Sharing the Wealth

Seth Sandronsky’s 07/01 TPP article, “Curing California’s Job Crisis” credits the “street heat” of labor unions with FDR’s motivation for creating the second New Deal and WPA.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Now, here’s the math of it all. By 1928, the seemingly successful big business policies of the Republican Party had earned it a 62% majority in the House.  Things were going well for the greedy.

One year after the Wall Street crash, the 1930 midterm vote and several special elections gave House Democrats slim control.  Although the Great Depression had not yet started, folks obviously sensed that something was up. The 1932 general election brought FDR into office with a 73% Democrat/Farm-Labor coalition in the House. Then, the 1934 midterm gave the political left nearly 77% control of the House.  These results must have STUNNED Roosevelt, simply for the fact that up until then he had done relatively little to help the unemployed. His first New Deal was little more than the bailouts for the banks, railroads, critical industries and everyone else too fat to founder.

But now, the real heat was on. The 1934 midterm brought to Washington an angry gang of hard left radicals that made John Boehner’s right fringe look like Cub Scouts. And the “Kingfish” of this pack was none other than indefatigable Huey Long who held FDR’s feet to the fire under serious political threat.

Finally, although Long did not survive to witness it, the 1936 election gave the Democrats and their leftist allies an 80% majority in the House of Representatives. When we look at these numbers, it is easy to understand how our grandparents were able to realize Huey’s dream of “sharing the wealth.” If we really want it again, it will happen no other way.

Ron DiGiovanni
Easton, Pa.

Calf Story

When I read Gene Lyons’ tender narrative, “For the Love of a Calf” (6/15/13 TPP), I felt deeply moved by his unassuming compassion.

His story of devotion to a lovely, helpless creature transformed an ordinary moment of my life into a soothing reflection about the boundless potential of human love – and the purifying value of holding communion with nature.

Gene Lyons wove a beautiful net with his words, which surely captured the hearts of all who read that gem. And I feel certain that, after shedding a tear or two when they reached the end, their hearts felt much lighter.

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

Applaud Truth Sayers

I am an 82-year-old Proletarian Liberal who voted for President Obama and Eisenhower, the only president to warn the people about the Military-Industrial Complex! Today they run the American Empire with the largest war machine, ever seen, with their 1,000 bases and their Gestapoic NSA and CIA covert cowards! All to protect only the savage upper 1%, greed-ridden with their plundering and 25¢-an-hour slave factories all over the planet! Their perpetual wars, invasions, bombings, dronings, torture sites, will only lead to the eventual extinction of all life! These vicious forces would even declare Eisenhower a traitor and torture him for his democratic views!

I support Edward Snowden, Wikileaks, Julian Assange and Pvt. Bradley Manning for their splendid courage as TRUTH SAYERS of corruption and crimes against all life on this small planet!

Alice Keiser Greth
Bend, Ore.

Tortured Cooperation

Re: “Tortured Debate” by Hank Kalet, 5/15/13 TPP (which refers to Michael Levin’s essay, “The Case for Torture”): I propose considering a more basic straightforward situation. Hypothesize a terrorist has warned of a bomb placement in either a West coast bridge or an East coast bridge and there is not time to train additional bomb sniffers before the detonation. Consider that there is an 80% chance of finding the bomb if you keep your force divided and search both bridges, that there is a 95% chance of finding the bomb if you concentrate your force on the bridge that has the bomb, and that there is a 5% chance of finding the bomb if you concentrate your force on the bridge that does not have the bomb.

Perhaps the tortured trained terrorist, who probably knows where the bomb was placed, and who has given his body and life to this project, has truthfully told you where the bomb is, or he has lied. Do you rely on him to direct your search in your best interest? I remember the desperate search of apartment buildings and the stoppage of our bus lines that was caused by the people first brought to Guantanamo trying to please their captors.

George Combe
Jersey City, N.J.

Privatized Government

The Republicans religiously believe that the antithesis of Socialism is Privatization — anything the public sector does the private sector can do better. They are fully in favor of charter schools, prison systems, security groups (such as Blackwater of Iraq fame) and — surprise! surprise! — NSA’s intelligence gathering is also partly run by private corporations. There are a whole lot of problems in going private — not fully efficient or not profitable — but they have deep pockets and sustaining capacity. They can afford to wait (a.k.a. investment period) which gives them time to: demand more incarceration if prisons show empty cells, hire less educated teachers in their charter schools, untrained personnel (who shoot first and ask questions later) in their private security army. NSA does not supervise the staff of private intelligence companies which ends up by their hiring high school dropouts.

The tax-payers may know the initial fees charged by such private enterprises but do they know how many times the initial fees have been revised upwards — oops! — so sorry, I keep forgetting that it is a matter of “national security.”

G.M. Chandu
Flushing. N.Y.

Penalizing the Working Class

I have never voted for a Republican in my life. A few things have happened. Three years ago Obama Administration cut me off diabetic medicine. I was not told why this was done but they could have asked my doctor and they would have been told that there are other medicines she prescribes for me, but I cannot afford to get them. Due to cost President Obama wants to cut Social Security. His reason, that people can substitute one thing for another another at less cost. Like a t-shirt at Walmart cost is high, I can go to Goodwill store to buy a used t-shirt at less cost. Here in Minnesota all government power is in Democratic hands. They didn’t pass a minimum wage increase. I am in my 70s and also handicapped. The oil company makes makes billions and pay no taxes plus are subsidized by our government that penalizes the working class.

Ernie Petz
Chaska, Minn.

National Security

Certain elements of our government feel it imperative to prosecute Edward Snowden to the fullest extent of the law for “leaking” our government’s secretive surveillance of peoples throughout the world.

The real crime is that all branches of our government colluded, or enabled the rewriting of laws allowing it to infringe upon our Fourth Amendment rights with impunity while not informing the public.

Yet, in my opinion, the far greater crime is the apathy of our citizenry.

We should all consider the quote by Benjamin Franklin (in my opinion a more intelligent and far greater man than any of our current leaders) — “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The open, public conversation between security and privacy, which should have been conducted long ago, should be aggressively aired now.

Robert Stone
Bristol, Conn.

Secrecy vs. Democracy

Regarding your editorial, “Spy Business Scandal,” I must begin by asserting, in the strongest possible terms, that secrecy and democracy are fundamentally incompatible. Worse, secrecy is democracy’s most pernicious enemy. A functional, effective democracy, as envisioned by our founders, requires a well-informed electorate. No doubt that is an idealistic concept, as our present dysfunctional government demonstrates in spades. But, when secrecy is the rule and not the exception, it’s an unrealizable ideal.  

Obama’s presidency has been dominated by relentless persecution of whistle-blowers and outstanding investigative journalists. He is an extremely intelligent, well-educated man. Thus, one can only assume that he has little or no faith in the democratic process. If anything, he is more of a traitor than those he is persecuting.

A little background: more than fifty years ago, I held a Top Secret clearance as a Chinese Linguist in the U.S. Air Force Security Service. After a year of immersion in Mandarin Chinese at the Institute of Far Eastern Languages at Yale, and four months of intensive training at Goodfellow Air Base in San Angelo, Texas, wearing earphones and simultaneously translating what I heard on a typewriter, I was sent to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, where I never used the language. Peacetime military (1958-1962) is an oxymoron — inefficient, incompetent, befuddled.

We were an adjunct of the NSA, which defined and managed our mission. What I ended up doing in Okinawa was researching and ghost-writing a weekly intelligence briefing for my commanding officer, who couldn’t be bothered. My job involved compiling information from both public (newspapers and newsmagazines) and private (wired communications from the intelligence branches of all the military services) sources. Two things I learned: first, that there was no necessary relationship between the public and private info. Nearly all the time, there was no relationship at all. The second was that we were spying on our allies as well as our adversaries.  Sound familiar?

Now, the technology was very primitive then, as you might imagine.  But the amount of data was already extensive.  Recent news accounts of what we are doing now are very frightening to someone with my experiences.  No surprise that I consider people like Assange and Snowden heroes for democracy.

Shorey H. Chapman
San Francisco, Calif.

Birthday Wishes

June 27 was my birthday. I received a few wonderful birthday cards, but no presents. Ordinarily I would not care — I don’t expect presents, and I haven’t had a birthday party since I was 5 years old — however, I suddenly got the idea that this year I would like to have two presents:

1) I want Ben Bernanke to explain what the Federal Reserve is doing with the $3.4 trillion in government bonds and “mortgage obligations” the Fed has acquired. Under a program called “quantitative easing,” they have been buying $85 billion per month of such securities. Is this a backhanded way of taking bad debts off the books of the banks?

2) I want Mary Jo White to tell us all in writing why the $700 trillion of obligations in the “shadow credit” market — credit default swaps, other swaps, options of all kinds and other undisclosed debt instruments — is really just a trivial unimportant pile of debt that no one needs to be concerned about. Do the counter parties, the people who signed these contracts, really not care whether or not they get paid? As new chairwoman of the SEC, Ms. White is in a good position to find out what is going on there, and let us all know. Is this $700 trillion of debt owed by persons undisclosed to persons unknown really a matter of no consequence?

Harvey Stoneburner
Brooklyn, N.Y.

What’s ‘Over a Century’?

The Progressive Populist’s editorial of 6/15/13 says, “The Citizens United decision allowed corporations to get involved in politics, setting aside more than a century of laws and court precedents.” That sentence is factually erroneous.

Citizens United did not disturb the 1907 Tillman Act’s prohibition on contributions to candidates from corporations. It did disturb the 1947 provision of the Taft-Hartley Act that made it illegal for corporations and unions to make independent expenditures. Your editorial’s reference to “over a century” is incorrect.

Richard Winger
San Francisco, Calif.

The editor replies: In June 2012, the Supreme Court affirmed that its then-2-year-old Citizens United decision overturned a 1912 Montana state law that banned corporate political expenditures, claiming the state law conflicted with the First Amendment speech rights of corporations established by the 2010 Citizens United decision. So the Court in 2010 at least was overturning a 98-year-old law and it has been interpreted as overturning other state laws, including Texas, which dates from 1903. In addition, the Citizens United decision overturned court precedents going back to the founding of the United States that assumed the government’s authority to regulate activities of corporations, as Justice John P. Stevens noted in his dissent to Citizens United. So we stand by our statement that Citizens United overturned more than a century of laws and court precedents.

What Perry Can Learn

In “What Rick Perry Can Learn From California” (by David Sirota, 6/16/13 TPP), here’s my handy checklist for Gov. Perry regarding the West, Texas, explosion:

Regulations are NOT a burden to business – they are measures designed to protect both public safety and business interests.

Had there been zoning regulations in place, a fertilizer plant would not have been allowed to be located in a residential area, next to homes, a school, and a nursing home.

Had the plant owner followed Department of Homeland Security regulations, he would not have been permitted to keep 270 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate on the premises – only 4,000 pounds would have been allowed. While this may not have prevented an explosion, a smaller amount of fertilizer most likely would have resulted in fewer deaths and a lot less damage to surrounding homes and businesses.

The end result of NOT having zoning regulations in place and NOT following ammonium nitrate reporting regulations?

• 14 deaths and 100 million dollars in damage. 

• A fertilizer plant that will probably go out of business and put people out of work, because the plant owner reportedly only has 1 million dollars in insurance coverage. 

• A nursing home that might also go out of business, if they lack adequate insurance to cover their damages and rebuild.

• Numerous homeowners that might become homeless if they lack adequate insurance coverage to rebuild homes that were totally destroyed in the explosion.  

There is nothing “pro-business” about a lack of regulations. It is short sighted and destructive. The West, Texas, explosion proves it. Now let’s see if Gov. Perry and the Republicans in the Texas state legislature learn anything from it.

Cynthia Curry
Plymouth, Mass.

From The Progressive Populist, August 1, 2013



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