Posts Tagged ‘conservative’

New Life For An Old Structure

February 12, 2017

Remember the basket building at the edge of town? Of course you do. Commuters driving by rubber neck daily for signs of decline, never admitting any morbid interest, but looking just the same. After a visit to the place by “business leaders”, and an assessment of futures value by Cheri Hottinger of what a great place it is (would make a terrific office of tourism), nothing else has been heard. But the tax bill increases, even as the City of Newark elides taking responsibility (or ownership). How about turning it into a state wide immigration reception and processing center? The Ellis Island of Ohio, right here in the heart of the heartland, downtown, er, town’s edge Newark! Think of the jobs it would create with the various state and federal agencies dealing with immigration, the requisite housing for new arrivals in a controlled centralized location, as well as the conference facilities for immigration related events, maybe even a living immigration museum, telling the story of where it all began (for some) (for most). The tour busses would return! A tourism center? Fuggetaboutit. Besides, immigration and the big basket share a lot in common. Cincy may have an underground railroad museum, but the interdependent story of African Americans and Euro Americans is not that of the immigrant. As Hegel pointed out, the master/slave relationship is a weird dialectic of power, need and reliance, both spoken and unspoken. The story of the immigrant, like that of the basket building, is one of uselessness, not being needed or wanted, being totally powerless (Will the building eventually disappear? Will the immigrant do likewise?). The alien architecture of the basket building is not located amongst the church spires and bank buildings of downtown Newark. Rather, like the alien immigrant, it is relegated to a specially annexed borderland of the city, out of sight, out of mind. The only company this alien construct has is the long distance relationship with the giant chair across the road. The immigrant shares a similar heritage with the building that bears the Longaberger nameplate hearkening an inspirational past of thriving and belonging, one that is forever lost, never to be revisited or regained. Ever present mourning, nostalgia and angst is an integral part of the immigrant life; something experienced only occasionally by Heisey, or Longaberger enthusiasts. The entire work ethic and skill that spawned the immigrant and the basket building is still looked upon with skepticism and suspicion in today’s America. Hand making baskets is akin to speaking another language. Unlike the basket building, most immigrants do not stay useless for long (or all arrive useless for that matter). Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Rupert Murdoch, most quickly assimilate into the conservative mainstream. But that’s a whole other story, one that the current administration might do well to consider (City, County, State, as well as Federal). So call your city council representative, the mayor, and county commissioners to tell them Newark needs immigrants. Better yet, call the folks with their hand on the handles of the basket building, Cheri or her husband, and tell them Newark needs an immigration reception and processing center. Like them, most immigrants come with one or both hands gripping the handles of their belongings. And the basket building even has those. What better place than the vacant basket building? What could be more perfect?

What The Hell Have You Got To Lose?

October 26, 2016

This election year in the US stands out with its, er, “unique” interpretation of democracy (As Harry Shearer says “We know how to run an election.”). Much has been said and written about the lack of empathy for the conservative GOP on the outcome of the primaries with its presidential candidate (“They got what they deserve.”). Much of that centers around non issue, non existent, non substantive quotes, talking points and headlines proffered by the self same candidate (“Well, it just may be… I don’t know”). Whether it be the overt saber rattling as an outcome of the party’s continuous active resistance to policies not embracing war, the disparagement of people of color, immigrants, “others” etc. after the party’s championing (pre-Scalia’s passing) conservative SCOTUS rulings in favor of dismantling affirmative action, voting rights, pay equity, etc. The latest is the conservative GOP’s squirming and disavowal when it comes to their presidential candidate’s claims of vote fraud; this after years of voter ID legislation, gerrymandering and disenfranchisement efforts – all based on the drum beat of (statistically negligible) “voter fraud!” The raison d’etre of this very blog is to draw the link, to follow the thread between what is large and “out there” (as news, policy, etc.) and what is local, next door, just around the block. Just as global warming is produced by individual (AEP) power plants, cars, trees being cut down (for Amazonian soy bean production), etc. so what the GOP candidate is about that has his party in a tizzy can be found with that same party and electoral process here in Licking County. In terms of leadership, the county commissioner race tops the ticket. The GOP incumbent boasts continuous leadership with the convenient alibi of being part of a troika for anything not. The county is flush with cash, businesses like Amazon are moving in with Jobs! and the courthouse renovations will include built-in Christmas lighting (that will last another 50 years!!!). Unexposed, lest their spirits haunt an otherwise fraud free election, is the lack of affordable housing implicating continuous evictions (for a county with a lower unemployment rate than the state, like working in Manhattan but can’t afford to live there), lack of fixed schedule public transportation to get to all these jobs (which fuels the evictions), lack of funding resulting in the county’s Jobs and Family Services having to “make do” with less and less (to temporarily rescue the folks affected by the lack of affordable housing without adequate transportation to get to the plethora of low paying precarious jobs in the county that Tim built), lack of affordable child care (for the working parent affected by the lack of affordable housing without adequate transportation to get to the plethora of low paying precarious jobs in the county that Tim built), as well as public health services. Most major metropolitan counties (in the US) include these matters within their county public services and provide for them – if not regionally, then locally. But shucks, we’re just a struggling rural county (there’s that city versus rural thread that dominates national analysis of the GOP presidential candidate’s popularity). What does the incumbent commissioner have to crow about? His vast real estate and business expertise, of course. As a sitting Grow Licking County board member (talk about rural! Nothing more rural than “Grow”) he knows a good buy when he sees one. And he has seen more than one. Like his party’s presidential candidate he has spent heavily on building, land, development and gambling interests. The $10 mil “gamble” spent on making private property in Pataskala “Jobs Ready” has been a shrinking violet wall flower as the dance of commerce swirls around it (not to mention the Port Authority futures’ “gamble” on the Diocesan PIME property). The commissioner’s heralding that finally a sizeable bean field of the Pataskala Corporate Park will sell to become an AEP storage facility obfuscates no real estate tax earnings for 15 years. Given the history of photography (from film to digital to smart phone and tablet), computers (from IBM main frame to PC to Dick Tracy, er, Suri wrist watch.) and telecommunications (from line phone to mobile phone to cell phones that operate globally) it is a big “if” whether AEP will be around much after that (remember IBM?). So another “For Sale or Lease. Will build to suit” sign will go up after the abatement runs out. Another savant commissioner coup is the millions spent to find a home for the homeless. No, not those homeless, but the courthouse records which got evicted from their attic roost in the, well, courthouse. They’re certainly not finding a home in the cloud (where the future would indicate they belong), rather two homes (emulating Donald’s know how that tax deductions allow for a second home. Can you say Mar-a-Lago?). Along with his party’s presidential candidate’s penchant for “private” (no, not locker room) wheeling and dealing, the incumbent LC commissioner hosted several “secret” meetings and conversations (in violation of legislation requiring openness and transparency) with the corporations that eventually landed the courthouse work without a contract (nice work if you can get it. The cost elevator clause is to die for!). Which leaves us with the one statement by the commissioner’s party presidential candidate that has had all the professional political pundits, analysts and talking heads miffed – “What the hell have you got to lose?”

Traditional Values, Traditional Responses

August 24, 2016

NPR’s Morning Edition aired an interview with Congressman Garret Graves of Louisiana’s 6th district. Graves, a Republican, describes himself as a fiscal conservative. When it comes to the catastrophe that has befallen his constituents (a “disaster” he calls it), he differentiates it from others that have visited the gulf coast (like the BP oil spill, the Corps of Engineers flooding of New Orleans, and various hurricanes/flooding). He calls these “traditional disasters” accompanied by “traditional responses”. The current “disaster”, according to him, is exceptional warranting exceptional Federal assistance. When reminded that congress has the power of the purse and of the recent fiscal conservative congress’s response to the Sandy disaster (which did not affect his district) he shrugged it off as a “traditional disaster”. Besides, this 6th district’s fiscal conservative advanced a not-so conservative argument for why the Federal government should foot the bill. Graves said it only makes “fiscal sense” as otherwise these folks would become the recipients of various federal poverty programs, costing the taxpayers of the US even more. Indeed, Analysis finds this to be the same line of reasoning used by rabid liberals in their various pleas for universal pre-school, for investment in schools instead of prisons, for addiction related crimes to be reassessed as illness with the emphasis on rehabilitation funding and not anti crime bills, and inclusion of mental health within the nation’s public/private expenditure on medical care. Analysis also finds that Graves must be suffering from an occurrence of “Rob Portman” syndrome. Rob Portman was staunchly anti-same sex marriage until his own son came out. Mr. Graves is a card carrying “fiscal conservative” until catastrophe, “traditional” or not, found its way into his backyard. Then the party of traditional values’ representative decided there was something not very traditional going on here, in the everyday. Analysis finds all this to be very pertinent in light of the current epidemic of opioid addiction devastating Ohio (where all 3 branches of government are dominated by the party of traditional values). Is this a “traditional” epidemic? Is the GOP giving this scourge a “traditional response”?

Queasy

June 22, 2016

queasy 1. inclined to or feeling nausea. 2. causing nausea; nauseating. 3. uneasy; uncomfortable. 4. squeamish; fastidious.
Loathsome doesn’t begin to describe the response most have to the presidential election of 2016. How about those not finding it loathsome but rather exciting, its opportunity to participate in the making of history, or reclaim America? Analysis can’t help but notice a certain queasiness pervasive in this arena of engaged, informed and passionate electorate. The possibility of the opponent actually winning out, the loss of any sense of inevitability or righteousness, contribute to that unease. Analysis finds all this quite curious in that in all these electoral contests, stark contrasts are usually delineated in order to define one candidate as being completely different from the other. Nausea usually sets in with the realization that “it makes no difference. It is all unpalatable.” Could that actually be the case? The presumed Democratic candidate for president recently spoke in central Ohio at the Fort Hayes educational facility. She lambasted her opponent on many levels, primarily for the disingenuous way her opponent enriched and enriches himself. Why, the line of suits he markets is made in Mexico. Analysis reveals a breakdown of these economic talking points acts out enrichment through the practice of neo-liberal policies, aspirations and agendas. This is the very neo-liberalism that was threatened by the Scandinavian Socialism promoted as “difference“ by the self-same speaker’s primary opponent. The presumptive Republican presidential candidate prides himself, nay, runs on the very basis of his qualifications, his ability to enrich himself by his mastery of the workings of the neo-liberal global economy – be it trade, the mobility of capital and financing, or the mobility of labor. Analogous to service providers, be they Google, Apple, Amazon or AT&T (etc. etc. etc.), it is all about choice, and more and greater individual choices implying more and greater freedom (the very core of neo-liberalism). Of course the regimen constantly changes and is in need of updating, upgrading, but the promise of better is always there, always the marketing incentive. The ultimate and greatest benefits enrich those at the top, the service providers, while those “being served” gain more and more freedoms. The analogy with neo-liberalism is complete by each and every new and additional freedom incurring an additional charge or fee. Is it any wonder that the Clintons attended the last Trump wedding and spend the winter holidays at the Kissinger estate in Florida? The queasiness sets in when Democrats realize that maybe, just maybe, the neo-liberal charade will be exposed for precisely what it is – a Victor Kiam Remington shaver ad promoting a ridiculously affordable electric shaver that eventually continuously requires expensive replacement cutter heads. “Progress” won’t be progress anymore but just another part of global marketing strategy. The queasiness on the part of Republicans is realizing that their “conservatism” orbits around a tacit acceptance of the neo-liberalism their forebears helped implement and is currently represented by a caricature spouting “See, I learned how to play by the rules of neo-liberalism, and enriched myself. We can do that self-same to make America great again.” Locally we find this with the recent unemployment statistics for Licking County in May, the lowest they’ve been since pre-911, when the bloom of the dot com bubble hadn’t yet burst. The championing of neo-liberalism’s greater freedom and choice through the inclusion of more in the market (employment as labor for business) elides the mushrooming of children’s summer nutrition programs to help feed those who, for some mysterious reason, aren’t being benefitted by these global marketing aspirations, policies and agendas. Queasiness sets in when “liberal” Democrats realize that conservatives have embraced neo-liberalism as status quo in order to thrive, and “conservative” Republicans realize they have to continuously change to play by the rules of global economic neo-liberalism.

Free Association Nino Dreaming

February 27, 2016

Like watching TV news in an Iron Curtain country during the Viet Nam War – no different than today’s coverage of Syria – which side is being witnessed? Nino was a great man who months before his passing virulently opined that lesser people should be schooled in less challenging universities. Did he also love the poorly educated? By US standards the current election has once again drawn out an immense turnout. In Iran, that is. There, as here, the conservative authoritarians do all they can to suppress the vote through numerous “legal” restrictions. But practice through participation is what makes democracy, and the citizens there vote under duress where as here in the US, for some reason, we always need a “get out the vote” campaign. Nino took particular pride in determining the outcome of the lopsided Bush v Gore constitutional “crisis”. Afterwards no one here took to the streets in protest whereas after their 2009 election was determined by authority, Iranians flooded the streets to demand their votes be counted, with many losing their lives over it. Here in the US voting is one and done, go home and watch Netflix after performing your civic duty. Nothing tickles Nino more than the possibility of a 2000 recurrence this year. Any SCOTUS outcome will be markedly different by an evenly divided court, no one to cast the deciding vote and break the tie. The image of black robed Supremes standing around a coin toss like Iowa Democrats in caucus has Nino rolling on the floor holding his sides (best out of three?). What difference would it make, anyways, for the two white, super rich New York City residents vying to be the next president (and SCOTUS vacancy nominator)? Those charged by the constitution to confirm the tie breaking appointment chose instead to defer that authority to one of these two candidates, forgetting that the outcome could, like in 2000, hinge on a yet to be named, non-existent tie breaking vote (that their constitutional authority could have facilitated). This would leave all in limbo, a place Nino doesn’t recognize as appearing in the sacred founding text. It does, however, please the deceased jurist that the virus of gridlock, which almost shut down the government, has now spread to all three branches, creating a fundamental (and textual) constitutional crisis. Nino’s eyes water from delirious laughter over the deadlock surrounding the state being stifled in its quest to assert sovereignty over the least little nook and cranny, leaving no stone unturned in its obsession to learn the contents of an I phone, frozen constitutionally by a deadlocked court with no majority. Any and all secrets must only be state secrets! The revered justice shall rest in peace relieved somewhat by the consolation of knowing that his deadlocked colleagues will keep power plants burning coal, Guantanamo open, and Planned Parenthood clinics closed.

“Last Night I had a dream about reality. It was such a relief to wake up.”           (Stanislaw J. Lec)

DIY Analysis

February 19, 2016

Analysis and theory, can’t find one without the other. Apple’s dictionary defines theory with “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained” as well as “an idea used to account for a situation or justify a course of action”. Theory is often disparaged in favor of action or tradition, but even extreme conservatism (“because that’s the way it’s always been done”) is a theory in itself (“an idea used to…justify a course of action”). Sometimes theory is obvious, as in Kent Mallett’s “Land bank to eliminate Second Street eyesore” (2-18-16 Newark Advocate). Mallett quotes Newark Mayor Jeff Hall as saying “The purpose is to put properties back on the tax rolls.” That’s the theory. But wait, elsewhere Mallett writes “After the building has been razed, the vacant land will be sold to nearby business Gutridge Plumbing for $100.” and a little after that “He [Gutridge] said if the vacant building next to the Elks can someday be removed, the open space would be a good spot for a community center.” Does a community center put a property “back on the tax rolls”? Here’s another one for you. “CEO channels Bernie Sanders in opposing AEP and FirstEnergy plans” by Tom Knox for Columbus Business First (2-17-16). It covers the ongoing PUCO petition by AEP and FirstEnergy to bill Ohio electric users for keeping active and maintaining redundant coal fired power plants which are unnecessary and not profitable (kinda like a spare tire or battery, just in case…). Knox quotes competitor Dynergy Inc. CEO Bob Flexon as saying “For the Democrats, Flexon cited a way for Sanders to highlight his frequent and fervent lamenting of the country’s income inequality. “Bern runs around and he talks about how the game is rigged,” Flexon said. “The middle class is getting screwed. And quite honestly, folks, that’s how I feel about these PPAs. These only exist for Wall Street.” PPAs are power purchase agreements, long-term contracts that Ohio utilities American Electric Power Company Inc. and FirstEnergy Corp. want with their subsidiaries to reduce risk and guarantee income.” At the end he quotes him again with ““When Bernie Sanders says the middle class is getting screwed and Wall Street’s winning, this is an example of that,” Flexon said. “That’s what’s happening here and the only way you can fight it is to speak up. I’m going to lose the battle if it’s just Dynegy. We’ve been carrying the sword on this thing, fighting this thing and we’re just getting streamrolled by it.”” Which brings us back to theory, “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained” as well as “an idea used to account for a situation or justify a course of action”. Sanders’ theory is the foundation of his presidential wannabeism. It certainly is not “the way it’s always been done”. Flexon’s theorizing about AEP and FirstEnergy’s proposed PPAs inadvertently exposes the more important, underlying theory of democracy (which Flexon appears to share with Sanders). Democracy itself, as a way of governing, is a theory, made possible only by a self governance through the active involvement and engagement of the governed into the affairs of governing (“That’s what’s happening here and the only way you can fight it is to speak up.” Sanders repeats an analogous appeal with all of his stump speeches.) Is AEP and FirstEnergy’s PPA proposal an example of the middle class getting screwed for the benefit of Wall Street? Is the game rigged?

Will The Real Conservative Please Stand Up

January 22, 2016

Though Tom Zawistowski might beg to differ, Ohio’s Governor and current Republican presidential wannabe, John Kasich, has always represented himself as a conservative. The current imbroglio within the party of William Buckley and John Birch Society co-founder Fred Koch leads Analysis to ponder conservatism, especially in view of Ohio’s Governor participating in on stage spectacles with the likes of Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina. At a less widely covered spectacle in Columbia SC with ditto participants sans Trump and Cruz (Republican Candidates, Minus Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Play Nice at Poverty Forum By Ashley Parker, 1-9-16 NY Times) Kasich is quoted as saying “Do you realize that there are people who are on government assistance who can’t take a pay raise because they will lose more than what they gain?” Zawistowski et al. found Kasich’s embrace of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act to signal his disregard for “conservative principals” (whatever that may be – the subject of this inquiry). In his presidential candidacy Kasich continuously references his years as U S House Representative and his conservative credentials through various successes for the GOP. This was, of course, just after the Presidency of George H. Bush, who was described as a compassionate conservative. Mindful of Kasich’s fellow Republican Barb Sears’ sponsorship and shepherding to passage of House Bill 394 (covered by previous blog postings), Analysis questions how Kasich’s quote at the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity ought to be read. As Catherine Candisky writes (in the previous post), Sears’ ardor for reform could be considered as exceptional, matched only by North Carolina’s legislature. Then again, HB 394 may be the tip of an arrow marking the trajectory of such reform across the country (thanks to the state by state strategy of ALEC and the Koch bro’s AFP). The NY Times editorial of 1-21-16, Kentucky’s Bizarre Attack on Health Reform, describes just such an act of conservative reformation ardor, the dismantling of “Obamacare” and its accompanying Medicaid by recently elected Governor Matt Bevin. It must be noted that, like the Governor of KY’s neighboring state of Ohio, Bevin also wraps himself in the mantle of conservatism. Salon’s deputy politics editor, Sophia Tesfaye, analyzes Paul Krugman’s NY Times blog posting in a piece entitled Paul Krugman bursts David Brooks’ fantasyland version of conservatism: “Actually existing conservatism is a radical doctrine” (10-14-15). In it she writes: “Paul Krugman, not one to spike the football, offered a slightly shady “OK, I guess,” to Brooks’ willfully naive definition of conservatism as standing for “intellectual humility” and a “belief in steady, incremental change,”” “Conservatism is “a preference for reform rather than revolution, a respect for hierarchy, precedence, balance and order, and a tone of voice that is prudent, measured and responsible,” Brooks wrote. But “that kind of conservatism left the Republican Party a very long time ago,” Krugman reminds him:… Krugman had to remind his colleague that “by David’s definition Barack Obama is pretty conservative,” citing Obamacare as an example of incremental rather than radical change.” Tesfaye concludes by stating: “My point is that if what you want is traditional conservatism, the only people with real influence with anything like that mindset are Democrats. Actually existing conservatism is a radical doctrine.” This really broadens the political spectrum of left and right with Democrats described as conservatives and conservatives like Ted Cruz as…? Analysis wrote all that to write this: Kasich’s SC Kemp Forum quote could also be interpreted in conjunction with his fellow Ohio Republican and conservative colleague, Barb Sears. What HB 394 is doing is trying to eliminate (cut in half) unemployment compensation “to ensure Ohio provides the best economic opportunities for both employers and employees.” (Sears. Ohio House Of Representatives website guest column 11-19-15). Assuming “Actually existing conservatism is a radical doctrine”, Kasich could likewise answer his rhetorical “Do you realize that there are people who are on government assistance who can’t take a pay raise because they will lose more than what they gain?” along with Sears and Bevin. By cutting government assistance the only gain would be through a pay raise thereby ensuring “Ohio provides the best economic opportunities for both employers and employees.”

Ohio House Bill 394

January 17, 2016

Writing for the Columbus Dispatch on 1-11-16, Catherine Candisky reported on Representative Barbara Sears’ Ohio House Bill 394 (Unemployment benefits changes would ‘dismantle’ anti-poverty program, advocates say). This stealth bill is plodding along the legislative track on its way to being signed into law by presidential wannabe John Kasich. “At a news conference on Monday in Columbus, Advocates for Ohio’s Future, a coalition of nearly 500 health- and human-services groups, said Sears’ bill goes further than any other state to limit benefits to the unemployed.” Currently the proposed bill is in committee, the house insurance committee (previous stomping ground of Newark’s Jay Hottinger who now is in the Senate). This combination of practically non existent press coverage, “grass roots” (conservative base) sponsorship, and radical sweeping change (from those ostensibly opposed to change) may have Ohioans waking up one morning not recognizing the state they live in. AP headlines like yesterday’s “Kansas’ uncertain state finances weighs on some lawmakers”(by Jim Suhr and John Hanna 1-16-16) and a plethora recently from the incredible tragedy in Flint Michigan (state fiscal austerity ahead of public health considerations) indicate determining that problems have been eliminated or don’t exist by legislative fiat simply doesn’t work. The outcomes can be severe. Candisky quotes Sears as saying “it’s just too late to start over.” (is it?), though she is entertaining amendments for those deemed exceptional. “The bill, she said, seeks to shore up Ohio’s unemployment-compensation fund by severely limiting benefits to workers who lose a job. According to an analysis by the independent Legislative Service Commission, H.B. 394 would reduce taxes paid by employers into Ohio’s unemployment compensation fund by $313 million on average each year through 2025. During that same time, benefits to workers would be reduced by an average of $475 million annually.” “In addition, the bill would: Reduce benefits to 12 weeks in times of low unemployment, tying Ohio with North Carolina for lowest in the country. Eliminate added benefits for workers with dependents. Mandate that employees work during at least three quarters in the year to qualify for benefits, a requirement in no other state. Disqualify from benefits any worker who violates their employer handbook, a requirement in no other state. Reduce benefits for senior workers based on the amount of Social Security they receive.” Last Sunday (1-10-16) The Newark Advocate ran Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb’s “A look back and ahead for Licking County”. In true “year in review “ fashion, the accomplishments and successes of the Licking County Chamber of Commerce administered public/private partnership, Grow Licking County, were touted. Following SCOTUS Citizen United ruling precedent (that corporations are persons), the commissioner, and Grow Licking County board member, cited corporate entity after corporate entity responsible for the greatness of Licking County Ohio in the past and upcoming year. Not a single living human being was named in the entire column! Analysis finds no change in the county’s poverty within that period, nor any mention of it by Commissioner Bubb. At the end of her article Candisky reports “Sears said the trend toward part-time workers suggests Ohio’s tax climate is not competitive or attractive to businesses.” Do tell.

Inquiring Minds Need To Know

December 8, 2015

(Analysis goes revealingly tabloid in this installment) Why does Donnie Trump not wear a wedding ring? Is he not married? Could it be fear of commitment? Or preference for the security an overriding prenuptial agreement provides? Does he simply eschew jewelry as being too ostentatious, a vain show of wealth? And while on the subject of what does and doesn’t show, Donnie parts his hair on the left (as most men do). However, he combs it down from right to left, in essence mirroring most men (at least those still having that much hair). Does this reveal an independent, nonconformist streak? Or could it be to create a subliminal advantage, forcing the patriarchal other to confront their mirror image in the art of the deal? Is that what we look like?

Debt

October 24, 2015

A curious report appeared in the international news this week; curious not because of the story but what was said in it. AP’s Vanessa Gera reports “Poles eager to oust pro-market party in vote despite growth” concerning the upcoming Polish elections. The story highlighted the appearance of the Law and Justice Party candidate, Beata Szydlo, before an abandoned factory promising, of course, the return of such jobs if elected. The Law and Justice Party is considered conservative challenging the current rule of the incumbent Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and her Civic Platform Party (progressive), somewhat vaguely analogous to what we Americans categorize as right and left. The curious part appears in the thumbnail sketches of the two parties given by: “Another Law and Justice victory on Sunday would complete the nation’s shift to a brand of politics that mixes patriotic rhetoric, deeply conservative social values and a desire to use the state to level out economic inequalities. The party promises to reverse an unpopular rise in the retirement age and put more money into the pockets of struggling families with tax breaks, monthly cash bonuses for children under 18 and free medication for people over 75. It also wants to raise taxes on the mostly foreign-owned banks and big supermarkets in Poland and give tax breaks to smaller local businesses and those that adopt Polish technologies.” and “Civic Platform, the pro-business and centrist party that has overseen steady economic growth during its past eight years of rule.” (“When Poland threw off communism in 1989 it moved quickly to embrace free-market policies, with low taxes on corporations and a weak social safety net by European standards. The policies kept down debt and attracted massive foreign investments, bringing prosperity to many, especially in the cities.”), “Part of society is very successful but a smaller part is unsuccessful and still experiences many difficulties in daily life,” said [Dominik] Owczarek, an analyst with the Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw. Even though the poor and disadvantaged are in a minority, they tend to be highly motivated voters with the power to influence the election outcome, he said.“. How is this possible? Within European politics much of “the right” stretches back through the Fascism of the 1930’s (prevalent throughout Europe), which actually courses even deeper into the 19th century. Its DNA is much more from the ground up, centered in various organized social accumulations meant to claim for themselves what was possessed by royalty or wealth (Communism, “the dictatorship of the people”, was one manifestation). The U.S. definition of this time/experience was more top down, a kind of McCarthyism, with the folks running things, the wealthy industrialists, etc. hiring thugs, Pinkerton’s, police etc. to muscle and force compliance by the social accumulations in upheaval. So the party affiliations the report describes, of progressives versus conservatives, follows accordingly, given the context of European history. Analysis finds curious the contemporary composition of U.S. party affiliation (which can’t be accounted for because it is the soup we swim in). Since the Reagan elections, the “right” has been supported, promoted and empowered by the very populace its policy’s and priorities do NOT promote. The stereotype is of the “left” favoring give-aways — women’s concerns, social programs (retirement or healthcare), unemployment compensation, welfare, children’s nutrition and education programs, etc. The “right” is generally associated with the market, business interest, wealth and property ownership (land, guns, etc.), and religion (fundamental moral perspective). This differs markedly from the parallel situation described by Gera. Ohio is exemplary of the actuality with the legislature, executive and judiciary dominated by the “right” (though it has a rich “worker’s” history). Someone elected these individuals, or should we say, this party. What Mitt Romney inadvertently revealed (that the individuals of almost half this nation have no net worth) doesn’t correspond with his assessment (that this portion votes for a party that will promote its interest. Something the “right” promotes in Poland. Then again, in Poland Mitt would be considered a progressive!). The focus on the stereotype in Mitt’s covertly recorded statement was misplaced, evidenced by who got elected to run things in Ohio (as well as in a slew of other states). The media and pundit emphasis was on the reason for voting aspect when it should have been on the net worth part. Net worth is derived from comparing an economic entity’s (which is a hypothetical) assets (things of market re-saleable value) with liability (debt, what is owed). If Romney had considered the percentage of people in debt rather than with zero or negative net worth, his prognosis may have differed. The majority of the U.S. populace carries some kind of debt. This debt creates a relationship, an interaction between the borrower and lender, the debtor and creditor. Mistakenly, this relationship is stereotyped as a master/slave relationship, especially in terms of Pay Day lenders, Check Cashers, etc. But a more insightful assessment would be a more nuanced description of support and promotion; that is, of debtor supporting and promoting creditor. If a sibling or close friend borrows/lends money then the debtor and creditor have created/forged a social bond within their relationship; that is, until the debt is absolved (after which they don’t need to interact out of necessity). With debt, they MUST interact with each other. This interaction (social exchange) must be civil, courteous, supportive and promotional, especially if it is accelerated by continuous borrowing, etc. At social functions one will always defer to the other, take a feigned (or genuine) interest in the other, promote or support the activities, priorities, policies of the other; all because debt determines this asymmetric relationship. The nature of debt, with its accompanying support and promotion, may have much more to do with the distinction informed by Vanessa Gera’s article. Interest rates for most consumer debt have been historically low for almost 20 years now (large ticket items, home purchases, student loans, even credit card rates). The asymmetric debt relationship, the inability NOT to promote or support the creditor may account more for why the party of big business, of the market and austerity, is continuously voted into the governance of a nation dependent on credit and long term debt (austerity, after all, guarantees that debt payments will continue without disruption). Getting rid of the debt is certainly NOT in such a party’s interest. Prioritizing “getting rid of the debt” is more revealing of the bad conscience (along with the great rhetoric) continued debtor/creditor interaction produces than any Ben Franklin kind of righteous freedom loving virtue.