H. Brandt Ayers: This is a personal message to my critics
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Newspapers get a lot of critical mail, and this paper is no exception. We’ve taken some hard hits. I’ve personally been singed and scalded on numerous occasions … without complaint.

But there’s something about this crazy election year — adrenalin seems to have numbed the nation’s brain — that makes me want to talk calmly, evenly, man to man with my critics.

Last Sunday I attracted a higher, literary order of critics. One referenced Winston Churchill’s admonition that liberalism is only for the young, another compared me with Heathcliff in “Wuthering Heights.”

Both assured me that my critics are more numerous than my fans (I’ve had that suspicion myself). One asserted that I’m a far-left, radical ideologue whose prophets include TV commentator Keith Olbermann.

Let’s stop right here, folks. In a media world defined by the hard-left partisanship of Olbermann and the outrageous right-wing distortions of Glenn Beck, I’m an old school, just left-of-middle journalist who believes in facts.

My ideology is simple. I believe that democratic capitalism is the best anti-poverty program ever devised. It works best when it is growing the middle class and shrinking poverty.

When it doesn’t, when private enterprise is so excessive in pursuit of profit that it endangers the whole economic system — as it has to cause the Great Recession — someone must step in to protect society.

The only someone with sufficient tools for the task is government. Our current economic woes weren’t caused by government action; excesses of the private sector caused them.

Our financial system was poised to fall like a row of 80-story dominoes in the last days of the Bush administration. In a too-rare but laudable example of bipartisanship, Bush’s TARP rescue plan was supported by Obama.

Believe me, if the bipartisan TARP program hadn’t worked, if skyscraper-big banks had fallen like dominoes, every individual in every city, town and village in America and the world would have felt the repercussions.

Those were scary times, the last year of the Bush administration and the first year of Obama’s term. In Bush’s last three months we lost 1.8 million jobs. We were shedding jobs at a rate of 700,000 a month when Obama took the oath.

Now that the bleeding has stopped and we are growing at an anxiety-inducing snail’s pace, folks who had the wits scared out of them exhale and irately ask: Who did this to us and why aren’t we back where we were before?

A look back at what happened in the eight years before Obama’s election should answer the question.

In Bill Clinton’s last year, he met as usual with the bipartisan congressional leaders in the cabinet room. Republican leaders greeted in silence his belief that it would be possible to eliminate the national debt in 19 years.

When Clinton left office, the federal budget had a surplus of $127 billion. When Bush left office, the budget had a record deficit of $455 billion and the national debt had almost doubled from $5.6 trillion to $10.02 trillion.

Further numbing but eloquent numbers tell the story of the state of the nation that Obama inherited on the day of his inauguration:

Median family income had dropped from $63 thousand to $61 thousand; the number of unemployed had risen from 4 percent to 9.6 percent, and the percentage in poverty had risen from 12.4 to 13.2; our trade deficit with China alone had risen from $44 billion to $119 billion.

That, my critical friends, is the legacy that the incumbent president was left by a Republican Party that a majority of the country wants to put in charge of the nation’s economy — just two years after leaving us in a mess.

In a sense, the Obama team has itself to blame for the losses it will surely suffer in the midterm elections. The president lost public confidence last summer when a scared and angry population filled the vacuum left by his failure to get out in the country and restore hope for the economic future.

A frightened and fed-up population has found a vehicle to express their anger and frustration — the tea party movement.

In the grip of passion, people don’t stop and ask: Who funds the vast apparatus that organizes tea party rallies, writes and publishes its material, makes the posters, phone calls and reservations, etcetera, etcetera … ?

The protest movement is funded by a group of people my hometown critics and I had never heard of, billionaires such as David and Charles Koch and David Singer. (More of them in a future column.)

What do they want? They want repeal of regulations such as Obama’s Wall Street reform. They want fewer regulations and lower taxes on their vast wealth. So, they’re willing to spend a pittance, a few million to shape anger that will help return Republican friends to take care of them. Poor things.

If hometown critics want to know what really fires me up, it is enormously wealthy men manipulating well intentioned but unknowing people to do their bidding. Abuses of power make me mad as hell!

Absent bold, confidence-building initiatives from the Obama team, we may give keys to the Treasury back to the folks who looted it. If they don’t solve the nation’s problems, our revolving bums’ rush will likely throw them out again.

And so it goes, my contentious friends. I’ll leave you with this proposition: Let’s meet back in this space in two years and see how the story turned out. Deal?

H. Brandt Ayers is chairman of Consolidated Publishing and publisher of The Anniston Star.
comments (2)
« rjack112 wrote on Thursday, Sep 23 at 06:12 PM »
The Democrat Pledge to America:

...ensure equality for all Americans. Except the gays. And the blacks. And the Hispanics. And all other non-white peoples. They will be treated more equally. As long as they vote for us.

...keep a steady increase of unemployed people dependent on the government for their living.

...defend the real victim of environmental disasters: Al Gore.

...create hundreds of thousands of jobs...in the government.

« YellowHammerFlicker wrote on Thursday, Sep 23 at 12:10 PM »
The REAL GOP "Pledge To America"

...ensure equality for all Americans. Except the gays.

...not worry about all those "spoiled" unemployed people.

...defend the real victims of environmental disasters: the oil companies.

...create hundreds of thousands of jobs...overseas.