique vantage which will enhance the implementation of the mission and vision of the Board.

Leadership, Carville & Truth

Leave it to James Carville to get people thinking. His advice this week to President Obama was to panic, fire a bunch of people and indict some of the people responsible for the financial crisis. I, respectfully, differ.

This President has done his darndest to play the traditional role of cheerleader President. No matter the reality, reassure the masses and do the “right thing.” Find compromise. Reassure his base through incrementalism. Reassure his opponents by putting everything on the table. I don’t think that I am the first to say that this ain’t working.

These are not normal times. The opposition party sold out their patriotism a long time ago for corporate favor and corporate-sponsored ideology. President Obama is being played. Over and over and over again.

I have a suggestion. Tell the American people the truth. Sounds un-American, doesn’t it?

Sure, the stock market up 30% since Obama took over and the Bush economy that was going down the toilet is growing again slowly up the side of the bowl. Sure, some of the bleeding has stopped, but there is a limit to what a President can do without Congress. Even less with a Congress that is doing everything they can to undermined America. I say, cut the crap and tell us the truth.

Tell us that the banks have been lying and most are insolvent – as bad as as what’s going on in Europe. That we face a multi-trillion dollar under-capitalization of banks. Tell us that we, the treasury, has colluded with the financial industry to allow them to classify assets as preforming that are junk. Tell us that the only thing that has kept them in business is the abuse of the Fed window allowing them to bet on a totally rigged Wall Street – and, of course, the continued rape of consumers – aka: Americans. Tell us truth, while reminding us that bank CEOs are paying themselves billions in bonuses – while we are wondering whether this is the week that a bank will repossess our house with fraudulent documents. Then remind us that our homes can’t be sold for what we owe and that millions of repossessed houses aren’t even on the market, yet.

Tell us that we are in real trouble. That most of our pension funds are also insolvent. That they have invested in worthless real estate and our treasury has colluded with them to pretend it isn’t true. That those empty office buildings around the country are being counted as if they were worth something. That commercial real estate is a scam and it is the other shoe that will drop, unless we can just pretend our way out it this mess. Tell us the truth: there is a limit to how many offices Homeland Security and the NSA can lease.

Tell us that we are in unwinnable wars around the world. That Iraq and Afghanistan are as big a mess as when we arrived. That we continue to fight them because we are terrified at the thought of bringing 300,000-400,000 fully armed private mercenary soldiers, along with a 200,000 of our real troops, back home where there is no work. Tell us, that we have had a wartime economy since Reagan. That if we were to have peace, this depression would be number one. Tell us the truth.

Tell us that most of the the 13 million official unemployed will never work again for real wages unless we do something to change it now. Tell us that 10-20 million more who are doing everything they can to keep their families together by working fast food and driving cabs, shouldn’t expect find real work again, either. Tell us that the reason we haven’t done re-training of these Americans so they could find jobs, is that there aren’t jobs to be found. Tell us the truth. That stimulus was misnamed. A third of of it was typical pickle barrel stuff to get votes. A third of it went straight to the states to keep them from firing people. And the final third, was, well, a mix of shovel ready jobs and liberal aspirations that was oversold.

Tell us, that, we the people, have screwed up big time. That corporate bribery of our Congress is so rampant that we have totally f’cked our tax system and need a new one. That we have an economy where the American dream, aka: Bernie, is really dead. Tell us 90% of us are slaves to the other 10%. Tell us the real plot of Ayn Rand capitalists is to get the wages of the poor down to the pennies a day they pay in third world countries. Tell us the truth.

Tell us the truth that organized labor working with organized business is what created the middle class and made our economy the envy of the world. Tell us the truth about the bill the Republicans passed last week to weaken the NLRB. That it is an attack on the middle class at a time when we need Labor more than ever.

Tell us the truth that tens of thousands of bridges and roads are crumbling and that investments in our infrastructure to rebuild them will create good jobs and lasting value for all of us.

Tell us that our nation’s school systems are failing and that the most important investment we can make is in our next generation. Tell us how we can fix it.

Tell us the truth that our farm subsidies have ruined family farmers around the world and caused deadly food inflation in the places most vulnerable. That our subsidies for corn is a huge part of the obesity problem. Tell us the truth that by subsidizing corn and corn ethanol, which will always be inefficient and penalizing sugar cane and sugar-ethanol imports, which are very efficient, we are preventing our own southern hemisphere from a rich and sustainable future.

Remind us that gasoline costs over $10 to get to the pump, but that the Federal Government subsidies allowing you to buy it for $3.50 – something that has to stop. Tell us the truth that free trade is not fair trade. That low prices are good for Walmart customers, but not people wanting a job anywhere but Walmart. Admit that you caved on ozone rules because you were afraid it would cost you reelection and that the new rules need to be implemented. Apologize to all those you could have appointed during recess, admit you were afraid of Senate Republicans and promise not to do it again.

Tell us that the reason Medicare and Medicaid are in trouble is the greedy bastards in the pharmaceutical, medical equiptment and health insurance industry who have rigged the system. Tell us to look at every other country in the world and we’ll see that we are a nation of chumps. Tell us that “Obamacare” is a bullshit compromised bill. That it should be repealed and replaced with a new bill with a single payor that would give us all better care for way less money. Tell us the truth: that privatization is just a more expensive way of doing the same thing, but will make some individuals rich, but not you. Tell us the budget deficit is meaningless to most of us, but the rich do want the government to pay them interest. Tell us the truth: that if the rich won’t pay taxes and the poor can’t, just who the f’ck is left pay? We, the whoever is still working, are. Tell us that we are acting like lemmings marching behind the t-party idiots off the cliff.

Tell us that unless we get rid of the bastards in the House and push back the lowlife lobbyists on K-Street, the whole friggin’ thing, our American way of life, is going to topple down. That we the people will starve in the streets of the richest country in the world while the top 1/10 of 1% are laughing their asses off behind their gated communities. Tell us the truth.

Remind us that the President is part of the executive branch of government. That the executive powers are limited to carrying out the wishes of Congress. And when Congress, or their lobbyist masters, wishes the country to go in the ditch, the President is powerless to stop them. Tell us the truth.

Tell that creationism and intelligent design are silly and that evolution is fact. Tell us that global climate change is real, will kill us all and may already be too late to reverse. Tell us that tax cuts do not and never have created jobs. Tell us that water boarding is torture. Remind us that Santa and the Tooth Fairy are not real. Tell us the truth about Roswell, Kennedy and Elvis.

Tell us that the games are over. That he, President Obama, is going to tell the truth. That when these crazy pink Republicans say blatant lies, he’s going to call them on it. That we are going to hell and take the world with us unless they stop this idiotic fantasy.

On the other hand, maybe he should just fire a bunch of people and indict some of the people responsible for the financial crisis.