We’re a little over one-quarter of the way through 2013, and I was curious to look back and see how Obama’s second term is doing. In case you couldn’t guess, his recent proposal to cut to Social Security via the chained CPI prompted me to think of everything else Obama has supported (or not supported) thus far in 2013. In just over three months, here’s the list of Obama’s “accomplishments.”
Obama cut taxes for 99% of Americans by about 4.5% indefinitely in a more conservative plan than even the ultra-conservative Bush tax cuts.
He also supported the sequester, which cut funding for every single project, program, and activity paid for by the federal government that is not mandatory spending (entitlements, debt interest, salary for federal employees, etc.) by approximately 8%. This isn’t the first time Obama has supported enormous spending cuts to programs that primarily help the lower and middle class, which is why our current deficit is shrinking and why our rate of annual federal spending has been going down at an alarming, historic rate. The sequester was very complicated but no matter how you slice it a pretty bad idea. Just watch this video for why:
It was revealed that the Obama Administration does in fact support torture and rendition and that both programs have secretly been continued since the Bush Administration. He also appointed John Brennan, a torture supporter, to head the CIA. It was even revealed that the Obama Administration believed it to be lawful for the President to order the assassination of a US citizen on US soil, but almost immediately recanted that belief when challenged by Senator Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster. Thanks again, Rand.
Vice President Biden reasserted the administration’s readiness to start another war in the Middle East by invading Iran the moment they develop a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, information was released detailing specific attack plans the United States already has to go to war, which could be preemptively and sometime this spring.
Visited Israel solely for the purpose of showing his support for the country, specifically announcing to the press that he had no intentions of working towards a peace deal with Palestine.
Announced support for gun control only to immediately be defeated by his own political party 62 days later. We did not get an assault weapons ban, we did not get a high-capacity magazine ban, we did not even get universal background checks despite tremendous majorities of Americans favoring it.
Passed the Monsanto Protection Act to prevent America’s largest food provider from ever being sued over negative health side effects from their food containing genetically modified organisms, which have already been completely banned in most of Europe because of health concerns pending further scientific research.
Obama and Congressional Democrats fought for the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act after it was not renewed for the first time in its history at the end of 2012.
The Obama Administration stood up for gay rights from inauguration day to the Department of Justice defending gay marriage before the Supreme Court if only because Obama received millions in campaign donations from LGBT organizations in 2012.
There was a major oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas of tar sands oil that has devastated the town, forcing people to evacuate their homes. ExxonMobile is “running” the clean-up efforts, not the federal government, and has banned journalists and the media from the scene of the spill. At the exact same time, Obama has only shown further support for the Keystone XL pipeline which will deliver tar sands oil from Canada through America to the Gulf of Mexico where oil companies can export it to sell to other countries. Oil drilled from the Keystone XL will not stay in America, but we will carry all the risks to our environment in order for the oil companies to make more profit.
Obama appointed Jack Lew to Treasury Secretary, a union-buster praised by Republicans like Eric Cantor who used to work for CitiGroup before he lost the company $500 million, but still received a bonus of nearly $1 million from the company after they received a taxpayer bailout. In other words, the taxpayer bailout CitiGroup got went partially right into Jack Lew’s pocket in the form of a bonus.
He also appointed Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, one of the most important regulatory positions of the banks and the financial sector. Before working at the SEC, she worked as a lawyer that defended the big banks in court and is still receiving regular payments to the tune of $42,500 a month from the law firm that defends the banks. She is literally on the payroll of a company that defends the banks while working as the head of the SEC in charge of regulating the banks. Even worse, this money she’s getting from the law firm is an “unfunded pension,” which means the company must remain in business and maintain healthy profits (which they get from the banks) for her to continue to get that money. She has a direct, inarguable financial incentive to make sure her company and the banks make as much money as physically possible.
And finally, President Obama’s “budget proposal” involves a dramatic cut to Social Security benefits. I actually first wrote about this change last December when the Obama administration was first considering it. Basically, instead of Social Security having its own mechanics through which to adjust payouts for inflation (known as COLAs), Social Security’s payouts will be adjusted along the chained consumer price index (CPI). This change will inevitably reduce pay to beneficiaries (not to mention federal employee pensions), including retirees, meaning they have even less money on which to get by in a time where they’re barely scraping by as it is, often having to make decisions between food and medication. Obama plans on cutting their benefits even more. First of all, this is a budgetary proposal; Social Security does not add to the deficit. It’s a completely self-sustaining program. There’s absolutely no reason to include this in a budgetary agreement, and doing so will have no effect on the debt or deficit. Including entitlement reforms like this in budgetary proposals is an age old tactic by Republicans to make cutting payouts to beneficiaries seem necessary when it’s anything but, and now Obama is using this tactic the exact same way for the exact same, totally unnecessary reasons. The only explanation is that Obama himself wants to see Social Security cut. Since the announcement, Republicans have been praising Obama’s plans for Social Security such as Senator Graham, Congressman Paul Ryan, and House Speaker John Boehner who was the first to propose this plan (that Obama just flat-out adopted).
All of this is completely despite Obama campaigning on protecting Social Security and Vice President Biden guaranteeing no cuts to the program back in 2012.
So given all of that… why do Republicans hate him? That’s not rhetorical; I literally don’t understand any more. Since his re-election, Obama has dramatically cut taxes and spending, is cutting welfare and Social Security, deregulating industries by appointing regulators that won’t actually regulate (which was Bush’s primary tactic), defended special interest and mega corporations Republicans so often praise as “job creators,” used drones to be extremely tough on terrorists, was discovered to support torture, has sworn to and already planned an invasion of Iran, constantly caters to Israel’s every desire, is increasing American drilling in complete disregards for the environment, did little to no actual fighting on gun control (which President Bush also supported), and has even been praised now on multiple issues by very prominent members of the Republican Party. Why do Republicans not like this guy? That list reads like a 101 Guide to Republican Ideology!
What is it? Is it his plan to make birth control more affordable? Is it because he dared to utter the phrase “gun control?” Is it because he won’t sever all diplomatic ties to ally nations whenever they elect a political party with whom we disagree? Is it because your personal life or the industry you work in is experiencing difficulties (even though such difficulties very likely have nothing to do with the president)? Is it because he is actually ordering state governments to take some damn personal responsibility and care about their citizens? Is it his skin color? Is it because he actually believes there should be a federal government that taxes people in order to maintain a nation? Is it because he hasn’t launched a nuclear weapon yet? Is it because he supports equality and doesn’t think homosexuals are icky? These all sound like hyperbolic jokes, but I’m serious. What the hell is it about him that you don’t like?
If anyone has the right to dislike Obama it’s me; he is tarnishing the reputation of progressives and progressive ideology by being a conservative. I don’t mean that as an insult to conservativism; I just mean he’s labeling conservativism as progressivism. More often than not he’s even giving Republicans exactly what they want. John Boehner, a de facto leader of the Republican Party, has even admitted as much on at least twooccasions, but still praised and worked with Obama on many others.
In 2012, liberals and progressives had to “hold their nose” and vote for Obama. Many were delusional enough to believe that in the second term Obama wouldn’t have to worry about re-election and could be himself, and thus, they would get more liberal policies and actions from him. Turns out they were half-right; Obama is free to be himself now that he doesn’t have to run for re-election. It just turns out that the real Obama is much, much more conservative than we ever imagined.
I decided to make a graphic that’s somewhat more directed towards my Republican friends here in Oklahoma. Honestly, there’s a great many of them that fall into one of the categories at the bottom of this graphic. I know they’re heavy charges, but felt they were justified by contextualizing them with progressive ideology. Each of the beliefs listed in this graphic are either generally regarded as progressive or at the very least in conflict with current Republican ideology, specifically that of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Therefore, if you hold these beliefs (the opportune word being if) and you vote for Romney Ryan in 2012, there’s really only two categories into which you could fall; ignorant or racist (or both).
Click or download for full resolution. Continue reading below the graphic for my justification of each point.
1. Tax burdens should not be shifted from the wealthy to the working class; the wealthy should pay their fair share – Of all the points on my list, this one may be the weakest (or rather least strong), so even if you think this point is bullshit for whatever reason by all means read the others as well. The Tax Policy center, a non-partisan group that even Mitt Romney has cited and held up as an “objective third-party” for evaluating tax plans, broke down Romney’s tax plan and gave him every benefit of the doubt they possibly could. Romney plans on cutting taxes by 20% (which is insanity) and paying for it by cutting deductions and closing loopholes to make up for the lost revenue. The Tax Policy Center cut every single deduction they could find for households earning more than $200,000 a year, starting from the top-down. These cuts to deductions combined with a 20% tax cut still resulted in a net drop in taxes owed for those making $200,000 a year and up. In other words, taxes still go down for everyone making at or above that level; taxes go down for the rich. Those making $1 million annually would see a gain of 4.1% in their post-tax income. These same deduction cuts, however, will also affect those below the $200,000 mark. For people below this line, the 20% cut in taxes does not outweigh the financial cost of losing those deductions. People below this point (constituting 95% of Americans) would experience a net increase in taxes from the Romney plan. That is, when it’s under the assumption of cutting as many deductions as possible in order to pay for the 20% across-the-board tax cut. Hypothetically, if you didn’t cut as many deductions, and Romney specifically only cut those for the wealthy (i.e. not as many as the Tax Policy Center cut), then taxes would not go up for the middle and lower class, but then Romney faces the horrible catch of not being able to pay for his tax cuts. Without as many deduction cuts which result in higher revenue for the federal government, Romney’s tax cuts won’t be paid for, meaning that his 20% tax cut will increase the federal deficit because its lowering of revenue is not off-set by increasing enough of it elsewhere. On top of all that, we have the frustrating problem that neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan are willing to release a single detail in regards to what deductions they seek to cut. They’ve been asked time and time again and always dance around the issue. It’s reaching a point where they’re not even dancing around it that gracefully, as you can see in the previous hyperlinked video. This would imply that they’ve’ either not completed their own tax plan, or they’re hiding the fact that it will either raise taxes on the middle class or add to the deficit.
2. Millionaires should have to pay more than 1% in taxes – This point gets Paul Ryan’s polices somewhat more involved in the graphic, so it’s not purely Romney’s ideology alone, but it nonetheless is an important thing to know about these two politicians. The Ryan budgeteliminates (not lowers, eliminates) the capital gains tax and dividends, which overwhelmingly (almost exclusively) benefit the wealthy because they are the taxes associated with investment, which for many millionaires like Mitt Romney is nearly the sole source of their income. Under the Ryan plan, with all his tax cuts, Mitt Romney’s tax rate (based on the 2010 tax returns he has released) would be 0.8%, as well as all of the rich people like Romney who do little more than invest their money to make money. Under Paul Ryan’s budget a great number of millionaires and billionaires would be paying a laughably microscopic level of taxes, while the middle class could still be stuck in the double-digit percentiles. Now sure, some would dismiss this because it’s Ryan’s budget that has this outrageous level of tax cuts for the wealthy, not Romney’s. The problem with that argument is that the Romney campaign has already announced Romney’s support for Ryan’s plan, saying that he would have signed it into law had Romney been President. So yes, Ryan’s plan is not the plan that Romney would have presented to Congress, but it would be the plan Congress presented to Romney that he would sign in a heartbeat.
3. Special interest should not be allowed to give unlimited amounts of money to politicians and their campaigns – The Citizens United court case allowed corporations and special interest groups to donate nearly unlimited sums of money to Political Action Committees, or PACs and Super-PACs on the grounds that money equals free speech and corporations are people entitled to free speech rights. Since PACs are not official parts of a campaign, giving them money does not count as giving money directly to a politician or his or her campaign. PACs are affiliated with political campaigns, however, and will run advertisements and rally support for their particular candidate. Technically, they’re not supposed to coordinate with the campaign directly, but there are countless loopholes and work-arounds PACs and their managers have developed to such a point that it is painfully obvious the PACs and the campaigns are in cahoots. This goes for both Republican and Democratic PACs. Mitt Romney honestly and sincerely believes, however, that anyone or any organization, be it a profit-driven corporation, a non-profit special interest group like the NRA or the Sierra Club, or labor unions (not to mention extremely wealthy private citizens) should be allowed to give however much money they want directly to a candidate or his or her campaign. Apparently, Mitt Romney believes that human beings are incorruptible, and that money has no influence over our decisions. This core belief coming from Romney alone is enough to know he’s lying. He knows that money will always influence a politician’s vote; he just wants the bidders that are his donors to get into a price war over him and his fellow Republicans to see how much money he can get from them in order to further rig the system in their favor. This is literally the core problem with out democracy, and Mitt Romney wants to make it significantly worse by eliminating what tiny, tiny restrictions still apply to campaign finance.
4 and 5. Senior citizens should be guaranteed health care coverage AND insurance companies should not be allowed to deny clients coverage based on pre-existing conditions. – These points go hand-in-hand, and is somewhat of a mix between Romney’s ideology and Ryan’s ideology. Part of the Ryan budget involved converting Medicare into a voucher system. Instead of the government providing insurance coverage directly to citizens, it would give seniors a lump sum of money to go out and purchase private insurance. It’s important to keep in mind that Romney fully endorsed this plan, because Romney also believes that insurance companies should retain the right to deny clients coverage based on pre-existing conditions if they haven’t been insured in the past. On top of that, Romney pledged nearly a year ago to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, which would include the parts that banned denying clients based on pre-existing conditions. Together, these stances create a policy wherein senior citizens will no longer have access to the guaranteed coverage of Medicare and will instead be given money by the federal government to purchase coverage from the private sector even though they could be outright denied based on pre-existing conditions, meaning senior citizens, under a Romney-Ryan presidency, would not have guaranteed health care coverage.
Of course, recently Romney has starting stirring the pot a little on this very issue. Earlier this month, Romney completely tossed out his plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act by saying he supports parts of it and will keep them intact within his own plan such as banning denying clients based on pre-existing conditions, despite the fact that he’s specifically defended the practice in the past as I just mentioned. For this, he suffered significant criticism from his conservative base. Then, ten days later, he once again announced that he will repeal the plan in its entirety and did not speak of his own plan or if it would include parts of the Affordable Care Act as he announced ten days prior. Even more puzzling was that he said he was proud to be considered one of the founding fathers, or the “grandfather,” of the Affordable Care Act. So he’s proud to have helped create it, but he’s going to completely repeal it, but keep parts of it intact? How traditional of a Romney answer is that? Let’s think about this for a minute; in the very beginning, Romney was for this type of health care reform as Governor of Massachusetts when he passed it into law. He supported the plan up until Obama attempted to implement Romney’s plan at the federal level, flipping to opposition. As the Supreme Court deliberated, Romney and his campaign waffled considerably on the issue of the mandate and whether it was constitutional or not, a tax, or a penalty. Then this month he said he flopped to liking parts of the bill and would keep elements of it intact. Then, this past Wednesday, he flipped again back to the position of full opposition, but at the same time, in the same speech, said he “considered it a complement” to be called the “grandfather” of the Affordable Care Act. Honestly, I don’t know where he’s going to end up on the issue of pre-existing conditions in the end of the day, because the man has no principles or policies of his own; he’s constantly flip flopping so much, especially on this issue, it’s really impossible to know for sure if he plans to guarantee health care coverage for anyone. Let’s not forget, though, that in the recently surfaced video of Romney accusing 47% of Americans from being lazy welfare queens that he criticized this 47% for feeling as if they were entitled to health care coverage (and food, for that matter). Based on that, if Romney does have principles of his own, it’s that health care is not a right and should not be guaranteed for anyone.
6. Women should receive equal pay for equal work to men’s wages. – Romney has been disturbingly unclear and evasive on this issue. When he was first asked if he supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which gave women more power to actually seek restitution for pay discrimination, his campaign stated “we’ll get back to you on that,” and refused to answer. Some time later a campaign spokesperson tweeted that Romney “supports pay equality and is not looking to change current law.” The problem is, of course, that Lilly Ledbetter didn’t specifically stop the practice of pay discrimination, it simply gave women more opportunity to file suit when they have sufficient evidence that it has already taken place. Currently women still only receive 77.4 cents for every dollar a man makes for the exact same job. Democrats attempted to rectify this by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act which would close loopholes that allow it to continue and create incentives to stop pay discrimination. Senate Republicans, naturally, blocked the law, claiming that it would harm business interests. Despite repeated attempts from the Washington Times (a conservative media outlet), Romney refuses to answer if he supports the Paycheck Fairness Act. His campaign only continues to reference the same line, that Romney “is not looking to change current law,” which would imply he does not support the Paycheck Fairness Act as it would change current law by actually helping prevent pay discrimination for women. At least, that’s the only assumption we can really make until Romney gives us more specifics in regards to the bill and issue.
In case you’re trying to keep track, this is the third point now on which Romney has refused to give specifics.
7. We should not start another war in the Middle East – Obviously, this has caveats. President Obama himself even said a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable” and would trigger war, making it the “red line” Iran cannot cross. Obama and Romney agree on this issue. The difference, though, is that Romney has filled his foreign policy team with neoconservatives, many of whom have already been arguing for war with Iran for years now, long before Iran’s nuclear program even became an issue. More than that, Romney lowered the bar for going to war with Iran by saying that if the nation of Israel ever decides to attack Iran, America will “respect” that decision. As for war in general, Romney, to this day, says he was a proud supporter of the War in Iraq, and as recently as this July cited “weapons of mass destruction” as reason for that war, despite the inarguable fact that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. To say Romney and his advisors are slanted in favor of another war, then, is an understatement. Let’s also not forget the usual damning silence of the Romney campaign, given how excessively they refuse to confirm or deny if Romney is a neoconservative himself.
8 and 9. Use of the birth control pill should remain legal AND women should have the right to choose an abortion if their life is in danger or if they’ve been raped (or it should remain legal entirely) – This is not only another combination of points, but a combination of both Romney and Ryan ideology, but let’s just start with Romney since he’s the big name on the ticket. First and foremost, let’s not forget the flagrant flip-flops Romney has taken on the issue of abortion, from being pro-choice back in 2002, “firmly” pro-life in 2005, and now he’s moved even further to the right. Late last year Romney said abortion should be a states rights issue, and that he believes it to be perfectly constitutional for a state government to pass Personhood legislation, saying he would “absolutely” support a state’s right to do so. Personhood legislation defines life at fertilization, outlawing all abortions with no exceptions for rape and in some cases (depending on which state’s proposed law you’re talking about) no exceptions for if the mother’s life is in danger as well as outlawing common forms of contraceptive such as the birth control pill and greatly endangering the practice of in vitro fertilization. He himself even said that he would have supported such a Personhood amendment had one come up during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. On that alone, it’s fairly safe to say that Romney is opposed to making exceptions for rape, as is written into his party’s platform now. Similarly, the party platform also supports banning the use of the “morning after pill,” which Romney has opposed in the past. During his time as governor, he ended a vacation early just to veto a bill that would have required hospitals to offer the morning after pill to rape victims.
Even more extreme than Mitt Romney, however, is Paul Ryan, who co-sponsored legislation with the heinous and infamous Congressman Todd Akin to re-define rape to exclude date-rape and other non-forcible forms of rape as counting as rape, meaning women raped in this way would still be banned from getting an abortion even if they created exceptions for rape. Furthermore, Ryan co-sponsored (again, with the legendary dumbass Todd Akin) a Personhood bill at the federal level that would outlaw abortion and many forms of birth control, just like the state amendments Romney says he supports. Even when specifically asked if he thinks there should be a rape exception in abortion bans, Ryan refuses to give an answer.
Let’s also not forget about Dr. Jack Willke, his support of Romney, and Romney’s gratitude for his support. Just watch this video; I don’t want to have to explain what’s wrong with this man again.
I feel that despite Romney’s massive flip-flops on the issue, his current stance is more clear here than on nearly any other point; Romney will gladly sign legislation that bans all abortions, including in cases of rape.
10. Gay marriage should be a state issue (or it should be protected by the federal government) – This one is simple. Mitt Romney supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He also pledged support for the Defense of Marriage Act, to only appoint judges that refuse to acknowledge same-sex couples’ legal rights, and to appoint a “presidential commission” on “religious liberty” to protect the freedom of speech for those that seek to spread hatred of the LGBT community. Romney’s disdain, possibly even hatred, for homosexuals, however, goes much, much deeper than simple legislation. As Governor, Romney fired homosexual state workers for getting married, which was legal in Massachusetts at the time. He also completely defunded, unofficially abolishing, the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, which had been created to investigate and prevent the alarmingly high bullying and suicide rates among LGBT youth. He also blocked a Massachusetts Department of Public Health Anti-Bullying guide because it contained the words “bisexual” and “transgendered.” Based on that, Romney’s own history of bullying would seem to indicate he enjoys protecting the rights of bullies, because as a teenager Romney bullied and even assaulted gay “looking” students at his school. Some former classmates even go as far as to describe Romeny’s behavior and bullying of other children as “evil” and “like Lord of the Flies.” To this day he has shown little to no remorse or regret for the attacks.
Obviously, we can’t judge a man based on his actions as a child, but even on top of all that I’ve listed we’re still just getting warmed up for Romney’s deeply ingrained disdain for homosexuals. David Wilson and Julie Goodridge were the two plaintiffs in the case that led to Massachusetts legalizing same sex marriage, and they recently spoke out about their meeting with the governor during that time. They described him as very cold and emotionless, “like talking to a robot.” When the issue of same-sex couples raising children came up, Romney said “I didn’t know you had families.” Goodridge went on to tell Romney the story of her biological daughter, and how her partner was denied the right to see the birth in the hospital because they weren’t legally married. When she specifically asked what she should tell her daughter as to why her two mothers couldn’t get married, Romney responded “I don’t really care what you tell your adopted daughter. Why don’t you just tell her the same thing you’ve been telling her the last eight years,” completely ignoring the fact that Goodridge’s daughter was biological and not adopted, as she had told Romney earlier in that very interview.
Supposedly, Romney described the meeting as “pleasant,” even though Goodridge ended up in tears.
I don’t hesitate in saying Romney is at least disdainful and uncaring of LGBT people, and would go as far as to say he hates them based on his past. He was a bully of LGBT people as a child, he’s a bully still today in both his actions and words.
11. Corporations are not people. – Mitt Romney said “corporations are people, my friends.” That really says it all. If you believe corporations are not people, you are in direct opposition to a fundamental belief of Mitt Romney’s. It’s this principle that allows corporations and special interest groups to buy our democracy and corrupt our politicians, as I addressed earlier in point three. Romney wants to give them even more power and control over our democracy by strengthening this philosophy, that corporations are people, and that money equals free speech. By Romney’s logic then, some people have more freedom of speech than others; some people have more freedom than others, and the determinant for how much freedom one has is entirely measured by one’s bank account and nothing more.
If you believe in these bolded items from the graphic above, you are in complete and utter disagreement with Mitt Romney. That is why if you believe these things, and still plan to vote Romney-Ryan in 2012, you’re either one of two things; woefully misinformed and ignorant to the point of being manipulated, or, be it consciously or not, just a racist that would vote for anyone, no matter how foul, disagreeable, or unethical, for President other than Barack Obama simply because he’s a black man.
As a nation and as a society, we tend to focus on our differences rather than our similarities. Over time, I’ve accumulated stories and discussions regarding the differences between progressives and conservatives when it comes to just general mindset, rather than specific ideology, and gained fascinating insight. I’ve already shared my beliefs of libertarianism in my posts Libertarian Smoke (and Mirrors), as well as The Undermining of America, but now I’d like to start with a more general, top-down approach to the issues, starting with the very foundations of the human mind.
In late 2010, a British neuroscientist named Dr. Rees scanned the brains of college students and two Members of Parliament to see if there were any significant differences between conservatives and liberals in terms of brain structure. He did so mostly as a joke after an interview with Radio 4’s Today Programme. In his experiment, he discovered that conservatives had larger amygdalae, whereas liberals had larger anterior cingulated cortexes. The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for primitive emotions such as anger and fear, which Dr. Rees believes can help explain why conservatives have more aggressive, simplistic policies and ideologies. The anterior cingulated cortex, however, is the part of the brain responsible for rational cognition, decision making, empathy, and other more complex emotions. Naturally, this would lead liberals to having more complex, nuanced, logic-driven ideologies and policies, whereas conservatives are much more emotion driven. This could also lead conservatives to be more susceptible to propaganda, and fear or war mongering. Think about it; spreading xenophobia against Muslims is all about making people afraid of them – so afraid of them they don’t use logic and adhere only to their emotions, acting irrationally. The same is true for war mongering; make people fearful of Iran’s stockpile of ballistic missiles, coupled with creating fear of their Islamic culture and promotion of the idea that they are going to attack us when there’s absolute no evidence of that, riles up conservatives into an aggressive fury, and once again, manipulates them into acting irrationally and wanting to strike at Iran based on nothing more than appealing to their emotions.
While this study isn’t very reliable given its sample size, it did fit well into what we already see in conservative and progressive ideology. It was a good discovery worthy of further investigation, which I hope Dr. Rees did, but not too long ago another story came about that reminded me of his research. A study was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin that found the more someone drinks, and the more intoxicated they become, the more conservative and right-wing their ideology shifts. Essentially this theory was based on the same principle; liberal positions are complex, detailed, and logical, which, while often the better choice in the long-run, is too hard for the uneducated or emotionally-driven to understand. Chris Mooney wrote this exact thing in Rolling Stone, saying:
“In other words, you could argue that liberals are really the outliers here. They’re the ones in the position of having to spin out complex, nuanced explanations for their views – explanations that, to much of the populace, feel like so much fancy-pants posturing. And while this may work for academia and wonkland, it can also get in the way of political effectiveness and leadership.”
When you’re drunk, you don’t care for facts or details. You’re all emotion, and significantly more careless and less capable of empathy with others (which we learned from the first study mentioned in this article). If you were to ask two people; one sober, one drunk, about what we should do with increasing tension with Iran, what do you believe their responses would be? The sober person would (hopefully) lean towards diplomacy or non-military action, or at least put more thought behind his or her answer. The drunk person, on the other hand, would be much more inclined to just say “I don’t know, bomb them.”
Now, what are generally considered the liberal and conservative positions on the issue of Iran, or any foreign nation with which we are having a dispute? Liberals favor diplomacy, usually by pressuring the government with economic sanctions to be more reasonable in negotiations, often appealing to the United Nations and NATO for further diplomatic support, and using minimal military action such as in Libya, where we used mostly naval power to enforce a no-fly zone, allowing us to leave there without a single lost American life. Now, the conservative position on foreign tension? In the words of my good friend George Carlin, “They have bigger dicks [than us]? BOMB THEM!”
I exaggerate, but nonetheless you get my point. More than that though, conservatives view this complex positioning of liberals as “weak” because they try as much as possible to avoid a physical altercation. Again, this feeds in perfectly to these two studies; conservatives are less likely to use logic, and telling someone that their idea is weak or stupid is somewhat cathartic because it feeds into a person’s emotional desire to be right. Whether consciously or unconsciously, conservatives may be more likely to not want to take the time to understand how they can be wrong because it’s emotionally displeasing to be wrong. So why would they go to the lengths of understanding your highly complex, detailed idea if that only means they will prove themselves wrong? This could be why conservatives dislike complexity entirely, and use it as an excuse to demean liberal ideas. In their instinctual mind (which some human beings don’t think much further beyond), complexity is nothing more than someone making up excuses because they don’t want to go to war, or get into a fight, and therefore, appear to conservatives as weak and cowardly.
The studies I shared in this piece are very informal and arguably unreliable, but given how well it fits the molds of conservative and liberal it wouldn’t shock me if there is some truth behind them. Despite this, reading over them and analyzing them has brought me to the interesting realization about why conservatives don’t like complexity. If you think about it, a great deal of conservative ideology is very simple-minded, even for the more complex issues. The primary one that comes to mind is the income tax. Many Republicans and Libertarians oppose the income tax altogether, and one of their primary arguments as to why it should be done away with is because it’s too complicated; figuring your annual income, total asset worth, factoring in deductions, how much in what account warrants reporting to the IRS, and if you’re off by one penny you risk an audit from the federal government which is exceedingly more complicated. This is part of (but not entirely) the reason why many conservatives, particularly the uneducated, favor a sales tax or a flat tax rate. Flat tax rates could allow someone to figure out how much they owe the federal government on a single piece of paper and a few punches of a calculator, and a sales tax takes all calculation responsibility off taxpayers entirely and leaves it in the hands of businesses. Many conservatives (again, especially among the uneducated) would actually prefer these systems despite the fact that doing so would dramatically raise taxes on the lower and middle classes by forcing them to sacrifice significantly more of their annual income than the wealthy, expect the poorest citizens to contribute equally the same amount as those that are more than capable of giving more and still having a huge chunk leftover for themselves (not to mention eliminate or greatly reduce the number of deductions for taxpayers).
This is perhaps the fundamental flaw with how conservatives think. They do everything they can to avoid complexity, and keep issues black and white. The obvious problem with that way of thinking is that nothing in this world is black or white, and increasing complexity is inevitable. As humans become more accepting and inclusive of people, cultures, and lifestyles, we grow more complicated as individuals as we find out who we are and where we belong. Families are constantly growing more complicated as homosexual couples, or single parents, raising children increase, or as families expand to include more and more people, each one helping one another to accommodate for the rising cost of living and stagnating wages of the middle class. Governments must keep up with an ever changing society growing ever more complex to better protect and provide equal opportunity for all citizens. Conservatives don’t want things to change. They want them to stay the same, at their relatively simple levels, or even revert them to ages past where things were even more simplistic; white Christians good, everything else bad. Women weak, men strong. Homosexuality bad, heterosexuality good, but only for procreation. Having sex for any other reason might actually complicate society a little bit (what is considered decent, children born out of wedlock, re-defining the family, etc.), so ultra right-wing conservatives are against it.
Even when conservatives try to be simplistic, due to the complicated nature of man and society, it sometimes ends up in a train wreck of complexity that doesn’t even solve the problem, unlike liberal complexity. Consider Herman Cain’s tax plan when he was still running for President; he summed up his entire plan by saying “999.” It was short for 9% income tax, 9% flat tax, and 9% sales tax. It was short, sweet, had a nice emotional ring to it that appealed to conservatives, but in reality the entire plan didn’t even work. Economists literally didn’t understand how the plan would work to solve the horrible deficit problem in America, while at the same time it kept in place the complexities of the income tax and established two other new forms of taxation alongside it. Why? To this day I don’t understand Cain’s logic behind the plan, and can’t answer that question. All I know for a fact is that it sounded emotionally appealing because it sounded so simple, appealing to conservatives, when in reality it was anything but.
Complexity is inevitable. Progressives know this, and using logic and other forms of rational cognition they do their best to think of the big, long-term picture. They are better capable of empathy, making them more capable of defending the old adage “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” At the same time though, Mooney was also right on the political drawbacks of this way of thinking. People don’t care for specificity, long-winded logic, and long-term solutions. They want quick fixes, and respond to emotional appeals, at which conservatives are significantly better, reaping more political victories for them, even if not ideological or policy ones. Again, let’s just look at taxes. Conservatives are always calling for more tax cuts, claiming that it puts more money in the pockets of individual citizens and businesses; an immediate gratification, but what about the long term implications? Tax cuts mean less revenue for the government. Less revenue for the government means an unbalanced budget and the creation of deficits. Deficits lead to spending cuts. Spending cuts lead to fewer programs to assist the lower and middle class. Fewer of these programs mean a higher cost of living for people of these classes. Higher cost of living is a long-term issue for the working class that suddenly makes the short-term benefit of the tax cuts you got years prior not so worth it, and ultimately sticks you with a net loss. Worse yet, because there are sometimes years between the tax cuts and the spending cuts, people don’t even connect those two dots.
Progressives, on the other hand, believe that taxes should actually be raised. Yes, in the short term, it will hurt and cost money to everyday Americans, but in the long-term, the government will have more money, allowing it to balance its budget, provide more living assistance programs to the working class to lower their cost of living, which would then in turn give even the poorest citizens equality of opportunity (without giving them equality of wealth). On top of that, higher taxes could incentive business owners to re-invest in their company, rather than horde excess revenue as profits, to avoid that money being taxed, which then causes private industry to expand quite rapidly. So years down the line after tax increases, through the complexities of economics and government, citizens would actually have a net gain, making the increased taxes an investment, and not a burden (though I am aware there’s the question of how government spends our money, but that’s another issue entirely that I’ll save for another day). Despite this, how many politicians do you hear these days openly admitting they want to raise taxes? None. Why? It’s bad politics. Americans have been dumbed-down to the point where a significant majority (at least significant enough to influence elections) are incapable of thinking long-term, or with this level of complexity.
So the next time you’re thinking about how to vote, don’t just think about the implications of your vote tomorrow, next month, or even next year. Don’t just think about yourself and your bank account. Think about your neighbor, your parents, your children, and your friends. Think about the janitor at your child’s school, the small business owner across the street, the soldier soon to be deployed to the next war in the Middle East or the veteran disabled from the last. Think about the implications of your vote years and years down the line; will it be to the benefit of all people then? Will it still protect freedom, and create equality of opportunity far in the future?
Think about it, and think about it long and hard. Consider all angles, all variables, and all possibilities. Even if conservatives are hardwired one way, and liberals another, that’s still no excuse to not do your civic duty and vote in the best interest of your fellow American, and not just yourself.
Left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Right President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran
One of The Young Turk’s newest missions for its audience was to do everything in their power to prevent a war with Iran, because such a war would be absolutely disastrous. Our intelligence shows Iran poses no real threat, yet that’s all you hear about in the media is the “impending threat” or “the threat of Iran.” This week, I saw a perfect example of this as Yahoo’s top headline. The very first sentence in it perfectly depicts exactly how the media is pandering to war mongers. Quote from the story:
“The United States would not be safe from retaliation if Iran is attacked by Washington…”
“… if Iran is attacked by Washington…”
“…attacked by Washington…”
Biggest NO DUH in the WORLD.
If you punch someone in the face, they will punch you back. If we attack another country, they will retaliate and attack us back. Honestly, what else would we expect? “Oh America did a drone strike against us now. I guess that means we have to surrender unconditionally.”
This “story” yahoo news had up may literally be the most obvious fact (or at least news story) in the world, yet it somehow continually makes top story news throughout the media (not just Yahoo), which continues to report it like it’s some sort of shocking reason to be panicked, concerned, or even excited about going to war. Whether it’s internet media like yahoo or more mainstream sources like NBC’s Today Show or the Nightly News, they all seem to be constantly chattering about the threat Iran poses, frequently skimming over, ignoring, or just flat out lying about the fact that they won’t attack the United States unless we attack them first.
I’m writing this article to help The Young Turk Army in its mission to prevent a war with Iran, and to do so I will do nothing more than list off the facts of the situation. Already, we have our first one well established.
FACT #1 Iran will not attack the United States unless we attack them first.
Iran’s leader may be corrupt, but he’s not insane. He knows attacking the United States, the world’s greatest military power, without provocation (or even with) would be suicide. This is the publicly stated belief of General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and of former Mossad Chief (Israeli equivalent to the CIA) Meir Dagan. The Obama Administration has come out against war with Iran, and Iran has equally come out and said they have no interest in starting a war by striking any country first. This all makes perfect sense given the massive disincentive Iran has from attacking the West and the intelligence (which I will talk about later) the United States has on the situation in Iran, particularly regarding their nuclear program. The propaganda of the media will use every trick in the book to get people to try and forget this basic fact. Why they do it is my next point.
FACT #2 You can’t trust what the media says
Long story short, war makes for good TV. Be it conscious or not, producers for news shows propagandize in favor of war any time a promising one comes along, as it now has with Iran. Through subtle language tricks such as mentioning Iran will only attack us in retaliation once in a five minute story at the end of a sentence rather than the beginning, or doing a story about Iran’s stockpile of ballistic missiles and rising tension in the region without even mentioning America going to war in the same piece, they actually manage to shape public opinion with this bombardment. War appeals to our animalistic instincts of anger and fear, like any good entertainment, and thus, gets more ratings. The station that can out war monger the other, then, will likely have higher ratings because it’s more entertaining.
On top of that, there is an incentive structure for those in powerful positions in the media to protect the establishment. Keep in mind, news outlets are still corporations; MSNBC, CNN, FOX, CBS, ABC, and so on. Those in the ultimate decision-making positions within those companies want to help the defense industry just as any powerful corporation wants to protect its mutual interests. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is the primary driving force behind the misleading war mongering of the news outlets (except for FOX “News”), but rather that the former tends to be the main driving force with the latter as an underlying one.
If you don’t believe the entire media, from FOX to MSNBC, is willing to risk war for a ratings spike or to protect the establishment, consider what happened during the Iraq war. This classic Young Turks clip is perhaps the most famous of them all, as Cenk Uygur goes ballistic over the failure of the media to keep people informed.
A CNN poll reported that five years after September 11th, 43% of Americans still believed that Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for the attack, and that was the primary reason we went to war. The propaganda of the Bush administration was so tremendous and effective it actually convinced a vast majority of Americans of something that was patently untrue. Now, the the hard-right neoconservatives are pushing the exact propaganda and media tactics for war with Iran. During the Bush administration, the media either simply surrendered to wave after wave of propaganda from the president and let themselves get used as his mouthpiece, refusing to question or even comment on the President’s plans (or lack thereof) for war with Iraq, or worse, they would fed directly into the lies themselves (FOX). Now we’re seeing this exact same apathy if not downright lies from the exact same media that is proving once again that it is incompetent and incapable of doing its job of keeping people informed, because just like with Iraq, Iran does not have nuclear weapons, which will bring me into my next point.
I could go on about the media, and I could elaborate my points more, but really Cenk did so incredibly well in that clip, so I’ll just end with his words as an eerie foreshadowing of what would be to come six years after this clip was made.
FACT #3 Iran does not have a nuclear weapon
Iran does not have nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency has not found any strong evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb, and our own intelligence confirms this. Despite this, polling has already shown as many as 71% of Americans think Iran already has one, and 77% of Israelis believe so as well. Already at this early juncture we’re seeing a tremendous failure of the media at keeping people informed. Despite this, an astounding seven out of ten (70%) Americans favor diplomacy over military action; that’s almost the exact same number that believes Iran has a nuclear weapon (as of a few months ago). Could you imagine how many more Americans would not be in favor of military action if they didn’t think Iran had a nuclear weapon?
FACT #4 War mongering incentivizes Iran to develop nuclear weapons
If we, the media and our politicians, keep pushing and pushing for war, Iran will have all the more reason to develop a nuclear weapon. Right now our intelligence indicates they are not developing one, but with neoconservatives and other right-wingers like Mitt Romney swearing to go to war with Iran if elected, then Iran has all the more reason to gear up and get ready for a war. Efraim Halevy, former Israeli Mossad Director, said it best;
“If I’m sitting here in the month of March 2012 reading this, and I’m an Iranian leader, what do I understand? I have nine more months to run as fast as I can [to develop nuclear weapons] because this is going to be terrible if the [Republican candidate for President] gets in.”
For further explanation, once again, I’ll let Cenk do the talking for me because he hits the nail on the head so well.
FACT #5 Right-wing politicians are incentivized to go to war with Iran
To be honest, this point was so obvious I didn’t even put it on the initial list, but given that I try to write my articles for Oklahomans and other typically ill-informed voters I thought I would (briefly) elaborate on this. In America, the primary incentive the Republican Party has for war is profit. Obviously, there’s the underlying factor of oil in Iran that equally drove us to war with Iraq, because at the exact same time North Korea was developing nuclear weapons, still has them to this day, and the United States is doing nothing about it. A more directly profiting motivator for Republicans, as well as many Democrats, however, is the military industrial complex. All the tanks, drones, highly technological weapons, and even some soldiers (mercenaries) come from corporations, just like all products. These corporations get money from the United States government to develop new technological defense systems or weapons, but for that to happen legislators must first approve the money to be spent that way. So, these companies buy our politicians just like any other with large campaign contributions that ultimately help politicians win office, giving the person in question a job and significant power and standing within society. In exchange, that politician supports allocating more money for “defense” spending, which is the largest portion of the American budget.
As a perfect example of the corruption of this system, consider the development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It has cost the US taxpayer $400 billion, and it was supposed to be ready in 2010. Now will be at least 2018 if not even later, and ultimately will cost the taxpayer $1 trillion to develop a single plane. Worst of all, the company producing the plane, Lockheed Martin, the company that is running this operation entirely off of American taxpayer money, is already prepared to sell the plane to twelve other nation’s militaries upon completion, completely defeating the Republican’s argument that it’s for the defense or betterment of America’s military.
Weapon makers are companies just like any other. They buy politicians all the same despite the repercussions of their corruption being far worse given how many lives of American soldiers are on the line. Their corruption of the government is also particularly bad because of just how thoroughly they have purchased it, given that the first 2012 budget spent 59% of all discretionary spending on defense ($553 billion), with the next highest being education at a paltry 6% of the budget. The United States spends about six times as much on defense as the next highest defense-spending nation, China, making up 43% of the entire world’s defense spending. To call our defense budget bloated is a massive understatement, and it’s because of this very corruption I’ve explained.
Of course, for some politicians, particularly the extreme right-wingers of Israel, it’s not just an issue of money, but rather religious ideology. Again, obvious to most folks, these politicians believe God wanted them to be President or Senator or whatever elected office, and that it is their duty to fulfill God’s will (because apparently they’re prophets capable of interpreting what God wants). I have no problem with religious belief, but when you start to try to apply that belief to our system of law, policy, and government is when I start to take issue. Some of these politicians are even so extreme they believe the bible should be taken literally. Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann had connections to Dominionism, or the ideology that Christians should take “dominion” over the entire world and turn it into a single Christian Empire by way of the “seven mountains” of society; media, arts and entertainment, business, family, religion, education, and, of course, government. There is strong evidence that Rick Santorum is an Opus Dei Catholic, an aggressive, disturbingly devout sect of Catholicism that promotes mortification of the flesh and that this life is entirely meaningless compared to the next. Politicians this deeply devout believe in a literal version of the rapture, or the end of the world. In other words, they believe the world is going to inevitably end, and that there’s nothing we as mortals that can do about it. I’m sorry, but that’s just not good enough. I don’t want someone representing me at any level of government that believes there’s nothing humans can do to prevent the world from being destroyed; I only vote for people willing to fight for me. Some of these nutjobs even believe “judgment day” is almost here, and they have appointed themselves (or they think God appointed them) to help make it happen. This is part of the reason why some Republicans don’t believe in global climate change, like Senator Inhofe who once said it’s “outrageous” to believe humans could even be causing global warming because, you guessed it, the bible says otherwise. More importantly, though, are the various wars in the Middle East. It’s supposedly a war that takes place there that ignites the one that leads to the end of days, therefore, the ultra-devout Republicans are incentivized to cause such wars, if only to have the gratification of being right, damning the consequences or toll to human life. If a Republican did get his wish, and cause such terrible unrest in the Middle East, I can’t help but feel a certain smugness would come off of everything they did, as if to say “See atheists? See liberals? We Christians were right all along, and the end of days is here! Proof that I’m right at long last, and we’re all going to die! Yay!”
Yeah, the end of the world is here because you caused it, fucktard. I can’t help but feel these die-hard religious Republicans actually would sacrifice the lives of American soldiers, foreign soldiers, not to mention civilians, and even the lives of every human on the planet just to have the gratification of “knowing” they’re right on the question of religion. Think that’s a too far fetched? Let’s not forget former President George Bush, the President of the greatest nation in the world and undisputed commander of the world’s greatest military, told the French President in 2003 that Gog and Magog, the two agents of Satan responsible for bringing forth the apocalypse, were to come out of Iraq, in an attempt to persuade him to invade. I’m not even joking; Bush tried to convince President Jacques Chirac to invade Iraq (at least partially) because of the biblical prophecy of Gog and Magog. Look, people can make the argument that this obviously wasn’t Bush’s primary reason to invade, but the simple fact that it was on his list of reasons is beyond disturbing. American political leaders get driven by this ultra-religious garbage every day in America, and now they’re interpreting it as “divine reason” to invade Iran. We can’t let that happen. We cannot allow them to re-start the Crusades, possibly the bloodiest time in western history, if not all of human history.
But I digress. Even given the dangers of religious fundamentalism, we’re still not to the most damning, convincing reasons as why not to invade Iran, because what’s better than hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth?
FACT #6 Military and intelligence leaders in America and Israel are all screaming that a war with Iran would be “catastrophic.”
Iran is not Iraq. Iran is not Afghanistan. Its terrain is much more naturally defended, its government is much larger and more influential, its military is much more advanced and powerful, and the list goes on and on. General David Deptula said that a war against Iran for Israel just “ain’t going to be that easy.” If Israel went to war with Iran it would be a diplomatic nightmare for them because their military would have to go through Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or Jordan and Iraq combined. To use their air force, which is considerably smaller than many other nation’s, they would have to use risky tactics and technology such as re-fueling mid-air to make the 2,000 mile round-trip, and even then still wouldn’t even be able to hit all the necessary targets in Iran and run significant risk of being shot down by Iran’s superior defense systems (compared to the rest of the region). On top of that the list of military and intelligence members and professionals that have come out against war with Iran is absolutely staggering. Just to name a few;
Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan says that war with Iran would mean instigating regional war and give Iran all the reason in the world to develop a nuclear weapon, which they currently do not have, making any military action completely and utterly counter-productive. He goes on to say that bombing Iran now would be the “stupidest idea” he’s ever heard, that doing so before exhausting all options prior to war would be flat out wrong, and that Iran is a rational actor that will not fly off the handle and nuke Israel or America.
General Michael Hayden, former Director of the National Security Agency and of the CIA, as well as a fervent supporter of right-wing policy and the Bush administration, said that an attack against Iran would “guarantee that which we are trying to prevent; an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper believes that Iran is guided by a “cost-benefit approach,” meaning they will not attack America or its allies except out of retaliation, and will only develop a nuclear weapon if we give them a reason. This is also the exact belief of our National Intelligence Estimate, the collective opinion of our entire intelligence community, and in total agreement with the highest ranking military official in the United States. You don’t get much more credible than that.
General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces and principle military adviser to the President, says it is “not prudent to attack Iran,” and that it is “unclear” if Iran is even trying to or capable of developing a nuclear weapon. Like Dagan above, Dempsey also believes that Iran is a rational actor and will not start this war themselves.
But even if that’s not high enough of authority for you…
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says that “our intelligence makes clear that [Iran hasn’t] made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon.” IRAN DOES NOT HAVE NUKES.
Finally, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a Republican appointed by the war-mongering George Bush, has come out and said “If you think the war in Iraq was hard, an attack on Iran would, in my opinion, be a catastrophe”
A catastrophe. A God-damn catastrophe. You don’t get much blunter or straight-forward than that. You don’t get more credible sources or higher authority than this. General after general, intelligence director after intelligence director, Secretary of Defense after Secretary of Defense all agree; do NOT go to war with Iran! It would be catastrophic, counter-productive, wasteful of both money and human life, against our intelligence, further wreck havoc on an already greatly destabilized and damaged region, and once again America will go down in history as the country that “struck first” when there was absolutely no need for it, tarnishing our already cursed international reputation, especially in the Middle East. We cannot let history repeat itself. We cannot let the same thing happen with Iran as did Iraq. Already, 71% of Americans believe Iran has a nuclear weapon, which I’ve made painfully clear is not true, or at least unknown. We saw this same majority think Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for the September 11th attacks before invading Iraq. The media failed us on Iraq, and they’ve already failed us on Iran. We cannot count on them to guide us to the right answer. Only you can prevent war with Iran by getting the facts yourself, as I’ve done here. Take a look at the intelligence, not the propaganda. Listen to the military and intelligence leaders, not pundits and politicians. Listen to international sources, not just American ones.
We’ve got to put the breaks on this disaster before it happens. Spread the word as far and loud as you can; do not go to war with Iran! We’ve got to shout it loud enough to pierce through the squabbling of petty politics and the mainstream media!