Sanders Bill S.1982 to Fund Veterans Programs Is More Proof That Both Parties Are NOT the Same

The meme below is fresh from this morning’s Facebook feed.

It inspired me to do some research. The result is more evidence that the two major political parties are simply NOT the same.

So here’s my suggestion:
Add the question about supporting our veterans – and the partisan obstructionism on this bill – to whatever party comparison checklists you have now and that you’ll use when you go to the polls in November.

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As an anti-war, anti-empire, and extremely proud, peace-loving, and patriotic liberal who has been registered as Non-Partisan since 1979, this was (and still is) my feeling on the issue of veterans affairs:

It is inconceivable that the men and women
who volunteer to put their lives at risk in service to this country
are not taken care of regardless of what it takes.

How can this even be an issue?

The answer is simple: Politics. Petty, partisan politics.

Here is what Richard Cowan of Reuters reported on February 27th in his piece, U.S. Senate Republicans block veterans’ health bill on budget worry.

It begins:

(Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans blocked legislation on Thursday that would have expanded federal healthcare and education programs for veterans, saying the $24 billion bill would bust the budget.

Even though the legislation cleared a procedural vote on Tuesday by a 99-0 vote, the measure quickly got bogged down in partisan fighting.

Supporters said the measure would have brought the most significant changes in decades to U.S. veterans’ programs. For example, it called for 27 new medical facilities to help a healthcare system that is strained by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

With Democrats pressing for passage this week, Senate Republicans, backed by their leader, Mitch McConnell, attempted to attach controversial legislation calling for possible new sanctions on Iran that President Barack Obama opposes.

“The issue of Iran sanctions … has nothing to do with the needs of veterans,” complained Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders of Vermont, the main sponsor of the bill.

The bill is Senate Bill 1982. It is titled Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014.

It was introduced on February 3, 2014.

As of today, April 6, 2014, it has 29 co-sponsors.

They are all Democrats.

These are the facts.

Now ask yourself why Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, want to attach unrelated legislation to this bill that they know the president opposes?

Is there any other answer to that question other than they are willing to use the well-being and the very lives of veterans as pawns in partisan politicking, just as they have done on so many other issues like marriage equality, benefits for the long-term unemployed, and the poor? (See S.1635 and H.R. 3353 versus H.R. 4006 as examples of how the two parties approach SNAP.)

The question I’m really asking is this:
Is the issue of caring for our veterans finally enough to get us to start having an open and honest dialog about the fact that the two parties are not the same?

If not, what will it take?

Yes, it’s well-understood by everyone that neither party is perfect. No political party, politician, person, or movement is perfect. Nothing is perfect, and we will never all be in complete agreement on anything, let alone on everything. In my view, that is not a justifiable reason to continue engaging in the all-too-convenient and extremely false narrative that the two major parties are the same and equally bad.

They clearly have different ideologies, policy ideas, visions for America, and objectives. Senate Bill 1982 strikes me as simply the latest example of those differences, and here’s why I say that.

First, the entire Senate voted 99-0 to proceed on the bill.

Second, only Democratic Senators have so far co-sponsored it.

Third, it is only Republican Senators who want to attach unrelated language to it that they know cannot possibly get approved by their colleagues and the president.

In my opinion, the Republicans are playing politics with a bill that benefits the brave men and women who volunteered to serve our country in the military. I think we do ourselves, our veterans, and our country a terrible disservice by not calling them out for that and as just the latest example of what distinguishes them from Democrats.

That is why I believe that by continuing to lump the Republican and Democratic parties together as if they are somehow the same needs to stop. It is getting us where S.1982 sadly seems to be headed; nowhere.

Each of us is, of course, free to draw our own conclusions about Republicans and Democrats and Independents and Libertarians and Greens and every other party. We are free to decide for ourselves what we value, what we want our nation’s priorities to be, whom we want to represent us, and what we envision as the America we want to live in.

Each of us should, however, also remember the saying attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

The facts tell me that it’s time we stopped talking about Democrats and Republicans as if they are one and the same.

Yes, they are both beholden to Big Money; however, it must be acknowledged that the sources are, for the most part, very different. (And, yes, I still want to #GetMoneyOut of politics. All big money from all sources. If you don’t believe me, click here.)

Yes, elected officials from both parties are working longer and harder at raising lots of money from wealthy donors than they are serving the needs of ordinary citizens. Now ask yourself why that is the case. Can’t most of that be traced in large part to the abominations of the Citizens United and McCutcheon Supreme Court rulings. The facts are that both of those were approved solely and exclusively by Republican-appointed Justices.

These are facts. It’s why I’m asking why we shouldn’t now add Senate Bill 1982 and the question of who really is in support of our veterans – and who is responsible for the partisan obstructionism that has stalled this legislation – to our list of what distinguishes the two major parties?

I’ve added it to my list. It’s just one more thing I’ll remember when I go to the polls in November.

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The Republican Party’s Brand Appeal, or Lack Thereof

“Just think if those Frosted Flakes brand gurus felt that the problem with selling their cereal to diabetics was one of semantics, not sugar, or that customers’ inability to afford boxes of the stuff was simply the free market in action. What if the company did things to limit who could hope to buy its products, or found ways to punish customers who didn’t. How about if it envisioned a radically new idea of what breakfast meant entirely, including where, when and by whom it would be eaten (and claimed it was the only way breakfast could survive as an institution), only there were other solutions to changing breakfast, and everybody knew about them.” – Jonathan Salem Baskin, AdAge
As the paragraph in the AdAge article which precedes the above excerpt points out, “selling products instead of meeting consumer needs” is a predictable path to failure. It’s true for cereal and for politicians.
Republicans in this cycle clearly chose a losing branding and marketing strategy. They branded themselves and their solutions to appeal only to those who were already sold on their ideas. To compound their problems, they then made no attempts to do anything but alienate anyone who wasn’t already sold. How in the world is that supposed to attract new “customers” to their party?
It now seems pretty clear that, along with a deficient “product” in terms of policy positions, the other really big failure came from the decision about whom they chose as their core target market – the ultra-conservative, neo-libertarian, and mostly low-information white male voter. I’m not trying to be unkind with the “low-information” description. I’m simply basing that on the amount of shock and surprise that seems to have overwhelmed all the GOP-supporting media outlets like Fox, AM talk radio, and even the so-called strategists like Mr. Rove. As for the “white male” component, those numbers are easily confirmed at sources like CNN.
Assuming that their core target market is the non-Hispanic white (and more male than female) voter, their core target market is also too narrowly defined, too small in shear numbers, and insufficiently interested in and motivated by their product to have won big in this election. By all accounts with which I’m familiar, and if the trends hold true into the future, the non-Hispanic white market is also going to be a shrinking market. This gives the current GOP strategy even greater appearance as being on the path toward even greater losses in the future.
       “The non-Hispanic white population will increase more slowly than other racial and ethnic groups; whites will become a minority (47%) by 2050.” (Pew Research Center, U.S. Population Projections: 2005-2050, February 11, 2008
It will be interesting to watch what evidence there will be about precisely what the GOP leadership has learned from this election. I’m pretty skeptical about what that will be. McConnell already sounds as intransigent as ever, and I have almost no expectation that Boehner actually has the courage to distance himself and the rest of the House from the tea party caucus.
To be sure, the post-election landscape is only beginning to take shape. Still, I wonder who the more rational heads are within the GOP?
Yes, Huntsman gets some well-deserved attention as a likely candidate to help lead the GOP back toward a more reasonably-defined center, but he’s currently unemployed, as it were. He also doesn’t seem to me to fit the current mold of a party that inexplicably is willing to give their stage over to the likes of Cain, Bachmann, and Perry as presidential candidates. (Side note: Kudos to the GOP for having the good sense to ostracize Palin and recognize George W. Bush as a marketing liability.)
Without some dramatic and immediate changes, I suspect that the GOP – with the help of Fox, talk radio, and the Sheldon Adelsons of the world – will continue to pursue a strategy based more on spin and deception than on facts and reality. All that said and as much rancor and entrenchment as there seems to be these days, I’m cautiously optimistic.
I’m optimistic that concerned citizens like those involved with the Coffee Party (http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/) will keep taking the time to separate fact from fiction. I’m optimistic that they’ll take the time to try to influence the public discussion about the real problems and challenges facing our society and the world at large, as well as what the options are for addressing them in everyone’s best interest.
I’m even more optimistic about the generation of 20-somethings coming up behind us. Speaking from first-hand experience as the proud father of two 20-somethings, they aren’t nearly so gullible and easily duped as our generation (or at least a significant portion of us) seems to be. I only hope we don’t end up leaving messes so big even they can’t clean them up.
It’s important for all of us to take the time to inform ourselves, to ask those to whom we listen or elect to back up their statements and positions with facts, and to be willing to compromise but only to the degree that such a compromise will serve the greatest good.
As for the Republican party, my advice is the same that Hal Ziegler offered just before his passing: real leaders within the GOP better start rising up to loudly and proudly call their colleagues out when they are being ideologues, especially when that ideology isn’t rational, truthful, or anything except obstructionist. And, they better hurry. Their party, to borrow a word from Mr. Rove’s fundraising efforts, really seems to be at a crossroads.

Let’s Keep Blaming Labor

A friend recently shared a Detroit News video report from 2007 about Camacari, “Ford’s most advanced assembly plant,” that opened in 2001 in Brazil.

The piece ends with the following claim:
“Sources in Dearborn say privately that this is the sort of facility Ford would love to build in the U.S. if only the UAW, historically adverse to this sort of supplier integration, would allow it.”

Let me begin by saying that I’ve never worked in the automobile industry, although very close friends have. I’ve never been a member of the UAW, nor any other labor union.

That said, I have to wonder about the kind of thinking and reporting that leaves the viewer with the unchallenged conclusion that it is labor’s fault that good paying, middle class jobs like building cars goes overseas because the UAW won’t “allow” modern plants in America.

The auto industry is clearly one of the central pillars of our economy, and the web of dependencies that has been created seems completely entrenched and undoable. The reason it will be almost – not quite, but almost – impossible to change any of that and build a broader, more sustainable, diverse, and healthier economy is simple.

Money.

And who controls the money?

This report says it’s the unions. Has to be them, right? I mean, the piece ends by saying that Ford supposedly wants to build plants like the one in Brazil in America with automation and JIT suppliers integrated inside and all that but the unions won’t allow it.

Really? Unions? Are they the people who decide where to invest capital to build plants? Seriously? Is that really the reason Ford doesn’t build plants like that in America?

Or is it possible that it might be because the Brazilian factory worker lives in a country where the minimum wage is less than $300 a month (http://tinyurl.com/24v5l8k)?

Ford’s employees in Brazil probably have no health care or other benefits, and while they may be “middle class” in Brazil I’m willing to bet just about everything I have left that they can’t even afford to buy one of the cars they make.

This is the kind of bullshit news reporting that really pisses me off, mostly because too many Americans are gullible enough – especially my friends on the right – to believe it. They buy this line of thinking that those poor bastards in the boardrooms and corner offices of corporate America are being held back by labor and government. All those magnanimous and benevolent capitalists want to do is invest more money into more businesses to create more jobs, but labor and the big bad government are keeping them from doing that. What a crock of shit!

It comes down to money. Yes, organized labor has money and power but make no mistake, dear reader. The money that matters and that makes these decisions is the real money – the richest 2% kind of money. GOP kind of money. It’s why I’ll never understand how middle-class Americans could ever, ever, EVER vote Republican. They’re voting against their own economic self-interest. The trickle-down, Randian economic model that was sold by Alan Greenspan and bought hook-line-and-sinker by that moronic B-movie actor and GOP god, Ronny, and his minions in the GOP has proven not to work.

None of those facts seem to matter, though, to the latest crop of defenders of the wealthy and so-called free markets; the tea baggers, the Boehner/McConnell crowd, and the real whack jobs like Rand Paul and his Libertarians. Less regulation, more wealth protection, and even tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans has become religion for them, and that belief system has been perpetuated by liars and haters like Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and others so much so that uninformed and easily-duped Americans actually believe in the magnanimity of the rich, and worse, the fallacy of the American Dream that they, too, can someday be rich.

Devotion, admiration, and even worship for wealth, the wealthy, and the so-called captains of industry is how we got to the sorry-ass state we’re in now. Maintaining that devotion and electing devotees of Ayn Rand and Ronny Reagan to high office is how we’ll go over the cliff for good, too.

But, hey, not to worry. Our children, grand children, and great grand children will have it better. Unregulated, unfettered, and under-taxed free markets and the absurdly wealthy who run it are making sure that we’re going to be a big part of the third world by the end of the century – maybe sooner. Then maybe all those middle class jobs will come back.

How, you ask?

Because we’ll be the nation of poor, desperate people willing to do anything for a few bucks an hour.