(I wrote this last month for the Urban News. Enjoy.)
I was all ready to follow up last month’s article with another one on the economy. I was going to spend a good deal of time revealing through solid data that austerity does not work. We can not cut our way to prosperity. In short, the Austrian austerity folks are wrong, as I’ll explain more next month. But for now, I would like to clear the air and address some of the lies, rumors, and misstatements that are dominating the news media.
Birtherism and Racism
A few weeks ago Mitt Romney “jokingly” stated, “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we (my wife and I) were born and raised.” Mitt Romney’s statement got me thinking: Why would Barack Obama be hounded about his birth certificate and Mitt Romney isn’t? Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama had fathers who were born outside of the United States. Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are highly educated. They both obtained advanced degrees from Harvard University. Yet, for some reason, it is okay to openly question Barack Obama’s origins, while it is automatically assumed that Mitt Romney was born right here in the good old USA. Is it impossible to believe that a black man could be born in this country, educated in this country, and rise to become President of the United States?
Our Bloated Government
Just the other day Sen. Rand Paul asserted that one of the reasons our economic recovery has been so slow is that we have a bloated government. According to this Kentucky optometrist, there are just too many people on the government payroll. This story plays into the Republican mantra – (paraphrasing Ronald Reagan’s famous line) that “The Government Is the Problem.” The truth is, if the government were to keep growing at the same rate it grew under George W. Bush, we would have 1.5 million more government employees. Just this simple act alone would push the unemployment rate below 7%. Over 600,000 government employees (federal, state and local) have been laid off during the Obama administration. This is a fact. A huge number of those layoffs have occurred in “red” states, where Republican legislators and governors slashed budgets and eliminated tens of thousands of teachers and other public employees – then, having deliberately increased their state unemployment rates, they blame President Obama and the Democrats in Congress for the loss of jobs.
Paul “Lyin’” Ryan
I’m not sure what Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was thinking when he delivered his speech at the Republican National Convention. Maybe he was caught up in the excitement of becoming a national figure. Maybe he and his speechwriters decided that facts were pesky things that get in the way of an overall narrative. Maybe he didn’t know any better. Whatever the reason, he gave a speech that was packed with untruths, distortions, and downright, good old-fashioned lies.
Congressman Ryan accused the President of raiding Medicare and leaving seniors high and dry. The truth is that President Obama has strengthened Medicare by reducing or eliminating payments to providers and pouring the savings into the Medicare trust fund to keep it solvent through 2024. The most egregious of Mr. Ryan’s lies had to do with the Janesville General Motors plant closing in his Wisconsin district. Paul Ryan accused President Obama of not doing enough to help “a lot of guys I went to high school with.” But he knew perfectly well that the plant closed in December of 2008, a full month before Barack Obama took office – back in the spring of 2008, he had written a letter pleading with the company to keep the plant open.
But then, Paul Ryan is, apparently, either a congenital liar or a pathological one. Less than a week after his litany of lies at the convention, he was caught lying about his running time in a marathon race – not by shaving a few seconds or minutes off his time. He wasn’t even close. No, it took him more than four hours to run the marathon, but he had the gall to claim he’d run it at just under three hours. Here is the problem that I have with Paul Ryan. There was no reason to lie. If you run a marathon everyone on the planet admires the effort it takes to run 26 miles. Yet, instead of telling the truth he chose to tell a lie. There is no excuse.
I don’t know about you, but I want – I desperately need – political leaders who are smart, honest, and trustworthy. I don’t care what side of the aisle they come from: if you’re lying to me, I don’t have time for you. You are hurting the country by not telling the American people the truth. I will work hard to try to get you booted from office by whatever legal means I have at my disposal. To paraphrase my father, I need politicians “to tell the truth regardless of the consequences.”
Old and Cranky
I love Clint Eastwood. He was one of my favorite actors. I grew up watching him in the television show Rawhide. Dirty Harry, Every Which Way But Loose, The Gauntlet, the spaghetti Westerns, Unforgiven, and In the Line of Fire are just a few of his films that I really and truly love. Yet, his ramblings in front of the Republican National Convention were confusing and sad. It seemed like he had no script and was winging it. I’m not sure why he thought he needed to blame the president for the large number of Americans who are unemployed, since the President has introduced several jobs bills which sat idle in the Republican-controlled House. I’m not sure why he thought his anatomical joke was so funny that he had to use it twice. I thought it was completely inappropriate for a political convention.
I know that there are fewer than 60 days until the election. I know that if we want broad, shared prosperity we need to elect progressives to every political office we can find. We must work hard, organize, raise money, and spread the truth. We must make sure that everyone we know, our friends and neighbors, coworkers and family members, are registered to vote, and able to vote, and eager to vote for progressive candidates. Because money and the advertising it buys won’t be enough to counter the financial onslaught we’ll face under the Citizens United decision: It is our enthusiasm and hard work that will put us over the top in November.