Author Archives: Jacob Ben Abraham

TREATING ALCOHOLISM: NOTES FOR A PRIMER

Thanksgiving 2017. Kelley Kidd. A beloved friend is about to be involved in helping to provide professional guidance for a university program that educates and assists students who are alcoholics and/or drug addicts, one of a growing number of “centers for addiction recovery”, abbreviated CAR. Another friend will soon be the Judge of a Drug Court, one of an even faster growing number of “accountability courts” that try to assist persons accused of crime to recover from addiction. Such courts frequently include significant numbers of alcoholics and frequently also require intense participation in Alcoholics Anonymous.

 


 

WHAT WAS MISSING IN 2016 CAMPAIGN

November 16, 2016 KELLEY KIDD.

What the Democrats missed most in the 2016 political campaign was victory. It has been more than a year now since Trump was elected to be President and the Democrats failed again to win a majority in either the House of Representatives or Senate. They won a majority of votes cast in all three of those races, but the election left Republicans in charge of all three branches of the federal government and more than a majority of the 50 states. Losing is the worst thing about not winning. Duh. Everybody knows that.

I write to say why I believe Democrats lost and why I believe they will continue to lose if they continue to pursue the strategies of the 2016 campaign. Something was missing in this campaign that Democrats have had in the past but not so much recently. That something was empathy with the lives of most Americans. The party that once championed the economic and social needs of the “little guy” outspent the fat cat Trump campaign two to one. The themes of the Clinton campaign seemed to center on two themes: she is not Trump and wouldn’t it be great to have a girl be commander in chief and appoint liberals to the Supreme Court?

THE MEDIAN INCOME OF AMERICAN FAMILIES HAS NOT INCREASED SINCE 1999. The U.S. Census bureau said that. The same source shows that all of the increase in wealth since 1980 has gone to the richest American families,that the median family income kept up with the increase in national income for only a few years between 1993 and 1999. And that the cost of medical care and good education has been getting more and more difficult for most families to afford. Millions of Americans are homeless, one out of four children live in poverty, sales taxes and public user fees have increased while government services have declined for most of us. These are a few of the many appalling facts of life for most of us. Government has done nothing to change these facts in this century, and a Democrat has been the President for half of that time. None of this was a theme of the Clinton campaign.

THE FIRST THING IN POLITICS

November 5, 2016. Kelley Kidd

All my own favorite media are on the same page today. It is about the disunity in the Democratic Party. Book and newspaper and Facebook centerpieces are focused of aspects of the same dilemma: the Democrats are engaged in a civil war among themselves. It ain’t pretty.

The previews of Donna Brazile’s new book “Hacks” tell us that this former Vice-Chair of the Democratic National Committee is “throwing Hillary Clinton under the bus.” And the New York Times Sunday magazine’s front page story today is about the Democratic house divided against itself, and is entitled “Why Can’t Democrats Turn the Page?” A brilliant life-long Democrat from Baltimore posts on Facebook that the Dems have formed a circular firing squad, and that “Jon Snow is nowhere to be found while the white walkers have crashed through the walls”—references which those who follow T.V. dramas much better than I will recognize as a metaphor for current catastrophes brought on by external enemies who can’t be effectively opposed because of the infighting within.

So what is the conflict all about? And what Mr. Kidd have you to say about the way out? I feel transported to the turn of the 20th century where methinks I hear the voice of the greatest party organizer of his day. Mark Hanna was the chairman of the national committee of the Republican Party back at the turn of the century. He led the fund raising effort that got McKinley elected President, and the Vice-President on that ticket was Teddy Roosevelt. But those accomplishments are not what he is famous for today. Rather he uttered two famous lines that are still with our politics and business thinking today. And both those utterances are good leads for thinking about the present and future of American politics.

The business advice was really directed at labor organizers. He admonished them to organize only if doing so benefitted both the employer and the employee. Mark Hanna was a rich mine owner. McKinley was a union smasher and an imperialist who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Pacific Islanders while subjecting them to McKinley’s idea of the rule of Christ. Hanna and the men he led believed in small government in all things which benefitted anyone who was not within the circle of crony capitalists they were.

I mention that business advice to help the reader begin to evaluate Hanna’s other and much more famous thought, which I believe may hold a key to most of the history of recent American politics, including those portions of that history which may fairly be called the vicissitudes of the Democratic Party. “There are two important things in politics. The first is money and I can’t remember the second.” So said Mark Hanna.

Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor and an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter, has been arguing for several years that the corrupting influence of the super rich is behind much of what we usually perceive to be the divergent politics of Democrats and Republicans. Both parties are firmly in the clutches of the oligarchy (i.e., the super rich). He echoes Hanna and, by doing so he darkly predicts that the two parties are about to become irrelevancies. Instead we are going to be divided between the establishment, the flack catchers and spear carriers for the super rich, and the populists, those opposed to the power of the super rich. While he also divides the populists into two further camps, the largest theme is that of us poor against them rich.

The Republican candidate in 2016 was a billionaire who railed against the crony rich backing and alleged control of his rival, Hillary Clinton. Clinton was the nominee of the reputed party of the little man; he the candidate of the party of the fat cats. He won. And he spent about half the money she did. At times the party insiders of the Republican Party, who I assume could not be more establishment, worked against Trump while establishment insiders in the Democratic Party worked against Sanders. Sanders is now the most popular politician in these United States, but he ran without super pack aid or the support of the rich.

Hanna is usually right in these United States. Obama raised more fat cat money than either of his opponents. So did Bill Clinton. Both delivered an action menu that helped the super rich at the expense of the working class. Both won the support of liberals and working people by offering unfulfilled hopes. Hillary paid the price for the Podesta files and the truths they showed about Hillary’s allegiance to the oligarchs. She also suffered for the sins of her husband and the shortcomings of her predecessor. A lot of chickens came home to roost in November at places like Michigan and Wisconsin and the dying cities and towns of the American heartland. Neither party offered real solutions. Trump offered false hope, but Hillary offered only the dream of a woman breaking a glass ceiling. Not a bad thing at all, but understandably paltry to millions of working families whose prospects have not gotten brighter in several generations now.

Hanna knew his quips usually applied to both Dems and Republicans. But the Trump win and the Sanders popularity now reflect the possibility that the second important thing in politics may sometimes trump the first. Pun intended.

That brings me to the article that is front page in today’s New York Times, the one about the Democratic Party’s need to “turn the page” after the departure of Obama and the rise of authoritarian populism with Trump. This traditional banner carrier for the “liberal” media spent that article and its prominent spot in Democratic conversation on what I must suppose are those personalities and issues which the now traditional Neo-liberal Clinton-Obama-Pelosi-Schumer wing of the party believe to be important. Today’s N.Y.Times center foldout picture of Democratic politics does not contain two words which define the only real hopes of the party today. I don’t mean Chomsky or Hedges. Not even Frank or Reich. The words are Warren and Sanders! Evidently the Times is committed to the proposition that Mark Hanna got it right in 1900.


 

NEO-LIBERAL PROJECT AND THE DNC IN 2016 ELECTION

NOVEMBER 2017 Kelley Kidd.

Sometimes my research shows me whole worlds of reality I did not know anything about until, almost by accident, I stumble on them in the dark. Lately one such stumbling began when a friend unexpectedly used the term neo-liberal. I looked it up by rambling through a number of derogatory references until I found a writer and speaker who said he had been proud to be called by the name. Whenever I hear a new political label it is my custom to try to find somebody who created it or wear it proudly. I always hesitate to attach any such label to those who depreciate it.

Anyhow, the self-proclaimed neo-liberal writer claimed that the label was that of people who, like himself, aimed to reduce the role of the government in the economy and to expand the power and scope of “the market”. I thought at once of Adam Smith, the 18th century father of free enterprise economic thought, but the writer suggested his readers think of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

Not being a neo-liberal myself, I took the writer’s advice. Since June of this year I have repeatedly run into the legacy of Bill Clinton with that label in mind. I confess to measuring both man and label by each other.

And I often see the former president in the same mental telescope in which I am gazing at his wife, the Democratic nominee in 2016 for the job he held during most of the last decade of the 20th century.

I was raised in the Deep South during the Jim Crow era. Almost all the officeholders of that era (in Georgia at least) were vocal advocates for what they called “free markets” and “small government, close to the people.” So they said. My experience of them was that they favored big government projects when they and their rich supporters would benefit, and that the closer their control of policy outcomes, the more they called that control that of “the people.” They were usually at least as involved in the kind of back room manipulation they sometimes accused their opponents of doing. So the Clinton takeover of the Democratic Party in 2016 was no surprise to me.

What is a refreshing surprise is that Donna Brazile is candid enough to admit that she was a part of such activity. Ms. Brazile’s honesty may go a long way towards making real reform of the Democratic Party possible.

The Neo-liberal project may owe its philosophy to Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, but its tactics are sure to include what we used to refer to as those of Gene Talmadge and the “populist” tradition of the Jim Crow era. When it suits the purposes of the Clinton style political operative, he too is as likely to engage in demagoguery as any “left wing radical” or “right wing Republican.” But unlike the radical and exactly like the Republican whose economic views he shares, the Neo-liberal operative has the backing of some very deep pockets and the tactics that big money politics brings. The Neo-liberal does not just outspend the democratic populist. He also buys the tools to power that democratic populist cannot afford. Sadly in 2016 the Democratic National Committee was one of those bought tools.


 

THE DEMOCRATIC WING OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY

October and November,2017. Kelley Kidd.

THE DEMOCRATIC WING?. In 2004 a Vermonter named Howard Dean electrified a Democratic Party assembly by announcing himself as “the candidate of the democratic wing of the Democratic Party”. Opposition to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was the principle issue that separated Dean from prominent members of the Democratic Party who had endorsed the invasion. The endorsers included Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Dean ran a strong campaign for the nomination of his party for months before being destroyed by televised clips from a rally at which Dean appeared to be screaming hysterically. The microphone used to record him on that occasion was a spike mike that picked up his voice loudly in a room in which hundreds were shouting or screaming. Since the spike mike missed all the others, the television viewer was left with the false impression that Dean was some kind of wing nut. As each of the major networks replayed the misleading recording over and over again the bright prospects for Dean’s candidacy faded. For the first time I could then remember it occurred to me that the major media corporations were clearly tilting towards the more “conservative” elements in the Democratic Party and against those who Dean had called the Democratic wing.

 

If memory suffices Dean was soon replaced as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination by John Kerry, a Vietnam War veteran turned peace activist (in the 60s) turned candidate for what many called the “establishment wing” of the Democratic Party. The replacement also seemed much more to the liking of The New York Times, NBC and CBS, the Associated Press. In short there was a media bias for the more conservative approach to being a Democrat. That same media, as well as Fox and The Good News Network types, had backed Bush totally during the invasion.

Kerry lost badly to “W.”, the president who had led this country into its most obviously imperialistic war since the invasion of Mexico in the 1840s. While Dean had run largely on his record of opposing the war, Kerry—like most of the “liberal” media—had endorsed the war until it had become obvious that the excuses for it were lies. Saddam neither threatened the U.S. with the weapons (WMDs) he turned out to have none of, nor with the support for al Qaeda he never gave. Kerry, like the rest of the establishment wing of the Party, including Hillary Clinton, began to back away from the Invasion of Iraq only when it became humiliatingly obvious that it was a fiasco. Too late. A majority of voters seemed to prefer Bush’s outright imperialism to Kerry’s apparent opportunism.

After Howard Dean’s campaign had failed because of his status as an outlier within the power politics of the Democratic Party, folks like me held their noses and voted more against Bush the war monger than for the Democratic nominee. Many antiwar Democrats may not have voted at all. Kerry had also began the practice of representing the Party as the self-proclaimed champion of only the middle class, which seemed to me to be a continuation of the Clinton platform. “Poor” and “working class” were not in Kerry’s lexicon of people to be represented by Kerry, who sounded and looked patrician to the core. George Bush, son of a President and grandson of a Wall Street tycoon and distant relative of the British royalty, represented the party of privilege and wealth with considerably more of the common touch than the standard bearer of the party of the little man.

Progressives and opponents of war were told we must vote Democratic because we had “no place else to go.” True enough, and not for the first time. Before that we had endured three straight elections in which the Party nominees had been less than enthusiastic supporters of the politics of traditional Democratic progressives.

In retrospect the Democratic Party was largely in the hands of what I now think of as a “neo-liberal establishment wing” long before the 2004 dustup began to make it obvious to slow learners like me. From the end of the summer of 1963, when the March on Washington had given voice to a civil rights movement linked to the old “leftist” labor movement, I had been a usually active member of what I will be calling The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

THE ASCENT OF THE NEO-LIBERAL DEMOCRATS. From the perspective of the kind of Democrat who despises the power of financial elites, Bill Clinton was never one of us. He usually avoided both the phrases “working class” and “poor people”, and seemed more bent on helping international businesses than easing the burdens of either working people or the poor. He lifted some of the restrictions on investment bankers that had been enacted to protect the savings of folks who neither controlled nor invested in Wall Street stocks and bonds. He sponsored the coalition of Neo-liberal Democrats and Republicans that allowed the comingling of managements involved in the banking of ordinary folks’ accounts and the “banking” of derivatives and speculative stock investment.

Bill Clinton pushed an agenda that I have come to think of as that of a real and well organized establishment within the Democratic Party. The agenda of that establishment previously had been most visibly represented by the “Democratic Forum”. The agenda of that establishment was and is the point of view of the most prominent media institutions that were not avowedly conservative. Fox and the Good News Network of course are among the leading media institutions of the “Conservative Media”. The media I have in mind include the old networks CBS, NBC and ABC The New York Times, Time and Turner , in other words Limbaugh’s much hated “Liberal Media.” Clinton worked with the support of both that establishment and that media for an agenda which was not always labelled conservative, but which prioritized the interests of the professional and business classes over the needs of the poor, including the working poor. And the working poor were growing in size and misery from the Reagan years right up to this moment in time.

In fact President and Mrs. Clinton both worked with some success for an agenda that had been comfortably within the wish list of the most powerful corporate interests on the planet, many of whom would have backed Ronald Reagan if he had been available instead of Bill. This agenda I now think of as Neo-liberal. It certainly has nothing to do with the concerns of old liberals like me. Under its sway the country as well as the Democratic Party has grown steadily away from protecting and fostering the needs of the vast majority of its own people.

The Trump demagoguery in 2016 took advantage of very real deficiencies in American government without of course any real idea of addressing the very real issues it raised. But some of the issues were real, not fictitious. Hillary’s response to Make America Great was that it already was! It was a contest between Trump’s false hopes and outright lies, on one hand, and Hillary’s smug acceptance of an unacceptable status quo. Trump’s demeanor was ugly and often dishonest, but the other choice was an opponent he could easily portray as part of the problem. Because she indeed was a part of the problem! Had been for years.

The Clintons pushed through proposals that Republicans had been unable to get past congressional Democrats for years. Important proposals that put terrible new strains on the power of the poor to get help. Remember his pledge to “end big government and welfare as we know it?” He threw the labor union movement and millions of workers under the bus by NAFTA, a trade agreement to protect international investment by giving employers the power to force unions to concede or take the blame for the loss of jobs to the threat of moving to Mexico. He and his wife pushed new federal legislation that has resulted in the mass incarceration of addicts and you African Americans. He worked to deregulate investment banking. These measures were and remain more than acceptable to the establishment wing of the Party, to its Neo-liberal elite.

The Clinton Administration strongly supported Yeltsin in Russia and encouraged the looting of the collapsed Soviet Union through privatization, which led to horrors for Russians and big money for the oligarchs. (No wonder the Russian hacking of the 2016 concentrated so hard on exposing the Clinton links to big international business.) His only nod to working people was a minor adjustment in income tax rates in their favor. I am not here saying that I don’t believe there was collusion between Trump and Yeltsin, or that Exxon Mobile and Trump aren’t in cahoots with the Russian government over energy. But I am saying that Russian hostility to the Neo-liberals in general and towards Clintons in particular has a history that includes some high ranking Democrats and the establishment wing of the Party. Like the Ukraine dustup—about which more in a later piece—the post cold war history of Russian animosity towards “American interests” goes far beyond the conflict of good democratic U.S. government versus bad Russian dictatorship.

From Bill Clinton we got a balanced budget, a virtue so dear to the hearts of conservatives. We got a slowdown in the growth of militarism without any reversal of the economic and political imperialism it protected. We got a tiny fraction of the tax relief his candidacy had promised. We got diminishment of the national commitment to the poor and a continuation of the economic policies that continued to accelerate the power gap between the super rich and the rest of us. Both liberal media and Democratic establishment seemed pleased. The Neo-liberal agenda largely ran the country in the 90s. It certainly ran the Democratic Party from at least as early as 1990. Labor organizations and Democrats concerned about poor and working people were told to choose between the Neo-liberal agenda and the policies of the Neo-cons and the Bush family. We were to love the Clintons because we had “no place else you can go.” At least the Neo-liberals were opposed to discrimination and to unsuccessful war mongering.

ARE THE REAL DEMS WING NUTS? To return for a moment to 2004, Dean was defeated because of the abuse of a spike mike recording of him cheering at a primary rally. He was portrayed as a wing nut by an establishment media that had bought the neo-liberal philosophy that worshipped “free markets”, supported the invasion of Iraq and never criticized either globalization or the proliferation of 140 plus American military missions that enforced American business interests. Ron Paul called attention to both the bloated military budget and the extent of American muscle in foreign countries. But the establishment media had long since assigned Paul to the same wing nut grave in which they had buried Ralph Nader and Howard Dean. That establishment media I refer to without quotation marks prefers the Clintons over the Bushes, but will take either a Clinton of Bush quickly over any truly progressive or libertarian.

Bernie Sanders is a wing nut to the New York Times and to the Associated Press. But he is not a wing nut to a huge majority of the American people. He is their most popular politician. He did not get that popular because he ran against a woman, upported her when she won with Party help, or because he owns a few guns, waffles on some of the peripheral issues surrounding abortion or does not address AIPAC conventions. He is that popular because there is something very appealing to American about the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.


AFTER 2004 DEMS DID WELL THEN DIDN’T. Since 2004 the Democratic Party has achieved majorities in the House and Senate and won the presidency twice with an African-American candidate. Most of these accomplishments came with the support of that same liberal press and the acquiescence of the establishment wing of the party. In Obama’s victories the pride and joys of African Americans were linked with the hopes of the American working class, hopes for prosperity and hopes for the decline of gross and growing inequality. But those victories have proven to be as evanescent as the campaigns of Howard and Kerry. Republicans now dominate every corner of American politics from Michigan to Mississippi, and from Butte to Beaufort. One of them is the sitting president.

HISTORY OF 2004 REPEATED IN 2016. In 2016 the history of 2004 repeated. Perhaps it is not coincidental that in both 2004 and 2016 the eventual Democratic nominee won the nomination over a Vermont politician who claimed to represent the real democrats against the establishment. Nor is it coincidental that the Democrat who won the nomination (and lost the election) had been an antiwar activist who had become a representative of the establishment. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kerry succeeded each other in managing American foreign policy and as leaders of the Democratic Party. Each got the nomination through the support of those very wealthy people who are the establishment of the Democratic Party while the establishment media derided the Vermont opponent as a leftist wing nut.

Kerry and Clinton have both been U.S. senators from a Northeastern state which usually votes Democratic, both earned a degree from Yale, both opposed the war in Vietnam but supported the resolution that authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq both been Secretary of State under President Obama. Both have been major players in a Democratic regime that invaded Libya, maintained military bases in over 140 countries, backed an extremely aggressive NATO and sold billions of dollars in arms to both Saudi Arabia and Israel. Both defeated Vermont Democrats who opposed those policies. Both Democratic nominees got huge support from both the “liberal” media and the establishment wing of the Democratic Party.

But these divisions among democrats already had a history before 2004 and that history is still much of the DNA of the divisions within the Party this very hour.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAD LONG HISTORY OF DEEP DIVISIONS. The founder of the Democratic Party was Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner who wrote immortal words about human equality and the God given rights of every person. The conflicts in Jefferson’s own soul were reflected in a party that swept populist slave owning Andrew Jackson into power in an election that spelled the doom of the Federalists—until they were recently resurrected in name at least as the champions of a brand of rigid neo-conservative constitutionalism.

The stable base of the Democratic Party led the effort of the Deep South to succeed from the union in 1860-61, created the confederacy to protect slavery, and reinstituted white supremacy after the War as the Republican Reconstruction lost its steam under the 1870s era rise of the power within that party of business oligarchs who cared a lot more about profit than about the rights of labor. By 1880 we had two right wing parties based on the exploitation of both black and white labor by the division of the two against each other.

Cracks were showing in the armor of the oligarchs by the late 1880s. Progressive Democrats and Republicans at times worked together to limit the power of the very rich and “the bosses”. The Sherman Antitrust Act aimed at monopolies, progressive legislation on wages and working conditions challenged the totalitarianism of industrial bosses, and left wing labor organizations formed consumer coops, farming collectives and unions. Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson vied with each other in 1912 to woo the “little guy” and the worker.

But even Wilson’s relative progressivism on some economic issues was contaminated by the outright white supremacy policies of his administration. The Democratic Party remained a party controlled by wealthy racists until the New Deal idealism of the 30s, often leveraged by socialists and other leftists, turned at least northern and eastern sections of the Democratic Party into a “party of the people.”

ROOSEVELT REVOLUTION CREATES THE DEMOCRATIC WING OF DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Insert a paragraph or two about New Deal and the party that supported it

Beginning in the late 1960s there appeared
another sharp division within the Democratic Party. We then called it the difference between the “Old Left” and the “New Left”. The former had generally focused on representing the little man, the worker, the employee, the poor, the downtrodden and the oppressed. Labor unions and liberal Christian organization, socialists and left wingers and radicals and discontents—all were “Old Left”, the backbone of the party of Roosevelt and Truman and Adlai Stevenson. The “New Left” was focused on “The War”, meaning Vietnam. Many of its members cared more about the lifestyle of a counterculture than about either the problems of the poor or the rise of the proletariat. Of course there were many who belonged to both lefts. But large numbers of blue collar workers were not sympathetic to war protesters they derided as “flag burners and draft dodgers”! And many anti-war protesters could have cared less about union dues or rural white folks in financial difficulties.

The civil rights era during the same era led to a strong alliance between some of the most radical members of the old left and some of the leadership of the civil rights movement. Sometimes they were even the same people. Martin Luther King Jr. was the spiritual leader of all three of the great liberal movements of the time—against war and poverty and for equal rights for all Americans.


The Democratic Party That Fought the Civil War. But some of the old Democratic coalition were lukewarm on all three. Southern democrats in particular tended to use the party for agendas that supported the power of the autocrats, the beneficiaries of racial division and intersectional hostilities. Political demagogues exploited racial resentment and fueled it. The Solid South was the political establishment created by the slaveocracy of the old south, established and maintained to protect and foster slavery and those who profited from it. The Democratic establishment I grew up with in rural Georgia thrived on white nationalism. It screwed white working class people and its descendants still do.

Frequently the Southern ones presented themselves as the protectors of Southern white racial pride against an imagined world of meddling Yankees and outside agitators. Sometimes other Democrats and liberals played into this narrative by countering with contempt for white Southerners in general.

I digress to illustrate the ease with which Democrats who think of themselves as liberals can arrogate to themselves an air of behavioral superiority which they lack in fact. In 1963 I went to Harvard for a summer quarter where I found lots of young white liberals who were quick to condemn the South and reluctant to notice that at Harvard there were neither Black faculty nor students. I also encountered as much contempt for Jews in Boston as I had ever witnessed in Atlanta. In 1965 I entered a small law school freshman class at Emory in Atlanta. That little Southern law school’s freshman class had two more African American students than Harvard College had in 1963, which was none at all. I spent many hours listening to liberal whites at Harvard berate Southerners and their schools in 1963 for race discrimination. The point is not that we did not deserve criticism, but that the critics did not seem to ever see “the log in their own eyes.”

While Jim Crow laws were uniformly enforced in most Southern environments I found very little real integration or tolerance among Yankees. The foundation of the Civil Rights Movement was the Black church, not the Democratic Party. That began to change only as the Movement put pressure on the Kennedy and Johnson administrations through nonviolent community action. Lest it be forgotten, the leaders and most of the foot soldiers of that nonviolent movement were Black southerners, not Eastern intellectuals.

Did the Labor Movement Abandon the Party of Peace and Justice. Archie Bunker was a blue collar worker who appreciated none of the movements Dr. King led. His character became the most famous presentation of the white male conservative blue collar worker who was to vote for Reagan and had already voted for Nixon. The show first aired in 1969. He was from Queens New York, not Birmingham Alabama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

SIXTEEN YEARS OF TAX SUPPORTED FREE EDUCATION. REALLY?

OCTOBER 2017 KELLEY KIDD When I was born in rural Georgia back in 1942 every child in America was legally entitled to 12 years of tax supported education. Nobody called that socialism or even “too expensive”. We agreed to simply call that “good for everybody.” Seventy five years later progressives like Bernie Sanders propose to add 4 more years—long enough for a college degree. Republicans and many “moderate” Democrats call the 16 year proposal radical or socialistic. Really?

Life expectancy has risen by more than a decade in my 75 years. We have acquired huge technological changes and challenges during those 75 years (i.e. hydrogen and atomic bombs, television and internet, open heart surgery and drones, etc.). Life has become filled with new and challenging change, all of which demands more knowledge and understanding. We have reached a sensible consensus that everybody needs much more education than they used to —especially if they are going to fill jobs that demand skill and pay well. The rest of the world—at least a large portion of it — is now covered with governments that support a lot of education and training of workers.

As the need for more education has become more pressing and obvious, tax supported education remains stuck exactly where it was when I was born. Twelve years max. Then you “need to be responsible” for paying the cost of a day more than that! The additional schooling has become so hugely expensive that only the rich and the heavily indebted get beyond high school graduation.

So I am going out on a limb here. Every child in America is entitled to more tax-supported education than when I was born three quarters of a century ago. Twelve years and no more is engraved neither in the Constitution nor the King James Version. Sixteen years seems fair to me. Call me a commie if you want to.


 

THE SEVENTEEN YEAR ECONOMIC RECESSION, PART 2

September 28, 2017. Kelley Kidd. We have been told endlessly that the recession of 2008-2009 lasted about one full year. Then we began slowly but surely crawling out of the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression. So I have been led to believe. That narrative is true for somebody, but it is not true for most of us. A recent reliable newspaper article shows me that most people in this country have been living in a stagnant or deteriorating economic situation for many years!

Earlier this month my little hometown paper had a front page story that quietly noted the median American family has had lower income in every year since 1999, but that the 2016 income for that family was just a hair better than the last year of the last millennium. And that last little bit of news carries the ominous footnote that it is a statistical conclusion based on not quite the same criteria used in the previous measurements from previous years. In other words the real median family income may still be less than it was at the end of the 20th Century.

We have also been told that there was an economic “pause” right after the terrible events of 9/11/2001. The Bush II years have otherwise been said to have been slow growth years. That was the same kind of falsehood that we have heard about the so-called recession following the stock market dive in 2008. Largely because all of the rest of us committed 7 billion dollars in response, that recession was over within a year after it started, but only in terms of the aggregate national income. For most of us the recession had started long before, and it is not over yet. In fact that recession for most is still painfully present. In fact there has not been a single year between 1999 and 2016 in which the income of the median family (in income) has been as good as it was in 1999! That amazing fact was revealed recently in my hometown paper. That little article from the Statesboro Herald shows that both the pause of 2001 and the recession of 2008 were part of a larger and much longer recession—if by recession you mean the loss of income for the American people as a whole. You will see in future parts of this series that there is massive data to support this assertion. There are also tremendous consequences as the result of this long recession. I will do my best to document both

 

This country has been doing well since 2000 only if doing well is properly measured by the financial well-being of this country’s super rich. Since 1970 the top one percent has done extremely well. Many in the bottom 90 percent have actually lost income and wealth and solvency. Thomas Frank has been saying accurately that the bottom 90 cent of American families have not gained one red cent in family income since 1970.

The election of Donald Trump is a direct outcome of the economic and social decline of most American families in the last few decades. So is the Democratic Party’s loss of both political power and credibility. On the other hand it is not also true that Bernie Sanders has been propelled from the obscurity of a “super liberal” Vermont political anomaly to the pinnacle of current political popularity in America. A recent poll showed this self-proclaimed socialist as the singular office holder with a favorable rating of 75 percent. As we will see in future posts the forces at play that account for these phenomena are neither secret nor unintelligible. While many of us—including myself—were watching other things, the heart of American prosperity has gone or rather has been taken.

SEVENTEEN YEARS OF ECONOMIC RECESSION

September 18, 2017. Kelley Kidd. My hometown newspaper, the Statesboro Herald, reported last weekend that the income of the median family in this country is actually higher than it was in 1999! The paper reported that in 2016 for the first time in this millennium that family has a bit more money to spend than it would have eighteen years ago. That median is the family in the middle of the half that is most prosperous and the half that is least prosperous, midway between the richest and the poorest, the family that has kept up with half its peers while falling behind the other half.

This new tidbit of information is reported to have come from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, and it is based on examining the incomes of 70, 000 American families, which you may be sure were drawn from the most reliable choosing for the purpose of answering the question of how the average American family has fared for the intervening period between the dawning of this century and now.

This latest figure would signal the end of a seventeen year recession if the yardstick for measuring family income were the same as that measuring Gross National Income. Think what that means for the life we have been living. We have been in what earlier generations would have called a very bad time indeed. Two presidents have served two full terms, a toddler born at the beginning has finished his last year of high school. A recession for the average family has lasted nearly twice as long as the great depression of the 30s. Maybe it is time to take a fresh look back to try to understand what has happened to the American premise and promise that things are always getting better and better here in the U.S.A. So that is exactly what I will try to do.


 

SO LITTLE HAS CHANGED

KELLEY KIDD. August 15, 2017. The events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend should remind me that all the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement have not altered the depth or the danger of racism in America. A death caused by deliberate acts of violence. Nineteen seriously hurt. Hundreds threatened with violence by men whose passion was to frighten and intimidate those who did not agree with their bigotry. It sounds like Little Rock in 1958 or Americus in 1961. We have come a long way, but we still have so much farther to travel before this country truly lives the meaning of its creed.

EVALUATING ALCOHOLISM AND ALCOHOLISM TREATMENT

July 10, 2017. Jacob ben Abraham.

WHAT SORT OF PEOPLE BECOME ALCOHOLICS?. When I hear people imply that alcoholics are stupid, irreligious, of bad character or lazy, I think first of my Father, the first alcoholic I knew. He was also one of the kindest and bravest souls I have known. He was an outstanding student in his college career, popular with his peers. I do not know of him ever saying anything he knew to be untrue. He worked hard from before eight A.M. until after 6 P.M. six or seven days every week except for very short vacations every year with his family. But there were clusters of days when he was too intoxicated to leave the house. He read his Bible and usually some religious study material every morning before breakfast, attended church faithfully, was the superintendent of the church Sunday school for many years, and organized our small town’s interdenominational Easter Sunrise service. Everyone who knew him found him likeable and trustworthy.

My father’s will power seemed almost superhuman sometimes. He did whatever he said he would do—except stop drinking and stay stopped. He often said that he was through drinking. Those who were close enough to know the misery he suffered as the result of his binges knew he meant what he said. We also knew that his resolve would soon dissolve in another round of heavy drinking. He could not stay sober very long. When he was not at work he was at home either passed out or drinking enough bourbon to pass out soon.

I soon found out that my Father’s situation was extremely common. There happened to be a large mental hospital in my home town. On several occasions I overheard conversations on this subject among doctors and other staff members. On one occasion I had a long talk with a medical doctor who had many years of experience with trying to be helpful to people with serious drinking problems. What I learned was that alcoholism was a very widespread problem. It often afflicted very capable people who were otherwise morally upright and strong willed. Studies involving huge samples had shown that alcoholism is not predictable by low morals or intelligence.

Mr. Abraham Lincoln, speaking to the crowd assembled in February 1842: “If we take habitual drunkards as a class, their heads and hearts will bear an advantageous comparison with those of any other class. There seems to have been a proneness in the brilliant and warm-blooded to fall into this vice—the demon of intemperance seems to have delighted in sucking the blood of genius and generosity.”
Like Lincoln I have always known that the popular notions about the foibles of drunkards are off the mark, although they have remained popular since humans first wrote about the tragedy of those who cannot “hold their liquor”. Over three quarters of a century I have searched long and hard for the answer to the simple question “What does cause some folks to be alcoholic while most who drink never develop the terrible problems that all alcoholics have in time—including early death?” So far I have not found a satisfactory answer to the question. There have been massive studies of British data which confirm Lincoln’s observation. Smaller studies of alcoholics in the U.S.A. report that alcoholism cannot be correlated with pre-morbidity differences in people who later become alcoholics. Childhood and adolescent subjects are not more likely to have drinking problems because of differences from their peers in intelligence, generosity or sociability. In fact as a group the more positive outcomes of those studies lie with the pre-alcoholics.

Now that would not be such a painful conundrum if I could have found the solution to the problem. I have not done that either.

TREATMENT DOES NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM. In 1975 the JOURNAL OF STUDIES ON ALCOHOL published the following verdict on psychologically oriented treatment of alcoholism:

“A review of 384 studies of psychologically oriented treatment showed that differences in treatment did not significantly affect long-term outcome. Mean abstinence rates did not differ between treated and untreated alcoholics, but more treated than untreated improved, suggesting that formal treatment at least increases the alcoholic’s chances of reducing his drinking problem.”

Since then there have been hundreds of new treatment programs launched, including some that have gained more than a little publicity for treating famous drug addicts and alcoholics. The British have published massive studies of effectiveness based upon their national health care program’s results. At least one per decade. Columbia University in New York has conducted a scholarly review of the available evidence in the United States. All of these studies have found the same results as the 1975 study quoted above. Alcoholism remains statistically the same. Abstinence achieved is rarely maintained, although those lucky enough to receive frequent stays in treatment programs often are found to be sober more often for a while (at least while in treatment and sometimes for short times after). Permanent abstinence is as rarely achieved by alcoholics who never go to treatment as those who do. The sooner public policy recognizes that both the problem’s genesis and solution remain mysteries to the honest. Sadly both also remain the subject of widespread false analysis and representation.