Mitch McConnell Likes Falling Bridges!

Throughout President Obama’s eight year tenure, one man stood out as the biggest hurdle to anything and everything Obama and his team proposed.  That man, of course, is the ignoble Mitch McConnell … the poster boy for why we need term limits.  McConnell’s power is far greater than it should be and when he pledges obstruction, you can count on him destroying everything in his path … even our lives.

Most recently, McConnell has pledged to do everything in his power to keep the infrastructure bill from seeing the light of day in the Senate.  Frank Bruni, writing for the New York Times, addresses the infrastructure bill and McConnell’s self-serving intended obstruction in his latest newsletter …


Mitch McConnell, Fickle Fiscal Prude

By Frank Bruni

Opinion Columnist

The numbers stagger me too.

President Biden is promoting more than $2 trillion for infrastructure (loosely defined). He signed legislation for $1.9 trillion for pandemic relief, economic stimulus and anti-poverty initiatives.

All of this comes after the Trump administration’s mammoth relief-and-stimulus spending in 2020, and all of this precedes what will almost certainly be yet more requests for additional trillions from the Biden administration.

We’re in uncharted waters. Experts offering assurances that all will be well — or even better than well — are giving us their best educated guesses. No one — not the cheerleaders, not the naysayers — truly knows how this will all turn out.

But here’s the thing: At some point you have to pick a path, choose a side, place your bet. In many instances the potential price of a flawed wager is almost certainly less steep than the cost of inaction. This instance, I think, is one of those. Maybe America will go too big in the end. But too small hasn’t worked for us.

Too small led to the economic dispossession and pessimism exploited by a junior-league demagogue and would-be despot who hurt this country gravely. Too small factored into our shameful and unsustainable degree of income inequality.

Too small was a culprit in America’s world-leading number of coronavirus infections and Covid-related deaths last year. By contrast, too big — or rather, big — was a partner in the speedy development and distribution of vaccines.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, has pledged to fight Biden’s infrastructure package “every step of the way,” as a sudden defender of fiscal discipline. I say “sudden” because his attachment to it over the past few years, before Biden took office, was as steady as a Slinky.

He was perfectly happy to run up the federal debt to stay in good with President Donald Trump, who wanted tax cuts and more gleaming military hardware. Now? We mustn’t leave crippling bills to our children and grandchildren! How horridly gluttonous! How downright immoral!

How utterly laughable. The truth about most politicians and spending is that they’re for it if the outlays bolster their electoral fortunes and against it if the other side may have more to gain. They’re not in thrall to some fixed economic ideology. They’re bound to partisan rivalries and enamored of ideological fashions of the moment.

Remember all of those fiscally principled Tea Party candidates who rocked the Republican Party and swarmed to Washington in 2010? That didn’t turn out to be any kind of revolution. Many of those candidates, along with most other Republicans, exiled their thriftiness when President Barack Obama exited the White House, then embraced Trump in all of his profligacy.

But back to infrastructure and Biden’s big-ticket legislation. Over recent decades of congressional sclerosis, America has fallen behind and imperiled its future prosperity. We’ve no choice but to catch up, and catching up, I believe, will cost more than McConnell is willing to agree to. It may cost even more than Biden is pitching.

Or not. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the choice is between overdoing and underdoing. That it’s that clear, that stark. I’d vote for overdoing. We haven’t tried that in a while.

And my read of the American mood right now is that people are frustrated with the status quo and the timidity of politicians too focused on one another to focus on everyone else. There’s a hankering for movement of some kind — of any kind. There’s an appetite for boldness. Let’s feed it.

It Is NOT Socialism!!!

Okay, folks … I’ve about had enough of people yammering about something of which they know little or nothing.  I’m speaking about the misuse of the word “socialism”.  Here’s the short definition of the word:  a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Now, apparently there are a good many people in this nation who have never bothered to read the definition of socialism, for they go ‘round spouting that this is now, or will become under the Biden administration, a socialist nation.  Where the hell they are getting that notion is beyond me.  What it may become, if Congress isn’t so badly broken that nothing can be accomplished, is a nation that actually cares about the people who live within its borders.  It may become a nation that ensures every man, woman and child living here has access to health care, a good education including college, and the opportunity to live, rather than merely survive.

What about any of that indicates that the businesses in the U.S. would become cooperatives, owned by the community?  NOTHING.  Though frankly, over the past two decades or so, I have become disillusioned by the uber-capitalism in this nation, for it has caused the rich to become richer, while the rest of us have become poorer.  One example, the minimum wage, which has not been raised since 2009, twelve years!  Meanwhile, see how much the net worth of the CEOs of the big three automakers has increased, or of the fossil fuel barons.

A dollar today is worth $0.26 less than it was in 2009, so the minimum wage worker who was earning $7.25 in 2009 is, comparatively, only effectively earning $6.99 today.  So, rather than any wage increases, that worker has taken a pay cut for doing the same work.  Corporations keep the minimum wage under their thumbs by threatening layoffs or even plant closures if the have to take a cut in profits in order to pay their employees a living wage, but … it ain’t so.  Those corporate bigwigs aren’t going to cut off their nose to spite their face, for even paying their minimum wage workers $15 an hour isn’t going to break their bank … they’ll still be earning millions each year, just maybe not quite as many million.

Small business owners, mom & pop grocery stores would, indeed, be hard-pressed to pay their workers $15 an hour, but an exemption could be built in for businesses with under a certain number of employees, or with net income below a certain level.  But it is the large corporations run by billionaires that are complaining the loudest.

Then there’s the health care issue.  The Affordable Care Act, passed under the Obama administration, helped ensure that every person in the U.S. would be able to receive medical treatment when they needed it.  It wasn’t, for most people, free health care, but affordable health care.  It meant the single mother who couldn’t otherwise afford to take her sick child to the doctor, could now do so, paying only what she could afford for her health insurance.  But some called it socialist medicine and fought tooth and nail to have it repealed.  They would rather keep a few extra dollars in their pockets than keep people who haven’t had the opportunities they have alive.  ACA is not socialized medicine … it is a nation trying to take care of its people!

True socialism in theory ensures that nobody is ultra-wealthy and that nobody is ultra-poor.  I say ‘in theory’ for socialism, much like communism, looks great on paper, but once you factor in human nature, there is no way it works.  Human nature is a lot of things, some good, some not-so-good, and some downright evil.  Human nature includes greed and arrogance in varying degrees, largely depending on a person’s birthright.  One who is born into a well-to-do family is far more likely to be arrogant and greedy, believing that he or she is somehow entitled to the finer things in life, entitled to have a better life than others.  Those who were born into poverty but through hard work and education have become business owners of some means, are more likely to take care of their staff, more likely to be generous to those with less than they have.

The opposite of socialism, for the purpose of this discussion, is plutocracy, a country governed by the wealthy.  That is what the United States is fast becoming, for the wealthy buy members of Congress, largely Republicans, but a few Democrats here and there, in order that Congress will vote for such things as tax cuts for those who could most easily afford to pay taxes, and vote against such things as environmental regulations that would help all of the 7.8 billion people who live on this planet, but would force the wealthy coal and oil barons to turn their eye toward converting their plants to renewable energy, would force the agriculture and forestry industries to make changes that might reduce their profit margin but would save lives.

The burden in this country is on the poor and average income earners, for many of the wealthy use tax loopholes to the point of paying no taxes at all.  As a result, we are in debt to the tune of $27.8 trillion!  That boils down to $84,000 for every man, woman, and child in the nation.  And it continues to grow every day.  The wealthy propose that we reduce the debt by cutting spending on such things as programs that help with food, housing, and medical care for those who cannot survive without it.  The sensible among us propose that the wealthy start paying their fair share in taxes, and that we cut back on military spending.

President Biden and the Democrats in Congress have a plan to ensure that no child goes to bed hungry, that nobody dies simply because they couldn’t afford to seek medical help, and that people who, through no fault of their own, do not have the opportunities the rest of us have, can help themselves to improve their lives by getting a college education.  What in hell is ‘socialist’ about that?  Nobody is suggesting we take General Motors away from Mary Barra, Mark Reuss and Dan Ammann and give it to the citizens of Detroit!

People in this country seem quite content to listen to the talking heads on Fox News or NewsMax who will feed them a line of bullshit, or to their Republican members of Congress who also will feed them a line, based on their loyalty and dedication to their wealthy donors.  It’s time for the people of this nation to start using that thing that sits atop their neck, to start thinking for themselves, start reading instead of staying glued to that box in the living room.

Uber-capitalism, not socialism, is the third biggest problem this country has today, the first two being guns and the environment.  Socialism is not, never has been, and never will be the problem as long as the U.S. Constitution is upheld.

Welcome to America, Where the Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Poorer

Yesterday, I wrote of my frustration with this nation’s apparent inability or unwillingness to unite — left vs right, Republican vs Democrat.  Today, Robert Reich’s column in The Guardian shows us that the divide is a calculated one, a manipulation by those with billions of dollars in their portfolio, aided and abetted by the GOP.  Reich proposes that the real division is the 1% vs 99% and that a middle ground no longer exists, nor can it.  Take a look …


Trump’s refusal to concede is just the latest gambit to please Republican donors

Robert Reich-4by Robert Reich

Millions who should be ranged against the American oligarchy are distracted and divided – just as their leaders want

Leave it to Trump and his Republican allies to spend more energy fighting non-existent voter fraud than containing a virus that has killed 244,000 Americans and counting.

The cost of this misplaced attention is incalculable. While Covid-19 surges to record levels, there’s still no national strategy for equipment, stay-at-home orders, mask mandates or disaster relief.

The other cost is found in the millions of Trump voters who are being led to believe the election was stolen and who will be a hostile force for years to come – making it harder to do much of anything the nation needs, including actions to contain the virus.

Trump is continuing this charade because it pulls money into his newly formed political action committee and allows him to assume the mantle of presumed presidential candidate for 2024, whether he intends to run or merely keep himself the center of attention.

Leading Republicans like the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, are going along with it because donors are refilling GOP coffers.

The biggest beneficiaries are the party’s biggest patrons – the billionaire class, including the heads of the nation’s largest corporations and financial institutions, private-equity partnerships and hedge funds – whom a deeply divided nation serves by giving them unfettered access to the economy’s gains.

Their heist started four decades ago. According to a recent Rand study, if America’s distribution of income had remained the same as it was in the three decades following the second world war, the bottom 90% would now be $47tn richer.

A low-income American earning $35,000 this year would be earning $61,000. A college-educated worker now earning $72,000 would be earning $120,000. Overall, the grotesque surge in inequality that began 40 years ago is costing the median American worker $42,000 per year.

The upward redistribution of $47tn wasn’t due to natural forces. It was contrived. As wealth accumulated at the top, so did political power to siphon off even more wealth and shaft everyone else.

Monopolies expanded because antitrust laws were neutered. Labor unions shriveled because corporations were allowed to bust unions. Wall Street was permitted to gamble with other people’s money and was bailed out when its bets soured even as millions lost their homes and savings. Taxes on the top were cut, tax loopholes widened.

When Covid-19 hit, big tech cornered the market, the rich traded on inside information and the Treasury and the Fed bailed out big corporations but let small businesses go under. Since March, billionaire wealth has soared while most of America has become poorer.

How could the oligarchy get away with this in a democracy where the bottom 90% have the votes? Because the bottom 90% are bitterly divided.

Long before Trump, the GOP suggested to white working-class voters that their real enemies were Black people, Latinos, immigrants, “coastal elites”, bureaucrats and “socialists”. Trump rode their anger and frustration into the White House with more explicit and incendiary messages. He’s still at it with his bonkers claim of a stolen election.

The oligarchy surely appreciates the Trump-GOP tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks and the most business-friendly supreme court since the early 1930s. But the Trump-GOP’s biggest gift has been an electorate more fiercely split than ever.

Into this melee comes Joe Biden, who speaks of being “president of all Americans” and collaborating with the Republican party. But the GOP doesn’t want to collaborate. When Biden holds out an olive branch, McConnell and other Republican leaders will respond just as they did to Barack Obama – with more warfare, because that maintains their power and keeps the big money rolling in.

The president-elect aspires to find a moderate middle ground. This will be difficult because there’s no middle. The real divide is no longer left versus right but the bottom 90% versus the oligarchy.

Biden and the Democrats will better serve the nation by becoming the party of the bottom 90% – of the poor and the working middle class, of black and white and brown, and of all those who would be $47tn richer today had the oligarchy not taken over America.

This would require that Democrats abandon the fiction of political centrism and establish a countervailing force to the oligarchy – and, not incidentally, sever their own links to it.

They’d have to show white working-class voters how badly racism and xenophobia have hurt them as well as people of color. And change the Democratic narrative from kumbaya to economic and social justice.

Easy to say, hugely difficult to accomplish. But if today’s bizarre standoff in Washington is seen for what it really is, there’s no alternative.

Lies, Lies, And Still More Lies!

It was widely published on Monday that the U.S. passed the 200,000 mark of deaths from the coronavirus, but in truth, according to the highly credible reports I get daily, we passed 200,000 around the middle of last week – Wednesday, I believe.  Minor detail, perhaps, but it proves what I’ve been saying all along – you cannot trust a damn thing that comes out of the federal government anymore.  Another example …

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unveiled a new guidance acknowledging that the coronavirus can spread through the air.  Well duh … otherwise why would they have been recommending that everyone wear masks when in a public venue?  But then, the CDC reversed itself, took the guidance off their website, saying it was a draft that had been “posted in error”.  More likely it simply didn’t meet with Donald Trump’s approval. toon-trumpAnd speaking of Trump, though I’d rather not, he held a rally somewhere in Ohio yesterday where he claimed that the virus isn’t really that bad, and said that it mostly kills “elderly people” and people with “other problems,” adding, “It affects virtually nobody.”  IT AFFECTS VIRTUALLY NOBODY????????  More than 200,000 people have DIED from the coronavirus and he has the unmitigated gall to tell such a brazen lie???  And what … do those of us who are ‘elderly’ or have ‘other problems’ not count for anything?  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.  The saddest part is that the damn fools who attended that rally will no doubt believe his every word.  They get what they deserve, but the rest of us deserve better.  This country deserves better than what we currently have.toon-trump-2The one thing that has had the most severe negative impact on Trump’s approval rating has been his bungling of the coronavirus pandemic, so naturally he wants to minimize that, but We the People have a right to be able to believe what our government tells us.  As of today, I don’t think we can believe a single word that comes from this administration.  For example …

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve reported that household income in the U.S. is at a record high, despite job losses as a result of the pandemic.  Interesting that while record numbers of people are struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table, household income is “record high”.  Also not true.  What is true is that the rich got richer while the poor got poorer.  According to the Associated Press (AP) …

“The full recovery of wealth even while the economy has regained only about half the jobs lost to the pandemic recession underscores what many economists see as America’s widening economic inequality. Data compiled by Opportunity Insights, a research group, show that the highest-paying one-third of jobs have almost fully recovered from the recession, while the lowest-paying one-third of jobs remain 16% below pre-pandemic levels.”

Very few of us ‘average’ people will have seen an increase in our household income, but some people, if told they are better off today than a year ago, will believe it, even as they wonder where next month’s rent is coming from.


The list of lies we are being fed by the very people whose salaries we pay is longer than my arm.  Be aware, don’t believe a damn thing that is put forth by this administration or any of its agencies.  Do your own research, question everything.  And for Pete’s sake, vote this evil maniac out of office in a few weeks!

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.

What Makes A Nation Great — Part II

I began this three-part series with yesterday’s post in which I listed some criteria that, in my view, are in large part what makes a country great.  Let’s take a look at how the United States stacks up on some of those …

We have a right to vote, but those who live in poor or minority neighborhoods may find it hard to do so, for polling places may be prohibitively distant, or the hours shortened such that the working person hasn’t the ability to get there.  Restrictive voter ID laws are more likely to disenfranchise poor and minority voters. We’ve seen, in recent months, how hard our ‘leadership’ fights to deny us the right to vote by mail during this pandemic year.  Polling places on college campuses where voters may be more ‘enlightened’ are shuttered.  And, due to gerrymandered districting, every vote is not equal.

A series of Supreme Court rulings between 1990 and 2010, most notably Citizens United v FEC in 2010, made it possible for large corporations and lobbyists to contribute nearly unlimited amounts of cash to political campaigns.  Many of our politicians are in the pockets of various industries, notably the fossil fuel and gun industries, such that the decisions they make in the legislature are not necessarily in the best interests of the people of the nation, but rather of those who pay big bucks to keep them in office.

The U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of powers, a system of three equal branches of government and the responsibility of each to keep the other two honest.  Our legislative branch, Congress, has become so divided by political party that Congress is deadlocked on most every bill.  Checks on the executive office were proven to be null and void on February 5th when the U.S. Senate voted against the evidence, against their collective conscience, and acquitted a ‘president’ who is guilty of crimes far greater than any who came before him.  Even the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, is largely divided by loyalty to party.

As for an investment in shared infrastructure … think Flint, Michigan, and the water crisis that began in 2015 and continues to this day.  Need I say more?  More than a few times, states have been threatened with the withholding of federal funds if they didn’t accede to the wishes of the ‘president’.

And justice?  Let’s talk a minute about justice.  If you are Black, Muslin, Hispanic, or Native American, or poor, you might as well leave the room, for the justice that applies to you is different than that which applies to white, wealthy people.  Justice is for the wealthy in the United States of 2020.  Justice is for the friends of William Barr and Donald Trump.  I will pay a heftier price for a minor traffic violation than corrupt government officials will pay for robbing the citizens of this nation of millions of dollars.

Internally, we have a government that is doing everything in its power to deny affordable health care and education to its populace.  We have a government in favour of denying assistance to those in need.  We have a head of government who is racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic.  We have a government that is prejudiced against thinkers, prejudiced against so many groups that I cannot name them all.  We have, today, the wealthiest government in our history, yet their concern for our well-being is next to nil.

What makes a nation great is how well it functions for all the people, not just the few who are wealthy and powerful.  This nation fails that test miserably.  Our government favours those in large industries, gives them tax breaks, while 90% of us struggle to put food on the table, pay the rent/mortgage, and clothe our children.  Our government literally worships wealth and tells its citizens that the wealth of the 1% will somehow “trickle down” to them.  It doesn’t … never has … never will.  The prices of food, housing, and other commodities rise, but our wages do not rise at an equivalent rate, for the wealthy decided they needed to add another zero to their investment portfolios.  No, my friends, this is not what makes a nation great.

A great neighbor helps their friends in time of need.  We, instead, have largely abandoned our allies and instead have cozied up in bed with those bullies who would see the world relegated to only two or three great superpowers.  Our allies needed our help in such things as the Paris Climate Accords, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iran nuclear agreement … and we turned our backs.

A great neighbor takes care of its home, its neighborhood. They don’t throw their trash into their neighbor’s yard, but that is exactly what we are doing. Science has proven that we are destroying not only our own environment, but that of the entire planet.  Oh, the planet will go on, but much of life on earth will not.  We had only just begun, by 2017, to make inroads in controlling the CO2 we put into the atmosphere, and the amount of plastics and other garbage we put into our landfills and ultimately the oceans that belong to all nations.  Now, all the regulations have been ditched in favour of … again … profit for the few, and we are the pariah of the world for our lackadaisical response to climate change.

In the midst of a deadly worldwide pandemic, our government has told us lie, stacked upon lie, stacked upon lie.  The scientists warned governments early on, yet ours chose to tell us that it was nothing, nothing to worry about, nothing to see here.  The lies added up until today we account for over 26% of the world’s cases of the coronavirus, though we have just over 4% of the world’s population.  And still, our leaders are lying to us, telling us it’s nearly over (it isn’t, not by a long shot), and urging us to put ourselves and our children at risk to grow an economy, though it may cost us our very lives.  The scientists, the medical experts, are being criticized, demeaned, and their voices stifled by a government more concerned with remaining in power than with our lives.

The United States has the highest level of income inequality of all the G7 nations.  The median black household income is only 61% of that of the median white household.  The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, where it has been since July 24th, 2009.  More than eleven years since the minimum wage was raised!  Meanwhile, many of the wealthiest in the nation pay taxes at a far lower rate than the middle-income earners, if they pay taxes at all!  In 2016, the CEOs of the top 350 U.S. firms earned on average $15.6 million.  The annual average pay of the typical American worker, by comparison, was $58,000.

There are other factors, of course, that could be considered, but I think that you can see by this assessment what a long way we have before this country can be considered ‘great’.  Given the divisiveness within our society today, it becomes obvious we are not successfully addressing our problems … a contented nation has no need for hatred and violence.

However, lest you think I am blind to what is actually good in this nation, I will have a third part to this series to talk a bit about the positive, what keeps us from being one of those “shithole” countries, and why there is hope for us yet.  So, I hope you’ll stay tuned for that!

Some Food For Thought …

Like many of you, I’m extremely disappointed in the events of the past few days … the Iowa caucus chaos, the State of the Union reality show, and of course the Senate’s unconscionable acquittal of the most corrupt and criminal president in history.  To say that I’m discouraged would be an understatement.  I am overwhelmed, burned out by the onslaught of news and the number of times the face of the ugliest man in history has cropped up on my computer screen.  I’ve spent the last three hours trying to pull together a meaningful post, and finally gave up … decided there would be no morning post on Filosofa’s Word today.  But then, I stumbled across Robert Reich’s latest video.  I’ve shared his work before … he is intelligent, well experienced in government, and has a good head on his shoulders.

This video is from Tuesday, the day of the State of the Union address, and in it, Reich puts forth some thought-provoking premises about why we are where we are today, and what Democrats must do in order to beat Trump in November.  Much of what he says, we have all talked about before, but he puts it all together in a way that makes us stop and think for a moment.  Now if only we can get the democratic candidates to watch the video!

Take a look, let me know your thoughts, and I hope to get a bit of sleep and come out of the rabbit hole in time for my afternoon post.

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!

Why Do I … ???

Friends say to me, “Why do you spend so much time worrying about politics?  What will be, will be.  Why not spend your time enjoying life?  You’re going to drive yourself to an early grave.  Just chill and have fun.”  This post is my response to those people.

Why do I spend so much time worrying about politics?  I don’t.  I spend that much time worrying about what is happening in this nation, in the world.  I spend that much time speaking out, sometimes ranting, about the injustices I see in this world.  I look at our government taking innocent children from their parents’ arms, tossing them into detention centers with naught but a piece of tinfoil for a blanket, and I say, “This is wrong!”  I see decisions being made by a few in the upper echelons of government that completely disregard the concerns of scientists and environmentalists … decisions that are hastening the end of life on this planet, and I say, “This is wrong!”

I see a ‘man’ who is supposed to represent this nation, who is supposed to represent the ideals of a nation founded on “liberty and justice for all”, denigrating people in the LGBT community, calling Hispanics and Muslims terrible names, making racial, homophobic, and misogynistic slurs and more, and I cannot help but say, “This is wrong!”  I see decisions made that ensure the rich get richer while the poor are denied adequate health care, housing, food, and the basic necessities of life, and yes, once again I say, “This is wrong!”

A number of my friends claim that I just don’t like Trump.  No, I don’t like him …anti-TrumpBut, it isn’t only Trump … it is also those who either support or applaud the policies of this administration, policies that are discriminatory against minorities, against women, against non-Christians, against LGBT, and against the poor.  Policies that put this nation and its people in grave danger.  Policies and rhetoric that alienate our allies, while patronizing our enemies.  And it is also the people who turn a blind eye, who know that these things are wrong but bury themselves inside their bubble, their comfort zone, and pretend they don’t see the children in cages crying themselves to sleep at night.  It is those who believe that they have no obligation to do their part to clean up our environment, who tell me that somehow some magical creator of the universe will make everything right again in good time, so they can continue tossing away their plastic bottles, driving their gas-guzzling SUVs, and living life just as they have always done.

And it is those who believe that somehow, they are better than others, either because of the colour of their skin, their religion, their sexual orientation, or their ethnicity.  Those who worry that the people with pale skin will someday not be the majority, will not have the final say in what this nation will be.  It is the arrogance, the ignorance, and the greed that I do not like, can no longer tolerate.

Those same friends then say, “Well, you cannot fix the problems, so why not relax, enjoy life, have some fun … lighten up.”

No, I cannot fix the problems by myself … no one person can.  But I can do my part, and I can keep using the little voice I have to make others aware of the many injustices happening right under our very noses.  There is an old saying that, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink”.  I am attempting to lead the horse to the clear, cool stream in hopes that he will drink.  I cannot do otherwise, it is who I am.  But, I am getting tired …

Tired of seeing people surrounding themselves with so much noise that it drowns out the things that actually matter.  Tired of people burying their heads in the sand, wearing their rosy-coloured glasses, sticking their fingers in their ears and singing, “La-la-la-la-la … I can’t hear you!”

Why do I do what I do?  Because it matters, at least to me.  Because we are on a collision course, and much like the passengers aboard the Titanic, the majority will still be dancing, posting pictures of their last meal on social media, and pretending they just don’t see, when the ship hits the iceberg.  We all have a choice to be a part of the solution, or a part of the problem, but there is no neutral choice.  If you choose to ignore it all, if you choose not to be part of the solution, then you ARE the problem.  We have all contributed to the problem for long enough.  Now it is time to be part of the solution.

Quite by coincidence, as this post was a work-in-progress this morning, I saw a comment by our friend Roger who offered the following quote by Elie Wiesel …

“Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Think about it.

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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