All posts by amynomous

Benghazi Hurts

Commentary on Virginia 5th Congressional District, Congressman Robert Hurt’s recent statements on Benghazi.

Benghazi

Dear Congressman Hurt,

At the highest level, Republicans believe there are three elements to the Benghazi scandal:

That the White House and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied about the true reason for the attack in order to guarantee his re-election and protect her 2016 campaign.

That President Obama and Clinton are personally responsible for the deaths of the four Americans in Benghazi because they were either (a) asleep at the switch or (b) unwilling to take any action that they feared would destabilize the U.S. relationship with the Libyan government.
That subsequent to the attacks the White House and Clinton ordered a massive coverup to conceal their actions related to the first and second elements of the conspiracy.

There are some facts (including ones embarrassing to the White House) that are consistent with the GOP view of Benghazi, but as with all conspiracy theories, Republicans have used those facts to convince themselves of something that just isn’t true. Here’s why they are wrong.

1. Obama didn’t steal the 2012 election by lying about Benghazi (and neither did Hillary steal the 2016 race)

The starting point for the conspiracy theory is the fact that the White House initially blamed the attack on the spread of protests in Cairo that had been sparked by an anti-Muslim video uploaded to YouTube by an American. That turned out not to be the case, something that the White House now acknowledges. The White House also used this belief to deflect GOP criticism of its Middle East foreign policy. But neither of those facts are sufficient to support the conclusion that the White House covered up the true reason for the attack in order to steal the election from Mitt Romney’s grasp.

Part of the reason why we know this is true is that what the White House said about Benghazi and the protests at embassies throughout the Middle East was consistent with what the CIA had told them. Yes, it ultimately was wrong to link the Benghazi attack directly to the Cairo protests, but it is what they believed.

In my opinion, however, there’s a bigger reason why the GOP’s belief is absurd: It would have been literally insane for the White House to think it could steal the 2012 election by lying about Benghazi being a result of a protest inspired by a video. First of all, Benghazi wasn’t going to be an election-turning event no matter what. I’m not taking away from the horror of what happened, but there just isn’t any scenario under a significant number of Americans would have made it a deciding factor in their vote.

Moreover, Mitt Romney, by appearing too eager to exploit the issue for political gain, hurt himself badly in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Nonetheless, in the second debate, he tried to exploit the issue again, only to be smacked in the face by reality in Obama’s famous “Please proceed, governor” moment. At this point, what we remember is mainly that Romney interrupted President Obama, who wisely decided to let Romney step right into a trap of his own making.

But let’s remember what the substance of their exchange was: Romney accused President Obama of minimizing the attack in Benghazi by refusing to call it an act of terrorism, which is essentially the heart of the GOP’s conspiracy theory. President Obama’s response—backed up by Candy Crowley—was that he had in fact called it an act of terrorism. Even if you’re a conservative who thinks Romney got robbed by Crowley, you have to concede that President Obama’s position in that debate was that he believed the Benghazi attack was a terrorist action. He didn’t say anything about a video or a protest.

What I’m trying to say here is that if the White House had a plot to steal the election by writing off Benghazi as the consequence of a YouTube video and protests in Cairo, they forgot to tell the president. Because in that debate, broadcast live on every major television channel, the president’s clear and unambiguous position was that it was an act of terrorism. And there’s a reason Mitt Romney didn’t bring the issue up again: It’s because he knew he had nothing to gain by continuing to harp on it. Ironically, the only way Romney could have capitalized on the issue is if President Obama had continued pushing the flawed talking points. The fact that he didn’t is prima facie evidence of the absurdity of the GOP claim.

2. Neither President Obama nor Hillary Clinton ordered the military to stand down from any rescue mission of any sort.

The White House, the State Department and other observers have all concluded that the security in Benghazi was insufficient. In fact, that’s more or less obvious based on what happened: If security measures were sufficient, four deaths would have been avoided. As President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and their staffs have repeatedly said, they share responsibility for the security posture there. But it’s also true that Republicans, who blocked funding requests for security at diplomatic posts, should also take responsibility.

Regardless of whether Republicans concede they were part of the security equation, it’s an enormous leap to go from the idea that security was inadequate at Benghazi to the belief that the president or Clinton willfully left Americans in harm’s way at the height of the attack because they were either asleep at the switch or more interested in helping Libyans save face than in saving American lives. In the words of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, who is a Republican and is harshly critical of the Benghazi security posture before the attack:

The Armed Services Committee has interviewed more than a dozen witnesses in the operational chain of command that night, yielding thousands of pages of transcripts, e-mails, and other documents.  We have no evidence that Department of State officials delayed the decision to deploy what few resources DoD had available to respond.

It’s horrible what happened in Benghazi, and it’s crushing to contemplate the fact that on the night of the attack, there was no obvious course of action that could have changed the outcome, but those are the facts. To believe that Obama or Clinton were personally complicit in the deaths that occurred in Benghazi is to believe in an alternate reality.

3. There is no coverup of a coverup, because there was no coverup.

We all know the phrase “It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup,” but Republicans have forgotten that for there to be a coverup, there needs to be something to cover up. And the simple fact is that neither President Obama nor Hillary Clinton committed a crime of any sort. The only criminals are the terrorists who attacked us in Benghazi.

That’s not to say the president or Clinton don’t share responsibility for the fact that the consulate didn’t have better security. They do—as they’ve both acknowledged. If Republicans want to make that a partisan issue, they’re welcome to try, but aside from the fact that they also share in the blame due to their funding cuts, I rather suspect that foreign policy misadventures is not a subject that they want to address in a reality-based way given what they forced on the nation with Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the notion that there the Commander in Chief or Secretary of State committed a crime when Benghazi was attacked, and subsequently engaged in a coverup of that crime is, to put it bluntly, insane.

Ben gazzi

Reference…   http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/05/05/1296421/-Here-s-why-the-GOP-is-fired-up-about-Benghazi-and-why-they-re-wrong?detail=email

Mark Chapman

What’s the Connection?

Now we already have the FRIENDS AND FAMILY CONNECTION for jobs in Louisa County, so it has been expanded to include the VCU Pipeline.  You can pretty much be guaranteed that you will be hired by Louisa County if you do a Louisa Human Service internship coming from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Social Work program.

Just review the most recent hires there and see what you find.  Is the County Administrator an alumnae of VCU or does he have his own friends/former colleagues running that program to bring its graduates here to work.  Don’t we have enough unemployed, more than qualified candidates in Louisa County?

Who in Louisa County knows what the County hiring process is?  Who knows how candidates are reviewed and evaluated and who will be doing their evaluations?  Are these evaluators competent to evaluate candidates for various jobs, not in their fields of expertise?  Why isn’t the salary range for positions consistently posted in the Job Announcements?

Once again Louisa’s questionable and unpublished hiring system needs to be re-examined and restructured by the Board of Supervisors so that we do not have a direct placement system a specific college’s graduates.  Our current system does not give any priority to current Louisa citizens, unless you happen to be friends and/or family of certain individuals in the County/Town (which is one hiring preference).

Few people in Louisa really have any idea what the hiring process really is or the salary for positions posted in Louisa.  Call your Board of Supervisors representative about making the process much more transparent and in changing the secret and unfair hiring process that allows the County to recruit specific people living outside the County for employment when there are more than enough qualified County residents. Remember it is your tax dollars going out of your County.

Gloria Pope

Income Fairness vs. Socialism

A May 4, 2014 letter to the editor from Dave Cambell in the Charlottesville Daily Progress blamed liberals for promoting socialism and for wanting income equality along with taking our freedoms away. It is Republican propaganda and misconceptions taken straight from the Koch brother’s playbook. Promoting the lowest possible worker wages to maximize profits, a government controlled by the wealthy oligarchy, and a  mainstream media that fuels the belief that Americans are “self-made” and ALL government is bad.  Actually, the Republicans have fought against almost every worker benefit and consumer protection that Americans currently enjoy while promoting the welfare of corporate campaign sponsors.

American’s wealthy 1% elite own 40% of our nation’s wealth and they own 50% of stocks.  The average CEO makes 380 times their average worker salary.   The American middle class is disappearing and the bottom 40% of Americans have no wealth. As a nation, it’s not Socialism to promote fair and decent minimum wage adjustments for struggling Americans….the same strategy used to bring America out of the Great Depression.

Let’s look at policies that were fought for by liberals and about which our “self-made conservatives” have forgotten … minimum clean water standards, medications that are safe and work as advertised, employer paid health insurance, paid holidays and vacations, retirement, laws to stop industries from polluting our air, public transportation systems, unemployment  compensation for job injury, federally insured bank deposits to protect against unscrupulous bankers, car safety standards, electric cooperatives for rural citizens, ….

These government benefits were paid for by the wealthy elite because they paid much higher taxes than today and yet the same whining of Socialism by the elite were argued then too.

Today Republicans vote to give almost double the money to subsidize Corporate Welfare than to support traditional social welfare programs.   The recently passed Farm Bill took $9 billion from poor and hungry Americans to promote corporate welfare for big agribusinesses.   The Republican lead Congress recently passed a $284 billion highway bill with 4,128 political earmarks for corporate welfare projects.   Beside oil industry subsidies, one finds corporate welfare for companies like WalMart that netted $37 million from the taxpayer in the transportation bill.  In 2013, Walmart made $10.3 billion profits and yet 80% of their employees received federally funded food stamps.   http://www.progress.org/tpr/corporate-welfare-scandal-hits-wal-mart/

We must not be deceived by the lies of the wealthy elite that control the representation of our Republican lead Congress.   Income equality in America is NOT socialism … regardless of regurgitated Koch brother’s propaganda.

Mark Chapman

The Hidden Costs of Low Wages

When our economy first crashed during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, we were told if we lower wages more people will be able to work.  Since then job growth has slowly improved, but has not replaced those lost jobs. Middle-wage occupations accounted for 60 percent of jobs lost between 2007 and 2009 yet represents only 20 percent of post-recession job growth.

Low-wage jobs are the recovery. A study by the National Employment Law Project shows low wage positions are concentrated primarily in the health care, retail and fast food industries accounting for three out of five “newly created” jobs, and representing 9 out of the 10 fastest “growing” job categories.

Our regional job providers include nursing homes and assisted living facilities, big box retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Staples, and fast food chains like McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Subway. The low wages these businesses pay their workers impose hidden costs on all of us. These jobs pay so little that families have to rely on public programs to survive.

Cost of Low Wages

The rest of us subsidize those low wages with higher taxes which pay for programs like food stamps and housing because these jobs pay below-subsistence wages. A new study shows that health care workers comprise 20 % of all those who receive public assistance. Nearly 80% of Wal-Mart’s employees use food stamps and less than half have any health care coverage. Over 50% of fast food workers receive some form of public assistance, and nearly 90 % have no health care coverage.

Coupled with six years of high unemployment, the growth of low-wage jobs without benefits has stretched our nation’s safety nets to the breaking point. Yet the hidden public cost of low-wage work rarely factors into debates about state and national policy.

There are other hidden costs. Low wage earners cannot afford healthier foods or preventive health care, and when they truly do get sick we pick up those costs. The high price of poverty is most noticeable in our inner cities, where disintegrating neighborhoods and high crime rates go hand in hand, along with the additional costs of incarceration.

With the pervasive anxiety that working families experience every day, the paralyzing effect of  eroding self confidence is the greatest social cost of low wages. Making do with less is unrealistic. Those who can no longer afford a phone, a car, or a place to live will sink below the radar with scarcely a ripple. It is a major reason why low-wage workers remain unengaged in civic organizations and considerably less likely to vote, even to protect their own interests.

When all of these social costs are tallied up, it’s clear we are subsidizing the profits of corporations who pay low wages. The benefits of having companies paying living wage are clear; lower taxes and smaller public programs, healthier workers, and less incarceration.

We can either support those at the bottom with more government benefits via higher taxes, or we can support them by paying them a living wage, enabling them to be self-sufficient. At the end of the day, having companies pay a living wage is about fiscal and moral responsibility.

Jon Taylor

Fake Town Hall’s

Recently,  Delegate, Peter Farrell along with State Senators, Tom Garrett and Bryce Reeves hosted a Town Hall meeting at the Louisa Arts Center on Monday, April 14th supposedly to talk about their accomplishments in the latest state legislative session.

The real purpose of this meeting was to hold a revival meeting for their conservative faithful and avoid talking about how they are holding the states budget hostage because of their refusal to consider let alone discuss Medicaid expansion as part of the states budget process.

It’s worth noting that this meeting  was primarily publicized though this Republican’s supporters email notice, although there was a short public notice buried on page 4 in our local paper the Central Virginian  the week before.

 

Farrell_RepublicansONLY_invite

Even before this Town Hall meeting took place, Mr. Farrell along with several other Delegates were busy practicing their deceptions in a phone conference town hall the week before, hosted by House Speaker Bill “ALEC”  Howell.

This telephonic Town Hall consisted of a litany of talking points in response to their own questions, and was essentially a practice run for their deceptions about holding the states budget hostage over Medicaid expansion in Delegate Farrell’s April 14th meeting.

That very same day, Senator Garrett took the lies and misrepresentations about Medicaid expansion in this telephone “Town Hall” to new levels with this op-ed printed in two local papers, the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star, and the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Where he makes several confabulations; that Medicaid expansion is Obamacare, that Obamacare and Medicaid are broken, along with repeating Delegate Farrell’s and Speaker Bill Howells, disingenuous claims that because of unspecified “concerns” about the fiscal stability of the ACA and Medicaid expansion that this is not a good program for the people of Virginia.

In this telephone Town Hall, Speaker Howell went on to blame the evenly divided …. I mean Democratic dominated Senate for trying to shove the Affordable Care Act and state Medicaid Expansion down our throats without any discussion, holding the States and local communities budgets hostage in the process.

Predictably, the Louisa Town Hall turned out to be another dog and pony show for the benefit of their faithful, vs. being a good faith effort of any of any of these representatives to inform their constituents about any of the issues.

It’s worth noting that none of the subsequent editions of the Central Virginian that have come out since this Town Hall meeting took place made a single mention of this meeting.

So unless their readers happened to read the two recent letters to the editor Louisa’s Town Hall Meeting and GOP holds the state for ransom over Medicaid which turned out to be the only local “coverage” of this event that discussed what actually happened at this meeting.

If I didn’t know better, one would think that the CV wants their readers to believe that this meeting never happened. A strange set of circumstances, especially since one of their reporters was present and was taking pictures of the event and talking to our representatives.

Are we left to conclude that Town Hall meetings featuring Louisa Counties State Delegate and 2 State Senators happen so frequently that they are no longer considered news worthy?

Meanwhile the Richmond Time Dispatch thought it worth sending out a reporter to cover this event, who noted that the only topic the audience wanted to discuss was Medicaid expansion and how it affected the states budget, and why were they refusing to include it in the budget negotiations?

His comments below sum up the dynamics of the meeting and the Republican’s rationale for holding them.

“Welcome to the echo chamber, an endless loop of messages about the health care debate from legislators to their grass roots which reinforces already rigid positions that serve to undercut any chance for compromise. Across Virginia, the message in the health care debate is orchestrated by the boundaries of House of Delegates and state Senate districts, and  is literally unfolding by the book

In the case of Republicans, it’s publications such as the “State Legislators Guide to Repealing Obamacare,” by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, of which House Speaker Bill Howell is a major project chairman.”

“The organization urges politicians to take this fight to the people: “Hold public hearings and establish standing legislative committees to examine Obamacare’s implementation and impact.” Bolstering the Republican-created, Republican-dominated General Assembly panel which claims it has the ultimate say on any Medicaid-backed plan for Virginia.  ALEC also recommends legislatures serve as a “check on agency and executive branch implementation of Obamacare.”

Meanwhile, over in Charlottesville, Republican Delegates Steve Landes and Rob Bell were headlining their own version of the “greatest misinformation show on earth” the following week in the Lane Auditorium at the Albemarle County Office Building backed by a cadre of green shirted Americans for Prosperity supporters who were surprised to discover that despite their best efforts to pack the house, that they were outnumbered by local citizens.

 

Not to be outdone, Delegate Farrell and Senator Garrett will be taking their misinformation campaign  for a second run,  at J. Sargent Reynolds Community Campus on the 28th.

 

Farrell_Goochland_bottom

After talking to locals in Goochland and Henrico counties, there wasn’t any public notice about this event in any of their local papers, and it was the lowest attended of the 3 regional Town Halls.

About the only good news was that the green shirted Americans for Prosperity folks failed to make their appearance at this meeting like they did in Charlottesville.

Make no mistake that our state Delegates and Senators leading these Town Hall’s are conducting them directly out of the ALEC playbook, setting the stage for taking their “model legislation” used as a blueprint for influencing state lawmaking all the way down to the local level.

While they were busy distracting us with their fake Town Halls, and holding the states budget hostage, another plan was being quietly set in motion, through the efforts of folks like Speaker Howell, and Louisa’s own Pat Mullins, Chair of the Virginia Republican’s.

ALEC is making plans for the public launch of this program called the American City County Exchange (ACCE) which will target policymakers from “villages, towns, cities and counties.”

The new organization will offer corporate America a direct conduit into the policy making process of city councils and municipalities. Lobbyists acting on behalf of major businesses will be able to propose resolutions and argue for new profit-enhancing legislation in front of elected city officials, who will then return to their council chambers and seek to implement their proposals.

And just in case you’re tempted to dismiss this is some kind of tin foil conspiracy talk, you should know this has already happened in Chesterfield County, where Ben Knotts, the director of coalitions for one of ALEC’s allies, Americans for Prosperity a national conservative organization founded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch spoke at the meeting urging county residents to oppose a 4.5 cent increase in the counties proposed budget.

Prior to this meeting, the group has been robo-calling Chesterfield residents, urging them to oppose this increase in the county’s proposed budget.   Several people attending this meeting publicly called him out as a representative of the Koch Brothers, and not a local citizen who has legitimate interests in the affairs of Chesterfield County.

By allowing state politicians, like Delegate Farrell and Senators Reeves and Garrett to continually misrepresent themselves on issues like Medicaid expansion in their ALEC based Town Halls and whose interests they are actually representing, we are enabling them and their supporters to set the stage for taking over our government at the County and Town level.

This is what will happen in county after county and in small town after small town if we allow Local County and town politicians to represent  the interests of ALEC and Americans for Prosperity and not yours.

The only way you can stop this from happening is to pay close attention to what is going on at the local level and having a long enough memory to remember to vote them out of office in 2015 when these State representatives come up for re-election.

Jon Taylor

 

GOP holds the state for ransom over Medicaid

Ted Cruz has nothing on the Republican members of Virginia’s General Assembly. Like Cruz, they are holding Virginia’s budget hostage unless the governor removes expansion of Medicaid from it.

Without a budget, Virginia’s government will be closed statewide on July 1. No one will be able to get licenses or permits, receive unemployment benefits, go to school, call a police officer, go to a state health facility, etc., etc. The impact on Virginians will be more far-reaching than the federal government shut-down

During a recent Town Hall Meeting in Louisa, Senators Tom Garrett and Bryce Reeves, and Del. Peter Farrell, all voiced their disapproval of the expansion of Medicaid. They cited the cost as one of their main reasons, although the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost from 2014 through 2016 and gradually decrease to 90 percent in 2020.

We the taxpayers, hospitals, and state government are currently footing all of the bill for people who would be covered under Medicaid Expansion. They couldn’t cite one example of when that happened in the past. The money that has been set aside for Virginia will go to other states and we will continue to pay.

Hospitals, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and corporate leaders have contacted legislators to persuade them to expand Medicaid. They know it makes good business sense. In FY12, Virginia spent $112 million on indigent care. The expansion of Medicaid would result in a savings of 50 to 80 percent of that amount.

Sen. Reeves says he supports a healthcare savings plan. An individual in the audience suggested that everyone should put aside money for medical care. If you can’t afford food and other immediate necessities of life, how can you afford to put aside money for healthcare?

Sen. Garrett said he was against the expansion of Medicaid because of the amount of fraud uncovered. He also said it wasn’t the recipients who were responsible for the fraud; it was the providers. Potential recipients of much needed Medicaid should not be denied healthcare because of scam artists. Seems to me like there should be more scrutiny of the providers instead of punishing those who need Medicaid.

According to a Harvard Medical School study, someone dies every 12 minutes as a consequence of not having health insurance. Garrett, Reeves and Farrell don’t seem to care about that.

In my opinion, the only reason they won’t approve expansion of Medicaid is they are merely following the Republican Party line to disapprove the Affordable Care Act at all costs. They aren’t taking into consideration the needs of the almost 460,000 Virginians who need Medicaid.

They also don’t seem to remember that Democrats won the major positions in Virginia during the last election. Obviously, the majority of Virginians support Obamacare. Otherwise we would have a Republican governor and Attorney General.

It’s time our representatives started supporting the people instead of the party. Call your General Assembly members and tell them Virginia needs to expand Medicaid. We can’t afford not to.

Deanna Nicosa

Louisa’s Town Hall Meeting

Time to reflect on Monday’s Town Hall meeting with Del. Peter Farrell, and State Senators Bryce Reese and Tom Garrett.  The three Republican Virginian State representatives spent the first half of the meeting talking about bills they have introduced in state government that had nothing to do with Medicaid Expansion.  Then they began a Q&A session from constituents where the only topic of discussion was Medicaid Expansion.

Missing from the Town Hall meeting was the discussion of how inequality of wealth correlates with citizen health; a strong economy brings a country out of poverty resulting in citizens living longer and healthier.  In “Inequality for All” Robert Reich’s states that “over the past 40 years our government has destroyed the middle class by deregulation and privatization.”  A deregulated Wall Street made it easy for investors to gamble and lose people’s money, maximize corporate profits by firing workers and sending their jobs overseas to cheaper workforces.  For years this practice worked and stock prices rose significantly.

Americans were brainwashed into thinking “if they bailed out Wall Street that would help the economy.”  However, the bailout did nothing for the average citizen because nothing trickled down from Wall Street.   Americans were brainwashed into thinking “high tax rates reduce the growth of our economy;” actually, high taxes on the wealthy elite enabled America to expand the prosperity of the middle class and increase economic growth for average citizens and the wealthy.  Americans were brainwashed into thinking “Government was the problem and Free Markets were the solution.”  Voters forgot about the Great Depression … having occurred because of unregulated investors and unconstrained greed that concentrates wealth at the top.  Over the last 40 years, the top 1% of the population went from owning 6% of our nation’s wealth to owning 25%.  As the middle class disappears, the government needed to play a bigger role in social services to citizens hurt by corporate greed … hence the need for Medicaid Expansion for the working poor.

Inequality of wealth and health continues in America … recently McCutcheon v. FEC Supreme Court decision permits the wealthy elite to buy elections, to own the US Government, and to make laws that help them accumulate more wealth.  The wealthy oligarchy seeks to end Social Security, end Medicare, and end Medicaid because these humanitarian programs don’t make profits.

Our Virginia House of Delegates is following the same ‘modus operandi” as the oligarchy that seeks to gut our Democracy.  They inhibit any solution of improving America’s economy; they point fingers to blame others for destroying the middle class; they applaud the removal of medical safety nets for Americans that are in need.  They refuse to negotiate with the democratically elected leaders to make them look weak when they actually are fighting to keep the middle class alive.

So the question to Farrell, Reese and Garrett is “Who do you represent in state government … the wealthy elite or the average citizen of Virginia?” Your answer is directly linked to the Medicaid Expansion.

Mark Chapman

Fear of the Unknown

Fundamentalists writing to The Central Virginian are quite skilled at  making others points for them. Considering how often it happens, one has to ask, is it because they are completely unaware of the contradictions of their arguments?

Take Bob Jones response to how FOX’s corrosive style of covering current events not only influences other media outlets, it reinforces and hardens existing social stereotypes and prejudices. Their brand is not about bigotry per se, it’s about the manipulation of bigotry for profit and gain.

Many like him belligerently believe that Fox News is “the most fair, accurate, and balanced news organization in existence today“, while simultaneously claiming only Kool Aid drinkers believe that “politicians and government can act to solve social and economic problems.

Others, like Jerry Reynolds take it even further, contending that FOX “reports the news as it happens“, and they are “virtually the only news outlet that has not been co-opted by this government“, citing various conspiracies only they know about. This cultural affectation has several defining characteristics.

Starting with the unshakable confidence that ones personal beliefs supersede all other evidence. This fundamental lack of humility has another name, vanity – an unwillingness to engage in any personal reflection or self examination whatsoever. An “Original Sin” accompanied by a determination to couch those beliefs in stark terms, a worldview where everything is black and white, and not subject to any nuance.

All sprinkled with choice paranoid convictions that hidden forces like the “liberal media” conspire to keep them down. It is a way of looking at the world characterized by an intense and irrational dislike of outsiders, people who think or act differently.

Their fearful outlook is so reliant on compliance, conformity and obedience to authority that it distorts any ability to interpret the world around them, a perspective which remains in force only as long as people can be convinced to suspend their capacity for independent rational thought.

And because so many remain fearful they remain incapable of conceiving that it’s our diversity which gives us our strength, not our similarities. While folks like Jerry might find it convenient to believe that some view them as a “despised Christians”, they overlook a more painful possibility, that they are pitied for having lost their compassion and humanity.

While conservatives were busy railing against tyrannical governments and social dependency, they overlook the fact that it was the actions of the Republicans primary voting constituency, the most fearful, who elected so many infective politicians, completely unwilling and incapable of addressing our many problems.

The only Kool-Aid drinkers here are the inflexible personalities of the conservative party, who live in a world of absolutes based on beliefs—unwilling to comprehend proven facts because they “believe” otherwise—in a world with no room for change. The tree in their front yard didn’t evolve over the past 30 years it was there 6000 years ago.

We can only hope with education of the younger generation, facts will prevail and the Kool-aid drinkers will disappear.

Suzanne Johnson

Empire’s of Economic Pain

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and when comes to discussing the impact that Corporations and their one size fits all mentality has on the economies of local communities and our lives these graphics paint a disturbing picture.

Largest Employers

It’s no secret that the American economy is largely based on consumer consumption, or that many of the businesses we shop and eat at are Big Box stores.  Wherever these businesses have set up in local communities like Louisa County they inevitably become an economic drain on the local economy.

WalMart

WalMart in particular, has cost Louisa County and surrounding jurisdictions approximately $ 900, 000 in hidden expenses because they refuse to pay their employees a living wage.  Few of them make enough to afford basic necessities like food, shelter and health care. Which means local jurisdictions have to pick up the slack; starting with medical assistance programs like CHIP and Medicaid, along with programs like, energy assistance, school lunches and food stamps.

This figure cited in this graph doesn’t take into account the additional cost of lost sales tax revenue because local towns and rural counties like Louisa were “persuaded” into giving these companies long term relief from paying their fair share of local taxes.  In addition, rural communities often subsidize the costs of infrastructure needed to support these Big Box outfits like; roads, electricity, telephone/internet, water and sewage. Rarely do these corporations pay their fair share of the costs or taxes.

Employer Profits

To add insult to injury, most of the profits made by these corporations make in local communities don’t go back to the local communities, or to their employees. They are overwhelmingly going to their top executives. In the case of WalMart, a lion’s share of local profits goes to the 6 heirs of the Walton family fortune.  With their most recent annual report admitting that everywhere they go they are most effective in creating poverty in local communities.

This is a standard business practice of WalMart and large business in this county and around the world. It is built around a concept known as “economic extraction“, where the wealth of the state and local community is extracted and redistributed upwards to deserving corporations, executives and other connected official. At the state level this is accomplished primarily by avoiding paying local and state taxes

 

Walmart Sux

Another way for corporations to enhance their ability to extract wealth from local communities is to quietly and behind the scenes support the enactment of thousands of laws and regulations at the state and local level. Their primary purpose, to hide the immediate or obvious impact of how much of the communities wealth is being sent on a one way voyage.

For those of you aren’t familiar with ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, you should be. They are supposed to be a non-profit tax exempt organization dedicated to the promotion of “model legislation” which assists legislators in developing workable regulations. What they really are doing is abusing their tax exempt educational status to assist big business in enacting their extractive economic agendas, particularly at the state level.

Basically their mission is to privatize this country, state by state. Since an overwhelming majority of their state and even Congressional members are Republican’s, it would be safe to say they are a politically oriented non-profit group, one who just happens to be in favor of extractive economic practices.

ALEC may pretend to be a “non partisian” and apolitical organization, their not. They are heavily dependent on massive corporate support to carry out their “mission”. They are further backed by the ultra right wing Koch Brothers, through their front group “Americans for Prosperity” While AFP just happen to be  the primary backer of the allegedly independent Tea Party.

It’s through this confluence of extreme wealthy and rabid mega-donors like the Koch Brother’s and Sheldon Adelson, along with a host of shadowy non-profit organizations, and corrupt politicians promoting extreme economic and social policies that have provided the basis for thousands of state regulations.

More so than any other factor, these groups have contributed to the continued economic pilfering of local communities, promoting rising inequality that continues to crush what is left of the American middle class. contributed to the continued economic pilfering

The economic slippage experienced by most American communities especially over this past decade, continues unabated and is showing no signs of letting up.

 

Decreasing Worker Wages

For decades, the business community and their political supporters have taken pains to conceal the impact that this loss of earning power has on the local economy and the ability of the people living in those communities to prosper. The simple truth in this country is that more and more Americans, particularly those in rural communities like Louisa are finding themselves sliding downwards, barely making enough money to meet basic needs like food, shelter, and access to health care.

Mega-business like WalMart are able to perpetuate this vicious cycle of wealth extraction because of the economic wealth generated from these practices gives them unprecedented ability to leverage, or purchase political loyalty at the federal, state and increasingly at the local level.  While Republican’s as a whole are unquestionably by far the worst actors in this morality play.

Make no mistake, they have been aided and abetted by equally corporate conserva-dems in a no holds barred campaign to eliminate any challenges to their continued acquisition of wealth and power. It’s almost as if the fictional race from the Star Trek series, the notoriously greedy Ferengi have been put charge of our local economies.

This long tide of economic policy changes spans several decade’s and has lead us to today’s state of affairs, marked by ever increasing economic inequality, levels of inequality which exceed those seen just prior to the Great Depression.

Most of the jobs that have been created in Louisa County, particularly over the past decade are relatively low paying ones. Economic earning which contribute to the downward spiral called the “new normal.”  A deadly social confluence, where low wages, low  aspirations, expectations, and living paycheck to paycheck go hand in hand. For many living in Louisa County this has become a way of living that few would dare question.

There are many threads that make up the tapestry of their efforts to keep local communities like Louisa in perpetual economic servitude. On the political front, it starts with a decade’s long resistance to any change in the Federal minimum wage. As the previous chart indicates, most workers understand that their earning power has decreased substantially over the past few decades, and they are not happy about it.

Voters want change

If the recent Facebook survey from the Central Virginian indicating that 54% of the local inhabitants now approve of a minimum wage hike has any statistical validity, people around here are just starting to recognize a working wage as a basic necessity, and are finally catching up with a national trend.  Meanwhile, Corporations and their media and political lackeys are doing everything possible to undermine the ability of working folk to survive.

Like the Republican House’s efforts to repeal overtime, or trying to deny healthcare to millions of working folk by redefining full time employment.

A recent letter to the editor in the Central Virginian talked about Republican’s new found appearance of concern for the plight of the rapidly shrinking middle class. Such concern includes a wide range of “fake” solutions.  Starting with bogus reasons not to raise the minimum wage, to giving federal subsidies to employers to “create jobs“, and eliminating child labor laws.

Other recent proposals to harm working folks include, the state of Florida eliminating sick leave, and turning programs such as food stamps over to the states, and replacing public schools with voucher schools. Or the state of Oklahoma banning minimum wage, paid sick days or vacation days.

The truth is that Republican’s “we care about you” proposals are a smokescreen concealing the fact that their proposals will only bring about more economic pain and suffering.  Like how the House of Representatives in a time of high unemployment recently slashed food stamp programs to the bone, while providing additional tax breaks for their corporate patrons like the Koch Brothers.

The good news is that states with Democratic majorities or Governor’s are starting to find creative ways to resist Republican’s deliberate attempts to inflict more pain and suffering, and are restoring some of the food stamp cuts.

Other Democratic states have recognized the relationship between workers earning a living wage, and their ability to have access to affordable education, and health care. While poverty caused by rising levels of economic inequality only increase the potential for long term dependence on public assistance. They are leading the way in this social change, and have raised their minimum wages well above federal levels.

The Massachusetts House   recently voted to raise their minimum wage above the $ 10.10  proposed by President Obama.

States around the country are starting to wake up to the simple fact that when people are paid a working wage, it means a better standard of living for them and their families, improves the economy and making it less likely that either they or their families will become dependent on public assistance in order to survive.

Should you live in a Republican dominated state like the Commonwealth of Virginia, and happen to find yourself out of work, with your and your family going hungry, you just might be out of luck. Because the same mindset which drove the House Republicans to make draconian cuts to food stamp cuts, and trying to repealing the Affordable Care Act over 50 times is also behind the Republican dominated House of Delegates continued resistance to Medicaid expansion.

Jon Taylor