Tuesday 11 September 2012

The 2012 Democratic Platform: Yes you still can

The official web site of the Democrats (Democrats.Org) offers The 2012 Democratic Platform as a downloadable PDF. I have printed and read the entire document. My first impression? Nothing is perfect and I'm sure pundits, armchair generals, and of course the Republicans will be jumping all over this looking for any and all flaws but I'm walking away with a warm and fuzzy. That would contrast sharply, no that would be diametrically opposed to the cold and prickly I felt after reading the GOP's policy paper. (my blog: The 2012 Republican Platform: Are ya scared yet?) As the Democratic Platform paper points out, "This election is not simply a choice between two candidates or two political parties, but between two fundamentally different paths for our country and our families." (page 1) If the Republican platform is black, the Democratic platform is white. It is night and day; it is two different views of the United States. Whatever you read in one paper, you can pretty much think that the other party has written the opposite.

The Economy
We Democrats offer America the opportunity to move our country forward by creating an economy built to last and built from the middle out. Mitt Romney and the Republican Party have a drastically different vision. They still believe the best way to grow the economy is from the top down – the same approach that benefited the wealthy few but crashed the economy and crushed the middle class. (page 1)

Over and over again I have heard that Ronald Reagan is the god of Conservative politics and economic policy. However, I have also heard that the "apparent" period of prosperity under Reagan was the result of buying on credit. While good for today, somebody is going to have to pay the bill at the end of the month. I have heard over and over again that "trickle down" economics works and yet pundit after pundit says no. Who's right? Who do I believe? When Warren Buffett one the mightiest of the uber-wealthy asks the question why is his tax rate less than his secretary's, I have to ask myself if the mantra of the Republicans is just that, a mantra repeated ad infinitum without any solid grounding in reality. (my blog: All the rich are not billionaires) I don't think anybody minds paying their fair share but I'm sure anybody would be slightly pissed if they found out the rich were paying less than their fair share. Heck, they're rich!

This paper clearly shows that the Democrats support the middle class. They want to lift people up from the poor end of the spectrum to the middle class and they do not want the rich end of the spectrum to benefit at the expense of others. "Class warfare!" as the Conservatives have exclaimed. Have I entered the Twilight Zone? Even if you took 60% of their income in taxes they would still be rich!!!

Democrats know that America prospers when we’re all in it together. We see an America where everyone has a fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same rules. We see an America that out-educates, out-builds, and out-innovates the rest of the world. (page 1)

Asking all to pay their fair share
This theme comes in several times in the paper and along with it the description of the Republicans' top down approach. "The Democratic Party opposes efforts to give additional tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class and investments in our future." (page 7)

America Works When Everyone Plays by the Same Rules
Referring to the financial crisis, the paper points out that without strong enough regulations the financial system managed to play by a different set of rules. "That behavior not only nearly destroyed the financial system, it cost our economy millions of jobs, hurt middle class and poor families, and left taxpayers holding the bill." (page 11)

President Obama – the son of a single mother and the father of two daughters – understands that women aren’t a special interest group. They are more than half of this country, and issues that affect women also affect families. (page 17) Women are not a special interest group; they are more than half of the country. If there was one thing that stuck out in reading over the Republican Platform it was that the Conservatives seek to follow the path of tradition in which women remain second in a patriarchal society. Pay equity? Gender discrimination? Even a women's body is not her own, it is a ward of the state.

But the Democrats:

We understand that economic issues are women’s issues, and the challenges of supporting and raising a family are often primarily a woman’s responsibility.
We understand that women’s rights are civil rights... we are committed to ending violence against women.

The President and the Democratic Party believe that women have a right to control their reproductive choices. Democrats support access to affordable family planning services, and President Obama and Democrats will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers. The Affordable Care Act ensures that women have access to contraception in their health insurance plans, and the President has respected the principle of religious liberty. Democrats support evidence-based and age-appropriate sex education.

If you are a woman and you vote Conservative in November, I think you have failed to grasp the ramifications of the Republican Platform. You are voting to remain subjugated by a male dominated society and a patriarchal tradition. You are condemning your daughters to walk in your shoes and not to a better brighter future.

We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.

We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. (page 18)

We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms. We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation. We understand the terrible consequences of gun violence; it serves as a reminder that life is fragile, and our time here is limited and precious. We believe in an honest, open national conversation about firearms. We can focus on effective enforcement of existing laws, especially strengthening our background check system, and we can work together to enact commonsense improvements – like reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole – so that guns do not fall into the hands of those irresponsible, law-breaking few. (page 18)

In my posting on the 2012 Republican Platform, I noted that the party upholds the right to defend yourself. Americans must have the right to own guns, store ammunition without registration, get permits to carry firearms and to carry firearms. They are against restrictions limiting the capacity of clips or magazines. (page 13: 2012 Republican Platform)

What in heaven's name are you people afraid of? Concealed weapons? Semi-automatic rifles? Thirty round clips? This is the United States, a "civilized" country, right?

"If its platform is any guide, the Republican party is staunchly pro-life until you are actually born." - Andy Borowitz on Twitter

The Wars
I refer here to Afghanistan and Iraq. Clint Eastwood in his famous or infamous speech criticized Obama for not getting out of Afghanistan. Ah, need I remind anybody who got the U.S. in these quagmires in the first place?

The Democrats on Afghanistan: we have reversed the momentum of the Taliban and established the conditions to draw down our forces in Afghanistan. (page 21) Sure somebody may think this is a the usual political B.S. rhetoric but if the U.S did pull out and the Taliban came back into power, well now, wouldn't Uncle Sam look dumb?

The Democrats on Iraq: Senator Obama pledged during the 2008 campaign to responsibly end the war in Iraq, saying it was imperative to “be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in” – and that is precisely what he has done. (page 21) Weapons of mass destruction? Ties to al-Qaeda? I remember watching TV coverage of Colin Powell presenting evidence before the United Nations of Saddam Hussein's nuclear production facilities. It wasn't true.

The Military
The Democrats are propose reductions in federal spending including the defense budget.

As we look beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and the conclusion of long-term nation-building with large military footprints – we will be able to ensure our security with a more agile and more flexible force. At the same time, we will continue to emphasize forward engagement in critical regions, while enhancing robust security partnerships to share the burden. And we will continue to get rid of outdated Cold War-era systems so that we can invest in cutting-edge technologies and maintain a versatile set of capabilities required to execute a wide range of military missions. (page 29)

The Republicans are against any cuts in the defense budget explaining ... at a time when our Nation faces a growing range of threats (page 40: 2012 Republican Platform)

The Atlantic - Jun 6/2012
Americans Are as Likely to Be Killed by Their Own Furniture as by Terrorism by Micah Zenko
The author, Micah Zenko, is a Fellow in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World.

Mr. Zenko refers to the 2011 Report on Terrorism by The National Counterterrorism Center and notes that of the 13,288 people killed worldwide by terrorist attacks in 2011, seventeen were private U.S. citizens or 0.1%, one tenth of one percent of the total. He goes on to refer to a 2011 consumer report which states that in 2010 (the last reported year) twenty-one people died from a falling television, piece of furniture or an appliance.

An American's risk of being killed by falling furniture is greater than by a terrorist attack.

Final Word
Barack Obama is not perfect. Not everything he promised was done. But I would ask how much I or anybody should blame him personally for any failures in light of the extraordinary circumstances in which he works? A blogger Becky Sawarte summed this up by writing, "I am one of those voters who has occasionally felt letdown by the conflict between the theoretical Obama of 2008 and the practical limits of governing." Yes, the "practical limits" of governing. The POTUS is not a dictator; he must follow the proper procedures of a democratic government and deal with an opposition (the Republicans) who does not see eye to eye to him. Considering the many self-interest groups demanding their slice of the pie, it is sometimes surprising anything gets done at all.

This posting is not a thorough point by point analysis of the Democratic paper. The details of the economy including the tax laws are challenging even to the experts but overall I have a good feeling about the strategy of focusing on the middle class instead of following trickle down theory. By the way, I have made note of the latest kerfuffle between the platform papers of the two parties over the number of times the word "God" appears.

As the Washington Post wrote, "The word “God” is nowhere to be found in the Democratic national platform this year, an omission Republicans have seized upon as a failure of their opponents to appreciate the divine’s place in American history." This is ludicrous. This is a sign of utter desperation on the part of the GOP to find anything, yes absolutely anything to criticize the Democrats and Obama. After all the bulls**t about whether or not Obama was born American or whether he's Christian or not, the far right conspiracy theorists are still busy at work drumming up more sky is falling warnings of the impending apocalypse. It has been my experience that those who are the most vocal about their belief in God are the most willing to interpret "God" in air quotes and "His Word" also in air quotes as they see fit having some sort of divine connection to the Almighty.

Democrats = warm and fuzzy. Republicans = cold and prickly. Of course I know that nothing is perfect and I'm sure every armchair general and Monday morning quarterback is going to be tearing apart the platform looking for spelling errors, hidden meanings, and counting the number of times the word "God" appears. America has dug itself a very, very deep hole. This isn't putting the blame completely on George Bush or even Ronald Reagan or even the Republicans; it is recognising that a confluence of events over decades led up to the biggest financial crisis the country has ever faced since the Crash of 1929. This isn't a question of quick fixes; this is a question of long-term strategies to ensure this doesn't happen again. This isn't about blame, this is about understanding why things happen and what can be done to correct them. And not just for today but permanently.

Yes, America has dug itself a very, very deep hole. Getting out of that hole isn't impossible but it won't be easy and America will not get out overnight. Does it seem hopeless? I would like to remind you of one important thing: yes you still can.


Democrats.Org: The 2012 Democratic Platform (PDF)

NY Times - Sep 5/2012 Fact-Checking the Democratic Platform by Scott Shane and Annie Lowrey
The Democratic Party platform, released this week during the convention in Charlotte, N.C., contained a number of exaggerated or misleading claims in civil liberties and housing.

NY Times - Sep 5/2012
A Startling Truth Amid the Hyperbole by Michael Cooper, Scott Shane and Annie Lowrey
Speakers at the Democratic National Convention used an out-of-context quote on Wednesday night to give the misleading impression that Mitt Romney enjoys firing people, and some referred imprecisely to his tax proposals. The party’s platform also contained questionable assertions about President Obama’s record on civil liberties.

NY Times - Sep 4/2012
Words Not Spoken: Editorial
Not many people know it, but the Democratic Party supports a ban on assault weapons. It’s a position that, if enacted, could save many lives by reducing the lethality of mass shootings, but you have to flip more than halfway through the party’s new 26,500-word platform to find it.

The Washington Post - Sep 5/2012
Democrats under fire for removing ‘God’ from party platform by Lauren Markoe
The word “God” is nowhere to be found in the Democratic national platform this year, an omission Republicans have seized upon as a failure of their opponents to appreciate the divine’s place in American history.

Which End Is Up? - Sep 6/2012
Bill Clinton Restores Democrats' Lovin' Feeling by Becky Sawarte
A report from my hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, shared the results of a Reuters/Ipsos poll yesterday which indicated that the POTUS doesn't have any trouble with popular appeal. To quote the article, "The online poll showed that voters found Obama more likable than Romney by 50 percent to 30 percent. Forty-one percent said they believed Obama 'understands people like me,' while 28 percent said that about Romney."

Wikipedia: Lilly Ledbetter
Lilly Ledbetter (born Lilly McDaniel; April 1938) was the plaintiff in the American employment discrimination case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. She has since become a women's equality activist.
In 1979, Ledbetter was hired by Goodyear; she retired from Goodyear in 1998 and then sued the company for paying her significantly less than her male counterparts.

Wikipedia: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 is a federal statute in the United States that was the first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 29, 2009. The Act amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 stating that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action.

Viable Opposition - Aug 9/2011
America's Presidents: Who was the biggest spendthrift?
The worst President for building up the debt was the much venerated President Ronald Reagan considering that the Cold War buildup ended under his tenure. In fact, I was so surprised that I went back and triple checked the numbers and my calculations because the debt growth was so out of line with the other Administrations in this study. Under the Reagan Administration, the debt rose a massive 188 percent or 14.18 percent on an annual basis, far worse than either the Bush I, Bush II or Obama Administrations.

Wikipedia: Reaganomics
In addition, the public debt rose from 26.1% GDP in 1980 to 41.0% GDP by 1988. In dollar terms, the public debt rose from $712 billion in 1980 to $2,052 billion in 1988, a roughly three-fold increase.

Viable Opposition - Apr 25/2011
The Rich get Richer - How Taxation in America Impacts Wealth
In 2010, General Electric reported world-wide profits of $14.2 billion with $5.1 billion of that coming from its American operations. Its total tax bill? Zero. According to the New York Times, the company is claiming a tax benefit of $3.2 billion!
Tax laws have resulted in greater and greater inequalities both in society among individuals and between corporations and small businesses. Rather than equalizing society, governments have shifted the burden of taxes from the wealthy to those of lower and middle income America, from large corporations to small businesses and from the federal government to the state and local government levels.


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1 comment:

Pauline Gaines said...

Excellent piece. Politicians have enabled Wall Street and big business to the point of sociopathy. Many of the very rich DON'T have to play by the rules, and are in fact rewarded when they don't. I'm not sure what it's going to take to get them to follow the rules, but it's infuriating that the rest of us have to be smushed so they can buy another vacation home. One of the many reasons I wouldn't vote for Romney is that he is so ridiculously out of touch with most of society and clearly has no interest in leveling the playing field. That there are so many middle-class folks who don't get that and are planning to vote for him is a puzzler.