Saturday, March 10, 2012

What Arianna Got Right in 2004- And What Dems Need To Learn NOW

In 2004, as in this year, fanatics, fools and Reich Wing zombies prowled the US of A landscape. Democrats were a beaten, and wussified bunch searching for redemption after having beheld the Bushies steamroll them for three years - from driving them into passage of reckless tax cuts (while still in the Senate majority in 2001), to wimping out on the "Patriot Act" as opposed to offering a full-throated defense of civil liberties, to signing off on a misbegotten pre-emptive occupation in Iraq, to signing off on a monstrous Medicare "Modernization" Act that was more corporate welfare than benefit.

All through her (2004) book, Fanatics and Fools, Arianna Huffington showed she understood the dangers, especially to a democracy when one party rolls over and allows itself to be pussified by the dominant party. Arianna's ongoing subtext, a strong one, is that not only did we have to suffer a Dem party laden with wimps and poltroons, but also one that could never get ahead of the language. Over and over the Reeps beat them by framing the debate ....of whatever....using choice words, such as "tax relief" - for which the clueless, brainless dems had no answers or righteous comebacks. What they ought to have done is screamed "Tax patriotism!" loudly and often. As Arianna put it (p. 364):

"Nobody like taxes, but everyone likes what they pay for: police protection, schools, hospitals, roads."

Thus, her argument - much like Sun Tzu's in The Art of War - is that most battles are lost before they begin, and in the case of language the one who sets the frame has the winning edge. Or as she quoted E.J. Dionne at the time: "The one who prepares the frame gets to pick the picture".

So, no one was surprised when the Dems were beaten in 2004 (in that election), because John Kerry - for example- allowed the "Swift Boat" vermin to frame and define him before he got off the mark. Once that transpired it was all over but the dirges.

One of Arianna's main gripes in her book, and mine too ever since, was the Democrats acting like traitors and allowing passage of the Bush tax cuts (even when they had the numbers to stop them)....realizing full well the costly way these would impact domestic budgets in the future ...especially with the Bushies ramping up military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Arianna put it (p. 155):

"Bush Republicans are determined to privatize as much of the social welfare infrastructure as possible. And where they can’t eliminate or privatize a program they will simply starve it for capital in the years ahead.

Thus, the tax cuts of today are sticks of dynamite being planted around the foundation of Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance. Each of these sticks is linked to a timer that when the explosion goes off and the smoke clears to reveal the resulting carnage, the guilty parties will be long gone.

They know they would be beaten in a fair fight in the present, so they adopt stealth tactics to leave it to a future congress or president to bury popular social programs they have doomed by their present actions"

No one could have put it more eloquently! Especially now, with the advantage of perspective, that we see the stats and know that NONE of them worked! A Financial Times analysis (9/15/10, p. 24) of the effects of the Bush tax cuts noted:

The 2000s- that is the period immediately following the Bush tax cuts – were the weakest decade in U.S. postwar history for real, non-residential capital investment. Not only were the 2000s by far the weakest period but the tax cuts did not even curtail the secular slowdown in the growth of business structures. Rather the slowdown accelerated to a full decline

In other words, the FT’s findings were exactly opposite to what had been touted by the cuts’ cheerleaders, though most of us who were realists could see the train wreck coming and stood aghast at why a major political party that was putatively the opposition would sign off on them. It reminded me of the trope that maybe most of these Ds originally belonged to or sympathized with the "Democrats for Nixon" engendered in the 70s.

But I digress. Even worse - if that can be imagined- than the blowout to the budget as a result, the main benefits of the Bush tax cuts were transferred overseas to foreign shores. The FT found: “an increasing proportion of the benefits of U.S. monetary and fiscal policy are leaking outside the U.S.”

Indeed, the FT noted that the Bush tax cuts actually encouraged “capital flight from the U.S.”

Arianna (p. 220) then went on to appropriately castigate the wimp Tom Daschle (Senate Minority Leader at the time) who, on an appearance on ‘Meet the Press’ when asked why the Democrats didn’t offer a “full throated alternative to the Bush tax cuts plan” (including repeal of the 2001 cuts) whimpered,

Well, we….you got to take it one step at a time!”

I recall when I saw and heard this I was livid and decided from then to drop all my Democratic affiliations and become an Independent apart from the Corporate Duopoly– immediately joining the Democratic Socialists of America. I had had my fill with lily-livered little weasels that lacked one pair of balls between all of them! Arianna herself was clearly exercised as she wrote (ibid.) in response to Daschle’s remark of taking it one step at a time:

You do? WHY? Is this an AA meeting? Bush doesn’t take it one step at a time. He’s comfortable leading by leaps and bounds…and he’s dragging us along with him…”

Indeed, which was why I not only blamed the wussified Dems for the initial passage of those budget wrecking Bush 2001 tax cuts, but also the Patriot Act (which most never read) and the Iraq War entry….when they voted on the Iraq War resolution.

Arianna then “flash forwards” to 2004 and how the Dems again got their butts beat as Daschle trumpeted ‘Retreat!’

So no wonder the Medicare Modernization Act passed by the Bushies in 2003 was primarily a massive corporate welfare program! How could it have been otherwise when the (then) Senate Dems just basically rolled over on their backs and let the Bushies take them to the cleaners….the fish gutters and cleaners!

Robert Borosage (Campaign for America's Future) in a Washington Post article, 'For Democrats a Wake up Call'- the day after passage, put the blame squarely on Senate Minority Leader Daschle for the collapse - including the inability to insert a clause to insist Medicare be allowed to bargain for the lowest prescription drug prices like the VA.

One of the few Dems with cojones at the time, Ben Cardin of Maryland, documented all the flaws with the existing bill passed. Cardin pointed out that the bill had inadequate prescription coverage, prohibited federal officials from negotiating for better drug prices, would cause 2.7 million retirees with private drug plans to lose coverage, and spent $14 billion in tax dollars to subsidize higher-cost private plans, while putting a limit on general revenue use that would cause higher taxes or lower benefits. Oh, even as it would undermine traditional Medicare and cuts $1 billion a year for cancer care.

We now know, with the benefit of hindsight, that if anything that horrific Bushie bill was even worse, and Medicare Advantage plans have plunged traditional Medicare on a road to insolvency by spending $12 billion a year more on health care than the original version (according to the Government Accounting Office). But....this was all planned by the Reeps and their number one honcho ....Billy Tauzin.

The lessons to be learned from all this? NO Democrat can relax in this election year and just "phone it in" or be the least bit lacking in that rare but wonderful quality called "fire in the belly". Because make no mistake, the Reeps - with their boners to send Obama packing - will have it. Of utmost import is not letting the tax cutting fetishists and austerity fanatics get the upper hand in control of the language. If needed, set up a special dedicated think tank for this cycle only, to work out verbal jui jitsu on multiple fronts....from tax cuts (allowing all the Bush cuts to expire for everyone as a testament to TAX Patriotism, to pulling out of Afghanistan in the interests of DOMESTIC security!

Use the language frame against the Repugs instead of allowing them to craft it first then have to fit into it.

Lastly, protect Social Security and Medicare with every last breath and energy. Remember, once you try to spiel about "minor cuts" or even major changes that will hurt seniors, you will already be subtracting major reasons to cast votes in your favor- especially amongst seniors. If people see a Repuke lite then they will just vote for the original brand....why go lite?

Above, all, finally do what ought to have been done ages ago and let those fucking zombie tax cuts from the Bush era expire!

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