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December 17, 2014


We are now hearing from the mainstream press that Elizabeth Warren and President Obama are at odds with one another because she was vociferously opposed to the recently passed “spending bill,” a bill he has announced he will sign. The bill (soon to become law on his signature and among other things) guts portions of the Dodd-Frank Act designed to protect the public from another disaster such as the one we experienced in 2007 which led to Bush’s Great Recession, a downturn from which we have still not recovered, among other odious sections such as a huge increase in allowable campaign contributions and yet other policy decisions having nothing to do with “spending.”

This so-called “spending bill” was properly called a Christmas tree bill upon which policy decisions were hung and is akin to a congressional resolution commending a Boy Scout troop in Arkansas for bravery with the Department of Defense budget hooked on as a rider. In short, it is an underhanded way to make policy under threat of government shutdown and does not bode well for the future. Both parties bear the responsibility for bringing us to this sad state of affairs, and if such results are proper under existing House and Senate Rules, then such Rules should be changed.

The American people should know as well as politicians around some conference table who are wheeling and dealing with their futures in the name of “compromise” just what is being negotiated (including add-ons and riders) and the pros and cons of positions taken in conference. A more vigilant mainstream press would help in this connection, a press devoted to telling the American people how their business is being conducted by their representatives while eschewing publication of propaganda by Wall Street “think tanks” designed to cover up the influence of special interests on the conferees.

Under such a legislative conduct of affairs as that conducted under the umbrella of a “spending bill,” lobbyists don’t need to direct their congressional toadies to put up a bill or rider or amendment to be voted upon under “stand alone” auspices where there may be extensive committee hearings and debate that might divulge the sinister motives of its sponsors. They can instead just hand their toadies rider and amendment language and tell them to wait until a motherhood and apple pie bill comes along (such as in the “spending bill” which takes us back to bailout territory once again) and hook such measures on to the bill free of hearings and debate and get the whole shebang passed and on the books. I do not think this is the way the people’s business should be conducted. It is, after all, our business they are conducting, not theirs. Is it too much to ask how our business is being conducted? I hope not.

The press is making far more out of the Warren-Obama difference than warranted by the facts. There is no substantive disagreement at all between the senator and the president. President Obama has said publicly that he doesn’t like the gutting of Dodd-Frank by Wall Street banks either, but that it is part of the compromise worked out between the parties in conference, that you have to take some bad with the good, and though he doesn’t like that add-on rider at the behest of the big Wall Street banks, he will live with it so that spending (with one exception) is approved for this fiscal year and the government is not shut down. The disagreement between Warren and the president is therefore not about substance; it is about tactics, and such a statement by the president tells me that he would in the future support efforts to remove this dangerous add-on to the “spending bill,” perhaps, as I have blogged recently, with neutering via the reenactment of the Glass-Steagall Act, which I here again recommend.

The newly energized Wall Street propaganda campaign following the gutting of Dodd-Frank on the big banks’ trading in derivatives (which would do Dr. Goebbels proud) is clearly directed at the destruction of the political future of Senator Elizabeth Warren (who is on to them). The corporate press is beginning to characterize her views as “anti-business,” those of a “populist champion,” and some have even drug out the DREADED L-WORD (as Reagan coined it and the word is liberal) to describe her plans for America. The propagandists are holding two slurs in reserve in case they are needed if her views show signs of catching on, to wit: socialist – and as a last resort and in true McCarthy fashion if necessary – communist.

Propagandists are good at ignoring and directing attention away from the substance of what their prey have to say in favor of slander and other defamatory tactics designed to divert attention from the underlying issues. Thus, for instance, if Senator Warren says we need a raise in the minimum wage (which is clear to a fault), you go after her as anti-business, a populist, a liberal or whatever, paying scant heed to a discussion of the need for a raise in the minimum wage which, after all, reduces profits. Don’t discuss the particulars of wage and wealth inequality, health care costs, tax loopholes etc. Instead discuss the heritage of the socialist sponsors who are sponsoring reform in such areas, positive reform that would allow ordinary Americans to share in the new wealth being generated by our economy along with the moneychangers and paper exchangers on Wall Street. This tactic of blaming the message on the messenger, unfortunately, is working – so far.

Let’s wax philosophical. Who defines “liberal” for the people? Is it “liberal” for the people to want decent wages and healthcare and relief from bank fraud and being on the hook to pay for Wall Street’s investment mistakes? If so, count me in. The truth is that the idea of fair play and economic justice are neither liberal nor conservative positions as propagandists would have you believe. They are instead elements of what America is about, the core idea that we are all engaged in this democratic experiment together, that fairness in how we treat one another and go about the nation’s business are what bind us and that we should design our political and social structures around such a fundamental understanding. It is basically a moral precept based on treating your fellow citizen as you would like to be treated.

The alternative, as we are seeing, is a brawling marketplace filled with posturing, greed, bribery and little if any concern for the welfare of your fellow citizens other than the value they can contribute to your bottom line(s). So liberal, conservative, populist, or whatever the slander du jour may be employed  by propagandists dedicated to preservation of the brawling marketplace and their respective bottom lines, let’s ignore all such designations in favor of one simple question, to wit: Would (all things considered and without the influence of narrow special interests) the proposed policies up for adoption as law operate fairly and to the benefit of all Americans?  If the honest answer is yes, then such proposals should become law. If otherwise, then they should not become law. Case closed.

Too idealistic? Won’t work?  How is fair play in the marketplace working today for all Americans? Look around. We can do better – much better.   GERALD    E

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