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Book Review: We Can All Do Better by Bill Bradley

Former Senator, New York Knick basketball player, and Olympic athlete Bill Bradley offers his substantial insights into the workings of government and how, by focusing on cooperation and the good of the country instead of party, we can all do better. And by “we” he means all of us – the politicians, the media, and the American people. We are all in this together and only by working together can we find resolutions to all of the challenges that face us here in America.

But accomplishing this won’t be easy. Bradley begins by reminding us that even though politicians all love this country, it is easy for the “members of the club” to become absorbed into the cynicism that dominates Washington DC today. The “duopoly” of the two parties cater to the extremes and the media play along because it is easier – and more profitable – to turn gossip into news than to report honest policy discussions. And the people – you and me – force politicians into playing the game at either end of the spectrum where compromise is seen as treachery, and then turn around and voice our perpetual dissatisfaction because politicians are dancing in the corners in which we have painted them.

Still, Bradley notes that “the sad irony is that many members of the club may be idealists underneath,” and like most Americans living their daily lives, continue to believe in the country’s fundamental health and promise for the future. In the chapter, “Breaking the Logjam,” Bradley offers some concrete proposals to encourage economic growth and job creation in the immediate, the proximate, and the long-term. He dispels some of the common myths (e.g., that the wealthy are “job creators”) and offers solutions that will improve the employment picture now while positioning us to lead the world in the future. His ideas are too numerous to list here, but well worth the time spent reading the book. One quote, though perhaps oversimplified, summarizes his philosophy:

“I cannot emphasize enough the requirement of balance: asking something from everyone. Democrats want the rich to bear the burden; Republicans want primarily the poor to sacrifice. Both political parties champion the middle class and neither asks anything significant of it in this crisis. A true solution cannot give the middle class a pass.”

In short, politicians need to put country ahead of re-election. They need to be honest with us as citizens. And we need to be honest with them – and with ourselves.

In “Celebrating Selflessness,” Bradley provides the most emotionally inspirational chapter of the book. In it he relates stories that contradict the assumption by both parties that human beings are basically selfish. Instead, he says, most people may actually prefer to be unselfish if given the chance by politicians and the media. In “Raising All Boats,” Bradley discusses the major source of disheartenment – that the system is rigged to give all the benefits to the very wealthy while the middle class bears the brunt of the burden. “The elevator is no longer working,” he quotes, meaning that the middle class and the working poor can no longer count on getting ahead by working hard and being honest. This dissatisfaction becomes fertile ground for demagoguery from both parties.

In the remaining chapters Bradley cites such disparate leaders as Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, Wilson, FDR, and Eisenhower as recognizing the critical role of government and how “free markets” dominated during times of robber-barons, monopolies, and “too big to fail.” Further, he addresses our long-standing ambivalence about our role in foreign affairs and how our forthcoming challenges with China stem not from military prowess but from economic domination. In short, while America bickers amongst itself and accomplishes little, China moves its own future forward, which more and more intertwines with the future of the world.

Bradley argues that we need both “collective caring” and “personal responsibility” to move forward. In his final chapter, “The Path to Renewal,” he proposes that solutions should include taxing labor less and things more, adoption of a massive infrastructure program, investments in research, embracing talented immigrants while educating our own citizens for a lifetime in a world of constant change, reduction of our structural budget deficit, and leading the world “by example.”

There is so much more in this relatively short book and I strongly encourage anyone interested in the future of America to read it.

For a full discussion of the book please review the comments and links here.

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August 4, 2012 Posted by | Barack Obama, Book review, Mitt Romney, Republican | , , , , | Leave a comment

Without GOP, Unemployment would be Under 6%

Interesting article here. Especially this part:

President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act in his 2011 State of the Union address, and spent the next year promoting it at every opportunity…The CBO said the bill would not only have paid for itself within 10 years, but would have reduced the deficit by at least 6 billion dollars. According to an analysis by Moody’s it would have created about 1.9 million jobs.

The result of GOP obstruction with those two things cost us 2.3 million jobs and 1.9 million jobs respectively. US employment as of May 2011 is about 155 million jobs, which means those 4.2 million jobs that the GOP has prevented account for 2.7% of the unemployment rate.

To recap:

1) The previous Republican administration of George W. Bush, during most of which the Republicans also controlled both houses of Congress, passed a series of unfunded mandates (e.g., NCLB, Prescription Drugs), started two unending wars (one by deceit) and mismanaged them, eliminated budget surpluses within Bush’s first year in office, increased the debt by a huge margin, and then prior to leaving managed to plunge the USA and the entire world into an economic disaster that would have surpassed the Great Depression if it hadn’t been for the stimulus packages.

2) Starting before President Obama took office the Republican party agreed to vote against any efforts to stimulate the recovery, the Republican party has voted against the creation of millions of jobs through its dozens of votes against job programs, and the Republican party has increased the debt while holding 99% of Americans hostage solely to maintain and expand on tax breaks for the super-rich 1% and tax loopholes for the super-rich megacorporations.  Oh, and the Republican party also voted multiple times against programs that would have helped small businesses (the real job creators).

So after 1) killing the economy, and 2) holding back the recovery, the Republican party now argues that it is all Obama’s fault and the voters should put the very people who 1) killed the economy, and 2) held back the recovery back into office.

= definition of insane

July 11, 2012 Posted by | Barack Obama, Birthers, Jobs, Mitt Romney, Republican, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Forward. This is what President Obama has accomplished for our country

This is what has been accomplished. I dare you to watch the entire video.

Despite Republican obstruction.  Despite the fake-tea party holding 99% of Americans hostage solely to give even more tax breaks to the super-rich 1% and the super-profitabable corporations.  Despite the tea party acting to increase the debt.  Despite the unprecedented use of the filibuster to block even the most simple bills.  Despite the decision by the Republican party before Obama was even in office to vote against everything that would help the country dig its way out of the massive hole the last administration left us in – even to the point of voting against the ideas that Republicans themselves offered and supported.

The achievements of the Obama administration have been extraordinary given where we started from and the Republican decision to throw away economic recovery for partisan expediency.

April 30, 2012 Posted by | 2012, Barack Obama | , , | Leave a comment

Arizona and Michigan Choose Obama in Republican Primary

Today is the big day.  Arizona and Michigan go to the polls to pick their respective choices for the Republican nominee.  And the big winner is…

…President Obama.

Mitt Romney has done an excellent job letting the voters of both states know who he is – a super-rich, out of touch, elitist who just can’t seem to fake this whole communing with the common man thing.  He doesn’t know NASCAR racing, but hey, he has some good friends who own NASCAR racing teams.  He reiterated his belief that the American auto industry – based in Detroit – should have been left to go bankrupt with no intervention, but hey, his wife’s two cars are both Cadillacs.  [Mitt’s cars also are American, though it’s unclear if that only happened recently when he started running for president and knew it would look bad to have foreign cars…you know, like the undocumented foreign workers the company he hired to have his domestic work done were asked to leave because “I can’t have undocumented aliens; I’m running for President.”]

Then there is Rick Santorum.  Well, Jennifer Granholm, Michigan’s former Governor, says it all with:

“The version of Republicanism you are offering is a gift to Democrats looking for recruits. The anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, anti-Muslim, anti-Europe (particularly the French and the Greeks), anti-labor, anti-poor, anti-99 percent and now anti-college graduate rhetoric enables us to eagerly welcome your castoffs into the Democratic Party — where inclusivity is celebrated and their contributions are welcome.”

So no matter which GOP candidate officially wins tonight in the Republican primary, the big winner is President Obama.  Thanks Mitt and Rick (and those other two guys) – you let people know exactly who you are.  And that got President Obama a bunch of new votes in November.

February 28, 2012 Posted by | Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Primary, Rick Santorum, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

President Obama’s State of the Union – All That Matters is the Mission

President Obama ends his State of the Union Address by reminding Congress that the soldiers who got bin Laden worked together to accomplish their mission.

Will Congress do their jobs?  Or will they sacrifice America to play politics?

“This nation is great because we work together as a team.”

As long as we do this, the state of our union will always be strong.

President Obama’s SOTU speech tonight.  He ends it with a reaffirmation of America.  And a challenge to Congress to remember that they work for us. Not themselves.

A full transcript of the prepared speech can be found here on the CNN site.

The section below is the last few paragraphs of the speech, and the part to which I allude above:

“Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind.

One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates — a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary; and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president.

All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job — the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other — because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s someone behind you, watching your back.

So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we’re joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.”

January 24, 2012 Posted by | 2012, Barack Obama, SOTU | , , , | 2 Comments

And the Iowa Tea Party Republican Straw Poll Winner is…Barack Obama

Yes, Barack Obama won the Republican straw poll in Iowa tonight.  A stunning show of support for a sitting Democratic President in a Republican-only poll of various supporters of straws.

Huh?

Technically, the straw poll was won by Michele Bachmann with 29% of the vote, with perennial candidate Ron Paul nipping at her high heels with 28% and Tim Pawlenty ensuring that he will not be taken as a serious candidate based on his 14% of the straw poll vote.  Ex-Pennsylvania something-or-other Rick Santorum got 10% and anti-Islam bigot Herman Cain came in with 9%.  Anyone else on the ballot really doesn’t matter.  Of course, only Romney and Perry matter anyway, but neither was there.

But in the end it was President Obama that won the poll.  Given that Iowa decided to cast all of their votes toward tea party people known for 1) factual inaccuracy, 2) bigotry, 3) extreme right wing social hypocrisy, and 4) more than a wee bit of early onset (figurative) insanity, things are looking up for Obama to get reelected.

Of course, the real Iowa caucuses aren’t for six months so there is a chance that things could change dramatically by then.  And then there is the New Hampshire primary, where people tend to be more Independent and less extreme.  Following that and another skewed right state of South Carolina (where walking the Appalachian trail and “we had sex” rumors have become the talk of the town).  And then the real states get to vote.  So perhaps the GOP will decide they want to win the election before then, but clearly they aren’t there yet.

Until the GOP decides whether they want to be the party of responsible adults (no signs of that yet) or the party of “I am not a witch” and Koch-funded “the poor should pay for tax breaks for the rich to hide more of  their money from taxation,” the country has a choice between President Obama or the nut house.

The jury is still out on which choice we will make.

August 13, 2011 Posted by | Barack Obama, Iowa straw poll | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sarah Palin the False Celebrity, Robert Gates the True American…Both on Tour

I read a fascinating article this morning by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post.  I highly recommend everyone read it in full, which you can do here.  He starts off his piece describing the intellectual dishonesty of Sarah Palin this way:

“It’s not about me,” Sarah Palin said as she rode a bus emblazoned with her name in three-foot letters. “It’s not a publicity-seeking tour,” she told her Fox News interviewer, as the cameras rolled.

It was, rather, “about highlighting the great things about America.” Such as: Donald Trump’s digs at Trump Tower and Fox News headquarters in New York — both stops on her “One Nation” bus tour.

Milbank’s article later goes on to describe other aspects of Palin’s media manipulation and buffoonery.  Interspersed are Milbank’s comments about another tour, of sorts, being undertaken by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.  Gates, who showed true duty to country, served his first two years under former President George W. Bush, then stayed on at current President Barack Obama’s request.  During that time, unlike Sarah Palin, Bob Gates has shown that he loves his country and has a penchant for straight talk and honesty.  According to Milbank:

Gates, who remained on the job at Obama’s request, took on sacred weapons programs at the Pentagon, fired ineffective generals, won the surge in Iraq, revived a crumbling war effort in Afghanistan and got Osama bin Laden.

Gates brought new accountability, firing top officials over the outrages at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the mishandling of nuclear weapons. He fought with Congress and the military bureaucracy to redirect funds toward troop protection. His championing of mine-resistant vehicles saved countless lives, and his push for better Medevac in Afghanistan cut the average time-to-hospital for wounded soldiers to 40 minutes from 100.

His unusual frankness continued right into his farewell tour. During his trip, he affirmed that “everything is on the table” for defense spending cuts, spoke in detail about disputes with China, discussed shortcomings in Afghanistan and acknowledged his disagreement with Obama’s decision to attack Libya.

As I read Milbank’s excellent article I realized that he had succinctly captured the problem with this country.  We reward vacuous and hubristic celebrities who contribute nothing to society, and in fact cynically seek to manipulate society via distortion and dishonesty for their own financial gain.  But we largely ignore the very real and positive contributions of true Americans who have served their country with great humility and capability.

Shame on you Sarah Palin, and shame on all of us Americans who give so much attention to such an insubstantial personality.

Thank you Robert Gates for reminding us what true service to our country and to humanity entails.  PGH hopes that all of us will take the occasion of your coming retirement as an opportunity to reaffirm the values that make this country great.  The values of service, of honesty, and of taking on the difficult battles both here and abroad to keep America the world leader that it has been, continues to be, and will be in the future.  Leadership like yours and the President’s are an inspiration for us all.

If you haven’t already, please read Dana Milbank’s article in the Washington Post.

June 4, 2011 Posted by | Barack Obama, Robert Gates, Sarah Palin | , , | Leave a comment