Monday, November 29, 2010


Save Social Security

By Reginald Johnson

If you're upset over the proposed cuts to Social Security --- the most effective public service program in the history of this country --- Tuesday, Nov. 30, is the day to do something about it.

President Obama's deficit reduction commission recently recommended cuts to cost of living increases in Social Security as well as raising the retirement age to 69. These would be major blows to this vital program, which hundreds of millions of Americans have relied on for retirement income since it was first enacted in 1935.

Congress is now considering whether to adopt the recommendations.

At a time when the economy is weak, pensions and 401ks have either been wiped out or lost substantial value, it is critical to save and strengthen Social Security.

Tuesday is "National Call Congress Day" to let members of Congress know that the commission recommendations should not be followed, and you want Social Security left intact. If they want to reduce the deficit, then end the wars overseas, cut the bloated “defense” budget, stop giving trillions in welfare aid to private banks and end tax cuts for the rich.

To reach U.S. Senators, you can call a toll-free 800 number, 1-866-529-7630 and you will be connected.

In the southern Connecticut area, some numbers for members of Congress are: Rep. Jim Himes, 4th District, 202-225-5541 and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, 3rd District, 202-225-3661. If for some reason the 800 number is tied up, the direct numbers for the senators are: Senator Joe Lieberman, 202-224-4041; Senator Chris Dodd, 202-224-2823.

For more information, check


Out of Control

Reginald Johnson

People are right to protest the new airport screening procedures --- involving full-body x-ray scans and pat downs of passengers, including checking a person’s privates.

The fact is, these procedures --- set up supposedly to fight the holy war against terrorism --- are a complete outrage.

The scans and pat downs are a shocking invasion of people’s privacy and resemble police state tactics.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says the following: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated…”

What happened to that?

If the government can get away with these intrusive screening procedures at airports, what’s next, pat downs before you can get on a train or bus? How about requiring travel passes within the United States, passes which can be demanded at anytime by a police officer? Doesn’t that sound like South Africa in the apartheid era, or Germany under the Nazis (“Papers please!”) What about roadblocks with officials stopping anyone who looks “suspicious”?

Just where does all this stop?

Already Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano and Transportation Security Administration Director John Pistole have talked about pat downs for passengers boarding trains.

This entire “war on terrorism” thing has gotten way out of hand. There’s no question that terrorists are out there --- in good part because of resentment over America’s brutal resource wars in the Middle East --- but combating terrorism by curbing civil liberties at home is not the answer. Good human intelligence and law enforcement work, together with a more sane foreign policy, is.

We don’t need full-body pat downs and show-all x-ray photos (complete with unhealthy blasts of radiation) to catch terrorists.

Another point has to be made. Being in a democracy with a system of strong guarantees of civil liberties, you cannot have a complete airtight system of preventing every last possible terrorist from boarding a plane, riding a bus, checking a book out at the library, or writing something. If you want that, you have a police state. We have rights here --- freedom to travel in privacy, read what you want, say what you want.

You cannot reconcile police state surveillance with a democracy.

I certainly don’t want a police state.

Friday, November 12, 2010



By Reginald Johnson

Nov. 12, 2010

If ever there was a moment when progressives should rise up and say “no!” --- that time is now.

Within the space of 24 hours, from Wednesday into Thursday, President Obama and his group around him have shown what they really are: a bunch of conservative Democrats who are ready to betray the interests of the working people of this country at a moments notice in order to serve their paymasters --- Wall Street and the wealthy elite.

Consider what’s happened in this short period. First, leaders of the bi-partisan deficit reduction commission ---- which Obama set up --- detailed some of the panel’s preliminary recommendations. For the middle class and poor, they’re not pretty. Cut Social Security benefits; raise the retirement age; cut Medicare benefits; cut Medicaid benefits; hike gasoline taxes; and eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction.

The proposed cuts and tax hikes come at a time when working people are already struggling to pay the bills in a bad economy and retirees and near-retirees wonder if they can make ends meet because pensions and 401K plans have been wiped out.

On Thursday, it got worse. The White House announced that it was willing to compromise on extending the Bush tax cuts --- something that the Republicans wanted, but Obama said previously he was against. This would allow high earners (generally those over $250,000 a year) to continue to get a tax break. According to Robert Kuttner, an economist and co-editor of the American Prospect Magazine, continuing the tax cuts for the wealthy will add $1 trillion to the deficit.

Wait a minute. I thought everyone had to sacrifice to help deal with this national problem, the huge deficit. Well, I guess not everyone. Not the Wall Street guys and the rich.

What a disgrace.

By the way, one of those Wall Street guys, Erskine Bowles, is the co-chair of Obama’s deficit panel. He gets paid $300,000 a year for being on the board of the huge investment firm, Morgan Stanley.

One suggestion that’s been floated in the past to raise more money and ease the deficit is by enacting a stock transaction tax. This would raise hundreds of billions of dollars, even with a fractional tax. Investment houses don't like the concept. For some reason, the commission didn’t broach this idea.

Another major area the commission didn’t take up was the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. According to the National Priorities Project, they have cost over $1 trillion since 2001. While the deficit panel did recommend cuts to the military --- one thing they deserve credit for --- they didn’t call for ending the wars. These wars are a huge drain on the treasury.

It seems to me that if the wars were stopped, tax breaks for the rich were ended, and a stock transaction tax was put into place, the national deficit would not be an issue.

This approach would be a lot better than whacking the poor and the middle class.

Progressives ---- and labor in particular --- should let Obama know that their support is no longer a given --- that these outrageous recommendations and the Bush tax cuts have to go, or else.

Third party anyone?

One other thing. Jane Slaughter, the fine writer with Labor Notes, reports that a group of organizations is organizing a national Call-in Day to Congress on Nov. 30. That’s the day the deficit commission will release its final recommendations to Congress, including the provision on raising the retirement age. “They’re saying ‘Owe No You Don’t’ --- the goal is to create a groundswell of outrage that will make the recommendations dead on arrival,” she writes.

You can find out more at or

Sunday, November 7, 2010



By Reginald Johnson

Nov. 7, 2010

A strong grassroots effort has sprung up to fight the suspension of liberal commentator Keith Olbermann from MSNBC, as many worry that the cable news network may be heading in a more conservative direction.

The group Progressive Change Campaign Committee said Sunday it has gathered over 300,000 signatures on a petition demanding that MSNBC reinstate Olbermann to his show “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” MSNBC President Phil Griffin announced Friday that he was suspending the commentator “indefinitely” due to three campaign contributions Olbermann had made to Democratic candidates prior to the Nov. 2 election.

Griffin said NBC rules bar company employees from making political contributions.

But there may be a double standard at work here ---- since in the past MSNBC did nothing to penalize conservative commentators Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough from making donations to Republicans. The media advocacy group FAIR has also pointed out that the head of NBC, Robert Wright, has made political donations in the past as well.

There’s reports that NBC officials have been growing uneasy with the liberal face MSNBC is adopting, with the views of many of its hosts such as Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Ed Shultz. Is there a push going on now to create more “balance” by permanently removing Olbermann, and replacing him with someone more middle of the road?

The loss of Olbermann from one of the three major cable news operations (the others are FOX and CNN) would be a setback to progressives, who already struggle to get heard on the airwaves. FOX has long been a lost cause for liberals. Progressives rarely appear on FOX and if they do, they sit on panels of three or four speakers with all the others being conservative. The liberal gets shouted down. Evening hosts as well as some morning hosts on FOX are hopelessly right-wing and are running a blatant propaganda operation on behalf of the Republicans.

CNN, which tries to maintain an image of being centrist and non-partisan, has actually added a couple of right-wing commentators to its line-up in recent years – Erick Erickson and William Bennett.

So that leaves MSNBC, and why it’s important to bring Olbermann back. While far from being perfect (sometimes he can be too uncritical in analyzing different issues) Olbermann in general has been a big plus on the cable TV news scene. He frequently brings on progressive voices, and his commentaries over the years have been strong.

His “Special Comments” ripping the Bush administration for the lies concerning Iraq and the dismantling of civil liberties were particularly good.

To join the petition to reinstate Olbermann, go to