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August 1, 2011 6:20 pm

Now, A Third Party Has a Chance To Win

avatar by Ed Koch

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In 2009, a Nation rejoices as a promising young newcomer is sworn in as President.

About a year ago, whenever the name of President Obama came up, the near-universal word used by people I know who had worked hard for him in the 2008 campaign was “disappointment.”  I certainly was disappointed by his views on a number of issues, including Israel.  I was particularly disappointed that the President did not include a government option in the health legislation he ultimately supported, even though such an option had the strong backing of Democrats in the House.

I was also deeply disappointed when the President let the prescription drug companies off the hook and instead of allowing Medicare to distribute prescription drugs to the nearly 50 million eligible to receive them and requiring volume discounts from vendors, he agreed to statutory language barring Medicare from distributing drugs and specifically from requiring volume discounts.  I estimate that if Medicare were to demand a 30 percent volume discount, the savings over a ten-year period could total a trillion dollars.  Canada sets the retail price of prescription drugs in that country, and the prices for what amount to largely American-manufactured drugs are up to 50 percent less than in American stores.

I was further disappointed that the President continued the Bush administration’s prohibition against Americans buying cheaper drugs in Canada and bringing them back to the U.S.  I was also disappointed that the President did not support allowing health insurance companies to compete in all 50 states, instead of continuing the practice of barring insurance companies from entering markets in other states and thereby increasing competition.

I was disappointed that the President not only continued the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but also approved a troop surge in Afghanistan which sent an additional 30,000 American soldiers to prop up the corrupt Karzai government, creating an American army there of about 100,000 soldiers.  Today, we are spending $2 billion a week to defend the Karzai regime, and much of the country is still dominated by the Taliban.

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I was very disappointed when the President, despite our huge national debt, entered into an agreement with the Republicans extending the Bush tax cuts to all, including those having an annual income of $250,000 and above, the top 2 percent of all taxpayers.  The extension happened against the backdrop of multi-billionaire Warren Buffett’s announcement that his effective tax rate was 14.7 percent and that his secretary was in a higher tax bracket than he was.

I was really disappointed when the President never challenged the fact that so-called “unearned income,” is taxed at the capital gains rate of 15 percent.  Most of us have “earned income,” unlike the Masters of the Universe, who brought this country to its economic knees, destroying the retirement plans of millions of Americans whose 401(k) savings and stock holdings were nearly halved in the Great Recession, and whose homes lost huge values.  And most disappointing for me that these jackals who were responsible for beggaring America have not been held criminally accountable.  Instead, many have gotten richer.

My disappointment and that of many Americans was deepened by our perception that our President got taken to the cleaners in every negotiation with the Republicans, including the latest one on the debt ceiling.  When he folded and gave them a full extension of the Bush tax cuts, shouldn’t he have at least gotten in exchange an extension of the debt ceiling on his terms?  He apparently didn’t ask for it then, and now once again, the Republicans have beaten him, and a group of fewer than 90 Republicans, mostly freshmen, have gotten their way, imposing their terms on the debt ceiling extension with no revenue increases being part of the package.

I am deeply concerned that the President has violated the War Powers clause in continuing past 90 days U.S. military activities in Libya with impunity.

How is it possible that less than 25 percent of the House membership can roll this President when the Democrats control the Senate, the White House and a substantial number of seats in the House?

The President continues to be personally well liked.  He is a very decent man and those of us who worked so hard to elect him feel sorry for him, and also for ourselves.  We have an extraordinary country – the envy of the world.  So many elsewhere want to come and live here – the land of opportunity.  Those of us who live here wonder where did it all go.  How is it possible our government permitted the public to be so unprotected from the vandals on Wall Street and at the banks?  How is it possible those charged with the duty to protect the public failed in their obligations?  How is it possible that so many incompetents and scallywags have been elected to Congress to become the protectors of the rich and powerful?

How is it possible for the President to announce that he intends to raise a billion dollars for his reelection campaign, when we all know the only place where money exists to that extent is Wall Street and the banks?  Those financiers have a habit of demanding support for their activities in exchange for their support.

I am puzzled by the fact that there are no street marches and demonstrations.  Apparently the good people of this great country have given up hope for changing the status quo.  They are wrong.  I believe there is an opportunity in the Presidential and Congressional election of 2012 to truly change what is happening.  If there ever was a moment when a third party would have a chance to win, this is it.

The centrists of this country — liberals with sanity like myself and so-called compassionate conservatives — together constitute a huge majority of voters.  If we join together, if only for this upcoming presidential election, we could make a difference.  We could elect a president concerned about us and we could throw out a majority of the incumbents in Congress and elect people who will truly represent and promote our interests.  Let’s at least try.

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  • Rocky

    Mr. Koch: What started out as a battle for the soul of the Republican party by Patrick Buchanan in his speech to the Republican convention of 1992 and his desire to turn the US into a Christian nation has morphed into a cancer that threatens to destroy the Republic itself. Hitler had his war against the Jews and the Republicans have waged war against gay Americans for almost two decades: Nazi-lite is the way I read it. Gay marriage has been a successful wedge issue for the Republican party and it has even spawned an unholy alliance between religious Jews and Evangelical Christians. Of the 2,956 votes cast for the two major parties by the voters of Kiryas Joel, NY (a community of ultra Orthodox Jews) in the 2008 Presidential election, 93% went for John McCain and only 7% went to Barack Obama.

    American Jews have flourished in the US in the past 150 years like no other demographic group precisely because there was no religious test to go college, work in the professions, conduct an opera or a symphony orchestra, teach at a university, become Mayor of New York or win a MacArthur Genius award.

    Today it is hard to tell where the Evangelical wing of the Republican party stops and the Tea Party folks start. In fact there appears to be a considerable overlap. The national debate has rachetted sharply right and even basic government programs such as Social Security and Medicare are now at risk. Many Democrats in the House and Senate are actually quite conservative on many issues. So it is not surprising that President Obama has had such a great difficulty implementing the programs he ran on. Maybe he is just a bad poker player or just didn’t bring enough experience to the job.

    The debt ceiling bill that finally passed a few days ago dealt with an immediate crisis: a potential debt default. It did not solve the country’s ongoing financial problems. The country’s unfunded liabilities in the tens of trillions of dollars have not gone away. The Republic remains at risk of collapse. I happen to think Mayor Bloomberg would make a wonderful President but I don’t think that a divorced Jewish billionaire could win over the hearts and minds of Middle America. Too bad for the country.

  • Rocky

    James: As you know, the Munich peace of 1938 did not last very long and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who spoke those famous words resigned in 1940. Obama turned to out to be a worse poker player than the Republicans. However, I do think that a Treasury default would have been worse for the US and the rest of the world than the Austrian bank failure of 1931 was for Europe. It deepened the Great Depression in Europe and substantially weakened parliamentary democracy in Germany and Austria. In 1932, three different German chancellors were unable to put together a coalition government in the Reichstag and in both national elections for the Reichstag that year, the Nazis captured the largest number of votes.

  • James

    It is hard to express the disappointment I feel following the debt ceiling debate and Obama’s poor performance/lack of leadership. After all the hot air and posturing, it appears the Republicans won on every count and the President got nothing on the Democrat’s list of objectives, except avoiding default. I guess we should be thankful for that, at least. Perhaps by capitulating to the GOP to raise the debt ceiling Obama has given us “peace in our time.”

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