2009 In Review: So Much Potential Unfulfilled,
And The Right Still As Toxic As Ever
to sources. For all sources in this
special year-end review, please see the data
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
So without further ado, we'll delve
into the first topic, economics, which is always a major part of any Blast The
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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):
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
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) :
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.
Okay, here's my progressive clip of
the year, from New York Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner (155):
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.
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.