Richard (RJ) Eskow

This Democratic plan for health insurance during the pandemic would be a huge mistake

Congress must act decisively to ensure Americans get needed health care in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, both to promote public health and to reduce viral spread. But one Democratic proposal is a massive giveaway to private insurance companies with few redeeming qualities.

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Do You Really Want to Save the Earth? After the Climate March, Flood Wall Street!

This is a critical week for the planet. On Sunday, the People's Climate March is expected to be the largest environmental march in history. But it would be a grave mistake, for the planet and for ourselves, to overlook another event that is to take place on Monday. That's when the Flood Wall Street rally will target the role of global capitalism in our environmental crisis.

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Social Security and Medicare are in Great Shape and We Can Expand Them Now

Actuarial science is the art of prediction. And speaking of predictions, here's one that hasn't been wrong yet: No matter what new data emerge about Social Security and Medicare, the well-funded opponents of those two worthy programs will always insist that we're on the brink of catastrophe -- unless something is done right now to slash their benefits.

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Do You Believe Obama When He Says That the Age of Soul-Destroying Austerity is Over?

The nation has been treated to a sneak preview of President Obama's 2015 budget, scheduled to be released next Tuesday. As we asked in Part 1 of this two-part budget update, that's an occasion for reflecting on the nature of a White House budget. Is it a negotiating document? A vision statement? A "political treatise"?

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The War on Poverty Is Our Moral Challenge Now

"Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity," said Nelson Mandela, "it is an act of justice." When the War on Poverty began a half-century ago, it was widely seen as the moral obligation of a wealthy nation.

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Now We Know: JPMorgan Chase Is Worse Than Enron

It's beginning to look as if JPMorgan Chase has had a hand in every major banking scandal of the last decade. In fact, it's the Zelig of Wall Street crime. Take a snapshot of any major bank fraud and chances are you'll see JPMorgan Chase staring out at you from the frame.

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Wall Street-Backed Organization Blasts Rising American Populism and Elizabeth Warren

An almost palpable air of desperation clings to the anti-“populist,” anti-Elizabeth Warren editorial by Jonathan Cowan and Jim Kessler of the corporate-funded Third Way organization. If they’re worried, they’re right to worry. The world is changing.

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Slick, Paranoid Tea Party Video Aims for Violent Insurrection

Attendees at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) were reportedly thrilled by a short sci-fi video depicting a dictatorial near-future government and the underground "Movement on Fire" that springs up to resist it. The video, a thinly veiled advertisement for violent insurrection from the “Tea Party Patriots" group, boasts professional acting and Hollywood production values. But underneath its bright, professional sheen lurk dark overtones of End Times paranoia that will resonate with millions of American fundamentalists. Its apocalyptic imagery is as ancient as Revelations, its glossy look as modern as a Revlon ad, and its near-subliminal barrage of rapid-cut imagery rings with the terror-fueled sermons of 1,000 preachers.

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David Brooks vs. Progressives: Genteel Ignorance as Economic Warfare

There are jungle birds that can imitate human speech perfectly. Ever hear one sing a sad song? They can do it so beautifully that human listeners are moved to tears. The bird, on the other hand, has no idea what it's singing about.

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Lords of Disorder: How the Big Banks Are Designed to Prey off Our Economic Misery

The President’s “sequester” offer slashes non-defense spending by $830 billion over the next ten years. That happens to be the precise amount we’re implicitly giving Wall Street’s biggest banks over the same time period.

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14 Reasons to Repeal the Sequester Now

It’s been four years since Wall Street ruined the economy, we’re nearly nine million jobs behind where we need to be, and for years our politicians have debated how much less – not how much more – they’ll do about it. Now we’re about to be hit with another round of devastating spending cuts, thanks to the so-called “sequester.” Today, let’s rise up and demand action from Congress on our real problems once and for all.

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12 Rational Responses to Irrational Arguments About Guns

In a recent discussion about gun control on Thom Hartmann's program, my opponent suggested that gun control advocates like me really have a cultural aversion to guns. That's a standard ploy for the gun set: when reason isn’t on your side, deploy emotional and personal arguments instead.

"Anti-gun"? I could've brought up my own recreational gun use, or even brought out the firing range pass I carry in my wallet. But I'll admit that I've lost a little of my taste for it as our national killing spree continues unabated. What's more, that would've been disrespectful to the millions of Americans who do have an understandable aversion to guns. Personal habits should have no part in a rational policy discussion.

Now that President Obama has made his initial gun control proposals, the crazy's being ratcheted up to a new level. Rational Americans in all walks of life will be confronted with these kinds of arguments. We're going to need a playbook. Here are 12 responses you can use when you're confronted with some of the standard illogical, irrational and emotionally overheated statements that gun extremists use.

1. I'm not anti-gun, I'm pro-kindergartner.

After Newtown, what person in his right mind thinks it's irrational to propose some common-sense measures to prevent similar tragedies in the future?

2. Saying "If we have gun control only outlaws will have guns" is like saying "If you outlaw drunk driving, only outlaws will drive drunk."

Rush Limbaugh's recent variation on the old "only outlaws will have guns" line went like this: "If you have gun control laws, the law-abiding will be the only people that don’t have guns."

This anti-gun control cliche makes absolutely no sense. We lose our driver's license if we're arrested for drunk driving, or if we commit too many other moving violations. But law-abiding people are free to drive. Gun control laws aren't any different.

3. If dead children are a "distraction," what subjects are important enough to be worthy of your attention?

As Media Matters reports, an increasing number of gun-extremist righties have suggested that attempts to prevent more deaths, including the deaths of young people at Newtown, Aurora, Columbine and elsewhere, are really just a "distraction" from more important matters.

Try convincing the parents of dead kids that their personal tragedies aren't important. And if dead kindergartners don’t deserve your attention, what does?

4. So you've got "Second Amendment" rights? Where's the rest of your militia?

The text of the Second Amendment reads: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Where are the other soldiers? Who’s in charge? And which state are you protecting?  

5. Oh, and congratulations on keeping the Lanza kid so "well-regulated."

Along with Crazy New York Hermit Dude, the Columbine killers, the Tucson shooter, and all the other members of your "militia."

6. If I can't drive without decent vision, I shouldn't be able to purchase weapons of mass killing after beating my grandmother to death with a hammer.

Maybe I’m off base here, but that just seems like common sense to me.

7. "Freedom to own a gun"? I have the freedom to own a car. But I don't have the freedom to buy an M1A1 Abrams tank, or the many kinds of rounds -- armor-piercing, incendiary, point detonation, delay, airburst, and shotgun-like antipersonnel tungsten balls -- manufactured for its 120mm smoothbore cannon.

And I'm okay with that.

If our laws had permitted that, I'm pretty sure we would’ve wised up the third or fourth time somebody drove one up to a school, parked in the school bus lane, and started lobbing cannon rounds into the gym, music room, cafeteria, and classrooms -- while fending off law enforcement with a rain of fire from its three auxiliary machine guns.

8. The only other country besides the United States that considers unrestricted gun ownership a fundamental human right is Yemen …

... and Yemen's having second thoughts.

From the UN's Small Arms Survey: "Only two—the United States and Yemen—is ownership of firearms a citizen's basic right. Figures published in the Small Arms Survey 2007 show that the USA and Yemen also have the highest rates of firearms per civilian, with an estimated 90 guns per 100 people in the US, and 55 in Yemen."

There's a slogan for you: "More extreme than Yemen."

9. Why is it that the people who think our "freedom to own guns" is absolute and inflexible are always the first ones to attack our other freedoms -- of speech, of assembly, of worship (a religion other than their own), of privacy -- in the name of national security?

We have the data which shows that our supposed "gun freedom" is causing thousands of needless deaths each year. Most "gun rights" advocates don't care -- and are more than eager to sacrifice other fundamental freedoms even when the evidence suggests it's unnecessary and even wasteful.

Unconstitutional surveillance? Check. Unconstitutional suppression of Wikileaks and other information outlets? Check. Unconstitutional suppression of demonstrators’ rights? Check. Constitutional and rational gun control?

Never.

10. You say guns make us safer, but we already have more guns per capita than any other nation on Earth.

We also have the highest gun homicide rate of any developed nation. Our rate is 32 times that of Great Britain's, for example.

Are we safe enough yet?

11. "Recreational gun use"?

Which sports, exactly, require an assault weapon that fires 850 rounds per minute?

And is there any mass-killing capacity that would be too much for your recreational activity? 5,000 rounds per minute? 10,000 rounds per minute? Or is the recreational value of high-speed gunfire infinite and unbounded?

12. Statistics show that states with more guns also have more homicides. Have you considered starting your own state?

That would allow you, for the first time, to use the Second Amendment for its true and stated purpose: to protect the security of a state.

All the other gun extremists could join you there. Wouldn't that be great?

Most of us are getting tired of reading the obituaries of public servants, moviegoers, shoppers, schoolchildren, and other innocent bystanders in our local papers. Now we can be safe, you can be happy -- and Wall Street investors can keep profiting from guns and the misery they cause.

The state of “Guntopia” isn’t a perfect idea. We would worry about your children’s safety -- but then, we already do.

The Deadly Secret About the Fiscal Cliff Charade

Imagine a nation with a terrible problem – one its leaders refuse to discuss. The problem will needlessly drain trillions of dollars from its economy in the next ten years.

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The War On Women Is a Class War

Last week the voters delivered their verdict on what has come to be known as "the Republican War on Women": They're against it.

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Ryan's 'Secret' Tape Is Even More Extreme Than Romney's

Editor's Note: AlterNet's Adele Stan reported last week about the Ryan remarks Eskow discusses here, highlighting Ryan's call for ending social security, which he described as a "collectivist system," and Ryan's assertion that Democratic "collectivists" seek to create a 'victimization class' largely populated by minorities.

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Sick Money: How Mitt Romney's Bain Investments Are Exploding the Deficit and Harming Our Health

Few individuals or organizations have been as influential as Mitt Romney and Bain Capital in worsening our runaway healthcare costs, causing unnecessary suffering, or accelerating our government's long-term deficit problem. Their highly leveraged investment strategy puts healthcare companies under enormous pressure to increase revenue. They often respond by overbilling -- or worse, by encouraging unnecessary medical treatments that can include anything from non-invasive tests to heart surgery.

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Why Are Pundits and Elites Trying to Drive a Wedge Between Generations?

Millions of people have read the Hunger Games stories about a depraved future society where young people are forcing to fight each other for scarce resources while elites in the Capital plunder the nation's wealth.

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How to Score a Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Deal

 Once again we're hearing that a foreclosure fraud deal is about to be announced between major banks, the US government, and most or all of the states. We've heard that before, only to have the deadline pushed back so that holdout Attorneys General can be brought on board with the agreement. 

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