Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Unthinkable Libertarian-Progressive Connection.

In the election of 2000 American Progressives were forced to make a painful choice, a choice to support one of two candidates for the US Presidency.

The mainstream candidate, Democratic Party nominee Al Gore represented Bill Clinton’s Democratic Leadership Council, a Neo-liberal vision for the Democratic Party. Clinton’s Neo-liberal vision consisted of the worse aspects of the Democratic Party, a vision of government intervention in market capitalism, and of a tax and spend government. For Progressives Al Gore did not represent the idealism and values of Roosevelt’s New Deal, but destroyed them as a candidate who supported government intervention in foreign entities and government support for multinational corporations instead of We the People.

The outside candidate, Green Party nominee Ralph Nader represented a vision that Progressives could be proud of. A candidate who had supported and fought for We the People against dangerous multinational corporations, and supported ending government intrusion in the private lives of the American People, from our draconian drug laws to inspections of our bedrooms.

The choice was a self-defeating one, as the vote of Progressives were split, allowing the rise of the Bush Presidency, bringing a nightmare scenario for Progressives of all shades. The irony is that another interest, the Libertarians were left out in the cold with this new administration as well.

The Libertarian Party, under the leadership of Harry Browne, rose to be one of the strongest third parties in the United States during the 1990’s. Under the Gingrich House many Libertarians had been forced to the margins of the Republican Party. The New Right, along with the Neo-conservatives worked to develop a Republican Party controlled by religious doctrine, with the desire to have government intervention in our daily lives, such as the continuation of the Drug War, and for massive support of the various government agencies which they supported.

Similarly, Libertarians were also forced to make a decision, a self-defeating one, to support Republican candidates that no longer supported their interests, now that they controlled the purse strings of Congress, or to support a third party candidate who did not have the ability to win at the federal level.

If Progressives and Libertarians must be forced to the margins in order to vote their values, then the only choice is to support one of the two major parties to best represent their interests. It has long been assumed by many Libertarians that the GOP is the best party to support their viewpoints. That viewpoint is flawed. This may initially sound absurd, but I have to ask, what do progressives have in common with Libertarians? As it turns out, more than you might think.

In the past Progressives have been seen to be the poplar opposites of Libertarians, as Progressives have supported government regulation and spending to protect the populace, while Libertarians have supported the idea that the free market is the best way to serve the public. This difference is largely an illusion, as it misses the forest for the trees.


Libertarians have been happy to see numerous tax cuts in the Bush administration. They shouldn’t be. The Neo-conservative Republican party has brought forth a new paradigm. In the past Libertarians and Republicans alike have criticized, often times correctly, against the tax-and-spend polities of the Democrats. The new paradigm is a Republican party who can cut taxes, but can do nothing but spend taxpayer money at alarming rates. Without curbing spending a tax cut is meaningless. To continue to inflate the deficient and the national debt the Republican party has turned it’s tax cuts into nothing but high-interest government loans, in which you must accept the loan whether you want to or not. It is estimated that a tax rebate of $300 must later be repaid sometime down the road to the tune of $1200.

Furthermore, the Neo-conservative Republican party has continued to interfere with the free market. Dick Cheney’s energy task force led directly to government interference in energy companies such as Enron. It gave Enron preferential treatment and allowed them to stray away from the discipline of free market competition. This preferential treatment ended with the demise of the energy giant. Neo-conservatives have cut some federal spending on social programs, but without removing the regulation necessary for the free market to take over for the loss of such programs. The result is that state governments have been compelled to step in, which has resulted in nothing more than higher taxes on the local level.

Government Intrusion In Our Daily Lives

Both Libertarians and Progressives wish to live in a society that if free from government intrusion in their daily lives. Neo-conservatives, despite their rhetoric, have a different idea in mind. Because of 9-11 Neo-conservatives wish to control our society using the mantra to “protection.” This includes everything from having government officials searching the hard drive on your computer, to intercepting e-mails, to confiscating business records, to looking at your library record, all without a warrant and forcing a gag order that prevents the citizenry from talking about those activities when they take place. Neo-conservatives wish for the state to tell us who we can marry, whether or not we wish to have children, and what we wish to put into our bodies. This goes against the core of Libertarian and Progressive values.


One of the strongest values Libertarians have is the belief that one of the key roles of government is to protect the American people with a strong national defense. And rightfully so. At this the Neo-conservatives have repeatedly failed time and again.

The Nixon administration took over the reigns of the Vietnam War from Lyndon Johnson. The result was that Nixon expanded the war into Cambodia, and used a military strategy that would eventually spell the first military defeat in the history of the United States. Nixon eventually had to pull out of Vietnam, leaving the south to be overthrown by the communists.

The George H.W. Bush administration fought a war in Iraq that was largely successful, however ended with ordering ground troops to end the fighting, leaving Saddam Hussein in power. Hussein was left in place to continue to threaten the region, forcing us to impose the harshest weapons inspection operation in the history of man just to stabilize the region.

And the George W. Bush administration has managed to lead us into a quagmire in Iraq that may very well lead to a Shi’ite controlled Iraq that is a close ally of Iran. The Bush administration has managed to nearly double the Pentagon budget, yet failed to keep the American people safe on 9/11.

Progressives on the other hand has succeeded in defending our homeland time and time again. Both World Wars were won by the Democratic Wilson and Roosevelt administrations. Harry Truman succeeded where Nixon failed, in preventing a communist expansion in Asia during the Korean War. The Truman administration also managed to prevent a communist takeover of Iran by supporting the anti-communist Mossedegh government which opposed the creation of an Iranian-Soviet oil company, and regularly went after members of the Iranian communist party, The Tudeh.

Despite Clinton getting much flack for cutting the Defense Department, he still managed to fight wars or military operations in Somalia, Haiti, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, and the Balkans with relative ease, seeing almost zero casualties and coming out victorious on each occasion. The Clinton administration managed to make our Defenses more lean and efficient, allowing those easy victories while saving taxpayer dollars.

Government Spending

There is a stark difference in the view of government spending between the Progressives and Libertarians and Neo-conservatives. Progressives and Libertarians wish to have responsible government spending. Neo-conservatives on the other hand, have another thing in mind. Republicans of the past have rightly fought to control government spending, but that is no longer the case. Since 2000 the Bush administration has followed a policy of drastically increasing government spending. Our national debt has now reached 7 and a half trillion dollars and 322 billion dollars is being spent just to pay down the interest on our debt.

The Clinton administration saw the need to trim down the government and to make it leaner and more efficient. Vice President Al Gore was given the job of “reinventing government” to streamline the activities of the Fed. The Clinton administration also took the bold move of virtually eliminating a massive government entitlement with welfare reform.

On the other hand, in the last four years alone the Bush administration has created two entirely new government bureaucracies, both of which have been heavily funded with tax payer dollars. One of those bureaucracies, the Department of Homeland Security, performs virtually the same function that the FBI has traditionally done.

As the GOP continues down the path that the Bush administration has taken it, neither Libertarians or Progressives can look at the once grand party of Lincoln and see much that reflects their values. The alternatives are few. One option is to throw away your vote to a third party that cannot win at the federal level or to support the party that more accurately reflects Libertarian and Progressive values.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The New Gilded Age.

During the 2005 State of the Union address, George W. Bush said that small businesses and our economy is held back from “frivolous asbestos claims.” He forgot to mention that one of those “small businesses” is Dresser Industries, a subsidiary of Halliburton. When Vice President Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton he purchased Dresser Industries and their pending asbestos lawsuits too. These “frivolous” lawsuits come to trial because asbestos has a small side affect of being DEADLY.

Presidents weren’t always so quick to defend corporations against We the People in their State of the Union addresses. During the raise of the first American Gilded Age several of our national leaders were concerned about the raise of private power processed by corporate elites.

Seeing the raise of corporate power in 1838 President Martin Van Buren said in his State of the Union address:

“I am more than ever convinced of the dangers to which the free and unbiased exercise of political opinion, the only sure foundation and safeguard for republican government, would be exposed by any further increase of the already overgrown influence of corporate authorities.”

That bleak picture later in the 19th century looked much worse as the railroads had begun to monopolize. Before the Industrial Revolution most Americans made their living on the farm. But to get your products to market the railroads charged a pretty penny. Corporations like Union Pacific literally held the fate of millions of Americans in their hands. Seeing this danger in 1894, President Grover Cleveland said in his State of the Union address:

“As we view the achievements of aggregated capital we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies. While the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people are fast becoming the people’s masters.”

We are now all slaves on a giant plantation called America.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Is America Really The Greatest?

I saw this piece in The Austin Chronicle and I thought it deserved a reprint:

No. 1? By Michael Ventura

No concept lies more firmly embedded in our national character than the notion that the USA is “No. 1,” “the greatest.” Our broadcast media are, in essence, continuous advertisements for the brand name “America Is No. 1.” Any office seeker saying otherwise would be committing political suicide. In fact, anyone saying otherwise will be labeled “un-American.” We're an “empire,” ain't we? Sure we are. An empire without a manufacturing base. An empire that must borrow $2 billion a day from its competitors in order to function. Yet the delusion is ineradicable. We're No. 1. Well ... this is the country you really live in:

· The United States is 49th in the world in literacy (The New York Times, Dec. 12, 2004).
· The United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
· One-third of our science teachers and one-half of our math teachers did not major in those subjects. (Quoted on The West Wing, but you can trust it – their researchers are legendary.)
· Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the Earth. Seventeen percent believe the Earth revolves around the sun once a day (The Week, Jan. 7, 2005).
· “The International Adult Literacy Survey ... found that Americans with less than nine years of education ‘score worse than virtually all of the other countries’” (Jeremy Rifkin's superbly documented book The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, p.78).
· Our workers are so ignorant, and lack so many basic skills, that American businesses spend $30 billion a year on remedial training (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004). No wonder they relocate elsewhere!
· “The European Union leads the U.S. in ... the number of science and engineering graduates; public research and development (R&D) expenditures; and new capital raised” (The European Dream, p.70).
· “Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the largest producer of scientific literature” (The European Dream, p.70).
· Nevertheless, Congress cut funds to the National Science Foundation. The agency will issue 1,000 fewer research grants this year (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004).
· Foreign applications to U.S. grad schools declined 28% last year. Foreign student enrollment on all levels fell for the first time in three decades, but increased greatly in Europe and China. Last year Chinese grad-school graduates in the U.S. dropped 56%, Indians 51%, South Koreans 28% (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004). We're not the place to be anymore.
· The World Health Organization “ranked the countries of the world in terms of overall health performance, and the U.S. [was] ... 37th.” In the fairness of health care, we're 54th. “The irony is that the United States spends more per capita for health care than any other nation in the world” (The European Dream, pp.79-80). Pay more, get lots, lots less.
· “The U.S. and South Africa are the only two developed countries in the world that do not provide health care for all their citizens” (The European Dream, p.80). Excuse me, but since when is South Africa a “developed” country? Anyway, that's the company we're keeping.
· Lack of health insurance coverage causes 18,000 unnecessary American deaths a year. (That's six times the number of people killed on 9/11.) (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005.)
“U.S. childhood poverty now ranks 22nd, or second to last, among the developed nations. Only Mexico scores lower” (The European Dream, p.81). Been to Mexico lately? Does it look “developed” to you? Yet it's the only “developed” country to score lower in childhood poverty.
· Twelve million American families – more than 10% of all U.S. households – “continue to struggle, and not always successfully, to feed themselves.” Families that “had members who actually went hungry at some point last year” numbered 3.9 million (NYT, Nov. 22, 2004).
· The United States is 41st in the world in infant mortality. Cuba scores higher (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).
· Women are 70% more likely to die in childbirth in America than in Europe (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).
· The leading cause of death of pregnant women in this country is murder (CNN, Dec. 14, 2004).
· “Of the 20 most developed countries in the world, the U.S. was dead last in the growth rate of total compensation to its work-force in the 1980s. ... In the 1990s, the U.S. average compensation growth rate grew only slightly, at an annual rate of about 0.1%” (The European Dream, p.39). Yet Americans work longer hours per year than any other industrialized country, and get less vacation time.
· “Sixty-one of the 140 biggest companies on the Global Fortune 500 rankings are European, while only 50 are U.S. companies” (The European Dream, p.66). “In a recent survey of the world's 50 best companies, conducted by Global Finance, all but one was European” (The European Dream, p.69).
· “Fourteen of the 20 largest commercial banks in the world today are European. ... In the chemical industry, the European company BASF is the world's leader, and three of the top six players are European. In engineering and construction, three of the top five companies are European. ... The two others are Japanese. Not a single American engineering and construction company is included among the world's top nine competitors. In food and consumer products, Nestlé and Unilever, two European giants, rank first and second, respectively, in the world. In the food and drugstore retail trade, two European companies ... are first and second, and European companies make up five of the top 10. Only four U.S. companies are on the list” (The European Dream, p.68).
· The United States has lost 1.3 million jobs to China in the last decade (CNN, Jan. 12, 2005).
· U.S. employers eliminated 1 million jobs in 2004 (The Week, Jan. 14, 2005).
· Three million six hundred thousand Americans ran out of unemployment insurance last year; 1.8 million – one in five – unemployed workers are jobless for more than six months (NYT, Jan. 9, 2005).
· Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea hold 40% of our government debt. (That's why we talk nice to them.) “By helping keep mortgage rates from rising, China has come to play an enormous and little-noticed role in sustaining the American housing boom” (NYT, Dec. 4, 2004). Read that twice. We owe our housing boom to China, because they want us to keep buying all that stuff they manufacture.
· Sometime in the next 10 years Brazil will probably pass the U.S. as the world's largest agricultural producer. Brazil is now the world's largest exporter of chickens, orange juice, sugar, coffee, and tobacco. Last year, Brazil passed the U.S. as the world's largest beef producer. (Hear that, you poor deluded cowboys?) As a result, while we bear record trade deficits, Brazil boasts a $30 billion trade surplus (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
· As of last June, the U.S. imported more food than it exported (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
· Bush: 62,027,582 votes. Kerry: 59,026,003 votes. Number of eligible voters who didn't show up: 79,279,000 (NYT, Dec. 26, 2004). That's more than a third. Way more. If more than a third of Iraqis don't show for their election, no country in the world will think that election legitimate.
· One-third of all U.S. children are born out of wedlock. One-half of all U.S. children will live in a one-parent house (CNN, Dec. 10, 2004).
· “Americans are now spending more money on gambling than on movies, videos, DVDs, music, and books combined” (The European Dream, p.28).
· “Nearly one out of four Americans [believe] that using violence to get what they want is acceptable“ (The European Dream, p.32).
· Forty-three percent of Americans think torture is sometimes justified, according to a PEW Poll (Associated Press, Aug. 19, 2004).
· “Nearly 900,000 children were abused or neglected in 2002, the last year for which such data are available” (USA Today, Dec. 21, 2004).
· “The International Association of Chiefs of Police said that cuts by the [Bush] administration in federal aid to local police agencies have left the nation more vulnerable than ever” (USA Today, Nov. 17, 2004).

No. 1? In most important categories we're not even in the Top 10 anymore. Not even close. The USA is “No. 1” in nothing but weaponry, consumer spending, debt, and delusion.