I am proud of America.
Though we have long dangled the promise of the American Dream in front of the world, we have more recently too often used our nation’s promise to taunt others. In a world of economic struggle, in no small part created by policies pushed by big business through our government onto the globe, millions have come to see America as an oasis of bread and water amidst strife. It may be a mirage, as poverty within America is growing, but still, millions come to America looking for sustenance and salvation, only to be condemned and told to get in the back of a line that has been far too long and far too broken for far too long.
For some time now, American businesses have actively subverted our nation’s laws in order to lure low-wage immigrant workers and increase their corporate bottom line. But those on the Right don’t attack big business for this dynamic, they blame those poor and desperate enough to follow the trail of crumbs the businesses set. Somehow, immigrant workers who are picking our fruit and cleaning our homes are stealing from America, but millionaires and billionaires who pay lower taxes than the rest of us are just keeping what they earned. It strikes me as profoundly hypocritical that conservatives who repeatedly proclaim themselves the defenders of patriotism and American history so blatantly lionize our nation’s kings but vilify its immigrants. King George III gained his wealth and power through entirely legal means and was the rightful leader of the American colonies, while Christopher Columbus was an undocumented immigrant. But American history firmly sides with the latter.
Of course, with President Obama’s executive order to halt deportations of young, undocumented immigrants and students, we’re not even talking about the hardworking mothers and fathers who came to our great country looking for hope and possibility. We’re talking about their kids, who were brought here when they were two years old, three years old, maybe 10 or 11, for whom America is all they have ever known. These are the so-called easy cases, the most sympathetic immigrants among our nation’s undocumented, the kids who only speak English and want to be able to go to college to become doctors or teachers or entrepreneurs. But still, those on the Right attack these young Americans as law breaking criminals who steal jobs from rightful Americans. Wall Street executives who drained billions in wealth from middle class families? Model citizens. Young Americans who want the same opportunities my great-grandparents sought? “Illegals” we should lock up and deport. Policy disagreements aside, the sort of inhumanity with which the Right wing talks about undocumented immigrants in America reflects a deep nastiness that darkens the heart of our nation.
Apparently, conservatives think the free market should not be free and open to everyone. Apparently, conservatives think that economic opportunity should be doled out according to a first-come, first served policy, not hard work. Apparently, they think wealth is not a zero-sum game when it comes to taxing the rich but jobs and opportunity are finite when it comes to the poor. Apparently, they think that more people working hard doesn’t multiply opportunity but somehow depletes it.
Economic opportunity is indeed elusive in America. But somehow, many feeling that insecurity take comfort in or at least overlook the notion of a growing class of robber barons yet are deeply threatened by Latino/a immigrants coming to America to work for less than the minimum wage. Over the last several decades, productivity in America has risen while real wages have declined. That is simply not the fault of immigrants. But perhaps blaming immigrants is easier than blaming our entire economic system, which is increasingly designed to bilk working class and middle class families for the benefit of the very rich. But I can’t help but wonder… if conservatives were right, if all the undocumented immigrants left the United States tomorrow and unemployed Americans took all those mostly-crappy, low-paying jobs, so that the already-profound gap between high income and low-income earners were to yawn even wider and the wealth gap increase, is that the Right’s idea of a solution? Sounds infinitely worse to me than treating our fellow human beings with basic decency and extending them the opportunity that we have so long held out for the world’s awe.
President Obama did the right thing. I wish he’d done it sooner. Providing a path to citizenship for America’s undocumented immigrants was supported by President George W. Bush and, incidentally, last enacted by President Ronald Reagan. So at the very least, I hope that conservative vitriol against undocumented immigrants has more to do with President Obama supporting them than any inherent, inhuman nastiness. I hope… Regardless, I am very proud of America and very proud to share her promise more broadly.
In the latest version of manufactured moral outrage, an anti-choice activist pretended to go to a Planned Parenthood clinic to get an abortion if and only if the baby turned out to be a girl. It’s an incredibly disturbing premise. Thank goodness it’s completely untrue.
There is really no sex-selective abortion crisis in the United States, period. But the illusion of a crisis is enough to whip up the conservative base, captivate cable talkers and put pro-choice activists on the defensive. And apparently, a false crisis is even enough to get legislation proposed in Congress — legislation to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. Talk about wasting taxpayer dollars!
This tactic has become one of the more effective and frequent weapons in the Right wing arsenal. Conservatives, who have all but given up on actually being part of the solution for the real disasters America faces, are resorting to a sort of virtual reality game of politics wherein they manufacture disasters designed to cast themselves as the saviors.
I don’t have enough space to list all the examples. Voter fraud. Inflation. Public employee pensions. The fact that unemployment is still far too high in part because of layoffs of public sector workers that conservatives have pushed. Or the idea that marriage equality will lead to marrying goats. Conservatives literally make up these problems or, in the case of public sector unemployment, actively work to make them come true. Mounting government debt? A crisis Republicans obviously played a massive role in creating when George W. Bush was president, only to turn around and paint themselves as the solution to the crisis now that Barack Obama holds the office.
What conservatives understand is that in our 24/7 hyped up, reality TV-like media culture, facts are far less important than fanfare. Voters remember the beginning of the story and lose track by the end, when the crisis is proven utterly false. After all, we’re still talking about Barack Obama’s birth certificate long after the sitting President of the United States of America was embarrassingly forced to produce it. But no matter. Even after that, almost one in three Republican voters still believe that President Obama was born outside of the United States.
It’s very hard to combat such narratives when conservatives render facts irrelevant.
In my debut post for Time Magazine’s website, I defend the honor of a great man that Andrew Breitbart is attempting to drag through the mud from his grave.
Derrick Bell, a professor of mine at NYU School of Law, was our nation’s foremost legal scholar on the persistence of racial discrimination in our economic, political and social institutions. The smear?
In 1991, students at Harvard Law School organized rallies to support Derrick Bell, an African American professor who was taking an unpaid leave of absence to protest the absence of any women of color on the law school faculty. A young Barack Obama spoke at one such rally, calling on his fellow students to “open up your hearts and your minds” to Derrick Bell.
Now conservatives are trying to smear Professor Bell as an anti-American, anti-white radical — hoping to smear President Obama by association. I respond:
It is absurd to suggest that just because President Obama once hugged Derrick Bell or assigned one of his legal essays for coursework, the President therefore embraces everything Professor Bell ever said or did. When the Founding Fathers enshrined free speech and freedom of association in our Constitution, they wanted to prevent us all for being pilloried for anything we might say but certainly for anything said by those with whom we’re loosely associated.
But at worst, these attacks create a dangerous chilling effect for scholarship that raises uncomfortable questions about our society, the sort of questions we should be facing head on, not hiding from.
Please read the entire essay here and help fight back against this ugly attack.
In my Politico Arena “open mic” post, I write:
If it were possible to write this post in all caps and have a button you could click to hear screaming, I’d do it. All Americans should be fed up with the blatant lies being told about our president from all corners of the Republican Party.
I wrote this before, for instance, conservatives started smearing Obama with the well-debunked myth that he went on a “global apology tour”.
Anywho, read the entire post here.
Politico has a story about Right wing activists complaining that Fox News is moving to the left. Apparently, my hire is evidence:
The grumblers were picking up on a strategy that has been under way for some time — a “course correction,” as Fox chief Roger Ailes put it last fall — with the network distancing itself from the tea party cheerleading that characterized the first two years of President Barack Obama’s presidency. Lately, Fox has increasingly promoted its straight-news talent in the press and conducted some of the toughest interviews and debates of the Republican primary season. Just last week, it hired the openly gay liberal activist Sally Kohn as a contributor.
You can read the full piece here.
With the news that Rep. Barney Frank (D-Ma) will not seek re-election, can more Democrats be expected to bail? My response for Politico’s Arena:
More sensible leaders of both political stripes can be expected to leave politics as Washington is increasingly held hostage by intransigent conservative extremists. Barney Frank’s retirement isn’t just unfortunate news for Democrats, it’s unfortunate news for a nation founded on the ideals of democratic deliberation.
Go “LIKE” my post on Politico, will ya?
For a small but merry band of conspiracy theorists, Stephen Lerner is the lynchpin of the rising “red army” of anti-capitalist radicals in America. For everyone else — those struggling to make ends meet in an economic system that we know is rigged against ordinary Americans – Stephen Lerner is a hero.”
During a recent Republican presidential debate, the conservative audience cheered the fact that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has presided over 234 executions, the “vast majority” of which he assured involved guilty offenders. Meanwhile, conservatives are up in arms that the federal government, through a loan initiated by the Bush Administration, backed Solyndra, a clean energy company that just filed for bankruptcy.
On the one hand, conservatives are attacking the role of government in stimulating jobs and new industry. On the other hand, conservatives are praising the role of government in executing its citizens. WTF?
Yes, people, government can make mistakes. I’m a liberal and even I can admit that. But let’s compare…
In 2009, the Department of Energy made a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra. In 2010, analysts suggested Solyndra might be losing its competitive edge in the market, but subsequently the company still raised an additional $175 million from private investors. Incidentally, Solyndra’s backers include George Kaiser, a donor and bundler for Obama, but also the Walton family behind Wal-Mart, big-time Republican donors. Solyndra’s CEO is a Republican as well.
The Solyndra investment is 1.3% of the $38 billion to be disbursed through this particular loan program, which in turn is only a fraction of government stimulus investments. Moreover, when the dust settles, the federal government will recoup at least a portion of its investment. About 1,100 Solyndra workers lost their jobs.
Still, the DOE loan program has created or saved over 65,000 American jobs. The government will get some of our money back after the claims of employees and certain investors are settled. Is it possible that, in the case of this one loan, the Obama Administration rushed to judgment for the sake of a photo op? Sure, it’s possible. But what’s certain is that China’s government invests 30 times more funding in new energy technology and jobs than we do — which is why Solyndra couldn’t compete. The path to a robust 21st century American economy isn’t exactly laid out on a stone tablet somewhere. In trying to get there, the public sector and private sector will both make mistakes. Using the misstep of Solyndra as an excuse to cut all government investment in the green jobs of the future will not only kill the jobs that have been created but will kill the chance of American competitiveness going forward.
Conservatives, however, seem quite comfortable killing things — whether jobs or people.
According to the Innocence Project, an organization that uses new DNA technology to re-examine the cases of death row inmates:
Seventeen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row. They were convicted in 11 states and served a combined 209 years in prison – including 187 years on death row – for crimes they didn’t commit.
In 2004, Texas — under Governor Rick Perry — executed Cameron Todd Willingham who was accused of setting a fire that killed his three children. Willingham consistently plead his innocence and independent analysts agree there were extraordinary flaws in the evidence used to convict him. After Willingham was executed, a state forensics commission on the verge of examining the case and surfacing evidence of Willingham’s innocence was gutted by Gov. Perry and replaced by partisan cronies.
Compelling evidence now suggests that the state of Texas wrongly executed a grieving father. Do we put a price on that mistake? Is Cameron Todd Willingham worth more or less than $535 million? Maybe Willingham counts a bit more because he’s white while many conservatives accept the fact that the government executes innocent people believing most of them are black and must have done something wrong. Here I could point out that most death row inmates are, in fact, white — or I could point out that it really shouldn’t matter.
Of course this is a racialized debate. We have a black president who finalized a loan to support green jobs, a concept pioneered by underemployed communities of color and famously championed by Obama’s black green jobs czar Van Jones. Last night, a popular conservative provocateur on Twitter unfortunately had his home broken into. He tweeted:
This is a more explicit version of implicit conservative logic that “rationalizes” attacking government investment while endorsing state-sponsored execution: If government is wasteful and black people are dangerous, than black people running government is dangerously wasteful — but government wasting black people is A-OK.
Just once, I’d like conservatives to be skeptical of government abuse of power where it really matters — not just dollars and political scandals but the loss of innocent human life.
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