I’m a radical leftist. I went from an Elizabeth Warren 2016 bumper sticker to a Feel the Bern 2016 model and I’m voting for Jill Stein. Not because we are spirit animals but because I want federal funding for the Green Party. And being one who is #neverHillary – the candidate who repeatedly scoffed at the notion of courting the left and instead cozied up with war criminals and Wall Street – I’m experiencing a bit of schadenfraude.
Senator John McCain – feeling a bit of re-election pressure – hinted that Republicans would block any and all of Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court justice nominees. And really, President Obama basically gave them permission when he nominated a conservative justice in Merrick Garland – a guy who was unanimously confirmed to the federal bench – and Senate Republicans refused to even meet with him, let alone hold confirmation hearings. Obama utterly failed to communicate to the public the unprecedented Republican obstructionism.
When Senator Chuck Grassley was asked about McCain’s outrageous comments, he doubled down on the threat.
I don’t know if Obama was afraid to be seen as an angry black man or if he is simply a classic, spineless Democrat (I’d like to see the internal emails). Either way, he allowed Republicans to take an inch with Garland (and their blocking & delaying of hundreds of federal & district court nominees), so now they’re threatening to strangle one of our three branches of government to death. Republicans, after all, don’t believe in government, so it fits their messaging when they break it.
That’s just the SCOTUS and the Senate, where Republicans will likely not even enjoy a majority.
Assuming Republicans retain control of the House, Hillary will be investigated by numerous GOP-led committees from the day she is sworn into office. House Speaker Paul Ryan and likely-House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz have already assured it will happen.
Under the cloud of investigation, why hold confirmation hearings on her Supreme Court nominee? Why can’t they drag out investigations (and impeachment hearings) for three years then go back to saying the election should determine who gets to fill the court? Why would they pass any legislation that she proposes? That will likely be their message. And since corporate media has traded objectivity for neutrality…
It’s insanity. It’s incorrigible. It’s un-American. But Republicans are in the minority. They are a withering, essentially regional, political party. They are lashing out in fear. Fear of a browning populace embodied in a black president with a Muslim name. Fear of losing culture wars over queer acceptance. Fear of feminazis and alimonies culminating in a woman in the Oval Office. A woman who – having been convinced over the course of 30 years is the devil – united them in hatred.
Oh, but they were going to call Bernie a Socialist… Neoliberals are pathetic.
Conservatives live in an alternate universe where black folks and the lgbtq community have extra special rights that poor, unfortunate whites do not enjoy. They believe that the US military has been purposely & thoroughly depleted; and Muslims are on the precipice of instituting Sharia in Sheboygan. They’ve gone so mad that Democrats – needing only to seem slightly less evil – have lurched further & further right. In doing so, they force Republicans to take more extreme positions for contrast.
In many respects, Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton are more conservative than Ronald Reagan. As governor of California, Reagan signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act, and the Mulford Act which banned the open-carry of firearms. Besides, Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency; and George H. W. Bush referred to trickle-down as “voodoo” economics.
Hillary has called herself a moderate. Obama said he would have been a moderate Republican in the 80’s. They agree with Republicans because they are in effect, Republicans. Yet they head the Democratic Party, because both represent the moneyed donor class as one.
It’s been forty years since the Democrats represented the interests of the working class. It’s by design.
The Supreme Court ruled in the mid/late Seventies that corporations are people & money is speech ergo political bribery has 1st Amendment protection. Corruption had always been around, this allowed them to openly and legally purchase our government at auction and use it to enrich themselves at our expense. This put Democrats at a disadvantage since Republican economic and tax policies favor billionaires and multinational corporations.
Democratic President Jimmy Carter was (is) an Evangelical. But Reagan proposed a marriage between the chamber of commerce and the religious right which endures to this day.
Democrats were seen as weak, having been anti-war in respect to Vietnam. Anti-poverty programs and progressive tax policy were framed as socialism. Social liberals were framed as godless pinko commies and feminazis. Liberal had successfully been branded a slur.
In response, liberal elites decided that they too would sell out to corporate interests in order to level the playing field. They formed the Democratic Leadership Council. New Democrats would employ triangulation by being tough on crime, espousing hawkish foreign policy, and catering to Wall Street – whose interests are in direct opposition to those of working people. Neo-liberals stress compromise and – outside of gay rights and the bodily autonomy of women – generally agree with Republicans.
When Democrats and Republicans agree it’s usually bad for the American people. They agree that we should embrace austerity, imperialism, mass surveillance, mass incarceration, prohibition, fracking, off-shore drilling, new pipelines, TPP, cutting corporate taxes, cutting social insurance programs, continuing corporate welfare, a permanent tax holiday on overseas earnings, and the repeal of habeas corpus. They are jointly opposed to a two-state solution, breaking up the banks, single-payer healthcare, campaign finance reform, $15 minimum wage, universal pre-k, free college, student debt forgiveness, expanding Social Security, and meaningful gun safety measures.
Bill Clinton deregulated Wall Street & corporate media, slashed welfare rolls, and oversaw the imprisonment of more black people than any other president. Obama bombed at least seven majority-Muslim nations, made the Bush tax cuts permanent, implemented the Republican version of universal healthcare, accelerated the use of drone wars, enshrined legal framework for assassinating American citizens, nominated a conservative for the SCOTUS, and even went so far as to offer to gut Social Security benefits in his dogged pursuit of the ever elusive grand bargain.
Forty years of neoliberalism – of Democrats acting as Republican-lite – have meant wage stagnation and the disappearing of a once-robust middle class.
Economic (and demographic) frustration birthed the rise of authoritarian fascist Donald Trump. Faced with the threat of cheeto-Mussolini, Democratic Party elites purposely rigged the primary in favor of the most hated Democratic candidate in US history. Rather than risk implementation of a real progressive agenda, they gambled our nation’s future on a widely-distrusted corporatist. In a time of economic frustration which saw the rise of both Bernie and Trump, Democrats cast their lot with the establishment. So out of touch with the everyday struggles of the working poor, Democrats lifted up the protector of the status quo.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned after being caught using the DNC to tilt the scales against Bernie Sanders. She was replaced by Donna Brazile, who used her position at CNN to funnel Hillary a primary debate question.
Hillary assured Wall Street executives that the public statements she makes have no bearing on her actual, private beliefs which she shares with them. It was confirmed that she is pro-TPP and was pro-Keystone XL (and hasn’t said a word about DAPL). With an audience of Wall Street executives, Hillary scolded environmentalists, telling them to “Get a life, you know?”
We saw unethical coordination between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department. We saw quid pro quo – meetings with Bill, ambassadorship appointments, and approval of arms deals. We saw illegal coordination between Hillary’s presidential campaign and pro-Hillary Super PACs.
This is the person who democrats chose as their standard bearer. And rather than try and court the hundred million Americans who will choose not to vote this November, they instead scolded progressives for daring to challenge Democrats’ deal leader. Hillary scoffed at the notion that she should court the left. She instead cozied up to neocons and Jeb donors – garnering the endorsement of war criminals and establishment Republicans.
Hillary and her acolytes spat in the face of progressives. Her campaign tried to frame the most progressive candidate in history as a sexist. They tried to frame a guy who was at the March on Washington and was arrested protesting segregation as a racist. They tried to frame Bernie Sanders – a Jew – as an anti-Semite. They cast progressives as sexist Bernie Bros and Jill Stein voters as white privileged Trump enablers. Anyone who dared speak on the contents of the Podesta leaks was labeled an agent of the Kremlin. They would rather initiate World War III than admit that their favored candidate might be flawed.
That’s who Democrats are.
They don’t have to earn the votes of people whose loyalty is without question. I don’t care that our first-to-the-post Electoral College system favors two major parties. I reject lesser-evilism. I’ll vote Jill Stein in hopes that the Green Party reaches 5% and earns matching federal funds. And I’ll continue to fight against Hillary Clinton’s neoliberal agenda every step of the way.
To be clear: that he is terrible at his job has no bearing on whether he will keep it. Football reigns supreme atop the sports mountain. Superhuman athletes adorned with body armor and shiny head-gear collide at high rates of speed. Time in between allow time to break down individual plays for the viewer. Story-lines are easily followed with weekly held contests. Which are held on the weekend, until the eyes of the nation unite on Monday night. Fantasy games make each and every contest from coast to caost – not just the home team – of great import. And of course, the addictive nature of gambling.
The game of football is great shape, and will remain so until American culture views each and every play as cumulative, sub-concussive trauma resulting in permanent cognitive effects on the players. That’s the only way for mothers to keep their sons from playing or their husbands from watching. Until then, the money will be substantial, and poor kids will keep playing in search of a better life. And that’s great – I love football!
In a sense, Roger Goodell’s only job is keeping the whole concussion thing under wraps. But that has more to do with the long-term health of the sport. And his title is not Caretaker of the Sport. He is the Commissioner of the NFL. His employers are the 32 team owners. They are not caretakers either (well the Maras or the Rooneys, but I digress).
Team ownership has evolved over time. It used to be that wealthy individuals, such as newspaper owners, would purchase teams as status symbols. It was understood that yearly profits from operating teams were relatively minimal; the real money was in eventually cashing out on the sale given the strength of the brand. That dynamic has completely changed. Today, most owners are in it because they’ve made billions in business, and they expect the same yearly profits and on the field success from their teams. And now they’re the buying newspapers as status symbols.
In that sense, Roger Goodell’s only job is to keep the money rolling in. League revenue is roughly $13b/yr and the least valued team is worth approximately $1.4b. The owners are mostly old, white, wealthy, Republicans who gladly pay Roger Goodell $40m/yr to take their lumps all the way to a 28% approval rating.
It’s well deserved.
The initial portrayal of Roger Goodell was of a longtime league employee and understudy of Paul Tagliabue. The first decision which brought scrutiny was Spygate. The New England Patriots had been caught filming their opponents’ (Jets and Packers, at least) sideline signals from the stands during a game. They were accused of systematically matching plays to illegally obtained footage of signals which were memorized in the week leading up to the game by a designated individual in order to decipher the opposing team’s plays in real time during games.
Patriot owner Robert Kraft was a league heavyweight. Craft and Coach Bill Belichick had led the team to three league championships (and were accused of spying on Rams practices in 2002). Throwing a dynasty into question would be crippling, if not a death knell, for a league.
Goodell ordered the evidence destroyed. Fines and a lost draft pick.
Then came Bountygate. The Saints were accused of rewarding players financially for big plays and hits. The practice was technically banned, though it was a long held league-wide practice and the rewards were often from the proceeds of player-led kangaroo courts. Coach Sean Payton was suspended for an entire season. Anthony Hargrove’s career was unjustly taken from him.
Though there have been no work-stoppages, Goodell and the players maintain a strained relationship. The contracts are not guaranteed, so injury can mean financial ruin. The league has demanded unilateral powers for the commissioner in bargaining agreements. Goodell is seen to have a firm hand with the players, and uneven in other areas. Craft and Jim Irsay, for instance.
The league forces players hand when it comes to press access and interviews. The league uses the military and breast cancer awareness as props. Yet they are unbending on player expression when it comes to celebrations and tributes on their cleats.
The NFL will unflinchingly discard players for the use of cannabis. Ricky Williams had a rapper for an agent and signed a questionable contract, and they took all his money back for using cannabis. Josh Gordon had one of the best seasons at wide receiver in league history at 22, and his on the field career may’ve sadly ended at 23 – because of the way the NFL under Roger Goodell treats the use of cannabis.
In contrast, when video of Ray Rice dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator and callously stepping over her, the response of the NFL was to suspend him for two games. The man knocked his wife out cold in public! And the league gave him seemingly the least punishment possible. When video emerged of the incident Rice was suspended indefinitely (and the league kept selling ladies versions of the batterers’ jersey). Only when faced with public backlash did Goodell take the matter seriously. And in his haste brought about by his own ineptitude, Goodell went above his authority and punished Rice a second time for a single crime (and we learned the league had the elevator footage the entire time).
It fits a pattern. Adrian Peterson was initially to receive a two-game suspension; until pictures emerged of the welts on his children and he was instead suspended a full season.
The league, owners, and Goodell will go to the Supreme Court to exert their authority. Deflategate may have been on purpose. The Patriots have a long history of shenanigans. But it had zero to do with their trouncing of the Colts in the playoffs. Tom Brady was suspended for four games for slightly deflated balls no one ever cared about before or since. Greg Hardy threatened a woman’s life and threw her on a bed covered in guns; he received the same four-game punishment.
It’s just another example of in a long line of questionable Goodell decisions – one after another. He claims he has learned from his missteps in regards to domestic violence and proportional punishment. He’s proclaimed a standard six-game suspension. Yet Josh Brown was given a one-game suspension.
Colin Kaepernick is reviled and scorned. Yet Josh Brown – who admitted years ago to treating his wife like a slave and viewing himself as her god – is called a good man by the team owner and given seemingly the least punishment possible.
Once again, public backlash has pressured the league into doing the right thing. Josh Brown will likely never play again. He’s had a long and financially beneficial career at 38. Like Rice, his skills have eroded to the point he is no longer worth the hassle. Hardy was welcomed back because they still viewed his talents as worthy – so he returned until his skills rendered him expendable. Because the league, and Roger Goodell, don’t really think domestic violence is a threat to their brand.
But cannabis and social justice issues? Conservative owners have no time for that. So Josh Gordon is exiled and Colin Kaepernick is compared to Rae Carruth. And Roger Goodell makes $40m/yr to take their lumps.
She was the leading Democratic advocate for the Iraq War. Yet that alone did not compel war criminals Henry Kissinger & John Negroponte to endorse her candidacy for president:
She supported the 2009 Honduras coup which caused enough violence to result in a refugee crisis we shamefully & simultaneously ignored & fear-mongered. Libya is a shambles since the assassination of Gaddafi, which Hillary supported and defiantly insists is a success story. She supports opposing sides of the civil war in Syria. She threatened to attack Iran. Her position on Israel/Palestine is to the right of every single current and former US president.
Rather than confront the substance of leaked emails, Hillary, her campaign, and much of a parroting corporate media are employing McCarthy-ite, Red Scare antics. They are waving the contents off as Russian propaganda unworthy of dissemination. Those reporting on the damning leaks have been castigated as complicit agents of the Kremlin.
Just the New York Times, the Intercept, The Young Turks, the International Business Times, and a few others are reporting the leaks without caveat.
Despite Wikileaks’ 100% record of authenticity – and Clinton’s own admission of the emails’ authenticity during a presidential debate – the Podesta leaks have been brushed off by Clinton surrogates as Kremlin-doctored fakes.
Worse, Cold War flames are being fanned for partisan & personal political gain. Without providing a single bit of evidence, Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama have accused Russia of meddling in our presidential election. They are claiming that Donald Trump, Vladamir Putin, and Julian Assange are in cahoots to undermine Hillary’s ascent to power. And that Russia is behind all of the hacks –Hillary’s campaign staff emails, the DNC, and dozens of state voter databases.
Here’s their case: Guccifer 2.0, who claimed responsibility, is Romanian (Russia-adjacent?). The hacker(s) utilized tactics used by Russian hackers in the past. Ex-KGB Agent Putin is the marionette of dimwitted Trump, who is vulnerably indebted to Russian banks, having been black-balled for defrauding many in the US. Trump-henchman Roger Stone has ties to Julian Assange of Wikileaks, who clearly has disdain for Hillary.
Also, Assange lost journalistic free speech rights when he conspired to hold onto the emails for maximum impact on the presidential election, and thus should face extradition (or worse). John Kerry didn’t pressure Ecuador to cut his internet. John Podesta is a private citizen whose privacy was violated. And Russia committed a cyber attack against the US.
Whether any or all of that is accurate – given WMDs & the Gulf of Tonkin their claims deserve scrutiny – is completely separate from the substance of the emails. No one cares that the Pentagon Papers were stolen. Or Donald Trump’s tax returns.
John Podesta – of the Podesta Group, the third most influential lobbying group in the world – is one of the most powerful men in the world.
Hillary Clinton is on the verge of becoming the Leader of the Free World.
While I personally disagree with Wikileaks’ publishing of everything up to and including Podesta’s risotto recipe, many revelations in the emails are of great public import and very much need daylight.
After all, former-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was pressured to resign as result of the DNC hack. She used her political position to tilt the primary election against Senator Bernie Sanders (before going back to work for Hillary’s campaign).
The American public were shown proof that Hillary’s State Department gave political favors, such as ambassadorships and approval of arms deals, to Clinton Foundation donors.
The Podesta leaks continue to roll out by the thousands. We’ve thus far learned that Hillary was provided, in advance, a primary debate question by CNN contributor and now-interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile.
We see the Clinton camp feeding stories to friendly journos and being given final approval of stories in advance; and given interview questions in advance with final approval.
There is evidence of illegal coordination between the Clinton campaign and pro-Hillary super PACs Correct the Record and Priorities USA Action.
Hillary assured Wall Street executives that her public stances do not necessarily reflect her real, private positions which she shares with her fellow monied elites.
Hillary, along with her surrogates in the media and her online army of mercenary trolls, do not wish to deal with uncomfortable truths about their favored candidate. Rather, they obfuscate and saber-rattle.
This is extremely dangerous and will have effects long outlasting this particular political campaign. An adversarial relationship with Russia is the path toward mutually assured destruction. We’ve been (rightly) accusing each other of human rights abuses and war crimes. Our plutonium reprocessing deal was cancelled. Our Syrian cease-fire was broken.
Ronald Reagan promised Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move an inch toward Russia. In a bold move of aggression, we offered NATO membership to Russia’s neighbor Ukraine. Estonia and Latvia are already NATO aligned. We essentially occupy the Russian border. We are in a constant state of reverse-Cuban Missile Crisis and most Americans don’t seem to know or care.
Donald Trump is a fascist mad-man. He says Japan & Saudi Arabia should have nukes. He may be a belligerent bumbler, but he is not actively pushing for WWIII. Trump says he wants to work with Putin to defeat ISIS (Daesh). We cannot work with them while busily fear-mongering and threatening retaliation. Let them burn their money bombing peace into the Middle East for a while – we could use a break.
Hillary wants a no-fly zone in Syria, enforcement of which would require boots on the ground. Besides, Daesh doesn’t have any planes in Syria – they don’t have any planes at all. Russia does. Would Hillary have us shoot down a Russian pilot and instigate Word War III for inevitably violating a nonsensical no-fly zone in Syria?
Hillary Clinton has called for a military response to a cyber attack. They are calling these leaks a cyber attack and blaming Russia! Thanks to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, we are closer to nuclear war than at any time in at least a generation.
The Cold War is resurrected. For political expediency.
We live in a society where conservatives and progressives have differing sets of facts. It’s not just a matter of interpretation – such as why it is that black people are incarcerated and unemployed at higher rates. We cannot agree on basic facts like what the unemployment rate really is.
The cause is plainly obvious: We live in separate echo chambers in which we consume our news from sources that reinforce our political biases. We eliminate sources which disagree with our partisan beliefs and become intellectually siloed.
The solution is also obvious: Don’t do that. Consume news from sources with which you generally disagree. (If only to hear the other side of the argument so you know how to respond in a debate setting.)
Thankfully, we have the whole of human knowledge at our fingertips. It’s on us whether to read Tolstoy or to Keep Up with the Kardashians.
If we want to be politically informed it’s not easy since there are no widely trusted sources. There are most-watched cable news networks and programs. There are most-viewed websites and youtube.com channels. But we no longer have newsmen (and women) like Walter Cronkite who we believed would portray the news honestly. So we retreat to our echo chambers.
How did we get here?
The first thing to understand is that the Cronkite-era trusted news source was an anomaly. We’ve had freedom of the press since the inception of our nation. But when the 1st Amendment was written all of the news was politically biased. Print media was partisan seemingly by definition. Sensationalized yellow journalism came about in the late 1800’s.
When television sets invaded our homes we demanded that in exchange for the privilege of utilizing our publicly owned airwaves networks were required to broadcast an hour of factual news. They were required to feature topical political matters in a truthful manner – completely separate from entertainment. It was understood that broadcast networks would take a loss for an hour of public service in exchange for using our publicly owned utility. In doing so, they slowly earned our trust.
In the 1950’s Sylvester Weaver of NBC created Today, a chummy morning show which was…newsy. ABC & CBS eventually responded in the 1970’s with their own newsy morning shows in Good Morning America & This Morning, respectively. Local news stations had been raking in cash with sensationalized if it bleeds it leads news since the 1960’s. Then, Don Hewitt of CBS created 60 Minutes. It was the first prime-time news program to turn a profit. It utilized a formula of journalists as protagonists. Soon, Roone Arledge of ABC News provided competition in 20/20 & Nightline. Cable and CNN then emerged in the 1980’s. GE bought NBC and the news media which informs our public was fully morphed into a profit-driven venture.
No longer did we have a Big Three of trusted networks with trusted anchors. Suddenly there was a glut of options, creating stiff competition for eyes and ad dollars.
Thankfully, we had laws restricting ownership of media. A person or company could own print media or network media in a given market, not both. As such, our media was provided by dozens of sources. Until President Bill Clinton deregulated the media with the Telecommunications Act, which brought about media consolidation. Today, ninety percent of our media – from newspapers and magazines and books to movies and television – is owned by six corporations: Comcast, Viacom, CBS, Time Warner, Disney, and News-Corp.
We used to trust our media and it used to serve us well. Brutal images of the Vietnam War caused public backlash and compelled us to eventually pull out. The Watergate scandal was exposed by Woodward & Bernstein, and finally hitched to President Richard Nixon by David Frost. Nixon, (along with media consultant Roger Ailes) realized that public opinion could be molded by creating entire news packages which mainstream news media would faithfully display unedited on their behalf.
Ailes expanded that model with Fox News. MSNBC emerged in kind.
Today, cable and network news personalities pretend to play it down the middle – the Leno model, as imitated by Jimmy Fallon. He says the sky is red, she says the sky is blue – I guess we’ll never know! They’ve traded objectivity for neutrality. In doing so, they’ve squandered any and all credibility. Our news anchors have become mannequinian script-readers who hope only not to offend by telling an uncomfortable truth or admitting to having an informed opinion.
They cannot offend any audience lest they lose ratings. They cannot offend any politician lest they lose access. They cannot offend any ad buyer lest they lose their platform.
So we flock to the internet. The multinational corporations funding television haven’t yet figured out how to monetize social media or web-based news. And we still have net-neutrality, for the time being, so that those in power are not able to slow access to unfavorable sites.
We have the ability to seek out reliable and varied news sources. We have the responsibility of being an informed citizen and voter. We have the luxury of self-governance – if we can keep it.
The United States is neither a free country nor a democracy. As we are reminded quadrennially, we elect our president not by popular vote but with the electoral college system. We pretend to vote for president while we are actually voting for a delegate who then votes – hopefully – on our behalf. Same with our governing system – we elect officials who theoretically act in the interest of the people they represent.
Unfortunately, our democracy has been lost. A recent Princeton/Northwestern study showed that the will of the people is reflected in public policy only when the wealthy happen to agree. A country whose laws are determined solely by the opinions of the wealthy is not a democracy but an oligarchy. As such, our laws are written – whether in the letter of the law or in practice – to protect those in power & defend the status quo.
We are loyal worker bees who sit patiently at red traffic lights at 3am when no traffic is present out of fear we’ll be caught and ticketed by law enforcement, yet those in power have little fear of legal woes. Poor folks are locked away in privatized debtors’ prisons, while the wealthy go scot-free. Prosecutors overcharge and threaten maximum sentences to coerce poor suspects into taking plea deals while the wealthy employ pricey lawyers to flout our unjust system of criminal justice.
We celebrate Christopher Columbus – a guy who wrote with braggadocio about how easily he raped and murdered in the “New World.” We put a genocidal maniac (Andrew Jackson) on our twenty dollar bill. Not only did Richard Nixon go uncharged for his felonious role in the Watergate scandal – he should have been executed for high treason for negotiating to keep the Vietnam War going until he was president. Henry Kissinger & John Negroponte were never held accountable for death squads, genocide, and toppling governments. Oliver North went to jail for his role in Iran/CONTRA, but only as Ronald Reagan’s eager fall-guy.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Colon Powell – all should have been jailed for lying us into an illegal war of unprovoked aggression in Iraq. Barack Obama, in explaining why he would not hold investigations of the Iraq War architects, argued that we should look forward – as though crimes are only committed in the future and past criminal activity should be forgiven on general principle.
Obama himself is hoping to not be investigated for the callous murder of civilians with our drone army. Rod Blagoyavich went to prison for trying to sell Obama’s vacated senate seat – yet no one is investigating Hillary Clinton for handing ambassadorships to political/foundation donors. No one is investigating Donald Trump for using his foundation to duck taxes and pay his legal fees, or using campaign funds to enrich his personal businesses.
Wall Street brought the entire world economy to its knees with their fraudulent activities; HSBC was caught laundering money for drug cartels. Yet the only person who went to jail was Bernie Madoff – a guy who made the grave mistake of scamming fellow rich people. Wells Fargo fired 5000 hourly-wage salespeople while multimillionaire executives escaped unblemished. We knowingly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital for an hour despite distress calls and we blamed low-level servicemen for “procedural” errors.
We live in a country where a black man (Eric Garner) can be choked to death for suspicion of selling loose cigarettes, yet a rich white kid is given probation for killing four stranded people (including a pastor) with a stolen car while drunkenly driving following a beer-run (affluenza teen Eric Couch). We lock people away for the victim-less crime of smoking cannabis while pharmaceutical companies are allowed to bribe doctors to push their drugs off-label, resulting in an epidemic of heroin overdoses among former opioid prescribees.
Our free country features a secretive government which uses executive privilege, white papers, and over-classification to shield public policy from public knowledge. Our free country features one quarter of the entire worlds’ prison population. Our free country institutionalizes racism in the form of our racial profiling, our racist drug war, racist stop & frisk, racist broken windows, racist mandatory minimums (crack/powder cocaine disparity).
Our Bill of Rights is an utter sham:
1st Amendment: Politicians brazenly flaunt their disregard for the separation of church/state. We explicitly promote Christianity on our money. We profile Muslims at our airports and deny them permits for houses of worship. We imprison journalists and whistle-blowers who expose government wrong-doing. We label protests unsanctioned by the government as “unlawful assemblies.”
4th Amendment: Our government spies on our communications without warrant – all of our emails, phone calls, text messages, social media, chat rooms… They use our webcams and video game consoles to watch and listen to us. The FBI writes National Security Letters to itself when it wants to violate the constitution. The NSA goes to a secretive FISA court to get classified rulings on mass surveillance.
5th & 6th Amendments: We suspended habeas corpus so we can lock people away without charge – people who are not allowed to face their accusers, let alone at a speedy trial before their peers.
8th Amendment: Not only do we torture prisoners of war, we torture our own people. Our government purposely murders its own citizens with lethal injection – sometimes with hellfire missile via drone strike (Samir Khan, Anwar al-Awlaki, Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki, Jude Kenan Mohammad – sense a pattern?). We ravage the minds of our prisoners with solitary confinement. We thrust our prisoners into a gang culture where they are violently raped without recourse. Phone call costs are prohibitive. Pell Grants and all sorts of reading materials are banned. Prisoners often die from denied medical treatment. Cops kill unarmed citizens literally every single day without punishment. New York pays out millions every year in police brutality settlements; Chicago cops have a literal black site.
13th Amendment: We have private prisons with built-in factories paying pennies on the hour for the slave-labor of inmates.
14th Amendment: We refuse to provide equal protection to our LGBTQ communities (employment, housing, parental…), effectively rendering them second-class citizens.
15th Amendment: Voter suppression efforts run rampant across the nation, largely thanks to the SCOTUS’ gutting of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. We have voter purges (interstate crosscheck; felon bans), Voter ID laws, electioneers shuttering polling stations in minority communities, cutting early voting and the hours of operation on election day, giving false information to voters, threatening prosecution of voters, banning same-day registration, utilizing provisional ballots which go uncounted…
We live in an unjust and imperfect country. Although we live in a nation of self-governance we’ve fully ceded the power of the people to plutocrats who’ve created differing sets of rules for the wealthy and for the masses. We must wrest control of our nation by political means before the blinding capitalistic greed of our ruling oligarchic elites set us on a downward spiral from which we cannot recognizably emerge.
The US – as with our planet – is reaching a boiling point. For the first time in US history, kids are worse off than their parents. We can sense that the American Dream is a fantasy – whether or not we’re familiar with the term economic mobility.
Natives are being attacked by dogs & cops for protecting our water. Muslims & Hispanics have seen a spike in violent hate crimes. Blacks are being killed in the streets by cops who go unpunished while the first black president is delegitimized. Whites, nervous of browning demographics, are lashing out in economic frustration.
Since our public education is shoddy, and society pressures us into being loyal worker bees, most of us don’t have the luxury of time to learn about economic & tax policy. So we vote for Trump (or Brexit in the UK) because we’re at our wit’s end with forty years of wage-stagnation and a recovery that hasn’t. And while we might not know the solution, we know that the status quo is the problem.
Trump has argued that American workers are paid too well, and questioned the very concept of a federal minimum wage. President Barack Obama has called for $10.10/hr, while Secretary Hillary Clinton has called for $12, and Bernie Sanders has led the Fight for $15. Had the federal minimum wage kept up with inflation & increased productivity since the 1960s, it would be roughly $22/hr today. Having been raised but once in twenty years it sits at a paltry $7.25. Since $7.25 doesn’t cover the cost of living anywhere in the country, the government subsidizes corporations paying slave-wages with food stamps & welfare.
That fifteen dollar difference is still being made, mind you; it’s just going into the pockets of our corporate overlords. It’s essentially being stolen from us. Since we’re nice people we’ll split the difference and take $15/hr. We’ll do it gradually over a number of years, giving small businesses more time to adapt, with consideration of the urban/rural cost of living disparity, and tied to inflation so we don’t have this fight every ten years.
But the truth is…$15 isn’t enough. $22 isn’t enough. Free college & single-payer aren’t enough. If the US is to climb out of this death spiral we will require guaranteed basic income. We already do it in Alaska. We should have a negative income tax rather than simply expanding Social Security to everyone – though it’ll be more difficult politically. But it must be done.
Millennials, who’ve known nothing but war time & economic despair, favor socialism over capitalism. The truth is that every country maintains a balance. We have Social Security and public roads, but we don’t take over entire industries. Even when working toward universal healthcare, we forced people into the private, for-profit health insurance market. Guaranteed basic income leaves capitalism intact. It simply ensures that everyone participates. It’s a compromise.
Everyone knows – from Pauls Ryan to Krugman – that the key to economic growth is getting money into the hands of more people so they can go out and spend it at local businesses which will have to hire more people who will have money in their hands… Rather than food stamps, welfare, section 8 – we should simply give people money for the necessities, plus enough disposable income as needed to keep the economy humming.
We’ll continue the transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a consumer-based one. Besides movies & music, all we make anymore are bombs & financial transactions – and those are done by robots & computers. Due to automation, globalization, corporate-authored free-trade deals, and the erosion of union rights – our manufacturing jobs have been disappeared (consciously). We’re being forced to compete with slave-labor in third world countries – and that’s a race to the bottom that cannot be won.
Basic human greed & fiduciary responsibility to shareholders insist that we replace as many employees with machines as possible; dealing with humans will become a luxury of sorts. We already have driver-less Uber cars in Pittsburgh. We have restaurants with iPads for ordering and big box stores with self-checkout. Robots mimic chefs and construct bridges.
The robots won’t be taking over – since they can’t repair or create better versions of themselves – but they will be taking our jobs. Most of them, at least. And that’s a good thing. Automation increases productivity. We’ll free ourselves to do other jobs. We need more teachers and more doctors. We’ll still need people to write code & repair machines. We’ll need surgeons, counselors, police, engineers, architects, designers, chemists, scientists, theorists, writers, musicians, comedians, actors, inventors, entrepreneurs, investors…
We’ll still have people who are motivated by their desire to have the most and have the best. But rest assured – the robots (along with Indonesia & Bangladesh) are taking our jobs. And we can’t have hordes of jobless, homeless people wasting public resources getting arrested and sent to the emergency room every time they pass out drunk. There would be massive crime and open revolt. We need people to contribute as opposed to a drain on the economy. We don’t want people to turn to crime for the things humans desire. By giving people money to spend, they go out and buy things, thus contributing to the economy.
Quality of life: We’ll free ourselves to spend time with our families. We’ll end poverty & homelessness. We’ll remove the poverty-induced stress that leads to physical maladies and increased healthcare costs. We’ll have funds for nutritional foods and time to spend on physical activity. We’ll have time to pursue creative endeavors – the arts will flourish like never before. We’ll have time to ponder and explore. We’ll provide entrepreneurs a fertile market in which to sell their wares. We’ll be healthier and happier and we’ll remain an economic superpower.
We just have to stand up and demand it.
Or, we can continue the status quo. Forty years of wage stagnation can turn to 50 and 60 years, our economy can grind to a halt, and we won’t be able to afford our costly military anymore – let alone address climate change. Wealth inequity can keep the rich getting richer and economic immobility can result in a permanent class of elites.
Thing is, no one explicitly says they want to cater to the wealthy and punish the poor. Donald Trump and Paul Ryan want to reduce poverty and grow the economy. But their solution is more of the same supply-side, trickle-down Reaganomics we’ve been trying for 35 years. Thirty-five years which coincide with the divorce of wages from productivity.
We must stop pretending that businesses hire people out of the kindness of their non-existent hearts. We must get money into the hands of regular people instead of lavishing the wealthy with more tax cuts. We must use our vast consumer base as leverage to enforce our economic & tax policies rather than simply a natural resource to be exploited by multinational corporations. We must learn from our mistakes and strive to replicate our successes.
Corporations took over the country post-Civil War. We had robber barons & child-labor & labor organizers being murdered. Then the Great Depression. In response, FDR implemented Keynesian economic policy, social insurance programs, labor protections, and reigned in reckless behavior of financial institutions. The top federal income tax rate was between 70-94% for the forty years between the mid-1930s and ‘70s. The American Dream was alive & well and was a product of public policy.
Since Reagan, the top tax rate hasn’t gotten back to 40%. People who make money having money pay a lower rate than wage earners. CEOs used to earn a handful or a dozen times that of the lowest paid worker – now they take home thousands of times the average worker. Scant inheritance tax creates a dynastic, unmotivated ruling class. They hide their wealth from taxation in offshore accounts. Corporations have trillions in profits stashed overseas as well, biding their time in expectation of yet another repatriation tax holiday. They pull fancy accounting tricks like the double Irish and the corporate inversion. Corporate taxes used to represent a third of US tax revenue. They now pay roughly one tenth due to our insufficient effective corporate tax rate.
We’ve gutted IRS funding, slashing the number of agents who investigate corporations & rich folks cheating on their taxes. The FEC is at a stalemate, so lax campaign finance violations go unpunished. The DoJ has determined banksters too big to jail. We allow multinational corporations to pollute our atmosphere and our waterways – privatizing the gains while socializing the losses. We found trillions for war in the Middle East but we can’t get clean water to poor black folks Flint, Michigan.
The elites have fixed the system so well that it’s broken. The Supreme Court decided, through a string of disastrous decisions, that money is speech & corporations are people so political bribery = free speech. The dam was broken in the late-Seventies with Buckley v Valeo followed by Bellotti – then exacerbated recently with Citizens United and McCutcheon. Amoral corporations and immoral, wealthy donors are our politicians’ real constituents. They used public policy to usher in a massive upward wealth redistribution.
Wall Street was deregulated as the laws which protected us from their irresponsibility and greed were removed. Financial institutions created a mortgage bubble using predatory lending practices, packaging loans they knew to be worthless as gold, and betting against the market. The homes they didn’t foreclose lost significant value and the world economy was brought to its proverbial knees. Instead of making homeowners whole & jailing criminal & fraudulent banksters we rewarded them with hundreds of billions in a tax payer-funded bailout.
We’ve enjoyed 70-plus months of artificially enhanced growth featuring $80b in quantative easing and near-zero interest rates – a record period of growth that will inevitably come to a halt. The stock market has doubled and the unemployment rate halved, but literally all of the gains since the Great Recession have gone to the top one percent.
Unfortunately, we still haven’t addressed the cause of the last crash – they’re still allowed to gamble with our deposits and our mortgages. Now they’ve caused bubbles gambling with our vehicle and student loans. We haven’t done a thing to address our regressive tax policy, strengthen labor rights, encourage small businesses, or get money into the hands of consumers.
Both Trump and Clinton would further supply-side, trickle-down economic policy. Neither would reign in Wall Street nor address money in politics. One would jail journalists, round up minorities, intentionally target civilians with our military, and cavalierly threaten nuclear first-strikes in response to verbal barbs. The other would protect the domestic status quo at all costs and actively pursue World War III against (China,) Russia and Iran.
We were asking nicely with Bernie Sanders and the powers that be tilted the scales. We are again asking nicely with the Fight for $15. And we’ll keep on asking until we fulfill the promise of a more perfect union.
MLK said that “pent-up resentments” and “latent frustration” must have release. “If his repressed emotions are not released in non-violent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history.”
Thankfully, our founders wrote revolution into our constitution. They picked up arms so we wouldn’t have to. But we must use the tools given us. Self-governance is both a serious responsibility and an amazing opportunity to create an egalitarian and equitable society. We cannot abdicate our duties, we must wrest our nation from the clutches of the oligarchs if we are to remain a free people and advance this great nation.