Tuesday, July 31, 2012

If we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now

The following video is of the speech by the Rev. Dr. William Barber, the current President of the North Carolina NAACP Convention, addressing the national NAACP convention right after presumptive GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney on July 11th, 2012.

More about Rev. Barber, an evangelical Christian who supports increased government assistance of the poor and rights of the LGBT community, can be found in this piece on Daily Kos (which also features a far-right evangelical reverse mirror image of Rev. Barber with the same last name). Rev. Barber, steeped in the civil rights movement and the struggle for the poor, is quite adamant about the importance of voting in the 2012 election.

By contrast some claim that because Democrats aren't sufficiently liberal and progressive, and because President Obama isn't bold enough politically or because supports practices such as drone strikes in places like Pakistan, it is better to vote outside of the two-party monopoly for a choice such as the Green Party. Others suggest it is better to protest the electoral process altogether and abstain from voting. The end result is either case in a close election in which President Obama would likely be defeated, which some of the President's former supporters have openly called for.

The problem with the view represented and espoused by individuals such as Professor Roberto Unger in the above linked article is two-fold.

First it underestimates the impact of  a politically emboldened and empowered GOP under the influence of the Tea Party and the moneyed interests unleashed by Citizens United. Second, it makes unlikely assumptions about what should or could happen to the Democratic Party after an Obama defeat. Given Professor Unger's clear disapproval of and distaste for the policies of the current incarnation of the Republican Party, it is odd that Unger thinks the consequences of their political ascendance will simply be a cost in judicial and administrative appointments, with little difference in the use of the US military abroad.

That does not accord with the GOP's strongly held and pushed views on either domestic or foreign policy or the collection of advisers gathering around Mitt Romney. There is a much higher potential cost that Unger, and those for whom he speaks, are admitting in the video "Beyond Obama".

Romney As Qlueless on Social Science as He is on Diplomacy


Romney has gone on a trip to show that he can be a bang up diplomat even though he has no foreign policy experience. This trip has already been a total disaster. He's prove he has no diplomatic skills, as he p.o.ed our best friends in England by criticizing the Olympics. Now he's in Israel. When he got around to talking about Israel's neighbors, after a long speech in which he spoke only of Israel, it wasn't good.

Think Progress: Security

When Romney finally did broach the topic, he raised the ire of Palestinian officials by attributing Israel’s successes to “the power of at least culture and a few other things,” and contrasting Israeli economic gains to those of its Palestinian neighbors. At a fundraising breakfast on Monday morning, Romney said:

[A]s I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things. …

As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality.

ABC News reported he stated that culture is what always makes the difference. He compared U.S. to Mexico saying we have a superior culture. Of cousre he shows total ignorance of the fact that that "culture" consists of many military interventions into Latin America, including a war with Mexico in which we stormed their capital.

The assertion that culture is what makes the difference is disproved by quick consideration of Canada. Canadian culture is almost identical to American, even their business habits are similar and they have a good prosperous way of life. They kicked our asses in the war of 1812 and they didn't do badly in the French and Indian war. Yet we came out ahead in the long run, not becuase we have a pure culture or because we have a Superior culture (it's almost the same) but because we have a much larger population and a much larger part of our land mass is more temperate.

Romney made these remarks to court the American Jewish vote. His extension into the discussion of Mexico vs U.S. is no doubt aimed at the tea party types who are alarmed by immigration and who want to close the boarder to more Latin presence. The superior culture bit sounds like a thinly vailied reference to race. Is this the guy we want to be President? He has no ability in diplomacy and may have racist attitudes, doesn't understand the effects of power or its destructive potential and doesn't understand how societies work.Link

Monday, July 30, 2012

From Marx to a Centrist: Guest Editorial:

Thoughts of a Christian Centrist: On the Role of Government

Our Friend Wordgazer
the original is here

This editorial does not necessarily represent the views of the blog partners and is more centrist than we usually are. It does represent the thinking of a respected friend who has gone from republican to independent.

Part of who I have become over the past 10-15 years has to do with questioning. I used to just follow the conservative Republican ideas that I thought good Christians were supposed to believe. But as I have questioned things, I have moved more and more into the center, and there, in recent years, I have stayed. Not that I’m really into politics—in fact, I’d rather avoid thinking about them much at all. But to keep some kind of intellectual integrity, and because I have responsibilities as a voting citizen (thank you, suffragettes!) I have had to decide where I stand in the polarized political climate we in the U.S. live in today.

Recently I bought and read Left, Right & Christ (Russell Media, 2011), in which a Christian Republican and a Christian Democrat each take chapters to address the pressing political issues of our time. The foundational issue was the role of government. I wasn’t really satisfied with the Christian Democrat’s response— she seemed to me to skirt all around the issue without ever addressing it head-on. But it turned out that the Christian Republican’s response was one I couldn’t agree with at all.

So here are my own thoughts on the role of government, from a Christian centrist’s perspective.

D.C. Innes, the Republican contributor in Left, Right & Christ, defines the role of government using just two short passages from the New Testament. 1 Peter 2:13-15 says that “governors [are] sent by him [the Lord] to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good. And in Romans 13 we read that rulers carry out God’s wrath on wrongdoers and approve those who do good. Innes concludes from this: “The task of government is simple and limited: punish those who do evil and praise those who do good. . . God appoints government for our benefit, but it is not to provide every good. It is only to prevent bad conduct with creditable threat and punish it. . . .” (pages 58-60).

Based on this, Innes says only private charities should help the poor. As he puts it, “God’s purpose for civil government is that it provide an umbrella of protection for person and property that frees people to go about their business undisturbed, whether by neighbor or by government itself, providing for themselves, their neighbors, their community as a whole, and anyone whom they find in need.” As I read through the book, I realized that by “community as a whole,” Innes is not talking about people voting for local social projects such as homeless shelters or food banks. He was talking about every individual giving to the community as he or she sees fit—but local taxation for the benefit of the poor seemed just as anathema to Innes as federal taxation.

The problem here is that Innes is making these verses do much more than I think Peter or Paul ever intended. Looking at the context of each letter, neither apostle was in any sense writing a comprehensive theory of government. Paul's letter to the Romans is largely devoted to the theology of justification by faith. Chapters 12-15 answer the question, “how should we live in light of this gospel?” with a series of practical-living precepts for the young Christian church. Peter’s first letter is written to scattered believers in Christ living in pagan cities and is largely about how to hang onto the faith through persecution. Both letters advise Christians to be submissive to the governing authorities and mention the power of civil government to punish wrongdoers and give approval to those who do right. But neither of them says, implicitly or explicitly, that government is meant by God to be limited only to those two things. In fact, the New Testament, which focuses on the new creation in Christ and His kingdom, simply is not about rules for civil government in any sense at all. Proof-texting a complete theory of government from a few passages is not good exegesis.

If I as a Christian am going to come up with a theory of government, I will need to base it on principles: the principles of civil justice found in the Old Testament (remembering that we are not encouraged by Christ or the apostles to attempt to establish Moses’ civil law over any other nation), and the basic principles of justice, fair dealing and do-unto-othering found in the teachings of Christ and the apostles.

So what is the proper role of civil government? This question used to be answered by Christians in terms of the divine right of kings to rule. They used the same passages which are today used to declare such complete limits on government, to establish the full authority of the king over all the people in every area of life. But since I believe these passages were not actually intended to comprehensively enumerate governmental powers, what can I say about what makes a properly functioning government?

This is how I’d sum it up:

The proper role of government includes but is not limited to punishing wrongdoers and praising those who do right. In a very real sense (and especially in a modern representative democracy) government is the community as a whole, acting together— and there are things that a united community can accomplish which groups of individuals or businesses never can. Civil government’s power is in carrying out those tasks which private citizens or businesses cannot as successfully or efficiently do on their own.

Now, obviously this leaves a huge scope of areas where individuals or businesses can act more efficiently and successfully than the civil government can. Private enterprise, family life, individual pursuits and hobbies—in general, I would say that interference of civil government in these areas, except where wrongs are being perpetrated by one person or group upon another, often just stifles the creative thought and individual development of a free people.

On the other hand, when wrongs are being perpetrated by one person or group upon another, I do think the government needs to be able to intervene. Workplace safety standards, workers’ compensation laws, wage and hour protections, prohibition of child labor—all these things are important safeguards that prevent powerful employers from ruining the lives of employees for the sake of profit. (This is another whole topic in and of itself, though, and I’ll be writing more about it next week.)

But what about things that cannot be done very successfully or efficiently by private citizens? What about the building of roads, bridges, water and sewer systems to span large areas or even the whole nation so that everyone is equitably served? What about urban planning and development, so that we don’t end up living in cities of hodgepodge and confusion, with streets going every which way and with some people enjoying the benefits of infrastructure and some falling through the cracks? What about policies of justice for minority groups, so that they don’t get trampled on by the majority? What about the preservation of national resources like Yosemite and Yellowstone? And what about a basic social safety net that’s available to all, and not those who just happen to live where a church or non-profit charity happens to be operating?

I am not for a “nanny state.” A civil government that takes care of all of our needs, cradle to grave, will not encourage resourcefulness or the work ethic that Jesus and the apostles approved—and it also, by rendering private acts of charity obsolete, discourages the moral growth of each individual acting in personal love for the needy. But there has to be something in between nanny-statism and survival-of-the-fittest, social-Darwinist capitalism. Neither one, I think, are what the Spirit of Christ would lead us to.

The United States, as a society, has decided that our community values include no one having to live in shanty towns such as exist all over the third world, boxes of cardboard or corrugated metal without running water or adequate sanitation. We have decided that employees should not have to work 14-hour days or seven-day weeks, and that employers should not be allowed to hire children or to abandon employees who have been injured on the job. We have decided that certain of the most beautiful portions of our land should be set aside for the enjoyment of everyone, never to become factory sites or lines of stores and parking lots. All of these, if looked at in terms of economic freedom, restrict some people’s freedom regarding how much money it is possible to make. Should all of these social contracts, these whole-community values set forth in law, be abandoned in the name of economic freedom? Or should the human tendency to self-centeredness be given free reign—that anyone with enough money to do so, can freely do anything he or she wants to make a profit? Are we so afraid of any hint of what we call “the welfare state”?

Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “You cannot ultimately help a man by doing for him what he could and should do for himself.” This makes sense to me. Safety nets should not trap people in the net. They should give people who are able to help themselves, the resources and the hand up needed so that they can help themselves. But those who cannot help themselves, as well as those who just need a hand up, need a safety net that extends under the whole nation, not just in those spots where private charities are in operation. This is something that the civil government can do more effectively than the private sector can—although, given the notorious inefficiency and red tape of civil government, balance through overlap with private charity where possible, is a definite plus.

D.C. Innes says on pages 75-76: “The Christian moral objection to the welfare state is . . . that it violates the eighth commandment [thou shalt not steal]. . . Thieves come in different forms. . . [T]he government’s power to secure property is also the power to take it away. When a mob uses government to pillage its more propertied neighbors, we call it progressive taxation, or redistribution of wealth. Sometimes we call it fairness. But it is theft all the same.”
My problem with that is that the principles of civil justice found in the Bible simply do not equate taxation for the benefit of the poor, with theft. In fact, unrestrained economic rights are foreign to the concept of civil government under the Law of Moses.

Of course, as I said earlier, we should not as Christians look at the government set up for Israel in the Pentateuch as a blueprint for all governments for all time. But we can glean certain basic principles from the Law regarding how a civil society should govern the treatment of one another. God, working with the people of that time and place, simply did not promote economy liberty over basic equity and fair-dealing. In economic dealings, as in other areas of life, the Law restrained the people from fully exercising their liberty, recognizing that the natural human bent towards selfishness and greed needed to be curbed.

The gleaning law in Leviticus 23:22 amounted to a tax on all landowners of a portion of their income, for the benefit of the poor. The Year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25:13 amounted to a redistribution of wealth every 50 years, so that each family could return to its own land and possessions—and so that the concentration of all the nation’s wealth in the hands of a few could never take place. One of the most foundational principles of the Bible is that all of humanity is sinful, and therefore cannot be trusted to simply do the right thing as long as you leave it alone. The Law included certain regulatory provisions to make sure that everyone in the society did the duty of the society to the poor among them. Though free-will giving was encouraged, it was not left up to free will alone. Israel was set up very early on (Exodus 18:25) on government by leaders over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. If a wealthy land-owner denied a poor person the right to glean in his field, the poor person could bring the matter before judges who would enforce the law.

Christian conservatives usually point out at this point that the mandatory giving in the Old Testament was from the well-off directly to the poor, without a government middle man. This is true—and this worked fine for a small, tribal, agriculture-based country in ancient times. But today our wealth is not held in fields for the poor to glean. Land is not held by tribal families so that a Jubilee would result in everyone knowing where to go home to. I don’t think we can get by in our day and age without monetary taxation and a distribution system. In many cases, government contracts with private companies might be the most efficient and best way to get the resources from those who have more than they need, to those who need them. In other cases, it can work better for government agencies to act as the middle man. But as far as I can see, there is nothing inherently evil in a government agency. The evil is in human nature when there is no restraint on power.

However, humans are also made in the image of God and are inexpressibly valuable to Him. When it comes to the value of every human being before God, political theory should not be allowed to override personhood. Jesus said, in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” He healed on the Sabbath because the individual standing in front of him in pain, mattered more than the perfect application of Sabbath policy. Should we be happy when conservative laws hold sway and government safety nets are eliminated, but the people who don’t manage to find a private charity are starving?

It seems to me to be common sense to say, “Hey, the poor need to be helped, by the best method possible, even if it doesn’t fit into your economic theories.” As a Christian, and as a citizen of a nation which has always had a strong ethic of care for the poor, that’s where I stand.

Even if many of my brothers and sisters think it un-Christian of me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Analogizing the Marxist concerns over capitalism

A portrait of Karl Marx.
Not the boogeyman. A portrait of Karl Marx. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is often the case that when people wish to criticize something, those who are invested in what is being criticized will attack not only the critique itself but seek to discredit the critic. Thus it becomes difficult to make any criticism without being associated with the disparaged critic and her arguments, the latter of which are often distorted beyond recognition. This has become standard in the shallow and commercialized rhetoric formed from an image-obsessed "spin-to-win" political culture.

Few people in the United States are likely to have had any serious exposure, for example, to the original ideas put forth by Karl Marx. Because of the fear of the Capitalists (which does not refer here to someone who simply endorses a Capitalistic system of political economics but rather to those who own the lion's share of the capital in such a system) of reforms or revolutions which might infringe upon their privileged access to wealth and because of several decades of a Cold War with nations who claimed to be Socialist and Communist, any mention of Marx, Marxism, Socialism, or even a strong critique of contemporary Capitalism still tend to be met by Americans (at least those in los Estados Unidos de America) with reactions ranging from shameful discomfort to paranoid unease to unapologetic loathing and mockery.

This reaction is recognizable to those who wish to discuss Darwin or evolution in the presence of those who are committed Young Earth Creationists or to talk about God or religion around the smugly derisive irreligious. And one wouldn't be surprised to find those displaying such a reaction to Marx believing that Marx was a fan of "big government" who "hates success" and despises everything about Capitalism as well as liberty. Which would only support the suspicion that such dismissive knee-jerk reactions tend to be based on profound ignorance of the idea or belief at hand, replying instead on the ugly caricatures of those who despise or dread what is being proposed or discussed.

This isn't an insult to those who have such a reaction to "Marx" or "Marxism", as many were simply raised in a cultural and political environment which has vilified the words themselves and stigmatized anyone associated with them. It is reasonable to fear being stigmatized. While it isn't ones fault for having such trepidation about such words, it is still one's choice and responsibility as to whether one will give any hearing at all to any notion associated with Marxism and judge them independently of such vilification and negative association. That is, to give such notion's a fair hearing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bill Moyers interviewing Chris Hedges on revolting against the forces of our destruction

I don't currently use cable/satellite television and there is no real over-the-air presence. I instead rely on a Roku box and services such as Hulu. But I still managed to find this interview available online through a basic web browser about Chris Hedges' new book, Empire of Illusion. The interview is around fifty minutes in length, but don't worry, it gets right to the point. Hedges apparently aims at being prophetic in this book (based on this interviews)--one call almost hear him saying, "There was a voice crying in the wilderness, but then the wilderness was clear-cut and pumped full of toxic chemicals..."

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

How Do Taxes Figure in the Comming Campaign?


Romney's tax return has become an issue. The charge that may have committed a felony by retroactively retiring form a company that he continued working for at the time, and thus made conflict of interest, hasn't escaped the notice of either his enemies or his friends. Both side urge him to resale his tax returns.

What about the way taxes figure into the campaign as an issue? The Obama campaign outlines their position thus:

Info please


  • Will focus on continuing to stimulate the economy by creating new jobs and investing in health care, education, energy, and infrastructure
  • Increase alternative energy production, modernize and weatherize buildings and homes, expand broadband technology, and computerize the health care system. Obama has said these measures will create some 3.5 million jobs
  • Supports the Making Home Affordable Modification program to prevent foreclosures and the Making Home Affordable Refinancing program to restructure loans to keep people in their homes
  • Has demanded accountability and transparency from banks and other financial institutions
  • Plans to create a financial regulatory system that makes executives in the financial market accountable for their actions and prevents fraud
  • Will work to make the tax system more fair to working families and the middle class and eliminate loopholes that benefit the wealthy
  • Has promised to simplify the tax code
Romney Campaign (Ibid)


  • Criticizes the Obama spending bill, saying it will only stimulate the government, not the economy.
  • Believes a well-crafted stimulus plan is needed to put people back to work and that permanent tax cuts should be at the center of the stimulus plan.
  • Believes in the principle behind Reaganomics: cutting taxes brings economic growth.
  • Supports a budget that cuts payroll taxes for people aged sixty-five and older as well as cutting taxes on people earning less than $200,000 a year, including reducing taxes on savings and investment.
  • Supports a national catastrophic fund to cover home owners insurance in the event of natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes.
  • Opposes the estate tax.
  • Believes only private sector entrepreneurs will create the millions of jobs that the U.S. needs.
  • Endorses eliminating the minimum wage.
  • For placing sanctions on China.
  • Wants to cut the corporate tax rate.
Granted this is the public face each side puts on so the voter will get an idealized view of them in their sundae best all clean and antiseptic so one might vote for them.

What's the real difference? Obama wants to use taxes structures to stimulate the economy but Romney claims this will only help government. The Republicans argue that private sector is more productive and doesn't evoke huge government spending. When Republicans have given their blessing to tax cuts for private industry the private industry doesn't spend the money on labor intensive projects. When Reagan made tax cuts so the steel industry would modernize they invested in oil and other less labor intensive things and did not modernize their industry and we continued to decay into the rust belt and couldn't compete in steel. (see also)

Populist Daily
Sat July 21,2012

Ronald Reagan cut taxes in the belief that doing so would stimulate the economy several times more than the cost of the tax cuts. It is something like this (and it sounds…sounds…logical): if we cut the amount of money you pay to the government (taxes) then you will have more to spend. The more you make, the more you save in taxes and the more you have to spend or invest. More spending and investment will boost the economy several times more than the cost of those tax cuts to the government.

Well, it sounds great but we all know now that it did not work. Studies by the Congressional Budget Office showed that the most that the government (that is, us taxpayers) could expect to get back in return was about 20% of the money that the government lost.

The result of those mixed up economics was a continuing deficit of hundreds of billions of dollars a year up until Bill Clinton was able to stem it and balance the budget in the last three years of his eight years as President. But by then the national debt was $5.6 trillion dollars! Then, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney took it to $12 trillion in just 8 years, relying on the advice of the same economists who had incorrectly guided Reagan and Bush’s father.

American productivity has continued to rise but the American middle class has not benefited from it.

While some think "if public sector stimulates works why didn't the stimulus package do any good?" Why did the economy continue down hill? It's been reported that the stimulus package did create a couple of million jobs. The problem we continued to lose more than that. Things would have been much worse without the package, it's hard to see that because they they still got bad. It would have been much worse without it.

If you look at Rowney's no 2 point you see it reads basically like Obama's no 1. Neither list is really is saying anything at that point. What are they calling "well crafted?"

Obama wants to extend Bush Tax cuts to middle class and not the super rich.

CNN Politics
July 9, 2012

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama revitalized his push for holding down middle-class tax rates Monday, calling on Congress to pass a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for people earning less than $250,000 a year.

In a White House statement delivered while people described as working Americans stood behind him, Obama said his proposal would provide the certainty of no tax increase next year for 98% of Americans.

Noting that Republicans seek to maintain all of the Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, Obama said both sides therefore agree on extending the lower rates for middle-class families.

click on link to see video

A Romney Campaign official is quoted as saying:

"President Obama's response to even more bad economic news is a massive tax increase," said Andrea Saul, the Romney campaign's spokeswoman. "It just proves again that the president doesn't have a clue how to get America working again and help the middle class."

Unlike Obama, Saul continued, Romney "understands that the last thing we need to do in this economy is raise taxes on anyone." (ibid)

Don't raise taxes on anyone is the Republican euphemism for "let the 1% get richer." This relates back to what we said above. They want you to believe that if they don't tax the rich the rich will spend the money on labor intesive probject and crate jobs. They constantly speak as though right wing rich guys know all about job creation. As we have seen what really happens is they invest the money overseas where it doesn't create American jobs.

The republicans charge that Obama's tax program will harm small businesses the truth is "Obama, however, said that under his proposal, 97% of the nation's small business owners would benefit from having their lower tax rates maintained at current levels.'This isn't about taxing job creators," Obama said. "This is about helping job creators.'" (ibid)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The US could use more faithful Christians who follow the Bible, uphold the Constitution, support innovation in entrepreneurial business, and promote the dignity of work

English: It is really a nice building. I took ...
English: It is really a nice building. I took it when I was in the united states of america. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Could the US could really use more faithful Christians who follow the Bible, uphold the Constitution, support innovation in entrepreneurial  business, and promote the dignity of work? Isn't that what many conservatives in the US claim to be? And do we need more of them?

My answers are "possibly yes", "yes", and "it depends on whether or not you agree that the public national face of conservatism as it is currently represented fits the description given".

Faithful Christians who follow the Bible

I am not arguing here for the conversion of the secular irreligious, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and the like to Christianity. I am suggesting a conversion of many who already identify with Christianity in getting over the parochial view of the Bible and recognize that the consistent and dominant theme isn't about personal salvation of one's soul in some off-world paradise, nor about a particular culture's views on purity, but is instead clearly focused on the callousness of those with too much conventional (i..e. "worldly") power and wealth.

This is not some new revelation, but it seems to be something that is heavily resisted. Those who feel blessed in some way are prone to vanity, arrogance, and either becoming oblivious or abusive toward the stranger, the poor, the sick, the outcast, and the otherwise disenfranchised. The model used in the Hebrew scripture was in fact Israel, both as a people and as a nation, who became perpetually complacent and fell into worshiping the idols of worldly status, prestige, and success (represented by the actual physical idols of their neighboring cultures).

The prophets of Hebrew scripture railed against such indifference toward or outright oppression of the less fortunate and the sin of thinking that God's blessings were rewards for such hardened hearts, or worse, that such rewards were in fact deserved by these people even though much of it had come from theft, corruption, extortion, bribery, usury, and shady business practices. The Psalms themselves are filled with the laments of those crushed by such attitudes on the part of the elites.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Plight of the Poor is Becoming the Fate of the Middle Class


Yesterday a friend of mine was talking about a situation where some people she was with kept listening to right wing talk radio. On that program they were talking about how no one is really poor in America. Everyone is wealthy and even the "poor" have Jewelry and I phones and so on.These talk radio guys were getting anecdotes form angry conservative Texans who hate the poor, they would call in and say "I saw one with an expensive watch the other day." How divisive and silly can you get? We used to talk about that when I was a kid, shacks with big fancy cars in front of them. When I was bout 13 I realized that these guy are just emulating the value system they see the major part of the culture emulating.

As a sociology major in college I learned about the theory of Thorstein Veblen, conspicuous consumption. They are literally aping the leisure classes who engage in conspicuous leisure as trophy symbols. How can we expect them to do otherwise?

We have always had this kind of delusion that the poor should suffer in silence, accept their lot and refuse to own anything nice as a punishment for being poor. It stems form jealousy that causes well off Americans to even begrudge the poor anything at all. This hatred of proof--what else could it be--is growing more vicious as the ranks of the poor swell. These people who imagine themselves to be solidly within the middle class decry the attempts to help anyone to blind to see the country crumbling around them.

The "America" that so many of us have taken for granted for so many decades is literally disintegrating right in front of our eyes. Most Americans are still operating under the delusion that the United States will always be "the wealthiest nation" in the world and that our economy will always produce large numbers of high paying jobs and that the U.S. will always have a very large middle class.

Michael Synder "15 Shocking facts
About Poverty in America"
Business Insider

But that is not what is happening. The very foundations of the U.S. economy have rotted away and we now find ourselves on the verge of an economic collapse. Already, millions upon millions of Americans are slipping out of the middle class and into the devastating grip of poverty. Statistic after statistic proves that the middle class in the United States is shrinking month after month after month.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans are starting to wake up and are beginning to realize that we have very serious problems on our hands, but they have no idea what is causing our economic distress and they are unaware that most of our politicians have absolutely no idea how to fix the economic disaster that we have created.

Let's check out some basic facts about poverty and education:

Do Something.org

  1. What is the Poverty Line, anyway? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it's a family of four (two adults, two children) that earns less than $21,834.
  2. Still, $35,000 is basic-needs budget for a U.S. family of four (two adults, two children), as calculated in An Atlas of Poverty in America.
  3. In 2008, nearly 43.6 million people Americans lived in poverty (about 13.2% of the population); 12.9 million were under the age of 18.
  4. In the US, poverty is still tied to race: 24.7% of the African American population live below the poverty line while 8.6% of Caucasians do.
  5. School budgets are tied to property taxes. This is why schools in poor neighborhoods get about half as much money per student than schools in affluent neighborhoods.
  6. Three-quarters of the nation's schools (almost 60,000) report needing repairs, renovations or modernization in order to reach good condition.
  7. Not surprisingly, most schools in bad condition are in cities where at least 70% of students are below the poverty line.
  8. Urban students are less likely to graduate than their suburban counterparts. High school graduation rates are 15% lower in the nation’s urban schools when compared with those located in the suburbs.
  9. Graduation rates are also lower among certain groups, particularly ethnic minorities and males. In 2008, the graduation rate among African-Americans was 61.5% compared to 81% for whites.
  10. In 2008, 17 of the nation's 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates lower than 50%, with the lowest rates reported in Detroit (24.9%), Indianapolis (30.5%) and Cleveland (34.1%).
  11. Children of poor families are up to six times more likely to drop out than wealthy children.

Latest Releases

Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010 (P60-239)

Sharing a Household: Household Composition and Economic Well-Being: 2007-2010 (P60-242)

Areas With Concentrated Poverty: 2006-2010 (ACSBR/10-17) [PDF - 764k]

Child Poverty Brief 2009 and 2010: Rates by Race & Hispanic Origin by State (ACSBR/10-05) [PDF - 1.3M]
More than one in five children in the United States (15.75 million) lived in poverty in 2010.
More than 1.1 million children
were added to the poverty population between the

Poverty: 2009 and 2010 American Community Survey (ACSBR/10-01) [PDF - 737k]

Nationally, the poverty rate increased from 14.3 percent in the 2009 ACS to 15.3 percent in the 2010 ACS. The number of people in poverty increased from 42.9 million to 46.2 million during the same time period.

• Thirty-two states experienced an increase in the number and percentage of people in poverty between 2009 and 2010. For 20 states, this was the second consecutive annual increase.1

• No state had a statistically significant decline in either the number of people in poverty or the poverty rate between 2009 and 2010.

• The percent of people with income below 125 percent of their poverty threshold increased from 18.9 percent in 2009 to 20.1 percent in 2010. During the same time period, the percentage of people with income

Dynamics of Economic Well-Being: Poverty 2004-2006

Latest Research - Supplemental Poverty Measure

Tables of NAS-based Experimental Poverty Estimates: 2009

Effect of Benefits and Taxes on Income and Poverty: 2009 (R&D)

Which party is doing the most to alleviate poverty and restore the economy? The republicans want to keep tax breaks for the rich while placing the tax burden on the disappearing middle class. They cater to the kind of "hate the poor" mentality that blames poor people as lazy (even though most of them work two or more jobs) and they want to eliminate coverage of medical care for the poor by repealing Obama's helth care program and not replacing it with anything, even though Romney's Massachusetts wasn't much different.

Obama's tax structure would increase the burden on the 1% who own 90% of the wealth and pay almost no taxes. His health care program would have expanded medicaid to cover those who can't afford health insurance, that was negated by the supreme court who left it up the states; some state like backward Texas are willing to allow the poor to die rather than give them medicaid the feds would have paid for. It's clear the Dems are the only part that sees the issues and understands what's happening to America's Middle class.

September 21, 2011|
By Roland S. Martin, CNN Contrib

CNN opinion Piece
When the U.S. Census Bureau reported last week that a record number of people were living in poverty, Republicans were quick to attach the figures to President Barack Obama, desperately trying to lay them at his feet.

But anyone with common sense knows that someone doesn't just fall into poverty overnight. The deplorable economic conditions that led to today's poverty numbers began in 2007. Republicans often ignore such facts.

Yet when you start digging deeper into the Census Bureau report, what stands out is that of the 10 poorest states in the country, most are the reddest in the nation -- solidly GOP states.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

America: Best Democracy Money Can Buy


Americans are all dispossessed millionaires. Even if we are unemployed and have no money we are not working class, we are really rich we are just waiting for the money to come. We see ourselves as middle or above we always identify with the interest of the rich. Rather than place the blame for your current depression on those who caused it, the rich, the capitalist, the bankers, we place it on those who tried to stop it, the regulators. We all millionaires just being persecuted and held back by evil liberals who resist wealth by government regulation. We totally forget we just fought two wars and long and costly as Vietnam (tw0 at once) and went thorugh a housng crisis what saw the devastation and theft of most middle class neighborhoods, brought on by unrestrained greed which uses houses as poker chips rather than places families can live, and a bail out of the banks to cover their own greedy mistakes, paid for by tax payers; the then turned around and dictated to us government policy at the cost of down grading our national credit. We have totally forgotten that the republicans refused comprise and almost allowed the government to go under, are trying to destroy social security, while lying about the nature of health care reform. We replace these memories with pretense that all we need is more capitalism, more pandering to greed, get the evil liberals out of the way and let the rich have more profits form our labor and purify the nature of our worship of money and they we will all be millionaires.

Thomas Frank's book Pity the Billionaire is a good reminder of reality, and Bill Moyer's Interview with him is eye opening.

This interview with Moyers was broadcasted last night, June 16, 2012. deals with the supreme court decision on Citizen's united and Thomas Frank's book Pity the Billionaire.

The Frank interview deals with the overall system of "free market" and the grass roots right-wing populism that has sprang up to promote it. Franks argues that in the near economic collapse at the end of the Bush administration and the we saw the failure of the entire system. All the problems can be traced to deregulation. All the things we had been doing for short term profits, blinding ourselves to ethics, opening the field to money, power and influence all goes back to de-regulating. Yet Ameircans have never before been more enamored of the idea that regualition is villian and less government is the answer. The whole problem we face today is the result of not regulating the market, allowing big money to get bigger. The populace has never been fleeced before like they are now. Like goo obedient lemmings they they march off the cliff reciting the mantras of big money and capitalism. Never before have Americans been more willing to believe that if we just take the restraints off free market everything will even out in a God ordained natural economic democracy.


Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank - review

Pity the Billionaire tells of the rebirth of right-wing populism after its submergence in 1996. The Tea Party movement in America today is driven by a vision of utopian capitalism, Frank observes, "at the precise moment when free-market theory has proven itself to be a philosophy of ruination and fraud". The bailouts that Bush began, Obama continued as if no change of plan were necessary with a change of administration and mandate; but "the bailouts were one of those moments that crushes the faith of a nation". The new populism that Frank describes is a feverish reassertion of faith.

There were available remedies for the collapse besides charging the losses to taxpayers. One solution would have been to put the zombie banks into receivership. Another was to bring the financial industry under regulation again (as suggested by Paul Volcker, Obama's leading economic adviser until he became president). The explanation for such steps could have been simple; but instead, Obama in 2009 spoke vaguely of "fundamental change" even as he became the guardian of the financial status quo. Either of those moves alone would have been risky. Their combination was toxic. By using big government to protect the firms that were deemed too big to fail, Obama supplied new grounds for every suspicion that government could not be relied on to help ordinary people.

In addition tot he Frank interview Moyers talked about Money buying elections and the supreme court decision. He also interviewed Mother Jone's editors Carla Jeffery and Monika Bauerkein, who talked about their book Dark Money, "the conspiracy of cash that allows the rich to influence our most fundamental political freedoms. On the show, Bill calls out some of the biggest super PAC donors, revealing how easy it is for the wealthy one percent to sway an election.."

The re-call election of Walker (Wisconsin) saw 14 billionaires outspending the unions by eight times. To ensure that America doesn't become a socialist state ran by unions Texas Oligarch Tom Perry and Billionaire Diane Hendrix gave huge amounts of money. The Court deicsion sets this up, it sets up the possibility of "dark money" campaign expenses that can't be traced. We don't know who is buying influence.

I did a piece on the re-call when the campaign began (March 2011) on my blog Need More Shovels.

Capitalism without failure

“Let’s face it,” the founder of a super PAC recently told Mother Jones magazine. “Politics in this country is coin-operated.” True enough, as evidenced by the billions projected to be spent in this year’s elections — untold amounts of it unleashed by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. Even with all that money being cashed in, the busy check-writers and the influence they purchase remain largely hidden, including those who helped Republican Governor Scott Walker dramatically out-fundraise his Democratic challenger to win last week’s recall election.
Don't miss this amazing episode of Moyer's show. This interview is devastating and alarming but it has to be seen by every voter in America. Email it to your friends.

Watch Interview (Pitty The

Frank did a impervious interview with Moyers about how Ameicans had forgotten (by as early as 2010) what things were like before Obama.

Watch The previous Frank Interview

Why Good people Despize each other over politics

Jonathan Haidt

Yesterday I watched Bill Moyer's Interview with Jonathan Haidt, Author of the Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.

bio on Amazon:

Jonathan Haidt is a professor of social psychology at the University of Virginia, and is currently the Henry Kaufman Visiting Professor of Business Ethics at the NYU-Stern School of Business. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992 and then did post-doctoral research at the University of Chicago and in Orissa, India.

His research focuses on morality - its emotional foundations, cultural variations, and developmental course. He began his career studying the negative moral emotions, such as disgust, shame, and vengeance, but then moved on to the understudied positive moral emotions, such as admiration, awe, and moral elevation. He is the co-developer of Moral Foundations theory, and of the research site YourMorals.org. He uses his research to help people understand and respect the moral motives of their enemies (see CivilPolitics.org, and see his 2008 TED talk).

From the interview with Moyers:

Our country is more politically polarized than ever. Is it possible to agree to disagree and still move on to solve our massive problems? Or are the blind leading the blind — over the cliff?

Bill and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt talk about the psychological underpinnings of our contentious culture, why we can’t trust our own opinions, and the demonizing of our adversaries.

“When it gets so that your opponents are not just people you disagree with, but… the mental state in which I am fighting for good, and you are fighting for evil, it’s very difficult to compromise,” Haidt tells Moyers. “Compromise becomes a dirty word.”

On one level what Haidt is telling us is pretty obvious. He presents a study where data was gathered on attitudes about politics and religion. It demonstrates that liberals care most about a public ground of caring and compassion and that's the most important thing. They don't like or trust nation states, they are not concenred with the sacralizing of America. Ceonservatives are concerneed with America as a sacred emblem of God and goodness. Thus liberals don't emphasize concepts such as loyalty and reverense and conservatives do. Haidt finds that the real change in American society has come through the demonizing of the other. Grounds use to sport a healthy competition, but they didn't see each other as evil. They would come together in football games to compete then it's just a game they celebrate together and become one again. Now that doesn't happen. We have purified he two parties to the extent that each sees itself as the righteous standing up against the evil other. When we come to see our opponents as evil we are willing to kill them.

Haidt locates the historical dividing line in the passage of the civil rights act. He's clearly a liberal he's not arguing that we should not have passed the civil rights act, but he is saying that is the think end of the wedge that drove the two sides apart. Moyers tossed in that Johnson told him at the time "we just delivered the south over to the Republicans for the rest of my lie and probably yours too." Moyers was an aid to Johnson during his entire administration. The Republican party worked on purification of its ranks for many decades. The liberal and moderate Republicans (Lowell P. Weicker) were basically kicked out by Nixon in the 72 coronation. The Reagan years brought a conservative purge by ideology. The Democrats purged their party in 72 through the McGovern rules committee and the rules change for delegates and affirmative action. Each party moved further toward it's end of the spectrum, Dems left and Republicans right.

Now we have a situation where one side (Obama) feels it is morally incumbent to compromise and the other side (Republicans) feel it is morally incumbent not to compromise. the really devastating twist is the way each side demonizes the other. All of this is pretty obvious to anyone who knows the history of politics in America and pays attendance to the perennial crisis that is American politics, but what he says that is most worth hearing is that we have to realize both sides are in the same black hole. Both sides think the other is in "La la land" and both sides think the other are crazy. since that is the problem the only solution is to realize that both sides are nuts. Stop thinking of ourselves as "the sane side" that's standing up to evil and start realizing when American politics is a black hole, such as the cold war, all light is absorbed into that black hole. Until and unless we are willing to do that it's going to keep moving toward the prepuces.

I predict it's too late. The recent supreme court decision on Campaign finance will allow for a flood of negative adds and they will get worse than ever and there's no turning back from the edge. The court rejected limit of corporate spending for political money.

NY times
"WASHINGTON — Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections."

The 5-to-4 decision was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.

The ruling represented a sharp doctrinal shift, and it will have major political and practical consequences. Specialists in campaign finance law said they expected the decision to reshape the way elections were conducted. Though the decision does not directly address them, its logic also applies to the labor unions that are often at political odds with big business.

The decision will be felt most immediately in the coming midterm elections, given that it comes just two days after Democrats lost a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and as popular discontent over government bailouts and corporate bonuses continues to boil.

President Obama called it “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

This is a primary proving ground for the Gospel. If this Christian stuff really means anything this is the time when we have to start using it. If there is wisdom in Jesus' utterances about love, forgiveness, and doing unto other as we would have them do unto us, then this is the time to start doing that.

Moyer's actual interview with Haidt is available on this link..

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Genius of Campain Trail Rick Perry Does it Again: Texas Refuses Aid for Medicaid


Rick Perry

My home state,Texas, the land of the intelligence challenged has done it again. Perry turns down matching funds form medicaid that would have been 90%-10% ratio the lion's share paid for by the Feds.

Christian Science Monitor

July 9, 2012

Gov. Rick Perry’s declaration Monday that Texas should decline to expand Medicaid and leave creation of a health insurance exchange to the federal government could create burdens for the uninsured, local taxpayers and federal officials seeking to implement the federal health law.

But it’s far from the last word on Medicaid, a continually vexing program for lawmakers.

Soon after Perry fired off a no-thanks-ma’am letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and a statement denouncing President Barack Obama’s signature health care law as a “power grab,” health providers said they’d like to see the governor’s plan for whittling into the state’s towering uninsured problem.

The major issue is politics. Perry (this morning on local tv news channel 8 in Dallas (WFAA) called it "socialized medicine." yesterday he said that things that lead us to believe that it's medicaid failed. The reason it failed is becasue Texas never made adequate provisions to make a delivery system that works. It's a direct sabotage and this has always been the state strategy. Make the program fail in Texas then blame the feds. We see in Perry's comments the only reason when you take it all back to the root is that he wants the Dems to fail because they are his ideolgoical enemies.

Now those who can't afford health insurance will have to be forced to guy it, and they don't qualify for medicaid. now the program becomes a burden to them but if Texas had cooporated with the plan those people who have been paid for by the Federal government. Perry's rational is "we are stopping the federal government form wasting tax money and being too big." All he's really accomplishing is making the poor worse off and suffer more.

Texas ranks no 50 in the U.S. for medicaid and medical aid to poor and low and income.

National Pubic Radio July 10, 2012

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Texas is saying no to key parts of the federal health care law. Today, Governor Rick Perry said Texas will not create a state exchange for people to buy health insurance and will not expand Medicaid. In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Governor Perry called both provisions a power grab, brazen intrusions into the sovereignty of our state.

Here's Governor Perry today on Fox News.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Every Texan has health care in this state. From the standpoint of being able to have access to health care, every Texan has that. How we pay for it and how we deliver it should be our decision.

BLOCK: And to talk about what this means for Texas and its uninsured population, I'm joined now by Emily Ramshaw. She's been covering this story for the Texas Tribune. Emily, welcome.

EMILY RAMSHAW: Thanks, Melissa.

BLOCK: When Governor Perry says every Texan has health care in this state, what does he mean?

RAMSHAW: That word access is a tricky word. When Perry talks about Texas, he loves to talk about MD Anderson Cancer Center and UT Southwestern in Dallas, these world class health care institutions. But that doesn't mean that all average Texans have access to that kind of care. You know, we're in a state where 25 percent of the population is uninsured. They get hardly any preventive care. And when they get very sick, they end up in the emergency room, which costs the state a ton of money.

BLOCK: Twenty-five percent, that's the highest rate of uninsured people in the country, I believe. Under the Medicaid expansion, if Texas had gone along with it, how many people would have been covered?

RAMSHAW: Under this expansion, 1.8 million more Texans would be eligible for Medicaid. But there are also many other people in Texas who are currently eligible for Medicaid who simply aren't on the rolls; either it's expired and they've forgotten to re-apply or they simply didn't realize they were eligible.

I think, you know, what some state leaders are afraid might happen is that all these people who are currently eligible but aren't enrolled, might be spurred into action by federal health reform. And so, Texas would face not just this additional 1.8 million people but, you know, up to a million other people who simply aren't enrolled yet.

BLOCK: Governor Perry says that Medicaid expansion would threaten Texas with financial ruin. How do those numbers line up, because But federal government would pay 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion cost at the outset; that then tapers down to 90 percent by 2020?

RAMSHAW: Right, between 2014 and 2019, the federal government would provide about $100 billion for Texas, at a cost to Texas of about $6 billion. So, obviously that's not pocket change. But Texas, of all the states, was going to seem to get sort of the biggest bang for its buck.

I think the bigger question here is whether in the long-term Texas is not going to take this money. I think it's sort of more likely that the federal government says, OK, Texas, what do you need to play ball here? I think you can see, down the road, a conversation happening where Texas may accept this money under a certain set of restricted rules.

BLOCK: So sort of a waiver. You're talking about Texas having leverage really to bargain with Health and Human Services?

RAMSHAW: Exactly. You know, in the last year, Texas has worked pretty closely with the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services to design a Medicaid waiver for Texas. So the lines of communication have been built. I think it's very likely that down road, Texas would try to find a way to accept some of these funding, but under the auspices of a Texas-designed program.

I think today what you heard was a lot of political bluster. I think what you're going to see in the next several months is really, you know, extensive conversation about the ins and outs of this money, and how to design Medicaid, how to find a way to make this work in some way for Texas.

BLOCK: We've been talking about the Medicaid expansion. But the other part of this is the health insurance exchange, for people to buy insurance. Texas says it's not going to set one up. But that means that the federal government will set one up for Texas, right?

RAMSHAW: Right, and this is very controversial for conservatives because basically what Perry is saying is we are not going to take control of this in Texas, so we are going to allow the federal government to design this program for us. I think there was one thing that wasn't mentioned today. And that is there appears to be some provisions in the law that would allow the federal government to establish exchange from the get-go, but allows Texas to petition to take control over it a little more down the line.

Texas didn't mobilize to get health insurance exchange in place. There are a lot of theories that even if Texas decided it wanted to run its own insurance exchange now, Texas doesn't have the time to get one in place before the deadline.

BLOCK: Emily Ramshaw is editor of the Texas Tribune. Emily, thanks so much.

RAMSHAW: Thanks for having me, Melissa.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Worst TB outbreak in 20 years kept secret

State rushes closure of its only TB hospital in Lantana

The CDC officer had a serious warning for Florida health officials in April: A tuberculosis outbreak in Jacksonville was one of the worst his group had investigated in 20 years. Linked to 13 deaths and 99 illnesses, including six children, it would require concerted action to stop. 
That report had been penned on April 5, exactly nine days after Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill that shrank the Department of Health and required the closure of the A.G. Holley State Hospital in Lantana, where tough tuberculosis cases have been treated for more than 60 years.

Goodness knows we can't be concerned with nuisances like public health and welfare when there are suffering rich people in desperate need of further tax cuts.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Let It Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace

Crooked Timber addresses the issue of libertarianism, private power in the workplace and workers' rights.

Libertarianism is a philosophy of individual freedom. Or so its adherents claim. But with their single-minded defense of the rights of property and contract, libertarians cannot come to grips with the systemic denial of freedom in private regimes of power, particularly the workplace. When they do try to address that unfreedom, as a group of academic libertarians calling themselves “Bleeding Heart Libertarians” have done in recent months, they wind up traveling down one of two paths: Either they give up their exclusive focus on the state and become something like garden-variety liberals or they reveal that they are not the defenders of freedom they claim to be.

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