Posts tagged ‘Gorbachev’

05/08/2012

Russia’s Putin is no Gorbachev

Russia has a new virtual czar named Vladimir Putin, who was sworn in yesterday for a third term as President, despite the fact the legitimate Russian Constitution limits him to just two terms.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago, Russia remains an important country, since it continues to hold a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and remains influential in many developing nations. Although Russia adopted market and political reforms under Gorbachev in 1991, Putin’s recent power grab, has set Russia back in the eyes of the world.

The problem is many Russians like Putin lack a role-model for good governance. They have no George Washington to look up to, a man who could have been the first American king, if he had only wanted a crown. Since George abhorred the very idea of monarchy, he settled for President, and proved his real faith in democracy, as he voluntarily left office after two 4-year terms.

The problem in Russia is most of their well known figures were either czars or brutal dictators. Peter the Great, whose army expanded Russian interests along the Baltic, was no democrat. When Napoleon’s Grand Army invaded Russia in 1812 to liberate humanity from the tyranny of monarchs, the Russians stood on the wrong side of history, and defended the czar. When Alexander II freed the serfs in 1861, he forgot to give them any land, and of course doomed them to a never-ending cycle of poverty.

Even after the birth of the Bolsheviks, Russians gained no lasting role-model. While Karl Marx condemned the Czar, arguing wealth was accumulated through the exploitation of labor, no one today uses his icon. Vladimir Lenin, whose bust was everywhere in the Soviet Union 30 years ago, has been relegated to the pages of history. Certainly no one now could emulate Joseph Stalin, whose murderous dictatorship carried on for nearly 30 years, (1924-53).

The man Putin and others could admire is Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91), but for some reason his lead is not being followed. Gorbachev was perhaps the greatest man of the 20th Century, as he unilaterally withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988, advocated glasnost (openness), and promoted perestroika (a rebuilding). He ushered in open elections in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. He received the Nobel Peace Prize, as he took out old-line communists, and faced off against 100,000 reactionaries, whose coup attempt against him failed. Gorbachev single-handedly dissolved the Soviet Union from within in 1991, as 14 former Soviet republics celebrated their independence.

Following Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin served as President (1991-99) until he resigned in 1999. When Vladimir Putin, finished his term (1999-00), there was hope Russia was on its way to a free and open system, as Putin was elected in his own right (2000-04), and then re-elected for a second four-year term (2004-08).

Russia however turned in the wrong direction in 2008, when Putin failed to leave government, and instead cut a deal with a little inconsequential man named Dmitry Medvedev, who kept Putin’s seat warm for four years, while Putin served as Prime Minister (2008-12). After Medvedev abolished the Constitutional ban against serving more than two terms, Medvedev stepped down, making way for the Presidential return of the power-hungry Putin.

As President for nine years and Prime Minister for four, Putin has already been in charge for 13 years, and he should now leave the Kremlin. Gorbachev did not dissolve the dictatorial rule of the old Soviet guard, only to see it replaced by a new round of corrupt men. While Russia badly needs another Gorbachev, they got stuck instead with Putin, and more of the same. The Russian people must re-assert their Constitutional term limits, take Putin and Medvedev out, and replace them with a modern-day Gorbachev.

 

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07/28/2011

Ask Eisenhower Re Budget, Not Reagan

One of those free copies of the right-wing USA Today was laying around the hotel lobby, and since I had a minute, I glanced at the opinion page, where the editor asked “What Would Reagan Do?” regarding the Debt Limit. I kind of chuckled, because the borrow-and-spend policies of the past 30 years started under Reagan, and he would be the last person we should ask for advice.

If Republicans wanted a true fiscal model, they should instead ask: What Would Eisenhower Do?” The General was the last Republican to deal honestly with balanced budgets. He knew enough about military spending from his service to warn the nation, as he left office, against the Military-Industrial-Complex.

President Reagan on the other hand, raised the Debt Ceiling 18 times, and just used his Hollywood credit card to keep borrowing. He cut corporate income taxes, but increased Social Security taxes on ordinary workers. His misguided borrow-and-spend policies predictably increased the National Debt threefold over eight years.

Reagan’s apologists now re-write history, as they defend his borrow-and-spend military programs by suggesting they somehow ended the Cold War. The truth is one man ended the Cold War, and his name was not Reagan, it was Mikhail Gorbachev. After Gorbachev wisely withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988, he advocated reform by promoting glasnost (openness) and perestroika (rebuilding). Once Reagan was out of office, and no longer a threat to the Russian people, Gorbachev conducted open elections in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. Gorbachev’s policies allowed for a Soviet dissolution in 1991. Reagan’s out-of-control military spending had nothing to do with it.

The bottom line is for the past 30 years, the U.S. has been in a borrow-and-spend mode. Since major sources of tax revenues were given away by Reagan, Bush, and Bush Jr., the government does not have enough money. In the Eisenhower days of the 1950s, there had to be tax revenues, before any spending took place, and yes, that included military budgets for wars, like the ones Bush Jr. started in Afghanistan and Iraq. Eisenhower would have raised taxes to pay for those wars. The Republicans of today would be wise to use Ike’s approach as their model for governing.