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March 31, 2005

Re: David Rheinhard/Wal-Mart [The Oregonian]

[Submitted to the Oregonian 3/31/2005 re: The bigotry of our betters: Wal-Martism]

To the Editors:

Once again David Rheinhard's mean-spirited polemics not only distort the issue but also divide America, this time by falsely pitting neighbors against customers of Wal-Mart.

Studies show that Wal-Mart pays so little to so many workers that every year those workers use billions of dollars of government poverty-support services like food stamps, healthcare, etc.  Taxpayers are effectively subsidizing Wal-Mart's profits and the Wal-Mart family fortunes -- already greater than the GDP of many countries.

It is time Wal-Mart paid living wages and quit liviing off my taxes.

March 24, 2005

Response to "Democratic Messaging" on BlueOregon

[Edited and updated version the original comment]

Jensen -

I sympathize with your frustrations re: Social Security messaging.

I think one of the things we are looking for in the Democratic messaging system is a reframing narrative -- a framing mechanism that takes what the Republicans are doing, addresses it yet allows us to quickly move the discussion to our frame and desired outcomes.  Reframing isn't simply talking about what we want to talk about and ignoring the issue on the table.

In the case of Social Security there is a very interesting dynamic for Democrats because the Republicans are not playing in their home field: Social Security is a progressive issue and has had a galvanizing effect on progressives and has been a great opportunity to rally not only ourselves, but also people that recently have been part of the Republican camp to our side again.  The deeper issue is the longer-term strategic effort by Republicans to try to change the electoral dynamic by appealing to a new, younger generation ... that is, if they can keep enough of the older voters in the process but gain a lot of younger voters then they are setting themselves up for future electoral successes by having gotten the younger voters early.

So the Democratic response needs to incoroporate strategy as well as responsiveness.  That is, we need a desired outcome and a steps to get there, not just reaction and one step.  We don't want to win the battle with seniors over Social Security and lose the battle for younger voters identification at the same time.  Here's an idea of what that might be:

Background:

  • we can't just ignore the issue on the table
  • Social Security is not in crisis and adjustments can be made to assure its financing (as we've done in the past) and Bush's private accounts not only wouldn't help but would undermine the core principle: insurance against poverty for those the worked hard and played by the rules
  • Republicans are dividing the retired/retiring from younger workers, breaking the inter-generational social compact
  • the Democratic brand is based around Assuring Freedom of Opportunity: giving everyone a fair shot at improving prosperity for themselves and their families IN SPITE of unequal starting points/circumstances outside their control (being born into poverty, ...) (vs Republican "strict parent" metaphor ala Lakoff: inequality is people's fault for not being good enough)
  • what we want to avoid is being painted as people that just add more tax burden through increased entitlements
  • we can do more to restore fiscal soundness and opportunity for people by growing the economy and making civic investments in our future

Approach:

  • the overarching "competitive positioning" of is that Republicans are divisive and that is bad for America
  • the Republican approach to Social Security is an example of that divisiveness
  • Bush's plan saddles younger workers with huge debts to pay
  • we have a better plan which is about growing the economy ... with broadly shared prosperity, not just more for the wealthy

An example of this sort of reframing from the presidential election might have been something like this, when the Swift Boat Veterans for Lies got hot and heavy:

There they go again, dividing Americans, this time with lies about Vietnam.  Just like when Bush doled out tax cuts to the rich while 5.8 million people lost their health care coverage.  Let me tell you about my plan to unite Americans by bringing healthcare to all kids, regardless of their parents circumstances.

So with Social Security, it might be something like (hey, I just made this up so its still pretty wordy!):

Sure Social Security needs a few adjustments to keep it fully funded as more people retire.  But Bush's private accounts would borrow huge sums that young workers would have to pay off while risking working people's poverty insurance money with the false promises of riches from a poverty program.  The best for America is to make sure more people make more money so that they have money to save and invest themselves.

Our American Millenium Renewal project would grow the economy and increase opportunity for all people, not just the already-wealthy, by:
  • Raising the minumum wage to a Living Wage so that taxpayers aren't subsidizing businesses by paying poverty, healthcare and other support to working people
  • Ensuring healthcare for all kids, no matter their parents circumstances
  • Investing in renewable energy sources to provide more income to rural areas and keep more dollars here in America for investment and jobs while making our air cleaner and healthier
  • Reforming taxes to make a fair and simple tax system that doesn't unduly burden the working class to the profit of those who have made the most money from our system
  • ....

Here's an example lead-in:

President Bush's massive deficit spending combined with borrowing another $2 trillion to bet our poverty insurance payments in the market is creating the ultimate Debt Society passed on to younger workers.  In contrast, the best thing for Americans is to create more broadly shared prosperity for all Americans so they actually earn more money and have more to save.  But Bush's risky scheme adds next to nothing to the economy.

March 21, 2005

Bush and Theresa Marie Schiavo

(Submitted 3/21/2005)

To the Editors:

The Republicans have now entered their bizarre phase.

President Bush leaves his losing effort to undermine Social Security to rush to Washington to participate in an orgy of self-serving piousness.  Pontificating about the "culture of life" is the man that sent 152 people to death while Texas governor, who bombed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqs in order to make a point to despots, who picked as attorney general a man that said treaties against torture were "quaint", and who has built prison systems in Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq that repeatedly tortured people, sometimes to death.

Meanwhile here at home, he cuts billions from Medicaid and seeks to undermine Social Security's insurance against poverty -- if successful his efforts would cut needy people's healthcare and lead to more early deaths.

He could use a little more respect for the lives people lead instead of leading people's lives into misery.

March 15, 2005

To Senator Smith re: ANWAR drilling

I continue to appreciate your past opposition of the plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, America's last unspoiled birthing ground for Arctic wildlife.

I hope you will continue to stick by your guns on this issue and wanted to let you know that I support your efforts to focus on forward-thinking ideas for renewable sources that can add new revenue opportunities in rural parts of our state by providing wind, solar and bio-fuels, as well as further technology development and new job creation around improving these sources.

I believe that every dollar saved through energy efficiencies in Oregon is a dollar we can invest here at home instead of sending it abroad.

March 09, 2005

Stable funding proposal to Chalkboard Project

Chalkboard Project's own polling data shows Oregonians want a top school system in America (80% say "be among the best" or "be the very best").  But agree that we don't have it.

I would observe that:
(a) our desires for a world-class school system are undimmed over more than a decade
(b) the educational needs of our children aren't changing every year and
(c) we haven't funded our schools to achieve (a).

Too much of Oregon's education "stable funding" debate has focused on the wrong thing: the source of funding; it should be on the amount of funding first, the source second.

We should establish the funding mechanism in the Oregon constitution:

(1) Determine the amount of funding required to achieve our desired goals (education system among the very best in the nation).

(2) Compute the % of state GDP that represents (say 3.75%).

(3) Make the % based on a two- or three-year trailing average of GDP and/or establish a reserve fund.  This is because the amount shouldn't go up and down wildly based on economic conditions independent of the number of students -- their educational needs are the same.  Also because that makes it predictiable for all involved.

(4) Set the date of when the next year's budget is determined such that we have the GDP for the previous year and are far enough in advance of the next school year for budgeting.

(5) If the legislature fails to provide adequate funding, then an automatic surtax is applied to income or property or sales tax. (I know this may be a bit more complicated than this to avoid pathological cases like the legislature "unfunding" schools to avoid explicitly raising taxes elsewhere and then being "forced by the constitution" to raise taxes for schools, but there's some provision needed here to guarantee the funding is there.)

(See also Follow-up on World-class School Funding inititative.)

March 07, 2005

Re: American Fascism: The Questions Begin Again

(Comment to American Fascism: The Questions Begin Again.)

I'm intrigued by all this, but I do hope we can boil it down in the end.  As Thom Hartmann wrote:  "As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: 'A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.'"

I liked Thom Hartmann's discussion in Common Dreams of which here are some exerpts.

It does seem that every 50 years or so there is a rise in American Fascism.  And we are in one of those periods now.

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