Sunday, December 28, 2008

Eliminating Nuclear Weapons

Eliminating Nuclear Weapons
By Jerome Grossman

In August 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, bringing death to 300,000 human beings, creating pain and endless suffering in the lives of countless others. Now nine countries have nuclear bombs; many more have the capacity to make them.

Today, there are, in combat readiness, enough bombs to kill the world population many times over….. And there is no defense. Nuclear war could happen any day - by accident, by design, by miscalculation, by terrorism, by madness. The weapons are still on hair-trigger alert, in this country and abroad.

The current review conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty proved that two groups of nations are in collision. The possessors of nuclear weapons want to stop the proliferators and proliferators demand that the nuclear powers reduce and eventually get rid of their own nuclear arsenals in accordance with their treaty commitments.

The United States needs to re-examine its policies that envision an active role for nuclear weapons in future wars and building a new generation of nuclear weapons. The American case against the nuclear weapons plans of Iran and North Korea would be greatly strengthened if the United States were to cut drastically its own stockpiles of nuclear weapons, abandon plans to build new nuclear weapons and approve the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

What happens in nuclear war?

1. Blast - creates enormous pressure, topples buildings and trees. Kills people by shock wave over pressure and wind, by flying debris, by throwing people against fixed objects and by crushing them in collapsing buildings.

2. Fireball - temperatures up to millions of degrees ignite raging fires and kill by flash-burn. People can be burned at great distances. Causes blindness

3. Prompt radiation - kills people close to the explosion by large dose. Smaller doses can cause acute delayed radiation sickness and possibly death. Affects future generations genetically.

4. Fallout radiation - spreads out to large distances, sometimes killing people hundreds of miles from explosion. Causes leukemia and other forms of cancer everywhere on Earth for decades. Increase incidences of stillbirth, tumors, congenital malformations and cataracts.

5. Environment - pollutes water, earth and air. Destroys forests and agriculture by heat and blast. Death by radiation of animals and birds, while radiation resistant bacteria, fungi, viruses and insects flourish.

6. Social disorganization – disruption of medical facilities and energy production, breakdown of government, authority and disaster relief, spreading of disease and epidemics. Fighting for scarce food supplies, despair at the enormous task of reconstruction - with the possibility of another nuclear war in the offing.

On the December 21, on the Fox Television News Sunday hosted by Chris Wallace, Vice President Richard Cheney, made the following stunning statement:

"The president of United States now for 50 years is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a football that contains the nuclear codes that he would use and be authorized to use in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States. He could launch a kind of devastating attack the world's never seen. He doesn't have to check with anybody. He doesn't have to call the Congress. He doesn't have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Is Bipartisanship Good for Democracy?

Is Bipartisanship Good for Democracy?
By Jerome Grossman

In the aftermath of the harsh and bruising 2008 election, there are calls for "bipartisanship". Literally the word means, "Having members from, or representing two parties". However, current political usage implies an era of good feeling during which opposing parties cooperate for the common good.

Is such a coalition approach to government healthy for democracy? Will the submerging of differences lead to the greatest good for the greatest number? Does it bring us closer to one-party rule?

If the Democratic and Republican parties were to place top value on agreement, that would be a recipe for maintaining the status quo, for the easiest course would be to accept current conditions. Change would be difficult. But our democratic system calls for political competition in the same way that our free market capitalist system requires that choices be available to the consumer. There should be more than one product available and then let the market decide.

In politics, different constituencies have different needs and objectives. The function of the parties is to represent them. The four pillars of the Democratic Party are organized labor, African-Americans, women and ethnic minorities. The four pillars of the Republican Party are the religious right, the anti-abortionists, white men, and higher income people. The parties have an obligation to represent and work for the interests of their pillars, otherwise they will have no function and eventually, no pillars.

In our free market system, the rest of the country acts as the consumer, making the decision according to the way they see their own interests affected. Compromise among the competitors is not excluded but ought to be a last resort so as not to blur differences. As the French have told us in another connection, “Vive Le Difference.”

Bipartisanship may have a reassuring and pleasant ring but it is more likely to limit than to enhance democracy. Our goal should be civility and respect for the opposition, but above all, authentic competition.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Next Up: A Battle over Unionization

Next Up: A Battle over Unionization
By Jerome Grossman

In recent decades the number of U. S. workers in unions has declined dramatically from a peak of more than 35% to below 10%. Some of the factors in the decline have been the weakness of industry and manufacturing in America, the lengthy political dominance (now ended) of the anti-union Republican Party, the rulings of the National Labor Relations Board and the sophisticated anti-union tactics that some employers have used to sway or intimidate workers before the first union election.

The unions believe that a bargaining unit should be formed as soon as a majority of workers sign authorization cards. The employers now have the right to call for a subsequent secret ballot vote on unionization. This dual process often results in lengthy delays, angry relationships, employer pressures and legal expense more easily borne by the employer.

For years the labor movement has been trying to pass a law, The Employee Free Choice Act, to take employers out of the decision of the workers to organize themselves by recognizing card check elections as decisive.

The unions base their argument on the National Labor Relations Act, signed in 1935 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which made unionization the national policy, "To protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices......"

Last year, the House of Representatives passed 241 to 185 a bill requiring employers to recognize unions organized by card check. In the Senate, the bill passed 51 to 48 on a party-lined vote but failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to prevent filibuster.

Prospects for passage will be better in 2009. The Democrats will have at least 57 senators, perhaps 58, some GOP senators from heavily unionized states are up for reelection, and the legislation is supported by President-elect Obama, and Vice President-elect Biden.

The unions are already calling the legislation "An economic stimulus package for America's working families." The employers will cite the cost to business in a recession and the sanctity of the secret ballot. The general public may wish to support an increase in share for US workers in the declining American pie, a share that has gone down dramatically since the 1970s.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Presidents Promises

Presidents Promises
By Jerome Grossman

Richard Holbrooke, US Ambassador to the United Nations from 1999 to 2001, and a likely member of the Obama administration, wrote in Foreign Affairs (October 2008) that “It is a well-established historical fact that what candidates say about foreign policy is not always an exact guide to what they will do if elected.”

Franklin Roosevelt promised in 1940 to not send “your boys.........into any foreign wars."

Lyndon Johnson stated in 1964 that he would not send ground troops to Vietnam.

Richard Nixon referred in 1968 to a non-existent "secret plan to get out of Vietnam.”

Jimmy Carter pledged in 1976 to withdraw all US ground troops from South Korea.

Ronald Reagan pledged in 1982 to upgrade US relations with Taiwan to "official" status.

Bill Clinton promised in 1992 to take a strong stand on Bosnia and stand up to the "Butchers of Beijing."

George W. Bush called in 2000 for a "more humble" foreign policy and no more "nation building."

Some candidates believe in their campaign pledges. Others adopt them to win over constituencies. Some change positions upon reaching the White House because the situation has changed. A responsible supporter of a president must make the determination of motive and act accordingly, above all avoiding blind support.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Can Obama Do Change?

Can Obama Do Change?
By Jerome Grossman

Immediately after his election, President-elect Barack Obama was properly deferential to George W. Bush and the U. S. Constitution: "We have only one president at a time." However, it has not worked out that way. Obama has dominated the news every day, with multiple press conferences announcing his teams of advisors and Cabinet appointments while answering questions on foreign and domestic policies. At the same time he makes personal appearances (60 minutes, Meet the Press, etc.) designed to establish close relationships with the citizens.

Clearly, the US has two presidents in effect. As Bush recedes in public consciousness, the outgoing president seems baffled by the Obama phenomenon. Plaintively, he told Charlie Gibson on ABC television that he ran for president in 2000 on a program for change and before that had been elected governor of Texas promising change. Then he giggled.

Some Obama supporters are questioning his appointments drawn from the pool of establishment figures who had worked in high positions in the Clinton and Bush administrations. They worry whether such people can deliver the change promised by Obama in his presidential campaign. There are also complaints that significant sectors of the electorate are unrepresented, particularly labor, liberals and anti-Iraq war activists. Obama supporters also worry that he will not receive a full range of options from teams of centrist advisors. While his appointment of Republicans will give the president the views of the right, it is not matched by views from the left. And this is a Democratic president.

When asked to respond to this situation, Obama says that he is the changer, the idea man, that his appointees were the best qualified to carry out his changes. However, as brilliant as he is, Obama is unlikely to know the full range of options and possibilities and history to change the way the government works in foreign and domestic policies. No one could.

With nostalgia, Obama supporters remember the glory days of the campaign when their candidate led the enormous crowds chanting "We are the people we have been waiting for", emphasizing repeatedly the mantra that change will bubble up from the people. They remember the repeated calls for “Change we can believe in “, and the denunciation of lobbyists: “When I am president, they won’t find a job in my White House “.

These questions have not affected Obama's popularity, now at new heights. Most Americans along with most of the rest of the world are overjoyed that the failed Bush presidency is almost over and that America has repudiated its racist past by electing an African-American as president. Love is in the air but after the honeymoon, Obama will have to deliver.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Where is the Change?

Where is the Change?
By Jerome Grossman

Is it too early to criticize Barack Obama for his program, his appointments, and his policies? He is not yet president but he is dominating the news and influencing markets and foreign-policy as though he had already been inaugurated. At the same time, he tells us that we have only one president at a time and that president is George W. Bush.

Personnel indicates policy, often determines policy, and Obama's appointments are from the establishment on both domestic and foreign affairs. Yet Obama's prime message during his meteoric rise to power was "change". How can establishment figures from both parties install significant change?

Obama’s foreign and military policies will be developed by four power centers: Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and National Security Adviser, Marine General James Jones. All supported the invasion of Iraq; none advocate immediate withdrawal from that country or revision of US world-wide military involvement.

Obama's economic team is dominated by veterans of the Clinton and Bush administrations, who participated in the repeal of financial regulations, an act that precipitated the current crisis. Robert Rubin guided Citicorp to its current bankrupt position, Lawrence Summers was the prime mover for the repeal and Timothy Geithner is a Bush appointee. How can Obama entrust the American economy to these failures?

During his campaign Barack Obama exhorted the adoring crowds of supporters with, “We are the people we have been waiting for". Well, where are these people? He promised reform ideas for fundamental change of the system. The voters projected on him their personal ideals and idiosyncratic hopes for change. They are sure to be disappointed at Obama’s emphasis on traditional experience by establishment figures who brought us to the current crisis.

And a large part of the Obama vote came from liberals. It's fair to ask, "Where are the liberals in the Obama administration?" Obama is seeking support from conservative Republicans, offers to include their ideas and opinions in his programs, and appoints them to key positions, a process that pushes the Obama agenda in a conservative direction.

Do the liberals have the abilities and experience to manage these bureaucracies, to furnish the necessary ideas? For answers consult the Nobel Prize winners, the faculties of our finest universities, the managers of some of our largest businesses. The liberals are there, in big numbers, but not on Obama’s list.

Obama needs to answer important questions about his administration. Where are the liberals? Where are the people who voted against the war? Where are the prescient who warned against financial deregulation? Where are the advisors who will give Obama a full range of policy options to make him a better problem solver and successful president?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Don't Help GM and Ford

Don't Help GM and Ford
By Jerome Grossman

Please don't help General Motors and Ford. Loaning them $25 billion to ride out the world-wide economic perfect storm would be a waste of money. Every patriotic American knows that it is more important to save Baghdad than Detroit, or to put 100,000 Sunnis on the US payroll in Anbar Province for doing nothing, our current policy. Money for the automobile companies could be better spent in Iraq looking for Saddam Hussein's fictitious weapons of mass destruction. The funds saved in Michigan could be given to the Halliburton Corporation for one of their no-bid contracts. There will be plenty of opportunities to spend even more in Iraq now that the government there is about to authorize our presence for the next three years - and maybe longer if enough Iraqis rebel against our occupation and Iraq doesn’t run out of oil. No problem about the money. We have already spent about one trillion dollars in Iraq on an invasion based on lies told to the United Nations and the US Congress. And we didn’t even have a plan, ask Bush and Rumsfeld. Just like GM and Ford don't have a plan. And the generals and government officials and Members of Congress get to fly to Iraq in specially equipped US military jets, flights that cost $100,000 each, just to get their names in the newspapers to tell us that we are winning but whisper that we must stay as long as Iraq has oil and favors US oil companies. Hey, it's only money, better spent in Baghdad than Detroit or to pay for the 700 military bases we have in 130 other countries. First things first.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Money in Politics

Money in Politics
By Jerome Grossman

"Politics has got so expensive that it takes lots of money to even get beat with".
Will Rogers, 1931

"Nothing but money
Is sweeter then honey"
Benjamin Franklin, 1735

"Whoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce"
President James A. Garfield, 1880

"Knowledge - Zzzzp! Money-Zzzzp! - Power! That’s the cycle democracy is built on!
Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie", 1945

How important is money in politics? The Federal Election Commission has recently released the following information:

In 2006 the top spenders won 94% of US House of Representative races:

and 73% of the U.S. Senate races

In 2004 the top spenders won 78% of US House of Representative races

and 88% of the U.S. Senate races

Figures for 2008 election are not yet available but we know that at least $5 billion was spent on Presidential, House, Senate races and that President-elect Barack Obama outspent GOP nominee John McCain by an estimated margin of at least three to one, giving Obama a great advantage in advertising, paid workers, organization.

Clearly, well meant initiatives like the McCain- Feingold election law controlling political spending in elections has failed. However, we cannot cease efforts to make the electoral process fair to candidates with fewer resources. Our national goals of equality and democracy demand continued searches for the right formula.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The War on Recession

The War on Recession
By Jerome Grossman

The success of the Obama administration will be measured primarily by its performance in reviving the United States economy, now sliding toward widespread unemployment, corporate bankruptcy, with a desperate middle-class that has lost its life savings.

The Bush administration, with the assent of the Democratically-controlled Congress, has initiated fiscal policies that point the way for the Obama administration: give federal government money to banks and other corporate entities considered “Too big to fail”; accept in return partial ownership and a measure of control over the subsidized companies. To this menu, subsidies for the citizens must be added. Everybody should be on the gravy train.

This degree of government intervention would have been unthinkable only a few months ago, especially with a conservative Republican president. President Obama will build on the Congressional and Bush precedents by vastly increasing the already sanctified programs, extending them to include many more economic entities under financial pressure, relaxing the qualifications to save or help those with lesser clout. George W. Bush has given Barack Obama political cover.

Opposition to this dramatic and expensive program will be minimal. Some will decry expansion of government power and they will be correct. Others will cite waste and fraud as thousands of companies and millions of individuals get in line for federal dollars and they will be right. In justification of its extension of Bush policy, President Obama needs only to declare a “War on Recession”, the battle to save the American economy from defeat, from deflation, from massive unemployment, from the collapse of US world financial hegemony, from the diminution of Social Security and Medicare, from the possibility that other nations might take advantage of our plight, even challenging us militarily.

The people of America will respond positively to the call to war as they have so many times in the past: the war on terror, the war to save democracy, the war to end war, the Cold War, the war on drugs, the war on poverty, etc., etc. The amount that will be spent on this war will be many times the $700 billion already appropriated but only a fraction of the losses sustained by corporations and private investors. The safety of the nation is at stake. The price is not the decisive factor. We will spend any amount to insure economic stability and to guard against social disruption. All we need is a slogan, The War on Recession to rally public support and achieve focus. The rest is history and it begins on January 20, in President Obama’s inauguration address.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Put Obama in the White House – NOW

Put Obama in the White House – NOW
By Jerome Grossman

President George W. Bush should immediately invite President-Elect Barack Obama to participate in presidential decisions. Don’t wait until Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009. The financial crisis requires immediate coordinated action. We cannot afford to follow the traditional procedure as the economy sinks day by day.
On November 15, the leaders of 20 nations will meet in Washington to discuss the global financial crisis. United world action is absolutely necessary to prevent the utter collapse of stock prices and other financial instruments that are destroying the life savings of millions of people in America and around the globe and generating mass unemployment.
Any agreement signed by President Bush will be subject to the approval or repeal by President Obama in January. Valuable time will be lost as the new administration reviews the new agreement. We cannot afford to wait taking the chance that values and economic activity might decline even further.
President Bush has lost his popularity by a combination of errors and negative circumstances. Breaking tradition by involving Obama in policy decisions in this time of crisis will earn Bush public appreciation for putting America first by sharing power.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How Healthy are the Candidates

How Healthy are the Candidates

By Jerome Grossman

If you apply for residence in a retirement community you will be required to furnish medical information about your present state of health as well as your complete medical history. That information will determine whether or not you will be accepted.

If you are a candidate for president or vice president of the United States of America, with the responsibilities of commander- in- chief and the duty to execute the will of the Congress or vetoing their bills, there is no requirement that you submit to health examination or furnish medical information.

The health of the four major party nominees should be an important consideration to the voters because some past candidates as well as their doctors have concealed serious ailments that could have affected performance in office. Examples include Senator Tom Eagleton (depression), Senator Paul Tsongas (cancer), Senator Bill Bradley(heart), Richard Cheney (heart), Senator John F. Kennedy (Addison's disease), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (heart), Woodrow Wilson (stroke) to name only a few. They didn't tell and their doctors didn't either.

In the current election, John McCain has released more details about his health than the other three nominees but not enough for a complete medical history. He has limb difficulty from his Vietnam War injuries and has had extensive melanoma surgeries.

Barack Obama's campaign has released a single page letter from his doctor attesting to his "excellent health", the only possible medical problem is his difficulty in stopping smoking.

Sarah Palin has released no medical information and has declined to provide any health records.

Joseph Biden has had two brain aneurysms for which he had two major operations with a major complication: a blood clot lodged in his lung.

McCain and Biden clearly have medical histories that might affect their abilities to do their jobs. Obama and Palin appear to have no serious problems but the voters have no way to be sure.

Clearly, there ought to be an organized way of checking all aspects of their health and the information ought to be given to the electorate as a condition for a running for office. The authority to use the nuclear bomb ought to be as jealously guarded as admittance to a retirement community.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Next President's Honeymoon

The Next President's Honeymoon
By Jerome Grossman

The next president will inherit the leadership of a country beset with extraordinary domestic and foreign problems, the solution of which will determine his place in history and his chances for re-election.

The Wall Street implosion has reduced the standard of living for millions of Americans, stifled business activity, dramatically increased unemployment and threatened the value of the dollar.

The Bush administration will have spent at least $1 trillion by inauguration day to rescue the US banking system from the first stage of the emergency. Will there be sufficient funds available to finance the campaign promises on health care, infrastructure, military, education, etc. without running the risk of runaway inflation?

The next president must also resolve the unpopular wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. US troops have been fighting and dying in Afghanistan since 2001, in Iraq since 2003, in Pakistan since 2007 at great cost in blood and treasure. These military engagements cannot continue indefinitely.

The next president may have four years to end these crises, perhaps less, certainly not more. The next election will be congressional and the president had better show serious progress on these issues else his party will suffer at the polls. Then he himself will run for re-election with no chance if the situations are not dramatically improved.

Mount Rushmore will be the reward for success but the choices and the tools available to the next president are limited. New presidents usually have political honeymoons but the next president may have the shortest honeymoon in history.

Friday, October 17, 2008

After The Debate

After The Debate
By Jerome Grossman

At the third debate, John McCain accused Barack Obama of promoting "single-payer" national health insurance, a system that puts every American on the equivalent of Medicare, the efficient low cost system that keeps retirees alive. Barack's response was a grin and "who me?" Then he and McCain outlined their complex health insurance plans that few could understand in detail, plans that would cross a rabbi's eyes.

Neither candidate told us how to revive the crashing economy, joining the professional economists and Nobel Laureates who are also lost. Both candidates support the quick rescue of banks and bankers from their derivative mistakes, but are slow to restore the purchasing power of the American masses by building roads, schools, hospitals etc.

They agree that America is spending beyond its means resulting in enormous deficits. Yet they support expensive military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the largest military establishment in the world including 737 US military bases in 130 countries.

The winner of the debate was the most handsome, the most likable, the most articulate, the smoothest and the youngest performer who overcame an irascible old man, the representative of a collapsing political party facing abject domestic and foreign failure. Obama could have clarified the differences between the parties by asking McCain a simple question: “Is this a good time to talk to you about your plan to privatize Social Security?” But the debate revealed no solutions to the overwhelming problems. If they arrive at all they will come after the Obama inauguration, after the celebration, in the glorious first 100 days - we hope.

And hope will be needed, for the future is a mystery. As pundit David Broder wrote in the Washington Post. “Something strange is happening in this strangest of all presidential contests. The longer it goes on, the less we know about what either of these men would do if he were in the Oval Office next year.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain's Last Gasp

McCain's Last Gasp
By Jerome Grossman

William Kristol, the neo-con columnist at the New York Times, has surrendered the campaign of John McCain. “His campaign is totally overmatched by Obama's........ McCain is doomed.”

Obama's lead in the polls is lengthening. He is far ahead on domestic issues although today’s stock market rally will help McCain by modifying the wave of bad financial news. Public concern about foreign and military policy, issues on which McCain is strong, continues to slide.

Look for a shift in the McCain strategy, away from issues of public policy, away from attacks on Obama's associations, away from Obama's inexperience.

The McCain focus in the last two weeks of the campaign will be his life story, his ancestors, his military service, his five year imprisonment in Hanoi, his bi-partisan initiatives in Congress, his embodiment of the American Hero and American values, making him the person who "deserves to be President."

This story, this strategy, may not work but it appears to be all that McCain has left.
Sic transit gloria mundi

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Best and the Brightest (Part 2)

The Best and the Brightest (Part 2)

By Jerome Grossman

Yesterday I blamed financial leaders and gurus for the financial turmoil destabilizing our country and the world without mentioning their names.

Today's New York Times, October 9, has the errors and the perpetrators in full gory detail led by Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, and especially Alan Greenspan. The heroes, ignored and unacknowledged, who tried and failed to establish an adequate regulatory process were Edward Markey and Brooksley Born.

Read the story and weep, then make sure that the people who made the mistakes do not get another opportunity to repeat.

/ | October 9, 2008
The Reckoning: Taking Hard New Look at a Greenspan Legacy
Derivatives have long had a great supporter in the former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Best and the Brightest

The Best and the Brightest
By Jerome Grossman

The current financial crisis is widely perceived as the greatest threat to the stability of the USA. This threat was

• Not caused by radical Islamic terrorists

• Not by Colombian drug lords

• Not by organized crime

• Not by radical right-wingers

• Not by radical left wingers

• Not by inner-city street gangs

This crisis was created by the best and the brightest Americans

• Educated at our finest universities

• The elite of our society by virtue of talent and riches

• The leading donors to our most deserving charities

• With the blessing of government leaders of both parties

Am I playing the blame game? You bet I am. The best and the brightest profited with enormous salaries, the adoration of the media, the perks accruing to the leaders of society. But they have failed and must step aside for new leaders. David Halberstam warned us that the best and the brightest would fight displacement by blaming others and impersonal forces for their failures as they did in the fiascos of Vietnam and Iraq. We must not allow that to happen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Fair Deal for the Homeowner

A Fair Deal for the Homeowner
By Jerome Grossman

Banks and other financial institutions need capital to replace losses incurred when they bought real estate mortgages that collapsed.

Homeowners need capital to replace losses incurred when they signed real estate mortgages for values that collapsed.

The United States Congress is bailing out the bankers but not the homeowners. Why? According to the Wall Street Journal 10/1/08, "A chorus of business leaders and trade groups urged Washington to enact a financial markets rescue plan…. General Electric Co.... Verizon Communications Inc.... Microsoft..... AT&T..... Caterpillar Inc...... The Business Roundtable...."

Here is a fair question. Who was lobbying for the homeowners? If the US government will buy the mortgages from the banks, mortgages that may or may not prove to be worthless, why not credit each homeowner with his/her share of the bailout to reduce the mortgage and avoid a foreclosure? The banker gets the money, the homeowner stays in the home, and the politician gets wisdom, all for the same amount of money.

Wouldn't that be fair? Wouldn't that satisfy two political constituencies instead of one? Why should one end of the failed transaction be subsidized and not the other? Is it because one has political clout and makes campaign contributions?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How to Spend One Trillion Dollars

How to Spend One Trillion Dollars
By Jerome Grossman

Why should the American taxpayer bail out selected bankers and financial institutions from the consequences of their poor economic decisions, their business mistakes?

Why should the American taxpayer bail out selected homeowners who knowingly signed mortgages they could not afford?

If our objective is to avoid an imminent recession or another Great Depression, why doesn't the United States government spend the $1 trillion by giving it away to the 300 million Americans, every man woman and child, each receiving about $3000, a better way to stimulate the economy?

That stimulus package would immediately find its way into businesses delivering goods and services or into the banks as personal savings. The impact of this money flow would support commercial activity at every level, encourage business investment, and refurbish the capital of banks in the traditional manner.

To clear the question of bank solvency, the U.S. Treasury could declare a brief bank holiday, send bank examiners to every bank to determine solvency by measuring the value of failed loans and investments against valid assets. Then the solvent banks would be given the right to borrow from the U.S. Treasury the discounted value of the failed loans and investments, the borrowed amount to be repaid within a fixed time period, and if not to lose its license.

The best way to avoid recession and economic stagnation is to put purchasing power into the hands of the entire population. We should not subsidize the people and institutions at the top of the financial pyramid. We should subsidize everybody for a jump start and to assure universal participation and quick approval.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gambling with Other People's Money

Gambling with Other People's Money
By Jerome Grossman

I am a Democrat. I support Barack Obama. I have made substantial contributions to the party and to Obama. I am dismayed that John McCain is actually leading Obama in the presidential race in the national polls and in the Electoral College. If the Democrats cannot win the presidency after eight years of Republican incompetence, President Bush's unpopularity, the foreign and military failures, the rising unemployment, then they ought to find another line of work, fold the party, and let another group take over.

Just imagine, the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt hasn't been able to claim the economic issue in this time of crisis. Obama cites as his models for the current emergency the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy when America is trembling over the memory of the1929 stock market crash and the ensuing depression. Republican President Herbert Hoover said that “prosperity was just around the corner” but President FDR instituted radical reforms to restrain the bankers and protect the depositors.

In many ways, the current banking collapse echoes the business and ethical practices of the 1920s when Wall Street and the banks operated under the slogan “anything goes”, especially when it came to gambling with depositors’ money.

After the big bust in 1929, after the 1932 election that swept Herbert Hoover and the Republican Party from power, Roosevelt and the Democrats in Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act that prevented US commercial banks from doing investment-banking business. Repeal of Glass-Steagall, in 1999 when Democrat Bill Clinton was president, allowed commercial banks to enter the securities business and to compete with companies like Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch (may they rest in peace)……..

The model proved hard to manage particularly when virtually every financial institution gave its officers stock options that encouraged the riskiest investment strategies like packaged consumer debts, mortgages, credit card advances, student loans, etc.. Overexpansion of real estate broke the investment bubble and put the entire US banking system in jeopardy.

Why doesn't Obama offer a version of tough FDR regulation? Why doesn't he tell the voters that this is a repeat of an earlier experience, that the government must seriously regulate and restrain the bankers to save the rest of us from their appetites? Perhaps it is because Obama has the same business advisor as Bill Clinton, the same seer who engineered the end of Glass-Steagall, Robert Rubin, once at Goldman Sachs, more recently of Citigroup.

The soul of the Obama campaign is wrapped in the invocation of change. I believe he means it but is held back in applying it to current policies by fear of getting too far ahead of the electorate. But the voters are ahead of him on this issue. They are frightened about losing their savings and their jobs. They want him to clean up the banks, to keep their savings safe, to restrain the gambling with other people's money. And restoration of some form of Glass-Steagall might even win Obama the election.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Phenomenon, Phenomena

Phenomenon, Phenomena
By Jerome Grossman

When the pundits cannot explain a political development, they label it a phenomenon, often defined as an outward sign of the working of a law of nature and therefore beyond human control, or an extraordinary person or thing, and therefore deserving of our admiration and love.

Barack Obama knows about phenomenon. For a year he was regarded as a super person by supporters and detractors. The nation hung on his words, few in number, “change, hope, yes we can”, that transfixed his vast audience who attended his séances to admire his person, his voice, and his demeanor as though he was not of this world. And for a while he wasn't, until he made the mistake of offering mundane specifics instead of directions to Bethlehem.

Now from the frozen tundra comes another unknown figure capturing our imagination, as did Obama, summarizing the American dream of mysterious origin, offering youth, beauty and hidden sexuality, implying solutions but not defining them, putting our desire to adore in a tight capsule.

America is in love again, this time with two different personalities each seeking adoration. The Democrats expect the widespread infatuation with Sarah Palin to fade before Election Day. Don’t be so sure! The Republicans think their luck is an act of God and so does Sarah Palin. The contest seems to be about political hegemony but it tells us more about the culture of 21st century America: our worship of personality and youth and good looks as well as our search for messianic leaders bearing solutions to problems that overwhelm.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Race Will Decide

Race Will Decide
By Jerome Grossman

If Barack Obama had selected Hillary Clinton as his vice president, he would have unified the Democratic Party, obtained the allegiance of her 18 million voters and put the ticket on the road to a landslide victory in November. Sarah Palin would have remained an obscure Governor and John McCain would have insisted on nominating his pal, Joe Lieberman, as his running mate.

The Republican political base would still be depressed, distrustful of McCain and hostile to Lieberman as that team ran to prove they were mavericks, rebels within their parties, hoping for a miracle.

Now we have a presidential campaign fought on personality and abortion and religion. Obama may complain about the personality factor, but he should remember that he defeated Hillary Clinton because he was more likable, not because of his issue positions.

As recently as the 2000 election, McCain stood against the ideologues and moneyed interests of the GOP. His transformation in this election was intended to win the nomination and his selection of Palin was primarily to use her to attack Obama's character. Watch her target: it won't be Joe Biden. Palin will indeed rally the party base, but will that be enough?

Palin's convention speech featured biting and sarcastic partisanship in the style of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, focusing on Obama personally in an attack-dog mode. Instead of presenting herself as a trustworthy leader, she told whom she hates and why. She kept away from the bread and butter concerns of the average voter. In the GOP division of political labor that will be McCain's responsibility taking the high road, while Palin does the attacking on the low road.

The Republican plan should not work. The McCain connection with President Bush, the unpopular war in Iraq, the price of gasoline, the housing crisis, the rising unemployment, the poor economy, should lead to a Democratic victory. Transforming the election into a plebiscite on abortion and religion and race may give the GOP a chance. However, at this time the Democrats appear to have the advantage in money, intensity and organization. Republican efforts are limited by very weak forces on the ground and it will be very difficult to rebuild in less than two months. They will have to motivate supporters through the media.

Race, of course, is the prime factor in this election. Yes, America has made great strides in improving the status of African-Americans. Yes, more blacks have attained middle-class status and good jobs in business and the professions. But a form of tribalism exist in our country that affects virtually all relationships including voting. The electorate is predominantly white and some will vote accordingly. Obstacles to black voting have lessened but still exist. Polling of likely voters does not always reveal true voting intentions.

To win, Barack Obama will need to build multiracial coalitions and that is already in progress. In some ways, that effort is really a test of our society, under improving racial conditions, in support of a candidate with the personality, appearance, education, life history and ability to which most Americans aspire.

The day before the election, Obama will be ahead in the public opinion polls by seven to 10% but that will translate into a very close election as some white voters will change their minds and their votes on Election Day as they have in the recent past. Every vote will be important.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Why Sarah Palin?

Why Sarah Palin?
By Jerome Grossman

For many months, John McCain, along with millions of other Americans, regarded Barack Obama as a phenomenon in the political world, and perhaps beyond. In McCain headquarters, Obama’s name is rarely uttered as he is referred to as “The One”, a mystical title with messianic overtones. He came from nowhere, unannounced and unexpected, clothed in inexperience and a sense of mission.

How long would the Obama phenomenon last? Would it survive the fickle temper of the times, the pressures of American politics? For McCain, the Democratic National Convention was an indication that the media’s love affair with Barack would continue, that the usual Republican strategies and tactics were doomed to failure on November 4.

McCain had seen similar phenomena at the dice tables of Las Vegas where occasionally unknown rookie shooters, inexperienced in the nuances and even the odds of the game, pick up the dice and roll out a long succession of sevens and elevens, making sixes and eights in between as the crowd goes wild. McCain had seen the sly techniques used to throw the lucky shooters off their game: loud noises, a drink spilled onto the table, a manufactured argument.

The nomination of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska for vice-president is McCain's attempt to throw Obama off his game by substituting a competing story line even more improbable than Barack’s. It is an act of political desperation, a “Hail Mary” forward pass thrown in an attempt to stave off inevitable defeat. Nominating Mitt Romney or Tom Ridge as part of a traditional political ticket would not work against “The One”, against the long accumulated guilt feelings of so many Americans, guilt feelings that can now be expressed by voting for this unthreatening assimilated African-American.
McCain's gamble is another indication of the trivialization of American politics. Serious discussion of issues and problems fades behind the attractiveness of personality. Sarah Palin is a former beauty queen and star athlete, unflappable despite her inexperience, secure in her far right conservative Republican beliefs. She will not be diverted by Jay Leno jokes that describe her as a baked Alaska or The Perils of Palin. (Notice how few jokes are told at midnight about Barack? Are the comedians afraid of eternal wrath?) And if Joe Biden patronizes or interrupts her in their debate in his usual style, he will regret the encounter.

Palin's nomination competes with Obama’s in exploiting American guilt by offering voters a choice between correcting the underrepresentation of blacks and women. Of course, the election of President Obama will be more significant than the election of vice-president Palin, but the contest does offer a choice of remedies to historic exclusions: do one now, the other later.

Will Palin attract many of the women who voted for Hillary in the primary elections? I doubt it. Most of them are feminist to some degree, feminists who will be repelled by Palin's ultra conservative positions. Equality for women may be their most important issue, but most of them have a range of liberal beliefs that Palin cannot satisfy.

And this contradiction will be made even more apparent in the campaign as Palin tries to shore up conservative support for McCain, now shaky at best, by telling them of her positions on abortion, guns, death penalty, Iraq war, etc. She cannot satisfy the conservatives and liberals at the same time.

Palin's inexperience, a heartbeat away from the presidency of a 72 year old man with a medical history, may take Obama’s similar inexperience off the political table. In fact, as Bill Clinton has said repeatedly, every new president enters office unprepared for the challenges of presiding over a nation of 300 million people. Clinton should know. His first two years as president were a disaster marked by failures in health care, gay-lesbian policies in the military, etc. culminating in loss of Democratic control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. John F. Kennedy's term began similarly with the Bay of Pigs invasion failure, nuclear war crises with the Soviet Union, and ineffectiveness in dealing with Congress. Republicans Ronald Reagan, Bush the First and Bush the Second had similar problems in mastering the presidency.

McCain fears that Obama may be unstoppable in his advance to Pennsylvania Avenue. As differences on issues fade, as personality and celebrity reach new heights of importance, as race prejudice becomes entwined with historic American guilt, the political trend is unmistakably toward Barack. Sarah Palin will not change the result any more than previous vice-president nominees. John McCain's Hail Mary pass will not prevent the election of “The One”.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why Joe Biden?

Why Joe Biden?
By Jerome Grossman

When Barack Obama presented Joseph Biden to the Democrats of the nation as his personal choice for vice president and Biden accepted, both made verbal blunders unusual for these accomplished and well-prepared orators. Biden called Obama “Barack America” without correcting himself and Obama introduced Biden as “The next president of “The United States” before the crowd corrected him.

If Sigmund Freud had been in the audience he would have analyzed the errors as symptomatic action indicating a concealed problem, an unconscious manifestation of inner conflict, sometimes called buyer's remorse. And he might have been correct.

A senator for 35 years, Biden undermines Obama’s message of hope and change, especially generational change. When Obama confronted his Democratic rivals in the many debates during the primaries, he always pointed out that he was the one who spoke out against the Iraq War while the rival senators voted to authorize President George W. Bush to invade Iraq. Now Obama is selecting a vice president who voted with McCain for the worst blunder since Vietnam. But there was another message in that story that the raging and enthusiastic crowds picked up: that the older generation of political leaders were mired in ineffective and obsolete approaches to government and had to be replaced. That is why Obama did not need specific and detailed programs. That is why Hillary's traditional recipes did not carry the day.

Joe Biden as vice president undercuts the spirit and special nature of the inspired Obama campaign. While he has a moderate to liberal voting record in the Senate and understands the awesome dangers of nuclear weapons, he not only voted for the Iraq War but in August 2003 said he did not regret that vote. His criticisms of the Bush administration on Iraq have focused on its handling of the conflict. His energies were expended primarily on his plan to divide Iraq into three nations, Shi'ite, Sunni, and Kurd, an approach opposed by most Iraqis and one that would keep the US involved there for decades if not permanently.

While Biden voted against the first Iraq War of 1991, he was one of the strongest voices urging US and NATO intervention in Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia. Only last week he flew to the nation of Georgia when President Sakashvili called him, then returned to urge the Congress to establish a $1 billion fund for Georgia reconstruction while calling for “The West to stand up for the rights of free people throughout the region”, using many of the same terms used by John McCain urging that Georgia be admitted to NATO. Will he be the interventionist in the Obama cabinet?

Will Biden lead the attacks on McCain as advertised? I doubt it. Edwards did not do it for Kerry, nor Lieberman for Gore, nor Bentsen for Dukakis, nor Gore for Clinton, etc. etc. The vice presidential nominees promise to do the attacking but rarely deliver, folding in the clutch, not wanting to alienate the public with rough tactics, protecting their political careers.

Will Biden bring votes to the ticket? Unfortunately, he has no political base outside of Delaware and has proven it. He has run twice for president with negligible results, forced to drop out early. As a Catholic who supports Roe v. Wade he will be denied communion by the same bishops who denied it to John Kerry, limiting his effectiveness with that group.

The selection of Joe Biden seems to square with the many centrist changes in foreign and domestic policy that Obama has made since he became the virtual nominee. It is difficult to see these tactics as flowing from a comprehensive strategy. More and more the Obama campaign slips into a traditional mode. The excitement generated by the Obama challenge has diminished as the emphasis on change has slipped.

That does not mean defeat. The country is sick of Bush and Republican incompetence. Economic recession, as well as failures in Iraq and Katrina to name just a few, ought to mean a Democratic victory in the White House as it will surely be in the Congress. But it will be in traditional political terms, not in the revolutionary concepts implied if not stated in inspirational hope and institutional changes that brought millions to the side of Barack Obama and won him the nomination.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Georgia on My Mind

Georgia on My Mind
By Jerome Grossman

During his long presidential campaign when he also had responsibilities and duties as a United States Senator, John McCain found the time to make three separate trips to the nation of Georgia, a country of less than 5 million people, whose main claim to importance was a pipeline carrying oil from wells owned by western companies in the Caspian Sea basin.

McCain chief policy adviser Randy Scheunemann and his business partner lobbied McCain or his staff on 49 occasions in a 3 1/2 year span while being paid $830,000 dollars by the government of Georgia. Scheunemann stopped lobbying for Georgia this March but retains an interest in the lobbying firm that signed a new $200,000 agreement with the Georgian government.

McCain’s time spent in Georgia is noteworthy because it affected his campaign: he has not found the time to visit a number of states in the US whose votes he will need to be elected president. Clearly he was not seeking votes in nation Georgia but perhaps he was looking for campaign contributions. Contributions from foreign governments and citizens are illegal but American oil companies may have shown their gratitude.

On August 13, McCain told reporters, “In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations,” as he denounced the Russian invasion of Georgia. The irony of that statement was not lost on the rest of the world given the US invasion of Iraq after the United Nations refused to authorize US invasion of Iraq. The US invaded on its own. So much for the McCain version of history.

McCain insists that the Russian invasion was a “setback for democracy” because President Saakashvili had been elected twice. But he doesn't tell that that president declared martial law in Georgia last November using tear gas and rubber bullets on Georgian citizens, shutting down an opposition television station too.

US officials have stressed that the White House and State Department repeatedly warned President Saakashvili and his government against responding to Russian military provocations in ways that could spark a broader conflict. A Georgian official confirmed this. But Saakashvili took the Russian bait and made the first military move in South Ossetia, responding to small-scale local violence with heavy handed military. Saakashvili was conferring with McCain by telephone virtually every day. What kind of advice did he receive? That “We are all Georgians?” That the US would ride to the rescue?

McCain has some explaining to do. Did his interest in Georgia promote campaign contributions? Is his foreign-policy basically run by lobbyists and in some cases lobbyists for foreign governments? Does that put him in direct conflict with the US State Department and even the Secretary of Defense? How reliable is his judgment? Is he a risk taker whose first instinct is to use the military? Or promise it when he shouldn’t?

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Chinese Olympic and Humiliation

The Chinese Olympic and Humiliation
By Jerome Grossman

For China the Olympics are a demonstration of the ascendancy of the host nation -from historic international humiliation “to the gate of greatness.” The Chinese investment was enormous, $40 billion, 10 times the amount spent by any country in previous Olympics. Large sections of Beijing were refitted; enormous efforts tried to control and minimize pollution; the city was beautified in its buildings and public art; every effort was made to make housing and accommodations and entertainment pleasant for foreign guests. The organization and precision of the opening ceremonies stunned the entire world.

The Chinese were out to prove that their system of capitalist authoritarianism is a success, with national goals that their Gross Domestic Product will surpass the United States by 2025 and that they will dominate the 21st century as America dominated the 20th.

But the Chinese are careful not to threaten the US, their best customer. Their emphasis is on economic primacy, not military, not interventionist. While they have modernized the military establishment, they have not built their capacity to a threatening level. For example, their nuclear arsenal has only about 200 capable of reaching the US while the US has 10,000 capable of reaching China and an armed American fleet regularly prowls the Western Pacific.

The Chinese have serious problems that may prevent realization of national goals: too many people to be adequately supported, especially the elderly beneficiaries of the health system, who must be supported in retirement; unrest among the workers as inequality of income grows; an overrated economy not yet capable of using all modern technology; environmental problems that affect the health of all Chinese; rejection of the state ideology by some members of the intellectual and underprivileged classes.

However, all Chinese are united in hosting the Olympics as a demonstration that the humiliating legacy of the domination by foreigners has ended. The humiliation began with China's defeat in the Opium Wars in the 19th century; continued when the 1919 Treaty of Versailles allotted port concessions to European governments to profit from goods entering and exiting China; the treatment of Chinese laborers in the US; the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and China proper; the British seizure of Hong Kong; the Portuguese control Macao; the separation of Taiwan, etc. etc..

The Chinese want the world to know that those days are over. In 2001, the National People's Congress passed a law establishing a National Humiliation Day. The leaders, past and present, of all parties and factions scorned the humiliating insults to the Chinese people, the yoke, the suffering, uniting such diverse political figures and Sun Yatsen, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Ze Dong.

So the Chinese Olympics are much more than a series of pageants and athletic contests. They are an emotional, national, prideful statement: we have arrived; there will be no more humiliation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Choosing a Vice President

Choosing a Vice President
By Jerome Grossman

Most voters, indeed the overwhelming number, select their choice for president on the top of the ticket, only rarely on the nominee for vice president. The media pay attention to the choice of the V.P.nominee mainly in dull news cycles or just before the choice is made.

In the current election, the race is so close that the vice president might be selected if he / she can help the ticket carry a state or two. The four states with the largest numbers of electoral votes are California, New York, Texas, and Florida. California and New York are sure things for Obama, Texas is for McCain, but Florida could go either way and decide the election.

Approaching the election this way in a state-by-state countdown, McCain is likely to nominate Governor Charles Crist of Florida, a proven vote-getter. Obama is competitive, only one or two points behind in Florida, and may select Bob Graham, another popular Floridian, former Governor, former Senator, former presidential candidate, former chair of U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, who voted against authorizing the Iraq war in the crucial vote of October 2002.

Another approach is to select a vice president who has special qualifications in areas where the presidential nominee is weak. McCain admits he knows little about economics. Mitt Romney could help here, citing his managerial experience as Massachusetts Governor and his successful business career. They would run as a team, one handling foreign and military affairs, the other promising to pull the nation out of recession, covering all the bases, maybe a winning team.

Obama also has gaps in his experience, gaps that will certainly be exploited by the opposition. He is most likely to be attacked for his lack of military experience and expertise especially when the nation is fighting two wars.. General Wesley Clark, successful commander of NATO forces in the Bosnia war, or Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island could fill the bill with grace, knowledge and public approval. Reed is a graduate of West Point, served as a paratrooper, and is vice chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee where he holds the respect of Republicans and Democrats alike for his judgment and technical knowledge.

Within the next few weeks, Obama and McCain will make their decisions. The potential vice presidents will not be chosen primarily for their ability to be president, although that will be the cover story, and maybe some will have that ability. But the dominant factors in the decisions will be - can that person help to win the election.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dollars and Diplomacy

Dollars and Diplomacy
By Jerome Grossman

Barack Obama and John McCain dispute the reasons for the decline in violence in Iraq, now at its lowest level in years. McCain emphasizes the effectiveness of the “surge” troops, 30,000 additional American combat soldiers. Obama appreciates the surge but emphasizes the political rapprochement between Iraqi factions. Neither Obama nor McCain give us the whole story and its implications for the future.

Before the 30,000 surge there were about 150,000 coalition forces in Iraq, mostly American and mostly combat soldiers. However, another 150,000 contractors were on the scene working for the US military, not in uniform but armed for self protection, feeding the troops, guarding US installations, repairing damaged sites, etc., doing what American uniformed soldiers have always done in past wars, but this time working for private contractors for high wages and corporate profits. The point is that the total Allied force was 300,000 making the surge increase only ten percent.

The decrease in violence was located in all of Iraq, yet the 30,000 surge was concentrated in Baghdad. In that city the troops concentrated on weakening the Mahdi Army, a militia controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric close to Iran who had already issued a cease-fire order to his minions.

The surge operation in Baghdad was aided by a new program called Sons of Iraq that employed Sunnis who were formerly insurgents, paying them $10 a day and giving them guns for their pseudo police powers. This strategy had already worked in Anbar province well before the start of the surge. There, the US military hired 90,000 Sunnis at $30 a month plus guns to maintain order and to disarm the few Al Qaeda partisans who had infiltrated into the country from foreign lands. Part of the Sunni motivation in accepting the American deal was to prepare themselves for the show-down when the US forces leave Iraq.

Iran may have been included in the arrangements. Neither the US command in Iraq nor their superiors in Washington are now accusing Iran of supporting insurgency in Iraq, quite a change from previous charges. In addition, cleric al-Sadr, still close to Iran, has shut down his militia. And the US does not have an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf for the first time in decades. The whole world has noticed that William Burns, the number three person in the US State Department, participated in a meeting with a representative of Iran, the first such meeting since 1979.

Has a deal been made? If so, the surge may have been the cover story for US home consumption, while the real story was investment in dollars and diplomacy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Axis of Evil

Axis of Evil
By Jerome Grossman
President Bush has decided to abandon his long-standing position that his administration would not meet face-to-face with Iran until Tehran suspended its uranium enrichment program. A senior American official recently participated in talks with Iranian officials, the first such meeting since the seizure of the US Embassy by Iranian militants in Tehran in 1979.

This policy shift followed President Bush's announcement in late June that the United States would remove North Korea from the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. This was in response to progress in the effort with Asian nations to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice then met with the North Korean Foreign Minister.

In late July, Prime Minister Nuri al-Malakai insisted that the United States agree to a timetable for withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. President Bush and General Petraeus agree with him in principle although not on a precise date.

These dramatic changes in administration policies have astonished the world and infuriated hard-liners -- many of whom once worked for Bush. The harsh rhetoric, the name calling, the military threats made against these nations have diminished. The "Axis of Evil" used by Bush in his 2002 State of the Union address is no longer part of his vocabulary.

The invasion of Iraq is now almost universally regarded as a mistake. The diplomatic maneuvers with North Korea and Iran are clearly the better road to solutions of long-standing differences, solutions with low cost in lives and treasure.

As Winston Churchill remarked at a White House luncheon in 1954 at the height of the Cold War, "It is better to jaw - jaw than to war - war."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The U.S. and Israel on Iran

The U.S. and Israel on Iran
By Jerome Grossman

The United States of America and the State of Israel are the closest of allies, sharing intelligence, weapons, military research, among many other joint ventures. They support each other's policies at the United Nations and other international venues with only rare exceptions.

Policy on Iran may be one of those rare exceptions. Responsible Israeli officials have made their positions clear: Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and Iranian protestations that their development of nuclear power is only for civilian electricity is not to be believed. Furthermore, that Iranian President Ahmedinejad's threat "to wipe Israel off the map" represents Iranian policy.

Some Israeli leaders want to launch a preemptive attack. Israeli official Shaul Mofaz said recently, "If Iran continues its program to develop nuclear weapons, we will attack it."

In a New York Times op-ed, July 18, 2008, Benny Morris, an influential moderate and former Israeli official warned, "Israel will almost surely attack Iran's nuclear sites in the next four to seven months."

Recently, the Israeli Air Force conducted a massive war game over the Mediterranean that was interpreted as a demonstration of Israeli ability to mount a serious and effective attack on Iranian installations.

However, US policy now seems to be headed in another direction. In the past, American policy placed Iran in the Axis of Evil, condemned it as a terrorist regime, passed a resolution in the U.S. Senate demanding regime change, appropriated money for Iranian dissidents, and refused to establish any diplomatic contact with the Iranian government.

Now, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates says, “We are not planning for a war with Iran,” Admiral Mike Mullen Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff supports him. Accusations of Iranian interference in Iraq have diminished. Most importantly, the Bush administration is planning to establish an American diplomatic presence in Iran for the first time since Iranian extremists seized American hostages and occupied the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Is the US sending a message to Israel not to attack Iran? Is the US sending a message to Middle East nations disassociating itself from an Israeli attack? Has US intelligence decided that the Israelis are serious in their threats?

The effects of an Israeli - Iran war would be world wide. The Muslim world would explode and attack western interests everywhere they could. Rulers of Muslim nations friendly to the west and clients of the US might be overthrown. The price of oil would probably reach $400 per barrel assuming that any oil at all would be shipped to the west. Worldwide energy shortages and commercial disruption would likely cause a financial collapse.

The stakes could not be higher, considering that Barack Obama told the US Israeli lobby AIPAC on June 4, "My goal will be to eliminate the threat (to Israel) posed by Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. (Pause) Everything. The pause is scary.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Obama and McCain on Iraq

Obama and McCain on Iraq
By Jerome Grossman

Whether Barack Obama or John McCain is elected president, it is difficult to imagine a full withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

McCain insists on complete victory, refuses to ask Iraq's leaders to take responsibility for their own future, and has completely changed his own stated position that he would leave Iraq when the Iraqis ask us.

Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki has indeed asked for a set timetable for US withdrawal but the silence from Bush, McCain and Obama has been deafening. McCain has forsworn deadlines for troop withdrawal without support for al-Maliki's position.

Obama's reaction is loaded with hedges:” If current trends continue and we are at a position where we continue to see reductions in violence and continue to see some improvements on the part of the Iraqi army and Iraqi police, then my hope would be that we could draw down in a deliberate fashion in consultation with the Iraqi government at a pace that is determined in consultation with General Petraeus and the other commanders on the ground."

Obama approaches his consultations with the military in a defensive position. “Precisely because I have not served in uniform, I am somebody who strongly believes I have to earn the trust of men and women in uniform." Does this sentiment weaken the historic civilian control of the US military?

MSNBC's crack reporter David Gregory interprets Obama: "When Obama says we have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in, that's the line, that's a signal that says he's not yanking (troops) out right away." Careless is a gross understatement, leaving unsaid the misrepresentations and lies on intelligence, on weapons of mass destruction, as well as the US ignoring the refusal of the Security Council of the United Nations to give legal sanctions to the US invasion.

In any case, both McCain and Obama plan for a residual US military force to fight Al Qaeda and insurgents, to train the Iraqi military, and to protect the US Embassy and US military bases in Iraq. That is the likely key to US policy in Iraq under either administration. The US is the dominant military, economic and political power on the planet and surely wants to remain in that position. It is inconceivable that the US would give up its control of the Middle East, an area that contains more than 40% of the oil reserves on earth. We now know that the supply of oil is finite, that modern society cannot function without oil, that the price of oil can be stretched to extraordinary heights. We cannot and will not walk away from the trillions of dollars involved and the power over all other nations we can exercise by control of oil.

After the investments the US has made in life, treasure and reputation, after the incompetence of the Bush administration in destroying the system it had in place for dominating the area without US troops, the American empire is surely not going to divest itself of this incalculable asset. No other empire in human history has done that. We won't either.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Unequal America

Unequal America
By Jerome Grossman

We pride ourselves as the prime purveyors of equality, the distinguishing characteristic of Democracy. More than a century ago, in 1879, Matthew Arnold reminded us that “Inequality has the natural and necessary effect, under the present circumstances, of materializing our upper class, vulgarizing our middle class, and brutalizing our lower class.”

The Wall Street Journal tells us that “The gap between the winners and losers in the US is growing…… that even excluding capital gains, 75% of the pretax income growth (in years 2002 – 2006) went to the best-off 1% of American families.”

Harvard Magazine features a study entitled “Unequal America, the growing gap”, relating inequality of income to the US decrease in life expectancy in absolute terms and in comparison to other nations. Harvard University, with its endowment of some $35 billion, is surely expert in inequality

Warren Buffett, patron saint of American capitalism, repeatedly expresses his personal guilt at the injustice of his secretary paying her income tax at a rate much higher than he pays on his billion-dollar income. Does this astute collector of insurance companies’ sense a potential revolt of the 99% against the one percent, remembering 1789, 1917, and 1948?

We are currently engaged in a great political battle to determine the direction of our great nation. But the basic question about fair distribution of the economic benefits of our enormously wealthy society is not being seriously addressed. How does inequality affect our national health, our rate of crime, our pursuit of happiness, our level of education, our economic productivity? And above all, what does it portend for the future of our prized Democracy.

When some Americans earn billions, their taxes, their fair share of the cost of maintaining our society-must rise dramatically. When some Americans earn less than a poverty wage, their benefits must rise dramatically. In a stable society in which the rich can enjoy their wealth, in which all will have sufficient benefits to motivate support for that society, some form of redistribution of income will be necessary. But we may not have to put a camel through the eye of a needle to accomplish this.

The candidates for the presidency must address these basic questions. Their supporters must demand answers. Inequality is a crisis for Democracy and the political process is the way to a solution.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Message from Council for A Livable World

A Message from Council for A Livable World

The older generation has an important political and moral responsibility to educate the younger generation about the dangers of nuclear weapons and how these dangers can be defused.

Freed from a constant nuclear standoff as a dominant fact of international life, the younger generations have never experienced a face off with another nuclear superpower that could have exploded in mere moments into a nuclear holocaust.

Nor did these newer generations hide under their desks in elementary school as a practice exercise for nuclear war or contemplate civil defense shelters in which to survive for weeks or months.

With the median age in America now about 36; fifty percent of the nation has little memory of events before the 1980’s. Hiroshima and Nagasaki don’t carry the same emotional and moral impact.

In 2007, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, born in 1972, confessed her mystification when a reporter mentioned the Cuban Missile crisis. “Wasn’t that like the Bay of Pigs thing?” she later asked her husband.

Now is a good time to remind all six billion humans and especially the younger generations that the global nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) had its 40th anniversary on July 1. The NPT, with its rules for nuclear weapons and nuclear power, makes it more difficult for states without nuclear weapons to obtain or build them.

The treaty has not worked perfectly, but has helped sustain a near-miracle that only four additional countries beyond the original five possessors have nuclear weapons. Equally important, Article VI of the treaty commits the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France to achieve nuclear disarmament.

The anniversary of the non-proliferation treaty should be celebrated - mainly by strengthening it and pursuing the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. Popular education and political support for these efforts must be expanded; the older generation has the memories and the fears to lead the way

Jerome Grossman is Chairman Emeritus of Council for A Livable World

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Will We Ever Leave Iraq?

Will We Ever Leave Iraq?
By Jerome Grossman

Before the United States invaded Iraq, it sought the approval of the Security Council of the United Nations. Secretary of State Colin Powell, supported by George Tenet, Director of the CIA, presented the US case against the government of Saddam Hussein in great detail. However, in a formal vote, the Security Council refused to authorize the attack.

In violation of its obligations under the UN charter, the Bush administration went ahead with the invasion. Within a few weeks, the American forces were in complete control of Iraq and the Saddam government had disappeared.

Then, in a remarkable display of imperial chutzpah, the US government applied to the United Nations for the authority to administer the affairs of the conquered nation. On May 22, 2003, the Security Council adopted resolution 1483 granting the US and its allies a broad mandate to run the country. In the name of humanitarian relief and the reconstruction of Iraq, the United Nations gave to the US the authority it had refused three months earlier; an acceptance of the military victory and a submission to the power of the US.

This mandate expires on December 31. As a legal substitute, conditions for US presence in Iraq will be authorized by the elected Iraqi government, supported militarily and financially by the US government. The two parties have been negotiating a status of forces agreement similar to other agreements the US has signed in connection with the 737 military bases it has in 130 countries.

However, the Iraqi puppet government has resisted the terms demanded by the conquerors who installed them. The US is demanding 58 military bases, the right to remain in the country indefinitely, the power to determine whether a hostile act from another country is aggression against Iraq, control over Iraqi airspace up to 30,000 feet, immunity from prosecution for US troops and private military contractors, and the right to continue to carry out military operations.

One senior Shiite politician close to Prime Minister Nouri-Al-Maliki said, “The Americans are making demands that would lead to the colonization of Iraq.” The supreme Shiite religious figures Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran and Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq have urged Maliki to reject US terms. Many Iraqi officials are questioning the need for US troop presence under these terms.

The political system is working in Iraq. The negotiations are being discussed openly by the executive and legislative branches. The legislature demanded and obtained the right to approve or reject. But in the United States, discussion and challenges are muted. From the Senate has come a weak call for the agreement to be considered a treaty to be ratified by a two thirds vote: however, the Bush administration wants to treat it as an Executive Agreement not subject to Senate ratification. The presidential candidates spar on Iraq policy but do not analyze and discuss the proposed agreement. The American public, strongly against the war, has not reacted to these negotiations.

If we will leave Iraq soon, why do we need any agreement? Fifty-eight military bases are expensive to build and maintain. Do they imply permanent military presence? Control of airspace indicates control of Iraqi military operations. Immunity for US troops may be an arguable demand but to spread this immunity to civilian contractors significantly diminishes Iraqi sovereignty.

If the parties fail to reach agreement, the US will surely continue to operate without legal sanction whether or not the Iraqis like it. The entire operation was illicit from the start: violation of the U.S. Constitution by going to war without a declaration by Congress, violation of the UN Charter provision against cross-border invasion without approval of the Security Council, falsification of intelligence, falsification of conspiracy between Saddam and Al Qaeda, lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq etc..

But the most important question is whether the proposed agreement is an indication that Iraq will become another one of the string of US bases around the world enforcing our unique superpower status and locating US military power at the heart of the largest concentration of oil on the Earth. Can we afford to continue this expense in lives and treasure indefinitely or even for the next decade? We made a mistake in our illegal invasion of Iraq. We should not compound the error with a permanent occupation.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Why Hillary Lost

Why Hillary Lost
By Jerome Grossman

Many wondered why Hillary put up with Bill’s numerous infidelities. In addition to the authentic personal relationship, this marriage was a full partnership of two brilliant minds, politically ambitious, organized to help both achieve their lofty goals.

By Bill’s second term, Hillary's run for the White House had been determined and planned. Formal experience was to be obtained in the U.S. Senate, not from the byway of Arkansas, but in the Big Apple, the world center of media and finance, for maximum personal publicity and proximity to Wall Street wealth.

During the Clinton presidency, the military gained significant power over the civilian leadership, using the president's lack of military service and draft evasion to get its way on the military budget and procurement policies. Bill’s aversion to foreign military adventure was overcome by framing intervention for humanitarian reasons. At a cabinet meeting, Madeleine Albright, then Ambassador to the United Nations, asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, during a discussion of intervention in Bosnia, “What is the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about, if we can't use it?”

Like Clinton, Powell had his doubts, but the so-called humanitarian military interventions were carried out in Bosnia, Serbia, Haiti, Somalia and four days of intensive bombing of Iraq. The intellectual and political groundwork for ignoring the lessons of Vietnam had been established.

And the nation approved. In Congress, there was virtually no opposition, no legislative authorization, and no declaration of war, in the streets, no demonstrations. The stabilization of the former Yugoslavia and the expansion of NATO to the Black Sea were accepted as indications that the Balkan interventions were in the national interest.

Hillary got the message. Upon election to the Senate, she used all the influence she could muster to obtain appointment to the Armed Services Committee, where she acquired detailed knowledge and cooperated with the military brass.

Nevertheless, Hillary believed that her biggest problem in her drive for the presidency would be whether the voters would accept a woman as Commander- in -Chief in time of war. Would a woman, even Hillary, be tough enough, resolute enough, to make decisions that will cause loss of life and limb, to attack, to command, as men do?

So when on October 10, 2002 the resolution authorizing the president to attack Iraq came before the Senate, Hillary voted for it, as did 75 other senators, including her main rivals for the Democratic nomination for president, Joseph Biden, Christopher Dodd and John Edwards. It was an easy decision - another humanitarian intervention to overthrow Saddam Hussein that had proved so popular during Bill’s terms.

When the presidential campaign began in 2007, the mood of the voters had shifted dramatically on the Iraq War. The insurgency was causing all sorts of trouble. American dead and wounded was increasing, the dollar cost was enormous, and the war was generally regarded as an unsuccessful mistake. The policy of humanitarian intervention had been discredited.

Only one major candidate, Senator Barack Obama, had the record of opposition to the war and the resources to tell his story to the nation. Most voters did not know that Obama had not been in the Senate to vote on the war authorization, but that did not make a difference. They welcomed and honored his local opposition in Illinois. When the voters appraised Obama, they found a compelling personality, an accomplished orator, with an efficient organization to carry his message. The opponents of the war swarmed to support Obama. Instead of the traditional anti-war demonstrations, they gave their money, their energies and their votes to Obama as a way to stop the war. Luckily for Obama, the first political test was in Iowa, a bastion of anti-war sentiment, where Obama won the caucuses and Hillary ran a poor third. At the time of the Iowa caucuses, anti Iraq War sentiment was at its peak, dominating the news and political sentiment. The voters met Obama and were charmed by his talent and stimulated by his message. Hillary had become irrelevant on the war.

Hillary did make a comeback in the last 10 primaries, winning a majority of them. By late spring, the mood of the nation had changed. The Iraq war was no longer leading the news; the country was wrapped into domestic affairs: the recession, the price of gasoline, the cost of health care, etc.issues that did not inspire big turnouts for Obama. The pocketbook issues favored Hillary.

But it was too late for Hillary. Obama had captured the soul of the Democratic Party, was the certain nominee and the likely president. Hillary had applied the lessons learned in an earlier decade, had made a political decision using conventional wisdom, failing to anticipate the roaring change in her party and the nation.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Diplomacy and Negotiation

Diplomacy and Negotiation
By Jerome Grossman

At a White House luncheon, June 26, 1954, at the height of the Cold War and McCarthyism, Winston Churchill remarked, "To jaw- jaw is always better than to war-war."

In his inaugural address, January 20, 1961, also during the Cold War, President John F. Kennedy stated, "Let us never to negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate."

Negotiations are the basic tools of diplomacy and statecraft, used to prevent conflict, to conclude wars, to resolve crises, to reconcile with former or current enemies, to build coalitions, to mobilize relief efforts after conflicts or natural disasters, to forge trade agreements, to transform behavior patterns, etc..

Direct talks provide a view into the psychic and political world of other nations and groups, learning about their aims, wants, needs and fears, as well as their readiness and capability to change. Why would we deny ourselves such important tool available for promoting our interests around the globe and preventing military conflict?

The Bush-Cheney policy of saber rattling around the globe is the most self-defeating policy imaginable. It achieves nothing but spurs instability and actually increases popular support of the leaders of rival nations. May the next President be committed to emphasizing diplomacy and negotiation as the primary tools of our country in foreign affairs Military preemption should be at the bottom of the list of possible actions and used only in the rarest of circumstances when the required intelligence has been rechecked and confirmed.

Styles of diplomacy and negotiation vary from nation to nation and leader to leader. The procedure usually involves the following steps:

1. Deciding the objective
2. Preparing the case
3. Assessing the interests of the other side
4. Preparing concessions that do not harm the objective
5. Making contact with the other side at lower functionary level's
6. Negotiating the endgame at the second highest level but under the supervision of the highest level
7. Ceremonial signing of the accords with pomp and circumstance

Almost always the agreements are zero-sum games in which both sides attain their objectives. If there is an imbalance, there is usually a default early or later

Only rarely do the negotiations begin at the top leadership level, but given the history of the Bush-Cheney regime and its unilateral tendencies, the next President may initiate leader to leader talks to dramatize change in U.S. policies sending a signal to the entire world.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy
His First Election

By Jerome Grossman
An interesting sidebar to Ted Kennedy's inspiring political history harks back to his first run for the Senate in 1962. It was, as some labeled it, a "battle of the clans": Opposing Kennedy in the Massachusetts Democratic Primary was Edward McCormack, nephew of House Speaker John McCormack; Kennedy's Republican opponent was Yankee scion George Cabot Lodge; and on the left was Independent peace candidate Harvard Prof. H. Stuart Hughes, chair of the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and grandson of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes.

I was Campaign Manager and Chester Hartman was the organizer of the massive signature drive required to place Hughes on the ballot. Hughes needed 72,000 signatures, a purposely prohibitive number in that era of McCarthyism and nobody in fact had tried to reach it since the law had first been passed.

In this talented field, Hughes polled 50,013 votes, 2.3% of the votes cast. However, we collected a startling 149,000 signatures in ten weeks for a "peace candidate." The Cuban Missile Crisis arrived in October just before the election. With the integrity that was his hallmark, Hughes went against the popular hysteria: he accused President Kennedy of acting over hastily in imposing the blockade of Cuba, of bypassing the United Nations, and unnecessarily stirring up an atmosphere of national emergency. His position cost Hughes thousands of votes.

In the process we built a town-by-town organization all over the state, a structure that remains in place today. A clear result has been the election over recent decades of so many progressive voices to the state's first-rate Congressional delegation, including Michael Harrington, Father Robert Drinan, Gerry Studds, Jim McGovern, Barney Frank, Ed Markey, John Tierney and John Kerry.
The Hughes campaign built the strongest statewide peace movement in the country, a movement that changed the face and reputation of Massachusetts politics.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Choosing a Vice President

Choosing a Vice President
By Jerome Grossman

The powers of the Vice President are severely limited in the Constitution of the United States: Article 2, Section 1 “In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President.” Article 1, Section 3. “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.”

Some of the founding fathers did not want a Vice President at all. Alexander Hamilton wrote for The Federalist Papers, No. 68, “The appointment of an extraordinary person, as Vice President, has been objected to as superfluous, if not mischievous.” It is indeed remarkable, given the innate tendencies of ambitious men, that no vice president has ever organized a coup or an assassination of a sitting President

Most Vice Presidents have not been given significant power or responsibilities by their Presidents. They were expected to stand and wait. Two recent exceptions were Vice Presidents Gore and Cheney, who achieved considerable power in their portfolios.

Nominees for Vice President are usually selected for political reasons, their ability to help the nominee for President get elected. They must help carry an important state or influence a large constituency. Gore and Cheney did not deliver on these political tests. Lieberman in 2000 and Edwards in 2004 failed utterly: they brought no appreciable constituency to the polls and failed to defeat Cheney in debates.

Republican nominee John McCain may be looking to strengthen his support among conservatives. For that he may tap a member of Congress with a perfect right wing voting record. If he goes for personality and humor, McCain might select Governor Mike Huckabee. For executive and business experience as well as good looks, there is always Governor Mitt Romney. One of McCain's considerations might be a young Vice President to balance his 71 years.

While Obama will be the favorite to win the November election, his choice of running mate could be most important given the competing factions in the Democratic Party. The female governors of Alaska, Arizona, and Kansas might help assuage the disappointment of feminists at the collapse of the Hillary campaign. Governor Bill Richardson would attract Latino votes. John Edwards received major support from organized labor. Governor Strickland of Ohio would help in the rust belt states. Or Obama might choose a candidate with military experience to offset McCain: Vietnam veteran Senator Jim Webb of Virginia or General Wesley Clark. To further his pledge of national unity, Obama might even consider Republicans Chuck Hagel or Colin Powell.

Nominee Obama has no problem in identifying his Vice President if he bases his decision on political practicalities: who can bring the largest number of votes, who has the largest constituency, who will best argue the Democratic platform against the Republican nominee for Vice President: Hillary Clinton. However, weighing on the scale is the fact that she is extremely controversial with high negatives in every poll. Would having an African-American and a woman on the ticket for the first time in American history be too much for the electorate to bear?

Hillary Clinton has fought Barack Obama to a virtual draw. On delegates, popular vote and super-delegates, Obama leads in one of the closest primary races in American political history. Hillary has supporters in all 50 states and many are passionate about her effort. She actually leads Obama among women, workers, whites and Hispanics and the primary votes are the proof.

Would Hillary accept the invitation? She would be the lady-in-waiting for her chance at the highest office in 2012 or 2016. She will have every incentive to make the Obama administration a success - to boost her own fortune down the road. And if she did not accept, preferring to stay in the Senate, the invitation would go a long way toward reconciling her supporters.

Will Bill Clinton be a distraction as he looks for ways to channel his energies and talents? No problem. If Hillary is elected Vice President she would have to resign her Senate seat in New York. President Obama could ask Governor David Patterson to appoint Bill to Hillary's seat. Mission accomplished. Bill is busy with a new career. Let the Senate worry.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Solving the Oil Crisis

Solving the Oil Crisis

By Jerome Grossman

High oil prices and a hotly contested election have turned the energy debate into political football. Calls for a gasoline tax holiday this summer would produce miniscule savings to drivers. Cries to force OPEC to pump more oil have been futile as the cartel enjoys enormous profits and wants more. Drilling in Alaska and offshore Florida and California risks serious environmental damage. Demands to tax the multi-billion dollar profits of the oil companies lack political clout and would be opposed by corporate America coast – to – coast.

There are only two ways to reduce prices: increase supplies or reduce demand. This is basic Capitalism 101. Increasing supplies is limited by environmental concerns and cartel power. Reducing demand in the United States, the nation that consumes about a quarter of global production would have an immediate effect on oil prices, bringing them down dramatically but still several hundreds of percent over cost.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Increase the current tax on gasoline to a level that would dramatically decrease auto driving, reduce air pollution and global warming while using the money generated to repair roads and bridges and to modernize mass transportation.

2. Subsidize the auto companies in their retooling to produce cars that obtain 50 miles to a gallon. Why should we wait until 2020 when the technology is available now? Let the automakers repay over a period of years.

3. Institute a rationing system for gasoline and heating oil with special allotments for transportation to and from work.

4. Allow a tax credit or refund for people of lower income to offset the increased tax.

5. Encourage (with a tax break) work by telecommuting that would reduce pollution, traffic and unhealthy stress on workers who sit in gridlock twice a day.

6. Promote a nationally coordinated program of car pooling, ride sharing and more efficient mass transit.

Reducing U.S. addiction to foreign oil would ease the Federal Budget Deficit. Foreign oil suppliers are awash in trillions of U.S. dollars and are using some of them to buy American assets and corporations in the largest transfer of wealth in the history of humanity, without firing a shot.

Goldman Sachs says that the price of oil could reach $200 a barrel this year. Without a plan, our costs could go even higher. Enough is enough. Let's have some serious political leadership for change to stop indulging ourselves in our uncontrolled appetite for oil.


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