Dedicated to the life of Mr. Nelson Mandela, whose life is an inspiration to me and whose story will be retold for many centuries to come.
When the story of your life is written, no one will care which team you supported. Or where you shopped. No one will care if you went to the "big" game, or the "big" sale. It won't matter how much money you saved shopping at discount stores, or how much you spent on tickets and jerseys.
No one will remember or care who you voted for on Idol, or Dancing with the Stars or Survivor. No one will care that you played Call of Duty, or even that you ran out to buy a gun after 20 children were murdered with one.
No one will remember that you wished things were different.
No one will remember you for that day you spent hours in line or online to save a few dollars on stuff made with slave and child labor. They won't care that you meant well, or that you donated a few dollars to United Way.
No one will remember that you loved the idea of fairness, equality and justice, but were too busy to do anything about it.
What will matter is what you actually stood for. How you changed the world. How you left your mark. What you actually did is all that will matter.
Think about who you admire. Who you remember. Who you are grateful existed. And then honor them with your life, your action, your ability and your values.
Don't tell me you don't have time, because I know how little time we have.
Every day I am faced with one less day to accomplish what needs to be done. And it breaks my heart. The reality of the shortness of human life is one I cannot escape.
To wake up every day and realize that now I have one less day with my daughter, one less day to be heard, one less day to make a difference is maddening.
We only have so many days to be remembered by. Only so many days to create our story.
And I am going to ask you, who will write the story of your life and will it be worth repeating?
Just because something happens after something else has happened does not mean that second thing had anything to do with the first thing. Things happen all the time. Constantly, all around us, things are happening and they may or may not have any cause and effect relationship.
Things may be linked, or said to be causal, when in fact they have no relationship at all. Like the invasion of Iraq after September 11th. If we were to review the rhetoric around that event we would say that the logical fallacy there was definitely of the “questionable cause” variety. Or this latest round of rhetoric about the Affordable Care Act, some insurance companies are canceling policies, so therefore our President must have lied. Nope. Not true. It is a handy talking point for the opposition, but it is in fact, just another logical fallacy.
Once you start listening for them, you’ll find them everywhere. I can’t help it now, from the news to sitcoms; I am listening for the rhetoric to separate the bias from the basis.
For example, if we look at tax policy and economic impacts, we can draw direct causation from policy decisions. That is after all the goal of policy decisions, to have economic impact. But, you will find many people trying to convince you otherwise. The minimum wage isn’t the reason people are poor. Low wages which are not enough to live on causing people to go on food stamps and medical assistance are not the problem. Excessive compensation of executives is not the problem. The problem is people are poor and on food stamps. As if the effect, poverty, was there without cause, low wages.
Listen for it. You’ll be fascinated. So when talking about economic impact of tax and labor policy we can definitely say “after this, therefore because of this”. Because that is in fact the reason we have tax and labor policy. Do not let anyone convince you other this is not so.
If we look at economic data from the last 50 years or so, we can begin to develop some interesting conclusions. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. For example, executive wages have increased astronomically, but we are told a $2.00 per hour increase in the minimum wage will cause product prices to increase astronomically.
That is a logical fallacy.
We are told that the increase in welfare and food stamps is the problem, but this is a fallacy of omission, because the increase in the cost for welfare and food stamps is due to not increasing the minimum wage.
We are told that the problem with the economy is that taxes are too high when in fact the rich and corporations are proportionately paying much lower tax rates and actual taxes than they did in the past during strong economic returns.
We are told that our public schools are the problem when in fact our schools have better graduation rates and our students are improving, the problem is poor students are not gaining at the same rate.
We are told that teachers, police, and firefighters are costing us too much money while private companies are subcontracted at the same or a higher rate.
We are told that common good services are socialist, but corporate socialism is a common good.
We are told that only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun, but, well, if that were true wouldn’t the police have stopped all crime?
There are certain truths that are self-evident. The rest is rhetoric.
Funding public education, protecting our children, paying a living wage, and basic safety regulations are “good” things. They provide for our national well being, improve our economy and protect our future.
Funding private enterprise, protecting corporations, paying excessive compensation to executives and a free for all regulatory laissez faire attitude are not “good”, they do nothing for our common good and actually hurt our economy.
We, as a society, have to make decisions on how we want the world to be. Do we want low wages and big social welfare programs, basically socialism to support capitalism, or do we want to do what is needed for our capitalistic system to work, which is have regulation of wages to provide for smaller social programs. It is one or the other. As I have said before, you can’t have your cake and eat mine too.
So why are we here? Why are CEO’s and executives making millions while the minimum wage is still under $10 per hour? Why are we discussing closing libraries, defunding schools and reducing public programs when we give trillions to corporations in subsidies? Why are we allowing our national resources and economic policy to be used to the detriment of citizens and to the benefit of legal fictions who are now considered protected by “free speech”? And yet those legal fictions are not held to the same standards when it comes to political contributions, why is that?
The problem is, too many people sit out elections. They think the system is broken.
It isn’t. Something is broken, but it isn’t our system.
What is broken? The people who sit out elections. They have been broken by misinformation, rhetoric and outright lies. They have been broken by campaigns to distract and distort the truth. And they have been disillusioned and disenfranchised by people who have a lot to gain by you staying home from the polls.
People have forgotten that this country was founded by a bunch of rabble-rousing community organizers. So if you don’t like the world around you, get up and change it. Our system was built for dynamic action. The entire thing is predicated on participatory democracy.
And that means you.
So enjoy Thanksgiving. Be thankful. Eat, drink and be merry. And then, get up and do something.
My daughter and I spent the day at a college fair. It took us almost five hours to go through the rows of schools, the admissions counselors all trying not to look bored if no one was at their table, and the usual crowds at the “popular” local choices: Penn State, Drexel, U Penn and Temple (only U Penn making it onto my girls list). The students hurrying from table to table with barcodes to be scanned into databases recording their interest for posterity and the parents intense, looking for the school that would give their child the secret to his or her success.
We ran into the Admissions Director from Wilkes-Barre University. He told us about his dinner with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last week and how impressed Secretary Duncan is with the “Phoenixville Model”, which is our pre-engineering program, a dual enrollment course with Wilkes and our high school. We talked about how lucky we are to have this program and my plan to recruit more girls, and we talked about the need for more math and science for our students, more rigorous classes and more funding for our schools.
And I do not understand why our school district isn’t doing more to recruit girls into this amazing program. The “Phoenixville Model” offers our students the opportunity to graduate high school with 23 college credits in engineering. This program puts the students in a very small pool and at the top of the list for admissions. I spoke about this to our current school board several months ago, explaining how amazing an opportunity this is for our students and asking them to develop a program to educate parents. I was told it was “not the job” of the school board to “recruit” students for a specific program. How shockingly short-sighted I thought at the time, and after our day impressing school after school with the classes my daughter is taking, it seems even more shockingly short-sighted.
But after spending the day surrounded by all those teens, eager to start the next phase of their life, hearing my daughter talking to admissions counselors, asking about studying abroad and job opportunities, I had a moment that brought tears to my eyes. My baby, soon she will be leaving for college. This young woman she has become, she so amazing. And she has so much to look forward to. So much to accomplish.
And I realized how fleeting life is. How quickly it passes. And how important it is to leave one’s mark. To do something truly amazing and worthwhile, whatever that means to you. It is not about money or power, it is about real impact and lasting impressions. And I can say with absolute surety, my life has been so worthwhile, because I see the proof every time I look at my daughter.
My life speaks for itself. I live a purposeful life, and I live it with intention. I hold myself to a very high ethical standard, and believe that integrity and trustworthiness are as important as compassion and empathy. I live with passion and will continue to fight for the things that are important to me, and to fight against the inequities and unfairness I see, especially when it has to do with our children.
My life though fleeting is filled with purpose. May yours be as well, and may it be filled with happiness, kindness and laughter.
And stay tuned for more info, I’ll be speaking at our middle school in January on how to get started with college strategy, and why parents need to get started early, and plan to organize a STEM college fair for our school in the spring, as well as a STEM career fair.
(I mean really, no one thought losing was going to stop me did they? Next week, how renewable energy can fund our schools and change our future)
So this is how Alex Castellanos tried to explain what Ted Cruz was doing, "He's having bunny sex",
to which Anderson Cooper replied, "Are you high?"
That sums it up, watch it yourself:
Conservatives Proposed, Endorsed, Supported and Wanted the Affordable Care Act Before It Was Obamacare (Go Figure)
Who saw Jimmy Kimmel’s great bit asking people if they supported the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare? Funny right? How people didn’t know they were the same thing. How just by calling it Obamacare you could find people who were “against” it. How they thought Obamacare was “socialist” and bad, but the Affordable Care Act was well, affordable and good.
It was funny in a sick and sad “I can’t look away from the wreck” kind of way. Mostly because in 1989 the conservative policy center, The Heritage Foundation, published a paper written by Stuart M. Butler titled “A National Health System for America”. Which is basically the outline for the ACA.
Honestly, this is a picture of the document, you can download it yourself: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/1989/a-national-health-system-for-america
So why now are conservatives howling with outrage? How did they go from supporting the creation of a market-based health care system to shutting down the government?
It isn’t the policy they hate. It is the man. From the day he was elected conservatives (and even before the election in 2008), they vowed to undermine and obstruct everything. (http://swampland.time.com/2012/08/23/the-party-of-no-new-details-on-the-gop-plot-to-obstruct-obama/)
Republicans were not afraid this President was going to fail, they were terrified he was going to be successful.
This was their worst nightmare. A few years of economic recovery followed by growth and including health care reform? Do you know what that adds up to in conservative math?
Absolute repudiation of trickle-down, voodoo, “small government, less tax” economic policy.
And now it is all happening. The economy is finally recovering. Democrats have had to fight for every inch of growth and recovery. But they did it. They had to battle to pass every piece of legislation, but they did it.
So what do conservatives do? Do they accept the fact that they lost? Do they respect the Constitutional validity of the ACA as decided by United States Supreme Court and vow to work with our President to secure and strengthen our recovery? Do they stop for one minute and remember, the Affordable Care Act was their idea to start with?
Nope, not even a glimmer of any of that.
Here is another excerpt from the conservative plan for a National Health Care System:
They even proposed, actually insisted upon, the individual mandate:
And government subsidies:
They provided for the “high-risk” families, endorsing “tax relief”, which is just another way of saying socialist tax welfare entitlements:
And even recommended the establishment of the exchanges in their own way:
And of course, they wanted a way to ensure everyone was part of the system, a requirement would be established, similar to the one for auto insurance:
And what is the reason we can’t have health care reform?
And so here we are, at that proverbial impasse. We cannot budge that immovable object. And conservatives cannot see past their irrational fear of a policy they suggested 25 years ago being successful and then having to admit they were wrong.
I get it, honestly, people hate admitting they are wrong. And this is a pretty big “oops”. Sending our economy into a tailspin because your ideological warriors have idiotically dug in their heels over a policy their party “think” tank developed has got to hurt.
So c’mon people, it is time to do more than read a few posts, click like and share and think you have done your civic duty. Pick up the phone, click a few more buttons and contact Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, Rubio, Cruz, Bachmann, Paul, Ryan, and every other member of the House and Senate you can, tell them to stop this nonsense.
And then, find out who is running in the 2014 mid-term. Call them, ask questions. Decide who you can support. And then help get them elected.
Here are three things we need to change to end this type of nonsense:
- Insist on creation of non-partisan Commission to set voting precinct lines. No more gerrymandering.
- Term limits in the House and Senate.
- Reform the tax code to limit deduction of corporate salary to the Social Security Wage Base and insist Congress pay into Social Security and make them give up their free public health care and pension. Sign the petition at http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/true-entitlement-reform-1
Here is link to House of Representative contact information: http://www.house.gov/representatives/
John Boehner’s contact info:
- 1011 Longworth H.O.B. Washington, DC 20515
- (202) 225-6205
Please feel free to email this to your member of Congress and your local newspaper. The only way to overcome fear is to expose the truth. Please help me do that.
That was Darrell Issa’s question to reporters. How dare who? Me? How dare I? How DARE I? HOW DARE I? Where do I start?
This is about Issa and his band of “darlings” wanting to defund the ACA. A piece of legislation that now protects my daughter from ever being denied health insurance. This legislation that will allow millions of American’s to purchase health insurance and is already ensuring that being female is not treated by insurance companies as a “disease”. Legislation that extends protection to students. Provides more care for everyone. And limits the amount that insurance companies can spend on themselves rather than our care.
How dare I? How dare I what? What is the horrible transgression Issa and others are fighting against? I’ll tell you what they are fighting. They want to stop Obamacare. Why? What does the ACA do? It provides heath care for American’s. It is legislation that we passed, and the Supreme Court ruled on. And it provides for the care of our nation.
Caring for the poor. Protecting the sick. Providing services to the needy. This is what we dare.
We, the godless Liberals conservatives rant about, the ones who insist there be no prayer or guns in our schools. The ones who want to provide education not tax welfare entitlements for billionaires. We seem to be fighting for a Christian ideal they accuse us of despising.
- Feed the poor. Liberals support this.
- Provide for those in need. Ditto, liberals are all for it.
- Heal the sick. We’re trying. Honestly, we are the ones trying to do this.
It is so ironic. So when I hear the fake outrage from people holding themselves out as superior Patriots, while railing against our President and our country, all I can think is: you liar, how dare you? You fake, you phony. You liar. And in twitterspeak, you #fakepatriots, it is time we insist on #welfarenotwarfare.
Does anyone else remember a different time? I do, I go back to the ‘70’s, when I was growing up in North New Jersey. People were more relaxed. We had more free time. Our parents worked, but we also had security. My family was solidly middle-class. Third generation American’s and so proud of it. My grandfather and his brothers worked hard to be community leaders. From Mayor to School Board President, they instilled in me the responsibility we owe our nation.
I don’t remember how or when I became aware of health care and pensions. It may have been as a teenager. At 12 I was a spending my time going to NYC with my mom and my Aunt. My 2 year old cousin was diagnosed with Leukemia, and every month I went with them to NYC for her treatments. Once a month I would spend a day or two with kids who were sick and dying. I am sure I overheard many conversations about her treatment, the cost, and how “lucky” they were to have “good insurance”.
A few years later my Grandfather died after open-heart surgery, just before he got sick he was planning his retirement, telling me how he had his pension and he was going to take us on an adventure, me, him and my Grandmother. He was going to buy an RV and take us to see these United States.
It may have been during this time I first heard of health insurance and pensions. How it helped pay for the treatments that kept my cousin alive for a little while. Or the pension my Grandfather looked forward to, but which helped my Grandmother pay the bills after his death.
One of my first “real” jobs in accounting, when I was 19, included accounting for pensions and health care. I learned how to compute the amount required BY LAW that we fund for our pension and health care obligation. I was responsible for accounting for retirees, and ensuring they received their proper check each month.
Many of the people who received checks had worked for one of the companies this multi-national conglomerate owned for 20 or even 30, years. They had given the better part of their lives to help make millions for someone else, all for the promise of a comfortable retirement, one that provided the protection of a pension and health care.
And I remember in the ‘80’s, when the dismantling of pensions began and Reagan hailed the “democratization of money”. American workers were convinced that they were greedy, (sound familiar?), expecting billion dollar corporations to fund their retirement and provide for their families healthcare. How dare they? Of course they were expected to work long hours for low pay and in some cases unhealthy conditions. But they were lucky to have a job at all. Just look at all the immigrants clamoring to get here for a slice of the American Dream.
And so American workers were convinced to give up their pensions for the 401k. It would be the great leveler. A wealth creator. Security generator. It would save corporations billions, and all that money would “trickle down” to workers.
How’d that work out?
Are we better off? More secure? Do we have more money in the bank? Are people retiring with dignity and security? Are we healthier? Able to retire and provide for our families?
And Issa wants to know how dare I?
I’ll tell him how I dare. I dare because I am a Patriot. I dare because I remember the American Dream. I dare because I know we can create a world that cares for the sick and provides for the needy without converting our nation to Socialism and breaking the back of Capitalism.
It is time to ask the GoP, how dare you? How dare you take my money and give it to the rich. How dare you insist we pay for wars and oil & gas extraction but not education and health care. How dare you lie to us and use the tactics of blackmail and intimidation to try to force your dogma on us.
How dare you try to take money from the poor, needy, children and our Vets to give it to your wealthy backers and corporate sponsors?
How dare you threaten to shut down our government so you can try to force us to give in to your demands and accept your dogma?
How dare you try to trample on women’s rights to reproductive freedom?
How dare you stand there, smug and secure in your elected capacity and forget that you work for me?
How dare you assume for one minute that you have the power to overcome the will of the American voters and the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States of America?
Do me a favor, call Issa, call Cruz, call Rand Paul and Michele Bachmann, remind them who they work for. Ask them the questions I wrote. Send them this essay.
Ask them, how dare you?
Call Democrats as well, let them know, we are daring. And we expect them to dare too.
- Here is how to contact members of the House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
- Contact your Senator: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?OrderBy=state&Sort=ASC
- And The White House, contact them too. http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
Go ahead, make a difference. I dare you.
“This is beautiful”, these were the words I said on the day the Camp was established at Philadelphia City Hall. From the first day, I was there several times a week, spoke at many GA’s, was there helping with food service, messaging, finance and sanitation. Eventually I stopped working with Occupy Philadelphia over differences on matters of policy, including the decision to not move the camp when requested by Mayor Nutter. I was also totally disillusioned by the lack of any political strategy for impacting change. The “leaderless” approach, which nominally made us all leaders, was overcome by the concept of absolute collaborative decision-making, which led to endless discussions on “points” of contention, and anyone who wanted to stop a decision could do so.
Now let me say right here, I know there are many people still working in and with Occupy and some are accomplishing really amazing things. I wish them nothing but success. I simply do not agree with the absolute insistence on being apolitical, and have moved on. But I have to be honest, Occupy broke my heart, and here is how and why.
I am a political junkie who became a political activist on September 3, 2011. That is the day I was arrested at the 1st Tar Sands Action at the White House. It is a day and moment I will never forget. Two weeks later people were occupying Zucotti Park, and I felt a surge of hope that finally, we were about to see millions of people realize that they had the power to change everything, just by engaging and becoming politically active.
Instead Occupy made politics a venereal disease. OWS came out and said that they were going to be “apolitical”, and those of us who called for political action were accused of attempting to “co-opt” the ”movement”. “Both sides are equally bad”, “the system is broken”, “Democrats and Republicans are the same”. And then OWS made an “official” statement, they would not engage politically. The debate was over, and political activists left the movement droves.
I was stunned. And yes, heart-broken. OWS had captured global attention and had millions of people in the US ready to become involved and impact change, and instead that moment was lost. I wrote, I went to meet with Occupy members. I tried and tried to explain that we could change everything. The system wasn’t broken, and the only people who wanted to hear this message were conservatives, who were mad with glee at the absolute ineffectiveness of this leaderless movement that had a chance to change the world and refused the responsibility.
Why can’t the left find its voice? Why is it liberal and progressive voters are so quick to give up? To sit home and blame “the system”? When did we forget, we are the system? How did we go from being strong advocates for change to having this victim mentality? Sadly, I don’t know. I wish I could find the magic words to motivate millions. Every week I wake up on Sunday and hope that today will be the day I will write something that will wake up the sleeping dragon.
What will it take? How can I convince you that voting and activism work? What about all the amazing things activists have accomplished? Think back, remember the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war protests. Women’s Rights. The truth is, the ONLY thing that can overcome the immense infiltration of money and special interest is individual action.
And I can prove it to you. In 2012 more money, especially dark money, was poured into the coffers of conservative efforts to take the White House. There were many who thought there was no way “we the people” could overcome that amount of cash. And we did. We did not allow money to win. We the people came out and voted, and that my friend is proof that our system does indeed still work.
And I hope that I can motivate you. We have an election in two months. Local elections; School Board and local Councils, Judges and other municipal offices. Do you know who is running? Do you know what they stand for? What policies they will enact in your name? Do you know how they plan to spend your money and safeguard our land and schools? Do you know what is important to them? Do you know if they are worthy of your vote?
Because this is the hard truth, the system isn’t failing us. We are failing our system.
And I can’t help but feel Occupy failed us too. And that is how Occupy broke my heart. Instead of seeing the importance of the moment and rising to it, they acted like a commitment-phobic date after a one night stand, refusing to return our calls or explain coherently their inability to commit.
And me? I’ll just keep trying. Hoping one day to find the right words to motivate the left to action.
Now our President has rolled out some ideas to make college more affordable, but still, he avoids any mention of the real reason tuition and public education are so expensive. It has nothing to do with student loan debt. It may or may not have to do with Administration costs and salaries, but I think that is a small part of it. The real problem is the decline of corporate tax revenues.
Over the last 30 years corporations have contributed less to our national tax revenue. According to Politifact 27.7% less. (http://www.politifact.com/virginia/statements/2011/jul/02/mark-warner/mark-warner-says-corporate-taxes-share-us-revenue-/). And there are numerous studies and analysis documenting this fact.
The Washington Post found the following:
A Washington Post analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ, a research firm, found that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, companies listed on the current Dow 30 routinely cited U.S. federal tax expenses that were 25 to 50 percent of their worldwide profits. Now, most are reporting less than half that share.
Now, far be it for me to point out the obvious, I mean, I only have a degree in Accounting with a minor in European Accounting and Law and 25+ years of finance and corporate tax experience, but doesn’t that seem like it might be a problem?
And remember, corporate profits have been soaring over the same time period.
But something else is soaring as well, and it will connect these two things, one of which would seem to have nothing to do with the other. It is apples and oranges; that is what Republican’s try to say. Corporations are private enterprises. Education, including State Colleges and Universities, are a public program, and therefore subject to their “small government, less tax” hacksaw.
But are corporation’s really private enterprises if they take millions, even billions in tax subsidies and entitlements every year? They take far more in entitlements than students receive in benefits. It would seem corporate tax welfare is the real issue. Because that is what is really soaring. How is that copacetic with the free-for-all market? What costs us more, investment in education or corporate tax giveaways? Which provides the most long-term payback to a Nation? Which is the wiser, more conservative and responsible investment?
These are some of the questions for any elephants in the room. Please, ask your Republican friends. Contact legislators. These are the questions we need to be asking.
Think it through, student loan debt. It is a debt. Paid back with interest. So “We The People” can make a profit on that. Corporate tax welfare, well now, that is a giveaway, and we get very little in return. Certainly we don’t see a profit on corporate tax subsidies. Sure, corporations provide jobs, and conservatives like to argue that is why corporations are entitled to our tax dollars. But how many jobs are being created? Are they high quality jobs with good pay and benefits?
The fact is, the jobs being created are lower pay with less benefits than in the past. So why aren’t we reducing the corporate tax subsidies accordingly? Why instead are we defunding schools and taking away funding for Pell Grants? Why do we allow corporations to deduct 100% of excessive salaries but they pay Social Security tax on only $113,100? That is a HUGE tax entitlement. Shutting down that one loophole would provide funding for education and Social Security. You can join the movement to change that by signing this petition: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/true-entitlement-reform-1
This country has plenty of money, we just keep giving it to the top 1% and corporations. So, I’m really curious to know the answer to my questions. Here is another one for our conservative friends, how is it economically beneficial or fiscally responsible to give billions annually in tax subsidies and entitlements to highly profitable corporations and then cut funding to our schools and infrastructure that long term will cost us all more in support and repairs? And please, tell our elephant friends, do not quote me the “effective” tax rate, the fact is corporations pay less tax than they did 30 years ago (see above), and by paying excessive salaries, they reduce their profit, resulting in an even smaller tax burden. Here is another question to ask, how is allowing this patriotic and how does it impact our national security?
Do me a favor, I’d really like an answer to that question too, so next time you are in a room with a Republican, ask them that very question. And please, let me know what they say.
Everything is connected. We can all agree on that can’t we? For each and every action there is an equal, and equally important, reaction. This realization pervades so much of what I believe and how I live. It leads me to question and research policies and practices. And I see a connection to three major policy issues, what I call the 3e’s: education, equality and environment. And the way we develop our policies in these three areas impacts every aspect of our lives, our future, our well being and our country.
Here are a few facts that I find very disturbing about our policy decisions:
Spending per student $10,560, 2011 (http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/governments/cb13-92.html)
Spending per prisoner $26,094, increase of 33% in a decade, 2001 – 2011 (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42937.pdf)
In Tennessee, the first state to allow private for-profit prisons, the gap for youth is huge:
Cost per student for public education $10,000
Cost per youth incarcerated $88,000
So how is this fiscally conservative or beneficial to our national security or public safety?
During the time period from the 1980’s, and the creation of private for-profit prisons in the United States, and today, we have seen our prisons become overcrowded and our schools receive less and less funding. Why is that? Is there a connection, and if so how did it happen, and is it in the best interest of our country? Most experts, and even some Conservatives like Condaleeza Rice, think it is time we recognize that our national security is suffering, and our lack of support for education is a big part of why.
Here is another question I think we need to ask: why do we have 2.3 million citizens behind bars but only 1.8 million who received Bachelor’s Degrees? (http://video.msnbc.msn.com/martin-bashir/52747542#52747542)
I feel like our country is in the midst of a bad dream with a trail of broken promises. What happened to the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? How did the US end up trailing other countries in math and science but leading in prison population? And what about our environment? How does our investment and regulation and specific policy decisions impact our way of life?
I think the answer is simple, where you spend your money shows what you value. Vice President Biden made this point very well with regard to the Federal Budget process, he said “…show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value”, look at our Federal and State budgets, from them it would seem we value only war and incarceration, but not education or health care. We have to deal with some hard facts. We have limited funding for programs, we can choose to put those taxpayers dollars to work funding programs that will have a long-term strategic benefit, or we can keep paying to put people in prisons and fight wars.
The same is true of our environmental policy, we give billions every year in tax subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. We underwrite even more of their costs with the invisible subsidies, for example, how much does it cost us to support the infrastructure for oil & gas, including building new homes “ready” for service, but not for solar, wind or geothermal? Why are we continuing to use taxpayer dollars to fund one of the most profitable industries on the planet that is causing massive climate disruption and devastation?
The war on drugs is another example. We spend approximately $50 billion every year, and it has failed. But this failure in our public sector has been very lucrative for private for-profit prisons. Companies like the Corrections Corporation of American, GEO and Community Education Centers have made billions, and they spend millions lobbying Congress and State Legislatures.
Can you guess what they are lobbying for? How does a private for-profit prison make money? More prisoners of course. The private prison lobby has been working closely with the American Legislative Exchange Council to impose mandatory, and in some cases what is described as draconian, sentences. We are filling prisons with non-violent low risk inmates all so a nameless, faceless corporation which is likely hiding its profit offshore can generate revenue.
How did the land of the free and the home of the brave come to this?
Well, I’d say let’s follow the money. The two biggest private for-profit prison contractors are making an estimated $3 billion per year, funded entirely by taxpayers.
And why? What is the reason? It is all about the transfer of wealth. It is the redistribution of our taxes to corporate “persons”. Far from the fiction that Democrats are taking money from the rich to give to the poor, Republicans are actually taking money from the middle-class and working poor and shoveling it to the wealthy and corporations. Conservatives want to funnel money from our public system to private enterprise. It is the entire goal of “small government, less taxes” and trickle-down economics. They hate to see a dollar spent on a public program, they would rather give that dollar to a private corporation. Why should we fund public education, public prisons, public policy? Conservatives see nothing valuable in that, for them it is all about private enterprise. What is important to Republican values is the free market system at any cost; even the cost of our economy, national security and environment.
So what if we have to lose tens of thousands of good middle class jobs to do it. So what if we have to dismantle our pension system and plunge millions of retired people into poverty. So what if we have to allow fossil fuel fools to literally fracture our planet. And so what if we have to put millions of American’s in prison so someone can make a buck.
The American dream has been broken. We have allowed ALEC and conservative dogma to make bad deals, bad decisions and bad promises. And though they profess to be doing all this with the best of intentions, I cannot help but question the motives of people like Grover Norquist and other conservative leaders. Today on CNN Grover was spouting some truly nonsensical, and utterly false, job numbers when he said a “pipeline” that is being blocked would potentially help create “hundreds of thousands” of jobs, a claim debunked even by FOX news.
The fact is, the United States spends less on environmental regulation, education and health care of the poor than other countries. A new study, The Equality of Opportunity Project, cites three factors in deciding if a nation can provide mobility to its citizens: social capital, city layout and public policy. According to Fareed Zaccaria on his show today, the first two are difficult to change, but the third can and should be changed in the United States.
We fund our schools based upon property taxes, which means that poor neighborhoods with lower real estate values have less money. Is it any wonder we continue to see a disparity gap? The question is, how do we change it?
We can change it by contacting legislators and meeting them. We can change it by understanding what ALEC is doing to undermine our democracy. We can change it by running for office and supporting candidates and campaigns. We can change it by going to school board meetings and voicing our opinion. We can change it by agreeing to disagree without being disagreeable. And finally, we can do it by returning to the basic American Dream, and remembering education, equality and environment are the three elements of a strong nation.
We the people need to stop ALEC and private for-profit companies from locking up our citizens and defunding our schools. We need to defend our national interest and find our national pride. It is up to us, every one of us, to stand for what we believe in.
I will go on the record here and say proudly, I stand for public education. I stand for equality. And I stand for our environment.
There is nothing more important to me than protection of those three vital aspects of our country, they are our national core. They are our national promise. They are our American Dream.
Suggested reading and additional research:
I just spent the last 10 days on a college road trip with my daughter, two nieces and my step-mom. We visited 6 colleges and universities in 10 days, and I learned a lot about our education system. There are two hard truths I have to share with you; first, our education system is more unfair than I thought. And second, every student has a chance to go to one of the finest schools our nation can offer. How is that possible? How can those two things both be true? First, we have to remember how our school system works. How does it operate, how do we pay for it, and why does it matter?
Most people aren’t absolutely sure how a school district works, how it is funded or how it runs. In most districts, if you own property, you pay real estate, or school taxes. Those taxes are then used to fund the school district budget. From buildings to ball fields, teachers to transportation, our tax dollars are paying for it all. Districts elect representatives to manage and direct the activities of the district, this is your School Board. The Board members are responsible for creating policies, hiring staff and faculty, selecting classes and text books, in essence, they are responsible for spending our money.
In some districts, they have a very high tax base due to a higher income base which leads to bigger homes in a district, higher assessed values and therefore higher taxes, meaning bigger district budgets. These districts have large schools, some with pools, planetariums and a pedagogy that rivals the most exclusive private schools. Other districts struggle to provide texts and teachers, they have crumbling buildings and disintegrating neighborhoods. Many of these school districts are in our urban centers and serve a mostly poor and minority constituency.
So what is the difference and why should we care? We should care because intelligence and ingenuity do not understand city limits or socio-economic differences. We should care because innovation and brilliance are not limited to those who live in McMansions. We should care because the next great idea that will change our world might be in the mind of the kid who can’t do her homework because she has to get a job to help support her family. We should care because that boy down the street, the one with his skittles and wearing a hoodie, he might just have an idea that will change our world forever, and for the better.
And every child deserves the chance to an equal education. And it might shock you to learn that some of the elite education institutions in this country agree with that statement. Some of our most expensive schools are now guaranteeing tuition for those who are accepted regardless of ability to pay the tuition. But getting in is still an issue. Acceptance rates are typically about 10% or less, and the classes you take matter. Schools that offer advanced classes still have an edge. And that still skews the system for students from wealthy schools. But at least it opens the door for more diversity in our universities.
And it matters. Diversity matters. Differences matter. Inclusion matters. We have allowed our system to become so skewed many people have decided it is totally broken and want nothing to do with it. We have put the wealthy almost exclusively in positions of power. We have allowed them to think they are more important or better than those with less money. We have gone so far as to allow our highest Court to decree that a legal fiction is a person, and that “person” has the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money as “free speech”, even though actual persons do not. Actual people are seeing their free speech limited. We see police forces using excessive force on citizens. We see peaceful protests being called illegal. And we see our country divided by ideology and our airwaves dotted with idiots making millions to keep us distracted from the truth.
We spend our days pretending we see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil, all the while we are being bombarded with evil. These corporate “persons”, the ones we have created out of a legal fiction, well, some of them sure seem like the evil step-mother or troll in a fairy tale, intent on killing the innocent girl or boy, just because they hate goodness and innocence. Take Halliburton for example. We know they have injured our troops. We know they are responsible in part for the death of 11 people at the Deepwater Horizon. And yet, we allow them to skirt our safety regulations and circumvent our tax policy. If corporations are “people”, why aren’t we arresting and “executing” them? I mean really, isn’t it time we gave them the full benefits of personhood? No doubt a figurative blast of pepper spray and a shot from a Taser would get their attention.
It is time for us to stop pretending we don’t see, hear or speak evil. It is time for each of us to stand up and speak out.
For me, I have an easy place to start. I want to start by making education more affordable and accessible for everyone. How can we do that? How can we revitalize our schools and provide them with needed revenue? The answer is going to shock you.
We can turn off the lights. Yes, you heard me right. I want to turn off the lights at our schools. I want us to start thinking about our schools and energy consumption in a new way. It is time to stop burying our head in the sand. It is time to stop complaining about taxes and budgets and start doing something constructive. We can cut costs and spending at our schools, reduce deficits, balance budgets, create jobs AND create a revenue stream. Yes, you heard me, we can create revenue for our public schools. And we can do it now.
First we turn off the lights, then we take that savings and we invest in renewable energy. We install solar and wind, we invest in geothermal. We remove fossil fuels. We convert our buses from dirty diesel to cheap electric. We stop seeing our schools as a money pit and start seeing them as the money generators they can be. And this will give poor schools the funds they need to provide the classes that will place their students on the same track as students from wealthy districts.
Imagine communities sharing power generated by our schools. And then expand the vision. Convert our municipal buildings. Share power. Schools providing energy to Hospitals. Borough Halls powering street lights. Police cars and school buses powered by the sun and wind and not by fossil fuels.
Can you envision this? Can you see the potential for our future powered not by dirty, dangerous fossil fuels but by cheap, clean and absolutely American renewable energy? Can you see the potential for our children, to all have the opportunity for the best education we can provide?
And I am not advocating for huge solar and wind farms. I want to see us scale our energy generation to our communities and reduce our consumption. We have to be realistic, reduction of consumption has to be a key element to our energy policy. We cannot keep sticking our head in the sand, pretending not to see or hear reality. We cannot continue to speak about moratoriums and the “evils” of fossil fuels without speaking of the need to reduce our consumption.
I do not believe that converting from Big Oil and Gas to Big Solar and Wind is the answer. It is just another way of ignoring reality and moving our money from one group of off-shore foreign corporations to a new group of corporate “persons”. We have to stop seeing, speaking and hearing no evil. We have to stop pretending our lives are out of our control. It is time to stop blaming someone else. It is time to stop acting like victims. It is time to recognize, we are the hero in this story.
It is time to see, speak and hear reality.