Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Regressive Agenda

I find myself in the unique position today of working in an office that serves Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity’s shows – making me a raging liberal in the belly of the Regressive beast.  While the temptation to slip some hardcore LSD into their coffee is intense, I’ve decided to put my time to more productive use and, as I did initially with the Tea Party, examine what it is Regressives are after, based on the policies they pursue.

  Republicans should be the sole party in power.

Let’s start with Karl Rove’s publicly stated goal of a permanent one-party state in the USA under the GOP banner.  If ever there was an idea entirely at odds with the American system of democratic process, the idea of a one-party state is tantamount to Totalitarianism.  Our country is currently going through massive cultural, economic and political spasms of dysfunction on nearly every level as a direct result of Bush’s carte blanche in the aftermath of 9/11 and the party that is at the heart of that dysfunction wants to rewrite things even more.

The Rich should be above the law.

Whether we’re talking about “Too Big to Fail” or the ”affluenza” defense, across the board we’re already at the point where a double-standard exists between those who can afford to buy leniency from the justice system and those who can’t.   It’s one of the hallmarks of the old Feudal system of the aptly-named Dark Ages that the wealthy exist at a level of liberty that is deliberately denied to everybody else. Regressives not only think this is just fine, they want to expand it further.  Another GOP Presidential candidate, the hoping-for-inheritance Jeb Bush also claimed as a hero a policy writer who would rather a single wealthy person dictate policy rather than the entire electorate

It’s ironic that Regressive circles who claim to champion the rights of the average person almost always fail to put their money where their mouths are when this issue is concerned, particularly when it comes to the rights of employees vs the privileges of employers.  This by itself is an existential threat to our nation’s way of life.

Christian Fundamentalists are the only ones who can dictate policy.

Just take a look at this clip from GOP Presidential Front Runner Mike Huckabee.  This is what the Regressive party has endorsed.

Meanwhile, we’re also supposed to turn a blind eye to the rampant hypocrisy that these holier-than-thou Fundamentalists engage in on a daily basis.  This sort of privilege is, again, completely counter to everything this nation was Constitutionally set up to be.  Just one look at the wagon-circling Regressives have done around one of their high powered “family values” lobbyists who’s once again in court on rape and incest charges demonstrates my point.

War is the only business government should conduct.

I find it very telling that the one area that Regressives are unwilling to cut is our defense budget.  Despite the fact that we outspend every other country on Earth when it comes to the military, they’re always for upping it, even while in the same breath they decry our national spendthrift ways.  Also, the proof is in the pudding that when they had a monopoly on power in the early 2000’s, the so-called “fiscal responsibility” party acted like spoiled teenagers with a stolen credit card, putting not only one major war, but two on the books without a single provision to pay for it.

In every other sector of domestic spending, be it for public infrastructure, jobless relief, sick care or schools, the usual cry of the Regressives is “we can’t afford it”, yet when the Regressives shut down the Federal government, which branch do you think was least affected? 

Money and power are more important than people’s lives.

This goes right along with the idea that the Rich should be above the law.  It doesn’t matter what topic is being discussed:  Climate Change, Poverty or Unions, Regressives unfailingly take the position that profit margins should take priority over the necessary steps to preserve life.  Hell, they shut down the Constitutional government twice to try and take away Health Insurance from those who needed it the most.  One notices again that the military and intelligence branch was relatively unaffected.

Ethnic minorities should have no rights.

Again, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the inevitable Regressive “reverse-racism” call when it comes to police brutality or the endless attempts to disenfranchise legal voters or hatred of immigrants from Mexico, Regressive policies invariably take on some form of repression of ethnic minorities as a basis for white Christian male privilege.  No wonder they can’t stand Obama, only non-white President in our history.

Women shouldn’t be treated like people.

Between the constant and self-conflicting attacks on abortion and on contraceptive birth control, it’s pretty obvious that Regressives don’t want women to have any say over what happens to their own bodies.  Add in the endless attempt to justify paying women less in the workplace, and essentially you’ve got a party that wants to keep women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

After decades of women fighting for the right to vote, the right to work for equal pay and the right to be treated as people, this is nothing short of an attempt to turn back the clock.

The poor and downtrodden deserve less than what they get.

This goes right along with all the others, and is usually justified by an Ayn Rand quote.  “Right-to-work” laws invariably end up meaning “right to work for poverty wages”.  When combined with all the other attempts at gutting of public education, poverty relief and the rabid attacks when challenged, we’re left with a party that wants to crush the weakest among us underfoot.   Where the great statesman Solon once claimed that the most perfect popular government was “that where the least injury done to the meanest individual, is considered as an insult on the whole constitution”, the Regressives are absolutely out to ensure that popular government is anything but popular.

In the end, the entire Regressive agenda is bad for our nation, both materially and spiritually.  I can understand why the unelected powers of the economic engines to which our national security is so closely tied would support it – after all, they benefit the most from this agenda – but I find it sickening that so many people whose lives are directly and negatively impacted by this agenda are so easily duped into supporting it.  

Our very nation's existence hangs in balance -- we cannot let its enemies on the inside destroy it.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Off of the Sidelines

I had the most enlightening experience this week with the NYCLU’s Lobby Day in my old hometown of Albany, NY.  We were going in to lobby support from State Assemblymen and Senators for a bill that would increase funding to Public Defenders across the State.

The bill was the result of a successful lawsuit by the ACLU against 5 counties in NYS, where those who couldn't ordinarily afford an attorney were given substandard defense in court.  In NYS, the individual counties are responsible for funding Constitutionally-guaranteed Public Defenders for those defendants who can’t afford an attorney otherwise.  The problem is that demand far outstrips supply when it comes to Public Defense, so these Public Defenders often have such a huge caseload on their desks that they barely have time to review the cases they’re defending, or even answer the messages on their overloaded voicemail, let alone to do the necessary investigation to mount an effective defense for their assigned clients.  They’re given the bare minimum of resources to pay for such investigations or to support a staff to do the necessary work.  So, the clients are often put into a position where they have to plead guilty to crimes they often didn't even commit.  Innocent people are sent to prison, or bankrupted by exorbitant fines.  Their lives are often ruined because they have no effective defense against a system that, instead of presuming their innocence, makes a large private profit off of assuming their guilt.  

ACLU's lawsuit established the idea that the State is mandated to make appropriate resources available to the individual counties, and while it has begun to do so for the 5 counties listed in the lawsuit, it has not done so for all 62.  We were there to push for a bill that would require it do so immediately.

After a strong rally in front of the State Capitol building, which featured speeches by several State Assembly members, we divided up into teams to start meeting.  I was assigned to go to one of the speakers, who listened very patiently to my fellow team-mates’ stories and happily signed the Pledge to support the bill that we were passing around.  He admitted that there was a lot of opposition to our bill -- particularly from the Republicans -- and that the system was so broken that no single bill would be adequate to fixing the problem by itself.  I got the feeling that we were preaching to the choir in his case, but was told by other teams that other members weren't nearly so easy a sell.

With the Honorable Luis R. Sepulveda of NYS District 87

I brought up my concerns to the NYCLU staff, who were running the event, and suggested that our time and resources would be better spent convincing the opposition rather than preaching to those already on our side of the issue.  Taking this initiative paid off.  

Since I had only been assigned to one Assemblyman and, because I’d made my own travel arrangements rather than join the throngs on the chartered bus (I had gone up the night before and stayed in my childhood home), I was invited to tag along on the NYCLU’s most important meeting of the day – with the staff of the Interim Speaker of the Assembly and Senate leadership.  The meeting was run by the top leaders of the NYCLU and I was presented as an NYCLU member.  I got to be a fly on the wall for the real nuts and bolts of State politics, as concerns of financial feasibility and rhetorical spin were haggled over.  We came away hopeful that we'd potentially gained an ally, or at very least had one or two fewer power-brokers against us.  

I got to see first-hand how complex even the simple matter of issuing a statement can be, and how, the further up the food-chain one goes in government, the more complex and delicate the process becomes.  It was a sharp lesson for me in the difference between philosophy and reality.

But the “eureka!” moment for me actually came earlier in the day, during the rally outside.  As our public employees addressed us, we were accosted by a homeless man.  This man illustrated perfectly how completely the system has failed as he, in his simple eloquence, called us out with the voice of the very desperation our system exacerbates and feeds upon.  Everybody instinctively avoided or ignored this man, not listening to what he was saying.  It’s a shame that happened, as he was highlighting the very issues we were there to address.   As the rally was wrapping up, I approached him alone and pointed out that the issues he was talking about were correct and that my group was at the Capitol that day specifically to address them.  I handed him a $20 bill and received a tearful hug in return.  It was a true moment of humanity, odor and all.

Speaking truth to power rarely works.  Leveraging power works most of the time.  Directing power towards the greater good is of utmost importance.  But at the end of the day, we who fight for real positive change can’t afford to lose sight of the human beings that we’re trying to help, the way entrenched power already has.