Conservatives??? HAH!!! I Think NOT!

As he so often does, Robert Reich hits the nail spot on the head in his take on the term ‘conservative’ as it is used to describe Republicans.  Read on …


How to handle radical Republicans

Stop calling them conservative. And take steps to genuinely conserve America

Robert Reich

July 11

This morning, I heard a commentator allude to “Mitch McConnell and other conservative senators.” Yesterday, a news report described the upcoming Alaska Republican primary as pitting Trump’s “conservative wing against Murkowski’s more moderate base.” I keep seeing references to the “conservative majority” on the Supreme Court.

Can we get real? There is nothing conservative about these so-called “conservatives.” They don’t want to preserve or protect our governing institutions — the core idea of conservatism extending from Edmund Burke to William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater. They are radicals, intent on wrecking these institutions to impose their ideology on everyone else.

The Supreme Court’s Republican appointees have all but obliterated stare decisis — the conservative principle that the Court must follow its precedents and not change or reverse them unless clearly necessary, and with near unanimity. Recent decisions reversing Roe v. Wade, elevating religious expression over the Constitution’s bar on established religion, questioning Congress’s ability to delegate rule making to the executive branch, and barring states from regulating handguns, all call into question the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as an institution.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are abusing the filibuster and undermining the legitimacy of the Senate.

Throughout much of the 20th century, filibusters remained rare. But after Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office in 2009, McConnell and his Republican senate minority blocked virtually every significant piece of legislation. Between 2010 and 2020, there were as many cloture motions as during the entire 60-year period from 1947 to 2006. Now McConnell and his Republicans are stopping almost everything in its tracks. Just 41 Senate Republicans, representing only 21 percent of the country, are blocking laws supported by the vast majority of Americans.

At the same time, Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress and in the states have upended the centerpiece of American democracy, the peaceful transition of power, and undermined the legitimacy of our elections.

They continue to assert without any basis in fact that the 2020 election was stolen. Trump encouraged an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and threatened the life of the Vice President. Republican state legislatures are enacting legislation to suppress votes and take over election machinery.

Make no mistake: Republican appointees to the Supreme Court, most Republicans in Congress, and Trump Republican lawmakers across America are not conservative. They are radicals. They have embarked on a radical agenda of repudiating our governing institutions and taking over American democracy.

It is time to stop using the term “conservative” to describe them and their agenda.

And it is time it to fight back: Enlarge the size of the Supreme Court and limit the terms of justices. Abolish the filibuster and then pass laws most Americans want — protecting voting rights and reproductive rights, and controlling guns. Criminally prosecute Trump and his insurgents.

These are conservative measures. They are necessary to conserve and protect our governing institutions from the radicals now bent on destroying them.

The Road Ahead?

I cringe when I hear people say that there should be no separation of church and state, when they say that wasn’t what the Founders had in mind, or when they push for their own religious beliefs to dominate our schools and government.  I nearly lost it when I heard the uneducated congresswoman from Colorado, Lauren Boebert, say …

“I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution.  The church is supposed to direct the government.”

This nation was established as a democratic republic, NOT a theocracy.  Religion has a place in the lives of many people, but it is a choice, and has NO business on the political landscape, no business dictating government policy.  A number of things lately have led me to believe that we are shifting toward a government dominated by a single religion, thereby excluding the majority of the people in this nation.  Let’s hear what Robert Reich has to say about it …


The Republican Party: God, guns, forced birth, and strongmen

The ideology of Christian nationalism

Robert Reich, Jul 7

The link is tightening between America’s move toward theocracy and its slide toward autocracy.

It is important to understand these connections. The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe, its expanded reading of the Second Amendment, and its eagerness to elevate religious freedom over the Constitution’s guarantee against established religion come from the same cloth as Republican state legislative attacks on democracy, the GOP’s fealty to Trump’s Big Lie, and white supremacy.

At the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference in Nashville last month, speakers explicitly embraced the theology of “Dominionism” — the idea that “right-thinking” Christians have a biblically derived mandate to take control of all aspects of government and society.

Trump’s keynote at the conference made the connections explicit. He warned that the “radical Left” is “trying to destroy organized religion” and “trying to shred our Constitution,” and continued: “The greatest danger to America is not our enemies from the outside, as powerful as they may be. The greatest danger to America is the destruction of our nation from the people from within. And you know the people I’m talking about.”

Other speakers labeled Democrats “evil,” “tyrannical” and “the enemy within,” and charged that Democrats were engaged in “a war against the truth.” Senator Rick Scott of Florida predicted “the backlash is coming. Just mount up and ride to the sounds of the guns, and they are all over this country. It is time to take this country back.” Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson of North Carolina (the state’s first Black lieutenant governor and a virulent critic of so-called “critical race theory”) said he expected “a pitched battle to literally save this nation.” Referencing a passage from Ephesians that Christian nationalists often use to signal their militancy, Robinson added, “I don’t know about you, but I got my pack on, I got my boots on, I got my helmet on, I’ve got on the whole armor.”

The connections between these strands of rightwing ideology are growing clearer and louder — theocratic Christianity, gun violence, the subjugation of women through forced birth, and strongman authoritarianism. Christian nationalism now taking over the Republican Party envisions vigilante justice — “good guys with guns,” neighbors eavesdropping on neighbors, and action to stop what they call “abortion trafficking” — women crossing state lines to access legal abortions. Widespread access to guns is essential to keep everyone under control, suppress protests, and fuel fear.

To call this a “culture” war is to understate its true meaning and potential danger. Those of us who still believe in separating church and state, guarding reproductive rights, ensuring racial equality, ending gun violence, and protecting democracy must understand that much of the Republican Party now stands for the exact opposite of these values.

The funders and kingmakers of the Republican Party see all this for what it is: an effort to hold on to power in the face of massive demographic shifts: toward women (who now constitute 60 percent of all university enrollees, and therefore the future power structure) and people of color, and away from formal religion. Over the longer term, the Republican Party is doomed. In the meantime, with a rightwing majority on the Supreme Court, legislative majorities in states determined to suppress votes and dominate election machinery, an authoritarian strongman president waiting in the wings, and an ideology of Christian nationalism, the GOP will do what it can to hold on.

Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls …

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued yet another ruling that is devastating, to say the least.  The news stories reported that this is a “serious blow to Biden’s climate agenda.”  NO, my friends, this is a serious blow to the lives of every single person around the globe, today and forever.  No, that is not hyperbole … that is FACT.  I am left spluttering … not speechless, but so filled with words that I cannot corral them into a coherent post just yet.  Fortunately, Robert Reich has no such problem …


The beginning of the end of regulation

The radical Supreme Court is giving the big business backers of the GOP exactly what they paid for

Robert Reich

June 30

Today the Supreme Court – again, with the 6 Republican appointees on one side and the 3 Democratic appointees on the other — limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. This ruling deals a major blow to America’s (and the world’s) efforts to address climate change. Also — as with its decision reversing Roe v. Wade — today’s ruling has far larger implications than the EPA and the environment.

West Virginia v. EPA is the latest battle pitting America’s big businesses (in this case Big Oil) against the needs of average Americans. In this Supreme Court – containing three Trump appointees, two George W. Bush appointees, and one George H.W. Bush appointee – big business is winning big time. The financial backers of the Republican Party are getting exactly what they paid for.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts admitted that “capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day.’” But then came the kicker: “But it is not plausible,” he wrote, “that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.”

Not plausible? Congress enacted the Environmental Protection Act in 1970. As with all laws, Congress left it to an administrative agency – in this case, the EPA – to decide how that Act was to be implemented and applied. That’s what regulations do: They implement and apply laws.

For the Supreme Court to give itself the authority to say whether Congress intended to delegate this much regulatory authority to the EPA is a truly radical act – more radical than any Supreme Court in modern history. If Congress has been unhappy with decades of EPA regulation, Congress surely has had the power to pull that authority back. But it has not.

As Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the dissenters, countered: “The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decision maker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening.”

The implications of the ruling extend to all administrative agencies in the federal government – to the Securities and Exchange Commission implementing the Securities Acts of 1933 and 1934, to the Federal Trade Commission applying the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, to the Department of Labor implementing the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and so on, across the entire range of government – and the entire range of regulations designed to protect consumers, investors, workers, and the environment. (This same Supreme Court has ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was not authorized to impose a moratorium on evictions and that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was powerless to tell large employers  to have their workers be vaccinated or undergo frequent testing.)

In passing laws to protect the public, Congress cannot possibly foresee all ways in which those laws might be implemented and all circumstances in which the public might need the protections such laws accord. Starting today, though, all federal regulations will be under a cloud of uncertainty – and potential litigation.

A final implication of today’s ruling is that the filibuster has to go. If the Supreme Court is going to require that Congress be more active and specific in protecting the environment or anything else, such a goal is implausible when 60 senators are necessary to enact it. Senate Democrats now have it in their power to abolish the filibuster. Today’s case should convince them they must.

Coupgate? Trumpgate?

This week will begin the televised hearings of the January 6th committee and while I’m not holding my breath, I am hopeful that the American public will at least be convinced of one thing:  Donald Trump is a crook, a criminal, who attempted a coup to overturn the U.S. election in 2020 and can NEVER be allowed to hold public office again.  Robert Reich gives us a comparison to another set of televised hearings 49 years ago … all the news then, but Watergate pales in comparison to what happened on January 6th 2020.


The Week Ahead: Why everything depends on Liz Cheney

Forty-nine years ago, Howard Baker had a similar responsibility — but hers will be far more challenging

Robert Reich

The televised hearings of the House Select Committee on the January 6 insurrection, which begin Thursday, mark an historic milestone in the battle between democracy and autocracy. The events that culminated in the attack on the Capitol constitute the first attempted presidential coup in our nation’s 233-year history. The Select Committee’s inquiry is the most important congressional investigation of presidential wrongdoing since the Senate investigation of the Watergate scandals in the 1970s.

To a large degree, the success of those hearings will depend on the Wyoming Republican congresswoman and vice-chair of the committee, Liz Cheney. Although I have disagreed with almost every substantive position she has ever taken, I salute her courage and her patriotism. And I wish her success.

I vividly recall the televised hearings of the Senate Watergate committee, which began nearly a half-century ago, on May 17, 1973. More than a year later, on August 8, 1974 —knowing that he would be impeached in the House and convicted in the Senate — Nixon resigned.

I was just finishing law school when the Watergate hearings began. I was supposed to study for final exams but remained glued to my television. I remember the entire cast of characters as if the hearings occurred yesterday, and I’m sure many of you do, too — people such as North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin, a Democrat, who served as the committee’s co-chair; John Dean, the White House counsel who told the committee about Nixon’s attempted coverup; and Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy assistant, who revealed that Nixon had taped all conversations in the White House.

But to my young eyes, the hero of the Watergate hearings was the committee’s Republican co-chair, Tennessee Senator Howard Baker, Jr.

Baker had deep ties to the Republican Party. His father was a Republican Congressman and his father-in-law was Senate minor­ity leader for a decade. Notwithstanding those ties, Baker put his loyalty to the Constitution and rule of law ahead of his loyalty to his party or the president. His steadiness and care, and the tenacity with which he questioned witnesses, helped America view the Watergate hearings as a search for truth rather than a partisan “witch hunt,” as Nixon described them.

It was Baker who famously asked Dean, “what did the president know and when did he know it?” And it was Baker who led all the other Republicans on the committee to join with Democrats in voting to subpoena the White House tapes — the first time a congres­sional commit­tee had ever issued a subpoena to a Pres­id­ent, and only the second time since 1807 that anyone had subpoenaed the chief executive.

Fast forward 49 years. This week, Baker’s role will be played by Cheney. Her Republican pedigree is no less impressive than Baker’s was: She is the elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and Second Lady Lynne Cheney. She held several positions in the George W. Bush administration. She is a staunch conservative. And, before House Republicans ousted her, she chaired the House Republican Conference, the third-highest position in the House Republican leadership.

Cheney’s responsibility this week will be similar to Baker’s 49 years ago — to be the steady voice of non-partisan common sense, helping the nation view the hearings as a search for truth rather than a “witch hunt,” as Trump has characterized them.

In many ways, though, Cheney’s role will be far more challenging than Baker’s. Forty-nine years ago, American politics was a tame affair compared to the viciousness of today’s political culture. Republican senators didn’t threaten to take away Howard Baker’s seniority or his leadership position. The Tennessee Republican Party didn’t oust him. Nixon didn’t make threatening speeches about him. Baker received no death threats, as far as anyone knows.

It will be necessary for Cheney to show — as did Baker — more loyalty to the Constitution and the rule of law than to her party or the former president. But she also will have to cope with a nation more bitterly divided over Trump’s big lie than it ever was over Nixon and his coverup of the Watergate burglary. She will have to face a Republican Party that has largely caved in to Trump’s lie — enabling and encouraging it. Baker’s Republican Party never aligned itself with Nixon’s lies. Meanwhile, Cheney’s career has suffered and her life and the lives of her family have been threatened.

The criminal acts for which Richard Nixon was responsible — while serious enough to undermine the integrity of the White House and compromise our system of government — pale relative to Trump’s. Nixon tried to cover up a third-rate burglary. Trump tried to overthrow our system of government. The January 6 insurrection was not an isolated event. It was part of a concerted effort by Trump to use his lie that the 2020 election was stolen as a means to engineer a coup, while whipping up anger and distrust among his supporters toward our system of government. Yet not a shred of evidence has ever been presented to support Trump’s claim that voter fraud affected the outcome of the 2020 election.

Consider (to take but one example) Trump’ phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which he pressured Raffensperger to change the presidential vote count in Georgia in order to give Trump more votes than Biden: “All I want to do is this,” Trump told Raffensperger in a recorded phone call. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.” Trump threatened Raffensperger with criminal liability if he did not do so. Trump’s actions appear to violate 18 U.S.C. § 371, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and 18 U.S.C. § 1512, obstruction of Congress.  

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into these activities. Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that the Justice Department will “follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead.” As with Watergate, the facts will almost certainly lead to the person who then occupied the Oval Office.

This week’s televised committee hearings are crucial to educating the public and setting the stage for the Justice Department’s prosecution. Federal district court Judge David Carter in a civil case brought against the Committee by John Eastman, Trump’s lawyer and adviser in the coup attempt, has set the framework for the hearings. Judge Carter found that it was

 “more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” and concluded that Trump and Eastman “launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history […] The illegality of the plan was obvious.”

Those who claim that a president cannot be criminally liable for acts committed while in office apparently forget that Richard Nixon avoided prosecution only because he was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford. Those who argue that Trump should not be criminally liable because no president in American history has been criminally liable, overlook the fact that no president in history has staged an attempted coup to change the outcome of an election. Without accountability for these acts, Trump’s criminality opens wide the door to future presidents and candidates disputing election outcomes and seeking to change them — along with ensuing public distrust, paranoia, and divisiveness.

Liz Cheney bears a burden far heavier than Howard Baker bore almost a half-century ago. Please watch this Thursday’s Jan. 6 Committee televised hearings. And please join me in appreciating the public service of Liz Cheney.

This Is What Happens When Education Fails

I think most of us see the problems in this country … wealth, greed, and a lust for power coupled with the ignorance of far too many people have brought the nation to the brink of disaster.  Robert Reich has not only identified the problem, but also a set of solutions that I think are quite apt.  Something needs to change and it needs to change NOW!


Educating for the common good

6 prerequisites for learning about one’s duties to society

Robert Reich

26 May 2022

I think about those 19 children who were murdered in their classroom on Tuesday, and feel the need to go back to basics — to the common good. Given the the difficulty of enacting sensible laws to reduce gun violence — which reflects in part the deepening split between Americans who believe in democracy and those who are throwing in their lot with Trump authoritarians — the question I keep coming back to is: what can we can do to rekindle a sense of common good?

One of the most important initiatives would be to restart civic education in our schools.

I know, I know: Public schools are under attack from the right. Political battles have left school boards, educators, and students in the crosshairs of culture warriors. Which is why, paradoxically, this might be exactly the right time to push for civic education.

If you’re as old as I am, you may remember courses in civic education. They were required in most high schools during the 1950s and early 1960s. Mine weren’t terribly inspiring (my teacher in 9th grade civics was so obsessed by the “menace of communism,” as she called it, that she repeatedly showed us maps on which the U.S.S.R. and China — covering most of the land mass of Eastern Europe and Asia — were colored bright red, and she warned that the rest of the world was next). But merely having a time and place to consider the duties of citizenship was itself useful and important.

Three decades later, after the Vietnam War had torn the nation apart, most high school courses in civic education were abandoned in favor of curricula emphasizing the skills necessary to “get ahead.” When I was secretary of labor, Bill Clinton and I often appeared at schools and community colleges, telling students that “what you earn depends on what you learn.” It was a catchy phrase designed to convince young people they should stay in school so they could get higher wages afterward.

Today, most people view education as a personal (or family) investment in future earnings. That’s one reason so much of the cost of college is now put on students and their families, and why so many young people graduate with crippling college loans. (When education is seen as a personal investment yielding private returns, there’s no reason why anyone other than the “investor” should pay for it.)

But education is not just a personal investment. It’s a public good. It builds the capacity of the nation to govern itself.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman was said to have asked Benjamin Franklin what sort of government the delegates had created for the people. He replied, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” Franklin and America’s other founders knew how easily emperors and kings could mislead the public. The survival of the new republic required citizens imbued, in the language of the time, with civic virtue. “Ignorance and despotism seem made for each other,” Jefferson warned. But if the new nation could “enlighten the people generally . . . tyranny and the oppressions of mind and body will vanish, like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

Some towns during the colonial era ran public grammar schools, but only for a few weeks in the winter when family farms didn’t require their children’s labor. After the Revolution, many reformers advocated free public education as a means to protect democracy. Jedediah Peck of upstate New York typified the reform movement. “In all countries where education is confined to a few people,” he warned, “we always find arbitrary governments and abject slavery.” Peck convinced the New York legislature to create a comprehensive system of public education.

The person most credited with founding American public schooling, Massachusetts educator Horace Mann, directly linked public education to democracy. “A republican form of government, without intelligence in the people,” he wrote, “must be, on a vast scale, what a mad-house, without superintendent or keepers, would be on a small one.” Mann believed it important that public schools educate all children together, “in common.” The mix of ethnicities, races, and social classes in the same schools would help children learn the habits and attitudes of citizenship. The goal extended through higher education as well. Charles W. Eliot, who became president of Harvard in 1869, believed “the best solution to the problem of national order lay in the education of individuals to the ideals of service, stewardship, and cooperation.”

If the common good is ever to be restored in America, education must ground people in responsible citizenship. This requires that schools focus not just on building personal skills but also on inculcating civic obligations.

I see such a curriculum as having six elements:

  1. For starters, every child should gain an understanding of our political system, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism. They must understand the meaning and importance of the rule of law and why no one should be above it. After all, people who want to become naturalized citizens have to pass a civics test covering the organization of the U.S. government and American history. Children born in America should know no less.
  2. Every child must also understand the difference between how our system should work and how it actually works, and why we all have an obligation to seek to bridge that gap. They need to see how the economy is organized, how its rules are made, and what groups and interests have the most influence in making those rules. And they must grasp the meaning and importance of justice — of equal political rights and equal economic opportunity, and how these two goals are related.
  3. They must learn to be open to new thoughts and ideas, and practice tolerance toward different beliefs, ethnicities, races, and religions. Such an education must equip young people to communicate with others who do not share their views. It should teach them how to listen — opening their minds to the possibility that their own views and preconceptions may be wrong, and discovering why people with opposing views believe what they do.
  4. They must be able to find the truth. A civic education should train people to think critically, be skeptical (but not cynical) about what they hear and read, find reliable sources of information, apply basic logic and analysis, and know enough about history and the physical world to differentiate fact from fiction. It should enable them to separate facts and logic from values and beliefs.
  5. Such an education must encourage civic virtue. It should explain and illustrate the profound differences between doing whatever it takes to win, and acting for the common good; between getting as much as one can get for oneself, and giving back to society; between seeking personal celebrity, wealth, or power, and helping build a better society for all. And why the latter choices are morally necessary.
  6. Finally, civic virtue must be practiced. Two years of required public service would give young people an opportunity to learn civic responsibility by serving the common good directly. It should be a duty of citizenship.

These lessons require learning by doing. Young people need to develop what Tocqueville called the “habits of the heart” by taking on responsibilities in their communities — working in homeless shelters and soup kitchens, tutoring, mentoring, coaching kids’ sports teams, helping the elderly and infirm. Young people must move out of their bubbles of class, race, religion, and ideology, and go to places and engage in activities where people look different from themselves, and have different beliefs and outlooks from their own.

This is how we once regarded military service. From the start of World War II until January 1973, nearly every young man in America faced the prospect of being drafted into the army. True, many children of the rich found means to stay out of harm’s way, but the draft at least spread responsibility and heightened the public’s sensitivity to the human costs of war. Richard Nixon officially ended the draft and created a paid military mainly to take the wind out of the sails of the antiwar movement (and he succeeded). Since then, the United States has had what’s called an “all-volunteer” army— but it’s been “volunteer” only in the sense that young people have taken these jobs because they were among the best they could get. Today’s military has fewer young people from rich families than the population as a whole, more Southerners and a higher percentage of Black Americans.

Two years in the armed services or in some other service to the nation would help instill in all young people a sense of their obligations to society, regardless of their family’s wealth or status. It would allow young Americans to connect with other Americans who differ from them by race, social class, and politics. (Not incidentally, it might also remind many upper-income Americans of the personal costs and risks of American foreign policy.) Public service could take many forms in addition to military service. The Peace Corps could be revived and expanded. Projects like “Teach for America” could be enlarged and extended to other service professions, like “Social Work for America.” Nonprofits could offer a range of public service work. All such recruits would be paid a modest stipend, at least living expenses plus interest payments on any student loans. That would be less than the current pay of “all-volunteer” army recruits.

We owe to one another our time and energies to improve our communities and our nation, and to protect and strengthen our democracy. There’s no guarantee that civic education will heal our wounds or make us more able to enact sensible measures the nation needs — such as reducing gun violence, as well as slowing and reversing climate change, and protecting the right to vote — but I can think of no better way to get to where we need to be.

What do you think?

The Anti-Democracy Movement Run Amok

As I lay in bed at 5:30 this morning seeking that elusive thing called sleep, I received an email with Robert Reich’s latest newsletter.  Despite my better judgment, I started reading the piece and there went any hope for sleep.  Peter Thiel’s name has crossed my radar before … he is a billionaire with a net worth of about $4.7 billion who has bankrolled some pretty nasty political candidates, most notably the former guy.  I didn’t know a lot about him, though, and Mr. Reich took care of filling in some gaps … some rather disturbing ones.  Please take a minute to read his piece, for it is well worth your time — just don’t read it at bedtime.


What you need to know about the anti-democracy movement

Who’s funding it, why it’s inspired by Viktor Orban, and what it aims to achieve

Robert Reich

May 19, 2022

Decades ago, America’s wealthy backed a Republican establishment that believed in fiscal conservatism, anti-communism, and constitutional democracy. But today’s billionaire class is pushing a radically anti-democratic agenda for America — backing Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen, calling for restrictions on voting, and even questioning the value of democracy.

Peter Thiel, the billionaire tech financier who is among those leading the charge, writes “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”

Thiel is using his fortune to squelch democracy. He donated $15 million to the successful Republican Ohio senatorial primary campaign of J.D. Vance, who alleges that the 2020 election was stolen and that Biden’s immigration policy has meant “more Democrat voters pouring into this country.” And Thiel has donated at least $10 million to the Arizona Republican primary race of Blake Masters, who also claims Trump won the 2020 election and admires Lee Kuan Yew, the authoritarian founder of modern Singapore.

The former generation of wealthy conservatives backed candidates like Barry Goldwater, who wanted to conserve American institutions. Thiel and his fellow billionaires in the anti-democracy movement don’t want to conserve much of anything — at least not anything that occurred after the 1920s, including Social Security, civil rights, and even women’s right to vote. As Thiel wrote:

The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron.

Rubbish. If “capitalist democracy” is becoming an oxymoron, it’s not because of public assistance or because women got the right to vote. It’s because billionaire capitalists like Thiel are drowning democracy in giant campaign donations to authoritarian candidates who repeat Trump’s big lie.

Not incidentally, the 1920s marked the last gasp of the Gilded Age, when America’s rich ripped off so much of the nation’s wealth that the rest had to go deep into debt both to maintain their standard of living and to maintain overall demand for the goods and services the nation produced. When that debt bubble burst in 1929, we got the Great Depression.

It was also the decade when Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler emerged to create the worst threats to freedom and democracy the modern world had ever witnessed.

If freedom is not compatible with democracy, what is it compatible with?  

On Tuesday night, Doug Mastriano, a January 6 insurrectionist and Trump-backed Big Lie conspiracy theorist, won the Republican nomination for governor of Pennsylvania (the fourth largest state in the country, and the biggest state that flipped from 2016 to 2020). Mastriano was directly involved in a scheme to overturn the 2020 election by sending an “alternate” slate of pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College — despite the fact that Trump lost Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes. If Mastriano wins in November, he will appoint Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, who will oversee the 2024 election results in one of the most important battleground states in the country.

Meanwhile, the major annual event of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) — the premier convening organization of the American political right — starts today in Budapest. That’s no accident. The Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party have become a prominent source of inspiration for America’s anti-democracy movement. Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former adviser, describes Orban’s agenda as that of a “Trump before Trump.”

Orban has used his opposition to immigration, LGBTQ rights, abortion, and religions other than Christianity as cover for his move toward autocracy — rigging Hungary’s election laws so his party stays in power, capturing independent agencies, controlling the judiciary, and muzzling the press. He remains on such good terms with Vladimir Putin that he’s refused to agree to Europe’s proposed embargo of Russian oil.

Tucker Carlson — Fox News’s progenitor of white replacement theory — will be speaking at CPAC and broadcasting his show from Budapest. Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows will also be speaking (although he refuses to speak to the House committee investigating the January 6 assault on American democracy).

If America and the world should have learned anything from the first Gilded Age and the fascism that began growing like a cancer in the 1920s, it’s that gross inequalities of income and wealth fuel gross inequalities of political power — which in turn lead to strongmen who destroy both democracy and freedom.

Peter Thiel may define freedom as the capacity to amass extraordinary wealth without paying taxes on it, but most of us define it as living under the rule of law with rights against arbitrary authority and a voice in what’s decided.

If we want to guard what’s left of our freedom, we’ll need to meet today’s anti-democracy movement with a bold pro-democracy movement that protects the institutions of self-government both from authoritarian strongmen like Trump and his wannabes, and from big money like Peter Thiel’s.

Don’t Wait ‘Til It’s Too Late!!!

In conversations with friends, I have often said that the only way to ensure that the former guy cannot take over the nation following the 2024 presidential election is to ensure that he cannot be on the ballot.  There are only two ways to do that:  his death, or his imprisonment.  If we fail to keep the name “Trump” off the ballot, this nation will no longer be a democratic republic.  Full stop.  Robert Reich agrees, only he states it far better than I could …


Why it must happen soon: The United States vs. Donald J. Trump

Merrick Garland must do it now, before it’s too late

Robert Reich, 18 April 2022

On Friday, Trump endorsed J.D. Vance in the Ohio Senate Republican primary. This follows his endorsement of Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s Senate Republican primary and Herschel Walker in the Georgia Senate race. The press has framed these endorsements as long-shot bets that “could put [Trump’s] desired image as a kingmaker at risk.” But this misses the point. What’s really at stake for Trump is the selling of Trump and his big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

To be endorsed by Trump, candidates apparently must fulfill three prerequisites: 1) They have to be running in swing states whose primaries and general elections will attract lots of media attention. 2) They must be totally committed to Trump and his big lie. And 3) they must have shown themselves capable of promoting Trump and his lie with the kind of celebrity pizzaz that sells well on television.

Vance — celebrity author of “Hillbilly Elegy” — was originally appalled by Trump and his lie, and said so. But now that he’s running for the Senate, Vance has become one of the most forceful promoters of Trump and articulate peddlers of his big lie. As Trump noted about Vance, “he gets it now.”

Oz is a celebrity television doctor who has over the years come under fire for bogus on-air medical advice, which makes him perfect for promoting Trump and his big lie, too. Trump admires Oz’s television bona fides: “They liked him for a long time,” Trump said of Oz at a rally in Pennsylvania last week. “That’s like a poll. You know, when you’re in television for 18 years, that’s like a poll. That means people like you.”

Walker fits the criteria, as well. He was both a college and NFL star.

Trump couldn’t care less whether he’s viewed as a “kingmaker” by the press and politicians inside the Beltway. He cares only about his narcissistic need to delegitimize the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. And he has a knack for recognizing ambitious, unprincipled, television-savvy hucksters who will help him.

Let me pause here to emphasize two things that are too easily forgotten. First, no one to this day has produced even a shred of evidence that fraud affected the results of the 2020 election. Sixty federal judges, along with Trump’s own departments of justice and homeland security, have concluded that Biden won fair and square.

Second, the lynchpin of democracy is the peaceful transition of power from those who lose elections to those who win them. Yet it’s been over a year and half since Trump has refused to concede — continuously spreading his big lie that the election was stolen, pushing public officials at all levels of government to overturn the election, and instigating an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on the day Congress was to certify the election results. As Federal District Court Judge David Carter stated in a recent opinion, “[T]he Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.”

Trump is already well on the way to rebuilding the Republican Party around his big lie. He is purging the GOP of his critics and installing loyalists in key state positions. And he is inspiring GOP-state legislatures to enact election sabotage laws that will give Trump and his supporters opportunities to rig congressional election results. The upcoming 2022 congressional elections will serve as proving grounds for his attempt to steal the 2024 presidential election.

Trump is a growing menace to our system of self-government. The longer he goes without being held accountable for what he has done, the more danger he poses.

The critical question, then, is whether Attorney General Merrick Garland will bring criminal charges against him — and when. The window of opportunity is closing fast. The House Select Committee on January 6 will be holding public hearings in a few weeks and report its findings thereafter. (The committee has already collected nearly 10,000 documents and conducted more than 860 depositions and interviews, including with Trump family members and his close associates.) If Republicans take over the House in the midterm elections, they are sure to close down the inquiry.

Moreover, immediately after the midterm elections, America will be in the gravitational pull of the 2024 presidential primaries — in which Trump will almost certainly play a leading role, unless he is indicted and convicted. He has already amassed a campaign chest of more than $120 million, more than double that of the Republican National Committee. During the last six months of 2021, his PAC raised more money online than the GOP every day but two. And once he is a declared candidate, it will be impossible for Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms to stop him from engulfing them with his lies.

Some say Garland should not bring criminal charges against Trump because criminal charges have never before been brought against a former president. This is a specious argument because no former president has ever before attempted to overthrow a duly elected President — the first attempted coup in the 233-year history of the United States government.

Others worry that criminal charges against Trump — along with a trial and possible imprisonment — would only deepen the fierce partisan divide that’s already drained trust out of much of American democracy. This is a legitimate concern. But failure to hold Trump accountable for what he has done would pose a far greater risk for American democracy — permanently entrenching distrust in our election system and legitimizing future battles over every contest, possibly provoking repeated rounds of violence.

Trump’s indictment and conviction must occur as quickly as possible. The upcoming midterm elections won’t simply be a battle between Republicans and Democrats. They will be a battle between Trump acolytes and fair election supporters over protecting the integrity of our elections and our democracy. The sooner Trump is held accountable for his criminality, the safer American democracy will be.

Taxing the Rich Dudes — Part II

A week or so ago I posted Robert Reich’s column on taxing the wealthy.  At the time, I thought the odds of any such legislation passing were slim-to-none, but today Mr. Reich is back with a bit more optimism, so … maybe, just maybe the time is coming when we will stop bowing at the feet of the wealthy and start expecting them to be held accountable for paying their fair share to keep this nation rolling.  Heck, if the wealthy paid their share, we could eliminate the federal debt within a year!


Why Biden’s plan to tax the super rich is moving from unlikely to likely

And why it’s really really important

Robert Reich, 5 April 2022

America is on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers expire over the next three decades, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children. Those children will be able to live off of the income these assets generate, and then leave the bulk of them – which in the intervening years will have grown far more valuable – to their own heirs, tax-free. After a few generations of this, almost all of the nation’s wealth will be in the hands of a few thousand family dynasties.

Unless Joe Biden’s new tax plan is enacted — the odds of which is moving from unlikely to likely. I’ll explain in a moment.

Dynastic wealth runs counter to the ideal of America as a meritocracy. It makes a mockery of the notions that people earn what they’re worth in the market, and that economic gains should go to those who deserve them. It puts economic power into the hands of a small number of people who have never worked but whose investment decisions have a significant effect on the nation’s future. And it is antithetical to democracy.

We are well on the way. Already six out of the ten wealthiest Americans alive are heirs to prominent fortunes. The Walmart heirs alone have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined. The richest 1 tenth of 1 percent of Americans already owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

The last time America faced anything comparable occurred at the turn of the last century, in the first Gilded Age. Then, President Teddy Roosevelt warned that “a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power,” could destroy American democracy. Roosevelt’s answer was to tax wealth. The estate tax was enacted in 1916 and the capital gains tax in 1922.

Since then, both of Roosevelt’s taxes have been eroded by the moneyed interests. As the rich have accumulated more wealth, they have amassed more political power — which they’ve used to reduce their taxes. By now, the estate tax affects only a handful of super-wealthy families that are busily setting up “dynastic trusts” to circumvent what’s left of it. And the capital gains tax has been defanged by what’s known as the “stepped-up-basis-at-death” loophole. More on this in a moment.

Last week Joe Biden unveiled two tax proposals that would revive Teddy Roosevelt’s original vision, and could possibly slow or even reverse America’s march toward oligarchy: (1) a minimum income tax that Biden calls a billionaire tax but would in reality apply to households with a net worth of $100 million or more, and (2) a separate tax at death on gains from appreciated assets, even if the assets are not sold.

The odds are growing that at least one of these proposals will get through the Senate in April or May via “reconciliation” requiring only a bare majority (i.e., all fifty Democratic senators plus the vice president). I’m told Joe Manchin is mostly on board (which means the other Democratic holdout, Kyrsten Sinema, will sign on as well).

Let me go into a bit of detail on each:

(1) The minimum tax is a 20 percent levy on households with a net worth of more than $100 million, affecting the top 0.01 percent of earners. It would apply both to taxable earnings and to unrealized capital gains (the increased value of your assets), and would function as a kind of prepayment (analogous to withholding) of taxes that eventually would be owed upon the sale of appreciated assets or death.

For example, suppose someone named Mark Zuckerberg owns $100 billion of Facebook stock, for which he paid nothing when he founded the company, and has no other taxable income. For the first year under the Biden plan, he’d owe $20 billion in taxes even if he didn’t sell any Facebook shares. The next year, if his stock increased in value, he’d owe another prepayment equal to 20 percent of any increase in value beyond $100 billion. (There are other provisions to prevent the very wealthy from being taxed twice on the same income.)

The Treasury anticipates Biden’s new minimum tax would raise $360 billion in the first 10 years from America’s 20,000 richest households.  

(2) Biden’s second proposal would close the “stepped-up-basis-at death” loophole. Under today’s tax code, you pay capital gains taxes on the increased value of assets when you sell them. But if you pass your assets on to your heirs, they can sell them and not pay a penny of capital gains. In other words, you escape capital gains taxes by dying. They escape it by inheriting your wealth. (I remember years ago arguing that this loophole should be closed with then Treasury Secretary Lloyd Benson, who at one point pounded his fist on the table and exclaimed “death is an involuntary conversion!”)

That’s not all. Under current law, if heirs never sell these assets and they continue to gain value (as they almost certainly will), heirs can borrow against them to pay living expenses and then pass them on to their heirs, who won’t pay capital gains taxes either. Put this together with the unprecedented transfer of generational wealth about to occur, from rich boomer to their millennial children, and America’s oligarchy will become thoroughly entrenched in a small group of people who exercise all the power that comes with great wealth but have never worked a day in their lives.

Biden proposes simply to repeal the “stepped-up-basis-at-death” loophole. The value of assets would not be “stepped up” to their market value at the time of death. Their increased value would be subject to capital gains taxes as if they’d been sold before death.

Either of these tax reforms would be significant, and they fit nicely together. But if I were betting, I’d bet on the latter because Second President Manchin has sounded less enthusiastic about the first.

One thing we’ve all learned over the past fourteen months is not to rely on Manchin or on anything he says or commits to, so I’m not holding my breath. But if Manchin gives the green light, and Biden and the Democrats pull this off, it will be an historic rebirth of Teddy Roosevelt’s movement against dynastic wealth — perhaps Biden’s biggest single accomplishment. Taxing big wealth is necessary if we’re ever to get our democracy back and make our economy work for everyone rather than a privileged few.

Open Your Wallet, Rich Dude!!!

It’s no secret that I have very little use or respect for the ultra-wealthy.  Many rose to the top by climbing on the backs of the rest of us, while others were born with the proverbial ‘silver spoon’ in their mouth.  For the most part, those who have millions or billions in their investment portfolio look down on the rest of us and laugh, unwilling to share their wealth, uncaring whether we live or die.  For his 2023 budget, President Biden has included a serious tax on the ultra-wealthy and while I applaud it, I say it should be more, should cover every person who has more than six figures of net worth.  But who am I?  I’m not wealthy, never wanted to be.  To cut to the chase here … Robert Reich has written his thoughts on the proposal to raise taxes on the rich and he is far more knowledgeable than I, so I shall turn the floor over to him.


Really? A billionaire tax? Now? Are you kidding me?

Why it’s still a real possibility

Robert Reich

29 March 2022

President Biden’s budget, which came out yesterday, proposes a new minimum tax of 20 percent on households worth more than $100 million — which the White House says will reduce federal budget deficits by $1 trillion over a decade. The tax would apply only to the top 0.01 percent — the richest 1 percent of the richest 1 percent. Half of the expected $1 trillion in revenue would come from 704 households worth $1 billion or more.

If enacted, it would effectively prevent the wealthiest sliver of America from paying lower rates than middle-class families, while helping to generate revenues to fuel Biden’s domestic ambitions and keep the deficit in check relative to the U.S. economy.

Recall that America’s 704 billionaires have increased their wealth by $1.7 trillion since the start of the pandemic in February 2020, while most Americans have struggled to make ends meet. That means the billionaires could theoretically pay for everything Joe Biden and House Democrats have proposed — from childcare to climate measures — and still be as wealthy as they were at the start of the pandemic. Elon Musk’s pandemic gains, for example, could cover the cost of tuition for 5.5 million community college students and feed 29 million low-income public-school kids, while still leaving Musk richer than he was before Covid.

The dirty little secret is the ultra-rich don’t live off their paychecks. They live off their stock portfolios. Jeff Bezos’s salary from Amazon was $81,840 in 2020 yet he rakes in some $149,353 every minute from the soaring value of his Amazon stocks, which is how he affords five mansions, including one in Washington DC with 25 bathrooms. (Why would anyone want 25 bathrooms?)

So if you want to tax billionaires, you have to go after their wealth.

But does Biden’s plan have a snowball’s chance of getting this enacted in the hell called Washington? The problem is the old political chicken-and-egg: A big reason why the super-wealthy have done so well is they’ve bankrolled politicians who alter laws (such as tax laws) to give them even more wealth. They’ve bought armies of lobbyists to keep their taxes minuscule and create tax loopholes large enough to drive their Lamborghinis through.

ProPublica’s bombshell report last June showing America’s super-wealthy paying little or nothing in taxes revealed not only their humongous wealth but also how they’ve parlayed that wealth into political power to shrink their taxes. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in America, reportedly paid no federal income taxes in 2007 and 2011. Elon Musk, the second richest, paid none in 2018. Warren Buffett, often ranking number 3, paid a tax rate of 0.1 percent between 2014 and 2018.

All previous efforts to tax America’s super-rich have failed amid major political head winds. Republican senators obviously won’t bite the billionaire hands that feed them, and so – yet again – Biden needs every Democratic senator’s vote. But why would any sane person who has followed politics over the last year suppose that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will go along? Haven’t we been here before?

Yes, except that for months now Manchin has been on the receiving end of unremitting horse dung — not just from progressives but from establishment Democrats who accuse him of torpedoing any chance Biden and the Democrats have of retaining control over Congress after the midterms. Manchin has also been criticized by the mainstream press for taking big money from coal interests and then voting down climate measures (see yesterday’s New York Times front page feature story, here). In other words, Manchin badly needs some cred.

Manchin has also expressed concern about the size of the federal budget deficit. And in December, he told the White House he would support some version of a tax targeting billionaire wealth.

What really convinces me Biden’s billionaire tax stands a chance is that I doubt the White House would risk another big public loss to Manchin. After getting all hell beat out of them for building public expectations of passing Build Back Better, only to have Manchin kill it, Biden and his staff would not propose another big initiative unless Manchin had already given it the green light.

What about Sinema? She’ll go along with whatever Manchin ultimately votes for.

So a billionaire tax is by no means a dead. Even in this disappointing year, I’m staying hopeful.

We Were Wrong …

Democracy … It’s not what governments do. Democracy is what people do.

I could not possibly have said this any better than Robert Reich.  Like him, I had some really wrong ideas and the last several years have opened my eyes to the fact that humans have not progressed as much as I had once thought.


Putin and Trump have convinced me I was wrong about the twenty-first century

But the people of Ukraine are teaching all of us lessons we thought we knew

By Robert Reich, 12 March 2022

I used to believe several things about the twenty-first century that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and Donald Trump’s election in 2016 have shown me are false. I assumed:

Nationalism is disappearing. I expected globalization would blur borders, create economic interdependence among nations and regions, and extend a modern consumer and artistic culture worldwide.

I was wrong. Both Putin and Trump have exploited xenophobic nationalism to build their power. (Putin’s aggression has also ignited an inspiring patriotism in Ukraine.)

Nations can no longer control what their citizens know. I assumed that emerging digital technologies, including the Internet, would make it impossible to control worldwide flows of information and knowledge. Tyrants could no longer keep their people in the dark or hoodwink them with propaganda.

Wrong again. Trump filled the media with lies, as has Putin. Putin has also cut off Russian citizens from the truth about what’s occurring in Ukraine.

Advanced nations will no longer war over geographic territory. I thought that in the “new economy” land was becoming less valuable than technological knowhow and innovation. Competition among nations would therefore be over the development of cutting-edge inventions.

I was only partly right. While skills and innovation are critical, land still provides access to critical raw materials and buffers against potential foreign aggressors.

Major nuclear powers will never risk war against each other because of the certainty of “mutually assured destruction.” I bought the conventional wisdom that nuclear war was unthinkable.

I fear I was wrong. Putin is now resorting to dangerous nuclear brinksmanship.

Civilization will never again be held hostage by crazy isolated men with the power to wreak havoc. I assumed this was a phenomenon of the twentieth century, and that twenty-first century governments, even totalitarian ones, would constrain tyrants.

Trump and Putin have convinced me I was mistaken. Thankfully, America booted Trump out of office — but his threat to democracy remains.

Advances in warfare, such as cyber-warfare and precision weapons, will minimize civilian casualties. I was persuaded by specialists in defense strategy that it no longer made sense for sophisticated powers to target civilians.

Utterly wrong. Civilian casualties in Ukraine are mounting.

Democracy is inevitable. I formed this belief in the early 1990s when the Soviet Union had imploded and China was still poor. It seemed to me that totalitarian regimes didn’t stand a chance in the new technologically driven, globalized world. Sure, petty dictatorships would remain in some retrograde regions. But modernity came with democracy, and democracy with modernity.

Both Trump and Putin have shown how wrong I was on this, too.

Meanwhile, Ukrainians are showing that Trump’s and Putin’s efforts to turn back the clock on the twenty-first century can only be addressed with a democracy powerful enough to counteract autocrats like them.

They are also displaying with inspiring clarity that democracy cannot be taken for granted. Democracy is not a spectator sport. It’s not what governments do. Democracy is what people do.

Ukrainians are reminding us that democracy survives only if people are willing to sacrifice for it. Some sacrifices are smaller than others. You may have to stand in line for hours to vote, as did tens of thousands of Black people in America’s 2020 election. You may have to march and protest and even risk your life so others may vote, as did iconic civil rights leaders like the late John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr.

You may have to knock on hundreds of doors to get out the vote. Or organize thousands to make your voices heard. And stand up against the powerful who don’t want your voices heard.

You may have to fight a war to protect democracy from those who would destroy it.

The people of Ukraine are also reminding us that democracy is the single most important legacy we have inherited from previous generations who strengthened it and who risked their lives to preserve it. It will be the most significant legacy we leave to future generations — unless we allow it to be suppressed by those who fear it, or we become too complacent to care.

Putin and Trump have convinced me I was wrong about how far we had come in the twenty-first century. Technology, globalization, and modern systems of governance haven’t altered the ways of tyranny. But I, like millions of others around the world, have been inspired by the Ukrainian people — who are reteaching us lessons we once knew.