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Grace Ross: Get Informed Beyond the Sound Bites- Register by Oct. 17th

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Grace Ross, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™

I have to be honest. I had given up on listening to the Warren v. Brown debates. The first couple had sounded mostly likely rehashes of the sound bites from their election commercials with little real information or even opportunity to get a sense of who the candidates were and what they actually stand for.

Recent ads have only worsened that with a barrage of he said/she said; they contain almost directly opposite claims with little explanation about what’s really going on. As an average voter who might not have had access to more detailed information about the candidates running for our U.S. Senate seat this year, it would be almost impossible to make sense of what’s really going on.

Yes, Brown trots out a couple of union members talking about the negative impact of asbestos and the supposed role of Elizabeth Warren in the Traveler’s lawsuit; then you get to listen to union members supporting Warren and talking about the importance of what settlement they did get on asbestos. The literal he said/she said in this Senate race goes on and on – and gets us no where.

Regardless of how frustrating this election has been so far, if you are eligible to vote it is critically important that you become a registered voter. Even if you go to the polling place and blank your ballot because you can’t make sense of the he said/she said game, do it. I assure you no wealthy person out there who hasn’t had time to research the issues is going to not vote. In comparison, those of us who may be struggling to keep a roof over our head, make ends meet on jobs where benefits and pay have been directly cut back, or just losing ground in comparison to real inflation, our voices need to be in the mix. When we don’t vote we give away ground that they have no right to take away from us.

I want to give a special hats off, however, to the moderator of the third debate, David Gregory. He really fought for and insisted on more in depth answers and clarified things when the candidates used buzz words or short cuts that otherwise would leave most voters in the dirt without a clear explanation of the facts.

He showed what the role of the media can be in elections. In the first attempts at democracy, the media was referred to as the fourth estate – that is the fourth sector with the sacred role of exposing the truth. It is why our constitution includes freedom of the press – because they have a key role in exposing the truth in a democracy if they do that not play partisan football.

For those of you who haven’t done it, I encourage you to go stream the third Brown v. Warren debate; you might actually get a sense of what they stand for and who they are as people. Even when the sniping and undermining comments happen, they happen with a little more personality and you can get a sense of the candidates’ personalities.

The almost useless sound-bite nature of the first debates and the ads in this Senate race has underscored the question of whether we have a real democracy or not. We have to watch whether the vote will be decided based on what voters really want – if they knew these candidates and knew what the underlying issues are, versus not only the role of money and spin, but any dirty dealing or intimidation that may happen at the polls on election day November 6th.

The critical issue in the Senate race remains jobs in the minds of many voters, but one of the more dramatic little pieces of background got raised in the third debate. If you have had time to research, you know Warren has been fighting very hard – explicitly taking on the banks and even Secretary Geitner when he has seemed to be in the banks' pockets. In the debate, Brown who is also a lawyer, admits that a bunch of his clients are banks and, presumably, he has a role in the setting up foreclosures that they may have initiated. This is a real difference between them.

While I recently was told that I should be ashamed of supporting principle write down on mortgages, that people still think it was about home-buyers “buying too much house” merely underscores the complete lack of real economic discussion going on. The vast majority of folks facing foreclosure now are folks who had prime mortgages; it had nothing to do with buying too much house. It had to do with having completely unrealistic housing prices created by unscrupulous policies. The basics are getting banks that made tons of money upfront on an over-inflated housing market to take economic responsibility for that over-inflation, rather than requiring people to pay for phantom value that never even existed, except in a bank’s ledger.

Similarly, this stupid conversation back and forth about taxes between Warren and Brown is almost enough to make you tear your hair out. What the voter needs is the background and the facts. Brown keeps saying don’t raise taxes in a bad economic time period but not all taxes are the same. This must be said out of complete ignorance of the facts: rebalancing the taxes so the wealthiest start paying more is what was done to pull our economy out of the Great Depression. Eisenhower had the top tax bracket paying 91 cents on the dollar.  And they made profits anyway once the economy heated up. We’re lucky if we can get them to pay 15 cents on the dollar now.

It’s not a generic issue about taxes. Describing taxes that way seems almost a purposeful blind-eye, mind-numbing the political discourse. The reality: when the very wealthiest have been amassing more and more money into their own coffers through tax-breaks primarily for them garnered by lobbyists they paid for and then they sit on it, the entire economy fails. Why? Because there is not enough money moving around for air to be breathed into it and for future investment to happen. Investment, remember, is mostly the regular spending of regular people which drives 70% of our economy.

Similarly, I get that it’s a good story but here’s the facts. There’s simply no economic basis for believing that adding more and more money to those who spend less and less is somehow going to create jobs. Job creation is directly related to making sure that regular people have money to spend locally in small businesses. Again, the he said/she said sound-bites create confusion about small business taxes; that isn’t helping. Small businesses create most new jobs, but that’s from ongoing sales, not once a year or quarterly tax breaks.

In addition, whether it is the very wealthiest corporations versus small businesses or wealthy individuals versus regular folks, the continued lack of an even playing field is phenomenally destructive. Yes, we – as regular people and small businesses – are all paying more taxes compared to what we’re getting for those taxes. But it’s not because we’re paying more taxes; it’s because those who have the money are paying less and less and less and so our contribution is supposed to go farther and farther; so what we get back for what we pay is less and less. This isn’t rocket science, but it does require some explanation. Perhaps if we could get the media to play the kind of role that the moderator on the third Warren Brown debate played, we could all make more sense of it.

In the meantime, it’s critically important that we not give up our ability to play a role in elections in our country.

Get registered to vote, stand against any kind of voter intimidation and ridiculing that can happen.

All of us need to talk to our neighbors and to each other to make sure that we’re clear about the basic rules of voting. Then the recent misinformation campaigns launched against voters – new in our Commonwealth but common elsewhere in the country- will fail.

1)    If you are a citizen over 18, you must register by this Weds, October 17th if you are not already registered.
2)    You vote on Tuesday, November 6th
3)    You have a right to vote and take time off from work to do it – even if you have to submit a provisional ballot do it.
4)    You have a right to have somebody help you translate in the voting booth or even help you fill out a voting card if you don’t know how to do it. You have a right to speak your own language, whatever that is, and what’s really critically important is we figure out a way to inform everyone to not let themselves be turned away from the polls.
5)    You have a right to vote. If someone tries to make you feel otherwise, then ask for help.

It’s time that none of us put up with a destruction of our democratic system: whether it’s people being able to vote or getting the media to play the real role it’s supposed to play in clarifying and digging apart the issues even when money is pouring in for stupid useless ads that just confuse the voters.


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