2012-04-13 / Columnists

The New Frontiers

Commentary By Daniel Solomon

On March 29, the House Republicans passed their budget proposal. Written by Representative Paul Ryan, the “Path to Prosperity” would eliminate $5.3 trillion in spending over 10 years. Savings would be achieved through enormous cuts to social programs and important investments; HeadStart, food stamps, welfare, scientific research, infrastructure improvements would all be on the chopping block to the tune of $2 trillion. The safety net wouldn’t be spared either – Medicaid would be block-granted to the states and shrunk by $770 billion, Medicare would be privatized and see its funding slashed by $205 billion. Meanwhile, the tax code would be revamped, reducing rates on the wealthiest to 25 percent from the current 35 percent.

The budget was approved by a party-line vote, and the conservatives subsequently enveloped themselves in a euphony of self-congratulation, with Fox News and talk-radio hailing Ryan and his cohorts as heroes of fiscal restraint. Mitt Romney, for his part, called the proposal “marvelous.”

We have seen this movie before – the Republicans come up with cruel, revolting, and perverse ideas, mix terrorist tactics and theatrics, and then get the president to meet them more than halfway, e.g. the debt ceiling debacle.

Except, this time, their victim won’t be cowed. Since his September jobs speech, President Barack Obama has struck a defiant tone in response to his Republican opponents, and his recent address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors dramatically underscored this shift. In what The New York Times praised as “a thunderclap of a speech,” Obama echoed what we liberals have been saying for a year: Republican budget proposals are nothing but “thinly veiled social Darwinism” and “a Trojan horse” by which the party wishes to shred the safety net and rip up the country’s social contract.

The president did not use such harsh language lightly. He knows that the results of this election will profoundly affect America, that November’s contest represents a fight between two competing visions of this nation. Accordingly, Obama should break with the conventional wisdom and run as a populist-progressive, using Franklin Roosevelt’s 1936 playbook.

Though he was popular, FDR was loathed by many. The business community despised him for the eagerness with which he challenged their control of the political process. Turn-of-the-century progressives like Jane Addams disliked his emphasis on government aid to the needy, rather than private charity. Conservative Democrats even formed an organization known as the Liberty League to oppose his 1936 reelection bid.

Obama would do well to read the speech Roosevelt delivered at that year’s Democratic National Convention, in which Dr. New Deal articulated a governing philosophy that the current president should embrace more emphatically. In 1776, FDR posited, the Founders overthrew a political autocracy. Modern civilization, however, had brought forth market forces that had undermined those cherished freedoms; monopolies and a lack of regulation had created a new dictatorship headed by greedy businessmen, whom Roosevelt labeled economic royalists, the inheritors of the 18th century British Crown.

FDR realized “freedom is no half-and-half affair,” that “if the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.” He also sought to bring government closer to the people, to “give it the vibrant personal character that is the very embodiment of human charity.”

These goals clearly translate into policy imperatives today. Break up the big banks. Reinstate the Glass- Steagall Act and other commonsense regulations. Bring back a fair tax code by implementing the Buffett Rule. Expand the safety net. Preserve Medicare and Medicaid. Grow the labor unions. Find palatable ways to cut the deficit in the long run, while enacting targeted spending increases in the short term. Finally, and most importantly, evict the moneychangers and the special interests from the halls of Congress and the Oval Office. These rent-seekers, these leeches have dominated the political arena for too long, to the detriment of everyone else.

One might find this too bold, but making November 1936 a stark choice turned out okay for FDR – he won 46 of 48 states and almost 60 percent of the popular vote.

****

While we are on the subject of the Ryan budget, let’s talk about Bob Turner. Last year, the congressman swore up and down that he opposed an earlier version of the proposal, denouncing the privatization of Medicare and the block-granting of Medicaid. But as I predicted in an August column that touched off a firestorm, Turner has turned out to be “another shill for Big Money and an enemy of working families and the social safety net.” Many in this district voted for him because he seemed to break with national Republicans on Medicare and Medi-caid. It makes me almost grateful to have Gregory Meeks as our representative. At least Meeks’ lack of integrity is out in the open.

Send comments to djsolomon94@gmail.com

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Something against

Something against nothing Daniel Solomen writes how the republicans want to kill the old, starve the kids, rape the earth and reap the profits. And, it is all done by the mean old republicans. Why is it always the republicans that come up with the budgets? The democrats had power for six of the last seven and a half years and had a majority for the last two of those last six. Why was a budget not passed then? The two years of the majority the Dems could have passed almost anything they wanted. They sat back on their butts and said to themselves hey America is not doing to good right now, let's not look at a budget because we may have to face some cold hard facts. We spend too much, we give away to much, and if we cut anything our voting base may see us as the gollums we really are. Let’s punt and see what the Republicans do and make them the evil guys. Our president (yes he is mine too, not by choice) came up with a budget and he couldn’t even get his own party to vote for it. So some Americans (The Tea Party) started to stand up and say this is not right. Let's get together in peaceful protest and tell Washington to shape up or ship out. They did not OCCUPY, urinate, defecate, take over, or riot or cause mayhem. They stood with their signs and asked people what was right and what was wrong. They asked for voter ID and a budget that made sense. The media and our president portrayed some of them as whackos with guns and bibles. Well we voted and a few got in. Now a year and a half later (not six years) one of the party of common sense (which is not so common anymore) comes up with a budget that any family in debt would have to come up with to live by. What happens, the Dems read it (why not it is not a health bill) and they start kicking and screaming. You are killing America, how can the 49% of America that does not pay taxes live if this bill is passed. Oh you mean republicans we will show you. We will yell, scream, and protest, for six more years and get nothing done just to show you we mean business. Really, Daniel, Really, this is the party that you want to back. You even had to take a shot at Bob Turner in your letter. You seem very good at taking shots from behind a very thick and high wall. Republicans take the facts to the streets and we are not afraid to say what we mean. Why don't you try to get the Dem's to come up with an honest answer. Why don't you sit down with the Rockaway Dem's and really look at our President's and Mr. Ryan's budget. Which one makes sense. Is it going to hurt? HECK YES. Are we going to kick some people off the welfare rolls and, god forbid, ask the able bodied to work, HECK YES. Are there going to be reduced hours at city services? HECK YES. These are the things that are necessary to balance that house-hold budget. Rice and Beans instead of steak and eggs until we get back on track. Try to be really honest with yourself Mr. Solomen, No, really honest. Think with your head instead of your heart. We have gone past the caring for the poor part. Now it is just what can I get for free. Be honest, look clearly. Tell me you cannot see the rabbit hole we are throwing ourselves down. We are putting something on the table. You are putting nothing.


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