FREEDOM IS NOT ANOTHER WORD FOR NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE

by Alan Asnen

What is freedom? Do you have it? Can you be free anywhere?

Republicans love to talk about freedom. They like to make it seem as though they are the party of freedom, as if freedom were their personal calling card. First among the free, as the GOP sees it, are the entrepreneurs, raised to seeming knighthood by Ronald Reagan in 1981. So, is freedom relative? Are entrepreneurs more free than the rest of us?

Lately, an argument has raged about how “independent” entrepreneurs are. Do they succeed by themselves, or do they require “help”? What kind of help? Apparently, entrepreneurs do not succeed in a vacuum, and we never thought about this until Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren made a campaign statement that went viral on YouTube. Then President Obama used the sentiment in different and more volatile language in a campaign speech and Governor Romney’s campaign jumped all over him because of it. The blunt illogic of Romney’s complaint made Warren’s argument all the more clear: no businessman succeeds alone; only the type and amount of assistance he gets changes from one case to another.

And no businessman has received more assistance, as a percentage of what he needed to obtain his success, than Mitt Romney as CEO of Bain Capital. Nearly everything Bain did to succeed was dependent upon tax law, and tax law is 100% determined by government. Of course, it would be foolish to think that this “government” was not at times “influenced” by other parties. Perhaps even Bain Capital, which makes for some interesting Moebius lines of logic. But, regardless, tax law is Bain’s bread and butter, totally.

Now, if the tax-determined gamble Bain freely takes with your business works out, then that’s great for them and you. But if it doesn’t, Bain gets a free tax write-off, which all of us pay for; and then your job, your pension, your insurance, your house and your kid’s college education all go flying, freely, out the window. So, what happened to your freedom?

In brief, the GOP idea of freedom really does apply to entrepreneurs, but the entrepreneurial freedom is the freedom of the jungle and the government, for them, is not a referee, with rules and regulations to protect innocent people, so much as it is a supplier of raw material. That raw material, money, is supplied by everyone, entrepreneurs and workers alike, through taxes, for the benefit of the entrepreneurs who, rightly, do the hiring…but also the laying off, the firing, the kissing-off, the cutting back, the selling out, the setting up of one against another, and the moving overseas. This, then, in other words, is the idea of “limited government.” The government takes from everyone, and gives to a limited few.

The Democrats idea of “freedom” is markedly different. First, it applies more equally to workers and entrepreneurs, and the law of the jungle is what gets sent flying out the window, not your job or your business. Entrepreneurs may still help to determine tax laws—such is the way of the world; and after all, we are not Communists!—but the more Democrats have to say about it, the more the middle class and workers will have to say about it. The more Democrats have to say about it, the more freedom the middle class and workers have from the “freedoms” “limited government” provides to certain “entrepreneurs” who would constrain, default and defeat their workers in any way they choose.

This is why, for generations, workers, unions, the working poor, the poor, immigrants, minorities, women, members of the LGBTQ community and all those who support the rights of these groups have voted with and for Democrats. Those who support the idea of a government and economy run by and for the benefit of a small elite of wealthy businesspeople and investors vote consistently for Republicans.

We should all be happy to live in a country where we are free to have this choice, and even the choice to make the mistake to vote against our own interests, as many of us often do. We would not have this freedom in most parts of the organized world, where there is little or no difference between “parties” during elections. We often hear that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans in our own elections.

Surely, in 2012, in our national elections, this is not the case. As Americans, we are as free as we ever have been, thanks almost exclusively to our government and the forces at its command. This election cycle we need to support and express that freedom as much as we ever have, and do so with an acute awareness of the dynamic choice we have to make, and the clear difference we will ultimately cause to the matter of our freedom and the freedom of all Americans.

Copyright 2012 Alan Asnen

MCDP Chair Susan W. Banks’ Editorial on Obamacare in the June 2012 Issue of The City News

Satirist Bill Maher in New Rules on February 17, 2012 said:

...there’s something about this president that makes conservatives think it’s okay to go ape-shit in his presence. They didn’t do this to Carter, an actual pacifist, or Clinton, who really did have a plan for universal healthcare, or LBJ, who actually made it easier for poor people to vote and eat. All of them clearly evil, America-haters.  But, they got treated with a modicum of respect, at least to their faces. Not Obama.  What can it be that’s different about him? It’s either his race, or it’s your brain chemistry, or it’s something that happened when your dad spanked you and you liked it, and you were looking at a box of Cream of Wheat.

I don’t know. I’m not a therapist.

In his documentakihyry, Sicko, that chronicles the history of the American healthcare debate, Michael Moore describes how the opponents of healthcare use 1950s-style anti-communist propaganda.  A case in point is a 1960’s recording distributed by the American Medical Association, narrated by Ronald Reagan, warning that universal healthcare could lead to socialism and the loss of freedom.  Cleverly, Moore points out that socialized public services like the police, fire departments, public education and community libraries have not led to communism in the United States.

In March 2010, President Obama fulfilled a promise that Democrats have pursued for nearly a century, making healthcare available to all Americans. In all, seven Democratic presidents pushed for healthcare reform over the years, each one moving the ball forward—from Medicare to children’s health insurance. Today, we finally are able to make real the promise that every American should have access to affordable healthcare, and no one should go bankrupt just because they get sick.

For decades, Democrats have fought for the simple idea that everyone should have some basic security in healthcare. When President Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965, we were able to provide that security to America’s seniors. Then in 1997, President Clinton created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to help provide coverage for uninsured children. In 2009, President Obama extended SCHIP to cover an additional 4 million children.

The Recovery Act protected health insurance coverage for nearly 7 million working Americans who lost their jobs in this recession, helping to make insurance more affordable while providing additional support for prevention, health, and wellness.

But it took nearly a century to extend that basic measure of security to all Americans. In 2010, despite unanimous opposition from Republicans, Democrats were finally able to pass comprehensive healthcare reform into law. The Affordable Care Act will hold insurance companies accountable, lower healthcare costs, expand coverage options, and improve the quality of care for all Americans.

While a host of desperately needed reforms and consumer protections have already begun to take effect, it will take until 2014 to fully implement these reforms in a responsible way. By 2014, healthcare reform will eliminate all discrimination for pre-existing conditions, start the process of expanding health insurance coverage to an additional 32 million Americans, and provide the largest middle-class tax cut for healthcare in history.

The Affordable Care Act has begun eliminating the worst insurance company abuses. Since 2010, children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied insurance.

Currently more than half of all bankruptcies in America are related to medical expenses. The Affordable Care Act will help many of these families by limiting out-of-pocket costs for those that purchase coverage through the new health insurance exchanges.

The Affordable Care Act also provides tax cuts to small business to help offset the costs of employee coverage, and tax credits to help families pay for insurance. Healthcare reform will also lower costs for families, for businesses, and for the federal government, reducing our deficit by more than $1 trillion in the next two decades alone.

Healthcare reform strengthens Medicare by reducing fraud, improving quality of care, and closing the Medicare “donut hole” gap in seniors’ prescription drug coverage.

Like Medicare before it, the Affordable Care Act lays a new foundation for our country that will bring additional security and stability to the American people for generations to come.

When polled individually the majority of the American people support these provisions even ACA opponent MA Senator Scott Brown has kept his 23 year old daughter on his health care plan.  However, when these same people are asked if they support “Obamacare” there is a knee-jerk reaction against it.

So I ask you, why the hysteria? Why the apocalyptic rhetoric? Republicans present the healthcare system, a system that reforms without overhaul, a system that falls short of the standards of every industrialized country in the world, as if it were equivalent to devil worship..

They say they oppose the Affordable Care Act because they claim it is “government run healthcare.” Big Lie.  By not going for a single-payer plan or even for the public option, healthcare is still in the hands of the insurance companies.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act love to tout that we have the best healthcare in the world. Another Big Lie.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product on healthcare every year than any other country. Yet, the United States ranks 37th out of 191 countries in the WHO’s ranking of healthcare systems.

When compared with other developed countries, the U.S. performs worse on life expectancy and infant mortality.  It also tops the list of deaths deemed “preventable” with adequate early care and diagnosis.  The typical U.S. citizen has far fewer doctor appointments each year than citizens of other countries, yet pays more for the privilege. When an American citizen spends the night in the hospital, it costs 5.6 times more than it would cost a person in Japan.  And to top it all off, the U.S. spends $2,797 more per person every year than other industrialized countries, even though 47 million of those people are uninsured.  So with the Affordable Care Act clearly in the interests of the American people, why do the Republicans, especially working class Republicans, continue to rail against it?

George Orwell’s 1984 portrayed an oligarchic society where a state of perpetual war is the norm.  The irony is that victory was never the goal only that the war effort was to be continuous. Wartime propaganda is an efficient method of mind control.  Thomas Frank in What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America uses the Orwellian construct of perpetual war and populace manipulation and applies it to the culture war being waged by conservatives.  Conservative politicians allied with the religious right and right-wing media have made social issues like creationism, school prayer, abortion, gun rights, defunding public schools, and gay marriage front and center in the minds of the majority of Red Staters.  This has become their primary voting principle, not the bread and butter issues that could result in their economic security.

We have seen the resurgence of the culture wars, ironically declared dead by the mainstream media, in the recent Republican primary race.  When an actual jobs plan (not cutting taxes for the wealthy) and an economic restoration plan should have been the major debate topics, the discussion descended into the stale fight over gay marriage and abortion.

In closing, I would like to give a clear-cut example of why we need the Affordable Care Act.  Recently, I had a client needing assistance with his Social Security Disability claim.  He could not work because of his heart condition and, consequently, lost his health insurance.  No cardiologist would see him after that.  He has been hospitalized four times in the last year for several days at a stretch.  Because he is indigent, these hospitalizations have cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.  What this gentleman needs is a healthcare program that allows him access to a doctor and medication. Simple as that.   I ask those who oppose Obamacare, if it is just a monetary issue with you and not a compassion issue, which makes more fiscal sense?  If it is not a compassion issue, why not?

T. Robert Hill’s Response to Republican Support of the Voter Suppression Law. Jackson Sun. October 2011

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to John Bennett Wood and Jay Bush’s letters to the editor defending a law that makes it more difficult for legal citizens to vote in Tennessee.

Mr. Wood gave no evidence of illegals from Mexico voting in Tennessee elections. That is a smokescreen if there ever were one.

Those conservative Democrats that discriminated against Blacks in the South in the 1950’s are Republicans today. No wonder they are still trying to prevent some people from voting. Wood does not know his history or intentionally chooses to ignore it.

Wood and Bush talk about this law only affecting a few people. According to Tennessee Secretary of State (a Republican) there are 675,000 people in Tennessee of voting age without a photo ID. Wow, they must be getting their facts from spurious e-mails likely from the RNC. Wonder why they would be so deceptive?

Across the county, out of hundreds of millions of votes cast, only a handful of prosecutions for voter fraud have occurred in the last 10 years.

No, this movement to suppress certain categories from voting is a Republican effort across the country coordinated at the National level. Now, let’s see: Republicans told their voters to vote on Tuesday and Democrats to vote on Wednesday. Yeah, that is real democracy and patriotism, isn’t it?

Don’t you just love the situational ethics of the Republican Party?

T. Robert Hill

Susan Bond’s Letter to the Editor on President Obama’s Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. Jackson Sun. February 8, 2012

Last week President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast.  This will come as a surprise to some church-going folks (and some pastors) who circulated false emails claiming that the President had actually eliminated the NPB. 

He talked about the Golden Rule and “loving our neighbors as ourselves” and taking care of “the least of these” in hard times.  He quoted Jesus’ teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.”

He drew from Proverbs  urging us “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”  He noted the prophets who called us to care for the poor, the widows, and the orphans.

None of his opponents could argue about what the Bible says; the President was exactly right in his quotes and applications.  Folks complain if he isn’t Christian and then they complain if he talks the talk and walks the walk.  I think anyone who forwarded those misguided emails about him (including the claims that he’s Muslim) should circulate THIS letter, since bearing false witness isn’t very Christian.

As a theology prof and an ordained minister, I was glad to see at least one politician get it right and give Jesus and Christianity some good press.  What a refreshing contrast to those who want you to believe that Jesus promotes selfishness and rugged individualism

Thanks, President Obama! 

Rev. Dr. L. Susan Bond

Susan Bond’s Response to Stephen Fincher’s Op-Ed on the Keystone Pipeline in the Jackson Sun. March 18, 2012

Stephen Fincher had an op-ed in The Tennessean the other day, claiming that we needed the Keystone Pipeline to do all kinds of magically delicious things for the country. His claims are factually inaccurate in a number of ways.
He starts his comments by referring to high gas prices, attempting to frame his argument as a solution for lowering domestic gas prices.
Domestic gas prices are high because of Wall Street speculation and because of political tensions in the Middle East. A domestic pipeline won’t have any impact on those factors. Republicans admitted this during the Bush administration when gas prices rose and they didn’t want Bush blamed for gas prices.
Mr. Fincher also claims that the Keystone project will create 20,000 new immediate jobs and 118,000 “spin-off” jobs. TransCanada (Keystone’s owner) admits the pipeline’s construction will create at best, a few thousand temporary jobs, and that the Canadian oil will be sold to China and Europe on the foreign market.
TransCanada also reported that instead of reducing fuel prices for Americans, it will increase them because the pipeline will drain off oil reserves as it passes over the Ogallala Aquifer that supplies drinking water to 2 million Americans.
The product carried by the Keystone Pipeline is an environmental disaster in the making. The product is heavy and sludgy, making pipe breaks and leaks more likely. The cleanup price for tar sands products is enormous.
Republicans hide the fact that the Keystone Pipeline will increase domestic gas prices, create a handful of temp jobs, and put our soil and water at immediate risk.

Where’s Fincher?

Stephen Fincher photo

by Susan Bond, MCDP 2nd Vice Chair

According to a staffer in the Jackson Office, Congressman Stephen Fincher is too busy to do traditional Town Hall meetings this August.  From what little I’ve been able to find on the internet, he’s been busy speaking to agri-business conventions and visiting “The Holy Land,” but I’m sure it’s for the good of all his constituents here in the 8th district.  His websites and the newsletters I’ve signed up for don’t hint at any scheduled public events.  Not a hint.

“He has been holding Tele-Town Hall meetings,” the staffer said.

“Really?” I asked.  “Are they publicized?”

“No, he makes a list and invites people.  He just had one for senior citizens.”

“How do I get on one of those lists? Is he doing one for educators?”

“I really don’t know,” she mused. “But, I’m sure you could send him an email and let him know you’re interested.”

I wanted to be sure I was getting the information straight, so I asked “Is he doing anything that’s open to the general public?”

“Not this summer.  He’s just too busy.”

According to the staffer, he’s talked to 17,000 people in the three Tele-Town Halls.  According to recent census data, there are roughly 600,000 folks in District 8 and Fincher has talked to about 35% of them.  If we assume that only 300,000 of them are voters, that means he’s talked to about 70% of the voting population in District 8.  How did he miss me?

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that he was in Israel recently “meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas . . . “ and major political groups.

I sure am disappointed that he’s not coming to Jackson, since it’s the biggest population center in the district.  It couldn’t be that his FEC violations and his receipt of farm subsidy money might make some folks in West Tennessee peeved.  If I had his track record, I wouldn’t want to see any voters face-to-face either, as evidenced in this article.

Feel free to email him here.

Or call him here: 202-225-7414 or 731-423-4848

MCDP Gets in Gear

by Yvonne Thompson, MCDP Secretary

Get in Gear with MCDP in 2012

As the 2011-13 term of the The Madison County Democratic Party met for its 3rd time on Thursday, August 11th, it became clear that we are really getting in gear and picking up steam as we roll toward the 2012 elections.   Let me fill you in on some of the highlights.

New Treasurer

We have one change in our slate of officers for the 2011-2013 term.  The elected Treasurer, Laura Johnson, regretfully announced her resignation at the meeting on August 11th.   Unfortunately, she has found that there is a scheduling conflict between her duties with us and her duties as Treasurer and those charged to her as Secretary of for the Southwest District Lay Dept. of the CME Church.  Her resignation was effective on August 11, 2011.

The Executive Committee voted on and approved Drew Baker as the new Treasurer.  Drew will assume his duties immediately upon transfer of records and will officially join the other officers at the next meeting, scheduled for September 8, 2011.  Welcome Drew as our new Treasurer.

Fundraising

We have some exciting plans for fundraising events.  Announcements and details are coming soon.  So stay tuned.   Get ready for fun and entertainment!

Early 2012, you can expect a special day to honor one of Tennessee’s favorite Democratic governors.

Election 2012

With the Republican primary starting to build momentum 15 months before the November 2012 Presidential Election, we are also working diligently on plans for voter registration and keeping pace with the Obama for America 2012 efforts.

Voter registration is a special focus with the new Voter Registration Law taking effect on January 1, 2012.  This law, as you may know, requires all registered voters to present a photo ID showing the voters name and signature to eligible to vote.  The law applies for both early voters and those voting on Election Day.  For more info on voter registration and Election 2012, download the ELECTION 2012 Information document here.

You can see how Tennessee compares with the nation on voter registration laws at the National Council of State Legislatures site.

Join Us

Visit the next meeting of the MCDP Executive Committee on September 8, 2011 to keep up with how we are working to grow the Democratic party and build momentum for the upcoming election in 2012.

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Fincher Hawg Fest

Pig Snuffling

by Susan Bond, MCDP 2nd Vice Chair

Snuffle, snuffle, snort, snort.

Is that the sound of Stephen Fincher chowing down at the pig trough?

According to a recent article in The Tennessean, Fincher, our US Representative for the 8th congressional district, is enjoying his own personal feast at the pork-fest.

While Fincher was publicly condemning farm subsidies to charm the daylights out of his GOP cohorts in Washington, he was silently taking $3.2 million in federal farm subsidies from 1995 to 2009 and $87,738 in 2010.

Go ahead and write a letter to the editor of the Jackson Sun.  Here’s their link to the Jackson editor: http://orig.jacksonsun.com/about_us/form_editor.shtml .

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Senator Lowe Finney Speaks at MCDP Meeting

by Susan Bond, MCDP 2nd Vice Chair

Lowe Finney photoState Senator Lowe Finney (27th District) spoke with the Madison County Democratic Party on July 14 at our monthly executive committee meeting.  He said he was glad to be in an all-Democrat context so he could speak freely, and he did speak freely.

Sen. Finney reflected on the recent Tennessee Legislature session and characterized it as devastating for almost every vulnerable group in Tennessee.  “The good news,” he said, “Is that the legislature is not  currently in session.”  He said that if you were poor or working class, or a union member, or a teacher, or a racial minority, or an immigrant, or a student, or gay, or elderly, the GOP-controlled legislature had passed laws that were to your disadvantage.  “And,” Finney continued, “Ron Ramsey promises that this is just the beginning!”(Read more about it here.)

Finney spent a good part of his time lamenting the legislation that requires photo IDs for voter registration.  He pointed out that many of our rural West Tennessee citizens don’t even have Departments of Motor Vehicles in their counties, so they would have to take the better part of a day to drive to an adjacent county in order to get new IDs made.  He said that one of our senior legislators had a drivers’ license, but that it didn’t have a photo on it; one of our own Tennessee statesmen would have to get a photo ID in order to vote.  Here’s a blog post by our Memphian blogger pal Steve Ross on the topic.

Finney’s comments about the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (SB0049) were instructive as he pointed out that the bill sponsored by Rep. Stacey Campfield (18th district) took an odd turn.  The bill was amended at the last minute to mandate that classroom discussions refer only to “natural reproductive science.”  Wait a minute; did the Tennessee Legislature just mandate K-12 sex ed. classes? Here’s a blog post on the issue:  Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill Ignites National Controversy

We were glad to have Senator Finney with us and we hope to see him as often as possible.

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MCDP Chair’s Remarks at the 1st Annual TEP FamilyFest

by Susan Walton Banks, Chair

When I became Chair several months ago, I publically stated that I wanted to partner with the Tennessee Equality Project and the NAACP to promote equality in Madison County so I am honored that I was asked to welcome you here today.

Democrats have a long and proud history of defending Civil Rights and expanding opportunity for all Americans. From the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, Democrats have fought to end discrimination in all forms—including discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability. We believe in the essential American ideal that no one should be constrained by the circumstances of their birth, and that each of us should have the opportunity to make of our lives what we will.

If you are interested in working towards protecting and expanding the rights of LGBT, African American  and working people, I hope you will speak with me or  Susan Bond at the voter registration table and sign up to work with us. If you have not heard, voting rights inTennessee are under attack so it is critical you are aware of the new laws.

If you would like more information on what we are doing, please sign up for our mailing list or join our Facebook page. Also, I hope you will consider joining us this afternoon at 4:30 pm at the Rebuild the Dream planning meeting.  Angela Jones is going to go into more detail on the movement that is sweeping the nation. 

In closing, I want to applaud President Obama for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and working toward the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and that  I look forward to the day when LGBT couples can marry in the state of  Tennessee.

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