A Question of Strategy

So-the Democrats have taken the House. The Senate was always a long shot, but it still could have worked out better. 100 women elected. Several young, dynamic Democrats entered the national stage, and ensured themselves long-term relevance by dramatically exceeding expectations: finally, a Democratic bench is developing. There is good evidence that only gerrymandering kept the Democrats from absolutely swamping the House. And of course, it wouldn’t be an American election if there weren’t a bitterly contested recount underway in FL.

So, it becomes a question of what next: what should be the operational blueprint for the House Democrats? Moving forward, how do we, as Democrats, liberals, and yes, even radicals, best serve the Republic?

Example: The Democrats under Obama tried for years to get a seriously-needed infrastructure bill passed, and were thwarted at every turn: effectively, it must be added. It was part of the baldly-stated platform of Total Resistance the Republicans employed against Obama.

Now, Speaker-in-waiting Pelosi has signaled her willingness to work with Trump on an infrastructure bill. Would it help the country? Yes. Would it strengthen Trump? Also yes.

How serious of a threat is Trump to the health of the Republic?

How is the Republic best served?

Is it best served by cooperating with Trump, even though doing so strengthens him?

Does the magnitude of the threat posed by Trump constitute enough of a threat to justify refusing to cooperate with him, even though it may further delay needed legislation? Is the delay the price that has to be paid to prevent larger Trumpian destruction?

In warfare, if you give your opponent a sanctuary, a safe place wherein he can rest, recuperate, and re-arm, you cannot beat him. Likewise, if your opponent has access to a broad range of weapons, tactics, and strategies that you do not, you are most unlikely to beat him.

Currently, the Republicans have access to an entire range of weapons and tactics the Democrats cannot employ: lies, shamelessness, voter suppression, gerrymandering, massive billionaire support, and other forms of out-and-out cheating (see voting machines in GA), in addition to the Trump cult of personality. This puts the Democrats behind the eight ball before they even declare, as does Trump’s introduction of the permanent campaign, which he has used to amass a pre-election war chest of unprecedented size.

So, how is the Republic best served?

Health Care “reform”: My response to Obama (from 3 years ago)

NB: I wrote this quickly on March 22, 2010, after reading Obama’s speech. The ACA had just been passed. I couldn’t listen to his speech the previous night. I think I made it to the third paragraph of his speech before I grabbed my “comfort book” (Epictetus, thank you) and went upstairs to read in dim light.

Good evening, everybody. Tonight, after nearly 100 years of talk and frustration, after decades of trying, and a year of sustained effort and debate, the United States Congress finally declared that America’s workers and America’s families and America’s small businesses deserve the security of knowing that here, in this country, neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they’ve worked a lifetime to achieve.

This sounds so good, President Obama.
Does this mean that I can get affordable health insurance for some pre-existing
conditions now?

No? Okay, so I guess I can just keep on dealing with these awful migraines because I can’t afford the $500.00 a month it would cost to get a preventative medication that might work. I won’t find out, because, you know, I have to feed my family first. That’s cool, I understand.

Call this me taking one for the American people. Every time I vomit water or plain bile because I’ve been unable to keep food down for more than 24-hours due to a mere migraine, I’ll just think of it as my sacrifice for the Good of the Country.

So, God forbid (you do invoke Him several times) I get sick, my husband and my daughter would be left without me, or we’d be bankrupt, or…?

That’s so comforting.

Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics. We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. We didn’t give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear.
Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges. We proved that this government — a government of the people and by the people — still works for the people.

I must disagree, politely but vehemently, with any sort of claim that “we” have “proved” that the “government…still works for the people.”

The government works for some of the people. Hurray for some!

And kudos for us to returning to the failed ways of Ancient Greek oligarchies—this bill has proven more than anything that we are ruled by corporations.
All right, though, I will grant that the Supreme Court recently did rule that corporations are people, too.

Maybe I will change my name and incorporate myself. I could start as an S-corp, sell some stock, and let my investors decide what I should do with my life. That does seem to be one way for me to “get ahead” in America, at this date and time.

I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality. And I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote. I want to thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn for their commitment to getting the job done. I want to thank my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, and my wonderful Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, for their fantastic work on this issue. I want to thank the many staffers in Congress, and my own incredible staff in the White House, who have worked tirelessly over the past year with Americans of all walks of life to forge a reform package finally worthy of the people we were sent here to serve.

To those of you who struggled with voting yes, go fuck yourselves. Yes, seriously. You have health insurance. Many of us don’t.

What the hell is wrong with you? Do you think we lack health insurance because we don’t want it?

So if you found doing the RIGHT thing was hard, then maybe you should retire from any sort of public life until you’ve gotten in touch with yourself and let go of some of your financial obligations.

And you should also read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”—it’s mild, but it’ll remind you (maybe) of what we need. Of what true courage and conviction is.

Today’s vote answers the dreams of so many who have fought for this reform. To every unsung American who took the time to sit down and write a letter or type out an e-mail hoping your voice would be heard — it has been heard tonight. To the untold numbers who knocked on doors and made phone calls, who organized and mobilized out of a firm conviction that change in this country comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up — let me reaffirm that conviction: This moment is possible because of you.

I have never felt like more of a failure with my activism work than when I read this paragraph. I haven’t been heard, that’s clear. I’ve been working for single-payer for years. No, I haven’t been heard. And hundreds of others I’ve encountered during my activism haven’t been heard, either.

Most importantly, today’s vote answers the prayers of every American who has hoped deeply for something to be done about a health care system that works for insurance companies, but not for ordinary people. For most Americans, this debate has never been about abstractions, the fight between right and left, Republican and Democrat — it’s always been about something far more personal. It’s about every American who knows the shock of opening an envelope to see that their premiums just shot up again when times are already tough enough. It’s about every parent who knows the desperation of trying to cover a child with a chronic illness only to be told “no” again and again and again. It’s about every small business owner forced to choose between insuring employees and staying open for business. They are why we committed ourselves to this cause.

Tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party — it’s a victory for them. It’s a victory for the American people. And it’s a victory for common sense.

The only victory I see is that maybe, maybe Rush Limbaugh MIGHT leave the country. [And that didn’t happen, dammit.] But has he not said this sort of crap before and stayed? And honestly, even if he did leave, he’d still go on with his show.

There is no victory, Mr. President and members of Congress. This, if anything, is a time to mourn your failures.

Now, it probably goes without saying that tonight’s vote will give rise to a frenzy of instant analysis. There will be tallies of Washington winners and
losers, predictions about what it means for Democrats and Republicans, for my poll numbers, for my administration. But long after the debate fades away and the prognostication fades away and the dust settles, what will remain standing is not the government-run system some feared, or the status quo that serves the interests of the insurance industry, but a health care system that incorporates ideas from both parties — a system that works better for the American people. <

I don’t give a shit about the frenzied analysis. I want change. I want it NOW. I’m sick and tired of living in fear, Mr. President and members of
Congress. What do I fear? I hate that I live in the shadow of a migraine that will inevitably strike me. I hate that I live in fear of falling down the stairs. How could I pay for a broken bone, never mind something more “serious?”

If you have health insurance, this reform just gave you more control by reining in the worst excesses and abuses of the insurance industry with some of the toughest consumer protections this country has ever known — so that you are actually getting what you pay for.

25994_10100187621531793_2478648_tI am so distrustful of the health insurance industry, and I have total faith that they will find a way to continue to make obscene profit off of sickness.

If you don’t have insurance, this reform gives you a chance to be a part of a big purchasing pool that will give you choice and competition and cheaper prices for insurance. And it includes the largest health care tax cut for working families and small businesses in history — so that if you lose your job and you change jobs, start that new business, you’ll finally be able to purchase quality, affordable care and the security and peace of mind that comes with it.

Wow, great. Our country can pay billions of dollars a day to go to other countries to kill other people, but I have to pay for the basic human right to, you know, live?

Thanks.

This reform is the right thing to do for our seniors. It makes Medicare stronger and more solvent, extending its life by almost a decade. And it’s the
right thing to do for our future. It will reduce our deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade, and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that.

Anyone else alarmed that extending the life of Medicare by a decade is progress? What the f, people?

So this isn’t radical reform. But it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.

I cannot argue that this isn’t change. I certainly won’t argue with the first line there, that this isn’t radical reform. It’s not.

Our healthcare situation, as it stands now, is hemorrhaging. And the doctors, the government, have decided a band-aid will do the trick. And I’m not talking decent-sized or even normal band-aids. I’m talking about one of those silly round band-aids that doctors will sometimes put on you after taking blood.

In the end, what this day represents is another stone firmly laid in the foundation of the American Dream. Tonight, we answered the call of history as so many generations of Americans have before us. When faced with crisis, we did not shrink from our challenge — we overcame it. We did not avoid our responsibility — we embraced it. We did not fear our future — we shaped it.

I’ll wait and see what the outcome is, Mr. President. I’ll get back to you in a decade or two.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll have some sort of health insurance then.

A Most Dysfunctional House

So we are experiencing a government shut down.

The last time we had one, I was an adolescent and news via internet, blogs, and the like weren’t popular. (Cue the sound of your modem . . . )

I actually had health insurance 17 years ago, and I was (unfortunately) using it.  (I say “unfortunately” because being sick and in the hospital = not fun).  So yes–I spent one shut-down (1995) in the hospital. I would ask my parents and nurses about the effects, but I gathered from my sources it wasn’t really hurting anyone too much. I still really don’t know, but I gather I was being spoon-fed some information so I could focus on recovering—?

Now, I’m not yet insured (not my choice). I have two children.

And I know what it’s like to be poor.

The shutdown hurts the poor.
It hurts children.
It hurts the barely-existing middle-class.

. . . and more . . .

My friend and fellow blogger found this gem:

“We’re not going to be disrespected, We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

— Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN)

I know. Sigh. Deep breaths.

WTF!?!?!

Let’s review:

  1. The Executive Branch approves the ACA/Obamacare, which was drafted by the Heritage Foundation.
  2. The Judicial Branch of the government, the Supreme Court, has ruled that the ACA/Obamacare is Constitutional.
  3. HALF of the Legislative Branch has approved the ACA/Obamacare. Sure, some of the members of the Senate may not like it, but they realize that it is, in fact, law.

Could this be the most dysfunctional House in a century? It certainly seems to be in my three decade lifespan.

Olympic National Park, May 2005. (Photo by me)

The National Parks are gated shut. You can look at the nice photograph, but don’t expect to be able to see anything like it in person right now.

Headstart funding is killed.  Meals-on-Wheels and WIC are slaughtered.  Crucial scientific research on all sorts of things–including pediatric cancer–has ceased because the NIH is gone.

And there’s more we’re not investing in because Rep. Stutzman, Rep. Yoho and others have a point to prove.

I’m sure they’ll figure out what their point in a few weeks.  I’m also sure people directly impacted by this tantrum-led shutdown won’t care, won’t get their medication, their food, their education, etc. These aren’t things you just “make up for” with more later.

So while we wait for the House majority to figure out what the hell their point is, we’re hurting our most vulnerable citizens first.

Investing in the future of this country is clearly not a priority.

Be sure to thank your Representative if they did their best to prevent this.

If you’re in a situation like me, then make your voice heard and call/email your Representative of this sad, dysfunctional House.

I posted the what follows earlier this week. Sadly, it bears re-posting:

(transcript below video):


[clip begins partway through former Vice-President Al Gore’s speech at the Brookings Institution this morning] …I will have more to say about this [climate change report] on many other occasions, but, because this report was released just hours before we gathered here, I would not have felt right about not addressing it.

Now, I’m gonna talk about the potential for a shutdown in just a moment, but, uh, I think the only phrase that describes it is political terrorism. “Nice global economy you got there. Be a shame if we had to destroy it. We have a list of demands. If you don’t meet ’em all by our deadline, we’ll blow up the global economy.”

[pause] Really? Um. Where are the American people in this? Why does partisanship have anything to do with such a despicable and dishonorable threat to the integrity of the United States of America?

Crawling

Friends of the Everblog, I am certain we are all gearing up for the Labor Day Weekend, right?  If you are anything like me, the grilling, laughter, and (perhaps, more than one) beer are well and truly anticipated.  I’ll just use my soapbox to share with you a few pieces of what I think are good news events.  Nothing too heavy, I promise.

Keeping in mind what Labor Day is all about, I found this to be rather encouraging.

On Thursday, the protests involved workers at nearly 1,000 restaurants in more than 50 cities, organizers said, spreading to areas of the South and West including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Raleigh, N.C.

Workers have garnered the courage to strike.  Now the only question is will we – consumers – support them in spirit…  And in choices?

************

This past week, we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  It was a wonderful opportunity for all to ponder and pontificate on exactly what his words meant to each of us.  And (our resident Pinhead)  Bill O’Reilly told us what he thought.  What is possibly good about this?  After having made such a ruckus about conservatives being excluded, he admitted he was “Wrong“.

Last night during my discussion with James Carville about the Martin Luther King commemoration I said there were no Republican speakers invited. Wrong. Was wrong. Some Republicans were asked to speak. They declined. And that was a mistake. They should have spoken.

************

Meanwhile, down in Florida…Republican, David Simmons (an author of the state’s Stand Your Ground law), would like to tweak the controversial legislation.  Especially where cases of Neighborhood Watch programs are involved.

…something that would affect the ability to go ahead and follow somebody else, for example, and confront them. That’s generally believed to be outside the parameters of anyone who’s participating in neighborhood watch and this is something that I think needs to be debated.

Would that this could have occurred sooner, but it is happening  now.  In all fairness, this is the second time Simmons has filed this particular bill.  He hopes it will actually receive a hearing this year.  And, what do you know?  I agree with a republican.

************

Even though I don’t “light up”, I think the Department of Justice was correct in its decision to not tell me I can’t.

The Justice Department said it would refocus marijuana enforcement nationwide by bringing criminal charges only in eight defined areas – such as distribution to minors – and giving breathing room to users, growers and related businesses that have feared prosecution.

This balanced approach to handling marijuana usage just may work.  States (Colorado and Washington) are given authority to handle the situation, with an assurance that the federal government will only step in if it is proven that they are not up to the task.  I know, I know..it’s the DoJ.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

************

Allow me to leave you with this:

progress

The past fifteen years, we have been doing a hell of a lot of crawling.  But crawling is moving forward.

Support those union workers.

Accept (or gloat) when someone who is wrong…admits it.

Continue to speak out, loudly and proudly, against dangerous legislation.

Remember that there is a delicate balance between individualism and collectivism.

We won’t be crawling forever.   As long as we all have a dream…or two.

Be safe and enjoy!!

Southern Style: The Belle

Welcome back to the south, friends, where our chicken is fried and biscuits come with gravy.  Y’all pull up a rocker and grab a glass of tea.  Why don’t we chat a spell about Southern Belles?belle1

Tell me, do you think of Scarlett O’Hara?  A delicate young lady with a feminine southern drawl?  Bless your little heart,  we probably all do. We imagine hoop skirts, wide-rimmed hats, and parasol umbrellas.

More than that, we envision a flirtatious, yet chaste, beauty, who has been taught that hospitality can win the day – and the man.  Even though, the man she will always love best is Daddy. (wink)  Mama has taught her that a wide front porch is the ideal setting for entertaining guests, and manners – ladies never sweat or cuss, thank you very much! – are of utmost importance.

As time passed, things changed.  Fiddle-dee-dee!!  Hoop skirts were replaced with feminine skirts.  Wide hats replaced with regular salon visits.  Women began to venture outside their homes to work.  In short, Scarlett O’Hara was replaced by Julia Sugarbaker and friends.

These changes, or advancements, came about by both force and choice.  Many women had to seek employment in order to care for their families.    Many more chose to seek a life outside of the traditional roles laid before them.

Gone with the wind.. are the days where a smart girl lets a man take credit for doing exactly what she wants him to do.

Todays Belle prefers to take credit for doing exactly what she wants to do.  Todays Belle is often the sole provider for her family.  She is educated.  She is industrious.  She is determined and persistent.  She knows her own mind.  And she is speaking it.  Loudly and clearly.

Let’s meet a few, shall we?

belle2If you haven’t already, meet Wendy Davis.  Mrs. Davis is a Harvard educated lawyer and Democrat from Forth Worth, Texas.

I’m rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans who have been ignored. These voices have been silenced by a governor who made blind partisanship and personal political ambition the official business of our great state.

With those opening words, she solidified her place on the national stage.  She became a hero for women when she donned her pink tennis shoes and staged an 11- hour filibuster against an abortion bill she labeled “draconian”.  The bill would have banned all abortions after 20 weeks and closed all but five abortion clinics in the state.

Hats off to this Belle for showing them what a filibuster really is…No food, drink, sitting, leaning, or breaks of any kind.  Yes, friends, an honest to God filibuster!  We have become accustomed to the “threat” of filibuster by our do-nothing Congress.  Because a do-nothing Congress can’t be expected to actually do anything, right?  And while her friends from across the aisle think she owes them something, the rest of us think she has a bright future ahead of her.

Wendy Davis isn’t the only Belle of the ball.  I’m not sure how many of you know of Alison Grimes.  This attorney and Democrat currently holds belle3the position of Secretary of State of Kentucky.  She is also seeking to replace Mitch McConnell in the United States Senate.  With her sweet smile and gentle voice, she has laid down the gauntlet:

Now this part’s for you Senator. Your campaign wants to play silly games about where I am and where I stand.  Well I’m right here in Kentucky, Senator, where I’ll be holding you accountable for voting to double Medicare premiums on Kentucky seniors, including our retired coal miners, for being against requiring the Department of Defense to buy equipment that’s made in America first, for failing to stand up for women when you voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Violence Against Women Act, and for opposing raising the minimum wage over and over again while you became a multimillionaire in public office.

Well, I do declare…these ladies aren’t sitting on their porches gossiping about the town cad, are they?  A younger generation of southern women are eager to help change the tone in government and further our nation’s progress.  Take a peek at this:

belle5 belle6

Southern Belles are raising hell…

along with millions of other women, all over the country.  The largest and most reliable voting block in the country has something to say.

Are you listening?

Kirsten Gillibrand is tackling sexual assault in the military.   Elizabeth Warren is sick of banks being catered to, while students pay the price.  Not one to abandon veterans, is Tammy Duckworth.  Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, doesn’t want climate change deniers in her department.

It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.  – Hillary Clinton

Women, the Belles included, are no longer content to be seen as pretty shells with a uterus.  So, you should be listening.

Modern Indentured Servitude: the “Student Loan”

“We were so young, so in love, and so in debt.”

(Michelle Obama)Photo88792

Do we raise the interest rate on student loans or do we keep the interest rates down on on so-called student loans? In the past couple weeks, lots has been discussed–and it seems once again that those “the student loan issue” is being discretely brushed off.

Congress is still facing this issue that directly impacts 37 million Americans and indirectly effects us all.

Student debt is nearing one trillion dollars. 37 million Americans owe around $1,000,000,000, 000.00

I started college in the late 90’s. I had a scholarship that covered a more than half of my tuition, my parents assisted how they could– but wasn’t enough and so the dreaded FAFSA was filled out, submitted, and approved.

I was going to get student loans. It sounded…practical.

At 18 years old, taking out a loan was new thing. And it scared me. Sitting in on the first (required by the lenders) informational–well, hell, what do I call it? Class? Info session? Whatever you call it, those who get student lines have “counseling” (yes, the industry calls it that) sessions about student loans.  I held on to every last word.

In my adulthood, this. Was. Serious. I remember learning that my loan payments would essentially be put on hold as long as I was in school–graduate school included. I entered college already assuming I would be attending grad school (although I admit I hadn’t thought how to pay for that), so I thought something along the lines of, “Okay, I’ll be a professional when I need to pay this back. That should be okay. It might delay buying a house or having a baby, but only for a year or two.”

salliemaeIsn’t it hilarious how naive I was at 18?

I could just turn that into a sharing post–“How naive were you when you were 18?”

Really. Laugh. I am. It’s so sadly funny I seriously thought like that. I’m rather disappointed in my 18 year old self for not thinking things like:

  • What if the economy crashes?
  • What if you can’t find a job easily?
  • What if you’re discrimated against?

Et cetera and so on.

I mean, I actually believed student loans were helpful to students. I didn’t realize how corrupt they are. How wrong it is to make people go into debt to go to school. The idea that universal education at the higher levels should be free hadn’t crossed my mind–yet.

Mind-blowing quote:

“Making all public higher education free in the United States would cost between fifteen and thirty billion dollars.

That’s roughly what this country spent on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.”

Let’s pause and use our educated minds to think back to the Jamestown colony, and whatever else you may remember about the history of early settlers in what is now the United States.  Bound_300x200

Many of the colonists (i.e., of British or European descent) came over to the “New World” as indentured servants. For the cost of the voyage over (which was approximately the equivalent of the 4-5 years pay), the servant was provided with food, accommodation, clothing and training as they worked for the next 2-7 years (depending on the contract) as they worked off their debt. For their work, the servant received not wages, but credit toward paying down the cost of the voyage over.

Don’t forget this was a time when debtor’s prisons were around, so it’s not hard to figure out what happened to those servants who didn’t uphold their part of the bargain.

Indentured servitude is often called “white slavery” and to much extent, the comparison is apt.

Via:

The Company clearly felt that [beaten workers running away] threatened the continued survival of their enterprise, for they reacted forcefully to this crime. In 1612, the colony’s governor dealt firmly with some recaptured laborers: ‘Some he apointed to be hanged. Some burned. Some to be broken upon wheles, others to be staked and some to be shott to death.’

[Don’t you just love olde-tyme spelling?]

While this sort of physical torture is not occurring over student loans, (that I’m aware of), there remain multiple similiarities between historic indentured servitude and modern-day student loans, or “modern day indentured servitude.”

Similarities:1343878168318_8335741

  • Indentured servants fluxed in numbers, but up to 2/3 of (white, European) immigrants came to the New Land as such. Approximately 60% of American students any given year will rely on student loans to further their higher education.
  • Indentured servants were predominately young and also of the working class or just  plain ol’ poor.
    Many students (but not all!) who receive student loans are young. And many are working class or poor. (But this is America, so we don’t like to talk about class.)
  • Indentured servitude and student loans rely on the idea/myth of mobility. It seems this country was fed the lie of the boot straps from the very beginning!
  • Given the nature of the debts, neither historic nor modern day indentured servitude were/are secured by property. Both were/are debt secured by personhood.
  • Indentured servitude and student loans both take a small (relative to the lender) amount and augment it thanks to rounding error  works some black magic to make this initial amount into a significant burden that will follow the person around for 30 year.
  • Both have extremely limited legal recourse.

And let’s talk about the limited legal recourse, shall we? Most debt is dischargable or at least worked into a more suitable payment plan during a bankruptcy proceeding.

Sutdent loans? Nope. Or rather:

NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

Student loans are immune to bankruptcy. You cannot discharge your modern indentured servitude by filing bankruptcy.  This means that student loans don’t

“have a natural protection for the consumer receiving credit (a protection, the original synthetic put option, that our Founders were aware of enough to make sure it was provisioned for in the Constitution).”

Washington, we have a problem. A very serious problem that could break the economy (again).

It’s already (figuratively) killing the young.

More reading:13426-312-Infographic on Student Loans_r6

Southern Style: Tar Heel Turnaround

Friends, it has been a while since our last stop on the Southern Express.  And, honey-chile, this one will be a real treat.  One you surely don’t want to miss.  So, go on, grab your sweet tea, immerse yourself in insect repellant, and…

NC2

North Carolina.  Majestic mountains.  Beautiful beaches.

One of the more progressive southern states prior to the..

Tar Heel Turnaround?

The North Carolina that we are seeing today is at odds with the trajectory the state has been on in recent years.  The southern states may seem as though they are vehemently opposed to ideals like change and progress.  In my view, North Carolina has always been different.

A little history….

Even during our nation’s ugliest time, the Civil War, this state was a bit progressive.  “The second to last (technically the last) state to secede from the Union” did so reluctantly in 1861, and wasn’t as sold on slavery as the rest of the south.  They – along with Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas – initially chose to remain with the Union, after Lincoln was elected.  Confederate forces in South Carolina (Boy-oh-boy, our stop there will be fun!) fired on the Union, forcing the hold-out states to fight for the federal government or their neighbors.

The above facts, in no way, justify the actions taken statewide during Reconstruction.  The state did, however, make great strides once it became clear that they couldn’t put skeletons back in the closet.

The eat-ins and sit-ins led to incremental integration.  Education became a priority, and was heavily invested in.  Tobacco was replaced with textiles, then technology.

There was…progress.

North Carolina attempted to rise above the title of “confederate sympathizer”.  Instead, it focused on its memories of the Wright brothers and Kitty Hawk.  Those majestic mountains and beautiful beaches were boons for tourism.  I, myself, thoroughly enjoy time spent at Atlantic Beach each year.

Many have grooved to Thelonious Monk, Pink Floyd, and Roberta Flack. We were touched that James Taylor had Carolina in his mind.  The Andy Griffith show was mandatory viewing in many households.  And everybody wished they could jump like Mike!

North Carolina gave us Duke University, a pioneer in the medical field.  It gave us Shaw University, the first HBC,  as well as Salem College, the first school for young women.  The state’s Research Triangle brought in major industries – such as IBM, GlaxoKlineSmith, and LabCorp – providing jobs and careers for residents.

moral monday

 What a difference a (voting) day makes!

This is not progressive.

North Carolina’s Republicans took simultaneous control of the legislature and governor’s mansion in January for the first time in more than a century. The current session has been marked by sweeping conservative measures in what has long been counted as among the South’s most progressive states.

Arrests?  Of nearly 675 people since these peaceful protests began?  Because they do not approve of your policies, and are exercising their right to protest, they are “morons” who deserve to be arrested?  To further marginalize them, they are called “outsiders”.  Never mind the fact that arrest records show that nearly all are from within the state and the fact that slashing unemployment benefits for over 100,000 residents and decreasing benefits for the rest might be seen as irresponsible.

We can’t call this progressive either.

As legislators enter the final phase of closed-door state budget negotiations, young children could wind up being the biggest losers.

Children with special needs will lose much-needed services, like speech and developmental therapy.  Ten thousand Pre-K slots will be lost over a two-year period.  Prenatal care will be unaffordable for many.  The Child Fatality Task Force will be eliminated, even though child death rate has dropped 46%.  Healthier, more well-adjusted children is a smart investment that residents support.

Need more?

Repealing the Racial Injustice Act?  Not progress.  Because racial discrimination has never been the best option for a state, or the nation.

Quietly imposing “the biggest overhaul of the state’s tax system in more than a decade.”  … not progressive.  Decisions that impact a state should be discussed, no, especially when you’re favoring one segment of the population at the expense of another.  FTA:  Supported by Gov. Pat McCrory, the bill adds a sales tax to numerous exempt services, such as car repairs and appliance installations, to pay for moderate cuts in personal and corporate income taxes. 

The necessity for stealth doesn’t usually indicate progress.  I know we women can be freedom riders, but seriously?  One of the most basic human rights is full and complete dominion over one’s body.  Why not just ban women and be done with it?

Does anyone, especially college students, find this progressive?  I think not.  Because didn’t we already determine this was not the way forward?

In retrospect, perhaps we ALL should have been worried when this hit the news.  Because Church of North Carolina meet the Constitution, already!

So, yeah, I would say the Tar Heels got turned around.  Wouldn’t you?

What to do..what to do..

mm protest

THIS!!!

Protest.  And protest some more.  Transform “Moral Mondays” into “We, the people Week”.. “Month of Marches”.. straight to the voting booth!

Because this is not about conservative and liberal.  It is about right and wrong.

Once you were a progressive state.  You can be again.

We’re #1 ..er..

America.

Wealthiest nation in the world.

It’s no wonder our middle class is number one in the world!

middle class

As the chart above clearly shows, America’s median income is the best in the…

Wait…WHAT??

We are not number one?  Or two, ten, or twenty?

According to this, America is #27.  Our middle class is being beaten by the likes of Germany, Canada, and Switzerland.  Topping the list is Australia.

But how can this be?  Our economy produces hedge fund managers that earn more per hour than the average family earns in two decades!

Surely, that kind of wealth is trickling down!!

So, why aren’t we drenched?  Hell, at least misted?

  • Healthcare:  We continue to pay more while becoming no more healthy.  And becoming seriously ill lands many in bankruptcy court.
  • Minimum Wage:  Our wage is indecent in comparison to the likes of Canada ($9.75), New Zealand ($11.18), and Australia ($16.45).  So much for claiming the top spot, again, right?  Not to mention that many other developed nations provide a month of guaranteed paid vacation time on top of paid sick days.
  • Wall Street:  Has gone wild.  Enough said.
  • Tax Structure:  Our code favors the wealthy with loopholes, tax havens, ridiculously low capital gains taxes, etc.
  • Higher Education:  The more you know, the more you owe.  In America.  Our counterparts are offering higher education practically tuition-free.

So, yeah.  No drenching, no mists, no trickles.

I think we were… PUNK’D!

deregulation

Financialization.  (Note when the two began to split.)

Financialization means the increasing role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors and financial institutions in the operation of the domestic and international economies.   – Economist, Gerald Epstein

Financialization was labeled the most important factor in our stagnant middle class.  Deregulation of the 80’s has given rise to a whole host of problems.

  • It “made shareholder value the ultimate goal.”
  • Hedge fund growth began destroying the “productive wealth” in the economy.
  • “Too big to fail” institutions were created, and basically granted license to gamble with the economy.
  • Barely regulated world markets became responsible for financing globalization.

Why don’t we know how throughly we were played? Good question.

Wealth dominates the mediaThe idea of conservative media or main stream media is foolish.  There is but one media.  Corporate media.  And do we honestly believe that the guys ripping us off will tell us that they are doing so?  Pfft.  Just go back to fake scandals and Hollywood hook-ups, if you please.

Here’s another good question.  Why aren’t we working, with due diligence, to reverse this?

Wealth dominates our politics, it is true.  Corporate lobbyists are boldly buying representatives and co-authoring legislation.  They are using their extreme wealth to their advantage.  Who needs or wants a level playing field when pulling in the kind of dough they do?

They are buying the team, the field, the equipment, the concession stand, and referees.  But that is not all they are buying.  It seems they have also purchased quite a few fans.

There are actually those among us who don’t realize or acknowledge that they have been, are being, and will continue to be fleeced in this economy.  They believe more corporate freedom is an appropriate action.  They believe, and loudly regurgitate, policy that will only serve to keep them from ever seeing the trickle they so patiently await.  To do anything else would make you a “taker”.    They have difficulty separating who built that from who purchased that.

Looks like there is nothing left to do, but sit in the stands and clap.

Uhm, .. no.

The first thing we can do is recognize this for what it is.  Class warfare.

Next, we need to forget about changing the minds of the purchased fans.  If the past few years haven’t demonstrated the damage deregulation causes, nothing will.  The information about corporate greed destroying the economy is out there, and it is plentiful.

Protest what is being done.  You don’t necessarily have to stand in a picket line.  Petition.  Support local businesses over big box chains.  Start a garden.  Use the services of a local credit union in lieu of a banking institution.

Most importantly, instruct and supervise your elected officials, while keeping an eye out for their replacement.

  • Republicans:  we will not tolerate your policies of carrying the rich on the backs of the poor.
  • Tea Party/Libertarians:  Atlas Shrugged is fiction.
  • Democrats:  the pretty words are nice, but the time has come to try on a backbone, thank you very much!
  • Progressives:  Come out, come out..wherever you are.

They need to know this is our game, too.  Comply or face ejection.  Period.

Because… We’re #27… is  pathetic!  As a standing and a chant!

Exhibit A

When they write the history of early 21st century United States of America, you can bet this fact will be mentioned:  One family owns more wealth than 40% of the rest of the nation.

Yes, you read that right.  There are five Americans who have a greater net worth than approximately 126,500,000 other Americans combined.

It gets more interesting than that. Do you remember the crashes we had late last decade?  When typical American families lost nearly 40% of their wealth as the stock and housing markets tanked?  Yeah, during that same time (2007-2010), The Walton family (You knew that was who we were talking about, right?) increased their wealth.  Back in 2007, their combined family wealth was only more than the bottom 30% of American families combined.

During the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, Sam’s boys and girls were buying, not selling (yes, like Potter).  And if the economy was shrinking (and it was), that means the Waltons were making even bigger gains than it seems at first glance.  Briefly translated, this means that some of what used to be yours now belongs to Christy Walton.

Why am I picking on this poor clan of discount retailers from the hills of Arkansas?  Because if you combine the wealth of all five of them, they own more than any other family in America.  According to Forbes, at least.

As I’ve noted before in this space, I’m for capitalism.  Reasonable capitalism. This?  What we’re doing right now?  This isn’t reasonable by any definition.  What this is is a path to feudalism. It’s not hard to project the feudal lifestyle on a particular class of Wal*Mart employees.

When they write the history, one of the stories is either going to be how the people realized they were being screwed and turned things around or how the people at the top finally rounded up all the money and all the power. And the story of the Walton family is going to be Exhibit A.

Down the rabbit hole, Out through the Chocolate Factory

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where-” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“-so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice Added as an explanation.

Lewis Carroll

Down the rabbit hole.  Our nation is down the rabbit hole.

Collectively, we feel trapped, confused, helpless, and angry.  We are afraid.

I, too, feel all those emotions.  But, what I feel the strongest is frustration.  Like Alice, all I want is to get… SOMEWHERE.

When did we fall down the rabbit hole?  Does it matter?  I would love to say it is irrelevant how we got here.  But, I can’t.  On our journey, we stumbled over our own fear..er..feet.  We’ve fallen, and can’t seem to get up.

We read our children stories, like Alice in Wonderland, hoping to teach them the importance of life choices.  We encourage them to dream and set goals.  We help them develop courage, determination, and perseverance.  We teach them that not trying is the only true failure.

Well, look at us!  Aren’t we quite the hypocrites?  Even now, when our inability to act is harmful to our children, we do nothing and go nowhere.  From our comfortable spot in the pit, we point fingers.  We blame blacks, women, gays, immigrants, republicans, democrats, or the poor.  Our children, remembering what they’ve been taught, see the grown-ups bicker, complain, and remain…stuck.

We stress to our children the value of education, yet do nothing about this and this.  If we proclaim that education opens doors for our sons and daughters, shouldn’t it actually do so?  We must prepare our children for adulthood by improving ALL of our schools.  Wealth and/or vouchers shouldn’t be necessary to receive a quality education.  Nor should college costs ride a person’s back well into middle age, forcing them to take up residence in a parent’s basement.

We teach our youth to play by the rules, yet allow this.  If we want them to know that playing by the rules is the right thing to do, we must ensure that they grow up in a world where that is expected.  Of everyone.  Corporations are allowed to (legally) cheat the system.  This is a no-brainer, right?  It’s broken, we fix it.  Ah, that would make too much sense.  So, our kids grow up observing that greed is the key to success.  There goes the sharing is caring lesson.

While we are pointing fingers on climate change, things like this happen.  Why is this even a continuing debate?  Overwhelmingly, scientists agree that our planet is being stretched too thin.  Natural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy and the massive tornado in Oklahoma, are going to continue.  We have been warned, again and again, about this.  Is this garbage really easier to believe than 97% of scientists??

As we bicker about who is more patriotic, tragedies like Sandy Hook go unaddressed.  Unless you count this.  Our children are told repeatedly that violence is not the answer because it never solves anything.  Ha!!  Have you noticed that our culture is becoming more violent by the day?  Yeah, kids have, too.  When we have opportunities to come together, and make decisions that will save their lives, we should take them.  Perhaps, they need to give us a pep talk about bullying, eh?

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  
J. K. Rowling

Let’s choose a direction.  We’ll never get somewhere, if we don’t.  Our children deserve that much.

To them, everything is magical.  Anything is possible.  Adults know better.  We are aware that no Cheshire Cat or Elder Wand exists.  Life is a series of choices (or unfortunate events, depending on perspective).  We learn from mistakes, and try again.

Enough crying and complaining!  The next generation is watching.  If there is an outcome we desire, let’s elect representatives who will help us achieve it.    Those that don’t..replace them.  Occasionally, we will learn that our ideas aren’t good ones.  If that happens, we change direction.  Life has taught us all that there is often more than one way to get where you’re going.  Remember, the failure is in not trying.

So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Roald Dahl
 
Choose to educate yourself.  Then, choose to act.