Tag Archives: Barack Obama

A Suggestion for Compromise on the Fiscal Cliff

FiscalCliffFeature2_0

In a perfect political world, each side gets what it wants.  Since that aint the world we live in, let’s work with what we got.

  1. Dems get their tax increases.  This shouldn’t even be negotiable.  The Bush tax cuts were woefully unproductive at promoting growth, but “amaaaaaaazing” at tackling on billions in new debt.
  2. Republicans get to raise the age of Medicare to 67.  People are living and working longer.  Until our culture is one that values rest, our policies address it in a language it understands.

But here’s the catch:  In exchange for raising the age to 67, Dems get to invest in a National health and wellness program.  The Federal task force would work with Governors, Mayors, and local leaders to create a reasonable contract with state-centered targets.  We could have a quarterly public evaluation to provide accountability and keep the issue fresh — something like a national weigh-in for states.

The rationale is this:  A government is not a business.  Unlike a business, it has a responsibility to promote and protect the public welfare.  But doing that isn’t free, and government must also be prudent in how it spends.  This compromise, then, is an investment in both economic and public health.

The potential outcome is that we accept a national commitment — not one sponsored by independent organizations or non-state actors — a national one that unites us around the goal of reducing the number of incidences of avoidable diseases.

My opposition might dismiss this suggestion as too big a reach, or too intrusive a job for government.  To them, my reply is:  get over it.  Government will be a part of your life for as long as you live.  Might as well use it to help you live longer and healthier, so you can make more money — that it doesn’t have to use to care for you.


Election 2012: *points and snickers*

You get to make this face when you’ve trounced your opponent, and he never saw it coming.

Since President Obama’s reelection Tuesday night, Republicans’ reflections on their embarrassing loss, ironically, have been a reflection of the exact reasons why they lost. In the aftermath, the $400,000,000 question is this: Who lost the election? Conservamoderate Mitt Romney or the Party itself?

First, I feel compelled to disabuse the premise. Barack Obama won the Presidential election. His campaign reached out to the people it needed to reach, and The People (I use this term broadly because, literally, it was every group except white men) responded. And you have to appreciate that they didn’t have to. I learned Wednesday night that one of my good friends sat it out this election. “Just not feelin politics right now,” he said. So folks could have stayed home, could’ve checked out altogether, but they didn’t. In fact, in some states, voters showed up in even greater numbers than in 2008. Barack Obama won 50.5% of the popular vote, compared to Mitt Romney’s 48% (wouldn’t it have been poetic justice if that figure was 47%?). Make no mistake, President Obama wasn’t the winner by default. He got chose.

Toward the end of the campaign, amid sure signs of an improving economy and mounting evidence of the President’s consistently rational and well-intentioned leadership, GOP narratives about the President’s “failures” began to unravel. It took just under 4 years to expose the flaws in today’s Grand Old Party and about 3 weeks after the first debate to expose Mitt Romney as a fraud. In the end, I think it was clear that the Republican Party, embodied in the candidate it nominated for President, was out of touch and unfit to occupy the Oval Office.

So, who lost the election? Both Romney and Republicans did. On Wednesday, Bill O’Reilly sagely opined that the Tea Party backed Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, would have been the better candidate to defeat Barack Obama, proving that they don’t get it what had happened the night before. Republicans still think they can simply match minority for minority and no one will be the wiser. Run Rubio and Latinos won’t notice that DREAMers can pay in-state tuition for college but still won’t have access to affordable healthcare. Or, run Susana Martinez and women won’t notice that she represents a party who wishes to end their right to choose, but give equal protection rights to their unborn fetuses. Republicans have a policy problem, and trotting out token minorities to champion bad policies won’t make the policies themselves less bad.

Mitt Romney never convincingly stood up to his party’s nonsense. Instead he was opportunist about it, and reveled in misleading low information voters with base tactics. For Romney, if it meant he would win 50.1% of the electorate, the end would justify the means. Yet, social issues (which are also economic issues, for the record) alone didn’t spell Romney’s demise. President Obama also defeated conservative budgetary philosophy by winning the argument on taxes and “fairness*.” The writing on the wall read that “job creators” prospered in this environment, but they aint create no jobs. In terms of domestic economic policy, Mitt Romney’s economic plan offered more of the same. There was no bold new idea, and changing things back to the way they were before they caused calamity isn’t exactly “change” as I understand it.

Thing is, President Obama’s detractors have always underestimated him. They dismiss him as a novelty deliverer of pretty speeches with few real accomplishments. But in the end, it was they who were undone by the soft bigotry of low expectations. It was Republicans who were exposed as one-dimensional, race-baiting, and small-minded. And Americans soundly rejected that vision for our future. Republicans lost both on demographics and on policy. Their nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ that never were engendered them to a view of the world that just isn’t real. Americans are not all Christian, and we’re not all straight, we don’t all have disposable income or access to good schools, and we don’t all live and die by the same traditions. But we all want the same thing: to be validated by our government, and visible to the people who represent us. If Republicans intend to be a relevent party going forward, they have to do more than practice the aesthetics of diversity. The People need substance too.

Finally, I don’t usually like to gloat because everybody with the courage to play, loses at some point. But there are times when winning really is the sweetest revenge. Indeed, revenge for the foul and failed campaign that Republicans ran this election year warrants a little irreverence for their discomfort at this trying time. I promise not to wallow in their misery. But I will share this hilarious tumblr posting, and delight in it.

This is for the John Sununus and the New Gingriches and the Donald Trumps of the campaign. Click here and enjoy, if you can: White People Mourning Romney**

*I guess Occupy Wall Street wasn’t just a gathering of pissed off hippies after all, eh?

**Seriously, there were, like, NO non-white people at that victory rally in Boston. It is what it is.


Poor Mitt

I feel bad for the guy. I really do. “Gaffes,” “unforced errors,” and a general sense of meh…i guess have confounded his political campaign.

In fairness, it is true that Mitt Romney’s failings aren’t entirely his fault. It seems the modern GOP is in an ideological tailspin. At one end of the Republican spectrum is nostalgia for a bygone era where only white men enjoyed access to the full bounty of freedom. And on the other end is greed disguised as “success.” The moderate, reasonable faction of Republicans seems drowned out by irrational, obstructionist activists and corporate shills. So Mitt kinda has to be some combination of “that guy” to win over a significant portion of his party. And that sucks.

But as I said, Mitt’s campaign failings aren’t entirely of his own making, but mostly they are. I can’t let the good Governor off the hook for the 47% comments. There’s just no way of spinning the dearth of his smug mischaracterization. Whether “inartfully worded” or eloquently stated, it was foul. And wrong.

And even if that hadn’t happened, there’s the matter of the tax returns — it’s not about how much money he made; it’s about the tax he paid. This point is critical to the discussion of presidential policy when the proposed solutions are a.) cutting social services; or b.) lowering taxes on people who are already well-off. This is a no brainer. But for Mitt, it’s a non-starter. I take issue.

And even if that wasn’t happening, there’s the disreputable-although-effective appeal, through invoking and expanding the Southern Strategy, to win white resentment votes from backlash to our country’s perceived to be parasitic minorities.

And the knee-jerk reaction to matters of international importance to gin up votes from war hawks and the cat who’s always the recipient of this advice: “dude. just think for a second.” But he never listens and his life is a constant … quagmire.

All politicians pander though, right? Right. But to me, Mitt’s approach seems transparently disingenuous. After a while, even John McCain had to tell that crazy lady that, “no ma’am. Barack Obama is not a Muslim” I won’t mention that, like, 30% of Republicans STILL think he is though, and they still expect us to treat them as intellectual equals. No, I won’t mention that. I’m not sure Mitt Romney has the stones to stand up to the willfully ignorant in his party. The way he’s played it so far …

The jury’s still out.

Most accounts of Governor Romney show that he was in the past a moderate, practical politician. He supported pro-choice polices and championed health reform that included a nod to personal responsibility. Yet, he has decided that to be a viable Republican Presidential candidate in 2012, although it could have been divined, it was also politically expedient to grow more “severely conservative.” And the waffling has made Mitt look weak. Former Republican Presidential candidate (and fellow warrior in weak), John Huntsman, described Mitt as a “perfectly lubricated weathervane.” His position on issues is pretty much contingent upon which way the political winds blow.

Likewise, a man I love and loathe, Joe Scarborough, penned a tough criticism of Mitt Romney in his “Politico” opinion piece, “the problem with Mitt.”

Craven calculation, on the other hand, does not pay off for conservatives. Romney needed to decide long ago who he was: the last of the Rockefeller Republicans (and thus somebody who probably wouldn’t have gotten through Iowa) or a genuine movement conservative with detailed ideas about how to right the country. Instead, we have a nominee who represents the worst of both worlds. Any swing voter attracted by moderate Republicanism can’t vote for a man who ran away from his core convictions. And conservative voters don’t believe Romney has any core convictions.

Authenticity is everything.

In discussing ideas, I think the calculus goes like this: even if folks disagree on substance, folks should be arguing points based on what they feel in earnest, in testament to their unique personal experiences. The challenge is to defend it, not to ignore it. For better of for worse, you gotta be who you are.

So even if I really could get down with Mitt Romney’s ideas, I couldn’t respect the way he’s run his campaign. I recognize that part of it isn’t his fault, as his party dangles precariously off the edge of sanity. Yet, Mitt Romney has lacked the courage of conviction in embarrassing and obvious ways. That part is his own. Perhaps, if he loses this election, it’ll put an end to this second act as The Perpetual Presidential Candidate. Perhaps, we will be forever spared from watching him suffer through the awkward contortions of Mitt as anything other than the cat he his: a wealthy business and family man. It’s really too much to bear. But a girl can #hope for #change.

Poor fella. Although not … literally. Which, of course, isn’t a bad thing. But I guess he proves it can be sometimes.

Ha! Look at me, pulling a Mitt.


Great Society

After watching President Obama’s Ohio Speech on the Economy last week, I structured my Black Politics lecture around the contributions and obstructions of federalism – the union of state and federal power – to the “African-American quest for universal freedom.” In that context, we discussed four episodes in our nation’s history which speak to the expansion of federal power, and the utility of “Big Government.” They are: Reconstruction, The Great Depression and the Great Recession, and the Civil Rights Era.

Reconstruction was the first national effort at not only physical, structural renewal, it also was an attempt to redefine society – to no longer affirm the institution of slavery, and the indignity of human bondage. Whatever your feelings about Abraham Lincoln’s motives in supporting abolition, the decision to go to war over it required courage. Lincoln’s efforts stated firmly that the United States is, and not that the United States are. We were one nation committed to a singular destiny – namely, life, liberty, the pursuit of prosperity and happiness for all Americans.

The expansion of Federal power via FDR’s New Deal programs following The Great Depression signaled that government took seriously its social contract with the consented. It would indeed work for the people.

As in the Great Recession, which began somewhere around 2007, and from which the U.S. economy hasn’t completely emerged, the expansion of federal power after the Great Depression served to protect the people against thrill-seeking investors’ risky financial decisions. In the event that great risk did not result in great reward, and instead, exploded into calamitous, wide-ranging collateral damage, only the federal government had the economic fluidity and the moral imperative to lead the rescue.

The moral imperative to do what’s right for most people is what defines the role of government and distinguishes it from the private sector. Thus, during times of national economic crisis, “relief” from steadily rising unemployment and poverty is proffered by the only entity with the power and financial liquidity to do so – government. Social welfare programs like the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the stimulus of 2009 (formally known as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) helped save the nation’s economy not from calamity and disaster, but from deepening calamity and disaster. I know that nuance doesn’t play well politically, but sometimes the best answer to “are things better?” is, in all honesty, “things are better than they could have been.”

And then there’s the matter of reform. Neither the Great Depression nor the Great Recession happened as a result of private industry’s concern for common folks. Business – corporations – have as their primary aim increasing the proportion of profit to loss, by any means necessary. The banking industry, through subprime mortgage lending and credit derivatives, exploited the natural aspirations of the American people. The prevailing narrative purports that home ownership is a critical component of achieving the American dream. The industry capitalized on our inability to discern wants and real needs. And for that, we share partial responsibility in the global financial collapse. It’s like this: the haughty aspirations of the American peopled had poisoned the well. And the banks saw an opportunity to capitalize on that thirst – selling back to us water from the poisoned well, an American dream that had an expiration date on it.

It was no problem for banks to approve loans for folks with credit scores of 500 and below because when or if they defaulted on the loan, the bank had already made its share of profit from the fees associated with having scores more applicants and approvals. The industry knew the game was rigged against the consumer, so it insulated itself against the potential fallout. In other words, if the house of cards ever fell, those responsible for brokering the shitty deals would get away relatively unscathed. If the consumer defaulted, the bank had already split up the risk a hundred ways, all across the globe.

FDR’s New Deal programs and President Obama’s Wall Street Reforms were government answers to private industry’s on again /off again relationship with public exploitation. Government gives a shit about you because that’s its job. Corporations make money; that’s their job. Government-imposed regulations on business practices are used to remind business that people are more than just dollar signs. It’s the caveat to caveat emptor – buyer beware; seller be fair. (dope. I just made that up…)

Be fair. This brings me to the Civil Rights era and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. Think, for two seconds, about what a “great society” looks like, how it functions, what it’s priorities are. The Civil Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Head Start Program, among many others, made proclamations about who Americans are, and what we value. We decided we didn’t like the idea that minorities bore unequal treatment in our society, we weren’t comfortable with the idea that our elderly and underprivileged should simply limp away, out of sight and out of mind. And we understood that education – as early as possible and as much as possible, offered opportunity and advancement to the individual, to her community, and to society at large.

Great societies recognize the connection between the individual, the community, and society. And government’s role is to ensure that society’s rules of operation are reasonable and fair, such that the individual is able to flourish, and give back. That’s the positive feedback loop. It works the same in reverse. Now that we get to view President Obama and Governor Romney side by side, I see one candidate who understands that vision, and one who does not.

There’s a quote I love that goes: to the hammer, every problem’s a nail. For me, Governor Romney and the Tea Party Republican Party embody this perspective, constructing every solution from the position of privilege. Don’t raise taxes on millionaires who can afford it, and don’t dare regulate business, removing the hard-on it has for risk and exploitation given an opportunity. No, no. Instead, cut spending on services for people who need them most. Reduce or eliminate funding for programs in education, the arts, infrastructure, and science and research – all aspects of society that make it, well, great.

So I guess the question going forward isn’t who you’ll vote for in November. It’s bigger than that. It’s more like, what kind of society do you want to live in? Raise kids in? Grow old in? What values do you honor? Who advocates a “great” society for all of us, and whose position is summed up this way: “great society for me and my cohorts and we’ll make it great for you. Trust me.” Once you answer those questions, who to vote for in November becomes a no-brainer.


History Lessons

I’ve been off the grid a bit lately, as a sista needs to be Dr. Moniquealicia sooner rather than later.  To that end, I’ve been diligently studying for my comprehensive exams — reading and re-reading the philosphies that were critical to the creation of the United States, and its government.

There are a couple of things that stand out:

1.  In my adult life, I’ve been ambivalent about the place America holds in the annals of world history.  At worst, I’ve been completely resistant to the idea that the United States of America is “the greatest idea in the last 500 years” — I saw an author discussing this concept a couple of years ago, and I immediately balked at the audacity of such an assertion.  The United States?  With all its issues?  Nah.

And then I gave heed to my favorite anecdote:  I shan’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  In time, I began to see the United States for what it was on paper, and how it has endeavored to bring idealism into fruition.  And ol’ Mo got all soffe on the U.S. of A.

On that freezing Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, I definitely grabbed one of those little American flags and walked around with it shamelessly.  I bought hook, line, and sinker Barack Obama’s common refrain, “in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.”  It’s all the more impressive, however, given United States history, that Barack Hussein Obama’s story did happen.  You may fault or credit (depending on your politics) white guilt, the on again/off again romance shared between young people and politics,  or the sheer absurdity of Black people during the ’08 campaign (My President is Black/My Lambo’s blue, and I’ll be gotdamn if my rims aint too… #sigh).  Invariably, no matter your opinions about why Obama happened, the fact remains that the free and fair election of Barack Hussein Obama did happen.  And in the grand scheme of things, it was pretty cool and I was pretty proud to be American on Election and Inauguration Day.

However, what’s happened in the wake of Obama’s election is made clearer to me by way of a little Constitutional and Founding Fathers context.  Which brings me to…

2.  I believe the debates, disagreements, and compromises which preceded the creation of the Constitution are the scabs we continue to pick at.  Central government vs. state’s rights, Republican vs. Democratic representation, to address or ignore the slavery problem, and indeed the Black problem.  What are the authorities and limitations of the separation of powers?  What about the strength and influence of factions, and the rationales behind political ideologies that are led either by cooperation or individualism — public vs. private?

For example, during the Federal Convention of 1787, the Framers debated who should elect the national Executive (the President).  Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts proposed that the national executive should be a single person chosen by the national legislature.  New York’s Gouverneur Morris disagreed, stating that the “public at large” should have the last say.  It was Roger Sherman (of the Sherman/Connecticut Compromise, responsible for the bicameral U.S. legislature) who charged that the sense of the nation would be better expressed by the legislature because the people at large would never be sufficiently informed enough to make a wise decision.

The people would never be sufficiently informed.  One could get all up in arms over Sherman’s lack of faith in our political aptitude.  But would one really be just in doing so?  I bet if you took a poll of average cats on the street, 3 in 5 couldn’t tell you who is Secretary of State, or the name of one of their state’s Senators, or the names of the candidates running for President in 2012.  I’m not judging the average cat, as life requires us to multitask, and knowing who Rick Santorum is simply doesn’t put food on your table or coins in your pocket.  Thus, being politically astute isn’t at the top of our task lists.  To be sure, there’s no shame in not knowing.  But not knowing and waltzing your ignorant ass into a voting booth and picking the guy with the most interesting name is a problem.  And Americans are audacious like that.  We don’t have to know, yet we feel entitled still to our say.

And finally,

3.  The state’s rights/slavery issue remains a hot one in American political life.  However, it’s a little different now.  The Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson debates hinged on how the governed should be governed, and on Jefferson’s insistence that the common man (agrarians — farmers, the middle- and lower-middle class) refused to be ruled by aristocratic, oligarchic  government in America too.  The colonists wouldn’t win the American Revolution only to be subjected to the American version of British authority.

The Anti-Federalists had legitimate concerns about the Constitution and the prospect of national power being concentrated in the financial and industrial centers in the northeast.  However, what undercuts their argument and also undercuts the nobility of the Founding Fathers’ intentions is their disservice to the issue of slavery.  Staughton Lynd said that in time, slavery will be recognized as “one of the two or three distinctive themes of the American experience.”  Indeed, the Framers knew better; they knew it was impossible to juxtapose the institution of slavery with the Lockean concepts of natural rights and revolution.  So they looked the other way, unwilling and incapable of reconciling slavery with their “ingrained capitalistic attitudes.”  In other words, there was money to be made and the inhumanity of slavery hadn’t yet pierced the framers’ consciences enough to choose doing the right thing over stacking paper.  Does this concept sound familiar in any way?  Because it should.

Governing within the ever-present specter of competing interests, and the pursuit of capital and prosperity has been a feature of American politics since the beginning.  It’s been interesting to see how these matters played out over the centuries, and how politicians have re-worked the Framers’ intentions to suit their contemporaneous political needs.  Folks are gleefully inclined to hearkening back to the days of yore, misunderstanding and misinterpreting the Constitution and the contexts within which decisions were made.  For example, modern state’s rights conservatives aren’t echoing the same sentiments the Jeffersonian state’s rights crowd did in the 18th century.  The former feels less noble, more insidious, and more divisive.  They are the SAY NO TO GOVERNMENT crowd…unless, of course, government is handing out checks to stimulate growth in a local economy, or to clean up natural disasters.  In those cases, the state has the “right” pick and choose when they say no to government.

In sum, suffice it to say that American history lives and breathes and creeps up on us more frequently than we realize.  Perhaps our lawmakers would be well-served by revisiting it from time to time, instead of making shit up as they go along.


Obama vs. The Ambassadors of Blackness

What's the situation with the professor's teeth though?

I can’t let the bandwagon lambasting of Professor Cornel West and Tavis Smiley go unchallenged.  Nor can I accept the berating of liberals and progressives who are expressing their disappointment with President Obama.

Firstly, President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress of 2008-2010 shared some great victories.  They passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and raised the minimum wage.  In response to the implosion of the global economy as a result of predatory banking practices, they created a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, enacted a series of stiff financial industry reforms and regulations,  and resuscitated an automobile industry that was about 20 minutes from being dead on arrival.  The Democrat-led Congress passed Health Care Reform, which will extend affordable healthcare to millions of Americans.  Health Care Reform also makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny individuals coverage based on pre-existing conditions.  For the record “pre-existing conditions” can be serious illnesses like heart disease or cancer, and they can be as petty as a previous ankle sprain that never quite healed.  So beginning in 2014, if you need medical coverage, you can still be eligible for it instead of restricted from it because you caught some pre-existing bad luck.

The Obama administration also ended the cowardly and immature Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy that prevented gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.  And coincidentally, they’ve stated publicly that they will support a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).   This means that the federal government will extend to legally married same-sex couples the same benefits and protections provided to heterosexual married couples.  All in all, the President has been highly successful on progressive issues.

But President Obama still is not above constructive criticism.  Much has been made of Tavis Smiley’s and Cornel West’s rebukes of Obama’s policies as they relate to the poor, and specifically, to Black Americans.  When I say “much has been made,” what I mean is much shit has been talked, and much mud has been slung at Smiley and West.  The cynic in us is convinced that these brothers believe they are self-appointed ambassadors of Blackness who can and will criticize the Black president without flinching — but mostly for the purpose of furthering their own interests.

The headline that surfaced on the Huffington Post this week, “Tavis Smiley:  Obama Is the First President Who Hasn’t Invited Me To White House” doesn’t help in putting the Smiley-West Self-Aggrandizement theory to rest.  But perhaps I can get you to see this differently.  I posted an article recently on President Obama’s reluctance to deal directly with the role race plays in American society, and in his Presidency.  I see his resistance (either willful or unintentional) toward Smiley and West as part of his and our discomfort in talking about race.

For all their shortcomings, neither Professor West nor Tavis Smiley has ever minced words in describing the plight of the poor, and exposing the disparities that continue to hold Blacks back.  Now, if in your mind you intend to hit me with a personal accountability/responsibility retort, let me reassure you:  A case can certainly be made asserting that “The Man” has raised his boot up off your neck some.  That notwithstanding, the wealth gap between Blacks and whites continues to grow.  Black unemployment today sits somewhere around 16%, while “general” joblessness hovers at 9%.  Projected figures show Black unemployment soaring to 20% by 2012.  Soooo…yeah…

If I hear another person hop up on their post-racial soapbox to inform me that President Obama is President “of ALL of America and not just Black America,” I’m not sure what heinous act of defiance might package my response.  But it will be heinous, and it will be defiant.  I took my rose-colored glasses back to the unattainable utopia store a couple years ago, and so I am well aware that Obama must govern as a “pragmatist,” and a centrist who pretends to be color-blind.  Thus, holding a fried chicken and watermelon summit with Cornel West and Tavis Smiley talking 20% Black unemployment succeeds in making the color-blind see, and it forces us to delve into the clusterfuck that is American race relations. Because either there is something inherently wrong with people of color that renders them incapable of “succeeding” at the same level as whites, or there is something amiss structurally/institutionally that is worth exploring.

Finally, conventional centrist rhetoric likes to reassure the people that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”  In other words, economic policies that benefit the majority of the people also will benefit Black people (and poor people and Latino people, etc.).  I suppose the inverse of that is the proverb, “when America gets a cold, Black America gets the flu.”  I mean, do you treat your cold the same way you treat your flu?  Will some chicken soup and a few “feel betters” soothe your fever and body aches?  Or are you at CVS in your robe and slippers looking for the Thera-flu — the joint that will remedy your shit directly?

Professor West and Tavis Smiley acknowledge without apology that cats don’t have the sniffles anymore.  This financial flu is full-blown in Black America and it’s spreading like gossip on my granny’s block.  Obama’s allegiance to the illusion of compromise and political pragmatism essentially has him prescribing Flintstones vitamins — the gummy kind — to cure what ails us.  And that shit’s not good enough.  Obama is brilliant and charming and handsome, and he undoubtedly is the best choice going into Election 2012.  But he deserves this criticism.  And I’m not mad at West and Smiley for giving it.

**For the record, I refuse to speak on Steve Harvey’s contributions to this discussion.  That cat is a coon, and coon opinions don’t count. You don’t see anyone trying to pen down Soulja Boy’s feelings on the subject either, do you?**


The Debt Ceiling: Manufactured Chaos

Ideology:  a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture; b: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture; c: the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program.  In other words, one’s personal and/or political ideology is defined by her beliefs about what she thinks will allow society to function better.

In recent years, politicians and pundits have cautioned us against reverting to our respective ideological corners, and refusing to engage in compromise.  They say that no one wins when we are incapable of working together for the collective good, and I tend to agree with this assertion.  Where these same people err, however, is in affirming the idea that the ends of each ideological spectrum are equally detrimental to the continued prosperity of “the American people.”

The debt ceiling “crisis” which looms over the American economy like a dark and foreboding cloud represents clearly the ideological divide that has the American political system stuck in neutral, and slipping steadily into reverse.  But this chasm isn’t “new.”  It started roughly 30 yeas ago with  the Reagan administration (which raised the debt ceiling, by the way, more than a dozen times without having to check its conservatism at the door).  Reagan and his neoconservative progeny relentlessly imposed on the populace the idea that government was big and bad and pretty unnecessary.  Inevitably, government would drain you of your freedoms — all of them.   In their view, the government and those who were of the government would raise your taxes year after year and you would have nothing to show for it.  Government would destroy your ability to achieve the American dream.

Indeed, with expansive government control, you’d be unfairly subjected to a public school system, a national postal service, an ambulance or fire truck should you ever have the need, an agency that ensures your burgers don’t routinely come with lettuce, tomatoes, and e.coli.  It provides for an environmental protection agency which ensures that Business X can’t dump its toxic waste where you fish, and a national infrastructure that isn’t bursting at the seems, or crumbling beneath the surface…actually, scratch that one.  But, you understand the point.  Obviously, this is merely a minor difference in perspective.

Except that it isn’t minor at all.  As the Pew Racial Wealth Gap Study recently pointed out, the economic policies largely championed by anti-government lawmakers in the last 25 years have severely affected the livelihoods of Americans who have been well-served by the “intrusive” hand of government.  Because without it, persons of those groups remained both separate and perpetually unequal.  And here is where the current ideological divide got its start:  it was in the audacity of minorities to want to be equal, to want access to opportunity.

But for folks, granting access to the outsiders resulted in their own loss.  They misinterpreted Civil Rights as minority rights or Black rights or poor rights or women’s rights — namely, everyone’s rights except for theirs.  It was terrifying for the powers-that-be to acquiesce to the persistent erosion of their own power — driven by “big government.”

Enter 2011 party politics, and the debt ceiling debate.  There is no real debate, no real crisis of which to speak.  Congressional Republicans are holding up a routine practice for the sole purpose of political posturing — so that they can finally cut government spending (which is a legitimate issue) by gutting programs designed to aid the nation’s most vulnerable, and its middle class alike.  Indeed, one side of the aisle still believes in expanding the opportunity to achieve the American dream; on the other side, if you don’t already have it, or plan to inherit it, then you shit outta luck.

And sadly, poor or middle class people concerned with “runaway government passing on debt to their children and grandchildren” have bought into a narrative that serves no one’s interests, unless they are wealthy ones.  Make no mistake about it, this is class warfare.  The problem is that many Americans unfortunately are disillusioned about which class they actually are in.

In the last few days, I learned about the current Governor of North Carolina, Bev Perdue.  North Carolina has traditionally been a politically divided state, sometimes led by a Democratic Governor, but legislatively controlled by Republicans.  In this ruinous Tea Party era, Governor Perdue has vetoed Republican bills that seek to roll back protections on abortion, off-shore oil drilling, jury awards in medical malpractice suits, environmental restrictions, and bills which give businesses more freedom to deny benefits to unemployed workers.  Now, because her state legislature is Republican, nearly all Governor Perdue’s vetoes have been overturned.  But her purpose in vetoing these bills hasn’t been to win.  No, Governor Perdue wants to go on record having made a clear distinction about where she stood when North Carolina made a U-turn on progress.

I suspect that if no deal is reached in the debt ceiling debacle, and the country’s economy plummets into default, at least I’ll know where my President stood.  And who stood against him.

Pay.  Attention.