I watched the eight Republican candidates debate among themselves last week. Many of the opinion-makers of our country, early on decided to attack many of these candidates, most of whom either are themselves card-carrying members or adherents of the Tea Party as well as members of the Republican Party. All are seeking Republican Party support while advocating Tea Party positions on major issues, e.g., reducing or eliminating entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and slashing federal government expenditures.
Candidates like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) have been described by some observers of the political scene as wackos or crazies. I think those views are now changing. I must admit here that I have used those words in describing the views of some candidates, but I won’t anymore. The eight participants in the debate handled themselves extremely well. While I was not persuaded by their arguments and views and remain a Democrat supporting many Democratic programs, I can well understand why they and their supporters demand changes in federal programs along the lines advocated by Tea Party philosophy. Michele Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll, coming in one percentage point ahead of Ron Paul. Tim Pawlenty came in third and has withdrawn from the race.
Liberal philosophy has adopted the Keynesian position that in times of recession and depression, government must prime the pump and spend its way out to achieve better times. The Tea Party view and that of the Conservative government of David Cameron in Great Britain adheres to the old-fashioned view that my mom often expressed: “You don’t spend money you don’t have.” That was my view when I was mayor of New York City and in my personal life. I have two credit cards. I have never paid charges on either of them over and above my actual purchases. I am one of those customers the credit card companies hate and may lose money on, if they are dependent on the usurious rates of interest they receive from those using their credit cards as access to bank loans.
When I was Mayor, I supported then and do now a GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) balanced budget imposed by the state legislature requiring New York City to limit its operating budget to what was reasonable to expect the City to receive the year of the adopted budget. The Tea Party believes in a balanced budget for the US and wants to enact it into law by the adoption of a constitutional amendment. Liberals are horrified with the idea. My mother would have loved it. It seems to me to make sense, provided there is an exception when the US is at war.
We were a lower-middle class family when I grew up in Brooklyn. Perhaps even poorer than we thought. My father made $65 a week. Our rent in Flatbush in 1941 was $65 a month – the then accepted ratio – and my parents were able to lead a reasonably decent lifestyle, bringing up three children and sending them to college. I believe my parents values would be described as politically liberal. Early on in my political career, I referred to myself as a liberal with sanity.
Mr. President, the country we all love is hurting enormously, with huge unemployment. Isn’t it possible to create work programs like the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and spend monies on infrastructure for bullet trains, repairing roads and bridges that are falling down and other truly needed capital programs by creating what we don’t have now – a separate capital budget (which states and cities have) that would permit borrowing and pay the cost of a capital item over its expected life, instead of maintaining the single unified budget which the US currently has? I am not an economist, but shouldn’t that be considered? The need for jobs with our unemployment rate in excess of 9 percent is universally accepted.
People everywhere are asking why don’t you call the Congress back from their unearned vacations to address the huge problems now facing the nation. You can still win back the support of the public by publicly setting forth in detail your plan to address these enormous problems. It should be a plan fashioned not on consensus, but your plan and if your political adversaries oppose it, so be it. Then you must go over their heads to the vast public, appealing to its common sense, asking them to support you. Take your plan into the next election and make your proposed programs the referendum on which the public will be voting in the presidential election of 2012.
Remember what Harry Truman did in 1948 with the do nothing Congress? While Harry Truman is my political hero, you are far more eloquent than he was. You can bring the nation to your side if you convince people that what you are asking them to do is to join hands in self-sacrifice, sharing the nation’s burden proportionately to their economic status. We are a generous nation, a patriotic nation, a nation like no other in our diversity. Today, we are so divided and feel leaderless. You can bring us together and lead us to the promised land.
Mr. President, doesn’t it appear strange to you that the war in Afghanistan has been going on for ten years and this month of August, we have already sustained 51 deaths there? We spend billions annually on the military budget. Indeed, our military budget is equal in the aggregate to the military budgets of the next 17 nations. I suspect the Taliban spends less than $10 million on its military, maybe $50 million annually, and yet, they have fought us to a standstill. Shouldn’t we be getting out this year, instead of waiting for 2014, or as appears to be the case, staying permanently in a land where the people hate us?
Mr. President, we have been in Iraq for eight years. We have spent hundreds of billions fighting the insurgents in Iraq. Probably over a trillion dollars for the two wars – Afghanistan and Iraq – that are bleeding us, killing and injuring our young soldiers, ripping off the billions we send to rebuild their country, while our people are suffering in an economic crisis. Within the past week, Iraq’s premier aligned Iraq with Syria and Iran, our declared enemies. Syria is now engaged in killing its own citizens, shooting them down in the streets of Hama and other cities. Does it make sense that you criticize Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, and now our supposed ally, the new Iraq, is supporting the butcher of Syria? While he is doing that, The Times reports we are negotiating with Iraq to stay past the end of this year with no date set for our leaving.
We are told Iraq needs our soldiers to protect it until Iraqi soldiers become able to do so. Mr. President, what happened to the Iraqi soldiers’ ability? That army eight years ago was the terror of the region. Mr. President, our country is hurting. Please take the actions needed to assure us someone is in charge.