With all of the press on budget surpluses and cutting taxes you would think that we in the United States have all died and gone to economic Heaven. Just to give myself a pinch to make sure this was real I did a little research.
Paging through the Congressional Record of January 23, page S446 and following, one finds an interesting speech and insertions by Senator Hollings (D-SC). According to public records kept by the Treasury, he finds that rather than an overall surplus in FY2000 there was a deficit showing up as additional public debt to the tune of $23 billion. This surplus song sounds a little flat. So these surpluses must show up in this fiscal year, FY2001, right?
Senator Hollings looks at that too and finds that from the beginning of the fiscal year (October 1, 2000) through January 22, 2001 the debt has increased another $54 billion. Taking Senator Hollings' advice and looking this up on the Treasury web site that tracks public debt (www.publicdebt.treas.gov) I am thinking maybe, just maybe we've recouped these deficits in February. You know February has Valentine's day and I'd just love to get a tax cut but only if it can be done responsibly (a budget in surplus).
Has February performed its magic? Sorry to report the red of Valentines appears to have reinforced the red ink of debt. At the end of February the increase in debt stood at just under $62 billion, about $8 billion more than when Senator Hollings looked at it in January.
The pinch of reality wakes me from my dream (or was that the CBO/Republican/Democrat dream) of unending surpluses and responsible tax cuts. So while there are real surpluses in the Social Security Accounts (www.ssa.gov) there is no overall surplus, no surplus due to the income tax and certainly no surplus that can be used to responsibly cut taxes.
The Progressive Populist could do its subscribers a real service by reserving a few lines on the front page of the paper. These few lines could contain the current month's national public debt, the previous month's national public debt and its percent change. Inform the people. Let them know the truth.
MICHAEL J. CYKANA
Election reform is needed first, in order to get anywhere with campaign reform. Only by reducing the NEED for the inordinate amount of money now required to get elected, will bought and paid for candidates for public office be eliminated. First, investigate and publicize the beneficiaries of the millions of dollars spent on campaigns. Who gets this money? How is it spent? Show how the vast amount of these funds do nothing to benefit the common good of the people of this country.
Second, the technology to inform and educate the populace about issues and candidates now exists. Reduce the campaign time to three (3) months, and then utilize this technology to assure that voting procedures and equipment are uniform in all states. Once people are educated, not bored or turned off by long, negative, non-productive campaigns, more will want to vote and be involved. Revamp the primary process as currently run. Stop all the payback parties for the elite few. No one is going to support public financing when the money is wasted and spent frivolously. How does Washington think MOST of us who are struggling to make even a halfway decent living, feel when we see these primary and inaugural parties? Do these people have any idea what it is like to work for minimum wage? To work as a temporary? To have no benefits? No wonder half the people don't vote. No wonder there are demonstrations with "Hall to the Thief' signs. There is a great deal of frustration among the majority of US citizens regarding this waste of money and buying of candidates to represent corporations versus the people.
Third, the Electoral College is an insult. If educated to the issues and candidates, Americans can think and reason for themselves -- they don't need electors, much less "winner take all" systems that are certainly not representative. It is unreasonable to continue the potential for popular vote versus Electoral College vote. The challenges will increase with time and even the legal system will eventually be challenged as well. Had there been stronger support for Gore, this election's judicial coup d'etat would have never survived. To continue to deny the popular vote with politically driven state and federal judicial systems is to play with the people. Already, the rest of the world no longer sees us as a democracy. The media will not be able to hide it from us forever.
The best way to eliminate the corruption in Washington, D.C., is to pull the rug out from under the whole system by eliminating the NEED for this money. Then honest, dedicated, qualified citizens will run for office. They will be able to do their work and not spend half their time trying to raise money to stay in office. We will all benefit, and politicians and elected officials might even gain the public's respect again.
PATSY A. KELLEY
I think you people are doing a great job! I LOVE your paper. But I disagree with Gene McCarthy when he said we should outlaw the campaign finance issue in 2004. We DESPERATELY need campaign finance reform! Like my bumpersticker says, We don't have a democracy, we have an auction! I am so tired of SLEAZY POLITICIANS, I could PUKE! There is BOTH Parties! Anyway, every month I look forward to getting your paper. Keep up the good work!
Loves Park. Ill.
I'm a life-long Democrat now registered "independent" at age 78, who believes it's about time we abolished this corrupt and intrusive government of ours, reined in our despoiling corporations and re-established more of a commonwealth amongst us.
The composition of our "incumbent" Congress is an obstacle to such reform because it is in such close league with the corporations, which so support and enrich their privileged lives. Certainly the Democratic Party, which maintains the myth of its dedication to the "people," cannot be relied upon for any root disturbance to the status quo ... they have too much invested in its continuance.
I see the Congress as a House of Lords in which "democracy" and "republic" are sentimental memories that merely grace the main projects of profit-making "Progress."
Many problems will beleaguer a government truly "of, by, and for the people." Foremost will be the conversion of our commerce from profit-making to profit-sharing without a disruptive if not devastating depression. Our economic royalty will do their damnedest to engender one -- why not? -- they can easily sit it out while sipping Pouilly-Fuisse and "down-sizing" their ungrateful servants.
Folding up my portable soap-box now. Thanks for listening.
I subscribed to your liberal paper as I recognized the tremendous control of the public by Republican-oriented control of the top journals, newspapers and television owned by big business.
As I wrote your paper prior to the election that Nader could only do one thing: get Bush elected. Your readers who voted for Nader refuse to accept the wrongness of their vote and blame everything but their folly.
For people like myself who survive on Social Security, we must vote for the party that created Social Security over the objections of the Republicans. Voting against the Democratic Party leaves no other result than electing Republicans. The Democratic Party represents labor, colored, the poor much more than Republicans and more likely to end big business control of elections.
Who Knows? But -- I say it was the refusal of Gore/DNC to not insist on Nader and Buchanan in the debates that was the prime reason he lost, and that the Democratic Party was not able to make substantial gains in Congress. For had they done so, and confronted issues the votes Nader took from Gore would have been ever so slight as to the rational Republicans (do they exist?) which would have gone for Nader, and about one half of the right wing lunatics that had no place to go but to George W.
Oh well, folks, better prepare for four years of sanctimonious facade and Victorian non-sense, and all the meanness it will bring. Know what? I'm glad I am 80 years old and will not see our reactionary regression.
Kansas City Mo.
The fact that a lot of your current subscribers criticized you for supporting Ralph Nader shows what a bunch of losers they are. Fake progressives. Certainly misinformed progressives -- they must not read what you send them!
Tell ... Clayton Ellers ["Populist Music is Out There," 2/15/01 PP] -- whoever the hell he is -- to get a band, plug in, and rock if he wants us (the people who are supposedly the "problem," as opposed to corporate America) to listen to his supposed words of wisdom. We're not interested in sitting around listening to Smothers Brothers-style folk music now any more than we were back in the 1960s.
Also, if you want to keep people like me subscribing in the future you might consider spending less ink covering the political puppets and more time zeroing in on the machinations of the economic puppet masters and prime agents of things like the Trilateral Commission and the CIA, for example. Also, coverage of growing police repression would be good ... computer big brotherism, etc.
Morton Grove, Ill.
Editor's Reply: Be careful about dismissing others' opinions. The Left has shown a genius for splintering; we'd like to help the myriad factions left of center get their act together. As for the Smothers Brothers, they actually attracted sizeable audiences in the late 1960s with their Top 20 TV show when censorious network executives, not poor ratings, took them off the air.
Thank you for another excellent issue, 3/1/01. Regarding your column on the Bush Tax Cut, again excellent. I'm curious why there isn't more discussion and advocacy by Liberals, Progressive and Democrats for a Wealth Tax. Now that's something that ought to bring out the Populist in all of us. There should be an easy majority out there supporting a wealth tax. It's easy to understand, clear as to who it hurts and helps and should serve to bring out millions who haven't voted in decades.
GERALD M. SUTLIFF
(To Walden Bello)
I was pleased to read your article about Davos and Porto Alegre from the Brasil Independent Media Center in the [3/1/01] Progressive Populist. I also wanted to write to re-assure you on one point: both you and your accuser were accurate in your attributions of quotes.
I have gotten out the family copy of the new edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations to confirm my memory. It was originally F. Scott Fitzgerald, in "The Rich Boy" (1926), who said:
"Let me tell you about the very rich.
"They are different from you and me.
"They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful."
Bartlett's refers to another entry just eight pages later (702 vs 694 in our edition) -- Ernest Hemingway, quoted from "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories (1938):
"The rich were dull and they drank too much. ... He remembered poor Julian and his romantic awe of them and how he had started a story once that began, 'The very rich are different from you and me.' And how someone had said to Julian, Yes, they have more money."
So you were quoting Hemingway (as well as Fitzgerald) -- just not all of the Hemingway quote as it is usually collected into one saying.
By the way, I should add two footnotes to this entry that Bartlett's gives. One is from Esquire in 1936 that the original draft of the story said "poor Scott Fitzgerald" instead of "poor Julian". The other is from a 1978 book called Scott and Ernest by Matthew J. Bruccoli, which says:
"In 1936 Maxwell Perkins, the legendary editor of Fitzgerald and Hemingway at Charles Scribner's Sons, lunched with Hemingway and the critic Mary Colum. When Hemingway announced, 'I am getting to know the rich,' Mary Colum replied, 'The only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money.'"
I do not know Mr. Bruccoli's sources for this story, but I offer it to you for your information.
JOHN ANTHONY La PIETRA
For years I have been mulling over the supposed conversation between Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Not Fitzgerald's insight, "The rich are different from you and me," but Hemingway's imperceptive response that the difference was that they had more money.
The rich differ from all the rest of us, not because they have more money but because of what the rich lack, the gaping hole in their persona which renders any meaningful communication between them and us extremely difficult. Frankly, I don't know what it is that they lack, perhaps it is imagination, but whatever it is, Walden Bello caught the essence of their disability in his article, "When Davos Meets Porto Alegre: A Memoir."
MARJORIE S. NEWELL
State College, Penn.
(To David Corn)
In your front-page article in the 3/1/01 Progressive Populist, you missed one of the most ironic points in Dubya's "school improvement through testing" initiative, which is similar to an initiative pushed through by the Republican governor in our state. Even if the statistical problems that you point out were fixed -- say, by testing every few days during the entire school year and averaging the results, which certainly sounds as reasonable as anything else in this plan -- blessing schools that have students who test well is like rewarding a dentist whose patients don't have many cavities. Incompetent dentists who practice in Beverly Hills will doubtless do quite well. Brilliant dentists who practice in the slums of inner cities will do poorly. Somehow missed in all this is that this measure has practically nothing to do with the quality of the schools, and almost everything to do with the test-taking abilities of the students who go to those schools. Students who live in poverty are typically not very good test-takers, no matter how good the schools. They have other things on their minds, like whether they are going to find their furniture on the street when they get home. This initiative is simply going to gut those schools that need public funds the most.
Actually, nothing has been missed in all this. The Republican platform has always been to tax the poor and give to the rich, and if the poor starve to death, let them. This is simply one more way to divert public money into the pockets of the wealthy. The talk to cover up this looting doesn't waste effort on any more plausibility than absolutely necessary to squeak past an inattentive press and public.
JOSEPH C. NEMETH
Fort Collins, Colo.
I cannot understand why so many people are getting bent out of shape because former President Clinton pardoned those criminals just before he left office. Am I missing something? Isn't that how our "fake government" of the people by the people and for the people works? Politicians take campaign donations, and then give favors in return. They all do it!
Amazing all of the main stream "hullabaloo" concerning the RICH pardon! Where is the outrage concerning some members of our society still honoring an alleged WAR CRIMINAL -- H. Kissinger? By any yardstick measurement his "CRIMES" against humanity are infinitely worse than this pardon!
PETER V. ANANIA
Ellicott City, Md.
Congressional Democrats are measured, reasonable, decorous. House Republicans are obstreperous, contrarian, abusive, sadistic. In the interest of "comity," the Dems defer the nation's interest to the insistence of the diverse reactionaries calling themselves "conservative." David Morris pins it ["Conservative Rage vs. Liberal Guilt," 3/1/01 PP].
ROBERT C. SOMMER
New York NY
I just got another of those "questionnaire" fundraising gimmicks from the DCCC. What a blast! I peppered it with comments all the way through and ended with a promise to help unseat them if they don't start acting like Democrats. I recommend this exercise to others. It's more fun than just trashing the thing, and if they finally realize we're more progressive then they, they may have to change.
KATHARINE W. RYLAARSDAN
On Feb. 28 the wooden-headed Howdy Doody marionette, George W., awkwardly struggled to recite some words his handlers had prepared for him. He said, "Critics of my tax cut will say that stuff about it's just to help the billionaires. That is what we call class warfare."
The Bush class -- those who live off inheritance and investments have been waging class warfare on the rest of us for a long time. George Herbert Walker Bush, who was born into huge wealth, is paid more money for a 40-minute speech than a highly-skilled bulldozer operator earns working 60 hours/week for a whole year.
I say we give George W. some serious class warfare! Here are some suggestions:
(1) Stop believing Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather are on the side of the people. These two stooges are both multimillionaires. More money is made from arms sales than from any other business in the world today, and Tom and Dan work for two of the richest Pentagon contractors. These boys may give the illusion of mercilessly attacking corruption in government and business, but they are solidly on the side of keeping political and economic power in the hands of those who already have it. Scrutinize them.
(2) Call your "leaders" on their damned hypocrisy. Al Gore and George Bush claim to be Christians. I am an atheist myself, but even I can read the red print in the New Testament, and I can tell you Jesus would projectile vomit at the suggestion that either of these goons were on his side. Amassing great wealth and having military might are clearly forbidden by the Prince of Peace.
(3) Demand a return to 1940s progressive income tax. The hoggish tycoons can pay enormous tax and still live the lavish lifestyles of kings.
(4) Stop wearing that ludicrous strip of textiles hanging down the midline of your body. The necktie is the uniform of the capitalist oppressor, and working people who agree to wear one are being conformists and cowards.