America’s Wake-Up Call – Joe Biden on the Issues

With just over five weeks left until election day, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.  Today, we are talking about issues that matter the most to all of us.  Let’s face it, we need to stop talking about how awful Donald Trump is and focus on how much better Joe Biden will be.  It’s true that we must be concerned with voting Trump out of office before he turns this nation into a dictatorship, but it’s not enough just to throw out the bad … we must know what we are replacing it with.

There are dozens of issues that are important, but we really want to focus on the ones that are most important to everyone.  After giving it much thought, and narrowing the list, Jeff and I believe the following are of the most immediate concern:

  • Climate change
  • Health Care
  • Education
  • Racial Justice
  • Income Inequality

There are many other issues, such as gun control, campaign finance, immigration, infrastructure, the economy, criminal justice, and more.  But, given the constraints of time, we will focus on the ones that affect every one of our lives, and that have long-term implications that will affect not only us, but future generations – our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the future.  We will cover the first two today, and the other three soon.

Climate Change:

No matter how important the other issues are, climate change must, in the long run, be the most important.  Climate deniers may argue that we are being alarmists, doomsday prophets, but scientists have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that humans are bringing about their own demise every day. We can see the results with our own eyes – the worst ever destructive wildfires on the West Coast, the most active hurricane season on record, and record high heat & humidity in many areas.

Biden has made tackling climate change a centerpiece of his campaign, proposing to invest $2 trillion in a massive green jobs program to build renewable energy infrastructure.

The money, which would be spent over four years, would go toward energy efficiency upgrades, the construction of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations and greatly increasing the share of renewable energy from wind, solar and other technologies in America’s power sector.

His plan calls for ending the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity by 2035. By no later than 2050, he would bring the country to net zero emissions of greenhouse gases under the plan.

Biden has also promised to restore all environmental protections undone by the Trump administration and rejoin the Paris climate agreement, committing to the pact’s goal of preventing global average temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.

“Climate change is a challenge that’s going to define our American future. I know meeting the challenge will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jolt new life into our economy, strengthen our global leadership, protect our planet … We’re not just going to tinker around the edges.”

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has unraveled nearly every climate regulation that was put in place by the Obama administration, in part because of his unrelenting hatred of President Obama, and in part because of his financial ties to the fossil fuel and logging industries.  Just yesterday it was announced that Trump plans to eliminate protections for the Tongass Forest in Alaska and open it to logging!  Joe Biden will not put profit ahead of the planet.

His administration has weakened limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, as well as from the oil and gas industry. It has opened more public land to oil and gas drilling and limited wildlife protections. And it has relaxed pollution regulations on coal-fired power plants in an effort to revive the dying industry.  Donald Trump’s actions, if allowed to continue, will ensure the end of the human and many other species by the end of this century.

California’s environmental protections have been a particular target for Trump. The Trump administration has revoked the state’s authority to set tougher car emission standards than those required by the federal government, placing a major obstacle in California’s path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality.

I think Trump summed up his view on climate change when he said …

“People like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers. As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it. I don’t think science knows.”

Need I say more?

Health Care:

When the Affordable Care Act was put in place in 2010 during the Obama administration, it was a historic step that provided affordable health insurance to approximately a third of the people in this nation who had previously been unable to afford it.  Was it perfect?  No, of course not … we all knew it would require adjusting and tweaking as time went by and problems arose, but it was a start, the first step toward a universal health care plan.  Joe Biden’s healthcare plan includes building on the foundation of the original ACA, as well as including an expansion of the public option.

Specifically, he would create a new government insurance plan to be sold on the ACA markets. The 2 million or so people currently stuck in the Medicaid expansion gap would be automatically enrolled, for free. Obamacare’s tax credits would be enhanced, pegged to more generous insurance, and eligibility for government assistance would be available to anybody. Nobody would pay more than 8.5 percent of their income on insurance premiums.  And nobody would be excluded on the basis of pre-existing conditions.

In addition to restoring and improving on the Affordable Care Act, Biden has a plan to lower prescription drug costs, starting with repealing the exception that prohibits drug corporations from negotiating with Medicare over drug prices.  Prescription drugs in the U.S. are, on average, 3.7 times higher than the combined average of other countries.  Think about that one … while someone in Canada might be paying $50 for a prescription, you are paying $185!

By comparison, Donald Trump has stated since before his election in 2016 that he wanted to reverse ACA in its entirety.  Since he has been unable to do that, he has instead undermined and chipped away at portions of it.  There is currently a case pending in the Supreme Court that would completely abolish ACA, and while Trump claims he will present an even better plan, there is no evidence that he could or would.

Coronavirus Pandemic:

No discussion on health care would be complete without addressing the coronavirus pandemic that has already taken the lives of more than 207,000 people in this nation, the highest death toll of any nation on the planet.  With a surge in cases predicted in the coming months, experts predict we will have more than 300,000 deaths by the end of the year.  Trump’s response has been “it is what it is”, and more recently he claims that the coronavirus “affects almost nobody”.  Joe Biden, on the other hand, has a plan.

On his first day in office, he plans to reverse the withdrawal of the U.S. from the World Health Organization (WHO).  He plans to call for a national ‘mask mandate’, and meanwhile urges governors of all states to implement mask mandates for their states. He would adopt nationwide testing and contact tracing, including doubling the number of drive-through testing sites and providing federal funding for “regular and reliable covid-19 testing for every worker called back on the job.”

He plans to restore the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, which was established by the Obama-Biden Administration and eliminated by Trump in 2018.  The thing, though, that I think is most important about Biden’s approach to the coronavirus is that he plans to listen to the scientists.  These are people who have dedicated their entire lives to studying diseases such as the coronavirus, SARS, HIV, Ebola and other infectious diseases … they know what they are doing, and Joe Biden recognizes this, whereas Donald Trump says “I don’t think science knows.”

I realize that what I have written about Biden’s stance on these issues is necessarily somewhat vague, but to drill down to details would require far more than there is time for.  However, feel free to visit the Biden/Harris campaign website for further details.  Perhaps the biggest difference between Joe Biden’s plan and Donald Trump’s is that Biden actually has a plan, whereas Trump seems to wing it from one day to the next.  Joe Biden is a decent man who actually cares about the people of this nation.  Donald Trump is not and does not.

Next week, Jeff will be writing about the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and how it could affect the November election.  We will cover other election issues, as I mentioned in the beginning, in future posts, as well as numerous other topics … well, as many as we can squeeze into the next five weeks!


Note that in order to make it easier to find past articles, we have divided the Table of Contents into two — Discord & Dissension, with all of our posts from January thru May, and America’s Wake-Up Call, with our current posts.

Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents

America’s Wake-Up Call — Table of Contents

How The World Sees Us Now

We know about the divisiveness, the chaos, the hate that is dominating the headlines here in the U.S.  We are fed a steady diet of daily abominations, accusations, and ignorant spew.  But how do people in other countries see us?  Until four years ago, we were largely viewed with respect … sure, we had our flaws, but we tried to do the right thing … most of the time.  We helped our allies and others around the globe.  We were doing our part to promote solutions to climate change, nuclear disarmament, and to contribute to a global defense structure.  And then, came Donald Trump, riding the waves of the populist movement all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, occupying a chair that he would never fit.  So … how are we viewed abroad today?

From an article in The Guardian back in June …

The coronavirus crisis has caused a dramatic deterioration in the European public perception of the US, extensive new polling reveals.

More than 60% of respondents in Germany, France, Spain, Denmark and Portugal said they had lost trust in the United States as a global leader.

A report based on the survey’s findings argues that the shock of the pandemic has “traumatised” European citizens, leaving them feeling “alone and vulnerable”.

In almost every country surveyed, a majority of people said their perception of the US had deteriorated since the outbreak. Negative attitudes of the US were most marked in Denmark (71%) Portugal (70%), France (68%), Germany (65%) and Spain (64%). In France, 46% and in Germany 42% said their view of the US had worsened “a lot” during the pandemic.

On Tuesday, PEW Research released a new poll of 13 foreign countries that reveals that perceptions of America have dropped drastically in recent years.  I strongly encourage you to take a look at their data.

PEW-chart

Let’s hear directly from some of those people, shall we?

  • Have you tried turning your country off and then on again?
  • I think Mexico is probably now in favour of that wall
  • Sad. Disappointed. We used to think pretty highly of you, but now we just feel sorry for you. You are so divided we’re not sure how you can ever come together as a country again. Your guns are out of control. Your racism is dividing you. Your politics are a disaster. Your healthcare system is a joke. Your pandemic is out of control and you will soon be in the depths of a depression, with more than 30m people without jobs. How do you feel so far?
  • Being an Italian and knowing roman history, I can say that in my opinion America is showing the classic symptoms of an empire in decline
  • The US always appeared like an older, stronger brother – now it feels like this brother started using meth.
  • Being in the U.K. right now kind of feels like being a little boat that has broken down and everyone’s too busy being mad at the captain to fix anything. But then you look to the left and there’s a big cruise ship burning as it sinks with people fighting on every deck, and the captain’s throwing gasoline on everything, and you feel a little bit better about the s***** boat you’re in.
  • I used to really admire America. The last few years have changed that perception drastically. The blatantly corrupt politics seem to have the whole country in such a tight grip that from the outside it looks like a 3rd world country. Your president is lying constantly and obviously yet he has outspoken followers in the millions who just disregard his lies. There seems to be no safety net for the average person at all and you seem to rely on luck to get through your life.
  • I live in Germany. When I was younger, I always wanted to live in America. I thought it was great. Now, not even for a million dollars, I would never move there
  • I knew there were lots of idiots, but the sheer quantity is mind blowing. And how so many Americans just can’t handle a view that’s different to their own or at least allow others to have a different view, is crazy.
  • You’re a country blessed with diverse land, money and democracy. But you have become your own worst enemy—healthy patriotism has turned into extreme nationalism and xenophobia, freedom has turned into anarchy. Also guns, like howww are they still a thing? Sad.
  • The Second Amendment is there to protect your precious democracy from tyrants. Ironic who the gun owners support the most.
  • What saddens me the most is how the basics, such as universal healthcare and social support are so reviled by so many. Worst is that those who are the most vocal are probably not far from those who would benefit the most.
  • I keep wondering why the “richest” country in the world still doesn’t have national free health services.
  • I can’t believe how Americans can politicise EVERYTHING?! Wearing masks, postal service and before these newer topics universal healthcare, free (or at least vastly cheaper) uni, higher taxation etc. are a reality in most developed countries, but in America it seems like you can just scream socialism and people are against everything. From my German point of view the two party system and electoral votes is seriously f**ked up and even the moderate democrats are pretty right-wing.
  • With the economic divide larger than ever, I don’t believe the majority of Americans, who struggle to live decently, pay for healthcare and their kids education, still buy the freaking “american dream” BS.
  • Trump is an Emperor, with his princess and princes. Everyone with any insight or brains can see it, but there are a lot of supremely uninformed Americans in the Rust belt, the south and parts of the north who have been fed the line from Fox and Facebook that he is their saviour.
  • I’m a Canadian, living in Mexico since 2014. I seriously can’t wrap my head around it from either vantage point. It’s like watching a slow-motion car wreck – it’s horrifying and you know nothing good is going to come of it but it’s fascinating at the same time.
  • As a Millennial from Toronto, I grew up thinking America was awesome. I thought it would be cool to live in New York when I was older. The past 5 years have been such a s*** show, I am so thankful to be from Canada. I dont think its Trump that is the main problem (although hes a huge one.) Its his legion of supporters that feel the same way he does. They will not go away once he leaves office. The problem is more permanent than some realize. Its been sad to see the US deteriorate.
  • I feel sorry for the sane people over there.
  • Sadness
  • I genuinely feel sorry for you people.

Remember when we were mostly respected by people in other countries?  Remember when Trump said he would “make America great again”?  Remember when we thought of this as a country of equal opportunity for all?  Remember when we had a president, not a tyrant in the Oval Office?  Think long and hard about it between now and November 3rd, for your vote could help save this country, or it could help sink it.

No Longer The Country We Think We Are

Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times today speaks for itself …


‘We’re No. 28! And Dropping!’

A measure of social progress finds that the quality of life has dropped in America over the last decade, even as it has risen almost everywhere else.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

This should be a wake-up call: New data suggest that the United States is one of just a few countries worldwide that is slipping backward.

The newest Social Progress Index, shared with me before its official release Thursday morning, finds that out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. And the declines in Brazil and Hungary were smaller than America’s.

“The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action,” Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and the chair of the advisory panel for the Social Progress Index, told me. “It’s like we’re a developing country.”

The index, inspired by research of Nobel-winning economists, collects 50 metrics of well-being — nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more — to measure quality of life. Norway comes out on top in the 2020 edition, followed by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. South Sudan is at the bottom, with Chad, Central African Republic and Eritrea just behind.

The United States, despite its immense wealth, military power and cultural influence, ranks 28th — having slipped from 19th in 2011. The index now puts the United States behind significantly poorer countries, including Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece.

“We are no longer the country we like to think we are,” said Porter.

The United States ranks No. 1 in the world in quality of universities, but No. 91 in access to quality basic education. The U.S. leads the world in medical technology, yet we are No. 97 in access to quality health care.

The Social Progress Index finds that Americans have health statistics similar to those of people in Chile, Jordan and Albania, while kids in the United States get an education roughly on par with what children get in Uzbekistan and Mongolia. A majority of countries have lower homicide rates, and most other advanced countries have lower traffic fatality rates and better sanitation and internet access.

The United States has high levels of early marriage — most states still allow child marriage in some circumstances — and lags in sharing political power equally among all citizens. America ranks a shameful No. 100 in discrimination against minorities.

The data for the latest index predates Covid-19, which has had a disproportionate impact on the United States and seems likely to exacerbate the slide in America’s standing. One new study suggests that in the United States, symptoms of depression have risen threefold since the pandemic began — and poor mental health is associated with other risk factors for well-being.

Michael Green, the C.E.O. of the group that puts out the Social Progress Index, notes that the coronavirus will affect health, longevity and education, with the impact particularly large in both the United States and Brazil. The equity and inclusiveness measured by the index seem to help protect societies from the virus, he said.

“Societies that are inclusive, tolerant and better educated are better able to manage the pandemic,” Green said.

The decline of the United States over the last decade in this index — more than any country in the world — is a reminder that we Americans face structural problems that predate President Trump and that festered under leaders of both parties. Trump is a symptom of this larger malaise, and also a cause of its acceleration.

David G. Blanchflower, a Dartmouth economist, has new research showing that the share of Americans reporting in effect that every day is a bad mental health day has doubled over 25 years. “Rising distress and despair are largely American phenomenon not observed in other advanced countries,” Blanchflower told me.

This decline is deeply personal for me: As I’ve written, a quarter of the kids on my old No. 6 school bus in rural Oregon are now dead from drugs, alcohol and suicide — what are called “deaths of despair.” I lost one friend to a heroin overdose this spring and have had more friends incarcerated than I could possibly count; the problems are now self-replicating in the next generation because of the dysfunction in some homes.

You as taxpayers paid huge sums to imprison my old friends; the money would have been far better invested educating them, honing their job skills or treating their addictions.

That’s why this is an election like that of 1932. That was the year American voters decisively rejected Herbert Hoover’s passivity and gave Franklin Roosevelt an electoral mandate — including a flipped Senate — that laid the groundwork for the New Deal and the modern middle class. But first we need to acknowledge the reality that we are on the wrong track.

We Americans like to say “We’re No. 1.” But the new data suggest that we should be chanting, “We’re No. 28! And dropping!”

Let’s wake up, for we are no longer the country we think we are.

Don’t Label Me!

I would much rather live in a world where everyone has equal rights.  I would rather live in a world where free education … a good education where young people are taught to think … is affordable and available to all.  I would rather live in a world where good health care is available to all at a very small cost to those who cannot afford it, and a higher cost to those who can.  I would rather live in a world where people have been taught since birth to respect everyone and everything … humans, but also the environment, all animals, trees, flowers, grass.  I would rather live in a world where people can disagree without fighting, without screaming and yelling, without threats of violence.  I would rather live in a world where people gladly stop to help a stranger or give up something – time or money or ‘things’ – in order to help another, whether person or animal.  I would rather live in a world where it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, straight or gay, male or female, Christian or atheist, but where everyone is treated fairly and equally.  I would rather live in a world filled with love, than hate.  I don’t mind if nobody can afford to own a mansion or a private jet, as long as everybody can afford food, shelter, medical care, education, and as long as we are cleaning up our own environmental mess.  I would rather live in a world where people don’t worship money.  I don’t care if I can never afford a brand-new car, or designer jeans, or if I can never take a vacation to Monte Carlo.

Obviously, the world I would rather live in doesn’t exist anywhere on this planet, although a few countries, Finland and Denmark most notably, have come close.

So, because I want all these things, I am told that I am part of the “woke culture” and that this is a very bad thing to be.  I had, of course, heard the term ‘woke’, and in fact it was once used by my own congressman, Warren Davidson.  I thought he meant awake, and I corrected his grammar.  However, I simply thought the term meant being aware of … whatever the topic of conversation at that moment might be.  Apparently, I was quite wrong and am not too terribly bright.

Lately, I notice a number of new terms cropping up … words that have a meaning, but are suddenly assigned a different meaning by … nameless, faceless people … and then that becomes a cultural ‘thing’.  Now, I am too damned old to try to keep up with what is meant by a “Gen X” or a “millennial”.  Those are bad enough, but now we have these terms like ‘social distancing’, ‘woke’, ‘cancel culture’, and more.  C’mon people … say what you mean.  Woke.  Yes, I awoke this morning, or rather I was awakened by the body saying it needed the bathroom.  I woke Miss Goose up because I needed her to help with the house chores.  Don’t try to pin the label ‘woke’ on me and send me scurrying to try to figure out just what the Sam Hell you even mean!

Now, from a day or so of research, trying to learn just what is meant in today’s strange culture by “woke”, the nearest I can conclude is that a ‘woke’ person is one who calls for social justice, who supports Black Lives Matter, who supports Roe v Wade and Obergefell v Hodges, who believes in equality for all and is trying to make the world a better place.  If that is the right definition, than I am proud to say that yes, I have awakened and am an enlightened social justice warrior, or in today’s vernacular, I’m ‘woke’.

So, a reader claims that being ‘woke’ is a terrible thing, much worse, even, than being a trumpeter! Hmmm … something is wrong with this.  Let’s see if we can figure out why it’s better to be a corrupt racist misogynistic psycopathic liar than a person who advocates for equality and social justice.

One explanation I found is that those who are considered to be ‘woke’ are pretentious and cultural elites.  Huh?  Okay, I know what ‘pretentious’ means, and … I can honestly say I’ve never once had cause to be pretentious a day in my life!  And … cultural elites???  Heck, folks, I’m about as elite as … Jethro Bodine from the old Beverly Hillbillies show! I don’t own fancy clothes or drive a fancy car … my van is 20 years old and has 250,000 miles on it, and is only safe to drive no farther than I could walk home. In my lifetime, I’ve been homeless, I’ve been attacked, I’ve had a gun pulled on me, I’ve worked my ass off to get an education and take care of my three children, sometimes working three jobs … ELITE???  Hell no!

So look … don’t bother to consider whether I’m “woke” or not, for it really doesn’t matter.  Consider me a person who cares very much about many things:  the environment, animals, all people, equality for all, government that works for the people, not against them.  I want people to learn to get along, to accept each other as they are, and to value diversity.  I want an end to all forms of bigotry, from racism to homophobia to anti-Semitism to misogyny to Islamophobia.  I want people to care instead of hate.  I want our elected officials to work for us, not be lining their own pockets.  I want an end to guns, the sole purpose of which is murder.  These are the things that are important to me.  Don’t label me.  I am who I am, which is far from perfect, for I am sometimes grumpy, have a fairly low tolerance for willful ignorance and stupidity, and I have a sharp edge.  But what I do, I do with kindness, caring, compassion, empathy, and love.  I am not a label, such as democrat, liberal, snowflake, woke, or any of the other labels people so frequently use.  I am me … just that.  I do my best.

Discord & Dissension — Part XIV — How To Lose An Election

I was pondering what direction to take for this week’s Discord & Dissension post when something crossed my radar that caused my jaw to drop, made me sit up and really take notice.  It disturbed me so badly that it sent me plummeting back into the rabbit hole from which I had only recently emerged, as I thought:  If this is what Democrats are thinking of Biden, we’re doomed.

But I’m not a quitter, and we’ve got 28 weeks left to try to turn things around.  This election season is like none in history, with no campaign rallies, little advertising that I have seen, but then I don’t watch television, and who knows whether there will even be national conventions or debates?

I am an Independent, though most assume I am a registered Democrat, but I am pulling for the Democrats and will be voting Democrat, needless to say.  Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party, and the only choice other than Donald Trump, a criminal and conman who currently resides in the White House.  Now, what I want to talk to you about today is … inspiration, motivation, passion, and support.  The thing that set me off on this tangent was this cartoon …Biden

What bothered me about it … well, a couple of things.  One, is that it paints Biden as totally worthless, not much better than a brick, and the cartoonist’s point was, “Okay, Biden is worthless with no redeeming qualities, but hey, he’s better than Trump.”  Well friends, a tarantula is better than Trump, but it won’t win an election.  Now granted, there are groups whose motto is “Vote blue, no matter who”, but the reality is that it won’t win the election, either.

In a retrospective of the 2016 election, we can define certain hurdles, obstacles, which played a role in the defeat of the more worthy, more experienced, more intelligent candidate, Hillary Clinton.  Heavily gerrymandered states that dilute the vote of poor and minorities who typically vote Democrat.  The Russian influence and attempts to hurt Clinton’s image while helping Trump is well-documented, contrary to what Trump claims.  In Republican-led states, various dirty tricks were used to disenfranchise voters.  And, of course the media played a role by giving Trump, rather an anomaly at the time, nearly unlimited airtime … free airtime.

All of those obstacles still exist going into the 2020 election, but we have newly added hurdles.  Due to the coronavirus, most primaries have been pushed back until June or July, and it’s questionable whether or how they will happen even then.  The nominating conventions are a big question mark.  And, the biggest potential hurdle is the election on November 3rd.  Will it be safe to visit the polls, where hundreds of people are packed into a high school gymnasium?  The obvious answer is to immediately plan for voting by mail in all 50 states, but the Republicans are fighting that one tooth and nail.  Not to mention that Donald Trump seems to be on a one-man crusade to cause the United States Postal Service to become officially bankrupt around June, which could throw a wrench the size of Seattle into that plan.

So, as you can see, if the Democrats are to oust Donald Trump in November, they have a huge task ahead of them, and only 28 weeks in which to accomplish it.  Time to get busy, but denigrating Joe Biden is definitely not the way to go about it!

Joe Biden has a very good platform.  Yes, it is more moderate than either Bernie’s or Elizabeth’s, but in truth, Bernie Sanders would never have been able to get half of his ideas passed into law.  His ideas were great, and I fully supported them, while at the same time realizing that in reality, they were a roadmap, a goal for some point in the future, and would be achieved only over time, one step at a time, two steps forward and one step back.  I think that Biden’s platform is more realistic, while at the same time, putting people first, people over corporate profits.  Let’s take a look at some of Biden’s talking points …

Let’s start with some of the things that are the highest priority to the average person.

  • There can be no issue more relevant, more critical, than the environment  and combating climate change. He will re-commit to the Paris Climate Accord and take the steps to ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050, including regulations that go well beyond those that were in place before Trump rolled back every single one in 2017.
  • Health care  is on everyone’s minds these days.  President Obama’s administration, which included Joe Biden, developed the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  While not perfect, it was the first step in a progressive program that would have led to Universal Healthcare.  ACA was working until Donald Trump arrived on the scene and began decimating it.  While others would tear down ACA and start over with something akin to Medicare for all, Biden is in favour of building on the foundation of ACA, expanding and enhancing it.
  • Minimum wage was last raised on July 24th, 2009. At that time, it was raised from $6.55 to $7.25, where it has been for nearly eleven years, and remains today.  Republicans have fought against raising the federal minimum wage because it would raise costs to business, thereby cutting into the corporate profits.  Biden supports immediately raising the federal minimum wage to $15.
  • One of the issues I consider most important is that of gun regulations. There was absolutely no reason for the assault weapon ban to be allowed to expire, and since it did, nobody in the federal government even talks about re-instating it.  Nobody is willing to discuss enhanced background checks, restrictions on those found guilty of domestic violence, and just to breathe the notion of limits on number of guns a person can own will make you a target.  Biden’s plan includes holding gun manufacturers accountable, and banning the production and sale of assault weapons for non-military use.

Needless to say, I have only covered the tip of the iceberg.  Biden’s platform covers a number of topics from bankruptcy reform to immigration, from infrastructure to LGBTQ rights.  I can only cover a small bit here, but please, I urge you, go to and check out his views on the issues … I think you’ll find that he has some very progressive ideas.

No, Joe Biden isn’t Bernie.  He doesn’t have the fire and passion that both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have.  But, Joe has good ideas, workable ideas, and ideas that may just even float in Congress.  Joe takes a stand for We the People, for those of us working and struggling to take care of our families, to get ahead a bit.  Donald Trump takes a stand for the wealthy capitalists and to hell with We the People.  Now really, my friends … which do you want?

Okay, if you don’t want Trump, whether you’re a Bernie fan, or simply a “vote blue, no matter who” supporter, you’re going to have to find a way to generate some genuine enthusiasm for Joe Biden.  Not just, “Well, he sucks, but he’s better than Trump”.  That attitude won’t get it!  It won’t win the election on November 3rd.  What it will do is cause an even higher number to stay home, either because they see no reason to vote, or because they think they are making some sort of a statement.

Get excited, folks!  Show some enthusiasm, else you’re likely to find out, in case you ever wondered, how the average German citizen felt by the end of 1933.  No, I’m not being an alarmist, not being a drama queen … I am being dead serious.

Please, folks, no more cartoons like the one at the beginning of this post, or like …

apathy

apathyboring-bidenThese do not help the cause, they actually help Trump more than anybody, and those of us who truly care about having a president who knows what he’s doing, who cares about the people of this nation, do not find them remotely funny.

Joe Biden has been endorsed by President Obama, by Bernie Sanders, by Elizabeth Warren, and numerous members of Congress, ambassadors, governors, and others far too numerous to list.  This is likely to be the single most critical election in our lifetimes, the one that will define the next 50-100 years or more of the nation.  It is the one that will decide whether the U.S. Constitution of 1787 will survive, or be buried forever.

Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents

Filosofa’s 2020 State Of The Union

This evening, Donald Trump will present to members of Congress and anyone who cares to listen, the annual State of the Union Address.  Last year, as Trump was forced to cancel his planned January address, I wrote my own, thinking that perhaps I would be asked to fill in for him.  I wasn’t, but still, it was a good speech, so I’ve decided to prepare my own again this year.  Some things are the same as last year, some have changed.


Good morning, fellow humans.  This is called the State of the Union address because the purpose is to inform the people of this nation how the country is doing.

Environment

I regret that I must tell you that we have some very serious problems here in the U.S., and if we don’t address them very soon, the ramifications will be tragic.  We produce and use far too much coal and oil, for the fossil fuel industry has our government in a choke-hold that keeps us from doing everything in our power to promote renewable energy sources.  Far too much federal land has been opened to mining, drilling, and logging, and we don’t yet know the full extent of the environmental impact, or the level of destruction of wildlife.  The fossil fuel and logging industries are putting farmland and water supplies at risk.  In addition, we have rolled back so many environmental regulations that we are putting far more CO2 into the atmosphere per capita than any other nation on the planet, including China.  We have made little or no effort to reduce single-use plastics and other garbage that is polluting our land and waterways, not to mention the oceans.  This is the area that is most important of all the topics I will cover here, and yet we are doing the least to address the problems.

Economy

If one looks only at the Dow-Jones or the employment rates, the economy looks pretty fair.  But, there is more to the economy than just the stock market and employment rates.  When you look at such things as affordable housing, income inequality and minimum wage, the picture is far less rosy.  Then, factor in the national debt, which stands today at more than $23 trillion, and the budget deficit hovering around the $1 trillion mark, you can see that in truth the economy has some serious problems.  It may seem great for that upper 1% who are the beneficiaries of keeping wages low, tax cuts, and other benefits, but the majority of people in the U.S. are no better off than they were ten years ago.

Education

The average cost of a four-year degree ranges from $40,000 for in-state tuition at a public college, to $140,000 at a private college.  It is estimated that with rising college costs, that amount will nearly double over the next decade.  Few working-class families can afford that, so students must rely on financial aid.  Young people are leaving college already burdened with a mound of debt that would have purchased a nice home 15-20 years ago.  The result is that fewer and fewer students are attending college, for it is rapidly becoming available only to the wealthy.  This is alarming, for who will be the doctors, lawyers, accountants, scientists, computer programmers, etc. in the coming decades?

Global image

As I reported last year, we have lost the trust of our allies.  Since WWII, the U.S. has worked hard to be a trusted and valued partner in the global community, to develop alliances for the purposes of trade and security. But in order to maintain those alliances, we must first be a good friend, and we have let that ball drop. We have pulled out of treaties, imposed tariffs, been a poor trading partner, nearly started a war in the Middle East, and been critical of our allies for less than no reason.  At the same time, our leadership has gone out of its way to befriend our adversaries.  Is it any wonder, then, that a recent Pew research poll indicates that 64% of the 32 countries surveyed had very little confidence in the leadership of the U.S.

Domestic strife

The United States is more divided than at any time since the close of the Civil War in 1865.  We are divided along racial lines, religious ones, and more than ever before, along political lines.  The majority of the people do not trust our government, do not believe anything that comes from Washington.  When the people have lost all faith and trust in government, the nation has truly lost its way.  This is not a sustainable situation, but rather one that is likely to lead to serious trouble in the near future.

Guns

Already on this, the fourth day of February and 35th day of the new year, we have seen 28 mass shootings, resulting in 38 deaths and 112 injuries, for a total of 150 victims.  In total, in these first 35 days of the year, there have been a total of 3,618 gun deaths in the U.S. – 1,374 were homicides and the other 2,244 were suicides.  This figure, as much as any, tells the true state of the union.  No meaningful gun legislation was passed into law last year.

Immigration

While the majority of the people in this nation welcome immigrants, understand that immigrants add to the richness of our culture and contribute in countless ways to the well-being of our country, immigrants are being treated terribly.  Just last week, six more nations were added to the travel ban … nations whose people have never and do not now pose any threat whatsoever to the United States.  Funds have been siphoned from other areas to support the building of an unneeded border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border – over $10 billion in total – money wasted.  And children are still living in cages at the southern border, separated from their parents, perhaps forever.

Health care

There are now some 44 million people in the U.S. with no health insurance.  While there has been much talk, many promises, the only actions have been those which caused the cost of health insurance and prescription medication to rise, making it un-affordable for many.

Although I could go on, my time is up.  As you can see, the state of the nation leaves much room for improvement, however I would like to end on a positive note.  One industry in particular has seen positive growth.  Alcohol sales in the U.S. rose by some 5.1% over the past year!  If you’re looking for a place to invest a few dollars, I strongly recommend Jack Daniels or Budweiser!

Admittedly, last year’s ‘Filosofa’s State of the Union’ was better than this years, but consider that I’ve had an entire year of deterioration & detritus has taken place since then, and I think my gloomier outlook is somewhat justified.  I can only wonder what next year’s will bring!

There’s A Plan??? Who knew???

Alexandra Petri is a columnist for The Washington Post who only recently came onto my radar.  I love her style … subtle yet unmistakable snarky!  In 2010 she became the youngest person to have a column in The Washington Post; she also runs the ComPost blog on the paper’s website, on which she formerly worked with Dana Milbank.  Her column yesterday was, I thought, brilliantly spot-on, and I decided you guys would get a bit of humour from it, too.


Trump has a plan! His plan is for nothing to go wrong.trump-iceberg

By Alexandra Petri
Columnist
August 30

Alexandra-PetriFirst off, do not worry about the economy. There is nothing to worry about. Who’s worried? If you were to worry, that would make the economy second-guess itself and grow agitated. Don’t worry about the economy. It’s fine. Worry about the Space Command.

Second, if there are any problems with the economy (there aren’t, but if there were), they would have nothing to do with the president. The last thing that would possibly impact the economy are his trade policies. It is “badly run and weak companies,” as he wisely clarified on Twitter.

Third, if there were to be any kind of downturn (not necessarily a bad thing, at hotels, people pay for such a service!), there is a plan. The plan is for it to be, as Mick Mulvaney told a gathering of donors last week, “moderate and short.”

This plan is without flaw, and, indeed, is the approach the administration is taking to all forms of crisis. That is, I am pleased to report, why there are currently no crises whatsoever.

Consider, for instance, the new rollback of methane regulations — even over the objections of people in the affected industries. A similar, ingenious philosophy is being applied here. To try to limit the amount of methane released into the earth’s atmosphere would send the earth a message that we thought it might be getting to the point where additional methane and CO2 could be dangerous to the planet, and that realization might cause the earth to panic, hyperventilate and destroy all human life.

Nothing depresses a planet so much as the suggestion that its continued health is hanging by a very fragile thread. The last thing we would want the earth to do is think there was a problem. If we were to take any steps that made it look as though we were aware of a problem and were addressing it, well, that would be the end, for all of us. No, we must keep it in a state of blissful ignorance.

Indeed, we have taken this attitude broadly in all areas of our lives. Take health care, for instance. If you do not have a plan that allows for bad things to happen, you will be amazed, for instance, how many fewer times you will visit the doctor and how much less prescription medicine you will obtain! Probably this is because you are healthier.

Similarly, imagine what might happen if we were to make any effort to regulate guns. If guns knew we were thinking of regulating them, why, something terrible might happen in America, on a regular basis, even.

This is why we are not even contemplating a plan for removing bedbugs should they ever come to the Doral resort. If you devised a plan to remove them, then for that plan to work bedbugs would have to show up in the first place — simply unthinkable!

We must stand firm in our refusal to plan for anything but good outcomes.

The second you make a plan for something bad to happen, you may as well be sending it an engraved invitation. If we make any plans that will invite people to see us as not confident, and then the bears of the economy will fall upon us and destroy us. Oh no, I have mentioned them! Now they will hear us.

No. Our plan for if the economy is ʙᴀᴅ (shh, not so loud, you must not frighten the economy) is for it not to be ʙᴀᴅ. If we have a ʀᴇᴄᴇssɪᴏɴ (hush), our plan is for it not to be the bad kind, and for it to leave quickly.

Umbrellas invite rain. Safety harnesses inspire people to drop from great heights. Do not get me started on what helmets do.

This is why the Titanic brought so few lifeboats on board. To bring too many is to imply that a disaster might happen, in which case such lifeboats might be needed and might lead the ship to lose confidence in itself and capsize. This would have been disastrous!

The last thing we need is to invite disaster.

A Billionaire With A Conscience?

I have written often about the income disparity between the 1% and the rest of us, and I’m often critical of millionaires and billionaires for hoarding their wealth when children are dying every day for lack of food, medicine and hygiene.  Today I came across an OpEd in the New York Times by a millionaire who is a bit different than most, Eli Broad.  While I do not agree 100% with everything Mr. Broad says, what he proposes is a start, a step in the right direction.  Mr. Broad has an estimated net worth of $6.7 billion, so he can well afford a bit of philanthropy and a higher tax rate.  If we must have millionaires and billionaires, at least let them have a conscience. Take a look …


I’m in the 1 Percent. Please, Raise My Taxes.

Wealthy people like me should commit to reducing the ravages of economic inequality.

By Eli Broad

Eli-Broad.jpgThere’s a story we like to tell about American capitalism. Ours is a country that prizes merit, rewards risk and stands apart in its commitment to the collective success of open markets and the free flow of capital. We are a nation of strivers who can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps with the right combination of grit and determination.

That’s the tale we love to tell and hear. But take it from a person who has found himself on the fortunate side of that narrative: This story is incomplete. For most people, our system isn’t working.

I say this as the child of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania who came here with little more than an oversize belief in what America could offer. Their faith was well placed: My parents watched me build two Fortune 500 companies and become one of the wealthiest people in the country.

Two decades ago I turned full-time to philanthropy and threw myself into supporting public education, scientific and medical research, and visual and performing arts, believing it was my responsibility to give back some of what had so generously been given to me. But I’ve come to realize that no amount of philanthropic commitment will compensate for the deep inequities preventing most Americans — the factory workers and farmers, entrepreneurs and electricians, teachers, nurses and small-business owners — from the basic prosperity we call the American dream.

Some of us have supported closing the gulf between rich and poor by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, reforming our education system, expanding access to medical care, building more affordable housing.

But even in cities like my adopted hometown, Los Angeles, where many of these policies have been enacted, they have not adequately addressed the crisis. Our country must do something bigger and more radical, starting with the most unfair area of federal policy: our tax code.

It’s time to start talking seriously about a wealth tax.

Some will say I’m calling for the populist masses to take out the pitchforks and take down the titans of Wall Street. Some will say it’s just too difficult to execute. Others will call it a flight of fancy.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not advocating an end to the capitalist system that’s yielded some of the greatest gains in prosperity and innovation in human history. I simply believe it’s time for those of us with great wealth to commit to reducing income inequality, starting with the demand to be taxed at a higher rate than everyone else.

This does not mean I support paying higher taxes without requiring government to be transparent, accountable and equitable about how it spends the revenue, particularly for health care, public education and other programs critical to social and economic mobility. But let’s end this tired argument that we must delay fixing structural inequities until our government is running as efficiently as the most profitable companies. That’s a convenient tactic employed to distract us from the real problems.

The enormous challenges we face as a nation — the climate crisis, the shrinking middle class, skyrocketing housing and health care costs, and many more — are a stark call to action. The old ways aren’t working, and we can’t waste any more time tinkering around the edges.

Democrats have offered an array of plans. Senator Elizabeth Warren would levy a 2 percent tax on every dollar of net worth above $50 million. There’s an overdue proposal from Senator Bernie Sanders to increase taxes on estates and inheritances. And then there’s the mark-to-market approach proposed by Senator Ron Wyden, which would treat capital gains income as what it is — actual income for the wealthiest people in America. Currently people who have stocks and other investments that appreciate in value — usually people of means — are taxed at lower rates and are allowed to defer taxes.

I’m not an economist but I have watched my wealth grow exponentially thanks to federal policies that have cut my tax rates while wages for regular people have stagnated and poverty rates have increased.

So when the Democratic candidates take the stage this week for their first debate, I invite fellow members of the 1 percent to join me in demanding that they engage in a robust discussion of how we can strengthen a post-Trump America by reforming our tax code.

Let’s admit out loud what we all know to be true: A wealth tax can start to address the economic inequality eroding the soul of our country’s strength. I can afford to pay more, and I know others can too. What we can’t afford are more shortsighted policies that skirt big ideas, avoid tough issues and do little to alleviate the poverty faced by millions of Americans. There’s no time to waste.

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Eric Swalwell: The 7 Issues Guide

Today I bring you the 14th installment of TokyoSand’s excellent series, The 7 Issues Guide, helping us get to know a bit about the platforms of the democratic candidates running for the office of president next year. Eric Swalwell is on deck today. I know next to nothing about Mr. Swalwell, other than that he is currently serving his 4th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He seems to have the right ideas, but with 23 candidates currently in the running, I don’t see anything that stands out and says, “Pick me!” Nonetheless, I believe all the candidates should be given fair consideration, for you never know where you will find a diamond in the rough. Thank you, TokyoSand, and your diligent volunteers, for helping us get to know Mr. Swalwell!

Political⚡Charge

swalwell Rep. Eric Swalwell

The Democrats have a big field of candidates running for President in 2020. Each of them brings their own unique strengths to the table in a bid to take our country in a very different direction than the one we’re on today.

But as we well know from 2016, the media (and especially social media) gets fixated on non-substantial issues that take up all the oxygen. Plus, they don’t give the candidates the same treatment or the same amount of airtime.

In order to help voters get to know the Democratic candidates, I’ve gathered quotes and information about what the candidates have said or done in regards to the 7 issues that midterm voters identified as the most important. I hope that these guides serve as a helpful starting point for you as you look into which candidates (or how many candidates!) you are interested in…

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