Why don’t people get involved with politics? Have you seen what goes on? The nastiness, misinformation, innuendo and sometimes outright lies. And because no good deed ever goes unpunished and many fold in the face of such unjustified criticism. Let me tell you about my own experience in small town/large state local politics. I live in a town near Valley Forge National Park. It is a beautiful place, lots of good restaurants, some fantastic shops and a great theater. In 2007 I was offered the opportunity to open a new business with five other investors called Earth Mart. The mission of Earth Mart was to offer consumers shopping options that were local and American made, fair trade produced, recycled and organic.
There were six total investors and I was not involved in the day to day operations until right before we moved from Phoenixville. We had a full-time store manager and a part-time administrator who did the books and who was supposed to take care of the taxes, both sales and payroll. Earth Mart did a fantastic business, even with the economic collapse. But then the construction industry went into freefall and Earth Mart was impacted. When the market changed one of the major investors decided to back out, owing the company over $300,000. As you can imagine, this was a true hardship. The rent was very high, and after a failed negotiation for a lower rent (we were paying $7,000 per month), the decision was made to move the business to three new locations.
Fast forward to 2012 (and soon you will see how the above factors in this story). I decided to run for school board of my wonderful little town. We have great schools (7th Most Challenging High School in PA according to The Washington Post) and I wanted to help make them even better. I started attending school board meetings. In 2013 I was a candidate for the first time and wow did I learn about the nasty side of local politics. I was totally unprepared for what happened.
On Election Day I received a call from a friend. She had arrived at her polling place to vote and was “greeted” by what she described to me as a “raving nut job”. She said this man asked her if she “planned to vote for Lisa Longo” and when she said yes he started yelling and ranting, saying she “couldn’t” vote for Lisa Longo and spewing all kinds of silly nonsense. He harassed her as she tried to walk to the door, and according to what she told me, he continued following her and yelling at her right up to the door. All of which is a violation of election rules on what you can do at the polling places.
My friend called me as soon as she left the polls and she told me she saw him doing this to other voters as well. Another friend called to tell me that in her neighborhood two men were going door to door in the days before the election and they seemed to be “targeting [her] elderly neighbors”, she told me she asked her neighbor about it and was told they were saying that “Longo” was going to “double taxes” if elected and they would “lose their homes” if “she gets elected”. And several people told me calls were being made with this same unbelievable message.
Now this was so silly you would ask yourself, who would believe it? Not many I hope, and I doubt it had much of an impact. I lost that election by only 63 votes. To put that in context the last person who ran lost by about 1,000 votes. But even though their silly machinations weren’t very effective, they do expose just how far some people will go.
I did not allow my election loss to prevent me from serving my community. I served on the Community Budget Advisory Committee and continued attending school board meetings. Time passed and now the school board position is open again. Since I lost the election by only 63 votes I thought I would give it another try. This time I would explain to voters that I was not going to raise their taxes. Instead I would use my financial expertise to stretch their tax dollars. But now I hear there is a new attack plan. The plan is going to attempt to paint me as someone who shirked paying her taxes. And it all started with an "anonymous" tip to a local paper. The paper isn't saying who made the tip, but the timing is slightly suspicious, read the article here.
It goes back to my business partnership in Earth Mart. Apparently a manager had filed some returns late or incorrectly and may not have filed all the required paperwork or returns. Although they are trying to paint a picture that we owe back taxes, my research shows that while the sales tax was paid there are outstanding penalty and interest not tax. The other issue seems to be with returns that may have been filed incorrectly or that were not filed. Again, I was not the one doing the bookkeeping, it would have been a conflict of interest as an investor. As soon as I was informed of this I began to look into it. Needless to say, I will not let this latest onslaught dissuade me from my campaign. It will be worth all the effort to help ensure our community has the best school system to maximize the potential and opportunity for every student.
I believe this is a non-issue. It has nothing to do with school board, the fact that this anonymous person is trying to smear my reputation is a cowardly act. But it is how some people want to win, it doesn’t matter how. And that is what I call dirty politics.
Every single one of us. We all have it. No one is immune. And no one gets out alive. And we all know it. We like to pretend it isn’t so. We fill our days and nights with distractions. We try to ignore it. We go to elaborate lengths to deny it. We hide from it. We Botox the signs, erase the lines. Trim it, tuck it, suck it out and lift it. We run from the truth that life is terminal. But we are all infected.
And at the end of the day, there is no denying it. There is no escaping this self-evident truth. There is no grand bargain to be made. No deal with any devil . There is no white knight coming to bestow everlasting life on us. We don’t get second chances at this. We get one shot. One life. Just one. So ask yourself, why the hell are we allowing it to be so hellish for so many?
Why aren’t we all protesting the rampant injustice and revolting inequities of our system? How did “they” get us all to stand by like sheep while the banksters stole our retirement, hijacked our children’s futures and those self-same market makers who told Congress they had no fiduciary duty to safeguard our life savings played economic roulette with the fruits of our labor?
How did we become zombies more concerned with who wins some stupid reality show or silly game than with who is running our school districts and Judicial system? How did our national psyche get so perverted we care more about some woman who “broke” the internet with a photo of her bottom than we do about how companies are corrupting and contaminating our planet while they are manipulating their bottom lines and hiding billions in offshore banks while bilking taxpayers for their welfare entitlements, mansions and yachts?
Why are we allowing schools to do random searches, breathalyze students and have practices on how to hide from random shooters, but we can’t have background checks or basic safety regulation for the guns used to massacre and create havoc? How is it that state legislatures can insist they have every right to infringe on any woman’s rights while they pay us less but we have no right to see who is paying for the right to influence our members of Congress? We are teaching our children to be afraid of possibilities while their opportunities are being shut down and we allow our students to be indentured and indebted to the banks that are too big to fail but not too greedy to steal their futures. We teach our children to accept unconstitutional searches and seizures while we deny medical marijuana for the treatment of actual seizures and push for-profit everything to maximize the misery of the many so the few can get even richer.
And if all this isn’t enough to make you sick, I’m here to tell you, the decay is accelerating. It seems as if the rot is spreading its putrid pestilence as we allow institutionalized poverty to pervade our humanity. We’ve created a monster with horrific capabilities and catastrophic economic implications.
And to what end? What does it matter? Since we are all infected what is to be gained by those few who are amassing great wealth at grievous cost to the greater majority of us? Do they get to live longer? Maybe. But make no mistake, they are definitely getting to live better. With more dignity. More leisure. More ease and comfort. They live behind their walls with paid protection and plenty of everything to ease their dying days. This isn’t about “hating” the rich. Or wanting a redistribution of wealth. It is about life. And death. And what happens in between. Because we are all indeed infected.
And I think this is why I’ve been so fascinated by The Walking Dead. The show that shows the figurative interpretation of modern life in the time of an apocalyptic event. There is no denying the inevitable misery of life in this noir tale. Or the everlasting reality of death. The fight for survival we can never win for long it seems. And it is a metaphor for what we have allowed our world to become.
We are indeed the walking dead. Zombies blindly shuffling down roads, through broken cities and abandoned towns. Staring at meaningless boxes, hearing the monotonous moans of the drones, the hateful screeches of the frightened running from the death that will take us all. Because we are all infected.
It would seem all is not as it appears in the Mitt Romney fairy tale about his “success” as CEO of the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee. Such a twisted yarn this has become; from his fictional exit as head of Bain Capital to his being the “savior” of the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
Starting with his supposed exit from Bain to be CEO of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Committee, how is it that the CEO of a successful company, who owned 100% of a venture capital firm, had nothing to do with the decision-making or policies of this firm? This same company which went from trying to help businesses succeed, to borrowing against assets to profiting from their failure. In addition, this firm actively looked to move manufacturing overseas to countries known for using slave and child labor, one can assume to cut costs and increase profits for its privateer profit-monger partners.
And then this CEO and Chairman of the Board was asked to ride to the “rescue” the 2002 Olympic games. This was in 1999. The “abrupt” departure from the venture capital firm did not allow this shrewd businessman or his many staff, partners, consultants, lawyers, managers, accountants and MBA’s to figure out a way to document his departure.
Evidently, their combined net worth, education and experience did not give them the ability to file a few simple documents correctly. Nor did their business knowledge and success allow them to understand the importance and legality of properly filing forms with the SEC.
Despite this utter lack of professionalism, Mr. Romney was asked to go to Salt Lake City to “rescue” the 2002 Olympic Games. According to many sources the “rescue” was actually a bail-out by our Federal government, as pointed out by Republican Senator John McCain in a speech on September 19, 2000, “However, as outlined, most of the money taken from taxpayers to foot the bill for the Salt Lake games is going to develop, build, and complete major highway and transit improvement projects – “especially those critical to the success of the Olympic Games.” This last phrase is vital to understanding the fleece game being played by cities like Salt Lake...$1.3 billion to Salt Lake City, this is preposterous, and it must stop.”
It would seem the real hero of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics was President Bill Clinton and the Federal government, at least according to Senator Bill Bennett (R-UT), “In fact, most of the federal money was already in place before Mitt came on, “said Senator Bob Bennett, “The Clinton Administration was completely supportive in saying these are ‘America’s Games,’ we will do whatever we can to make sure they are successful. The one concern I had was whether we would get the same degree of support from the Bush administration, which we did.”
I wonder if a Romney Administration would be as willing to support such an effort. Evidently Mr. Romney thought government spending was a good thing before he thought it was a bad thing: “Recognizing that our government spends billions of dollars to maintain wartime capability, it is entirely appropriate to invest several hundred millions to promote peace,” this from an article on ABC.com.
The methods used by Romney the “rescuer” seem to resemble those of a long-time political hack and lobbyist; one might even call it “Chicago” style politics as usual. It would seem Mitt went to business leaders and offered a long-term strategic vision, better known in business terminology as “you scratch my back, and some day when I am elected, I will return the favor”.
Companies like Staples were offered preferential sponsor deals. But wait, wasn’t Staples one of the companies owned by Bain Capital? Would it not be considered insider trading and therefore not only unethical but illegal for the nominal head of Bain Capital to use his position as head of the 2002 Olympic Committee to offer a contract to a company he was heavily invested in personally to assist them in profiting due to his ability to direct business to them? Wait, what?
So here the tale becomes more convoluted. Did Mitt Romney use his dual CEO positions at Bain & the 2002 Olympics to personally and professionally profit? Did he leverage his future political aspirations to gain contributions to the games with promises of future legislative favors? Was his position as “savior” of the games the total fiction it appears to be, as described by two prominent Republican legislators? And finally, did Mitt Romney use insider knowledge to give his investment the inside track on sponsor and business contracts, in violation of SEC and other regulations?
Many accounts of the transition to Romney management of the 2002 games include numerous quotes from those involved who were disgusted by the heavy-handed egomaniacal management style Mr. Romney displayed. One example of such are the buttons Mr. Romney approved, one showing his image and sporting slogans such as, “Hey Mitt, we love you.”
As one former Salt Lake City council member was quoted as saying, “Mitt could have been a hero if he had just come in and been polite. What turned me sour was his demand to get all the credit and ignore everybody who had put in thousands of hours before he arrived.”
It would seem that this successful CEO used his private position to gain a public position to further his political aspirations, using his position to leverage favors and seemingly, coerce cooperation and contributions. Not quite the white knight or business leader we have been told about.
I don’t know about you, but in my mind, Mitt has earned himself a perfect 10, and he deserves a gold medal for being a liar.
(Originally posted in July 2012)
A Tale of Two Tax Cuts
“Tax cuts to the rich create jobs”. “Tax cuts for the working poor and middle class stimulate the economy”. Only one of these is true, and it is time to figure out which. And we can, using some basic math.
Is taxing the rich socialism? Is it “un-American” to ask the rich to pay more taxes? Or is income inequality at the root of our economic problem? And how can we know which is the “right” theory? On the one hand you have Democrats calling for an increase to the minimum wage, affordable health care for all and an increase in both the benefit and wage base of the Social Security system as a method of putting more money on “Main Street” to stimulate the economy. On the other side you have Republicans insisting we give more money to “Wall Street” and just saying no to everything until they get their way.
In order to decide who is really “right”, I decided to do some math. I find that when I can break an argument down to mathematical components it provides useful data to help me understand the issues better.
Here are some computations and assumptions for this problem:
An average family needs to make approximately $4,000 per month, net of taxes to cover all expenses. That comes to $23.08 per hour net, which is $27.69 gross for a base hourly wage if we assume average taxes paid equal 20%.
That is the minimum wage at which a person does not “need” any assistance to pay for living, insurance, food, transportation and health care. It does not include saving for retirement, vacations or other expenses that are “discretionary”, for example vacations, gifts, going out to dinner or the movies, buying clothes or getting your hair cut or nails done. And forget about getting sick and not being able to work, republicans don’t want paid sick leave either.
Now, let’s compare discretionary income and how taxes work, and how a tax cut or increase impacts different income levels:
What happens when we change those rates just slightly, say, reduce taxes 1% for the bottom three and increase taxes 3% on the top? Whoa, pretty amazing result. While very little goes to the bottom three as a result the additional tax revenue generated is pretty significant.
Wow, look at that, we just put more money in the pockets of those who “need” it and will spend it and still left the top earner with more than half a million in annual discretionary income. Pretty clear results don’t you think?
While it is true this is type of progressive taxation moves a larger share of the tax “burden” to the wealthy, and republicans will try to tell you that is socialism and “bad”, it is actually simple math. The “top” earner still has almost 45 times the discretionary income of the “lowest”. No one is suggesting we take “all” the wealth and redistribute it, the math simply proves that balancing the books on the backs of the poor does not make sense.
And asking the rich to pay a little more so we can protect our way life and improve our standard of living makes economic sense. And that is the role of government, to protect and provide for our national security, and that includes economic stability.
We as a society have decided to pay for certain common good items; roads, schools, military, parks, etc. The decision to be made is do we want to do this in a balanced way or an imbalanced way? Do we want to provide a living wage or do we want to provide massive social and corporate welfare? That is the question. If you look at this as a mathematical problem, the answer is clear the “minimum” wage would be the baseline at which anyone working full-time would not need any government assistance.
That is the essence of capitalism, operating within the “market” wages would be set by the cost of living. Simple isn’t it? Workers need to be able to afford to live and buy products or the economy does not work.
What we are currently doing is a perversion of the system of capitalism. We have socialized corporate operating costs and moved the risk, and the tax burden, from the company to the taxpayer. Republicans call this the “free” market. But it is not free. The cost to taxpayers is astronomical.
And in fact, the greatest redistribution of wealth has been under republican theories of economics. The scam known as “trickle down” economics is at its core tragically flawed. Where once workers were paid a fair wage and had lifetime benefits including pensions and healthcare, Ronnie Reagan and his democratization of money doctrine conned, I mean, convinced, American workers to give up their pensions. How? Well, they told workers they “deserved” to “invest their money, just like the rich”, and that all the billions corporations would save would just “trickle down” to workers.
How’d that work out so far?
I think the math pretty clearly shows that in this tale of two tax cuts, the correct tax cut are to the working poor and middle class not the rich. So the next time a conservative tries to tell you tax cuts to the rich are good for everyone because the benefit will “trickle down”, tell her to go do some math.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the world we’ve created. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it makes absolutely no sense. None. Not even a little. We have created a society based on a system of dichotomies and fallacies. And that is truly absurd. And there really wasn’t a name for what I was thinking. I needed a new phrase. And then it came to me, “civil dissonance”.
What is civil dissonance? It is the concept that we have allowed a system of government that is not beneficial to most humans, their welfare or life itself, and this dichotomous system has replaced the system we started with, you know, the one that allowed for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
Similar to cognitive dissonance, which, according to Merriam-Webster is the “…psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes (as a fondness for smoking and a belief that it is harmful)”; civil dissonance is the societal conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes, such as a belief in improving the standard of living for all but refusing to increase the minimum wage and lift millions out of poverty, or the inability to provide health care for all because that is too expensive while providing billions in tax welfare to the already rich and corporations.
Civil dissonance is the recognition that we are no longer acting in our own best interest. It is acknowledging we’ve allowed a system of entitlement for those who don’t need it, while those who do need it are demonized or ignored.
Civil dissonance is the conflict that results from creating a government and laws which work against our very survival and self-interest. It is allowing a wage that creates poverty while saying poverty is bad. It is creating a need for more social welfare programs, which create higher taxes while people continue to vote for “small government less taxes” and at the same time refuse to increase wages and therefore reduce social welfare programs which reduces taxes. It is electing people who don’t believe in government to run our government. It is taking our public funds, which once created good paying middle class jobs and allowing outsourcing and privatization to convert them into low wage jobs that create a need for higher taxes by creating poverty and a need for social welfare.
Why is a dollar spent on social programs bad, but that same dollar given to private enterprise somehow good? People say that it is competition which lowers prices, but the profit motive isn’t about lowering prices, it is about making money. It has always been the public sector, not the private, that has been most concerned with keeping costs low because of the fiduciary duty to taxpayers.
We’ve been convinced that regulation is bad and government worse. It makes no sense. Our society is actually based on the regulation and creation of capital and self –governance, you know that whole government for, by and of the people. Capitalism isn’t the absence of regulation and Democracy isn’t the absence of government.
Civil dissonance is related to cognitive dissonance, but while one is a private and personal issue, the other is a very public and societal issue, and it is ruining our world.
There is a solution to this conflict. We can stop electing people who want to dismantle our government and defund education, social welfare and environmental protections. We can insist on income equality and social justice for all. We can create a world that provides for the care and security of us all. You know, not only the whole love your neighbor, care for the weak, sick and elderly, but provide for our national security and preservation of our way of life.
Also known as being a patriot.
The first step is to increase the minimum wage. In a truly free market economy no one would work for less than basic subsistence required. A wage that creates poverty is not acceptable, it is not patriotic and it is certainly not good for our economy. A wage that creates poverty also creates human suffering as well as creating a need for higher taxes, that is not patriotic, that is not sustainable, that is not beneficial to our society. That is civil dissonance.
Copyright 2015 Lisa Longo All rights reserved
Who me? Really. Absolutely. I am all for a balanced budget and enhanced national security. I think we need to absolutely balance our budget, by passing legislation, for example the Fair and Balance Budget Act: for every dollar we gift a corporation as a subsidy, one dollar to education. For every dollar to defense, one to health & welfare. Every dollar to fossil fuel companies, one to renewable energy companies. And every dollar to animal based agriculture, one to plant-based. Now that is a balanced budegt.
And that is why I believe the only true conservative and responsible national policy is health care reform that will be self-funding. How? First, we must resolve ourselves to the reality of a national health care system. And we must accept the need for federal guidelines on wages for all public service employees, including teachers, police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, hospital staff & technicians, and most importantly, congressional members and their staff. Same pay, same benefits. Except combat troops, who would be paid double when in harm’s way.
That’s right, let’s use the same pay scale, based upon education, experience and performance for all public employees. I’d also add a phase out for anyone with a certain amount of passive income. They would opt out of all publicly funded pensions, and receive nominal compensation, based upon the amount of annual passive income they receive.
Second, change Social Security to the Social Security, Health and Education fund. Simple changes to our current social security funding mechanism will allow us to fully fund Social Security, health care and education. First, raise the wage base for the payroll tax to $5,000,000, or do away with the wage base altogether. This has the added benefit of taking away the tax welfare incentive for excessive executive compensation. We create the Social Security, Health & Education fund, establishing an endowment that will self-fund the administrative costs, and allow for cost increases over time. The fund will not be managed by an Investment Bank per se, but by a public non-profit that will invest the funds for the public good and manage returns in the public interest.
Third, we will ensure the balanced budget is resolved by utilizing current tax law and not by establishing any new taxes. First, we will limit tax deductions for executive compensation & benefits to average employee compensation and tax the excess as a dividend. Next, we will limit tax deductions for travel & entertainment to federal per diem, again taxing the excess as a dividend.
This is how our system worked for decades, until Reagan and his “democratization of money”, that was the beginning of the end. (See my earlier essay, How Trickle Down Theory Is Ruining Our Schools And Closing Our Libraries, Thank You Ronald Reagan)
Last, each of us must resolve to contribute not only financially via taxes, but intellectually to our political system. We must fight to add civics, ethics, government, economics and public policy classes as requirements at every level of education.
We need to ensure participation in our democratic process by addressing low voter turnout and working to increase the number of voters at every level. We need to become a citizen lobby and remember, this country was founded by community organizers. We need to draft legislation to protect our rights, for example, in order to protect our civil rights and constitutionally mandated 2nd amendment rights, we need to ensure adherence to the spirit of the law, and ensure the right to bear arms is equated with an educated and registered “militia,” by insisting gun owners register as a part of an actual militia, like the National Guard for training and annual license.
There is not a dichotomy in my stance as a socially liberal progressive fiscal conservative feminist. So go ahead, call me a fiscal conservative. I welcome it.
How does the economy work and what does the minimum wage have to do with anything? Well, it is a very simple, and a very complicated, question.
Let’s start with the simple part.
I’ve done a talk called “The True Cost of Cheap Sh$t”, and in it, I use the example of socks.
You can buy a bag of a dozen socks at a big box store like a Wal-Mart, for $11.64. That is less than $1 per pair. Now, to maintain those low, low prices, Wal-Mart has to have some basic policies so they can afford to profit while selling such cheap socks. The people who work at Wal-Mart therefore can’t make very much, many make just above minimum wage and many don’t have health care, sick or vacation days, pensions or other benefits.
So how do they do it? And how do their employees live on that low wage? Well, this is where it gets a little complicated, the cost for the low wages, and those low, low prices, are paid by taxpayers, to the tune of $6.2 BILLION a year. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/04/15/report-walmart-workers-cost-taxpayers-6-2-billion-in-public-assistance/)
So wow, those socks just got pretty expensive didn’t they?
Now let’s look at the alternative. A pair of organic cotton socks made in the USA, and let’s say they are $6.00 per pair. (http://www.ameliasorganic.com/products/5-x-2-marl-crew). They are likely of a much better quality, and will last longer, so you really don’t need to buy 12, you might be able to get buy with just 6, making the total $36.
Now, the employees who work for a company like this likely make more than the minimum wage, would have medical and other benefits and save taxpayers those billions we have to pay for the low, low prices at Wal-Mart. So, no $6.2 billion in annual welfare needed here.
Let’s figure out the true cost of those cheap socks. Each of the estimated 138 million US taxpayers has to pay an annual tax of $44.93 to cover just the costs we subsidize Wal-Mart for welfare to its workers. And by some estimates various forms of corporate welfare entitlement s cost taxpayers $3,000 to $4,000 each per year. So those socks you thought were less than a dollar? They don’t seem so cheap now do they?
Even those of us who don’t shop at Wal-Mart pay the price for their low prices. So, tell me what is the true cost of cheap sh$t? We haven’t even begun to factor in the societal costs, loss of dignity, lower standard of living, decreased longevity, raging income inequality. That is going to take a much longer blog. But just in the loss of human dignity and humanity, I’d say the cost of cheap sh$t is actually incalculable and much too expensive.
Another pipeline is leaking and people are being evacuated. More land is being contaminated.
Meanwhile, the Scotland Independence vote of course has drilling & extraction at its core. And the money I bet that is fueling that most, is right from the fossil fuel fools.
Here at home we have kids without books, winter coming and they don't have coats. We have Vets killing themselves and the mentally ill allowed to buy guns and unlimited ammo.
Meanwhile our friends on the right keep telling us the problem is poor people, never mind that they created the great vast poverty that engulfs us. Never mind that the poverty wage they bestow upon their corporate sponsors is costing taxpayers trillions and creating an inequality that is killing the American dream. Never mind that they refuse to lower interest rates, forgive debt or help the people, they are too busy helping the rich, they need another tax break or they won't not create any jobs.
They don't care, because the election comes and people everywhere say, oh, but that's politics. What do I care? The game is coming on, be quiet. Or I have to work. I'm too busy. I don't care. My vote doesn't matter. The system is broken. Its all corrupt. Why should I bother?
And so we all dig deep in our pockets to help the poor, the hungry, the ill and the aged. Keeping our own economies unequal, never mind the right shoveling our cash to the rich, they have to have tax breaks they tell us, to create jobs, as we watch the middle class disappear.
My feelings turn to despair, which in turn creates in me an anger and I begin to despise the superficial arrogance of the many for ignoring what the few are doing right in front of them. Because make no mistake, this is going on RIGHT in front of you.
When all of you are really as sick of this as you say, you will rise up and take back what is yours. Your money, your homes, your savings, your children's futures. Our land, water and air.
The real revolution happens every year on election day. And one day, I'm going to see millions of American's finally realize that we had the power all along and act accordingly.
What a wonderful day that will be.
What if we all let go of hate and fear? What if we embraced kindness and compassion? What if today we found our inner hero and we were all brave enough to stand our ground for what we know what is right? What if we all decided to change the world? What if right now, as you read this, you realize that you have the power to change everything? What if we come together and develop a strategy to create the world we want to see? What if we realize we are the heroes of this story, not the victims?
What does that look like? What would we do? How do we get started? We have to ask some hard questions of ourselves. What is right? What is moral? How do we want to live? And what are we willing to do to create the world we want? Are we willing to do the work it will take? Are we willing to fight for what we know is right? I’m sick of doing the same things and expecting a different result. That is the definition of insanity. We’ve let the old, rich white men have their turn, and frankly, their way sucks. It is time to try a new way.
And I’m not going to ask what you are willing to die for, death is inevitable, the goal is to prolong life not take it away.
What are some other goals we can agree on? And how do we make them reality? It is time to not only think and talk about these ideas, it is time to make them reality. The old ways of guns and bombs don’t work. We have to change that paradigm. And I think it starts by us taking the high road. It is basing our actions and policy on kindness and compassion, not hate and fear. It is acting, regardless of race or religion, party or politics, on common values. It is time to have a war on ignorance, fear and hate.
What are our common values? Can we start with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Can we all agree that caring for the poor, sick, aged and children is morally correct and a common good? Can we agree that preserving life is important?
Because here is the thing, our time on this planet in this incarnation is limited. We are all going to die. There is no doubt, and yet we are wasting our time, our lives, spinning our wheels just surviving instead of living. We are allowing our time to be constrained and constricted, our days to be numbered. Why are we still worried about making ends meet when we know we are all going to meet our end at some unspecified date that is not far enough away for any of us?
It may well be that the meaning of life is figuring this out: how to live. Could it really be that simple? Have we been overlooking the obvious answer to this age old question? The meaning of life is to live. Not to exist. And certainly not to allow existence to be only about subsistence. The meaning of life is to improve the lives of everyone.
Wow. That felt like an epiphany.
Now for the hard part. What is stopping us? What is keeping us from creating the world we know is possible? What does that world look like? And what are the forces working against us?
What is stopping us? Fear. Apathy. And the people who have invested heavily in the current system. Those would be mostly the rich, old white men who have amassed great fortunes and who are cackling with mad glee as they fly their private jets or sail on their yachts to their offshore tax havens while they convince people it is all for their own good, anything else is communism, socialism, class warfare and you are not a patriot if you question the status quo. It is whatever their spinmasters cook up that day to convince people that this system of income inequality is inevitable.
There is more than enough money in the world for everyone to live above poverty levels. That is a fact. Our motive power created that. And now it is time for us to remember, this is all ours. Life itself is our most precious commodity, not their oil or guns, we aren’t here to protect their way of life. We have to let go of outmoded thinking and outdated policy. Guns and bombs, tax breaks for billionaires, fracturing our planet for profit. Those are the old way. And it is time to retire them.
What are the forces working against us? I think the most powerful force stopping us is us. This feeling that we are victims of some great “other”. That this is being done to us, but not by us. The mistaken belief that our actions have no meaning. The constant refrain that you “can’t beat City Hall”. Well yes, we can. And we must. But first we have to overcome the fear and apathy. That is the real weapon that is destroying us.
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Aren’t we ready to be done with that?
And guess what? We have the one thing that no money can buy, our votes. This is the weapon we have that can destroy the old paradigm. This is how we fund our schools and care for our Veteran’s. It is how we honor our aged and care for our children.
We can create a world based on kindness and respect, compassion and caring, or we can continue to allow the old guard to plunder our world to protect their way of life while taking ours. It is time to let that go. Just let it go.
I’m ready to make my stand. Are you? Are you ready to let it go?
Does that surprise you? Did you think slavery was abolished hundreds of years ago when the Civil War ended? Really? Why? Because the history books told you so? But is that what you see? Do you see a free and equal society? A land of opportunity for all? A land of the free and home of the brave as the Founders foresaw? Have we created a society where “ALL men are created equal”? Really? Do you see a world that our Founders would be proud of? Because I don’t.
What I see is a system based on inequality. I see inequality growing with the creation of institutions like for-profit prisons and privatized for-profit public schools. I see inequality growing from corporate subsidies and tax gifts to private companies while we cut and gut public programs like education. And I see this growing inequality as a form of institutionalized modern slavery.
Why? How did we get here? Was this what the Founders intended? I doubt it. So how did this happen? How, and why, have we allowed institutionalized slavery in our modern society?
I believe it is apathy. Too many people giving up, that is the problem. I think we need to fight for our freedom now, just as we did then. And the war now is the funding of our schools and the education of our children. It is being fought in legislative battles to increase the minimum wage and protect our environment. And it is being fought by those of us trying to stop the tax gifts and tax welfare entitlements to the wealthy, to corporations, and on a local level, to private real estate developers.
I am going to pose some questions to you today, some may be difficult to answer and some may be unpleasant to ponder, but I am going to ask you to do this all the same, and I am going to ask you to take action. I’m going to ask you to remember why this country was founded. And I am going to ask you to stand up for our principles of freedom and democracy. Safeguarding our system and providing a better future is part of the deal the Founders expected of us, and I believe it is our moral responsibility to fight this battle.
So here goes, let’s get started with a few questions, first, how is our current system different from the Plantation Economy of years ago? How are the lives of students indebted for decades or those of the tens of millions living in poverty while a few control the wealth of the world any different from the slave economy from those long ago days? Haven’t we simply created a new class of slaves?
We may no longer be chattel, but I have no illusions, for most people on this planet, our lives are owned and controlled by a few hundred very rich men who have no intention of giving up their wealth and power just so the rest of us can have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Why would they? Less than 30% of us show up on most Election Days, so those in power feel pretty secure in the system of corporate slavery they have created. Locally that percentage is even lower, and few people pay attention when our tax dollars are gifted to private profiteers in the name of “progress”.
So what if a local Council votes to give a private developer a tax gift of millions? (See What is LERTA?) They know people won’t blame the future increase in real estate and school taxes on that reality. Oh no, “they” will blame “out of control” spending, greedy teachers and public pensions. What a scam.
And the fact that corporations are gifted billions of our tax dollars every day while our national debt increases? Who pays for that? And why? From the fossil fuel industry to Wal-mart, they are allowed to pay wages that create poverty and endanger public health, and yet millions of people continue to support these corporations, spending billions every year on their slave made products, war supplied oil, and earth fracturing gas.
Why should these corporations change their ways when they have our means? Who is paying attention? They take our motive power and our money and convert both into more wealth for themselves. Millions of people are sitting home, convinced the system is broken, so they don’t bother to vote. They know something is wrong, but they don’t know how to fix it. And why don’t they? Where would they get that knowledge? Well, wouldn’t you think teaching Civics and Public Policy would be the job of our schools? And why aren’t schools teaching this?
Ask yourself this, who benefits from defunding education? Why do we spend millions of our tax dollars on athletics for the few while gutting academic programs for the many? Who is more likely to speak out and create change, the captain of the debate team or the captain of the basketball team? And yes, I know there are plenty of civically minded athletes, I am trying to make a larger point about how we fund programs. Do you really think the Founders thought football was more important than Philosophy?
Oh, the mad men in charge are laughing all the way to their offshore banks because their children go to the best colleges, many of which are now “tuition-free” or offer large grants from their “endowments”. Their kids aren’t graduating saddled with debt, starting their adult lives already indentured to the banks. Oh no, their kids either have trust funds (which we subsidized), scholarships (also subsidized) or get “free” tuition (yes, we subsidize that too).
Oh, you didn’t know that? This is a big part of the scam, college debt. Our kids are forced into a life of indebtedness or told that going to college isn’t “necessary”, while the best schools are offering “free” educations to the children of the rich and powerful. Why do you think that is? Why are subsidizing the slave wages and environmental degradation their excessive profits require but not the education of all our children?
I’ll tell you why, apathy. While you sit home and bitch but refuse to vote or go to meetings, the rich are sending their children to college and flying their private jets to their private islands to hide the profits made with our public tax dollars, all subsidized by your slave labor and condoned by your apathy.
And all the trolls ready to screech and type in all caps that I am a SOCIALIST. That our Founding Fathers would shoot me on the spot. That I am some liberal, feminazi, communist, ignorant, low information voter. Get a grip. Read what the Founders really thought about funding public education.
So what can you do? You can show up. You can question what is going on. You can understand that this country was founded on the expectation of citizen engagement. You can remember that our Founders were community organizers and rabble-rousers, and that they didn’t guarantee us freedom, they gave us the right to pursue it.
Isn’t it time for us to insist on our right to education for all? Let’s get started. Let’s insist on FREE public education. Right through college as the Founders intended.
Please review the petition on Moveon.org to insist on free education for all. As the Founders intended. Sign on here, and please share.