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Blog: GOP Frankenomics

By Laurence D. Schiller

A few weeks ago, I received a ‘letter’ from Sidney Mathias, former Republican Mayor of Buffalo Grove and failed State Representative, supporting Republican Precinct Committeeman (Vernon Township) Leslie Munger for the State House seat currently held by Carol Sente (D-59). After citing her various business interests, the 2nd paragraph states better than I could the complete fallacy of GOP Frankenomics, a fantasy economic theory created by Ronald Reagan and based on the completely debunked Ayn Rynd. To quote, ‘If elected, she will take no pension while working to create jobs, lower taxes and reform Illinois massive pension debt.” HUH? Can someone please explain how you take a state with a massive pension debt, decrease its income by some 4 billion dollars by letting the income tax expire (plus, presumably pass more tax cuts), and not declare bankruptcy? How does this solve the pension crisis? How does this create jobs? This is so oxymoronic that the man at the top of the ticket, uber rich Bruce Rauner won’t even present a plan, which, we can only suppose, he doesn’t actually have, since it is impossible to pay off debt and cut taxes.  He knows it but can’t admit it because to do so would support Governor Quinn’s courageous attempts at pension reform. Yet this has been the mantra of the right wing for over three decades: cut taxes for the wealthy because the are the job creators. Then this stimulates the economy and creates more revenue for the state/fed, and magically we can cover all our debt and expenses. Why, remarkably, Rauner  has even stated he would INCREASE spending on schools. Really…? Reminds me of Phillip Henslowe, the owner of the “Rose” theater in Shakespeare in Love who notably stated in every disastrous situation, “Don’t worry, it will all work out.” When asked ‘how?’, his invariable response was, “I don’t know, its a mystery.” That sums up the GOP economic policy to a ‘T’.

There is so much wrong here that it is hard to know where to start. First, I wish I could ask Rauner what he would do if he found his business had massive debt. I’ll bet his response would NOT be to cut his income stream, yet that is EXACTLY what Munger, Rauner, and Dold propose. If you personally had vast debt, would you cut your salary? It makes absolutely no sense and is, to quote George H.  W. Bush, ‘voodoo economics’. It is nonsense, pure and simple and even Reagan’s economic advisors told him so. The continuing decline of the Middle Class is directly attributable to the policies of Reagan and his successors. Munger, a graduate of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management ought to know better since no professor there taught her such flawed economic theory.Well, the admissions process isn’t perfect.

Second, we have two wonderful Midwest examples of exactly what happens when GOP/Tea Party economics are rigorously applied – Kansas and Wisconsin. In both states, taxes were cut, state revenues dropped precipitously, services, such as school funding were severely slashed, and in just a couple of years, both states have fallen to the bottom of the heap in job creation. Kansas is in such trouble that Republicans will likely lose both the Governorship and a senate seat. Yes, we ARE talking about Kansas, a place where science has been replaced by religious zealotry.

Third, Republicans have developed a truly odd idea of government. Take Rauner’s idea of auctioning off licenses for medical marijuana. As the Sun Times so aptly editorialized, Rauner’s thinking can only seem to comprehend trying to get the cheapest deal as opposed to the quality of the service to be offered. The cheapest bid is rarely the best bid, but it sure can make a guy money. Just ask Rauner, whose companies have been charged and convicted of fraudulent business practices to make money. This is pure Ayn Rynd. Unfettered capitalism is good, government regulation bad, even if that regulation keeps our food, drugs, water, and air pure.

GOP freckenomics fails to take into account 3 things:

First, government is not, and cannot, be run as a business. Government has to provide certain services to its constituents. It is not in the business of making money, but providing services. The essential motive of business is to make money, the cheaper the better. If corners must be cut, services stopped, quality compromised, all that is OK as long as the bottom line is met. The American health care system before ACA is a perfect example as the neediest people were denied coverage, and sick people dropped. Why? Because those folks cut into the bottom line. Perfectly reasonable for an health insurance company but a disaster for those sick or in need. Government, on the other hand, must tax to raise the funds to provide services. It is so typical of the rich like Dold and Rauner that they can’t see government in those terms because THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN IN WANT. Dold should be constantly challenged every time he appears and have it be pointed out that he voted over two dozen times to deny people basic health care. There is no defense to this cruel position. Most of us need the services that government provides, but guys like Rauner and Dold don’t care because they can afford these services on their own. Poll after poll shows overwhelming public support for services such as health care, medicare, and social security, but Dold voted to eliminate or privatize them, and Rauner would end most social services for the needy were he governor with a GOP legislature.

Second, tax cuts have never been job creators because the GOP always cuts the taxes of the rich. It is simply bunk. Just the reverse is true. What creates jobs is consumer demand. Period. If no one wants it, no one will produce it. One of the arguments against raising the minimum wage is that jobs will be lost. Bunk. Do you think McDonald’s will close stores if the minimum wage goes up and more people can afford to patronize their products? Will Walmart suddenly go out of business if they actually have to pay their employees enough to live on instead of having to get food stamps? Of course they won’t and there has never been a study done that actually shows job loss when the minimum wage goes up.

Third, there is no such thing as a ‘free market’. Adam Smith’s free market was based on the idea that producers would simply shift to different products as market demand changed. Demand, and supply, would control price. This was naive to begin with because it costs to change from making straight pins to wagon wheels. Further, with the technicalization of the Industrial Revolution, it is extraordinarily difficult to shift production between very different types of products to meet market demand. In fact, rather than ‘demand’ controlling prices, mega corporations have, in fact, sought to control markets by merger and monopoly (trusts), driving prices up, and often, quality and service down. Consumer demand does create jobs, but price is rarely controlled by demand, but rather by the control of supply (such as gas or diamonds) by corporations to drive prices up. Sorry to oversimplify, but my point is that the GOP continues to, quite frankly, lie to us that government regulations and control over Capitalism is evil and everything will be wonderful if we just let the ‘free market’ work. Well, we saw the result of that in 2008 when Wall Street fried the economy.

As for Leslie Munger, well, I had never heard of her and so looked at her website. It was kind of scary as her wingnut rhetoric practically foamed at the mouth while accusing Rep. Carol Sente of all sorts of sins. Imagine voting for the environment and social services. As Sente says, Munger’s budget ideas would crush social services in this state and destroy, rather than fix, Illinois’ economy. As long as the GOP embraces this sort of freckenomics, we must fight them tooth and nail. They are truly bad people who simply don’t care about the suffering they would so glibly impose on the needy of this state.

Blog: Why we fight! Democrat, Progressive, and PROUD

By Laurence D. Schiller

As the election season bursts upon us, I have to admit there are times I despair of America. Fueled by GOP PAC dark money, the airwaves are filled with the distortions of the Corporatist wealthy in political ads designed to appeal to our basest instincts of ‘whats in it for me’ and ‘the other guy is getting something unfairly that I’m not’. The news is replete with images of ‘Open Carry Texas’, Tea Party rallies, and secret desert gatherings of GOP leaders kowtowing to the Koch brothers and their agenda to have the wealthy few rule America. But I can always lift myself from the slough of despond by remembering WHY we are Progressives and Democrats. When folks state, ‘why vote, there’s no difference between the parties, and all politicians are the same’, I point out that while there are certainly bad politicians in both parties, there is a fundamental difference between between Republicans and Democrats. A completely different view of what America is and should be.

The GOP is ruled absolutely by a very small group of very wealthy white men, whose agenda is very clear and has not changed much since the American Revolution except in so far as capital has adapted to the Industrial Revolution. There has always been a party of privilege, men of property and capital who see the role of government as being to defend our national borders (and their property) and to promote their ability to make wealth. Otherwise, as the Libertarians/Tea Party propose, the less government the better. They expound the myth of the free market while buying up competitors to create monopolies which can charge the public higher prices for less quality and service. Before the Depression, they used local police and hired goons to suppress labor unions because they dared demand a living wage and benefits. We too often forget the martyrs of those battles. Now they use Scott Walker to ban public employees from bargaining for better wages and, in Illinois, run ads attacking teachers and other public employees for the pension crisis that was caused by state politicians who didn’t pay into the pension fund. Rich men such as Bruce Rauner and Jim Oberweis want to do away with the minimum wage because they think only in terms of profits and not about the people who work for them. They oppose the entire safety net of the New Deal and Great Society because it costs them money and taxes. So they hide their money in the Cayman Islands (Rauner) and support the election of politicians such as Bob Dold who will do their bidding.

Their soldiers are the extreme right. Full of bigots, religious and racial,  the extremely ignorant, and the fearful, they spread the corporatist lies about the Affordable Health Care Act, the minimum wage, unions, and everything else. This group has always been a part of the Republican mix, beginning with the absorption of the No-Nothing American Party into the newly formed Republican Party in 1856.  At that time, though, the Party also contained the former Whigs, or pro-business party, and the Free Soilers, who were abolitionists and formed a progressive element. Unfortunately, that element dried up after Reconstruction and any strain of progressivism was suppressed after the Presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, who was given the Vice Presidency under McKinley to get him out of NYC and shut him up. It was bad luck for the Guilded Age magnates that an assassins bullet made TR President, allowing him to establish National Parks and much else. But, with the advent of Ronald Reagan, the moderate element in the GOP has been driven out and only the basest elements of the Party remain. The GOP today is the definition of cruelty and greed and can be summed up by “I got mine, sucks to be you”. Libertarianism is at heart a selfish and uncaring philosophy, about as far from what was preached by Jesus, whom they so often turn to, as can be.

But what of us, those contentious Democrats? There is no question we often disagree, which is rather healthy. But fundamentally we believe that every American has the right to have enough to eat, be sheltered, educated, and have the right to be paid a living wage for a full week’s work. We believe that government is there to protect the constitutional rights of EVERY American, to promote the opportunity for people to advance, and help provide for the weak and vulnerable. Too often these days, though, Democrats run away from what we stand for, which is why I really like Brad Schneider’s new ad campaign. He embraces what we are and I am proud of his courage.  We Democrats should be proud of what we stand for.

September reminded me of just that. September 1st was Labor Day, commemorating the long struggle of labor to force capital to pay a living wage. September 11, the 13th anniversary of the attacks in NY and DC and September 13th, the 200th anniversary of the penning of the Star Spangled Banner in our second War of Independence, remind us that Freedom is not free and requires constant diligence against enemies foreign and domestic, which includes those who would buy our government. And tomorrow, September 17th, is the 152nd anniversary of the battle of Antietam, where a Union victory allowed Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation proclamation,  spelling the end of slavery and the beginning of the still continuing fight for full civil rights for African Americans, a fight embraced by us, Progressive Democrats. Lincoln was a Republican in 1863, but were he here today, I guarantee that great humanitarian’s affiliation would not be with his old party. He would be morally repulsed by today’s Republicans, as we are. Democrats need to embrace what we stand for. Its not scary, it is good.

So, when I feel down, I remember why we struggle and think of the Story of Joe Hill, the labor organizer, popularized in song by Joan Baez, Paul Robeson, and Bruce Springsteen amongst others:

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.
“The Copper Bosses killed you Joe,
They shot you Joe” says I.

“Takes more than guns to kill a man”
Says Joe “I didn’t die”
Says Joe “I didn’t die”
And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes.

Says Joe “What they can never kill
Went on to organize,
Went on to organize”
From San Diego up to Maine,
In every mine and mill,
Where working-men defend their rights,
It’s there you find Joe Hill,
It’s there you find Joe Hill!
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.

Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.

“Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win,” Victor Lazlo to Rick (Humphrey Bogart), Casablanca 1942.

Blog: Citizens United, Hobby Lobby: So Wrong

By Laurence D. Schiller

Although I fully expected that the Amendment to override the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United would fail on party lines (you had to get 2/3 of the Senate to approve and that’s not going to happen, never mind getting the approval of the Tea Party controlled House), I am still extremely disappointed that our own Senator Mark Kirk couldn’t distance himself from the Corporatist owners of the GOP for even one important vote. I let him know on his Facebook account, not that he will pay any attention to a mere citizen who doesn’t have tons of cash to contribute to his campaign. I had hoped that his experience with having a debilitating stroke had somehow softened his approach to us common folks, but this is just the latest of a long list of votes of Kirk’s that show that when push comes to shove, he hasn’t the guts to stand up to his party even when it is so clearly wrong. I hope the electorate remembers this when he is up for reelection. Jim Oberweis, of course, we expect to have the arrogance of the rich insulated man who just sees government as an impediment to his making money and has no feeling for those who don’t have his millions. Heaven help us all if he is elected. Oberweis’s vision is a return to the Guilded Age when the 1% ruled without government interference and working men and women should be happy to just get any salary at all, never mind have benefits, health care, or old age pensions. We should never forget that before FDR’s New Deal, fully one half of seniors lived in poverty. Ryan, Dold, and Oberweis would be very happy to return to that wretched time in history.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. The GOP is united, Rauner, Oberweis, Dold, and all, right down to their candidates for  state and local offices in their conviction that the First Amendment, which was designed to apply to citizens, somehow applies to corporations. Of course, the logic, as we shall see, is completely lacking, but they are for it because most of the biggest corporations are controlled by conservatives and if they can contribute as much as they like, especially if they can do it without having to report it (so called ‘dark money’), then they are in a position to overwhelm the rest of us with campaign ads, etc. It wouldn’t have made much of a difference in 1787 when all you could buy were newspaper ads (and bribe folks, but that is another subject), but in this age of electronic sound bites, and low electoral turn out, a barrage of false ads can swing an election. Look at how often Rove’s PAC and the Chamber of Commerce ads are playing for Dold, misleading as they are.

All of this is the fault of the five Supreme Court Justices who have decided to vote their faith and political values rather than uphold the Constitution or 200+ years of legal precedent. Consider Citizen’s United. The upshot of that ruling is that a Corporation is the same as a person, that it should have an unlimited right to give as much money as it chooses to a political party, PAC, or candidate. Yet, how can a corporation, made up of stockholders, act as a person. Is it at all likely that all the stockholders of Walmart all agreed  to give millions to the GOP? I doubt it. Citizens United is the worst ruling since Dred Scott which declared that a black man was property and had no rights a white man had to respect. It is based on similarly flawed, but politically motivated, logic. But let’s consider where this has gone. Now, with the Hobby Lobby decision, a corporation, again made up of many people, has religious rights. Incredibly, religious rights which allow it to force its morality on its employees. Think of what a slippery slope this is. If religious Muslims were to decide to apply Sharia Law (the law of the Koran) or Orthodox Jews old testament laws to their businesses, would they have the right to make women have a separate entrance to the store, or men be circumcised? What if Black Muslims decided to exclude whites or Jews from their businesses on religious grounds. This blows the whole bill of rights into pieces and is perhaps the greatest misinterpretation of the First Amendment ever made by a court.

Moreover, if a corporation has the rights of persons, then should it be able to be drafted into the military? Can we send Exxon Mobil to Iraq? Can it marry? Adopt children? The implications are endless and pretty farcical, yet we are faced with just that reality. Ultimately, Progressives need to regain a majority in Congress and either get Justices appointed who actually pay attention to Law or override this with legislation. Unfortunately, I don’t see either possibility happening in the near future, which means we need to double down and really keep fighting to stop the Rauners, Oberweis’s and Dolds from getting elected. It is that or we surrender the the Corporatists. We don’t have much more time. Fight hard now.

Blog: Letter: Dold is a Tea Party Candidate

This is from a letter from me published in the Lake County Sun yesterday http://newssun.suntimes.com/2014/09/09/letter-dold-tea-party-candidate/ by Laurence D. Schiller

Lynn Sweet’s column in [the Aug. 28] Deerfield Review was right on the mark. Not only did she show how Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS manipulates and creates ‘facts’ to fit its message, but it exposed Bob Dold for what he is, a Tea Party candidate in a district that voted twice to elect President Obama. Of course his campaign is upset for the only way for Dold to run in the 10th District is to portray himself as an ‘independent’ moderate. But note that the two PACs that are pouring money into his campaign advertisements are the Tea Party controlled Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who never met a regulation they didn’t hate. Unfortunately for Dold, Rove and the chamber know a fellow traveler when they see one.

Far from independent, Dold voted with the Tea Party caucus 82 percent of the time, which means he voted dozens of time to deny tens of millions of Americans health insurance, supported literally dozens of bills permitting big companies to pour their waste into our waters and air, supported the government shut down, and voted every time for Paul Ryan’s budget, which would have slashed spending on social programs to virtually nothing. Ryan’s budget also eliminates Medicare and, depending on which version you look at, either hands social security over to Wall Street or phases it out entirely. This is what the chamber means when it talks about ‘regulations reduced’ and ‘economic freedom’.

This is the real Bob Dold, a man who voted 82 percent of the time against the wishes of the majority of this congressional district. The New York Times called Dold a Tea Party candidate in 2010 and his votes in Congress won him the label of “one of Speaker Boehner’s 100.” Why would we want to send this guy back to Congress?

— Dr. Laurence D. Schiller, Deerfield

 

Blog: Rauner, the GOP, Term limits, and the Founding Fathers

By Laurence D. Schiller

I’m sure you have all seen the political ad where Bruce Rauner boldly declares that 1/2 million Illinoisans signed a petition for term limits and then makes the unsupported leap (anyone seen that poll??) that the majority of 16.8 million Illinoisans of all parties support term limits. And, of course, mean ‘ol Governor Quinn is preventing the people’s will. What annoys me about this ad is not the bold misstatement of the facts, but rather the idea that the GOP keeps pushing that somehow it understands and represents the will of the Founding Fathers. Every since the rise of the Tea Party, we have seen a cornucopia of drivel about what the Founders ‘really’ wanted. Let me be absolutely clear.

First, if the Founding Fathers had wanted to have term limits, they would have incorporated them into the Constitution. The reason that they did not is that they actually believed in the Will of the People. The People have, and should retain, the right to elect whomever they want, if eligible, for as long as they want. The ultimate term limit is called an election. To force a good official out in a specific amount of time is anti-democratic and actually fairly stupid. The Founding Fathers were far from stupid and considered very carefully every word in what became the Constitution. The 22nd Amendment that limits the President to two terms is a case in point. The only reason that amendment was enacted was to prevent another FDR type candidate from running a third time, and yet can you imagine what would have happened to the US if FDR had been forced to step down in 1940 just as we needed to get ready for WW II? Can you name another prominent politician of the time who would have done a better job to get America ready in the face of the GOP isolationists and then calmly guide the nation after Pearl Harbor. Unable to defeat FDR, the GOP turned to a cheap trick, term limits, which is even more ironic in that the Conservative hero Ronald Reagan would likely have won a third term had he been allowed to run. As usual, Rauner and the GOP miss the point. If you actually want to get rid of bad politicians, you need campaign finance reform so good people of whatever financial means can run for office, as opposed to the Rauners and Oberweises of the world who simply have they money but not the qualifications to run.

Second, there is this strange notion that the nation should be run by people who have no political experience. If you examine who the Founding Fathers actually were, they were ALL proficient in the art of politics. Lawyers, planters, and businessmen  who had to a man sat in colonial legislatures and would be aghast at the idea that just anyone should be elected. Would we really want National or state legislators with no experience and then just as they figured out how this complicated thing we call government worked, force them out by an arbitrary term limit? Read through Madison’s commentaries on the debates on the Constitutional Convention and you’ll realize the idea being peddled by the Tea Party and their fellow GOP travelers is patent nonsense.

Even worse is the Libertarian idea that has permeated the entire GOP that government should be small and weak. A perfect example of the danger of this thinking is Rauner’s statement on gay rights. He won’t say in public whether he supports gay marriage or not, although in private he was caught on tape saying HE never would have signed that bill, but states that we should have a ‘referendum’ on it. In fact the right wing often complains that the ‘majority’ doesn’t get to rule (i.e. for their issues) and cite the Constitution as the source that justifies their position. In fact, just the reverse is true. The Articles of Confederation, created before the Revolution was won, was a fairly Libertarian document, and was a disaster economically for the nation. States erected toll barriers to other states, taxes to pay for the army or internal improvements couldn’t be got, and so forth. So, in 1786, the call went out for a Constitutional convention which produced a document, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, which starts off ‘In order to create a more perfect Union’ and goes on to create a strong central government (for 1787), one of whose primary purposes was to protect the rights and liberties of the minority against the oppression of the majority. Bruised by British oppression, especially of non-Anglicans, a strong national state was designed not to oppress, but to prevent oppression in that very area of liberty that Libertarians claim to understand, but actually fail to grasp in the least. If Bruce Rauner actually had a grasp of what the Founding Fathers intended, he would understand that a referendum on gay marriage to assess what the majority wanted would be a violation of the rights of gay people. It doesn’t matter what the majority wants when it comes to the protection of liberty. This is where Rand Paul and his ilk are so dangerous. Rand would violate peoples’ civil rights to preserve the ‘right’ of business to do what it wants. No doubt, were it 1860, he would be a strong supporter of the business of slavery. Rauner is no Rand Paul, but he unquestionably does not understand the concept of democracy and the protection of liberty when he proposes term limits and referendums on gay marriage. Unfortunately, the moderate Republicans who once roamed Illinois have gone the way of the dinosaurs and we are left with people whose understanding of what America is all about is extraordinarily  lacking. Pat Quinn, on the other hand,  gets it and I sincerely hope that the hoards of Rauner and GOP PAC money don’t swing the election to Rauner. He has proposed, and seems to have, no answers to our fiscal crisis and will not be a friend to those of us without the means to pay $140,000 for a wine club. I’d  actually like to see him live on the minimum wage for a year. I doubt he could do it.