American Patriotism in Hyper-Drive

 

by WALTER BRASCH

 

It’s midway between Flag Day and Independence Day.

That means several million copies of full-page flags printed on cheap newsprint, June 14, have been burned, shredded, thrown away, or perhaps recycled. It’s an American tradition.

Flag Day was created by President Wilson in 1916 on the eve of the American entry into World War I. It has since been a day to allow Americans to show how patriotic we have become, and give a running start to celebrating the Revolution by buying banners, fireworks, and charcoal briquettes for the upcoming picnic.

 Within American society is a large class of people who fly flags on 30-foot poles in front of their houses and adorn their cars with flag decals and what they believe are patriotic bumper stickers. They are also quick to let everyone know how patriotic they are, and how much less patriotic the rest of us are. But patriotism is far more than flying flags and shouting about liberty in Tea Party rallies.

Find someone wearing socks, T-shirt, bandana, and even a jacket that looks like replicas of the American flag, and you might find a hyper-patriot. Of course, just a few decades ago, they would have spat out their disgust to anti-war protestors or hippies who had so much of a flag patch on their jeans.

Most of these hyper-patriots wrap themselves in the flag and Constitution, but are quick to try to shut off dissent, believe the only true religion is the one they espouse, demand that the police frisk citizens who aren’t White, and declare the Supreme Court is un-American when it doesn’t rule the way they think it should.

Many of the hyper-patriots waved those flags high whenever the U.S. has gone to war, even if that war was created by lies. In Iraq, almost 4,500 Americans have been killed; more than 32,000 were wounded, many of them with lifetime injuries.

Many of the hyper-patriots are insensitive to the problems of the 700,000 Americans, about 70,000 of them veterans, who are homeless on any given day.

They are oblivious to the 46 million Americans, about 16 million of them children, who live in poverty.

They oppose universal health care that would help all Americans, including the 50 million who are currently uninsured.

Many of these hyper-patriots believe unions are un-American, and workers who demand good work conditions and benefits are whiners.

These hyper-patriots are also the ones who believe Social Security should be privatized, oppose Medicare, and go ballistic when they think government is infringing upon rights of the individual. But they believe government should impose standards of what are or are not proper sexual positions for consenting adults.

 Although the unemployment rate has fallen significantly in the past year, 12.7 million Americans are still trying to find work. The response of hyper-patriots has been to block all attempts by President Obama to pass a jobs creation bill. They readily accept corporate welfare and special tax benefits for the wealthy, but look away when corporations send work and their profits out of the country. The Wall Street Journal reports the 11 top American corporations cut 2.9 million jobs in the U.S. and hired 2.4 million overseas.

Since 2000, more than six million manufacturing jobs have been lost, and 50,000 factories closed. Among jobs now being outsourced are customer complaint specialists, medical records transcribers, phone operators, telemarketers, and even newspaper copyeditors.

More than 500,000 call center jobs have been outsourced. This past week, hyper-patriots in the U.S. House of Representatives, voting largely along party lines, blocked a bill that would have barred American companies that outsourced call center jobs from receiving federal grants and loans and would have given further protection to Americans from identity theft by overseas companies.

These hyper-patriots readily buy products made outside the United States, proudly proclaim the great bargains they just scored, and somehow believe they are still patriots.

But here are two statistics hyper-patriots might wish to reflect upon during the three weeks between Flag Day and Independence Day. About 99 percent of legal fireworks used during July 4th celebrations are made in China. The second statistic is that during the past decade, Americans paid more than $93 million for U.S. flags made overseas, most of them from China. Many of those flags are proudly waved by hyper-patriots.

[Walter Brasch was recently honored by the Pennsylvania Press Club with its lifetime Communicator of Achievement award for journalistic excellence and community service. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed novel, Before the First Snow, a look at the American counterculture, including the media.]

 

 

 

American Patriotism in Hyper-Drive

 

by WALTER BRASCH

 

It’s midway between Flag Day and Independence Day.

That means several million copies of full-page flags printed on cheap newsprint, June 14, have been burned, shredded, thrown away, or perhaps recycled. It’s an American tradition.

Flag Day was created by President Wilson in 1916 on the eve of the American entry into World War I. It has since been a day to allow Americans to show how patriotic we have become, and give a running start to celebrating the Revolution by buying banners, fireworks, and charcoal briquettes for the upcoming picnic.

 Within American society is a large class of people who fly flags on 30-foot poles in front of their houses and adorn their cars with flag decals and what they believe are patriotic bumper stickers. They are also quick to let everyone know how patriotic they are, and how much less patriotic the rest of us are. But patriotism is far more than flying flags and shouting about liberty in Tea Party rallies.

Find someone wearing socks, T-shirt, bandana, and even a jacket that looks like replicas of the American flag, and you might find a hyper-patriot. Of course, just a few decades ago, they would have spat out their disgust to anti-war protestors or hippies who had so much of a flag patch on their jeans.

Most of these hyper-patriots wrap themselves in the flag and Constitution, but are quick to try to shut off dissent, believe the only true religion is the one they espouse, demand that the police frisk citizens who aren’t White, and declare the Supreme Court is un-American when it doesn’t rule the way they think it should.

Many of the hyper-patriots waved those flags high whenever the U.S. has gone to war, even if that war was created by lies. In Iraq, almost 4,500 Americans have been killed; more than 32,000 were wounded, many of them with lifetime injuries.

Many of the hyper-patriots are insensitive to the problems of the 700,000 Americans, about 70,000 of them veterans, who are homeless on any given day.

They are oblivious to the 46 million Americans, about 16 million of them children, who live in poverty.

They oppose universal health care that would help all Americans, including the 50 million who are currently uninsured.

Many of these hyper-patriots believe unions are un-American, and workers who demand good work conditions and benefits are whiners.

These hyper-patriots are also the ones who believe Social Security should be privatized, oppose Medicare, and go ballistic when they think government is infringing upon rights of the individual. But they believe government should impose standards of what are or are not proper sexual positions for consenting adults.

 Although the unemployment rate has fallen significantly in the past year, 12.7 million Americans are still trying to find work. The response of hyper-patriots has been to block all attempts by President Obama to pass a jobs creation bill. They readily accept corporate welfare and special tax benefits for the wealthy, but look away when corporations send work and their profits out of the country. The Wall Street Journal reports the 11 top American corporations cut 2.9 million jobs in the U.S. and hired 2.4 million overseas.

Since 2000, more than six million manufacturing jobs have been lost, and 50,000 factories closed. Among jobs now being outsourced are customer complaint specialists, medical records transcribers, phone operators, telemarketers, and even newspaper copyeditors.

More than 500,000 call center jobs have been outsourced. This past week, hyper-patriots in the U.S. House of Representatives, voting largely along party lines, blocked a bill that would have barred American companies that outsourced call center jobs from receiving federal grants and loans and would have given further protection to Americans from identity theft by overseas companies.

These hyper-patriots readily buy products made outside the United States, proudly proclaim the great bargains they just scored, and somehow believe they are still patriots.

But here are two statistics hyper-patriots might wish to reflect upon during the three weeks between Flag Day and Independence Day. About 99 percent of legal fireworks used during July 4th celebrations are made in China. The second statistic is that during the past decade, Americans paid more than $93 million for U.S. flags made overseas, most of them from China. Many of those flags are proudly waved by hyper-patriots.

[Walter Brasch was recently honored by the Pennsylvania Press Club with its lifetime Communicator of Achievement award for journalistic excellence and community service. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed novel, Before the First Snow, a look at the American counterculture, including the media.]

 

 

 

Obama Reclaiming the Frame?

On the policy side of the President's jobs plan and "Buffet Tax" address this morning, reactions are mixed.  At FireDogLake, David Dayden likes the move away from the "grand bargain" territory and what appears to be an early goodbye to the super-committee, while John Walker sees the door to Medicare cuts still open.  Yglesias sees an open door with a line in the sand: not cuts to Medicare without revenue increases.  Aravosis thinks tying increases to even a hint at Medicare cuts is just dumb.  And Ezra Klein thinks the White House has learned it's lesson on chasing the "Compromiser in Chief" title: the public "gives no points for effort," they want results.

But the stand out moment for me was the change in frame in the address.  Bipartisanship/compromise/balance got the obligatory mentions, but overall the speech elludes to a wiser WH.  Via Josh Marshall:

I hope President Obama will keep hitting what I think was his strongest point in his Jobs Act speech. That is, either/or. We can have no new taxes ever for wealthy people or we can save Medicare. But not both.

Either/Or.

For the first time in a long while, Obama today at least hinted at an unwillingness to move his goal-posts closer to where Boehner has set his.  He grabbed the popular position, drew his base line a little more to the left, and reinforced it with a veto threat.  Baby steps.  Not shooting for the moon, but after 1 yr plus of reinforcing the GOP talking points on deficit reduction instead of focusing on jobs, this may be the only way out of the woods for the WH and what's left of the middle class.

I'm still skeptical the goal posts won't be moved a thousand times, especially if the possibility of having debt-ceiling circus redux months before the election scares them off the "either/or" theme (Joan McCarter: it shouldn't!), but today's speech was at least refreshing.

Also, Erica Payne and The Agenda Project, way ahead of them:

 

Jobs Speeches vs. Jobs Plans

I'm on board with those upset over the infuriating optics of the President asking for a speech, Republicans shouting we don't wanna, and the President backing downAgain.  First reaction, for some reason it riled me more than Democrats rolling over in the debt-ceiling debate.  Second, the win here was nil, save a few -- admittedly too rare -- headlines like "The President Actually Tells Republicans No."

Republicans don't want to detract from their debate.  Fine.  The President shouldn't want to detract from that debate either.  It's Rick Perry's big moment, and smart money says that's comedy gold.  No one outside the beltway is going to care about the reschedule, or who looks like the adult in the room by next week.

In fact the speech itself will be a minor blip on the radar compared to any jobs plan itself, if -- a big if -- the President gets real.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, via LA Times:

Who knows what's politically achievable until we try?" Trumka said. "The president should articulate a solution of the size and scale necessary to solve the problem. We have a jobs crisis. … If you do only what you think the other side and the 'tea party' will agree to, then they control the agenda." 

[...]

For those worried about the deficit, Trumka insists that job creation and deficit reduction go hand in hand.

"They complement one another," he said. "You want to get rid of the deficit? Put 25 million people back to work and you won't have a deficit problem."

Trumka gives the Times a detailed plan worth reading, but the point here is behind the details: Set the bar on a jobs plan as high as you can, and use that as a starting point. 

Just like was said in the stimulus debates.  And the health care debates.  And the Bush Tax Cuts debates.  And the debt ceiling "debates."  And...

Republicans will oppose and roll out the hyperbole cannons, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann will say dumb things.   But economically this is a chance to set an agenda and begin addressing an actual problem.  Politically this is the Democrats' last chance before the 14 month circus is in full swing to reset the narrative ceded the GOP.

Voters have already reset, Republicans have shown their hand with Bush's Cantor's jobs plan deregulatory orgy which managed to be even more sucktastic than his last "jobs" plan.  It's not going to take a committee to find a more popular and effective first step:

Over much of the 20th century, America's strong infrastructure investment was a major factor attracting global corporations headquartered in other countries to invest and create jobs here. Rising U.S. standards of living were fueled by a strong infrastructure system that facilitated the growth of companies in America, both global and domestic alike: transportation systems to move people and products, electrical systems to power plants and offices, communications backbones to drive computers and creativity. By 2008, the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies employed over 5.6 million Americans -- nearly 2 million in manufacturing -- and exported $232.4 billion in goods. That's 18.1% of America's total.

(h/t Think Progress)

Genuine Investment in Jobs .. and Infrastructure

The U.S. unemployment rate remains dangerously high, and in some communities, rivals the rates of the Great Depression. Clearly, there is a jobs crisis in this country.  While the temptation for those who are employed might be to be thankful and exhort one another “not to rock the boat,” there is a plethora of reasons why that would be a Very Bad Idea. Ok, the thankful part is probably a good idea.

On the other hand, the boat needs to be rocked. At least a little.  On both sides of the partisan divide, talking heads are beginning to posture. “I stand for job creation.” says one. “No – I stand against all job-killing legislation.” boasts another. “I’m pivoting to focus on jobs.” “I will work tirelessly to focus on what the American people need – jobs.”  If we could create jobs out of hot air, the unemployment rate would be 0.0 percent.

People want and need jobs. Good jobs - that offer a living wage, necessary benefits, and the ability to conceive of a future beyond where you are today. An essential element of the American Dream is a belief in the ability that hard work should be rewarded. But what happens when large groups of our fellow Americans are encountering some of the longest-term and most intractable unemployment seen in decades?  It’s not a problem only for the unemployed, although the point can be made that even if the effects were only felt by the unemployed, it would still be a problem that each of us would be responsible for. However, even in an argument based entirely on self-interest, the current unemployment rates cannot stand.

First, people out of work, unable to find work, and losing hope of finding work, are not spending money. People out of work are losing their homes. People depleting their savings are unable to plan for their children’s education.  Thus, your neighbor’s unemployment may: 1) lower consumer confidence; 2) lower the value of real estate in your neighborhood; and 3) decrease the number of students attending college and/or raise the number of students competing for increasingly limited financial aid.  These are relatively simple examples.  There are more nuanced arguments to be made – for example, herehere, or here.

The solution seems simple. Invest in jobs. After all, it’s become a widely accepted truism that our infrastructure is crumbling. Pay our unemployed to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.  In the words of Aziz Ansari, “Jay-Z has vodka he makes. Jay-Z signs the tab, money goes back into his own pocket!” We need planners, construction workers, architects, clerical workers, lawyers, accountants, and numerous other job titles. They need work. Again, there are more nuanced arguments to be made – for example, herehere, or here.  It may be complicated to figure out how to actually implement and maximize our investment in our future. But it’s not just necessary. It’s imperative.

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