Transcript #161

2009 In Review: So Much Potential Unfulfilled, And The Right Still As Toxic As Ever


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources in this special year-end review, please see the data resources page entry, or the transcript, for each specified podcast.



Usually I give sources here at the beginning.  But no time to list them all today, since I'll be referring to all the shows of 2009.  Instead, the transcript of this show indicates which podcast number I'm talking about.  Then you can check the audio or the transcript for that specific program. 


As a way to weave this all together for you, I've grouped segments by subject matter.  Within each subject, we'll go from broad to specific, along with historical contexts to gain deeper understandings of what's going on.


I'm going to zoom through this without all that much detail, obviously, given how much there is to cover.  If you've already heard the show mentioned, it can jog your memory, bring back some facts.  If not, it can whet your appetite to go listen.  Or re-listen, if you want to recall even more about that specific topic.


A bonus: I'm going to include clips of the year in various categories.  You'll love these.


So without further ado, we'll delve into the first topic, economics, which is always a major part of any Blast The Right year.


We discussed two broad right-wing memes, or thought viruses.  One is that severe economic inequality is somehow good (158).  It increases incentives to improve oneself and overall creates prosperity.  This is just another right-wing justification for greed.  The facts are, when inequality is high, social indicators like health, social mobility and violence are bad.  And also when inequality is high, economic growth is less than when inequality is low. The greatest periods of economic growth occur when inequality is low. 


The other right-wing ubiquitous meme is that taxes are always bad (150).  If people could keep the money, they could spend it on what they want.  Problem is, sometimes what people want is to collectively pool their money and in the form of taxes, have the government spend it on what they want, for example, highways, Medicare, public university systems.


Which leads us into an overall progressive meme, which you heard about in the context of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Second Bill of Rights (143).  In a State of the Union speech, he said it was the government's proper role to guarantee a whole host of domestic protections.  He said this is a type of security no less essential than protection against foreign adversaries.  Roosevelt told us that Americans have a right to, among other things, a decent education, a living wage job, adequate medical care, affordable housing and old age security.


Beyond philosophy, you heard about right-wing policies in action.  The biggie of course, was their deregulation mania, which unfortunately many of the corporate-oriented Democrats bought into.  It allowed the financial industry to run wild.  They created exotic financial gambling instruments called derivatives.  This is how Wall Street almost brought down the entire world's financial structure. (149)


On a smaller scale, but no less painful to those at the receiving end, it was revealed that the Bushians had let companies both steal with impunity from low income workers (146) as well as fire workers with impunity (140).


Also as a result of deregulation, we discovered that one-third of our children's toys are contaminated with toxic chemicals. (140).


In order to achieve their ends, you heard in 2009, as in every year, a slew of right-wing lies.  In the economic realm, there were two broad propaganda blasts from the right.


The first was that the Community Reinvestment Act, the CRA, as utilized by the activist group ACORN, was responsible for the global financial crisis. (149)  Huh?  ACORN fights for the rights of low income Americans.  The right claims that ACORN forced the big banks to give mortgages to people who couldn't afford them, using the CRA as a bludgeon.  But even Bush officials said that the CRA had nothing to do with the global financial crisis.  The right just wants to divert attention from the real cause of the crisis, their beloved deregulation.  And in the process, get to attack some poor, largely minority individuals.


The other big lie was that the New Deal was a failure. (143)  If so, then the government now shouldn't do anything to help end the financial crisis and help those suffering because of it.  Of course, whatever a right-winger says, the exact opposite is true.  The New Deal was a tremendous success in putting people to work, stabilizing the financial system and creating lasting safety net programs like Social Security.  If anything, it didn't go far enough.


You also heard me debunk several right-wing lies about specific economic facts:


--the U.S. has the lowest effective corporate tax rates, not the highest (148)


--this is a Sean Hannity favorite, the assertion that tax cuts boost government revenue -- no they don't (144)


--not most people, but less than 1% of Americans ever pay any estate tax (147)


--Social Security is not bankrupt, it's not running out of money, it can pay full or three-quarter benefits for decades if we do nothing, and we can ensure full benefits for the long term by lifting the salary cap on the tax (145).


OK, here's my choice for economic clip of the year (160), none other than the illustrious Bill O'Reilly:


audio: Bill O'Reilly

Already Nancy Pelosi and her far-left crew want to raise the top Federal tax rate to 45 percent.  That's not capitalism—that's Fidel Castro stuff!  Confiscating wages that people honestly earn.

Gee, who knew we must have been extreme communist under Republican President Dwight David Eisenhower, what with a 91% top rate back then.


It's good that Obama's announced tax plans would let Bush's tax cuts expire for those making over $250,000 a year (144).  Like other Obama promises, however, we'll have to see if this one also fails to come to fruition, despite our strongest attempts to make it reality.


In a moment, the health care debate, as heard on Blast The Right this year. Stick around.





In 2009 we devoted a significant amount of time to the health care debate: virtually three entire shows, and a bunch of other individual segments.


You heard two overall right wing memes debunked.


The first was that Democratic health care reform plans would lead to socialism and tyranny. (155)  You heard me play a clip of Ronald Reagan way back in 1964 when he was denouncing Democratic plans for a Medicare-type system. He said it would lead to Soviet-style tyranny, to a loss of our freedoms.  We all know how terrible Medicare has been, and how much the elderly subject to its abuses hate it!


The second right-wing meme is to confuse, deliberately or out of ignorance, socialized medicine on the one hand, and single payer on the other. (152)  Socialized medicine is like Great Britain, the government owns the hospitals and employs the doctors.  Single payer is like… Medicare, where the government pays, you choose private doctors and hospitals.  Progressives are proposing single payer arrangements, not socialized medicine.  link


On the health care front, I gave you some progressive memes and talking points:


--If government is so incompetent and terrible, Mr. or Ms. Right-winger, I guess you never drive on the highways or fly in an airplane. (157)


--Over one-third of Americans are already in Medicare and Medicaid, plus millions more in other programs.  Those programs work. (154)


--Medicare beneficiaries are more satisfied with their care than the non-elderly in private employee plans. (154).


--Most broadly, why should insurance companies even exist, they don't do anything except transfer money from you to the health care providers. (155).  They shouldn't be raking 31% off the top for that.


You also heard many facts about how bad and even deadly our current health care system is, which right-wingers would like to deny.


For example, 45,000 Americans die every year because they lack health insurance.(157)


And Americans have the shortest life expectancy, and highest infant mortality rate, of any developed nation. (156) 


Beyond human misery, suffering, pain and death, which is what right-wing policies always produce, the health care system that the right-wing loves so much is incredibly wasteful.  We spend up to twice as much as any other developed nation on health care. (152).  Up to 31 cents of every dollar is wasted on administrative costs (154).  The majority of personal bankruptcies in our country involve medical bills, and most of those individuals actually had insurance, unfortunately of the all too common inadequate kind. (155)


Right-wingers like to condemn the health systems of other countries, warning us that we'll become like them.  But as I just mentioned, their life expectancies and infant mortality rates are far better than ours. (156)


And as you also heard on Blast The Right. Canada actually does better on some cancers and other procedures than we do. (152).


I asked rhetorically: do one of three Germans or French or Australians have to skip medications because they can't afford them?  No.  But one of three Americans do. (140)


The Canadians, and even the socialized medicine British, like their systems, according to polls. (155)


I debunked for you a ton of specific right-wing lies, among them:


--There were no death panels in the Democratic health care plan (154).


--Right-wing accusations that the Democrats were going to hurt seniors who get Medicare is factually erroneous, and ludicrous to boot, since it's the right which has always opposed Medicare and still tries to privatize it. (154)


--The right's beloved tort reform as an answer to the health care crisis, is meaningless, since it would only save one-half of 1% of costs, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. (157)


The bottom line is, the GOP just doesn't care if people without health insurance suffer and die.  I reminded you how George W. Bush's plan would have helped only 1 in 10 uninsured Americans. (152).  The current GOP plan is even worse, since according to the CBO, the same percentage of people would be uninsured in 10 years, as are now. (159).


So with nothing constructive to offer, the right-wing winds up spouting embarrassing inanities, as you heard during the year.  The award for dumbest right-wing claim in the health care realm goes to the conservative Investor's Business Daily publication.  They editorialized that:


People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.

Hmm, only problem is, Stephen Hawking is a British citizen and has lived his entire life there!  And praises the care he's gotten. (155)


Not only right-wingers are dumb.  Unfortunately, a large segment of the American public seems to be truly clueless.  Remember the reported "Keep your government hands off my Medicare" sign at a town hall meeting?  A poll actually found that a majority of Americans either agreed with or weren't sure, that the government should stay out of Medicare. (156) 


In the political calculations side of the health care debate, the right-wing is warning that the Democrats plan to become evil incarnate and  use a process called "reconciliation" that will enable them to prevent any GOP filibuster, and pass health care reform with a 51 vote majority.  It's undemocratic, they scream.  Well, talk about hypocrisy.  I told you how the GOP used that very reconciliation process to pass the Reagan tax cuts for the rich, among other measures. (150)


Another political calculation: the CBO said the weak public option in the House bill could wind up with premiums higher than private insurance.  That's because it would attract the sickest patients. So it could be a poison pill, souring people on a true public option or single payer system.  Maybe, I expressed the thought, better no public option than a seriously flawed one like this. (152)


I have two clips of the year for you in the health care arena.  Both do what the right does so well, deny the existence of problems that need attention.


Here's Sean Hannity (152):


audio: Sean Hannity

There's not a person in America that doesn't get the best health care…We have the best care.

And now Rush Limbaugh:


audio: Rush Limbaugh

I don't believe anybody in this country is dying because of a lack of health insurance.  But that's what Obama's saying, and Obama's the grand poobah. 

So Elijah Cummings goes out there and reports it and repeats it, and so forth and so on, and that's how these things become mantras, and then the drive-by's pick it up.  And before you know it, (whispers) 45,000 people a year… (gasps)  45,000 people a year are dying, dying… 

Mocking people dying.  Nice, Rush.


In a moment, a whole grab bag of other topics you heard on Blast The Right in 2009.







We spoke a fair amount about the war on terror.  You heard how international treaties are the supreme law of the land under the Constitution.  Treaties require that the U.S. government investigate when it has reason to believe torture has occurred.  Well, Attorney general Eric Holder has said waterboarding is torture.  Dick Cheney has admitted ordering, even bragged about ordering, waterboarding.  Obama better investigate, or he's guilty of violating the treaty, and subject himself to prosecution. (142)


The Red Cross investigated and found the U.S. did torture prisoners, and Spain targeted certain Bushians for prosecution.  The Spanish seem to have backed off that, unfortunately. (146)


You heard how you can challenge a right-winger to justify the President having the unilateral power to declare that right-winger an enemy combatant, and hold him or her forever, with no judicial review possible. (140)


Do you remember hearing on the show how water boarding did not have anything to do with saving LAX from a terrorist plot, contrary to right-wing claims? (150)


Finally, for all their talk of supporting our troops, you probably shook your head at the revelation that the multinational corporation KBR, part of Dick Cheney's old company, did such shoddy work in Iraq that soldiers were being electrocuted.  But the Bushians did little to correct the situation. (148, 150)


As usual regarding the terrible problem of Western economic exploitation of the Third World, I didn't address this issue nearly enough.


You were able to hear about my Four Pillars analysis, of the four major ways such economic exploitation takes place. (153).


Unfortunately, I had to tell you that after a right-wing military coup in Honduras overthrew the progressive president, the Obama administration did far less than it could have, and the coup seems to have succeeded. (156)


To inject a positive element, we discussed the Universal Declaration of Human rights, which was largely based on FDR's Second Bill of Rights, that I mentioned earlier. (145)  In other words, it includes economic rights like living wage employment, health care, housing and the like.  The U.S. has signed onto this Universal Declaration.  Now we just have to make our government follow its letter and spirit when interacting with Third World nations.  


I guess it would also be nice if we could get our government to follow the Universal Declaration as applied to our own citizenry.


Beyond economics, health care, the war on terror and Third World issues, we covered a heck of  a lot of additional ground, mostly involving one aspect of politics or another.


You heard all about the Southern Strategy.   This was the GOP plan to attract the votes of Southern whites who were unhappy that President Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Democrats had secured the passage of civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965.  It took the form of a Dixie dog whistle.   The GOP would talk about states rights, for example, but their target audience knew what the right-wingers were really signaling. (159)


We discussed ACORN, the advocacy group for low income Americans.  No, all you right-wing pundits, even according to Bush administration officials, ACORN did not have anything to do with causing the global financial crisis.  But what ACORN does do is register lots of minority and low income voters, who tilt strongly Democratic.  So the right doesn't like that.  And ACORN is largely minority in composition, so attacking them is but another Dixie dog whistle in the GOP's continuing Southern strategy. (157)


You also heard about a critical case before the Supreme Court, known as Citizens United.  Also related to elections, the Court may well rule that limits on corporate campaign contributions are unconstitutional.  If so, the floodgates will really open.  Efforts by groups like ACORN to get more people to vote will be overwhelmed by a flood of corporate-funded political ads and other interference in the electoral process. (156)


The Citizens United case, and others, show the crucial role the Supreme Court plays in protecting, or not, our rights.  So even though I'm terribly down on Obama for so many of his actions, he at least didn't do anything like a 180 degree reversal on his promise to select good Supreme Court justices.  He picked Sonia Sotomayor, who while not the  fire-breathing progressive I would have preferred, is at least on most issues left of center. (151)


A favorite topic of mine is exposing and challenging the phony Christians I call right-wing pseudo-Christians.  I told you all about Catholic social doctrine, which is extraordinarily progressive in the economic realm, sort of an anti-right-wing manifesto. (157)  Using that as a springboard, you heard about how to put right-wing Christians on the defensive with my patented Equivalent Alternative Solution challenge. (160)  No time to get into it here, but suffice it to say, you could soon have your friendly local right-wing pseudo-Christian being forced to admit they're doing the exact opposite of what Jesus commanded them to do.


I have two political clips of the year for your listening pleasure.


First up is Glenn Beck, speaking of President Obama's choice for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor (151):


audio: Glenn Beck

Marxism.  It is Marxism.  She is a Marxist…

How many Marxists do we have to turn up before we say our country is being taken over?  This is a hostile takeover!

And then who else of course, but Rush Limbaugh (159):


audio: Rush Limbaugh

People are finally standing up to this little boy, this little man-child President, whose primary job, if you want, in life, has been leisure.  This guy is practiced at leisure more than anything else.

Remember the Southern Strategy?  The names Limbaugh calls Obama invoke the old Southern humiliation practice of addressing African American men as "Boy."  The leisure comment is a thinly veiled reference to the ugly "lazy Negro" stereotype.  Limbaugh knows what he's doing, knows how loudly he's blowing the Dixie dog whistle.


Ok, let's close on two positive notes.  How hard could it really be, ultimately, to defeat the right when it's peopled by those like Bill O'Reilly, who apparently have such a limited command of simple arithmetic.  This is my choice for the most stupid quote of the year (154) :


audio: Bill O'Reilly

Here are the letters.  Peter Gilles, Victoria, Canada:  "Has anyone noted that life expectancy in Canada under our health system is higher than the USA?"

Well, that's to be expected, Peter, because we have ten times as many people as you do.  That translates to ten times as many accidents, crimes, down the line.

Yeah, Bill.


Okay, here's my progressive clip of the year, from New York Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner (155):


audio: Rep. Anthony Weiner

Look, the problem that we have here, is that we're trying to jury-rig this system so that the insurance companies still continue to make healthy profits. Why?  What is an insurance company—they don't do a single checkup, they don't do a single exam, they don't perform an operation.

Medicare has a 4 percent overhead rate.  Insurance companies take about $230 billion out of the system every year in profits and overhead. 

The real question is why we have a private plan.

Indeed.  Thank you, Rep. Weiner, for stating a truth too many Democrats are scared to say out loud.


How about we elected a couple hundred more Anthony Weiners to Congress?


A big order, but then, no one ever said making the world a decent, safe, humane place for children and other living things, would be easy.



Podcast Home Page