I do think if people would take the time to share the context of their lives with others -we would understand we all want and need similar things. Life is a struggle (for almost all) in varying degrees -based upon privilege, economic standing, geography, gender, beliefs, culture and so much more. We are intentionally and strategically divided -as long as we distrust and hate others -it keeps us distracted from asking the real questions -about why in one of the most affluent countries -we are all fighting for table scraps -minimum wage, healthcare, housing, clean/safe water, breathable air -and equal justice and protection. The day when America (or if America) awakens and discovers how much money and power is controlled by the Koch's, Sheldon Adelson, the Walton heirs and others -there is going to be a reckoning.
And I'm not anti-capitalism or anti-wealth -provided it has been earned by risk and innovation -and not simply stolen, collected or hoarded. I am against concentration of wealth based upon tax and fiscal policy that erodes the quality of life for the impoverished, working poor and middle class -while transferring what should be their earnings (our earnings!) to the already obscenely wealthy -the essence of the trickle down fraud also known as Reaganomics. It has brought America and the aspiration of democracy to the brink of destruction.
I'm grateful to all of those that continue Bernie's Political Revolution in meaningful and sustained ways -that will continue to ask the questions -"With all of America's wealth -why are people without shelter, without access to quality healthcare, drowning in student loan debt, working multiple jobs to survive?" Why is all of the wealth WE HAVE EARNED -in the hands of so few?
Those that are pragmatic -and understand that by abandoning Clinton/Kaine (and the endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders) -they would not only be jeopardizing America's future -but also putting all of the hard fought gains over generations at risk. Gains people fought, struggled and died for. I understand idealism -and it's needed to help people understand the America that may someday be within our grasp. However -we also must understand the reality of the world we live in today. Our choice is simple -supporting the fascist, theological oligarchy represented by Trump/Pence and the GOP -or supporting Senator Sanders wishes, committing to Clinton/Kaine -and working side by side on building the progressive infrastructure.
Saturday, July 9, 2016
The closing written for Furious George, Episode 17: Violently Sick America:
This program isn't about "Making America Great Again" or "Keeping America Great". The reality is America has had great potential from our flawed beginning to become a beacon of hope for humanity. A place where diversity is respected, people are empowered and opportunity, fairness and justice are embodied in the soul of America -not just an empty promise scrawled upon our landmarks. An America where each new generation has a brighter future than past generations.
As the rich have gotten richer -insurmountable pressure has been heaped upon working men and women -until we are so busy and distracted -working around the clock to pay for necessities and a few distractions and escapes -we no longer have time for ourselves, our families or our communities. This has been the slow burning "Reagan Revolution" built on the foundation of the massive criminal fraud otherwise known as "trickle down economics". The average working person now pays higher taxes than the wealthy on a percentage basis -this all stems back to Reagan/Bush tax and economic policies.
We are too tired to question. We are too tired to fight back. Even after Bush subverted the election process, aided and abetted by a GOP majority in the "non-partisan" Supreme Court -and then Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Even after Cheney/Bush invaded the wrong country -leading to thousands of American military deaths and casualties, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and the chaos that now exists in the Middle East -threatening as I speak to draw us back in. We are too tired to question why BP still exists as a profitable company after the destruction of the Gulf Coast. We are too tired to question how do Exxon executives remain wealthy and free -knowing and obscuring the facts about Climate Change -and the global environmental threat we now face because of their actions. We are too tired to volunteer in our schools to make sure the next and future generations are well-prepared for unprecedented challenges.
Bernie speaks of the necessity of a political revolution in America. But the reality is -we need a counter to years of "Reagan-esque" economic policy that has led to CEO's making 500 times the salary of an average worker. We need strong unions again. We need manufacturing and trade jobs again. We need a living wage. We need to fix healthcare by removing the profit motive -and providing high-quality healthcare for all. We need real journalists and well-funded independent media -that questions the rise of a fascist, misogynist, racist, silver-spooned trust fund child as a presidential candidate. We need well-funded public schools and affordable higher education for all -because ultimately knowledge IS power. The foundation of a real democracy is a well-informed, well-educated and engaged society. We need people that work hard -to better themselves and families -but also have a real life work balance so we can not only be employees -we can be moms and dads again -involved in our communities.
People are angry -left and right. Trump supporters, Sanders Supporters, Stein supporters and Clinton supporters. We need to understand that the anger and frustration is about what has been stolen from all of us -and our families for the last 40 years. Our own quality of life -and that of our communities, our schools, our infrastructure -and it has gone into the hands of a few. This is the real issue. It is not about black versus white. It is not about immigrant versus American. It is purely about green and gold. People that are uninformed (because they only listen to fox spews or other hate speech) blame the wrong people. Live in the projects before you call someone lazy or "gaming the system". Live with the fear that your child will be shot on his or her way from school -or at a BBQ or front porch -or by the police. If we are to move beyond the deeply-rooted violence and blind, ignorance driven hatred -we must first listen to each other. Then we must fully explore our sins of the past, pay for them, apologize for them and teach them -so they never happen again. Let us make new mistakes in our future -not repeat those we've made in the past.
We all want one thing -a better life for ourselves, our families -we want a future. Let's start with that -and then turn our attention to where the problem really exists -with the Koch brothers, the Walton families and others that are very close to establishing an American Oligarchy for the obscenely wealthy -constructed on the backs of the working class and poor.
And then let's do something that strikes fear into the cold, dead hearts of those that have stolen from all of us. Let's unite, cooperate and and work together for the America we know we could have -based upon fairness, justice, compassion and respect for all.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
As we move rapidly toward another crucial election cycle I wanted to reflect and share why I’m a proud liberal. There are many attempts to intentionally misrepresent what liberal means and I reject such dishonest attacks upon the liberal community by people working to mischaracterize me. I do believe that the generosity of most Americans during national disasters and tragedies is clearly indicative of a strong, resilient and caring liberal America.
As a liberal I want every American to reach their potential. Every American should have the opportunity to be well-educated, self-reliant and productive – to lead a satisfying life. I also understand that the greatness of any society isn’t derived from any single individual. The Apollo program didn’t begin and end with Neil Armstrong. It was about all of us working together as Americans to make a lunar landing possible. Together Americans have accomplished great things –and together –we can again.
I often hear a great deal about “Big Government”. I do not want “big government”. I don’t want “small government”. I want government that is efficient, transparent and accountable to all of us –not just the obscenely wealthy. And I most certainly don’t want a government that is so big –it insinuates itself into a very personal and difficult decision between a woman and her doctor.
I am not anti-wealth. However I make an important distinction between those that have gained wealth through innovation, risk and monumental effort (creating companies and sometimes entire industries) and those that simply want to take wealth through loopholes, rigging the economic system and not creating anything other than a weaker America.
I want retirement security for our elders. No one living on fixed income should ever have to choose between medicine and food.
I’m grateful for the Affordable Care Act –it has given millions of Americans access to health insurance. Nevertheless I want high-quality universal healthcare for all Americans. Healthcare that transforms the system from expensive, emergency and reactive medicine to proactive, preventative management as a key to controlling skyrocketing costs. And I want to reform the pharmaceutical industry or “Big Pharma” to control healthcare costs. No one should have to go bankrupt in order to pay for the care of a loved one suffering from a catastrophic medical condition such as cancer or ALS.
I want sustainable economic growth that creates opportunity and fairly rewards workers and management for their hard work. No worker should have to subsist on taxpayer funded social welfare while executives are shopping for another summer home. And I believe a woman performing the same work as a man should not earn less than her male counterparts.
I believe that “Trickle Down economics” is not economics –it is a massive fraud perpetrated by the obscenely wealthy on the working class and poor. The American economic engine is the middle class. When the majority of American working families are thriving –the American economy grows –and America becomes stronger. When wealth is just concentrated at the top –and a few crumbs drop down –that is not greatness –it leads to a climate of fear, anxiety and uncertainty for most Americans.
I want a system of law enforcement and justice that works for every American. No mother or father should have to worry when their child leaves the house to go to work, school or anywhere and is targeted because of the color of their skin. We cannot be a nation of racism rooted in ignorance and blind hatred.
I believe in well-funded infrastructure –our bridges, highways and mass transit systems. Infrastructure represents the lifeblood of commerce –it’s how we move things from manufacturers to store shelves. It should be safe, reliable, fast and efficient.
I believe in the beauty of America –our coastline, mountains, valleys and forests. I believe in our system of State and National parks and monuments –so we can protect pristine beauty for future generations of Americans.
I believe in an America that takes responsibility for its mistakes and injustices of the past –an America that learns from them and strives toward justice –in foreign and domestic policy.
No election should be bought and paid for by a mega-corporation, a small group of obscenely wealthy individuals, a foreign government or a mysterious organization with a group of people hiding behind its legal structure. We need to massively restructure campaign finance law so every voter knows who is funding each candidate, issue or ballot initiative with strict limits on contributions.
I am fortunate to live in Oregon. We have a legislature that protects and expands voter rights. In other legislatures across the country there is clearly a fear of democracy –where they have disenfranchised voters, closed offices where people could obtain necessary documentation made mandatory to vote (disproportionately affecting people of color, the elderly and working poor) and have gerrymandered districts to maintain control regardless of the majority will of the people.
Education is the foundation for a strong, competitive America. I want the best public education system in the world so future generations of Americans will be prepared to handle unprecedented environmental, energy, security and geo-political challenges offered by a rapidly changing world. We need well-paid teachers, small classroom sizes and the resources to not only educate however to create a life-long commitment to learning in every citizen. I believe in an America that invests in more schools –not more prisons.
College and University must be affordable. If we saddle each new generation with growing school loan debt –we will not be able to employ our best and brightest in areas of public service –teachers, professors, research scientists, government or non-profit organizations.
I believe in affordable early education and quality childcare for working single parents and families.
We can no longer tear families apart through immigration policies that no longer serve America. We must create a meaningful path to citizenship for people that work hard and are as committed to the American dream as we are. The Statue of Liberty has the quote ““Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This opportunity has led to our diversity and richness as a society.
We must not infringe upon people’s right to own guns. However –we must have the mechanisms in place as a society to ensure responsible gun ownership. As long as there are guns there will be accidental shootings and violent crimes in which guns are used. While we cannot yet ensure that anyone squeezing a trigger is a responsible gun owner -we must recognize that guns are weapons of death and carnage –as proven every day in America –and we must do all we can to prevent accidents and gun violence regardless of the protests of extreme fundamentalists of the NRA and other fringe domestic groups.
Whether you are a teacher, a plumber, a firefighter, a soldier or a nurse –you should not have to pay more in income taxes on a percentage basis than an investment banker, Wall Street executive or CEO. Similarly if you own a small to mid-size business –a restaurant, a kite shop, a roofing company –you should not be subject to the same taxes, regulations and fees of a large mega-corporation. We must reform our system of taxes and regulation to encourage investment in America –not hording cash offshore. We must not provide economic incentives for mega-corporations to close facilities in America and shift operations elsewhere around the world to avoid paying workers fairly. We must provide the opportunity and resources for our small “mom and pop” businesses to thrive. We must restore “Main Street” America through proper and fair economic incentives.
I believe in a strong, well-funded and well-equipped military –so we don’t have to go to war. I believe in diplomacy and strength as the core of our American character –and view war as an absolute last resort. Liberals prefer to work with the international community as a strong, benevolent partner –instead of a foreign policy best described as “Let them hate us as long as they fear us”. And when we must send our military into harm’s way –we do not invade the wrong country and create complete regional chaos –and we have an exit strategy. And we believe in honoring and helping our veterans adjust back to civilian life.
We must embrace scientific research –and use it to guide our governmental policy and investment. We cannot ignore the reality and impact of climate change. We are fortunate in Lincoln County and as Oregonians to have elected officials that respect science -our best, brightest most educated minds that have warned us about climate change for many years (just as they did when a link was made between smoking and lung cancer). In spite of the massive money invested by the Koch Brothers, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and others to create confusion and delay- we must act boldly and rapidly to protect the only home we have. I’m very grateful for Oregon legislators like Senator Arnie Roblan, Representative David Gomberg and others that voted to extend the provisions of our Clean Fuels Bill. What is lost in the constant lying about the bill in direct mailings and letters to local papers (probably funded by Big Oil) is that Consumer Reports, a long trusted non-profit research organization, continues to stand behind the passage of the Clean Fuels bill and its provisions because it expands competition for fuel and for the positive environmental impact. We must transition from oil, coal and fracking to solar, wind and other safe, clean and renewable alternatives.
If we truly aspire toward democracy –we must be a well-educated and informed society. Not only should we be investing in education –we must make real journalism thrive again. As media has consolidated and television, radio and print media have slashed costs in order to create profitability –our access to unfettered information has greatly suffered. Without a well-funded “Fourth Estate” that properly seeks and reports factual information –we get the result we have today –opinions and perspectives funded by the obscenely wealthy telling you who to blame, telling you that fracking is good, labeling GMO’s are bad, immigrants are bad, climate change is a Democratic plot and war is good. From our local newspapers and media –through national news –we must have organizations dedicated to the pursuit of the truth. We need publications that aren’t afraid to call out lies and misinformation whether by a public official, an opinion piece or other form of intentional attempts to mislead the public.
I am proud to be a liberal –because liberals are about empowering individuals to be self-reliant however we also recognize that beyond the individual there is greatness in what we accomplish together. When we work together as a society our young nation creates fairness, justice and opportunity for all. We become a beacon for what is possible for the rest of the world and America leads by example.
I am proud to be a liberal.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
There is new Election 2016 poll data released every five minutes. While it's moderately entertaining -it is a generally mindless activity.
If as much attention was devoted to understanding the stated positions of the candidates, how their stated positions align with voting patterns and who is funding them we would be reasonably informed by the time we needed to cast our ballot (provided we have not already been disenfranchised by those state and local governments that are controlled by Republicans -or we disenfranchise ourselves for the GOP by not engaging in the process).
Instead we now seem to have a system by which "Candidate X" says something outrageous -everyone offended by "Candidate X" demands an apology -and the results of a new poll is published showing the impact of "Candidate X's" statement.
This is coupled with the fact that (and already in early voting states) millions of dollars are flowing in to purchase political ads and commercials which allows you to fundamentally say anything -repeatedly.
For example imagine a dark political ad (I know it's a stretch):
Screen is black -then slowly the image of a hungry young child appears. A voice-over begins "How many times did candidate Y vote to support a Hungry Children initiative? ... zero times." Screen fades again to black with a "Paid for by the Citizens Against Child Hunger." Subsequently a new poll showing Candidate X gaining ground and Candidate Y slipping. What is lost is that there is no "Hungry Children initiative" (because it may have been called "Healthy Families" or many other reasons) and "Citizens Against Child Hunger" may really be an industry group led by Monsanto, WalMart and/or the Koch brothers.
The manner in which we elect candidates to represent our interests at all levels is deeply flawed. Would you hire a personal assistant to work in your home without interviewing them, checking references and gaining insight as to how they will help you? When we vote to elect a representative -the consequences of poor choices are much higher. Poor choices in representation can lead to invading the wrong country, raising taxes on the poor and working class -while lowering them for the obscenely wealthy, eliminating environmental regulations meant to protect our air, water and forests; eliminating worker rights and protections, appointing people to our courts that believe that justice is for those who can afford it.
We must demand a thorough examination of candidates for local, state and federal office. A series of 100's of hours of checking voting patterns (or other candidate history) and how they align with stated positions and grading them. Providing detailed, transparent disclosure information on how the candidates are funded. And once the field has been reduced to a manageable number -then a series of debates.
Polling every five minutes is nothing more than another distraction -meant to shift us from demanding a deep examination. There is no substance. The polling emperor is wearing no clothes.
Monday, September 7, 2015
This weekend many of us are celebrating the last throes of summer (I'm working -however it is for a good cause -so I'm not bitter about it. Generally not too bitter -that is until I see the picnics on the beach, the kite's drifting by and the happy sounds of families playing).
Americans work hard -we work longer hours, and generate more productivity while taking less vacation than anywhere else in the world. We do this to provide a better life for ourselves and our families.
The real war on American workers
Over the past few generations -the American worker has been an unwitting participant in an all-out economic war. Through tax policy, privatization and the attack on labor unions the quality of life and political power of the American working class has been effectively marginalized. In Lewis Powell's confidential memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in August of 1971 -he describes an America where labor has become too strong politically -and he provides the strategy which has led to the growing economic disparity today between the obscenely wealthy and everyone else. Powell was later nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court by Richard Nixon.
Battlefield: Tax Fairness
For every hour we work we generate value. Some of that value is hopefully returned to us. Some of the value may go to the owner of the business we work for. Some of the value may go into government to pay for roads, highways, bridges, schools, police, fire and defense (a great deal goes into defense). Some value may go toward our retirement security. The value that is generated goes to us, ownership and government. In the late 1970's the federal income tax rate for those earning more than $200,000 per year was 70%. Over the course of the Reagan Administration -taxes on the wealthiest American's fell to 28% while increasing for the middle class. This means that for the average worker -for each hour -you were paying the government more -to make up for the wealthy paying less. Tax policy (income taxes, estate taxes, taxes on investment gains and corporate taxes) are just one battlefield in which the average American worker is losing.
Another significant battlefield is on wages. Beginning in the late 1980's -and as American worker productivity was continuing to climb higher -Executive salary was skyrocketing. It's easy to understand why. An easy example is as follows. Let's say you own a business and you employ 100 workers and you pay them $8.00 an hour (above the $7.25/hour minimum wage). Those workers are each responsible for producing $50,000 of profit each year for your business. You now have $5,000,000 of profit at the end of the year.
A) You could pay a bonus to each of your workers of $40,000 each -and still pay yourself a hefty bonus of $1,000,000. You could also double the wages of your workers (to $16.00) and hour -and if your business remained the same year over year -you'd still have a significant profit at the end of every year.
B) You could pay a bonus (dividends) to shareholders of $2,000,000 congratulate yourself with a $3,000,000 bonus and buy each of your workers a turkey (while encouraging them to apply for Food Stamps and other taxpayer funded benefits -you know, the WalMart business model). And by the way -you own a majority of the stock and collect most of the stock dividends so even a large part of $2,000,000 in stock dividends makes its way to your bank account.
Most CEO's and executives opt for the "WalMart" wage model. The chart above serves as evidence of that fact. And is also important to understand why "trickle down economics" is really nothing more than a massive fraud perpetrated upon American society by the wealthy (and the GOP party that they control). What do you think is better for the economy? One person with $5,000,000 in their pocket (you know, the "job creator") or one hundred workers with $40,000 each to spend. This is why an American worker making a living wage -reaping a decent amount of value from his or her productivity is so vital to our economic strength (and America). It is the working class/middle class engine that fuels American strength and growth. The consolidation of wealth (and power) to the top 1% works incredibly well for the 1%. It makes us more fragile as a nation -it weakens America and diminishes the future we could all have.
In an article from The Atlantic by Gillian White, Jan Rivkin an economist and senior associate dean for research at Harvard said "From the end of WWII until the 1970s productivity in the U.S. and median wages grew in lockstep. But from the late 1970s until today we've seen a divergence, with productivity growing faster than wages. The divergence indicates that companies and the people who own and run them are doing much better than the people who work at the companies." In other words -the workers create value (profit) -and this productivity or value is taken from them with a pat on the back and a "thanks, you might get to do this again tomorrow" and it is paid to the executives.
Let's face it. Trickle down economics works beautifully. It does precisely what it is designed to do -move money, power and quality of life from the poor, working poor and middle class to the obscenely wealthy. It is not a failed economic theory. And it's not accidentally stupid. It is massive legalized fraud -and every time someone votes for the GOP they are simply perpetuating the stealing of our quality of life -and that of our children and grandchildren.
We are working longer hours and harder -for less. And the GOP response from Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush? "You aren't working hard enough". Nevertheless -take a look at the chart below. When we work harder and longer -we have less time with our families, less time to raise our children, care for our elders or become involved in our schools and community. We live paycheck to paycheck and are ruled by fear, anxiety and economic uncertainty. When we are fearful -we are easier to control.
Our historical struggle to unite and collectively bargain has been under siege since Reagan fired all of the Air Traffic Control workers (the PATCO strike of 1981).
Since that time -Union power has continued to be attacked by "Right to Work" or anti-Collective Bargaining initiatives (which are really thinly-veiled Orwellian phrases for employers can do whatever they want, anytime they want), the "WalMart" business model, the offshoring of manufacturing and other jobs and the Koch-brothers funded attack on Unions led by Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio and many other GOP candidates and elected officials. The attacks are waged through legislation, ballot initiatives and court challenges that effectively diminish the political strength of Unions and the ability for workers to collectively bargain for fair wages and benefits.
While Unions must modernize and recognize that they must advocate strongly for workers -they must also work collaboratively to derive the best outcomes for the workers they represent and society as a whole. And we must honor and remember all those that have struggled, fought and died so we can unite and demand that our work is valued properly, that we can rebuild the American dream and that we are all brothers and sisters together working for a better life for our children and our future.
Friday, August 7, 2015
The Fall 2015 Fox replacement for the popular show "American Idol" is the GOP Debate series. It is spectacle and theater that even has some of my left of center friends talking about "if you had to, which of them would you vote for?"
Of course the debates are entertaining. Laugh In was funny, Saturday Night Live -occasionally funny. Curb Your Enthusiasm? -always funny. However to think any of the candidates offered by the party working to destroy the hard fought gains in civil rights, voting rights and women's rights; promotes a foreign policy equivalent to "Let them hate us as long as they fear us" -a policy of perpetual war (paid for in blood by our poor and working class -and in future generations of indebtedness) -while ensuring that everyone has a gun or assault rifle would be acceptable as President is irreconcilable and irresponsible.
Nevertheless -it is a spectacle -and it is successfully distracting us. The real issues as I see them are
- The Iran Nuclear Agreement (which will avoid yet another long, protracted war in the Middle East -and all of the horror that manifest in war -for generations).
- The growing inequality between those that have and those that don't in America stemming from tax and economic policy from the disastrous Reagan administration.
- The regressive attack on women's rights, racial justice and voting rights.
- The attacks on our environment (Keystone XL, the Gulf Coast has a dead zone from the BP catastrophe, the negligence by All American Plains leading to the pipeline disaster in central California and now Shell is on their way to destroy the Arctic).
- Attacks on environmental protection and regulation.
- Attacks on Unions and the middle class.
- The war on education and intellectual capability.
- Ignorance-fueled discrimination against people by those hiding behind "religious liberty" as a means to hate.
- The attacks on tax fairness that subvert a progressive tax system such that the wealthy and corporations legally avoid their responsibility to America.
The spectacle IS American Idol's Fall season replacement on Fox.
Let's not forget for a moment what is really going on -and what is really at stake. It is well past time for all of us to unite and demand that "We the People" not the Koch brothers, the NRA's, the extreme fundamentalists of any faith, the Exxons, Chevrons or "Defense" industry are represented by our Government. Our Government is not separate from us -it is an extension of our civic engagement, voting -and carefully monitoring our elected officials so they are in fact representing the best interests of American society -not a particular party or of the wealthiest Americans.