Tag Archive for debt commission

Solutions to the nation’s Greed Crisis

By Ron Forthofer, as published in the Longmont Ledger, December 12, 2010

Image courtesy of the Sunlight Foundation

During the recent financial crisis, the primarily privately controlled Federal Reserve led an effort that guaranteed almost $13 trillion of taxpayer money to bail out the financial sector.

It was this same sector that, through its crimes and speculation, had almost caused the collapse the world’s financial system. Yet many of these wealthy gamblers were bailed out while the needs of the public were mostly ignored. The interests of the wealthy on Wall Street took precedence over the interests of Main Street. Warren Buffet stated it well in a November 26, 2006, New York Times article: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

When most of the Wall Street bailout occurred,there was nary a word about the consequences for the deficit or long-term debt. However, since then, there has been a steady drumbeat about the debt, with particular concern raised about Social Security and Medicare, two programs that greatly benefit the public.

On Feb. 18, President Obama joined the debt effort when he created a commission to make recommendations on reducing the budget deficit and long-term debt. The commission co-chairmen presented their personal proposals just last week, a few weeks before the full commission’s results are due. As expected, the commission co-chairmen laid out a proposal that mostly, but not completely, targeted programs benefiting the public.

I am personally all for being fiscally responsible, but it needs to be done in a way that protects the public’s interest. For example, instead of the path they took, the co-chairmen could have presented ideas such as:

~ Reinstating the progressive tax levels from the Eisenhower era, thus requiring that those who greatly profited from the financial crimes and speculations of this decade share in the sacrifices demanded of “we the people”;

~ Placing fees on speculative financial trades/activities that would raise large sums while simultaneously decreasing the risk of another financial disaster;

~ Ending corporate welfare;

~ Re-regulating the nation’s utilities to prevent price gouging and to provide better service;

~ Eliminating the endemic fraud and incredible waste in military contracting;

~ Reversing the wasteful privatization of the military effort and other public work;

~ Greatly reducing the military budget, which is almost equal to the rest of the world’s military spending combined; we need a military for defense, not for running an empire;

~ Ending our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and paying reparations for the devastation we’ve caused;

~ And enacting single-payer health-care reform.

The co-chairmen clearly could have taken on the greed, fraud and waste inherent in our corporate-dominated system that benefits the few at the top, but they didn’t. Unfortunately their proposals were not surprising. In “The Wealth of Nations” Adam Smith warned us about a similar situation: “The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”

How much longer will we tolerate the transfer of wealth to the top while we are made poorer and poorer? Almost a century ago Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Which do you want, democracy or oligarchy?

Ron Forthofer was the 2002 Green Party candidate for Colorado Governor. He lives in Longmont.

Message for Alan Simpson: Sit down, shut up, Get lost!

Alan Simpson's lived his life eating at the public trough

When Alan Simpson left the Senate in 1997 to retire to his ranch on a cushy Federal pension, many Americans breathed a sigh of relief that we would no longer be exposed to his thoughtless rants of disregard for “we, the people”. Alas, we are again blasted with his sneering references to the poor and the old as sucking at the “cow” with 310 million “teats”, (a word to which he gives the archaic pronunciation). He hides behind the excuse that he is a “country boy” who is accustomed to “straight talk.” Well, I’m an old country girl who is quite familiar with that same straight talk and ready to give the world the “straight skinny.”

This old fool would have the American public believe that he, due to his years of Senate seniority, has more wisdom than we. This is not true! A look at his biography will demonstrate that, rather than having pulled himself up by his bootstraps, he has always been a child of privilege and that privilege has come from that same old “cow” whose “milk” he does not want to share. His father was a United States Senator before him and every opportunity that he has enjoyed in his life has resulted from his daddy’s position.

Senator Simpson, the younger, was graduated from college with a law degree and admitted to the bar in 1958 with his military obligation already satisfied, due to having spent a year in the Army in service in Germany, a chore which involved no combat. Rather than working hard to establish himself as a practicing attorney, he went straight to “public service” as, first, a lowly Assistant Attorney General of Wyoming, advancing rapidly until he found his way to the U.S. Senate in 1978.

So, for virtually every day of his life, he was supported by Federal funds which enabled him to attend college at a time when others were having to earn their living the hard way. At every step of his career, he benefited from his father’s influence as a United States Senator in political appointments that were not available to the underprivileged hoi polloi for whom he has such disdain.

Now, I not only understand his reference to the “cow”, I also recall the old country adage about dogs. When a new litter of puppies was born, they instinctively claim a position in the nursing order and this order was watched by the owner to see which puppy chose the teat that was most rearward on the mother. This puppy was believed to be the smartest, most healthy, and most desirable pup of the litter because he was the one who “sucked the hind teat.” Obviously, Senator Simpson has been “sucking the hind teat” all his life and it is time he moved over and demonstrated a bit of concern for the rest of the litter, a trait common in the dogs who began in this position.

Those of us with intact memories will recall that Senator Simpson has, from the beginning, been at the forefront of the Republican campaign to repeal every one of the humanitarian measures that have been passed over the years to fight poverty by the maintenance of the poor. From Roosevelt through Johnson, every president has fought to take care of the disabled and the elderly and have done so despite the opposition from the Republicans in Congress. To ask this man now to head a committee charged with the task of returning the national budget to a liquid state should be recognized as an open door to the continuation of his lifelong ambition. His proposals are sufficient evidence of his selfish determination to destroy any opportunity for the non-rich to live their sunset years in peace with a measure of financial security that is still far less then he has attained from his privileged existence.

Along with many other Americans, I have not been able to understand why he was the one whom President Obama called to chair the “deficit committee” but I do believe that Obama is regretting his choice and will not turn to the same pattern the next time he has a problem. I’m sure that Senator Simpson is enjoying his return to the public spotlight but the old codger should be gently replaced in his rocking chair and his Federal pension reduced to the levels of the Social Security upon which his fellow Americans must depend.

This writer is eighty years old and has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own working-class family. She spends her “Sunset Years” in writing and struggling with The System.

Class warfare unabated

By Ron Forthofer
Longmont Times-Call, November 23, 2010

During the recent financial crisis, the privately controlled Federal Reserve led an effort that provided $13 trillion of taxpayer money to bail out the financial sector, which, through crimes and speculation, had almost caused the collapse the world’s financial system. Yet many of these wealthy gamblers were bailed out while the needs of the public were mostly ignored.

Warren Buffett stated it well in a Nov. 26, 2006, New York Times article : “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

During the Wall Street bailout, there was nary a word about the consequences for the deficit or long-term debt. Since then, there has been a steady drumbeat about the debt, with particular concern raised about Social Security and Medicare, two programs that greatly benefit the public.

On Feb. 18, President Obama created a commission to make recommendations on reducing the deficit and long-term debt. The co-chairmen recently presented their proposals, a few weeks before the full commission’s results are due. As expected, they laid out a proposal that mostly, but not completely, targeted programs benefiting the public. I am all for being fiscally responsible, but It needs to be done in a way that protects the public’s interest. The co-chairmen could have presented these Ideas:

• Reinstate the progressive tax levels from the Eisenhower era thus requiring that those who ‘greatly profited from the financial crimes and speculations of this decade share in the sacrifices demanded of “we the people.”
• Place fees on speculative financial activities that would raise large sums and decrease the risk of another financial disaster.
• End corporate welfare.
• Eliminate fraud and waste in military contracting.
• Reverse the wasteful privatization of the military effort and other public work.
• Greatly reduce the military budget. We need a military for defense, not for running an empire.
• End our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and pay reparations for the devastation we caused.
• Enact single-payer health care reform.

The co-chairmen could have taken on the greed, fraud and waste inherent in our corporate dominated system that benefits the few at the top, but they didn’t. Unfortunately, their proposals were not surprising. In “Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith warned that “The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”

How much longer will we tolerate the transfer of wealth to the top while we are made poorer and poorer? Almost a century ago, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned: “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Which do you want: democracy or oligarchy? ‘To get involved, call Carolyn at the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, 303-444-6981.

Ron Forthofer, a retired professor of biostatistics has been a Longmont resident for 19 years.