How Do We Implement Real Change?

This morning, as I was making lunches for my two boys to take to school, I turned on the radio to NPR’s Morning Edition, just in time to hear the host proclaim that with her win in Puerto Rico, Hillary was within thirty pledged delegates of winning the nomination.  I switched the radio off again and made a mental note to never donate to Public Radio or Television again.  Of course, the report is absolutely incorrect and reflects the same stance that the main stream media has taken since the outset of the primary process, where Super Delegates who have not yet voted have been counted in Clinton’s favor and added to her delegate totals.

Like many of us, I used to have a much higher opinion of NPR.  But, after their federal funding was cut, they had to look elsewhere for their operating capital and wound up in bed with the likes of the Koch Brothers and other big money interests.  NPR has joined the establishment, has become main stream media and must now be tossed into the same bucket as CNN, MSNBC and FOX.  When what we think is conditioned by what we have learned, it stands to reason that if what we have learned is wrong, what we will think will be wrong, too.  The report on Clinton’s delegate count was wrong, and has been wrong on every main stream media source.  For those of us who follow the political process closely, it is easy to see the error.  But what other reports, on other issues, have been equally wrong, equally biased?  And how are those reports shaping the way we think about our world?

Yesterday, I had a long conversation with my neighbor on a wide range of topics, one of which was our current political madness.  She is a senior citizen and a Democrat (Clinton’s demographic), and asked me if I knew of anyone who was supporting Clinton.  I do not.  Neither does she.  But she also had no knowledge of the extent of election rigging that has plagued this primary season.  She was unaware of the exit polling which has accurately reflected each and every Republican primary, while being wildly off in the Democratic elections.  She was equally unaware of the lack of ballots, closing of polling places, purging of voter polls and mysterious changes in registration status which have become a hallmark of every Democratic contest, while being unheard of among the Republicans. 

As someone who is not a consumer of the social media powered world of internet journalism, my neighbor remains reliant on the main stream media as the dominant source of her information.  She can change channels, but if they are all pushing the same lie, and it is not something she can verify on her own, what real option does she have but to accept it as the truth?

What this should make us realize is that if we want real change, it is going to be a much harder climb than just electing an anti-establishment candidate.  If any one thing has been made abundantly clear in this election cycle, it is that the overwhelming majority of Americans are fed up with politics as usual.  We do want change.  We want a change in our leadership because it is the only way that we will ever realize a change in our individual lives, our individual chances to make our own world better.  We want a government that comes together to do the bidding of the people who put them there. 

Contrary to the caricatures emanating from the far right, the only Americans who are looking for handouts continue to be the rich, who want to hold on to more of their soft earned money.  Real Americans want to work.  Give us the chance and we are the hardest working people on the planet.  And the reason for that is that philosophically, we still believe that through our own labors, we can make our lives better and make a better life for our children.  But we have witnessed our government sell our jobs overseas through decades of miserable trade agreements.  We have witnessed our status as industrial giant collapse into a service economy where once highly skilled workers now compete for minimum wage jobs stocking shelves.  This was not our doing.  The blame lies squarely with the government and their handlers, and there is equal blame to taint both parties.

So here we are, early in June and with three significant contenders for the presidency, each of whom wants to be perceived as the anti-establishment instrument of change.  Trump shouts, “Look at me!  I have no political baggage, am fabulously wealthy and make great deals because everything I touch, turns to gold.”  Ironically enough, that did not work out too well for King Midas, either.  In Trump, we have someone who is fabulously wealthy, though seemingly in spite of himself.  His record of failed businesses, bankruptcies, shady “deals,” and now lawsuits against Trump U. show him to be far less accomplished than he would have us believe. 

Clinton hangs her anti-establishment banner on her status as a woman and somehow equates becoming the first female president of the country with representing an anti-establishment posture.  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.  As a hawkish neo-con, her voting record, actions as Secretary of State, and the very positions on foreign policy that she espouses in her stump speeches and interviews, show her to be the poster child for establishment politics.  The reality that she is heavily funded by Wall Street, Big Pharma, and the Health Insurance industry, and does not want anyone to know what she has to say to any of those concerns, should tell us all that we need to know about her establishment allegiances.

The historically high unfavorable ratings for Clinton and Trump demonstrate that while Americans want change, Americans do not want either of those options.  The third candidate is, of course, Bernie Sanders, the only truly anti-establishment figure among the three.  His message of combatting the effects of income inequality, guaranteeing health care for all Americans and of making education attainable for all of our young people, has struck a chord with voters across this country.  And his anti-establishment stance has been well vetted; as the popular meme circulating on social media states, you can name any mistake our government has made in the past thirty years and there is a video on YouTube of Bernie Sanders, trying to stop it.  Sometimes lost in the discourse is his insistence on more and more Americans becoming involved in the political process.  Indeed, that may be the single most effective tool in bringing about meaningful change in this country.

On the one hand, there you have it.  If you want a candidate whose focus will be on bringing about a meaningful change in the direction of this country, Bernie Sanders is the one.  But do not think for a moment that that alone will solve our problems.  Whatever Sanders will accomplish, he will do so by going up against big monied interests.  His foes will be found within the ranks of a government corrupted by lobbyists and the favors big money can buy.  But they will also be found without, in the form of the main stream media and the bias through which it will inform America.

If we want real change in this country, in the end, we will have to be the instruments of that change.  The Revolution will not just be a political one; rather it will necessitate social changes and a rethinking of how we go about the day to day business of being Americans.  It is goingt o push each of us out of our comfort zones.  Just as in the French Revolution, we will have to at least metaphorically separate the snakes in our government and wealthy, ruling class from their heads.  As the saying goes, kill the head and the body dies.  In this case, the head is money.

Once we recognize just who our real enemies are, the course of action becomes clearer.  As Sanders has repeatedly said, we need to get the influence of big money out of politics.  We also need to take the influence of the main stream media, big money’s mouthpiece, out of our lives.  We need to stop the spread of disinformation, so that it does not become what we have learned and thus the basis for all of our future decision making.   In short, we have to develop a deeper understanding and cultivate a greater participation in our political process.  We have work to take money out of the pockets of those institutions that use money to manipulate us, our voices and our votes.  And, we have to make ourselves smarter, so that it is that much harder to fool us.

Want to make a start?  Here are a number of things each of us can do, right now, to start the ball rolling.

Cancel Your Cable – Cable packages, even at their most basic level, come with bundles of stations, and your monthly premium goes in large part toward paying their fees.  If people would cancel their cable subscriptions, it would hit the main stream media where it hurts, right in their wallet.  Today, most of your favorite programming can be had by a significantly lower subscription rate through NetFlix, Hulu, and other providers.

Donate a Portion of Your Cable Savings – Once you have cut the cord with cable, seek out the news and information services which earn your trust through fair, honest, unbiased reporting and support them with a donation.  I have become a big fan of The Young Turks and would invite you to look them up.  But do your own legwork, find your own sources and share what you find with the rest of us.

Stay Connected Through Social Media – When you find a group of like minded souls on your social media pages, stay connected with them, and get to know them well enough that any one from the group can respectfully question another’s assertions.  Before we can hold the establishment’s feet to the fire, we have to be able to take the heat ourselves.

Get Involved With Your PTA – The disconnect from the political process begins early, when young people are not taught about government and its workings.  Just as being fed the wrong information leads you to think in the wrong terms, being fed no information leads you to not think for yourself at all.  It is long overdue for young people to once again  take courses in Civics and Ethics.  Our government should not be unassailable because it is not understandable.  Additionally, Critical Thinking is infinitely more important than Common Core Math.  Insist that your children’s schools focus on Critical Thinking skills.  If we teach our kids how to think, and to think critically, we won’t have to worry so much about others telling them what to think.

Reading Comprehension – There is no more important skill that anyone learns in school or in life than reading comprehension.  If you can read and understand the subtlety of what is written, what lies between the lines, you can teach yourself anything.  Everything that humanity has ever learned is written down.  It is there for all of us.  Remember Trump’s comment on how much he “loves the uneducated?”  Call it a Freudian slip, but what he said in that moment is exactly the basis for how politicians (and other snake oil salesmen) have always worked.  The more we know, the more complex and nuanced our understanding of what they are saying to us is, the more transparent they become.  And while you are at it, read to and with your kids.  Engage them in discussion of what they have heard or read to sharpen their own skills and to introduce them to the world of adult thought.

Buy American – This is easier said than done at a time when a visit to a Home Depot, Wall Mart or Lowe’s will not turn up more than a small handful of items made in this country.  But if we want to put the hurt on those corporations that have sent American jobs overseas, we need to stop buying their products.  One solution, particularly in terms of household goods and furnishings, is to buy second hand.  Thrift shops are everywhere and often present you with the chance to buy a gently used item which was made in America, to higher standards.  Though it is used, it will most likely outlive the new item made somewhere in the third world, and at a fraction of the cost.

Buy Local – A portion of every purchase you make is a cost to offset shipping that item from somewhere else in the world.  Transportation costs ultimately put money in the pocket of big oil, one of the largest lobbyists to Washington.  Buying local means less use of oil, less carbon emissions into the atmosphere and most importantly, it builds community.  In an earlier article, http://johnqsviews.com/universal-health-care-and-renewable-energy-will-save-our-economy, we looked at the personal economy, your individual economy, and viewed it as a pie of assets, against which slices are cut to pay for your expenses.  Here, in the abridged version, as your costs for essential expenses (housing, energy, health care, food and education) rise, those wedges of the pie get larger and of necessity, the wedges of your non-essential expenses must get smaller.  If the balance shifts too far, you no longer have the money for non-essential expenses.  But it is those non-essentials that are often the source of income for someone else’s pie.  This is why the recession moves like a wave through a community.  Make a concerted effort to buy locally sourced goods and you will move your assets into the pie of someone else in the community, who in turn will move it along and to some degree, back to you.  Strengthen the economy of your community from the ground up and your community will have less need of DC politics.

These are just a few examples of things we can do to strengthen our communities, our numbers and our effectiveness as we work to take back our country from our own government and the ruling class.  Have other ideas?  Drop a line with a comment and we will keep this ball rolling.

America, you’ve overslept.  It is time to wake up and get on with your education.  It is time for all of us to open our eyes to what is going on around us, to how we are being manipulated, how we are being taught what to think, so we fall right into line.  As the saying goes, there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers.  It is always right for us to question authority, and any time an individual or an institution which would set itself up as an authority is unwilling or unable to answer our questions, we must consider them to be either deceitful or incompetent.  Neither is fit to lead us. 

For now, I would leave you with the most important question, the one you must ask of any authority figure: Whom does it serve?  If you are presented with information or a rationale on which someone wants you to make a decision or entrust them with doing so, you must ask, “Who benefits from me believing this and acting upon that belief?”  It is akin to following the money and will usually lead you to the truth they would rather you not consider.  Sanders was asking that question when our country was deciding to go to war in Iraq.  Think for a moment where we would be if the rest of us had been doing the same.

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Those Who Do Not Learn From History…

Today, a little perspective.  There is an old adage that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  Now, in 2016, the citizens of the United States are locked in the process of of making choices which will have an immediate impact on their future, but need to look to history for illustrations of how those decisions have impacted earlier civilizations.

In the past three thousand years, there have been quite a number of important civilizations distributed across this planet.  For “civilization,” we should think, experiment in societal living.  Civilizations coalesce from groups of people who either choose or are coerced into living by a particular set of rules or within a particular social structure.  If the rules and the structure can serve to hold the group of people together, a civilization is born, and it grows up, matures, ages and, in time, fades away or is forcibly replaced by another.  Coming from a culture whose roots owe more to European history, we tend to focus on five of these great Civilizations: the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, British Empire and the Americans.

Each of these civilizations was replaced, in turn, by another.  In the ancient world, guided by ancient technology and of necessity, the slower spread of global change, the first three of these civilizations overlapped to one degree or another, before the Romans emerged as the dominant civilization of the ancient world.  After the fall of Rome, which most scholars date to about 476 A.D., the European world slipped into the Dark Ages and did not emerge from them until the Renaissance of the 1300’s.  It would be another almost 300 years before the British Empire became the dominant civilization of its time.

For a moment, let’s look at the Roman Empire and its parallels to our own, American Civilization.  The question becomes two-fold.  What did the Romans give us (what did they do best?) and why did their civilization collapse?

Well, what did the Romans give us?  Architecture!  Uh, no, that would be the Greeks.  Mathematics!  No, that would be the Arabs and the Greeks again.  Literature!  Again, we really trace our literary roots to the Greeks and Homer, Sophocles, Plato and Aristotle.  Religion!  Afraid not.  The Romans lifted their mythology directly from the Greeks and replaced it toward the end of their Civilization with Christianity, lifted directly from the Jews.

So, why should we remember the Romans?  What did they do better than anyone else of their era?  The answer, in three little letters, is WAR.  The Romans were the greatest, most sophisticated and technologically advanced war machine of their time.  They spread out across the Mediterranean, the northern tier of Africa, into the Middle East and Turkey, northward through Europe and into the British Isles, overpowering and enslaving everything in their path.  And directly on the heels of that war machine came Roman commerce.  Think of a great civilization like a beating heart.  Raw materials and treasure from the conquered world flowed back to the heart, were transformed into goods and wealth, and a portion of them flowed back out again to the far reaches of the empire.  In short, war made possible the opening of business opportunities for the Romans, and those business opportunities enriched the Roman civilization and made the wealthy aristocracy greedier for more, thus promoting more war. 

It became an all consuming fire which was unsustainable as the resources of the empire were spread increasingly thin.  So, why did the Roman Civilization fall?  Here are seven key reasons:

Crumbling Economy – The Romans reliance on constant war had stretched their internal finances to the breaking point.  When the expansion into Europe and Eurasia ground to a halt, the treasure making its way back to Rome dried up.  As a result, the government levied oppressive and disproportionate taxes on the citizenry, which only served to widen the economic gap between the rich and the poor.  The rich, of course, had the wherewithal to try to escape the tax-man, by moving out of Rome into the further ends of the empire, or through their ability to shape the laws of the land through the Senate which they controlled.

Division of Wealth – Increasingly, there developed a wide gap between the wealthy and the lower echelons of society.  The wealthy families owned the land and controlled the government, while the merchant class and slave laborers were tasked with the responsibility of being the craftsmen of the empire and the people who kept the wheels of commerce rolling.  All of the knowledge of how day to day things were done fell to the merchant class and, when the economy of Rome collapsed, the merchant class disappeared.  With them, that knowledge was lost, so much so that at the start of the Renaissance, some 900 years later, people lived among the ruins of the Roman empire, with no idea how any of it had been built.

Crumbling Infrastructure – The constant expansion of the Roman empire necessitated a tremendous investment in infrastructure.  Initially, the building of this vast network of roads, bridges, buildings and aqueducts fell to the merchant class and the engineers within that group.  In time though, slave laborers from the further reaches of the Empire were brought in as a cheaper maintenance crew.  As the infrastructure aged  and crumbled, the people tasked with maintaining it lacked the real knowledge of how to do so and it became a self-perpetuating downward spiral.  In recent years, archaeologists have come to believe that part of the fall of the Roman Empire could be attributed to poisoning of the people by lead in the drinking water supply, as lead joints were used to hold the aqueducts together.

Division Into Two Partisan Camps – As the Roman empire expanded, Emperor Diocletian effectively divided the Empire into two halves, Western (Europe) and Eastern (the Middle East and Eurasia).  Each half had its own, localized government, and the two found that they were incapable of working together to support the greater Empire.  The eastern half, based in Constantinople, which did not come to the aid of the western half when they were attacked by the Vandals and Goths, actually survived the collapse of the Empire and carried on for almost another 1000 years before being subsumed by the Ottoman Turks in the 1400s.

Military Overspending – A civilization dependent upon war for its growth needs to maintain that war machine.  The Romans directed the greater portion of their treasure toward the outer fringes of the Empire and the maintenance of that machine.  But building walls and fortifications and equipping troops can only go so far in terms of creating a viable internal economy.  At a certain point, a military organization on constant “watch” becomes the end of the line for the civilization’s finances, without a feedback loop to grow the economy at home.

Government Corruption – As the empire grew in size, it became increasingly difficult and ultimately impossible to govern, and the emperors and the Senate became ever more corrupt in their efforts to “get while the getting’s good.”  They robbed the coffers of its treasure and set themselves against each other, resulting in a civil war in which the Empire saw no less than 20 emperors in a span of just 75 years.

Rise of Christianity – Today, we portray the Christian religion as an inherently benevolent institution, but during the time of the Romans, it was the interloper.  It was the new way of thinking which would supplant the old, replacing traditional values which had supported the civilization for so long.  In the case of the Romans, monotheistic Christianity came to replace polytheistic traditional Roman culture, where the emperor was assumed to be, himself, divine.  This shift away from the emperor as the exponent of the divine will, allowed many Romans the opportunity to view their leaders in a new light and to see them for the corrupt institution that they had become.  Christianity, in the case of Rome, became a focusing element for the oppressed and disenfranchised, and the focus of what we would today call a “grassroots” opposition.

I hope that many of you are already seeing the parallels between the ancient Romans and ourselves.  The political discourse in this year’s election cycle is frighteningly on point in describing the United States as a civilization poised to go the way of Rome.  Yes, there was a time when the Unites States provided the world with tremendous advances in science and in art, and exemplified a culture of personal freedom which was the envy of the world, so much so that vast waves of immigration to this country resulted.

Today though, ask anyone around the world what it is that the Americans do best and they will tell you, WAR.  The United States is the most powerful war machine in the history of the world.  In truth, Americans have always been very good at waging war; it seems to be in our DNA.  But it wasn’t until the Second World War that we truly embraced the idea that we could reshape our world, to our advantage, through the use of our military. 

This coming December 7th will mark the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor which committed us to full participation in the Second World War.  In that time, we have changed from a country loathe to enter into war into one quick to seize upon the opportunities war provides.  In recent years, former Secretary of State Clinton has even gone on record to say that the war in Iraq, one based on the coercion of the American people by lies about Saddam Hussein’s ownership of weapons of mass destruction and his harboring of terrorist cells, should now be viewed as a “business opportunity.”  Is this the Pax Americana?   

And at home, what has been the result?

Crumbling Economy – our military involvement in Iraq alone has cost this country more than 1.1 trillion dollars, despite Dick Cheney’s assurances that it would cost about 80 billion.  Saddled with this debt and coupled with a generation of economic expansion which has seen huge numbers of jobs sent overseas to the far-flung reaches of our own influence, our economy has been in a tailspin for some fifteen years. 

Division of Wealth – In the United States, the top 1% of the population controls more money than the bottom 90% of the populace.  The bottom 80% only controls about 7% of the wealth.  The gap in monetary holdings between the top 10% and the middle class is a difference of over 1000% and the top 1% own over 1000% more than the top 10%.  The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.  The middle (merchant) class is gradually disappearing.  And, until the surprising rise of populist political figure Bernie Sanders, the rich have chosen the politicians and the policies on which our government is run.  Also, like Ancient Rome, the wealthy, through their control of governmental legislation, have been able to rig the tax system to their favor, putting a greater onus on the middle classes to foot the bills of the country, and widening the gulf between rich and poor in the process.

Crumbling Infrastructure – One side effect of the crumbling economy has been the loss of jobs or the decline of income of millions of tax-paying Americans.  With less paid in taxes at a federal, state or local level, there is less money in the coffers to maintain the infrastructure of the country.  American cities are crumbling and, like ancient Rome, we are witnessing crises such as the lead water poisoning of Flint, Michigan.  Coincidence?

Division Into Two Partisan Camps – The Obama administration has been characterized by the further divisions between the Republicans and the Democrats, to such an extent that each is capable of blocking the efforts of the other to get anything in Washington done.  As a result, we have a political divide in this country in which neither side is willing to compromise with the other, a state of stasis is created and nothing changes.  Of course, it could be argued that for the individuals in government and the wealthiest Americans who profit under the current system, everything for them is just hunky-dory.  Who needs to change that?

Military Overspending – Like the Romans, our civilization has become one which is dependent upon the use of our military as a mechanism for spreading our business interests around the globe.  As such, that military must be maintained and upgraded at all times, at considerable expense.  Yearly, the United Sates spends some $597.5 billion on the military, four times the amount of the next closest nation (China, at some $145 billion).  Also, like the Romans, it could be argued that this expenditure is unsustainable, or certainly that it redirects money away from other areas where the nation could more widely spend it (health care, infrastructure, poverty, education, etc.).

Government Corruption – Perhaps the single most important issue of this campaign season, has focused on the corruption within our government.  In recent years, all of our politicians have been held up to the same standard, viewed in the same light, and this is because they have essentially been interchangeable parts in a  machine that runs in the same way, no matter who comprises its mechanism.  The wealthy individuals, corporations and institutions, like Wall Street, which have chosen, supported, and bank-rolled our candidates for so long, have seen to that.  This year, we have seen that institutions like Goldman Sachs have backed both Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, two very different politicians with different agendas.  Why?  The simple explanation is that Goldman Sachs stands to benefit in the same way from either of them.  They have no care as to who becomes our President, only that their own interests are protected.  Corruption, ultimately is about either power or money, and in America, they are one and the same. In years past, we have had the choice of two candidates who have each belonged to the same establishment, with the net result of their terms that their wealthy supporters have continued to prosper while the rest of us have settled into a steady decline.  This year, a candidate of the people, Bernie Sanders, has emerged as a new paradigm against which the establishment must be viewed.  And to the majority of working Americans, the establishment is not looking too good.

Rise of Christianity – Unlike the Romans, where Christianity was the new model, for us it represents the traditional values.  However, what we have seen in recent years in this country among a subset of the voters, is a shift away from the modern form of our Christianity toward an embracing of a more hard-line, arch conservative Christianity.  In identifying this group, of course, we mean to indicate the far-right wing of the Republican party, and their intention to recalibrate our culture along a much more constrained line of acceptable behavior.  To say that they represent traditional values, one really must look as far back as the Puritans.  Christianity throughout the 18th and 19th centuries was considerably more enlightened.  There is though, a flip side to this coin.  What the rise of Christianity may have meant to the demise of the civilization of ancient Rome, is best expressed in the form of the cultural revolution to which it gave rise.  Today, we are witnessing a large group of people within our own society who have chosen to embrace a new model of belief, a cultural revolution centered in the needs of the middle and working classes, and moving away from the established power structures enforced by the wealthy elite.  It remains to be seen if this cultural revolution is also unstoppable.

I believe that you can see that there are powerful points of comparison between the cultures of Ancient Rome and the American experiment in democracy.  All of us need to be concerned that continuing along the same path that we have been for more than forty years, will result in a better than average chance that our civilization will collapse under the same weight that crushed the Romans.  As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “It is never the wrong time to do the right thing.”  We should all accept that changes are necessary to the continued existence of our culture.  Interestingly, though changes do not require that we put the wealthy aristocrats to the sword (though it may come to that).  The wealthy power brokers just need to understand that they need to protect their long-term interests by fixing their chronic short-sightedness.

At the outset of this article, I referenced the British Empire as another of the major civilizations.  Well, what happened to them?  They took a different path.  Like the Romans, the British were with most powerful military force of their day and, like the Romans, they colonized the known world.  As the saying goes, “The sun never set on the British Empire.”  But, unlike the Romans, they came to see the writing on the wall. 

They saw that continual military expansion was unsustainable and they asked themselves the question of what was really important to their continued growth.  The answer was that it was commerce on a large scale among nations which shared some core common values.  So, the British, unlike the French, Belgians, Spanish or Russians, made plans to work their way out of the job of holding so much territory through military force.  They were noted for bringing local people into government and teaching them a means by which a nation could be sustained.  Money was invested in building trade routes  and solidifying partnerships with other countries. 

Were they incorruptible angels?  Of course not.  But when you look to the geopolitical map of the world and see the places which were colonized by the British, they tend to have the more stable government institutions and the better relationships with global economic partners.  Perhaps there is something to be learned from history here as well.

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Vive la Revolution!

America is at war. 

When Bernie Sanders began his presidential campaign as a relatively unknown senator from rural Vermont, he outlined a platform of providing health care as a right, a commitment to higher education for our young people, a refusal to sweep aside issues of civil rights and injustice for an oppressed African-American community, and a determination to get big money out of our political process.  From the outset, he took pains to tell us that he could not do this alone.  He told us to expect that forces would align against such a cause.  Consequently, he stressed that what we needed in this country was a political revolution.  Well, it is here and it is not going away.

In the aftermath of yet another fraud besmirched primary, this time in New York, the Clinton campaign has issued a series of condescending petitions to the Sanders supporters, couched in vague threats of the possibility of a Trump or Cruz presidency, and have required of those supporters that it is time they get in line behind Secretary Clinton.  What they have failed to grasp all along is that their candidate stands as the personification of all that this revolution is set to confront.

On the surface, this has every appearance of a class war, pitting the millionaire and billionaire classes against the middle and working classes.  It is a revolution setting the haves against the have nots with the presumptive nominee imploring all of us to just have a slice of the corporate cake.  But there is a deeper distinction.  This revolution is really one of money vs. morality.  Now, morality is always an issue in American elections.  But this year, morality is not defined as the thou shalt nots of denying abortion rights or denying LGBT rights.  Instead, it is the morality of thou shalt provide health care to all Americans, thou shalt pay workers a living wage, thou shalt pay women on an equal footing with men, thou shalt heal the divide between races in this country and treat all of us as equal under the law, and thou shalt provide a level playing field of opportunity for all of us.  You can trim the fat with thou shalt not.  Thou shalt is going to cost you.

Europeans love to refer to Americans as puritanical for our seeming obsession with righteousness and sexual morality.  Yet, it is the clarity of our world view, born of that refusal to submit to a perceived injustice, that defines the American psyche.  We each have our line in the sand and once crossed, the fight is on.  That line has been crossed.  This is our Revolution and we mean to have it out.

The Sanders campaign is an altogether humanitarian endeavor.  It stresses the undeniable morality that it is a human right for all, regardless of economic status, to be provided with the best health care of which we are capable, that it is a civil right that none of us should live in fear of the police or of a government which would treat any group as natural resources for a privatized, corporate prison system, and that equality under the law should also mean an economic equality between men and women.  Similarly, it finds a moral imperative in saying that if we are to lift people in this country from poverty, we must provide meaningful opportunities for education and a living wage.  And it shouts that there is no moral defense for sending our young people to fight and die in a senseless war for what our opponent deems a “business opportunity.”

But Corporate America and Wall Street pull the strings of their store bought functionaries, who proclaim, “The cost!  Think about the cost!”

Money.

Greedy, god-damned soulless bastards.  How do you sleep?  How do you balance the scales of children dying of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan with something so ultimately unimportant as money?  How do you console the husband or wife of a soldier lost to an IED in Iraq while congratulating yourself on the new business opportunity presented by a war ravaged nation?  How do you justify your twenty million dollar salary when your employees require food stamps just to survive on the wages you pay?  Our adversaries in this revolution are the Cynics of Oscar Wilde, the people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Our opponents try to paint this revolution as a seventeen year cicada, a noisy occurrence in an otherwise tranquil summer.  It is not.  For this revolution understands that it is as old as our country itself.  The same people who stood up to the British Empire in 1776, who risked tearing the very country asunder in the Civil War in order to do what they knew to be right, and who landed on the beaches at Normandy to bring a new breath of freedom to a fallen Europe, are the people who today are grimly set to take back their government, their country and their children’s future. 

And Money asks, “What if we gave you more money?  What if we gave you enough money to make you forget how much you’ve been screwed and just look the other way?”

Not this time.  The rallying cry of this revolution is not me, us.  We know what we must do.  If it is within our power to change this country at the ballot box, to cut out the cancer  that has destroyed our economy and enslaved the middle and working classes from within, we will do so.  If we have to take our country by force, we may find that we are prepared to do that as well.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC have gravely underestimated this Revolution.  They have convinced themselves that we would never allow a loudmouthed, bigoted fear-mongering, ne’er-do-well game show host to assume the Presidency.  Yes, we know who Trump is.  We also recognize a corporate shill and a corrupt, venal, political panderer when we see one.  Trump, for all his faults, is happy in his own skin.  Somehow, to many of us, that is less distasteful than someone who would have us believe that she is what she is not.

Americans have a mottled history.  We are not always the guys in the white hats.  But we have enough examples of times when we got it right, to be able to define that quality and to know that we can do it.  The Baby Boomers who today are in their fifties, sixties and seventies received that legacy from their parents, the greatest generation.  And so it is that the Baby Boomers should well know just how lucky they were to be born when and where they were.  They had the chance to grow up with this emerging industrial giant and to reap the benefits of being an American in an age when America dominated the entire world.  The same can not be said for the young people today, facing a bleak future in a Wal-Mart driven economy.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that, “it is never the wrong time to do the right thing.”  In our hearts, we all know what is the right thing.  Some of us just don’t want to have to pay for it.  Some of us don’t want to have to spend their money to help others in need.  Some of us have chosen to put their own interests above those of our country, our children and the generations to come.  And so some of us would cast our votes for a candidate whose policies and allegiances have fortified the walls of the Bastille, to keep the rabble separated from the explosive gunpowder within.  You know who you are.  You are cowards.

There is a strange parallel between the political climate today and the climate of 1776.  In the first American Revolution, we rose up against the British and George III under the cry of “taxation without representation.”  Think about that a minute.  The colonies were being exploited for their resources and treasure by a wealthy elite who provided the colonials with no opportunity to represent themselves and their own interests in the legal halls of government.  Today, Wall Street and Corporate America write the legislation which their lackeys in government pass into law, affording the wealthiest among us the opportunity to exploit the resources and economy of a middle and working class who are being systematically denied a voice in government through a rigged election process and corrupt campaign financing.

And the DNC and Clinton campaigns wonder why we choose not to attend the coronation.  To us, she is just another George III. 

As it did in 1776, so has this new American Revolution risen from the countryside and a mix of tradespeople, laborers, the newly adult and the philosophically mature but idealistic, thinkers all.  We have drawn the line in the sand and those who would own us have crossed it.  There is no going back.  If the DNC and Clinton campaigns persist in their boldfaced rigging of this election, we will dismantle the Democratic party brick by golden brick.  It is only fitting that we will convene once again in Philadelphia.

Vive la Revolution!

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Thoughts on the Brooklyn Democratic Debate

Now that the dust has settled on the ninth Democratic debate, the distinctions between the candidates have become clearer than at any point previously in this election cycle.  On the surface, that can only be an aide in helping each of us to make our decisions.  But those same distinctions are what in all probability will fracture the party, perhaps irreparably. 

In the interest of transparency (and to anyone who has not read any of this site’s earlier articles), I am a Bernie Sanders supporter.  In good conscience, I can not vote for Hillary Clinton to be our next President.  From my vantage point, there is far too much baggage and not enough “there” there.  That being said, and while I truly believe that Bernie Sanders is a once in a lifetime candidate, he too is not above criticism and his campaign will only do better if he shores up a few weak areas and learns to strike while the iron is hot.  His performance on Thursday evening was strong and on point, but he might be the first to admit that he let Hillary off the hook, and that might yet cost him the state.

All campaigns, even those run with the least amount of negativity, share a basic duality.  The candidate must present his or her platform in the most positive of lights, while demonstrating the failings of the opponent or the opponent’s platform.  The balancing act that this becomes is what allows the voter to see a candidate as positive or negative in their campaign style. 

In this case, both candidates have taken shots at each other.  But, on the whole, it would be my contention that Bernie Sanders has focused to a greater extent on the benefits to the country his programs would bring, and on Hillary’s shortcomings to a lesser extent.  Where he has taken his shots, he has chosen his target carefully.  By this time, we all realize that it is within Hillary’s own power to set her record straight; yet she chooses not to do so.  We are all left to make a decision to wonder why or to dismiss her silence as unimportant.

On the other side of the dais, the general lack of enthusiasm evinced by her supporters for her agenda of incremental progress has led Hillary to go more into an attack mode, whether she is focusing on Bernie’s voting record on guns or his health care or college tuition proposals.  Clearly, it is her intent to disqualify Bernie in the eyes of the voters, and, to her detriment, she has opted to cling to a line of half truths in the hope that the voters will look no further than the cheering section of the debate for their answers.  Her campaign has really become one of asking us to settle for pragmatism, for incrementalism, when what most of us crave is the outcome of progressivism.  She has an uphill battle on that front, and as a strategy now attempts to rally voters in dismissing as whimsy her opponent’s idealism.

On to the critique.

Simply stated, Bernie needs to spell it out.  In the debate Thursday as in each of the prior debates, he has missed the opportunity to silence his critics (Hillary and the Republicans) when they assert that his plans are unworkable.  At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, there were three areas where he could have done a much better job of drawing distinctions between his proposals and the characterizations of them by Mrs. Clinton.

Health Care

First, to say that universal health care is some manner of pipe dream is ludicrous.  The rest of the industrialized world has implemented it, and with demonstrably better outcomes than our own health care system while at a fraction of the cost.  To allow Hillary to make that same tired allegation is to continue to allow her to cast shade on Bernie’s entire campaign. 

This is the distinction he needs to be making:  the fundamental difference between the candidates’ approach to health care involves the status of the insurer as a for-profit or not-for-profit entity.  When Hillary asserts that she wants to build upon Obamacare and its reliance on private health insurance companies, while reaching toward 100% coverage of American citizens, she is stating unequivocally that she wants us to continue to pay more in rising insurance rates to for-profit corporations, while expecting lesser coverage, greater deductibles and out of pocket expenses, higher co-pays and increased costs for pharmaceutical products.  We have already been experiencing that reality for decades and it is not working.

Bernie’s program follows more closely the models used in Europe where the health care is either provided directly through the government via taxation or through private insurance companies who provide health insurance on a not-for-profit basis (Germany is an example of this).  Those same companies also provide auto and homeowners’ insurance, and make their profit there.  By taking the profit margin out of the equation, you are left with the true cost of providing the service, and it is on that number that Americans would be taxed to pay for their health care.  Because taking the staggering profit margin out of necessity lowers the actual cost of health care or health insurance, the premiums could substantially decrease.  If the money is coming out of income taxes and you have no job, you have no income to tax.  The health care would come to you at no cost.  Yes, the rest of us are picking up the tab, but we are still saving between one half and two thirds on what we are now paying.  One of Bernie’s core positions is that we, as a nation, need to do what we know to be morally right.  How can we morally and ethically justify turning a profit off the misfortune and misery of other people who are in dire need of medical attention?

Free College Tuition

This is a no-brainer (pardon the pun) as well.  In a prior article, (http://johnqsviews.com/putting-some-perspective-on-income-inequality) I broke down one way in which a tax on the wealthiest fifteen people in America could provide free tuition to over eight million college students each year.  While that was an exercise in basic mathematics, and not intended as a justification for levying a huge tax on just fifteen people, the simple point of it is that there is an unspeakably large amount of money stashed in the pockets of the top 1% to 10% of our nation’s earners, which could be taxed in a line more consistent with tax rates as recent as the 1980’s (50% on the highest income bracket, up from the 28-29% the top earners actually pay today) and which would send all American college students to school, tuition free. 

Similarly, the argument that smarter, more capable young Americans make for a smarter, more capable workforce, is undeniable.  The question remains; whom does it serve to have less intelligent, less capable citizens?  I will argue in another article that there is a segment of our society that wants exactly that.

Energy

Again, I fear that Bernie missed the boat here.  Hillary’s actions as Secretary of State to promote fracking on a global scale (with American technology courtesy of Halliburton, no doubt), and her incrementalist approach to coping with the reality of climate change, make her an easy and open target for the Sanders campaign.  They only half-heartedly took the shot.  Yes, climate change is real (google recent articles on the impact of the shrinking ice sheet in Greenland).  Yes, we are still pumping too much carbon onto the atmosphere.  And yes, the United States remains one of the leading contributors to those same carbon emissions. 

These are all compelling reasons for immediate (as in yesterday) change.  But in making that argument, you are asking the majority of Americans to make a choice now to benefit their future, somewhere down the line.  And Americans, by and large I am sorry to say, do not think like that.  We are an immediate gratification culture.  So, how is it going to benefit us right now to get off the fossil fuel bus? 

We can look at that answer in terms of our economy at home and our foreign policy.  At home, a switch to clean, renewable energy is not just a boon to the environment and an effort to counter the effects of climate change, the process of developing the technology creates new jobs and also benefits all of our industrial facilities  by removing one of the key sources of pollution which factories must minimize (at substantial cost) in order to comply with the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.  In our foreign policy, we continue to deal with an unstable middle east and with the posturing of Vladimir Putin in Russia.  The economies of each of those parts of the world are propped up on fossil fuels.  If we cut dramatically our use of oil and natural gas, we cut the demand for the product on the global market and its value falls.  In a case such as ISIS, take away their income, and you diminish their abilities to pay their own fighters or cause problems for us.  Money is the head of the snake.  Kill the head and the body dies.

How to pay for it?  Stop sending our young people to fight senseless wars in the middle east and trim the Pentagon’s budget by 10%.  That would be a great start.

But there is not enough time in a debate format to explain this!

True enough.  But this is an opportunity for Bernie to look Hillary in the eye and ask her to put her money where her mouth is.  We saw repeatedly in the debate on Thursday that she could not answer simple yes or no questions.  She was asked three times whether or not she would release her transcripts and would not answer.  She was asked three times whether or not she would remove the cap on Social Security taxation and would not answer that either.  If, for example, she wanted to make the claim that Bernie’s health care proposal could not be paid for, he could ask her, “Would you be willing to cede me the time right here, right now, to explain just how it could?”  If she said, “yes,” Bernie has a platform to make his pitch and explain it to a nation-wide audience.  If she said, “no,” Bernie has the freedom to look puzzled and ask, “What are you afraid of?”  Any other response from Hillary would simply demonstrate that she knows her allegations are insupportable.

Other Observations

There are a few other areas where Bernie could make his point more forcefully.  First, he has often pointed toward Hillary’s vote on the war in Iraq as evidence of her poor judgement.  But it isn’t just the case that she voted for the war; she argued for the war.  That argument is all a matter of public record and can be found on YouTube, any day of the week.  Hillary wants to call into question whether or not Bernie is even a Democrat.  Yet, at every opportunity to do so, she has argued for the use of military force and turned the State Department into a global wholesaler of arms and armaments.  Folks, she is a war hawk.  If it walks like a duck, squawks like a duck and hops in bed with Wall Street, Big-Pharma and now, the NRA, it’s a Republican.

In the first or second debate, Bernie famously made the comment that he was sick and tired of hearing about Hillary’s “damn emails.”  He has not raised them as an issue again (though they won’t go away, will they?).  In a similar vein, he can now say to Hillary, “We don’t need to see those transcripts.  We know what is in them.” 

After all, we do know what is in them.  As has been pointed out elsewhere, Hillary received $675,000  from Goldman Sachs for three speeches.  If she had said anything to them that they did not want to hear in the first or even the second speech, she never would have been able to give a third.  She has been telling them exactly what they want to hear and has more importantly been acting in their best interests for decades.  From Goldwater Girl to Goldman Girl, Hillary is not the girl she wants us to believe she is. 

Her contention is that no one can point to a political position or piece of legislation she has endorsed which exemplify her favoritism toward Wall Street.  I would allow for “perhaps,” though Bill Moyer’s interview of Elizabeth Warren demonstrates otherwise.  But this is a two-way street.  We also can not point to a political position or piece of legislation she has endorsed which run counter to the vested interests of Wall Street, either.  It is like fixing a basketball game; you can pay the player to miss the shot or just not take it.  The result is the same.

Now, as she moves into late April against an opponent she thought would have been gone by February, Hillary is feeling nervous.  Her lifetime in politics has been defined by political expediency.  If there was anything in those speeches which would solidify her base going into these big primary states, she would release them in a heartbeat.  There isn’t.  What is in those transcripts would much more likely destroy her remaining support and end her campaign.  You know it, I know it, and the rest of the country knows it.  However, some of us remain content to cover our ears and yell, “Waaaahhhh!”

A related and much more telling point, and again, one on which Bernie failed to capitalize, is the contempt in which she holds all of the voters.  In this I refer to her recent speech in Colorado, where a “white noise” machine was employed to prohibit news people from hearing that speech as they stood across the street from the tent under which she gave it. 

When we look at the mistake that the Goldman Sachs speeches were, just in terms of the bad publicity they have provided her, we focus on her unwillingness to make available to the prospective voters, just what she is promising to Wall Street.  It is a cover up worthy of Richard Nixon.  But, instead of learning from this mistake, she replicates it, thumbing her nose at all of the little people in the process.  Twice now, she has looked us in the eye and asked for our support, but clearly does not trust us to give it if we knew the content and context of what she is promising to her wealthy friends and to Wall Street.  Fool me once shame on you.  Fool me twice….  Americans have learned to tolerate and even rationalize being lied to.  But we hate being held in contempt by someone who positions him or herself as out of our class.  This missed opportunity by Bernie could well have been the final dagger in Hillary’s campaign.

The Strain is Showing

To give Hillary her due, she remains a very capable politician.  In my view, she was well prepared, polished in her rehearsed statements, forceful and monopolized the time element of the debate, always running well over her allotted time and into Bernie’s.  One knock on her though, has always been that she does not exude any real human warmth.  Whether she is actually a rather shy individual or, frankly, cold hearted, it can come off the same way on camera. 

What is troubling is the way she clings to and reiterates half truths or flat out lies, despite them having previously been disproven.  Her claims that Vermont was a chief exporter of guns used in violent crimes in New York are not just laughable, they made her look that much more desperate to find something wrong with her opponent.  Her claims that Bernie had cast votes for the removal of Gaddafi when he had actually cast a vote in favor of democracy in Libya reflect a legalistic parsing of words with which many of us are all too familiar from the last Clinton administration.  Similarly, her claim that she has always fought for the $15 minimum wage was a lie, plain and simple.  In earlier debates, she argued for $12 an hour, which we would reach by 2020.  This one isn’t even close.  At times, I’d like to hear Bernie turn to her and in that flat, unemotional way that John Wayne always did, say to her, “That’s a lie.”  And just leave it at that.  Her reaction would speak volumes.

What the Debate Tells Us About Us

For all the criticism of Hillary, we must acknowledge that she is a highly intelligent person, with a deep understanding of the campaign process.  As an establishment candidate, she has the full support of an enormous political machine, and they do not miss much.  I have to believe that they have researched the voters in the same way a trial lawyer researches the jury pool.  They know how the majority of us think.  And the truth is, to the majority of us, facts don’t really matter.  The overwhelming majority of Americans will not take the time to fact check what a politician says.  The closest they will come is to tune into a main stream media outlet for verification.  So, if you can buy the support of the main stream media…….

Similarly, truth is less important than posture.  We have seen that first hand in the success of the Trump campaign.  The most recent fact check on Trump suggests that he only ever tells the truth by accident.  It doesn’t matter.  He exudes confidence and out-hollers his opponents.  This is the by product of a reality TV watching culture.  The most outrageous characters are the most entertaining and who doesn’t want to be entertained?  Hillary’s clinging to baseless allegations and twistings of reality, couched in carefully scripted anthemic moments (and punctuated with Bill’s infamous thumb capped fist poke) are orchestrated “high points” without any real substance.  Supporters cheer because the moment is structured to elicit a cheer, not because there is anything worth cheering about. 

The Fallout

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, the distinctions between the candidates are clearer now than they have ever been.  In the end, we have a nuanced politician running against a humanitarian.  Hillary would have us believe that the world is a very complex place where a certain equilibrium is only achieved through a willingness to play all sides against the other.  Shifting loyalties and priorities are the norm and we have to put on our big-girl pants and own up to that reality.  Bernie is trying to show us that there  is another way, one in which we take our stand on what is defensible as morally right.  It approaches complex problems (like Israel and the Palestinians) from the simpler perspective of recognizing the equality and working to meet the needs of all, even if that means we have to acknowledge our own previous shortcomings.  In doing so, we risk that forgiveness will not be granted us.  But we also create the possibility of starting with a clean slate and building upon a solid foundation.

Now, it is all over but the voting.  We will soon see just who supports whom.  Bernie’s supporters are well defined in much the same way that his message is clear and unequivocal.  They have consistently been represented primarily as people under the age of 45, heavily stacked with younger voters, from the true progressives of the Democratic party and Independents, many of whom are prepared to make their stand on issues of civil rights, the environment, and ending corporate domination of the American political system.  Polling of late also suggests that many minority voters who had supported Hillary’s campaign are moving toward Bernie’s, possibly in response to a greater understanding of the evil of Bill Clinton’s Crime Bill and the economic struggles they have faced in the wake of a series of terrible trade agreements for which Secretary Clinton has inevitably advocated.  Women too, are moving toward Bernie’s campaign.  While the desire for our first female president remains strong, examples like Elizabeth Warren have demonstrated that Hillary is not the best choice.  In the end, Hillary is a willing political foot-soldier, not a commander in chief.

In Hillary’s camp, I believe that her supporters are often as nuanced as her own brand of politics.  On the one hand, if you are willing to consider that taking millions from Wall Street and from large corporations just might cause a candidate to not rock those boats, if you are able to see that she is indefensibly hiding from the voters her transcripts and her white noise protected speeches to the American aristocracy, and if you can accept that her policies bear a stronger resemblance to Richard Nixon than to JFK, you should come to terms with the reality that she is not a trustworthy liberal.  She is a war hawking moderate Republican.  So, why would you continue to support her?  Why would you continue to vote against your best interests?  It is my belief that many of her supporters are actually ex-Republicans for whom their own party has drifted too far to the right, and Hillary represents exactly their best interests.  They are also a more middle aged group who have reached the pinnacle of their own economic ladder and fear both being toppled from above and being undermined from below.  In her incremental pragmatism, they seek a kind of stasis, a respite from a storm which will not blow over.  Just give us four more years of the same.

The Moment of Truth

Yet to be written is just how history will view this moment, for an historical moment it is.  This contentious primary season has been rife with allegations and evidence of election rigging, all of which has pointed to a corrupt DNC with an agenda that does not reflect the espoused will of the voters.  As the calendar works its way toward the convention in Philadelphia, the tension between the two camps and their supporters is rising.  This is a campaign pitting not Bernie against Hillary, but people against money.  Right now, money has the inside track.

If it is close, and if money wins, the people will have two choices: surrender the ideals which have simmered in their hearts since the late 1960’s, or walk their talk.  As the saying goes, when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.  Money made the mistake of leaving too many of us with nothing and we have nothing to lose by walking. 

Whatever else may happen, we need to find ourselves on the right side of history.  There are ideals which make us American and upon which we have taken our stand time and again.  When we know what is right, we have to do what is right.  Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “It is never the wrong time to do the right thing.”  It is up to us.  We can have the country that embraces the idealism of Lady Liberty in new York Harbor, or we can sell our souls for a key to the executive washroom.  In my lifetime, the chance to make a real change in the direction of our country has never been so close at hand.  If we blow it now, the institutions of wealth and power will work to ensure that we never get this chance again. 

So what is it to be?  Will we sign a lease on four more years of establishment politics, corporate greed and a widening class war in America?  Or will we take the road less traveled and make the difference?  One might leave us with a sense of investment in the familiar, but it leads to our moral bankruptcy.

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Universal Health Care and Renewable Energy will Save Our Economy

     This is a piece about the economy and I am not an economist.  It is then, an              opinion piece, and I would welcome your comments on it.  I have been thinking      about this for quite some time.

Universal Health Care was a plank in the platform of Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, and the need to invest in clean, renewable energy has been a political football of sorts at least since the Oil Embargo of 1973.  These are not new ideas.  But, in the wake of the de-regulation of the banking industry, the disastrous trade agreements from NAFTA and CAFTA to the TPP, the mortgage industry meltdown and now, the revelation from the Panama Papers of how easy and de rigeur it has become for the wealthy individuals of this world to cheat their own national taxmen, our crumbling economy necessitates that bold changes be made to save our country from further economic collapse.

Economic collapse?  But, but the government just said….  Yes, the government is routinely telling us that the economy is improving.  It has gotten to the point where the government’s proclamations echo the reports from the Front in Orwell’s 1984.  Charts and graphs and numbers backed by plenty of zeroes, yet the wallets and bank accounts of most middle and working class Americans continue to grow thinner.  The Economy, it would seem, only applies to the wealth at the top of the mountain.  We are standing here, open mouthed and waiting for the trickle down, but it ain’t trickling. 

(for more on Trickle Down Economics, see our prior article, Time For Some Trickle Up Economics)

Perhaps it is that we have been looking at the economy from the wrong end.  Economists are well schooled, well paid folks, who often treat the rest of us as though we haven’t been taught the secret handshake.  The tendency is to look at the economy in vast numbers, too large for mere mortals to comprehend, and cloak all discussion in a form of econo-babble  which explains little, guarantees nothing and leaves plenty of room for shrugs and head scratching later on.  For real people, this is no way to understand the Economy.  Looking at the Economy from the top down does us no good when we are at the bottom looking up.

The Economy is not a matter of GNP set against National Debt as reflected in a Provisional Budget subject to Line Item Veto.  The Economy is the sensation that  spreads up your spine just before you open your most recent credit card or heating bill.  The Economy is deciding between feeding your children and paying your mortgage.  The Economy is not national or global, it is intensely personal.  And, in that sense, it is readily understandable to all of us.  Economists?  We don’t need no stinkin’ economists.

You see, the Economy, for the vast multitude of us, is as easy as pie.  Your Economy is what you earn, plus what you have (assets), divided among what your financial obligations are.  In that sense, your wealth is a pie and everything on which you need to spend that wealth are pieces of that pie, wedges if you will, of varying sizes.   

I thought this article was about how universal health care and renewable energy will save our economy?  It is.  To see it, we need to embrace three essential ideas about our Economy.

At the core of this understanding is the first simple precept; the pie is the pie.  What you have is what you have.  If your income is not growing, your pie remains the same size.  For many of us, if we look at our incomes in adjusted dollars, we are actually earning less than we were thirty years ago.  Our pie is not getting bigger.  As a result, no matter how many ways we slice it, we never end up with more pie.  Unless we are doing fairly well, we seldom end up with leftovers.

Within this first aspect of understanding our Economy lie two other simple concepts, necessary vs. discretionary spending.  In my view, there are five things that we have no choice but to allocate our financial resources toward:

Housing – rent or own, you need a safe place to get out of the elements

Food – we can not yet outsource eating – we have to do it ourselves

Energy – we need to heat and cool that shelter, plus get ourselves to and from work, for  most of us either by car or public transportation – all of this requires energy

Health Care – for ourselves and our families, our good health goes a long way to make life worth living

Education – education is the key to making ourselves better able to increase the size of our own pie and make all other expenses easier to bear

We could argue that this is a simplistic view of our necessary spending, but there is an important unifier to these five items.  Unless you own your own home or are purchasing it under a fixed rate mortgage,  each of these expenses can, will, and is increasing without your ability to control it. 

What we have to pay for food, energy, health care, and education has been rising steeply, for most of us, outpacing earnings.  In one way of looking at it, if we considered those five items as the entire pie, we would see the wedges for food and energy increasing in size modestly, and health care and education increasing in size substantially.  The wedge that we would label housing, would of necessity be getting smaller.  We used to call this robbing Peter to pay Paul.  When the housing bubble burst and the market crashed, it was revealed that mortgage companies had been engaged in what has come to be known as predatory lending, one aspect of which was that mortgages were being granted to people who lacked the financial resources to pay for them.  That is the effect of the shrinking pie wedge.  It is also the reason that the home you own will be losing value rather than gaining it, until the majority of people start to see an increase in the size of their pie.

Of course, our pie can not be cut just five ways.  We have many other expenses as part of our daily lives, many of which we feel we can not do without, but which for the time being we will label as discretionary.  Now, if you are reading this in your home, take a look around at all of the things that you have purchased: furniture, clothing, books, televisions, cooking utensils, cds, dvds, even your pets.  The list could go on and on.  All of these things are discretionary spending.  For the purposes of this exercise, let us imagine five elements of discretionary spending: car maintenance, haircuts, restaurant dinners, remodeling and a new toaster.

As costs rise on our necessary expenditures, the pie changes shape and the wedges for our discretionary spending grow smaller.  Every time you celebrate a birthday, your health insurance costs tick up a notch.  Every time the market price for a barrel of oil rises, you pay more at the pump.  Every year, the tuition at your college increases.  Every time you head out to the grocery store, you wonder why the milk is getting more expensive.  You can not change this world and you can also not reject this world out of hand.  You inhabit this world and are committed to paying the price of it. 

So the discretionary wedges get smaller.  In our exercise, what does this mean?  Perhaps you decide that you’ll live with the dent in your front quarter panel or the long scratch along the passenger side of the car.  Maybe you’ll cut back on trips to the hair salon and only go every other month.  Much as you’d like to, you’ll opt to eat in more often and save restaurant outings for very special occasions.  The deck out back will have to wait until next year.  And the old toaster, well it still warms the bread, so you’ll limp along with it.  These are decisions each of us make every day.

But here is the second essential idea; your discretionary spending is the filling in someone else’s pie.  When you skip a haircut, the stylist does not get paid.  That is an easy to understand, one for one transaction.  When you don’t go out to dinner, the restauranteur, wait staff, chef, line prep people and bus boys take a financial hit.  When you hold off on building the deck, the carpenter and his helper don’t get paid, and the lumber yard doesn’t sell wood and screws.  When you steer away from the body shop, the mechanics don’t put in their hours and the replacement parts sit in stock.  And when you don’t buy the new toaster, the hardware store owner loses a sale and the manufacturer has one less reorder to fill. 

The direct result of a growing loss of your discretionary spending is for other people in your own community to see their pies growing smaller, while their necessary expenditures continue to rise.  As a result, their allotted wedges for discretionary spending shrink as well, and the ripple effect through the community and the nation spreads.  In some cases, a factory that makes auto parts or toasters we’ll say, the shrinkage of pie as experienced at a corporate level creates loss, which must be offset by a cutting of costs.  One of the easiest costs to cut is labor, and another job is outsourced overseas.  Now, that person who was making quarter panels or toasters has a pie that consists only of assets, not earnings, and it shrinks to nothing before their eyes.

Within the broader picture of the national Economy, those institutions that comprise our necessary expenditures continue to grow and, as a result, the economic forecast looks good.  The health insurance industry, the fossil fuels industry, corporate agribusiness and big-education continue to gain traction.  But more of the people in our communities are employed in thousands of smaller fields, which fall within the parameters of discretionary spending.  There, the cuts in our discretionary pie wedges are resulting in a loss of well paying jobs or the demise of entire industries.

Whether we choose to think of it as a Local Economy with feedback loops or as an outpost in the Global Economy, it is easy to see that our own, personal Economy, is entwined with everyone else’s.  For our Economy to grow, others must contribute to our pie filling, as we do to theirs.  And, when the wedges shift out of balance, all of our pies are subject to having a bite taken out of them.

For this reason, it is my contention that we need to shift part of our economic focus to creating universal health care and an energy system that is based on clean, renewable sources of energy.  A reapportionment of pie wedge sizes will revitalize our economy.

Of course, we could make other, simpler arguments for these two items.  Since we have the capability of providing fine health care to people in all stages of their lives, and since we function as a nation under the supposition that each of us is created equal, it stands to reason that each of us should by right have equal access to that fine health care (and at an equal cost).  In the rest of the industrialized world, universal health care is the norm and is paid either through taxes or private health insurance, but in the latter case, the health insurance companies operate on a not-for-profit footing.  The costs are substantially less than our own and the health care outcomes tend to be better because people feel more economically able to take advantage of what their systems have to offer.

Similarly, we could look at clean, renewable energy as a necessity as we own up to the reality of climate change.  Carbon emissions must be cut now.  Polluting of our waterways and our air must be curtailed now.  Non-renewable energy is by its very definition unsustainable, yet we have already determined that energy is essential.  We need a better plan.

Appeals to the morality of our energy providers and our health insurance carriers have fallen on deaf ears.  They are not inclined to do what is right because it is right, not while a profit remains to be made.  So, it is to our government that we must be able to turn, to do what is right because it is truly for the greater good.    

Consider that by taking two of our necessary expenditures and shrinking their wedge size, all of the other wedges would have a little more breathing room, a little more room for expansion.  In fact, if a universal health care system could bring the costs Americans pay for health care into line with that borne by people in other industrialized nations, that wedge of the pie would shrink to one half its current size. 

Almost ten years ago, scientists in the solar energy field determined that an array of solar panels one hundred miles square (most likely in the western desert), could provide all of the energy needed by the entire country.  Other industrialized nations, such as Germany, have already embraced solar technology as the energy of the future, and are putting up panels everywhere they can.  Wind, water and geo-thermally produced power might even make us an exporter of clean energy.  In many calculations, the United States remains the world’s largest consumer of energy.  As such, we could do much to curb the rate of climate change, and provide our people with an energy system whose costs would decline over time, rather than rise.  Again, a wedge of the pie would first be stabilized and then it would shrink.

The result would be a more balanced pie, with leftovers.  The last essential idea is simply this: economic growth depends on leftovers.  This is a Demand Side, rather than a Supply Side concept.  Starting from the vantage point of the consumer, rather than the provider, the leftovers are the key to growing the Economy.  After all, what do you do with leftovers?  You consume them.  The leftover sections of our pie are unspent wealth and that wealth is what would wind up in the filling of ours and our neighbors’ pies.  Either by spending the money directly at the hair salon or body shop, investing it in the parts manufacturer or toaster factory, or contracting with the carpenter, the discretionary spending of those leftovers would pass through the pies of each of us, growing the size of our own pie, making the expenses we have to meet more bearable while allowing for economic stability and growth.

In the end, growth means a bigger pie for those of us who have waited too long for the trickle down.  Growth, when viewed against a reduction in necessary spending, creates greater and greater degrees of discretionary spending.  Greater discretionary spending (Demand) creates jobs.  Growth means that the value of your home, the single largest asset that most middle and working class Americans possess, can rise again. 

Universal health care and clean, renewable, sustainable energy, are essential components of our personal economy.  They are a requirement, not just for the rebuilding of the wealth of the middle and working classes, but for the well being of the planet.  Teddy Roosevelt saw this in 1912.  The rest of us, waiting in line at gas stations in 1983, knew this day had to come.  It’s here.

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Time For Some Trickle Up Economics

Once we enter the general election season and its culmination in November’s selection of our next President, the rhetoric will turn, as it always does, to the economy.  At that point, we will be down to just two viable candidates, and it is important that the American public have the opportunity to decide from two different points of view on how best to grow that economy.

We can all see this one coming.  The establishment politicians, particularly those on the right (and one Wall Street backer on the left), will call for a lessening of taxes on corporate America, because corporate leaders create jobs and Americans need jobs.  Nonsense.

As they have since the Reagan era and what was then referred to as Supply Side Economics,  the corporate establishment have lobbied for an ever lessening tax burden on the assumption that lower taxes on big business would allow said business to produce at greater levels, thus creating the room for a larger workforce and better pay.  The wealth then, that would be consolidated in the upper echelon of corporate America, would trickle down to everyone below it.  Those of us who have been running back and forth with our buckets to try to gather up this trickle, know otherwise.  Trickle down economics has never worked and is built upon a basic economic fallacy.

While the establishment wants us to believe that wealth creates jobs, that jobs are created from the Supply side, nothing could be further from the truth.  Jobs are created from the Demand side.   

Imagine for a moment that there is a person who has grown up with a great love of history.  Now, when he reaches adulthood, his real estate mogul father gifts him with a few billion spare smackeroos.  This enterprising young lad decides then to go into business and, following his love of history, opens a factory producing authentic Roman War Chariots.  These are the finest war chariots in the land, made of the finest materials available.  His factory starts up and employs one hundred craftsmen.  So far, so good for Supply side economics.  There is just one problem.  There is no Demand for authentic Roman War Chariots, with or without Corinthian leather appointments.  He is instantly overstocked with a lifetime supply of a product no one wants, the factory has to be closed, workers laid off, and a bankruptcy filed (whew, at least there is a tax write off).

Jobs are not created by Supply, they are created by Demand.  Yes, Henry Ford revolutionized American industry with the mass production of the automobile, but it was America’s demand for the automobile that rationalized mass production in the first place.  Had the Demand not been there, Henry Ford would be remembered as a fine craftsman of a limited line of a particular luxury item, manufactured in his three bay garage.  Instead, that Demand made possible the growth of Detroit into a major economic power and put hundreds of thousands of people to work there, and millions more across the country in related fields. 

Of course, like any field of endeavor into which the government steps, Supply Side Economics was further crippled by a series of horrifically bad trade agreements, starting with NAFTA and continuing today with the Trans Pacific Partnership.  These deals allowed for the wealth at the top of the economic food chain to be trickled down, not to American workers, but to workers in foreign markets, because the same amount of goods could be manufactured there, that much more cheaply. 

It is long past time to abandon Supply Side Economics and embrace Demand Side Economics.

Do Americans need jobs?  No.  Americans don’t need jobs, they need good paying, meaningful  jobs.  They need jobs on which they can feed their families.  They also need jobs which give them a sense of purpose within their communities, a sense of having an impact on their communities and on the lives of others within those communities.

Right now, the stagnation of our economy has become something of a death spiral.  When consumers, the Demand side, have less money to spend, they have fewer opportunities to express Demand and influence the growth of Supply.  Look at the growing job sectors in America.  What are people buying?  Fast food, cell phone apps and cheap housewares.  When Wal-Mart is the largest employer in America, selling cut-rate junk products from third world manufacturers and paying starvation wages to part-time employees, it is easy to see that there is increasingly limited opportunity for Demand to influence Supply.  Demand is struggling to make ends meet, to keep the lights on.  Right now, Demand hasn’t the capital to create jobs and Supply knows that its customers can only support a meaningless, low-rent service economy.

If, instead of consolidating the wealth at the top of the ladder, we spread it out among the lower rungs, the consumer would do what consumers have always done, spend that money as an expression of Demand.  Then, the enterprising young lad with the Chariot backlog, could retool his factory to produce the products or deliver the services that people actually want.  And, since people have different tastes and different needs, the more money that is put in the pockets of consumers, the more varied a Demand will be created.  This is what led to the rise of American industry in the first place, an insatiable demand from a populace with more money to spend than was required to meet their basic needs.

So, how do we turn the tables on the economy and shift to a Demand Side economic model?  Abandon the trade agreements which have consigned our workforce to meaningless jobs in a Wal-Mart paradise.  Support middle and working class Americans with legislation for better wages and with a lessened tax burden, so they have more money to spend.  Close tax loopholes for the large corporate concerns and put that money into creating good paying jobs which can’t be outsourced (like rebuilding our infrastructure).  Create incentives for American corporations to stay at home, paying American workers to build quality goods and provide quality services.  Educate our young people so they can perform in better paying fields of endeavor.  And yes, provide affordable health care to all Americans, so that the out of pocket costs of their health care are minimized.  They will gladly allow that extra cash to burn a hole in their pockets, exercising their Demand and creating the need for an increased Supply.

This fall, we will have a choice of two candidates to lead this country.  We all know the level of economic stagnation in which the middle and working classes have been struggling for close to forty years.  We also know that one political party will back a nominee who will work to continue a failed system of Trickle Down Economics.  We can not afford to have two nominees embracing that same nonsensical ideal.

Put the People first.  Put the economy in the hands of those people.  Demand will show us the new industrial models.  Supply will still make money if it is smart enough to recognize the Demand.  Better jobs and healthier communities will follow.  And don’t worry, Corporate America, the wealth will trickle up to you.

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Want to Change the World? Get Off Your Couch and Vote!

There is an old saying that you get what you pay for.  In the world of politics, that might better be said as you get the candidate that someone else has paid for.  But it need not be that way.  Setting aside for a moment the issues of election fraud and voter suppression that have mired this campaign season in the mud, it remains the case that we can have the candidate for whom the majority of us vote.  What is very important to understand is just how few of us act to make that decision.

Most Americans who pay attention to the political world already know that our electorate has a certain notoriety for not showing up to actually vote.  In our best general election tallies, barely 57% of registered voters actually make it to the polls.  In the primaries, you can cut that percentage in half.

This campaign season, much of the talk in the main stream media has focused on the record turnouts on both sides of the political aisle.  Coupled with images from Arizona, Massachusetts and Michigan of long lines queuing up to polling stations, the concerned viewer might think that the political revolution of 2016 is at long last drawing vast numbers of Americans into the political process.  Not so.  Thus far, and calculated on a state by state basis, the Republican primaries have drawn out 17.3% of all eligible voters and the Democratic primaries 11.7%.  Combined then, only 29% of eligible voters from the states which have already held their primary polling have actually made it out to vote.  By extension, by the time that we get around to the general election in November, less than one third of our eligible voters will have determined the candidates between whom all of us have to choose.

And this is a record year for voting!   The Republicans’ 17.3% represents their highest total since 1980 and the Democrats’ 11.7% their highest since 1992.  When many of us ask, rhetorically, “Is this the best we can do?,” the answer is certainly “yes,” if we rely on a small portion of the electorate to get out and do the dirty work of voting. 

When we look at a candidate like Donald Trump, who is seemingly running away with the Republican nomination, he is doing so (presently) with about 34% of the 17.3% who actually come out to vote.  In other words, Trump has roughly 6% of the population of eligible voters behind him and he is very likely to become the Republican nominee. 

Is this an aberration of some sort?  No.  In 2012, Mitt Romney won 30 states, the District of Columbia and the Republican nomination with a combined total of only 9.8 million votes.  That number represented a turnout of just 5.1% of the eligible voters during that cycle’s primaries.

Why do so many people let so few determine whom our leaders will be?  The short answer must encompass laziness and disinterest on the part of the voter.  But equally significant as a cause of poor voter turnout is voter suppression.  The small turnouts in our primary seasons are nothing new.  So, the question becomes, how do I win with a small amount of voter support?  The answer, simply enough, is to do all that you can to maximize your voters while discouraging your opponents’ voters from taking part in the process. 

In this cycle, it appears that the Clinton campaign, in collusion with the DNC, has done a far better job of getting their own vote out (often through early voting mail-in programs), while making it harder for Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley to maximize their own voters.  The dramatically reduced number of polling stations in Maricopa County, voters who were mysteriously re-registered as Republicans or Independents, a bomb threat to the hotline headquarters for voter issues, letters directing Washington voters to the wrong caucus sites, running out of ballots in Florida by noon time, all of these are examples of ways in which the vote was overtly suppressed. 

More insidious perhaps is the suppression of the vote by the main stream media.  Between endlessly proclaiming the Clinton campaign to be farther ahead in delegates than they actually are and calling the vote in Arizona with only 1% of it in, the media created a reason for people who had been standing in line for five hours to just pack it in and go home.  These are textbook examples of a carefully coordinated voter suppression program.  Interestingly enough, every instance of voter suppression and election fraud has served to help the same candidate.  Coincidence?

But here you are, frustrated and longing to do your civic duty. You should be.  While we can argue all day that the process of voting should be simple, fair and available to all eligible Americans, it is not going to be, so long as the people calling the shots remain the people calling the shots.  It is incumbent upon all of us to work harder to exercise our right to vote, so that those who would suppress our vote have to work that much harder themselves.  Right now, we are making it far too easy for monied interests and national committees to rig the election. 

What should you do? 

First, ignore the hype from the media and the national committees.  The media is owned by corporations which share a hip pocket with the Super Pacs of the front runners and the committees themselves.  They are nothing more than mouthpieces for whomever pays them the most money.  They are mercenaries or, less politely, whores.  The purpose of the media is to disseminate misinformation in a coordinated effort to maintain the establishment by suppressing grass roots efforts to effect change.

Second, ignore the polls.  The vast majority of polling in the United States is done by telephone and the costs to do so are kept down through the use of predictive dialers and robo-callers.  The problem is that it is illegal under FCC statutes to use a predictive dialer or a robotic calling device to call a cellular phone.  That must still be done by hand, in a costly and time-consuming fashion.  Therefore, well in excess of 90% of telephone polling is done exclusively to land lines and some 40% of our population no longer has a land line to call.  That same 40% is also reflective of a younger demographic, so the polls tend to be skewed toward older voters.

Third, research the facts about the candidates.  It is easier than you might think.  Remember, campaign rhetoric is just that.  It is a lot of sturm und drang, vague promises and idle threats.  What the candidates promise is infinitely less significant than what they produce.  Go to your browser and search for a candidate’s name and legislative record.  This will show you just what legislation that candidate has actually authored (sponsored) and what legislation of theirs has been passed into law.  The latter is significant as it tends to show the candidate’s ability to work across the aisle, essential to getting anything done in Washington.

Fourth, make sure you are properly registered.  Try doing a search online for your county and state and voter registration.  From there, you should be able to determine just how you are registered in the eyes of your state.  There have been far too many instances of voter suppression by reassigning registration to the wrong party or to an Independent status in states which do not allow Independents to vote in primaries.  Check that too!  If you are an Independent, change your registration to reflect the party of the candidate you prefer, so that you can be sure to be able to vote in your state’s primary.

It might look like more work, but if you ignore the hype and ignore the polls, you will find that you have more time to research the candidates and check on your registration.

Lastly, get out to vote.  Make the time and you can make the difference.  Do not let anyone convince you that your vote does not count.  When the turnout is so low, each vote carries that much more weight.  When John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon for the presidency in 1960, he did so because he won the state of Illinois.  And he won the state of Illinois by less than 9000 votes.  Your vote matters.  Your vote could change the world.

Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  Voter suppression tactics are about shutting people up and shutting them out.  Exercise your right.  Vote.  Your voice will be heard, loud and clear.

On the 2016 Primary voting:

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/03/08/so-far-turnout-in-this-years-primaries-rivals-2008-record/

On the JFK election:

http://stonezone.com/article.php?id=391

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Super Delegate Math or Myth?

As the primary season continues to unfold, the DNC and their affiliated main stream media remains insistent on counting Super Delegates pledged to Hillary Clinton among her actual, earned delegates for the convention in Philadelphia this summer.  And, while the social media networks are abuzz with chatter about how these Super Delegates will actually vote, what is not addressed accurately is just how they are already influencing the primary process. 

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is on record, having defined the purpose of the Super Delegates as a means by which the party will not be held accountable to a “grass roots insurgency.”  In other words, the voting block that is the Super Delegates is there to turn the tables on the will of the voters, should that will not reflect in lock step the will of the party elders.  So it is that by the outset of the primary season, the Super Delegates pledged in support of Hillary Clinton gave her the illusion of having far outdistanced her opponents and of having already started the process of running away with the election.  Strategically, this remains a key component of the Clinton campaign.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.   The function of the Super Delegates is twofold.  First, they can serve as a tie breaker in the event that neither candidate arrives at the convention with enough delegates to win the nomination outright, and that after the second ballot and the attendant “horse trading” between the candidates, the balloting is perceived as hopelessly deadlocked.  Second, they can serve the function of adding authority to the delegate totals of a winning nominee who managed to win by less than convincing numbers.  Such was the case in 1984, when the Super Delegates chose Walter Mondale over Gary Hart for the nomination.  Neither of the candidates had arrived with enough delegates to claim the nomination outright, but Mondale had about 500 more than Hart and the addition of the Super Delegates put him over the top and did so in a way that made his victory appear more decisive.

1984 was also the first and last time that the Super Delegates even voted in any meaningful way.  In subsequent elections, the candidate either arrived with enough delegates earned in the primary balloting to claim the nomination or, horse trading after the first ballot was cast broke the deadlock and the nominee emerged.  In the former instance, the Super Delegates served as a cheering section which put their weight behind the nominee, to show support  for the people’s choice.  The latter case was exemplified in 2008 when Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign, allowing Barrack Obama to go through as the nominee.  Trailing Obama in a close race, the Super Delegates could have been used to swing the election to Clinton.  But, had they done so, it would have meant overturning the will of the electorate, and would certainly have had major repercussions in the general election.  Instead, back room negotiations secured the Secretary of State post for Hillary and she agreed to bide her time on the presidency.

Now, in 2016, the looming presence of the Super Delegates is again suggesting that the will of the electorate may be undone at the convention.  As in 2008, this would be disastrous for the Democratic party.  Today, in terms of earned delegates to the convention in Philadelphia, Hillary stands at 1243 and Bernie Sanders at 980.  Only 263 earned delegates separate the two candidates, with seventeen states yet to vote and a cloud hanging over the election in Arizona which may yet rain on Hillary’s parade.  Over two thousand delegates are still available, spread across those seventeen states, and the voting trend recently has significantly favored the Sanders campaign.  There is a very strong likelihood that Senator Sanders will arrive in Philadelphia with more earned delegates than Secretary Clinton.

Will the Super Delegates overturn the will of the people and hand the nomination to Hillary Clinton?  If their concern is genuinely with the general election, they will assuredly not disenfranchise half of their base.  This has been a tight race so far and will quite possibly remain so.  The two candidates could arrive in Philadelphia with a fairly even split of the delegates and a lot of bitterness between their two camps.  But, if the Super Delegates are required to break the deadlock, they would be well advised to side with whomever arrives with the most earned delegates.  If not, and if they choose Hillary as most say they will, Bernie Sanders’ supporters will possibly exit the party en masse. 

To arrive at that conclusion, we have to look at just who his supporters are.  They represent the progressive wing of what was once a progressive party, a group of Democratic lifers who already feel that they have been abandoned by the DNC.  His supporters are also Independents and their voting block will be key to the election.  Independent voters now represent about 40% of the electorate and if they come to the conclusion that their votes were nullified by the DNC, their lack of a  lifelong commitment to the party will manifest itself in a mass exodus.  They will sit on their hands in November and look for another party entirely come 2020.  His voters are also young people, the voting block which will grow and age with the party over time.  If the Democrats lose them now, they may never get them back.

So why is such a fuss being made over the Super Delegates, who have not even voted yet, may never vote at all, and almost certainly would not vote to overturn the will of the electorate?  The truth is that what the Super Delegates do best, is to suppress the vote.  Their function is to convince the grass roots voters that their candidate hasn’t a chance, to give up and just stay home.  If they are successful in doing that, then the grass roots movement dies on the vine and the establishment candidate goes through without the Super Delegates ever needing to cast a deciding vote.  The problem this year is those pesky progressives, independents and young people.  They have had enough of establishment politics, enough of DNC posturing, and enough of Hillary Clinton’s promises of incremental change.  They are staying the course, staying true to Bernie Sanders, and are becoming more entrenched in their own beliefs with each successive instance of election rigging. 

To date, every single instance of that rigging has benefitted Secretary Clinton.  Most recently, the misadventure that was the primary in Arizona combined election fraud which forced voters to stand on line for five and six hours, with an election result which was called with only one percent of the vote in.  When you have created in the mind of the voter the idea that Hillary is already within reach of the nomination due to her backing from the Super Delegates, announce that a given primary has already been decided, and force voters to choose between voting and possibly losing their jobs, it is no wonder that many voters broke from the ranks of the ballot lines and went home. 

While no one can say definitively that Hillary was behind it, she is the one who benefited from it.  That is enough.  And, in what is perhaps the most telling aspect of the election fraud, the scope of it is rising as it becomes more obvious that the electorate is not willing to be  buffaloed by the promises of the Super Delegates.  This has been made abundantly clear by the protests of the voters in Arizona, who refuse to be denied their rights.  They have their candidate, they followed the rules and their votes were not counted.  The blame lies with the DNC and local officials who have clearly conspired to rig the process.  But Sanders’ supporters have remained firm and have taken to the streets.  Rather than staying home, Bernie Sanders’ supporters are essentially drawing a line in the sand and daring the DNC and the Super Delegates to step across it.

The Super Delegates though, remain firm in their vocal support of Hillary, even in instances where the primary results in their own states favored Sanders by over 70%.  Why?  It goes back to whether or not the focus is on winning the general election.  It is possible (though doubtful) that the Democratic party leadership would prefer to lose the election rather than adjust their mode of operation to support a Bernie Sanders presidency.  Remember, campaigns and parties run on the fuel that is money.  Lots of it.  Many of the Super Delegates are themselves elected officials.  They will need to run for re-election, or may have aspirations of moving up the elected office ladder.  This too, will require lots of money.  Hillary represents the establishment, the status quo, and with that, lobbyists and Super Pacs and lots of soft money to fuel campaigns and buy media outlets.  Bernie is committed to removing the influence of big money from electing our representatives to Washington.  Without that big money, without the backing of the main stream media, many incumbents will soon be out of jobs.

In the end, the actions of the Super Delegates will tell us everything we need to know about the Democratic party for at least the next generation.  If Bernie Sanders arrives in Philadelphia with more earned delegates than Hillary Clinton and the Super Delegates rise in support of him, it will validate and welcome the progressives, the independents and the young voters to the fold, solidify the base, and quite likely prove overwhelming to the Republican candidate.  If they decide instead to pull the rug out from under Bernie and his supporters, the backlash will cripple the Democratic party, cost them the general election and, in all likelihood, cement the hold the Republicans have on the House of Representatives.  Imagine what a president like Trump or Cruz might accomplish.

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Shall We Live What We Learn?

Today, it is time to take a step back, time to take a broader view.  The election cycle demands of us that we continually focus our attention on the nitty gritty of campaigns, sorting through the rhetoric, filtering out the lies and half truths.  But today, today it is time to look more broadly at what we have learned and ask how we shall choose to live in light of it.

We have learned that while there are quite a few bad apples out there, there are a hell of a lot of good and decent people, who want to be involved and want to make a difference.  This time, it seems as though the demarcation line between the two sides is somehow clearer; we have been encouraged to define it as establishment against outsider, but in the end, it has nothing to do with our politics.  This is about our priorities. 

One the one hand, we have the institutions that value money and power.  On the other, people and the planet.  It could not be more clear.  This is not about Democrats and Republicans; each side has its good and its bad people.  Equally, this is not just about the candidates; this is about the people whom they attract as supporters and the actions taken by those supporters to advance the cause.

On one hand, we could express this as the year that pitted hope against hate.  It troubles me, as it troubles so many that the level of vitriol expressed against immigrants, muslims and people of different political persuasions, owes nothing to reality and everything to fear.  It is sorrowful for the country to acknowledge that some candidates made the conscious decision to garner support by catering to that hate and fear.  The good news is that they are losing ground.  In the end, it is much harder to hold onto your hate than it is to hold onto your hope.  Hate burns you up and burns you out.  Hope is sustaining.  I believe that in November, the country will choose hope.

We have also witnessed a pitting of two dimensional vs. three dimensional characters.  A novelist could not create a work of fiction with Donald Trump as the main character and hope to win the Booker Prize.  He has no depth.  There is no there there. 

And it is those same characters, the ones drawn expressly for the six second sound bite on the main stream media, that have allowed the rest of us to see just how much the media has become complicit in the problem.  Calling elections with 1% of the vote in is just the most recent and egregious example.  Not giving equal time to all candidates, creating pundits out of campaign flunkies, and above all else, refusing to report on the real issues facing the country, have shown us the degradation of the Fifth Estate.  The news media was supposed to stand up for us, to speak truth to power, to use our freedom of speech to represent us against the wrongdoings of our own government.  Instead, they have become self-appointed kingmakers.

When the real story is one of voter suppression and election fraud on not just a grand, but growing scale, they choose to present tabloid reports regarding candidates’ wives, purportedly insurmountable delegate leads and Super Delegates who have pledged votes but not actually voted.  Similarly, it is somehow not newsworthy that voters arrive to polling stations after standing in line for five and six hours, only to be handed a provisional ballot which will likely not be counted, because their party affiliation has mysteriously changed since they last voted.  We also seem to not need to know that the votes have actually come in from two caucus states, because the media chooses not to announce the winner until it is late enough that most folks have gone to bed.  But, we have to thank them, because now we see them for what they are.  In showing their true colors, they have done all of us a favor.  We can now consign them to their rightful place as background chatter, the white noise of society.

We have learned that to many, the governance of our country is just a game.  Winner take all, to be sure, but just a game.  For the Mitch McConnell’s of the world, doing the job they have been elected and sworn in to perform takes a back seat to the gamesmanship of obstructing the process, grinding everything to a halt lest it be perceived that the other side has actually achieved something.  And Mr. Mitch is not the only one.  The gamesmanship extends to the campaign trail, where Bill Clinton defined the Obama presidency as “the awful legacy of the last eight years,” but only after the African American vote was secured in the primaries of the southern states.  We have witnessed the efforts of Debbie Wasserman Schultz to rig the election process, from denying Bernie Sanders access to the voting lists, to scheduling debates for times when no one is watching, and making sure that there are never enough ballots for the voters who show up to exercise their civic duty. 

But I find something interesting here, too.  All of these people are looking mighty old.  There is a Picture of Dorian Gray component to this.  The corruption, degeneracy and wickedness of these thieves who would steal the country from its own people, has crept upon their faces like lines on Gray’s portrait.  And all of the spray tan in China can not varnish it away.

Largely, that distinction is now visible because we have learned that there are so many good people, standing up and standing together in opposition to the establishment, the forces of darkness, the forces of same as it ever was.  From Elizabeth Warren to Nina Turner, Bill Moyers to Cornel West, Robert Reich to Spike Lee, Asher Edelman to Danny Glover, there is a vitality among the forces of change and hope that grows stronger by the day. 

The pairing though, that shines most clearly is that of Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.  Two distinctly different generations, two distinctly different experiences of life.  But between them, fire and focus, wisdom and compassion, and most of all, continuity.  What we have learned is that there is a movement, a revolution, that has been going on in this country since the early 1960’s.  It comes back to that mindset of hope.  It hinges on the priority of doing what is right for the planet and for our fellow human beings. 

It has been suppressed, to be sure, for many years.  So much so, that many of us thought we were alone.  We are not.  When the enthusiasm in one county’s voter turnout from 2012 to 2016 rises by half a million voters, we are not alone.  When those people stand in line for five and six hours because they will not be denied their right to participate in the process, we are not alone.  When a candidate takes in over five million separate donations averaging less than thirty dollars a piece, from real working men and women, not the $27,000 a plate crowd, we are not alone.

The single most exciting piece of news during this cycle has to do with the involvement in the process of so many people, young and old, who thought previously that they did not have a voice.  It was not that they had no voice; it’s just that no one was listening.  Now, we have learned that those combined voices can change the world.  The same as it ever was crowd is frightened, as well they should be.  They are circling the wagons and sending out volleys through their super pacs and media cronies, in a last ditch effort to stem the tide of change, to convince us that we need to be pragmatic, that we need not expect too much, that we can not win against that which is inevitable. 

They are trying to negotiate a truce for fear that hope will sweep them from the field. 

In the end, we have learned that you will fail to galvanize a nation around hatred, but succeed when you do so around hope.  You can send out dinner invites with a $27,000 a plate RSVP or you can throw open the doors to the entire neighborhood.  You can deny people their voices in the process with rigged elections, or you can trust the goodness in their hearts to make the right call.  You can believe what you hear or you can shine light on the lie.  As we used to say, you can be part of the problem, or part of the solution.  It is for each of us to choose how we shall live from what we have learned.

Increasingly, we are learning that it is the solution that is becoming inevitable.

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Are We Willing to Pay the Price for Our Freedom?

As the election process inches forward, we are once again faced with allegations of election fraud and voter suppression.  The primary yesterday in Arizona was an outright disgrace.  A state in which one county (Maricopa) had witnessed 300,000 people come out to vote at 200 polling stations during the 2008 election cycle, was unprepared to handle the estimated 800,000 who came out yesterday to only 60 polling stations.  Voters stood for five and six hours on line, only to find that once again, insufficient numbers of ballots were on hand.  Once again, registered voters found that their political affiliation had mysteriously changed or that they had been dropped from voter rolls altogether.  Once again, provisional ballots were handed out though it was indicated to voters that these ballots would not be counted.  And the Media called the election by 10:00p.m. eastern time, with just 1% of the vote in,  while voters were still lined up for blocks at 1:30a.m.

These are the same problems which plagued the primaries in Florida (where some thirteen precincts had run out of ballots by noon), North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Utah, Idaho, Missouri, Massachusetts, and just about every state the Clinton campaign has notched as a victory.  Oddly enough, a large proportion of Hillary’s supporters have been instructed to vote early, by mail, and avoid the entire precinct voting process.

But there have been instances of Republican election rigging as well, namely Ted Cruz’s efforts to convince voters in Iowa that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race.  Yesterday, in Mormon Utah, a Super Pac supporting Ted Cruz ran an ad featuring a nude Melania Trump with the tag-line, “Meet Melania Trump, your next First Lady.  Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday.”  I have absolutely no love for Donald Trump, but attacking someone’s family in this manner is gutless, classless, despicable and cowardly.  And whether or not it was authorized by him, Ted Cruz will have to own that characterization from here on out.

One interesting element to the dirty politics we are seeing from both sides, is that it has originated with the establishment candidates.  Neither Sanders’ nor Trump’s campaigns have been accused of attempting to rig the elections.  The DNC, on the other hand, has been complicit in nearly every effort to suppress the vote of Democrats who would largely be supporting Bernie Sanders (if Hillary’s supporters have voted early and in enough numbers, you could suppress everyone on election day and almost guarantee a win for the Clintons).  The RNC has openly suggested that they might need to run a third party candidate to stop Trump, and has dragged Mitt Romney out of mothballs to do their dirty work.

How should we read this?  To express the conditions surrounding our current election process in their simplest terms, the Establishment on both sides is actively working to suppress the will of the people to make a change in the status quo of our government.  The Establishment is utterly out of touch with the voters of this country.  When Trump and Sanders began their campaigns, each was scoffed at by their respective party elders.  Each was seen as something of a joke.  But Sanders and Trump are engaged with their base; they know their supporters.  Each, for his own reasons, reflects the will of the voting makeup of his party.  And now, the Establishment finds itself with only one card left to play; make sure that those votes don’t count.

Like him or not, Donald Trump is bringing voters out of the woodwork.  His rallies are enormous and his supporters passionate (for all of the wrong reasons, I would add).  The other night, Sanders held a rally in Washington State which drew 35,000 people.  Hillary, meanwhile, held her “rally” in a living room where attendees paid $27,000 apiece to get in and $50,000 if they wanted to meet and speak with her.  This is not lost on the American voting public.

Middle and working class people in America may not really be able to comprehend just how much money $170 billion dollars in increased earnings by the top fifteen people in America is, but we know when we are getting screwed.  We know that when Washington tells us the economy is improving, it isn’t improving for us.  Our wallets are still just as empty.  Our credit cards still carry large balances.  Our bank accounts still have no buffer.  Our jobs pay less, our health care costs more.  Our retirement savings won’t be enough and a trip to the hospital could be one cost too much.  We may be able to remember a past full of promise, but we now fear that our children will have no future.

“At least,” we may have thought, “we still have a voice.”  We have been taught since we first entered school that the greatness of America lies in the process by which we, the people, elect representatives to speak on our behalf in Washington and in the State Assemblies. Each November, we learned, the people get to vote so that the government represents our needs, our desires and our principles.   That, we now must concede, was a lie. 

The middle and working class people of this country did not arrive here overnight.  We can now look back on nearly half a century of legislation which has allowed corporate America to line its pockets while sending our jobs and our futures overseas, legislation that keeps us in debt to big health care corporations when the rest of the industrialized world provides better health care as a right to its people.  We have been dragged into twenty odd years of endless and pointless war, run up a national debt that is somewhere in the vicinity of nineteen trillion dollars, and found that a large chunk of the debt for which we are responsible, is held by the Chinese.  The people on both sides of the aisle, playing politics in Washington, have doomed at least once generation of us to penury.  And now, the RNC and the DNC have informed us that we no longer even have a voice of complaint in the process.  Our votes, if it looks like they will cause injury to the Establishment, don’t count.

In the title of this article, the question was asked, “Are we willing to pay the price for our freedom?”  We often hear that our nation’s soldiers have paid that price for us, guaranteeing with their lives the freedoms which we enjoy.  But now we have to ask whether we are free at all.  One need not feel the bars to be trapped in a cage.  When limitations are placed on our abilities to grow as a society or as individuals within it, we are not free.  When a corrupt economic system keeps the vast majority of us enslaved to the next paycheck, we are not free.  And when our political leadership looks us in the eye and says that our voices do not matter, we are not free.

It is now nearly forty eight years since the summer of 1968, two generations, a single life lived almost to its mid-line.  It was in 1968 that the people, for one brief, shining moment, found their voice.  The assassination of JFK in 1963 marked the first time that the majority of American people believed that their own government could not be trusted.  By 1968, with the war raging in southeast Asia and middle and working class American kids being drafted and sent to fight for nothing more than the nightly body count, that voice rose as one to shout down the Establishment. 

While the respective parties gave us establishment candidates in the form of Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey, the grass roots gave rise to Eugene McCarthy and, later in the campaign, Robert Kennedy.  McCarthy’s early primary lead chased incumbent president Lyndon Johnson out of the race and lured RFK in.  In time, the voice of the young people in America, desperate to end the war and to heal the wounds at home between white and black Americans, coalesced behind RFK.  McCarthy’s ill advised remarks on opting for a Communist coalition in Vietnam and relocating black youth out of urban areas to quell urban problems ultimately doomed his campaign. 

So, with the Doors’ song, “Five to One” as a backdrop, the young people of this country began to see that it was true that “they have the guns but we’ve got the numbers.”  And politics, after all, is a numbers game.  Everything was coming together for a political revolution.   And then it was gone.  Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis on April 4th and RFK was assassinated in Los Angeles two months later.  By late August and the Democratic convention in Chicago, the sense that the fix was in was palpable.  During the primaries, some 80% of the votes cast were in favor of anti-war candidates, but at the convention, the DNC pushed Hubert Humphrey through, despite the fact that he had not entered a single primary.  The “riots in the streets” to which Donald Trump alluded last week when considering what might happen if he is denied the nomination, were exactly what played out in Chicago.

In hindsight, 1968 saw this country on the verge of a massive political shift, away from establishment politics, away from a war that no one outside of government wanted, away from hatred and divisiveness at home.  The chance was there and the voting public seemed ready to seize it.  But the promise went unfulfilled.  Now, nearly half a century later, the chance has once again arisen.  This time. however, it is not a “lone nut gun-man” who has his crosshairs on our opportunity.  It is the establishment itself, bold as brass.

Perhaps it takes a leader like RFK or maybe Bernie Sanders, to galvanize the people of our republic behind an image of all that is good about us, an image of the potential for greatness that still lies in America.  Or, could it be that Donald Trump has revealed something about ourselves that we have kept hidden, but which could once again push us to the top of the world stage?  Truly, those leaders come along only once in a lifetime.  So the question is reframed, “Are we willing to pay the price for our freedom to elect the leadership we choose for ourselves?”  If the people put their support behind a candidate whom the parties seek to undo, are we willing to destroy the parties in return?

This journal does not endorse Donald Trump.  Other articles here have in no uncertain terms pointed out just how bad a choice he would be for the country.  But if Hillary Clinton is to get the nomination, are we, the people, willing to pay the price of electing her and continuing the ownership of this country by the ruling class?  If the supporters of Bernie Sanders “sit on their hands” in protest, refusing to vote for a candidate who is the antithesis of all that they believe, Trump will win, regardless of what the Republican party does to stop him.  The next four years will be disastrous, for trade, for human rights, for maintaining allegiances throughout the world.  But should we elect Clinton, the very first order of business for the DNC will be to make sure that no grass roots candidate ever again threatens the party’s plan.  The next Bernie Sanders, maybe fifty years from now, will have it that much harder.

Do we resign ourselves to business as usual or do we break the machine and build anew?

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  George Carlin used to say about the relationship between the working people of this country and the owners of the country (and of our government) that, “it is a big club and you and I ain’t in it.”  The old Fram Oil Filter ad warned us that, “you can pay me now or pay me later.”  If we don’t stop the cycle of selling our freedom now, we consign our children and our grandchildren to the debtor’s prison of paying later.  Thirty pieces of silver now could damn us for generations to come.  I, for one, am not willing to pay that price.

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