Thursday, August 4, 2011

And The Beat Goes On…

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, August 4, 2011.

Let me tell you about my uncle. He’s usually a pretty good guy, always lending a hand to those in need. He doesn’t like to see people suffer, so he has a tendency to overextend himself from time to time. In fact, he has become so “compassionate” toward others that his own children and family have suffered. After spending all his savings, he has been forced to travel far and wide seeking lenders and creditors. Each time he promises a quick repayment, but then he sees another needy soul or another grand project and back to the creditors he goes.

The people to whom he gives so much assistance, however, have become so accustomed to my uncle’s charitable ways that they scream and whine whenever he tries to scale back his gifts or if he asks them to accept some personal responsibility for their own needs.

Now my uncle is so deep in debt that he really needs an intervention. That is why some concerned members of his family and I got together last year and introduced him to some people who would tell him the hard truths about financial security. They met with him and told him he would have to slow down his spending habits, restore his credit rating and to think of his children and grandchildren who would be saddled with his debt.

Of course, my uncle, like so many others who have addictive personalities, doesn’t like the idea of limiting his spending. He seems to think he can just go and find another source of revenue and then everything will be okay. He says he will spend less and be more responsible - if he just gets a little bit more to spend. He seems to think he can spend his way back to a good credit rating if he can only find another lender (China) to borrow a little more or ask for more money (confiscate) from some wealthy people in the neighborhood.

Now, we all know this uncle is our dear old Uncle Sam, and we are all suffering as his children when he doesn’t see the error of his ways. Our current debt – over 14.3 TRILLION DOLLARS, weighing over 315 MILLION POUNDS in $100 bills – is like an anchor on the ship of our economy. She can’t float with that kind of a burden dragging along the bottom of the ocean.

We MUST do something about the debt. Merely raising the ceiling without reinforcing the floor doesn’t make the house fit for the elephant. We need to remodel the house. That means making tough choices and facing hard facts.

Fact number one was raised by former Republican Senator from New Hampshire, John Sununu, writing in the August 8, 2011 issue of Time magazine (pg. 27). He revealed that an alarming 47% of all Americans are receiving at least one Federal benefit. Our uncle is supporting, in one or way another, almost half of us!

People, we have met the enemy and he is us!

This budget problem will not go away – even if the debt ceiling is raised (at the time of this writing, Saturday – 7/30, no deal had been made to raise it by Tuesday) – it will have to be raised again and again, unless and until we get serious about limiting our spending.

This means we (at least 47% of us) have to stop asking our uncle to do things for us we can and should do for ourselves. We have over 24 different job training programs, for example, that are wasteful and redundant. We subsidize everything from Alpaca farmers to Mohair producers to Ethanol blenders to Oil drillers and yet we wonder why our uncle can’t pay his bills.
The time is ripe for a revolution in our way of dealing with our uncle. We need to intervene. Just as we did in November of 2010, we need to tell him the hard truth. He is out of his own money and he just cannot afford to give away other people’s money.
In closing, let me quote a speech I heard recently:

“America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began…”

Again, I must give credit where credit is due. The above speech was delivered by Barack Obama on the night he won the primary campaign in June, 2008. I agree. This is our moment. Let’s turn the page on the past and slow down the spending!

A Dysfunctional Household

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, August 4, 2011.

There has been a trend of late, on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum, to make comparisons between the national debt and budgetary concerns and the average household. The justification is typically that it makes it easier for folks to grasp a concept because they can get their heads around how their own finances work and can apply those principles to the government in terms of spending and revenue. It would make sense, too, if it weren’t for the fact that government budgets don’t work like our home budgets and the resources available for spending and saving models are quite different.

Of course, there are reasons of expediency that prompt us to use these analogies. For instance, it is easier to paint a picture of this household with a crazy uncle spending his money frivolously on those in need at the peril of his own, than it is to look at the painful truth and ask the difficult questions. Why is it that 47% of Americans require some federal benefit? The quaint Uncle Sam scenario ignores the fact that decades of lopsided policy, which favors the wealthy and corporations over the average citizen, has nearly eliminated the middle class, decimated the working poor and created an insurmountable wealth gap.

Not only is our crazy uncle more schizophrenic than Sybil, the entire family is dysfunctional. It’s bad enough that they eschew compromise like a plague and can’t come to agreement on important decisions. They also can’t think clearly about issues because their own habits have them feeding the corporate junky, or off on some reckless ideological binge. Republican House Speaker John Boehner is torn between pragmatic moderates, the Tea Party minority among Congressional Republicans, and an unrealistic anti-tax pledge he signed at the behest of powerful lobbyist Grover Norquist. Add this to the fact that he is clinging desperately to his leadership position in the House as Republic Majority Leader Eric Canter strives to undermine him and steal his job.

The Tea Party representatives seem incapable of grasping the potential damage of debt default or a downgrade of economic ranking. They appear publicly either denying the impact or downplaying it significantly. And as the nation heads toward a cliff of uncertain peril, they are trying to exploit a crisis to ram through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution — dangerous legislation, which should only be the result of careful and protracted debate.

Democrats, for their part, make a show at protecting programs that are of vital need (especially in a weak economy), only to slowly cave to political pressure. Meanwhile, real people are worrying over a future that discounts their existence and increases their burdens.

My brother Gordon’s personification of the spendthrift Uncle Sam has real flaws. When American households fall on hard times, they cut out frills; they take fewer vacations; they limit their trips around town and carpool; they keep that older car; they avoid large purchases. They don’t stop feeding Grandma. They don’t tell her to choose between medication and other daily needs. And they don’t write off their niece with breast cancer simply because she’s had the misfortune to be downsized by the company for which she used to work. Oh, by the way, these people receiving the help of “compassionate” Uncle Sam aren’t outsiders. They’re all members of the same American family.

Real American wage earners don’t turn down raises in income out of some sense of loyalty to a corporation. Republicans continue to protect the wealthiest two percent in the nation from any form of shared sacrifice, even as they scream about the deficit and national debt. No, raising the tax rate at the highest brackets a few percentage points won’t close the deficit gap, but turning down income in the face of rising debt is irresponsible.

And I’m tired of an insistence that the wealthy already pay their fair share. Yes, a majority of the tax burden falls on the wealthy. The wealth gap they helped to widen created that imbalance. More Americans than ever before don’t earn enough to pay income taxes. Consequently, the burden falls to those with the means and the healthy paychecks.

Pompous Libertarian Nick Gillespie appeared on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher recently. Regarding shared sacrifice, he said, “I believe in shared sacrifice. I just believe it should be a choice.” Are the poor, sick and elderly given a choice over the sacrifice that is soon to be imposed upon them?

Corporations are also favorites in the personification game. In fact, they enjoy all the rights of personhood bestowed upon them by their kindly Uncle Sam. Unfortunately, the responsibilities of personhood don’t fully apply. Our friends on the conservative right keep insisting that lower taxes for the wealthy and corporations manifest themselves in the form of jobs. Unfortunately, it’s not true and we can apply a household model to get us partway to the reason why.

The principle behind tax breaks at the corporate level is that if operating costs are lower and therefore profits are higher, there will be incentive to invest in the form of jobs. First, look at the household model. If we have more disposable income we might aspire to shop at local merchants and pay a bit more for goods and services that help the community and common good. The reality is that our addiction to “low, low prices” keeps us sheepishly shopping at Wal-Mart.

The same holds for corporations, only with an added consideration. Corporations are legally bound to the interests of shareholders. Therefore, any additional profit or savings in operating costs are absorbed as part of the unsustainable continual growth curve that corporations strive for to satisfy boards and investors. So, any investment in jobs, facilities or other expenditure that benefit the common good are made from the top down. And since corporations are addicted to Wal-Mart-priced jobs, they will continue to create their jobs overseas.

I am certain that by the time you read this column, the debt ceiling will have been raised and the immediate crisis averted. However, the family will still be as dysfunctional and the partisan wrangling over spending and taxes will rage on. Like Gordon, I think the nation needs a revolutionary intervention. His vision continues to favor the wealthy at the expense of the poor. Mine seeks to eliminate the codependency between corporate power and political leadership.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, July 21
, 2011.

As the nation watched the grueling battle last week over the deficit and the debt ceiling, I became convinced of a troubling transformation. I believe we have witnessed, over the last few years, the slow demise of the democratic process in our federal government.

The structure and balance of the United States’ governing mechanism is based on compromise that facilitates the representation of its citizens. We have watched as this productive compromise has given way to power brokering and political posturing.

We have come to mistrust Washington and expect that partisan politics will trump policies that benefit real people. Accepting this fact is depressing enough. However, my fear is that the problem isn’t Washington’s culture. I fear that radio personality Rush Limbaugh is right when he insists that the American people (or at least those who voted for Tea Party Republican candidates in 2010) don’t want to see compromise among our political leaders.

Has every day’s congressional session become like the Super Bowl? Are we all just picking our side to win at any cost? When we watch a sporting event, none of us is rooting for a tie. In fact we have organized our athletic contests in such a way that a tie or draw is impossible, or at least implausible. We want to see a clean-cut victory.

But governing is not a team sport. Yes, we have a two-party system that has become a perpetual election cycle. The Republicans and the Democrats in office are constantly seeking political cover and appealing to the public for approval. Yes, like fans of the Dallas Cowboys or the New England Patriots, the average person identifies with their chosen political party. Indeed, many people proudly wear their affiliation as part of their identity, declaring “I’m a Democrat” (or Republican) as naturally as announcing “I’m a Christian” (or Muslim, or Jew). The problem is that unlike team sports, governing is vital to our existence as a republic. Cuts to safety net programs will have real consequences to real people. Defaulting on our financial obligations will have real consequences — not just for Americans but on a global scale. Failing to address 9.2 percent unemployment will slow the recovery of our economy and prolong the pain felt by the majority of the working class and poor.

Still the game continues in Washington.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made his position clear long ago when he stated his top priority was making Barack Obama a one-term president. Any doubt that politics still outweighs policy for this man was put to rest this week as he scrambled to lay down cover for the Republicans. He even proposed allowing Obama to raise the debt ceiling independent of congressional approval in order to placate the Tea Party base while avoiding a default that could be devastating to the economy. Apparently, McConnell realizes that as the fallout of inaction impacts every American it will be obvious that stonewalling by Republicans puts them squarely to blame.

McConnell warned Republicans that default would make the GOP co-owners of a bad economy and would help Obama win reelection in 2012. Of course, this political cover only works if the American people ignore the fact that a Republican administration ushered in the bad economy the U.S. is currently struggling with. We also have to ignore that although Republican House Speaker John Boehner came to power calling for job creation, the Republicans have not introduced a single bill that would create domestic jobs. Who can blame them? It’s hard to run on economic recovery in 2012 if the unemployment rate starts falling and people begin to see that they are, in fact, better off than they were four years ago.

It is also clear to me that the White House and Congress are unlikely to reach a deal that would accomplish anything meaningful. The president has put programs like Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block (against the will of his Democratic base) to secure a deal that includes revenue increases. Unfortunately, Republicans bound to a Grover Norquist pledge to avoid tax increases refuse to consider rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy (from 36 percent to the Clinton-era level of 39 percent). They also turned down the repeal of a tax break for owners of private jets on the same principals. To be fair, Mr. Norquist doesn’t deserve all the credit. The greed of wealth and Corporate America still traps both parties in a stranglehold that leaves them impotent to enact policy that benefits any but their benefactors.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope that President Obama is right when he insists that the majority of the American people (Republicans included) want to see a balanced approach to our economic woes. I hope that the average citizen cares more about the consequences of partisan politics than about seeing their team win a battle of power. I hope that democratic representation returns to our republic’s governing bodies. I hope that “We the People” start to again matter to our representatives as more than mere votes in the next election.

I agree with Obama

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, July 21
, 2011.

If one were to read Keith’s column without a clear knowledge of history, one would have to conclude that the era of partisan politics began in the fall of 2008 when the American Electoral College declared Barack Hussein Obama the President of the United States of America. Many, like Keith, believe the Republican party has been having a hissy fit since then. They see the GOP acting as petulant adolescents, opposing everything Obama proposes merely for the sake of opposition.

I suppose Keith, and others who believe as he does, would prefer a nation where one party rules and the other just sits back and nods in agreement. Perhaps that would make for a peaceful news hour, where rhetoric and politics would melt away and choruses of Kumbaya could be heard from the House floor, but I contend it would make for terrible policy. If you doubt me, just think of other nations who have that “peaceful” air of one-party rule, where none dare to utter a word in opposition, where dissent is met with handcuffs and a one-way ticket to a re-education camp.

I would remind Keith, and others who believe as he does, that our nation was born in a spirit of passionate debate. Our founders recognized the fact that truth and progress usually lie somewhere between two polar opposites. In fact, most of the greatest accomplishments and reforms in our nation’s history have come only after many hours of rancorous debate.

However, in the spirit of spreading some goodwill and compromise in this current battle over extending our nation’s debt limit, I am hereby proclaiming my agreement with a Democratic senator. When I read this man’s words, I immediately concurred with his points. Knowing that words can sometimes be taken out of context, I actually did the due diligence of searching the Congressional Record and read the actual transcript. The following are his words copied and pasted from the Congressional Record of the 109th Congress, dated March 16, 2006 on pages S2238 and S2239:

“Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem.

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.”

I said “Amen, brother, preach it!” He went on to add even more:

“…the cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses in the Federal budget. This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.
Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America's priorities. Instead, interest payments are a significant tax on all Americans – a debt tax that Washington doesn’t want to talk about. If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country, we would see an effort to reduce our national debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies.”
Another “Amen!” from me. Then he went even further:

“Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”

Of course, that senator’s name was Barack Obama – but that was the Obama of 2006 – not the Obama of 2011, just as the Obama of 2008 opposed the surge of Iraq, until the Obama of 2009 ordered the surge of Afghanistan, but I digress.
Keith followed the party line of the Democrats and the tired class warfare tactic of blaming owners of corporate private jets for taking advantage of a tax deduction that was signed into the stimulus package contrived by President Obama and Geithner. The tax deduction merely allows accelerated depreciation for new jet purchases and its repeal would have diminished our deficit by a whopping $3 Billion over ten years! In other words, it is 0.075% of the deficit spending this year alone! Yeah, baby, let’s get that tax deduction repealed even though it has been credited with increasing sales of domestic aircraft by 43% and has pumped $2 Billion into the economy and saved American jobs.

It has often been the tactic of the Democrats to portray the Republicans as favoring the rich, the corporations and the military, while they themselves come across as compassionate and caring for the middle and lower classes. This latest battle over the debt limit merely perpetuates both myths.

The facts are clearly stated in the above quote from Barack Obama of 2006: raising the debt limit without reducing spending is irresponsible “…it is a failure of leadership, and it is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Libya? Why not Syria? Why Yemen?

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, July 7, 2011.

As I watched our president’s latest press conference, I was intrigued by his response to a question from a reporter who asked him about the constitutionality of the War Powers Act. I will not go as far as Mark Halperin went in his description of President Obama’s demeanor (for the story on his comment, follow this link:, but I will say that he was less-than-congenial and that he was very defensive of his position. He claimed that the War Powers Act did not apply to the situation in Libya (our drones are dropping bombs, our planes are flying sorties, our military personnel are involved in strategy and our warships are sending rocket attacks toward a specified target and we have declared a mission that involves the removal of a foreign leader), does not rise to definition of war, therefore he does not need to answer the question about the constitutionality of the legislation that every other president since Nixon has had to deal with.

According to President Obama, war is not war unless our soldiers are “in harm’s way”. ( Right. And according to Bill Clinton, sex was not sex unless…but I digress.

As we examine the reasons for our “involvement” in Libya and our reluctance to get involved in similar uprisings and reprisals in Syria, Yemen and the Saudi peninsula, we have to ask our leaders the right questions. Why Libya? Why not Syria? Why Yemen? Why not the Sudan?

The answers to those questions are important and the American people deserve a better answer than President Obama gave in his press conference.

If our mission in Libya is to protect citizens from a despotic and malicious ruler who is brutally murdering civilians simply because they are protesting his policies, then we must also send missiles and drones into Syria, where, according to the latest reports from the Associated Press, more than 1,400 rights activists have been slaughtered by government forces under the direction of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Why have we basically ignored the situation there?

In Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, where poverty and unemployment rates both top 50%, protesters have been marching in the capital city of Sanaa since January, demanding jobs, education and social services. Their demands have been met with gunfire directed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, killing hundreds of civilians. What has our State Department done in that situation? Did they rush in with humanitarian aid and missile strikes against Saleh’s palaces as we did in Libya?

The answer to the above question is yes and no. Yes, we sent Predator drones, missiles and rockets into Yemen. And yes, we have CIA operatives and Special Forces on the ground there. However, it is not quite the way you think.

You see, in Yemen, the Obama administration has decided to back the Saleh regime in this civil conflict. We have been carrying on military operations in another foreign nation, plotting assassinations, identifying targets and killing civilians – and all of this without congressional consultation or approval or the knowledge of the American people. Meanwhile, our news media finds the Casey Anthony trial worthy of 24-7 coverage! So much for the Fourth Estate!

Please read the following quote from author, Niall Green, writing for World Socialist Web Site, on June 17, 2011 (

Though Washington has been secretive about the extent of its operations, there are reports in the US and Arab media of an increased use of US air strikes in southern Yemen, with six alleged Al Qaeda militants killed in such attacks over the past month.

One such air strike led to the killing of an alleged mid-level Al Qaeda militant in the country last week. The Obama administration is also attempting to assassinate US citizen Anwar Awlaki, a Muslim cleric believed to be living in Yemen, accused of playing a leading role in the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

There are reports of US Special Forces troops on the ground in Yemen providing intelligence for air strikes and carrying out assassinations of alleged Islamist militants. The Obama administration has denied that any US troops are involved in active operations in the country, but has acknowledged that some armed forces personnel are engaged in providing weapons, advice and training to Yemeni counterterrorism forces.

I agree that this source should be verified with additional sources, but the overall point is clear:

Our foreign policy is a muddled mess of conflicting signals and inconsistencies. We have troops and ongoing military operations in several Arab nations. Our “limited kinetic operation” (as Obama calls it) is looking much like an incremental war as France has begun supplying weapons to the rebels, which, if Khaddafi succeeds in overthrowing them – unless we step up our efforts with “boots on the ground” – will undoubtedly be used against us and our European allies when Khaddafi retaliates, as he has recently vowed to do.

I believe we should re-evaluate all of our missions. If there is no direct threat to our national security, we should not be involved. Our military is not a humanitarian agency – it is a killing machine. Most of these Arab nations have been fighting tribal conflicts since biblical times. We cannot pick and choose sides and expect to foster democracy in an area where loyalty to sects is more powerful than the urge for freedom.

I know Keith will accuse me of changing my stripes and of being inconsistent. Perhaps I am guilty of those charges, but apparently I have company in the White House when we consider the inconsistency of the man who once thought one war was too many; now, he seems to think three are not enough.

A Consistent Foreign Policy

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, July 7, 2011.

My brother Gordon and I agree on one point in his column. I do see the views he expressed as a change of stripes and inconsistent with his past views. If he keeps those isolationist views – opposing military action for ethical reasons – when a Republican occupies the White House, I’ll withdraw my criticism and welcome him to the world occupied heretofore by my liberal colleagues and myself. I suspect that there will be a shift, though, back to the familiar trappings of Bush doctrine preemptive war to further American interests with little concern for issues of human rights, justice or international law.

Gordon isn’t alone, though, in departures of this type since a Democrat was elected as the leader of the free world. Conservatives who used to characterize those who would criticize the policies of George W. Bush as unpatriotic, are spewing personal vitriol on a daily basis at Barack Obama. A Democratic Congressman would have been crucified for the disrespect of shouting “you lie” as Bush addressed a joint session. A political pundit would not have been so cavalier as to hurl a derogatory term at the President of United States on national television; a term more likely to be reserved for conversation at a local bar. That has been the transformation from civility and I can only hope it returns once the power shifts to a party of favor.

Of course there is blatant hypocrisy. Gordon was never critical of Bush’s combative tone when dealing with a Democratic Congress. I never heard him judge the casual attitude with which Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the rest of the administration discussed the deployment of America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way. I’m glad to see new concern for the expense of life and treasure we invest in military intervention around the globe. I just hope it is genuine and not a knee-jerk reaction to the policies of the “other” team.

I did advocate the United States’ involvement in the NATO operation in Libya. From everything I could see, the danger of a dictator mowing down his own citizens was a destabilizing element in the region. I am concerned about the political consequences of skirting the War Powers Act and the fallout that might bring. However, there has been considerable legal coverage and Obama has been meeting with a legal team for months before and after the 90-day deadline to ensure he was on firm ground. Do I believe that settles the debate over the constitutionality of the action? No. Do I believe that there will be those who will use the lack of formal approval as ammunition? I do.

Gordon’s reference to a socialist blog that discusses specific clandestine missions in the region, at the same time he claims that Obama is reluctant to get involved in similar situations to Libya’s, is really irrelevant. The United States military and the arms of its intelligence organizations have historically and continually engaged in covert missions. These missions by their very definition are secret and have a close circle of officials who are privy to that information. These operations are often reviewed by congressional committees charged with security, defense and intelligence, but they are not brought to Congress for its approval.

I have been concerned with our recent and frequent use of drones and other unmanned weaponry that allows us to execute brutal warfare with precision, and also with the comfort and relative coldness of distance. We had been engaging terrorists and assassinating key personnel constantly during the Bush administration, and are continuing through Obama’s. The CIA operations on the ground in Pakistan were instrumental in the execution of the Osama bin Laden Navy Seal mission. I have severe reservations about much of this and do not support many of the missions in which our men and women engage, but it is consistent with United States military policy.

There were differences in the circumstances of Libya that made action to prevent further killing of protesting civilians a viable solution, when similar action elsewhere was not. The NATO operation had the support of the United Nations, and Arab nations in the region were giving it a nod. A strong coalition of nations signed on to help impose and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. There were both international and U.S. interests at stake.

Also, despite the implication by my fellow columnist that the Obama administration rejected the interests of Israel (June 9, 2011, Broader View Weekly), Obama respected Israel’s wishes by not acting in Syria. The chaos of regime change in Syria could destabilize Lebanon and threaten Israel. Therefore Israel has been urging caution. For better or worse (more often worse, I fear) the United States and Israel have their wagons hitched together.

I think we need to reevaluate our military involvements. I think we should view each mission through lenses that account for ethical concerns as well as those of justice and international law. Our policies should be consistent, which would also be comforting to other nations who share our interests, and not bend to the winds of party politics.

The Real Reasons for Slow Recovery

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, June 23, 2011.

Last week former GOP House Speaker and apparent 2012 Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich referred to the current economic downturn as the “Obama Depression”. It was an effective sound bite and popular with the conservative media and with the rabid right of the Republican base. Tea Partiers and disgruntled conservatives, angry at Obama and seeking any justification for their visceral disdain ate it up. Radio personalities Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh used identical talking-point phrases to imply that the U.S. is headed for a “double dip recession – some say ‘depression’”.

But few people other than those with an agenda tied to economic failure under President Barack Obama’s auspice believe that a second wave of recession is likely. And no one paying attention to the economic indicators is taking the word “depression” seriously. Even the right’s exalted Wall Street Journal discounted reports of a potential relapse. In the article “What it Would Take to Do a Double Dip”, Justin Lahart made the case that it would “take a significant shock to knock the economy off course”.

In all the talk of economic recovery – especially in the conservative media and blogosphere – it is easy to lose sight of the economic facts surrounding the issue. It is true that unemployment remains at nine percent and recovery is moving slower than expected or desired. But blaming Obama for the slow growth ignores factors outside his policies.

One important consideration is that this is not Obama’s recession. The collapse of the financial market, bursting of the housing bubble and decline of industry are the results of decades of failed economic policy, spanning the Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush administrations, and culminating in the deepest recession in years.

Since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, Washington’s lopsided policies have benefited the nation’s corporate and elite wealthy, while shortchanging the working poor and the middle class. Through subsidies, deregulation, tax breaks and other legislation the government has feathered the nests of Corporate America at the expense of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – without demanding a return on that investment in the form of job and industry growth.

A recent report illustrates the fact that George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy “have exacerbated the trend of widening income inequality, accompanied the worst economic expansion since World War II, and turned budget surpluses into deficits.” The Economic Policy Institute released a June 1 report titled “Tenth Anniversary of The Bush-Era Tax Cuts: A decade later, the Bush tax cuts remain expensive, ineffective, and unfair”, in which Andrew Fieldhouse and Ethan Pollack listed how the breaks disproportionately benefited the wealthy, while failing to trickle down to the working class and failing to stimulate economic growth. But, even during Bush’s administration, the lack of stimulus was evident as the country hemorrhaged jobs at a rate of 700,000 per month at the end of his presidency.

Of course, my brother Gordon will claim that Obama continued the Bush tax cuts under the advisement of many economists. It is true that he publicly admitted that some economists did recommend extending the tax breaks for the wealthy, but there is little reason to assume he favored the decision. In fact, Democrats and the president were blackmailed into acting against their will by Republicans who were holding the working poor and unemployed hostage at the end of last year.

Despite the insistence that these policies would allow the “job creators” to boost the economy, Corporate Wealth chose instead to invest overseas, outsourcing jobs and devastating industry. Until we begin investing in real job creators – education, tomorrow’s technology, employment opportunities that pay substantive wages, infrastructure that yields long-term benefits – the United States will fall behind other competing nations and the economy will fail to grow.

There are some who believe that Corporate America is conspiring against Democrats and working to stifle economic prosperity for political reasons. It is true that Republicans have a reputation for catering to the corporate agenda, and blaming Democrats for a faltering economy will certainly help the GOP in next year’s elections. It is also true that despite the fact that profits are rising, job creation has remained relatively stagnant. It is conceivable that big business is holding the working poor for ransom in the form of political power.

One need only look at the power that corporate lobbyists have over legislators of both parties to see the immense power they already exert. Instead of bringing forth legislation aimed at creating jobs, Congress remains mired in fights over repealing the health care reform designed to provide coverage for the neediest Americans, and reinstating the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act – bickering that does not benefit those struggling in a weakened economy.

Congress is also preoccupied in a debate over the national debt and the deficit. In the Wall Street Journal article mentioned earlier, Lahart admits that this protracted battle is debilitating to economic growth. Experts feel that the uncertainty of foreign debt, the impact on credit and the potential of default is creating instability in the market.

The Republicans’ emphasis on the budget deficit (when the primary concern of most Americans is the job deficit) is damaging consumer confidence, which in turn slows economic growth.

All of this, of course, plays favorably into the GOP strategy. A weak economy heading into 2012 will only benefit opposition candidates as they seek to present themselves as a positive change. They may need to propose a viable solution to the ails of the current economy, but in the current climate of public opinion the collateral of political rhetoric outweighs hard facts – bumper-sticker slogans trump real legitimate ideas.

At any rate, don’t look for legislation aimed at creating jobs and growing the economy within the next year-and-a-half. Republicans will be hard at work attacking the Democrats for the deficit George Bush worked hard to create, and obstructing any policy designed to aid real hard-working Americans. Democrats will be busy caving to the whims of a Tea Party minority that imposes its will as if it were the majority voice.

We must either eliminate the current two-party system in which both sides are beholden to corporate interests – and which places political ideology ahead of public service – or we must hold our leaders’ feet to the fire and demand adequate representation. The status quo is unsustainable if we ever again wish to compete in the global economy. I fear, however, corporate-driven policy and partisan politics will continue to hinder our weakened economic system.

“There you go again…”

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, June 23, 2011.

After reading Keith’s column, I was reminded of the above quote spoken by Ronald Reagan during the final presidential debate in the election of 1980. Reagan was responding to President Carter’s repeated fallacious attacks upon Reagan’s Medicare proposals. It was seen as a pivotal point in the debate when Reagan showed that Carter was being misleading in his accusations, and it was used again four years later when President Reagan defended himself against Walter Mondale’s equally false charges that Reagan would have to raise taxes the following year. I humbly use it now to reply to my fellow columnist:

Keith, there you go again.

Now normally I would just grin and shake my head when I encounter misstatements and obfuscations in the press or on TV, however, I feel it is my duty to respond to what Keith sees as the “real reasons for slow recovery”.

First of all, Keith claims the economy (and the current longest recession in history) doesn’t really belong to Obama. Keith should get in touch with Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairperson Debbie Wassermann-Schultz and White House Spokesman Jay Carney, because they both claimed ownership of the economy this week.

Jay Carney said: “We all own the economy. We all work together in Washington to devise policies to improve the economic situation.” And “We own the economy. We own the beginning of the turnaround and we want to make sure that we continue that pace of recovery,” – Wasserman-Shulz
Second point – if, as Keith claims, the “failed economic policies” of the past decades are to blame for the current malaise, then why haven’t the promised results from Obama’s (successful?) policies brought relief? How many years should we wait for the turnaround?

Apparently, the majority of Americans do not follow Keith’s assessment either. Those polled recently (NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey see the current direction as “on the wrong track” (62%); 54% disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the economy, and over 82% see his policies as “somewhat”, “mainly”, or “solely” responsible for the condition of the economy.

Keith then brought up the reference to Reagan’s presidency as the beginning of the policies which have “feathered the nests of Corporate America at the expense of our children…”. Well, Keith, since you mentioned it, let’s look back at those policies and compare Reagan’s record against Obama’s.

To begin with, Obama inherited a much better economy than did Ronald Reagan. When Carter finished his term, he handed off a 10.8% unemployment rate; inflation was also in double digits as were the interest rates. Poverty was also on the increase – during Carter’s final two years alone, it rose from 11.4 to over 15.2%. Median family income was decreasing and the Dow Jones Industrial Average had lost 70% of its value.

Reagan’s policies initiated an immediate effect upon the economy. In the first 16 months of Reagan’s presidency, unemployment fell from over 10.8% to less than 7.5%, while in the same time frame of Obama’s experimental presidency, unemployment has actually increased. Reagan’s economy created over four million jobs (comparable to six million jobs in our population statistics), and also averaged 7.1% economic growth over the first seven quarters; the Obama recovery has produced less than half that at 2.8%, with the last quarter at a dismal 1.8%.
Need I go on?

Keith continues to blame the Bush tax cuts for the woes of our jobless numbers and budget deficits, and he was right to predict that I would call him out on that, but instead of using the words of Obama (which Keith seems to think were not truly indicative of his real beliefs, hmmm… so does that mean Obama was being disingenuous?) I will use the words of his economic advisor, Peter Orszag, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, who wrote in a New York Times editorial, dated September 6, 2010: “…No one wants to make an already stagnating jobs market worse over the next year or two, which is exactly what would happen if the cuts expire as planned. Higher taxes now would crimp consumer spending, further depressing the already inadequate demand for what firms are capable of producing at full tilt.” (

It is also disingenuous of Keith to blame this mysterious entity called “Corporate America” as the sole source of our nation’s ills, capable of “conspiring against Democrats and working to stifle economic prosperity for political reasons” – as if all these corporations with competing interests for labor, market share and consumer goodwill could or would somehow join together in a smoke-filled chamber somewhere and construct a nefarious plan to cut their own livelihood and profit margins for the sake of putting a Republican in the White House. Yeah, right, it makes perfect sense to me.

A better answer seems to be that “Corporate America” (whoever or whatever that is in Keith’s eyes) is, like the rest of us, waiting and wishing for an economic plan that will work. You know, like the one that worked in 1981.

Monday, June 20, 2011

History Lessons from the Middle East

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, June 9,

When a smoldering ember is infused with a fresh breath of oxygen, it usually results in bright flame that can spread to a full-fledged fire if the source of that oxygen remains. It is one of the paradoxical qualities of fire, that it can be a force of warmth, comfort, beauty and useful for preparing food and/or other vital products, and it can also become a scorching, fearsome destructive force that can take lives and wreak havoc.

When President Obama said the “pre-1967 borders” between Israel and Palestine should be considered, when discussing the possibility of peace in that region, he blew a fresh breath of proverbial oxygen onto a smoldering ember of hatred and resentment toward the Jewish state. This simple remark – juxtaposed as it was on the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to our Capital and the White House – ignited a flame that, if not quenched by more reasoned words, could potentially lead to a very destructive conflagration.

When one hears of the “pre-1967” borders, one should look into what exactly those borders were and determine the cause of why those borders changed.

The history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, literally, goes back to Old Testament book of Genesis and the prophetic statement made by Yahweh; that the family feud between Isaac’s offspring (Israel) and the offspring of Ishmael (Arab nations) – both sons of Abraham – would continue forever (Genesis chapters 22 – 25). I do not intend to go back that far but I do believe we should at least go back as far as 1967 and revisit the events that led to the alteration of the political landscape that summer.

Egyptian forces were encamped along Israel’s southern borders, Jordanian troops were also poised for attack from the west and north, Syrian forces accompanied by Pakistani aircraft were ready and joined the Egyptians as willing partners, along with the freshly formed and virulently hateful Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The aim of this coalition of Arab nations was total annihilation of the infant state of Israel.

When Egypt’s Nassar shut down the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping in the last week of May, 1967, it was, in essence, an act of war. Israel responded with a pre-emptive strike and an historic military campaign that stands alone in world history as one of the most brilliant and well-conducted operations ever mounted in a nation’s self defense against hostile forces. Within six days (June 5 – June 10) Israel had captured all of the Sinai Peninsula and extended her borders into Jordan, Palestine and Syria.
Most of the lands and territories captured during those days in early June of 1967 have since been relinquished by the Israelis in exchange for promises of peaceful coexistence. However, the aim of those in Palestine who are, to this day, still sending rockets and sniper fire into Israel, continues to be the annihilation of – not the peaceful coexistence with – the nation of Israel.
The PLO and Hamas (the terrorist organization recognized as a legitimate political party in Palestine) still refuse to recognize the statehood of Israel and until that recognition is established, it matters little what President Obama says or how eloquently he says it. Peace will not come to that area, even if Israel reverts back to pre-1948 borders.

We should bear in mind that this conflict is not about territories or settlements. It is about the right to exist without fear of sniper bullets or suicide bombers or rocket fire. Israel faces these fears each and every day. Many Arabs live and move freely within the borders of Israel. No acts of hatred and violence threaten their commerce or sleep. However, very few Jews dare to risk their lives by moving into Palestine.

President Obama was right to say: “For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them.” (

However, he was wrong – or misled – when he said, in the same speech: “I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past.” (ibid)

Current events (the evidence of Iranian support for Hamas’ continued terrorist activity aimed at Israel) and the fact that Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas has made several public statements that he does not recognize the state of Israel as legitimate, prove that the majority of Palestinians are indeed looking to the past. “I will never allow a single Israeli to live among us on Palestinian land,” Abbas declared in a recent interview. Israel is home to a sizable proportion of Arab citizens, who have the vote and are represented by Arab parties in the Knesset. (

President Obama should know the Palestinian authorities are not merely looking back to 1967, they seek to return to 1947, when there was no official state of Israel.

Perspective is Everything

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, June 9, 2011

When judging President Barack Obama’s policy toward the continuing unrest between Israel and Palestine, it is important to approach the situation with an honest perspective. It’s true that a historical context is helpful, but it is dangerous to focus on biblical prophecy, especially when two Abrahamic religions claim the same territorial birthright. It is also dangerous to view Israel as an innocent victim of Palestinian aggression.

Furthermore, it is counterproductive to mischaracterize Obama’s speech as a betrayal of an ally while ignoring important points.

The president chastised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for attempting to persuade the United Nations to recognize Palestine while delegitimizing Israel. He said “symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.” Still, the right-wing of conservative punditry called the speech a slap in Israel’s face and a giveaway to Palestine.

The right also treated Obama’s two-state solution as an unprecedented stance. The fact of the matter is that it was not a ground-breaking departure from U.S. policy with regards to the region. In fact, the Washington Institute think tank has already published maps outlining swaps in an effort to resolve the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Oddly enough, Obama’s predecessor had proposed similar concessions years before. In a speech in June of 2002 Bush said, “Ultimately, Israelis and Palestinians must address the core issues that divide them if there is to be a real peace, resolving all claims and ending the conflict between them. This means that the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 will be ended through a settlement negotiated between the parties, based on U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, with Israeli withdrawal to secure and recognize borders.”

To me that sounds an awful lot like Obama’s statement: “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

It may be true that religious hostility is at the core of the conflict. However, resigning to a prophetic impasse is not only an impediment to viable solutions, it reinforces a mindset that continues to mire the Middle East in the perils of jihad and holy war. And, since certain Christian fundamentalist sects believe that a sovereign nation of Israel is a prerequisite for end-times events, a large number of Americans (including many in military and governmental leadership positions) have an unrealistic perspective of the conflict.

History doesn’t show Israel as an innocent victim of Arab aggression, seeking only its self-defense. The timeline is peppered with pre-emptive strikes on Arab states, denial of rights and humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, and violence. Indeed, last month over a dozen Palestinian protestors (commemorating the war of 1967) were gunned down, and another handful were killed in demonstrations last weekend. Scores more were wounded in the incidents. Ignoring Israel’s aggressions and painting Palestinians as wholly responsible for the unrest is dangerous.

These recent protests illustrate the urgency of the situation, and provide important context for Obama’s treatment of the conflict in his Middle East speech. The Arab spring which is waxing into the Arab summer has changed the dynamic in the region. Israelis and Palestinians find themselves in the center of a swelling thirst for liberty and freedom. My brother Gordon has implied that Obama is fanning the flames of resentment, but other risks are certain. As the fire of self-determination sends sparks scattering across the desert plains, a sense of futility about the prospect of peace and resolution can be incendiary.

Obama brought this perspective into his speech. “At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever,” he said, adding “…The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people – not just one or two leaders – must believe peace is possible. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.”

Resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict is vital to any hope of peace in the Middle East. I have always been critical of the dysfunctional alliance the U.S. and Israel enjoy, but I fully recognize that the United States can be an agent to facilitate resolution. However, our perspective of the situation must be grounded in honest reality, along with the historical context.