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                     Happy Harbingers in Good Ideas for a Better Future

                                            An Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain  

                                                                                                                                   August 21, 2012

Welcome to the Earth Manifesto.  My name is Tiffany Twain.  This is my story.

I am the great-granddaughter of Mark Twain.  It has been a well-kept secret that my mother, Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch, had out-of-wedlock twins in 1950 after a passionate love affair in Hollywood, California.  Nina named us love-children Tiffany and Thomas.  Nina was the only child of Mark Twain’s second daughter, Clara Clemens.  The year before Mark Twain died in 1910, Clara had married Ossip Gabrilowitsch, a world-renowned Russian-American pianist.  They had spent many years in Germany and New York before they moved to Michigan, where Ossip became the long-tenured conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  

With all of the travels my mother Nina had done with her parents as a youngster, Ossip had nicknamed her “the International Monkey”.  Tom and I have done a fair amount of travel ourselves, and we have seen a lot of the world and its ways.  It helps to have secretly inherited a small portion of Mark Twain’s estate, since this has allowed us to lead quite interesting, free and charmed lives.  Tom and I were brought up by our father, Jules, mainly because our mother Nina had slipped into a serious dependence on alcohol and drugs in the last decade of her life before her death at the age of 55.  Clara Clemens’ second husband Jacques Samossoud helped us out with money from time to time.  It was one of the best things he did in his life, and like Huck Finn’s father, there were not all that many!  I think he must have been trying to make up for his reckless gambling, which resulted in the squandering of almost all of the large income and assets that Clara received from Mark Twain’s estate.

I have always loved beautiful mountains like the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada, and lovely coastlines like those of the West Coast, but I occasionally visit Hannibal, Missouri, “America’s Hometown”, to do my writing and to re-invigorate my connection to my great-grandfather’s literary roots.  Visualize yourself there with me, high atop Lover’s Leap on the west side of the Mississippi River, just south of Hannibal.  As we look intently upriver from this limestone promontory, let’s settle in to a reflective mood and think about all the news of the day and the important things in life.  And remember to take time to enjoy the wonderfully vitalizing views from this vantage point. 

My story is largely one, ironically, of an almost evangelical dedication to clear thinking and open-minded exploration of Big Picture ideas and the greater good of human societies.  Doggone those evangelical proselytizers who have given the word evangelical such disgraced connotations!  For this shame, the overly-zealous conservative fundamentalists amongst them deserve the regard of lamentful eyes and the sounds of sibilant aspersions.

My crafty great-grandfather’s genes are coursing through my arteries and heart and neural circuitry.  Both Tom and I developed an almost eerie love for tall tales.  It feels like the expression of our great granddad’s propensities for story telling and exaggeration have veritably oozed from our souls like an unmistakable genetic echo of creative days at Samuel Clemens’ family home in Hartford, Connecticut.  Tom and I have always marveled about how Mark Twain was fascinated with twins, switched identities, imposters, multiple personalities, and the true reality behind appearances -- and here it had turned out that his granddaughter ironically gave birth to twins.  For a good perspective on the tone, tenor and particulars of the great author’s life, check out the fascinating details of my biography of Samuel Langhorne Clemens in A Quite Curious and Illuminating Biography of Mark Twain in the Earth Manifesto. 

One hundred and two years have passed since Mark Twain died.  Cultural changes during this period of time have imprinted modern-day sensibilities upon me, and I have been caught up in new worldviews and more enlightened ecological and social understandings.  I am a bold progressive in my economic and political ideas, and a committed environmentalist with a keen awareness of social and ecological truths.  I have a deep respect for balanced perspective and an evolving, fair-minded feminism.  The creative writing bug has bitten me just like it did my great-granddad, and I try to temper my inherited incisive sense of observation with a somewhat sardonic sense of humor.  At the same time, I strive to be as precise, perceptive and accurate as possible in all of my interpretations of reality.  Picture Ernest Hemingway as portrayed with his direct spoken words in the marvelous Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris. 

Herald the Good News!

Great hope exists for achieving the goals of radically improving our societies and making them more secure for all.  Good hopes exist for making our communities more nearly sustainable.  It is curiously true, despite the fact that simple and good solutions exist to achieve nobler goals, that two particular little problems stand in the way.  The devil, as they say, is always in the details.

First, we are collectively addicted to national spending without having to pay for it in full.  And second, there is an elephant in the room:  wealthy people, who are best capable of helping to finance the societal and infrastructure investments and environmental protections which are needed to create a fair and sustainable society, are exactly the ones who have the power to stubbornly subvert every such initiative.  Rich “conservatives”, in particular, are staunchly opposed to plans that would increase revenues and assess higher rates of taxes on the highest levels of incomes. 

All of the insights contained in Sad Implications of the Two Dueling Santa Claus Strategies in Political Economics are included herein, in all their redundant splendor, in these aspirational Happy Harbinger ideas.

Grandiosity or Common Sense?

I have great respect for the stature my great granddad has achieved in the popular imagination and in the world of literature.  His philosophical perceptivity, incisively humorous wit, and his criticisms of human follies, injustices, and imperialism are highly commendable.  I have leveraged my Twainian inheritance, both genetic and philosophic, with common sense and uncommon thinking.  In the process, I have articulated grand ideas that could radically improve the prospects of the human race, and indeed of almost all other species of life on Earth.

These optimistic statements may sound delusional.  It may appear unlikely that we could easily improve our prospects in the face of daunting challenges and extreme partisanship and political obstinacy and an on-going emergency of economic crises, resource depletion, organizational dysfunction, crushing debt, systemic injustices, and rapid global population growth.  The prospects indeed are daunting that our current courses of action are steadily driving an untold number of species of life toward extinction.

But achieving more propitious outcomes is clearly possible.  Let me convince you of this contention.  Keep in mind the cosmic principle of politics and human nature:  the Rule of Two Impossibles.  When something is declared politically impossible, and yet the alternative option is proved to be impossible to an equal or greater degree, the first impossibility becomes curiously much more feasible. 

More than two thousand years ago, a Sicilian scientist named Archimedes declared that he could move the world if he had the right lever and the right place to stand.  Here we stand together, still poised on the limestone promontory of Lover’s Leap, and we have the levers in hand to choose to make historically positive changes in the course of world history.

The fact of the matter is that we could easily solve a good many of the epic challenges that face humanity.  We could take bold steps to safeguard the health of ecosystems that sustain us.  We could easily mitigate the risks related to our rapidly increasing national debt by fairly reducing the outsized budget deficits which are adding to this debt every year.  We could make fair and effective plans to stabilize the population of human beings on Earth before it reaches an overwhelming 9 billion people.  Success in these global endeavors would reduce the risks, to a significant degree, related to the escalating demands we are placing on the finite resources and healthy ecosystems of our providential home planet.  The most important of these solutions are articulated in One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies.

We could also easily make our system of Social Security indefinitely sustainable without increasing the retirement age or slashing benefits for people who need them.  We could do this without indulging in the roguishly unfair expediency of borrowing money from future generations to preserve the status quo of the current system.  We could courageously address the conundrum of rapidly increasing healthcare costs and mitigate the stark injustices in our system of medical care.  These solutions are articulated in Radically Simple Ways to Make America Fairer, and to Fix Both Social Security and Health Care So We Can Move On to Address Much Bigger Issues.

These solutions are achievable.  They are not only achievable, but it is our overarching obligation to strive to make them happen.  The primary obstacle to solving these problems is the desperate struggle of our politicians to triumph over each other in their unending battle to achieve Pyrrhic victories over each other, almost always at the expense of the greater good. 

Specific proposals to achieve these goals are made below, and in Book Two of this Manifesto (Part Four online).  Note that the Earth Manifesto contains more than 1,500 pages in over 90 separate essays.  Print out the Home Page and peruse it for a good idea of the scope and tenor of the contents.

Transitional Phase

An insightful observation from perceptive Paul Hawken points the optimal way for how we should be working to create better societies:

“We must design a system … where doing good is like falling off a log, where the natural, everyday acts of work and life accumulate into a better world as a matter of course, not a matter of conscious altruism.” 

                                     --- Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce

This is a valuable understanding.  We have a great need to restructure our economic system to make it fairer to people now and in the future.  This necessity becomes apparent when we see the stubborn intransigence of our two primary political parties in their stances regarding deficit spending and large additions to the bloated national debt.  It also casts a bright light onto the foolishness of allowing a variety of real costs to be externalized onto society.  It shines a bright spotlight on the absurdity of allowing the wealthiest Americans to pay tax rates which are at the lowest levels in generations.  The need for us to invest in the greater well-being of our societies is becoming glaringly obvious, so new approaches are required.

Read on for good ideas for how we should be restructuring our economy and political system, after a short interlude of poetic perspective.

Poetry Makes Its Appearance

Ponder the power of the poem penned by Mary Oliver, titled The Journey:

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began, 

though the voices around you
kept shouting their bad advice --
though the whole house began to tremble
and you felt the old tug at your ankles.
"Mend my life!" each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.

 

You knew what you had to do,
 though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,
though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late enough,
and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly recognized as your own,
 that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,
determined to do the only thing you could do —
determined to save the only life you could save.

                                                   © 1986 Mary Oliver From Dream Work

Uniting Americans to Achieve the Greater Good

E Pluribus Unum is a phrase which appears on the Great Seal of the United States.  This motto is also shown on U.S. coins, the $1 bill, and the covers of passports.  It means “Out of Many, One.”  This was the de facto motto of the U.S. from 1776 until 1956.  E Pluribus Unum is a symbol of our national challenge of seeking unity while respecting diversity.  As such, the idea has played a crucial role in shaping our history, our literature, and our national character.

Uniting with others to oppose injustice and extreme inequalities is honorable, appropriate, and eminently ethical.  It gives recognition to the overarching wisdom of the Golden Rule.  The values embodied in the Golden Rule are like basic functional acts of hygiene, not merely ones of satisfaction, social esteem, pleasure or optional expediency.

True security resides in the twin Golden Rule concepts of more equal social justice for all and lesser financial hardships for the majority.  True security is not to be found in an ever-more extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a Few.  Real security is not to be found in the repression of dissent, or in extremely costly aggressive military approaches to conflicts around the globe, or in making drone bomber attacks on people in sovereign nations.  Strategies like these incite various varieties of dangerous blowback retaliation.

A new paradigm of social action is needed which is more holistic, peaceable, fair, long-term oriented, and sustainable.  This new way of living must protect the underpinnings of our prosperity by including measures that help ensure the health of natural ecosystems and the providential environmental commons.

Many people ever since the days of Aesop and his pithy tales have noted the fact that “United we stand, divided we fall”.  In pathetic opposition to this social wisdom, those who control our nation find that it is easiest to control people by sowing division and conflict between people rather than by trying to foster harmony.  We should reject the usurpation of power by those who divide Americans to conquer and control and dominate us.  By uniting, people can alter their destinies and take back control of our country. 

An old maxim states that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.  Vigilance is a quality of alertness and attentive watching and seeing, and of true understanding of what is going on.  It is clear that we must unite to take back our country from those who are abusing their power and undermining the foundations of the liberty and well-being of the vast majority of Americans.  I encourage readers to join a movement that supports farsighted ideas and propitious public policies. 

Motto Changed

In 1956, Congress passed an Act which adopted In God We Trust as our official national motto.  A trust in God may be a fine virtue for individuals, because faith helps provide moral guidance and hope.  Faith helps assuage our fears and insecurities.  But faith sure seems to me to be a poor strategy to rely on to solve our domestic and international problems. 

Texas Governor Rick Perry views bizarrely unfolded during his brief run for President.  His evangelism contradicted the idea that we must courageously act to improve our societies.  He ostensibly wants people to believe that prayer is the best approach for solving our problems.  But really, God is far too undependable and elusive to be relied upon to honestly and fairly adjudicate conflicts between all the competing interests in our society. 

Fine, fine, fine with all the prayer stuff, evangelicals.  But let us not make the mistake of trusting in a providence designed by reactionary social engineers who represent the interests of the Few who apparently don’t give a damn about equality of opportunity, or true social fairness, or resource conservation, or environmental protections, or the preservation of open spaces and wilderness areas.  Let us not give support to apologists and operatives who help facilitate a “kinder and gentler” but more unequal and more unfair society!

Trusting in God has the accompanying liability that people argue intensely about whose God is the right one.  This leads to a host of problems, including religious strife that seriously complexifies the already plenty-intense conflicts between people of differing faiths.  Note to fundamentalists:  Beware!  There are many master manipulators in our midst!

All the great prophets of every faith espoused peace and love and forgiveness.  Do you think there could be anything in it?

A Proclamation by Thomas Twain

My twin brother Tom has always been a real rascal.  When I told him that the motto E Pluribus Unum had been abandoned in favor of In God We Trust, he veritably chortled.  “Think about it,” he said, shaking his head.  “We tossed aside the most admirable principle in the history of national unity and diversity-respecting ideals, and we replaced it with a divisive parochial doctrine that in practice might as well be, <Hail to the chosen few, all others go to Hell.>  No wonder our nation is going to hell in a handbasket.” 

Tom snorted triumphantly in gleeful rapture at his clever witticism.  We had been talking in a desultory way about how the good ole USA had spent the decades after the trauma of World War II investing in a great system of public schools and universities, an extensive national highway system, worker protections, civil rights initiatives, a modicum of gender equality, a social security safety net, and protections of Clean Air, Clean Water, and wilderness areas.  I had mentioned that these forward-looking public policies were financed from 1940 to 1980 by a progressive tax structure in which the rich paid taxes on the highest levels of their incomes at rates exceeding 70% every year.

Then Tom did a real interesting thing.  He methodically placed a soapbox on some risers in the living room, put on an old military hat, saluted an imaginary flag, and began a stentorian-voiced harangue:  “I say unto you that, without a shred of doubt, we create the conditions in our societies by choosing to institute the specific policies we pursue.  It is almost as if we live in a world of cause and effect!”  Then he collapsed in a paroxysm of laughter.  Perhaps you had to have been there.  I must admit that a good friend once deemed Tom to be “too clever by half.” 

We laughed together at Tom’s antics, and wondered if Werner Heisenberg ever thought about articulating a Social Uncertainty Principle.  Bertrand Russell certainly gives us pause for thought when he expressed this opinion:   “The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cock-sure, while the intelligent are full of doubt.”  

America prospered during the 40-year period before 1980 when the rich paid much more steeply graduated tax rates.  Then Ronald Reagan launched his folksy anti-egalitarian revolution in favor of the rich, and against progressive taxation, the rights of workers, balanced budgets, and affordable military spending. 

Ronald Reagan cleverly couched his powerful ideas in soaring rhetoric about a Shining City on a Hill.  He asserted that the United States is “the last best hope of man on earth.”  But then he injected insidiously unfair voodoo economic initiatives into American politics.  He took a nap and let his minions try to extinguish the hope of the masses -- there I go again -- by using hyped-up fears of Communism to ram through anti-progressive taxation schemes and anti-regulation initiatives and reduced collective bargaining rights for workers.  To make everything work better, according to his theory, we should have implemented a Constitutional Amendment which decreed that individual and group prayer must be allowed in public schools.  Surely that’d help provide providential succor for the democratic masses, the suckers!  Ha!

Tom was in one of his not infrequent spells of braggadocio, so he adopted a voice of mock indignation and chided me for being so concerned about social problems.  “Get a life!”, he suggested.  Tom is a big thinker, not unlike Mark Twain’s famous character Tom Sawyer, always looking for adventure and hatching clever plans and trying to work new angles and pulling practical pranks.  Remember that Tom Sawyer took advantage of unsuspecting friends to help him with the chore of whitewashing a fence.  Today, mere whitewashing will no longer do.  We must agree that the fence needs to be painted, and we must come to a consensus on the type and color of paint to be used -- and we must begin the project!  Let’s not subcontract the difficult job of societal improvement to rip-off artists, manipulative priority changers, no-bid contractors, nay-sayers, or the unfair and domineering control of right-wing ‘conservatives’!

Early American Puritans had a credo which held that faith and good works together were necessary for personal salvation.  Others curiously asserted that God regarded dutiful faith alone as enough for salvation.  God and scriptures are not clear on this matter, so let’s consult the providential ideas of Humanism.  This philosophy holds that reason, ethical action, and fair justice should be the basis for morality and decision-making, and that good works are more desirable for society than do-nothing policies in the face of an unjust status quo.

According to Wikipedia, Humanism specifically rejects religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience and superstitions as the basis of either morality or public policy decision-making.  Hallelujah!  Essential parts of Humanism are its central faith in reason and its continuously-adapting search for truth by means of philosophic exploration, open-minded reasoning, critical thinking, scientific understandings, and honest intuitive awareness.

We should initiate a movement that seeks the truly best ideas about how to be successful in adapting to the changes taking place in our societies and in the physical environment.  We should support the ideas of those who are committed to protecting the natural foundations of our prosperity. 

The British author H.G. Wells wrote in 1920: "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."  These words are even more relevant today!  Dr. Dana Meadows, most famous for her 1972 book, The Limits to Growth, was known for optimistically saying that we have exactly enough time to prevent catastrophe -- “starting now.”

Change seems to be accelerating as technological innovations proliferate like an algal bloom, and as environmental conditions deteriorate on our home planet.  It is as if we are hurtling 67,000 miles per hour around the Sun, and picking up speed.  (Wait a minute!  That would be 575 million miles in a year.  Whoa!).

What’s Up, Doc?

Last year I read the phenomenal book, Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (And A Way to Get There From Here).  This book is, according to Thom Hartmann, “a world-changing book that offers a heartening view of humanity’s destiny.  Built on the foundation of the latest discoveries in science, it points us in the direction of functional politics, sustainable economics, and individual responsibility in the context of an interdependent community.” 

We surely have a great need for more functional politics!  It would also be an excellent idea to encourage economic activities which are more likely to be sustainable, and to foster collective behaviors that are consistent with this goal.  We definitely need people to demonstrate greater individual responsibility in the context of interdependent communities.  I can’t imagine any sensible person disagreeing with the idea that we all have a degree of duty to leave a fairer legacy to future generations than current trends portend.  These things can be achieved by embracing a new holistic worldview, as provocatively revealed in Spontaneous Evolution, and as articulated in many of the ideas and proposals set forth in the Earth Manifesto.

To paraphrase Swami Beyondananda, we don’t just need a theory of evolution, we need to make a better practice of it!  Prosperity, the quality of life, and even our species’ survival hang in the balance.

An Aside on Happy Harbinger Goals

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned.  Some unhappy harbingers have insidiously infiltrated this intended paean to positivity.  I intend to refocus the tone and content of this story to make it more existentially positive once I fully grasp more enlightened perspectives.  I am working on it.  I will update these words once I fully grok the astounding paradigm-changing new worldviews contained in Spontaneous Evolution.  This book explores how human beings perceive the world, and how different it may turn out that reality actually is.  We should make no mistake about it:  there are profound effects of early-life programming and general social conditioning and the impacts of promotion and advertising on us.  A barrage of images impinges on our awareness;  propaganda is propounded astoundingly.

I plan to go through many Earth Manifesto essays and revise the tone and tenor of their perspectives to incorporate more of the hope-providing and heart-conscious understandings of reality that are contained in Spontaneous Evolution.  Meanwhile, the Earth Manifesto does contain many answers for questions we’ve been collectively asking.  And many win/win solutions are proposed to the problems we face.

Optimism is a hopeful, positive outlook on the future and oneself and the world.  Optimism turns out to be good for one’s physical health and resilience in getting us through tough times.  An attitude of realistic optimism can help us see the big picture and make things go as well as possible.  Optimism and the practice of gratitude can even be good for our immune systems and healing.  So let’s look on the bright side of everything, and work together to make a better world!

An Aside on Archimedes

Archimedes was born in the seaport of Syracuse, Sicily in 287 B.C., and thus was a youngster when the Greek king Pyrrhus brought his ambitions to Sicily and ruled the island from 278 B.C. to 275 B.C.  Pyrrhus was fresh off his cripplingly costly Pyrrhic victories over the Romans on the Italian mainland. 

More about Pyrrhic victories later.  Pyrrhus was one of the greatest military commanders of all time, right up there with Alexander the Great, and the Carthaginian Hannibal with his war elephants, and King Zheng of China.  Who the heck is King Zheng?  Westerners wonder this, even though hundreds of millions of people in China know.  We wonder this principally because our histories tend to ignore the epics that played out on Far Eastern stages.  But those stories also contain cogent lessons for our times. 

King Zheng was the ruler of the Qin Dynasty who later became Emperor Quin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China.  He was so good at exercising his great ambitions and the powerful political, economic and military strength of the Qin State that he managed to annex a bunch of regions and conquer many states in an early example of the principles of a variety of eastern Manifest Destiny.

After King Zheng unleashed the final campaigns of the Warring States Period, he succeeded in uniting China for the first time.  Then he embarked on enormous amounts of defense spending, building a Great Wall across the continent.  To ensure stability, he outlawed and burned many books and buried some scholars alive.  Somehow, he bought into the bizarre belief that if he conscripted tens of thousands of laborers for a dozen years or so, he could have a lavishly magnificent mausoleum constructed in which his dead body would be protected in his afterlife by an army of thousands of terracotta warriors, horses and chariots. 

But it sure didn’t work out that way.  It was a fiasco!  As soon as Emperor Huang died in 221 B.C., the Chinese people rose up in outrage and destroyed the mausoleum and smashed all of the terracotta figures.  It just goes to show that sometimes the things we believe have little basis in fact or probability! 

Lesson learned:  Don’t believe everything you think!

Visit a Holy Place

Imagine my great-grandfather looking in on us and bursting with mischievous wit and drawling exaggerations.  He would surely ridicule our on-going human foibles, and he would not hesitate to express cynical sentiments about our forbearance for abuses of power by corporations and governments and religious authorities.  He would be aghast that pretentious Gilded Age conspicuous consumption has made such a comeback.  He would be apoplectic that we still have such pronounced national enthusiasms for wars and economic imperialism, and he would be sharp in his criticism of our current unaffordably costly and sadly reprehensible military occupations of other countries, and of our aggressively hawkish military adventurism in general.  He was, after all, a leading figure in the Anti-Imperialist League, America’s first national peace movement.

The next time an American leader proposes that we get involved in another endless occupation of some foreign country, we would be wise to remember Mark Twain’s perceptive words:   

   “It is easier to stay out than get out.” 

And it would certainly a less costly strategy, to boot! 

Dwight Eisenhower’s 1961 caveat to the nation resonates anew with these ideas:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.  We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.  We should take nothing for granted.  Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Most people are unaware that Dwight really regarded the entities that were perpetrating this threat to our security and liberty to be a military-industrial-Congressional complex.  The role of Congress, lobbyists, corruption and Big Money in our political system cannot be overstated.  This role has grown radically since Dwight’s days.

Mark Twain was notably clamorous, even back during the bold trust-busting days of Theodore Roosevelt, about the all-but-evil ways in which giant conglomerates abused their power with monopoly practices and long hours for workers and six-day work weeks and unsafe workplaces and child labor and such.  After all, the last three decades of his life coincided with those of the reform-minded Progressive Era and the muckraking exposés of that time.

Mark Twain himself invented the phrase the Gilded Age.  He co-wrote a book about this era in 1873, entitled The Gilded Age - A Tale of Today.  It is a story about materialism, deception, graft, lobbyist shenanigans, and corruption in public life.  The theme of the novel is that the lust is pervasive in society for getting rich by means of speculation in land and other assets.  It is also a story of social pretensions by the nouveau riche and their preoccupations with high status and extravagant conspicuous consumption. 

Abraham Maslow, who first visualized the Hierarchy of Human Needs, would point out that once people have their physiological and safety needs met, they then seek meaningful things like love, belonging, intimacy, friendship, family, and community.  Intermixed with these impulses, and higher up the pyramid -- but still far, far short of self-actualization -- is a province of self-esteem, ambition, achievement, self-gratification, aggressive ostentation, hedonism, and the quest for the respect of others, and envy, of others.

The Gilded Age was written at the beginning of the first Gilded Age in the late nineteenth century.  It did not yet emphasize the degree of industrialization, corporate domination and urban political machines that were to come later.  Nor did it highlight the obscene extravagance of showy materialistic power-abusing resource-squandering consumerism that became so distinctive a characteristic of that era in the following decades.  Queue up a few commercial jingles to sell some more stuff!

I recommend watching the documentary film George Harrison: Living in the Material World to inspire a more enlightened spiritual perspective of our overly-materialistic societies.  The film was produced by Martin Scorsese and George’s second wife, Olivia, who incidentally observes that there is a simple key to a long marriage:  Don’t get divorced.  Aha!

It is interesting that the Beatles had evolved from struggling musicians to heroes of love, and then on to superstardom.  When they evolved to sitar-playing introspection and the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, their adaptation of an alternate persona as the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band allowed them to experiment with songs and techniques.  This new alter-ego of the Beatles as the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band freed them to achieve new heights of creative expression, and the album became one of the most widely-acclaimed albums of all time.  After the Beatles performed their last live concert in San Francisco in August 1966, the four members of the group went their own separate ways and John Lennon released one of the greatest songs ever written, Imagine, in 1971.

Sometimes it is very valuable to adopt a new point of view to see the world in a more accurate light.  In the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, for instance, the main character George Bailey, who is played by Jimmy Stewart, focuses on what’s wrong in his life until an angel shows him what’s right with it.  This led him to the realization that he has actually had a wonderful life.

Introspection into Government

Mark Twain’s famous observation that “We have the best government that money can buyis an odd and thought-provoking one.  Almost everyone I know would agree that by allowing Big Money such domineering influence in buying our representatives, we are accepting highly negative impacts on Americans and our society and the providential ecological commons.  In this sense, we are vastly overpaying for our government! 

We are paying a preposterously excessive premium for a political system that is substantially corrupted by vested interests.  Rich people are the primary culprits in this, because they jealously insist on getting the preponderant proportion of society’s economic benefits for themselves.  As a result, our government is showing an insufficient interest in the greater good.

Critics charge that our government is dysfunctional.  Many of the opinions in this manifesto corroborate this characterization.  But in the big picture, this is nonsense.  Let’s look again.  The government is not the least bit dysfunctional from the standpoint that it is successfully achieving the primary function that power-abusing vested interests want it to:  RUTHLESSLY ADVANCING THE NARROW GOALS OF THE PRIVILEGED. 

The government is, however, terribly dysfunctional from the perspective of the vast majority of the people.  This majority would be far better served by having a government that is well managed and properly guided.  We would be far better served by a government that honestly and courageously embraces fairer and more sensible national priorities and global goals.  We would be much better off if our elected representatives worked together and made fair-minded compromises for the greater good of all.

Political corruption and institutionalized bribery are the primary reasons that the government is dysfunctional from the standpoint of the common good.  Economic inequality and environmental injustices are, in substantial part, political phenomena.  They are NOT necessary states of affairs.

Public opinion polls taken in the wake of the last minute federal debt limit increase on August 2, 2011 deal gave our national Representatives the lowest approval rating ever recorded in a CNN poll.  The American people see that our leaders are pathetic in their performance at the helm of our ship of state.  Our political system is paralyzed, and our political representatives seem to be incapable of acting in ways that are responsible to either the majority of people alive today or any of the people to come in future generations.  The American people are getting tired of the unwillingness of our leaders to seek common ground even when it is entirely appropriate.  We are collectively outraged that it seems impossible to even implement win/win solutions, or ones that are more truly socially just than the status quo.

A Gallup Poll released in August 2012 indicated that the approval rating of Congress has fallen to an all-time low of 10% of Americans polled.  “We’re below sharks and contract killers,” said one member of the House of Representatives late last year.  This lousy approval rating of the job Congress is doing is as close to unanimity as Americans get.  It shows that people want their representatives to begin cooperating together to honestly and sensibly address the serious problems we face.

An oath of office is required of all of our Representatives, in which they must swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  This oath requires that they will “well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office” that they have been elected to fulfill.  Americans currently hold their Representatives in the lowest regard ever not only due to nasty partisanship in Congress, but also because of the high unemployment rate in the nation, the dangerously high level of federal deficit spending and national debt, and the scandalous sweetheart deals that our representatives give themselves.  For perspective, the approval rating of Congress has averaged 34% since Gallup first began polling on this question in 1974.  “There is nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed,” said President Obama.  “What’s broken is our politics.”  I concur!

News Flash: U.S. Poverty Hits Record High

The 2010 census revealed that poverty in the United States reached the worst level since the census began tracking poverty in 1959.  The census showed that more than 46 million Americans are now living in poverty.  Conservative radio talk shows immediately reverberated with doubts about how these measurements are derived.  But come on!  This points to serious social problems, and we must agree on a way to create a fairer society -- and then act to see that we succeed in this endeavor.

It turns out that societies which are overly dominated by a wealthy Few often become more and more insecure due to the injustice-driven instability of this domineering and inegalitarian treatment of the masses.  When well-being is more widely shared, the outcomes are generally better for all concerned. 

John Steinbeck wrote in The Log from the Sea of Cortez about how ideas germinate in our minds and in the populace.  He noted that ideas gain little power or traction until they find the fertile soil of discontent to grow in.  When ideas are planted in such unease, they germinate into emotion and then religious fervor.  We are witnessing a distinct intensification of alienation and dissatisfaction in nations around the world today.  Heightened social conflicts accompany these feelings.  These dangerous impulses are stoked in numerous ways by the unempathetic gambits of the rich against fairness, and against more progressively-graduated taxation.

John Steinbeck and ‘Doc’ Ed Ricketts had debated and articulated valuably holistic worldviews during their famous voyage on the Sea of Cortez in 1940.  One conclusion they reached was that to see things clearly and with keen insight is a prerequisite to breaking through to fuller understandings of situations, concepts, or people.  John Steinbeck believed it is vitally important to see things whole and to work purposefully to change the way things are -- and to strive to improve social conditions for the better of all. 

An enthusiasm for exploration has led me to a specific breakthrough in understanding.  The famous linguist George Lakoff points the way.  Activating empathy in people’s minds tends to garner support for progressive worldviews, he says, while activating fears in people’s minds generates support for conservative worldviews.  Awareness of these facts should help us achieve truer interpretations of reality, and to set doctrinaire perspectives aside in favor of more honest and accurate awareness.  A kernel of insight herein could help to completely transform our cultures.

Observations on Inegalitarianism

Our nation is being crippled by the stubborn unwillingness of the highest income earners to pay taxes at rates that are even 60% of the rates which were in effect for the 40 years from 1940 to 1980.  Because we allow narrow interests to refuse to fairly share their prosperity, numerous adverse consequences result.  Amongst other outcomes, this obtuse selfishness causes us to be unable to adequately invest in good public education,  a sound national infrastructure, an affordable social safety net, sensible environmental protections, a balanced budget, protected National Parks and open spaces, or a more stable climate.

“We are seeing a dangerously unbalanced approach to our debt crisis.  Conservation programs key to ensuring our long-term public and environmental health are being cut to the bone, while corporate polluters like oil companies receive billions in taxpayer dollars each year.”

                                                                                                     --- The Wilderness Society

The masts on our ship of state are creaking ominously today, and the conservative spin machine keeps prescribing remedies which are more likely to harm than to help.  “More of the Reagan medicine, that’s what we need,” they intone.  “None of those generic drugs, what we need is full strength uncompromising Reaganism.  More military spending, less taxes on the rich!  Down with unions!  Repeal all regulations!!”  Significant factions now want to have a Tea Party and rally the faithful to the cause, despite the highly questionable merits of their prescribed remedies.

Freedom entails responsibility.  So does wealth.  This is an aspect of ethical humanism that is enunciated by Will and Ariel Durant in their thought-provoking book, The Lessons of History.  It is also echoed by John Fowles in The Aristos.

In a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987, Ronald Reagan extolled freedom, security and world peace.  He implored of the Russians, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”  Beliefs can become reality, he stated.  This is so true!  I believe that we must cultivate beliefs which are consistent with liberty and security for all people in our nation.  I believe that we must strive for peace everywhere in the world.  I believe we must insist on giving valid reason for our heirs in future generations to believe that our actions will become less expediently short-term-oriented, and that we will not exploit resources and damage ecosystems so severely that it compromises their prospects for well-being.

History tells us that the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 after 10 years of having its military occupy Afghanistan.  As fate would have it, the United States did not learn the costly lessons of the folly of having militarily intervened in Vietnam after the French had given up their 8-year long war there.  As a result, we rashly blundered into our own 10-year-long military occupation of Afghanistan, and no good end is in sight.  Not only that, but we compounded the terrible cost of our brash and pious Middle East adventurism by aggressively attacking and occupying oil-rich Iraq for so many years.

“What a gyp!”, exclaimed Thomas Twain.  He was talking about the absurdly high cost of wars with questionable goals in Southeast Asia and the Middle East over the course of the past 50 years.  Later, when the vaunted Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap celebrated his 100th birthday, I did a quizzical double-take, but said nothing.

Who profited the most from the madness of these wars?  I recommend that higher taxes be assessed on those who profited from these wars to help deal with the far-reaching problems created by these conflicts.

An Aside on Criminal Justice

Some people have faith in the true fairness of our American criminal justice system.  I myself am an agnostic.  I do feel strongly, however, that we must simultaneously do two things:

 (1) Foster a modicum more fairness in our society to reduce the risks associated with hard-nosed attitudes and heavy-handed tactics and discriminatory policies and the shackling of workers to their employer masters in an unfairly extreme triumph of capital over labor.  Greater fairness would help ensure that our societies as a whole would be healthier, happier and more secure.  This would be a much truer form of democracy!

 (2) Sow a greater modicum of international justice to achieve peace.  Stop the War on Terror.  An expansive perspective of this dualistic idea can be cultivated by pondering the assertions made in Reflections on War, and in Sow Justice, Harvest Peace, in the Earth Manifesto. 

Another Viewpoint: A Fanciful Proposed Deal on the National Debt Limit

A good friend of mine who fancies himself El Gaviero (the Lookout) was captaining his boat near Cave Rock on beautiful Lake Tahoe’s eastern shore on August 1, 2011.  We looked out to the northwest across the dark blue waters of the lake toward lofty Squaw Peak.  Subliminal perceptions of cavemen and cave women, and the entire panoply of their respective behaviors, pulsed through a charged atmosphere as thunderclouds rumbled in the distance behind us.  The ghosts of native Washoe Indians buried in the sacred caves of Cave Rock could almost be heard grumbling about the highway tunnels blasted through the rocky promontory, but we moderns apparently decided long ago that we can with impunity entirely ignore the sensibilities of our ancestor-honoring and nature-respecting predecessors.

Somehow the conversation on the boat had drifted to big picture perspectives and politics and deficit spending.  El Gaviero, looking out smartly, shook his head and proclaimed that there was only one solution to the National Debt Limit Crisis which at that moment was so starkly affecting our communities, thanks to our stubbornly self-interested, uncompromising, bumbling, corrupt and often venal political representatives.

“There’s only one thing to do”, stated El Gaviero.  “We default on our national debt and give Washington, D.C. and Newark to the Chinese.  Throw in a cool place like Barstow for a kicker.”

Ha!  LOL.  Let’s deal fair and square with China, I thought, and throw in something they would really want, like Las Vegas.  We must remember to bargain in good faith, after all.  God only knows!  I even gave momentary consideration to throwing in the Grand Canyon to make it a better bargain.  This would be an appropriate salute to the perfect symbolic channeling of the Goddess of Poetic Justice that such a move would represent, especially in light of the absurdly deep level of debt we have engendered through our indulgence in the risky and generationally-unfair expediency of deficit financing.  But I rejected this idea in deference to my enthusiasm for protecting beautiful places and wilderness areas, and National Parks and open spaces.

Then I thought, in a comedic puff of dust, that there’s got to be a silver lining to all the dark clouds that are gathering on our human and biotic horizons. 

   “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

                                                                                --- Victor Hugo

The Time Has Come Today

Moneyed interests are ironically using the power of the influence of their riches to radically remake our nation in ways that are diametrically opposed to a system that is fairer, safer, smarter, and more sustainable.  Instead of helping to create a better system, “conservatives” amongst the wealthy have worked tirelessly to create an order that is contrary to the greater good.  The influence of Big Money has accomplished this socially unjust, anti-egalitarian, undemocratic, power-abusing feat by six primary means:

 (1) They have consistently acted to undermine worker’s rights, privileges, power and security;

 (2) They have enlisted an unprecedented phalanx of lobbyists to advance their interests in Congress, thus subjugating the interests of the Many to those of the Few, and the interests of the people to those of large corporations;

 (3) They have persistently subverted Constitutional protections of the General welfare, and legal protections of the people and of the environment which sustains us.  In the process, the rich have diminished the prospects of the majority to get equal opportunities, or to achieve fairly-shared prosperity.  This is contrary to our Founding ideals of liberty and the unalienable right to reasonably pursue happiness;

 (4) Giant conglomerates have bought control of the media.  The concentration of ownership of the media in a handful of enormous corporations has allowed them to use this power to promote deceptive propaganda and to sell us on consumer materialism and wars, and to divide people, and to facilitate the advancement of a very narrow economic and social agenda;

 (5) Wealthy people have succeeded in stacking the Supreme Court with a narrow 5-4 majority that has consistently ruled in the past six years for the interests of corporations and against the best interests of the vast majority of people;  and,

 (6) The military-industrial complex has been allowed to become an octopus of deficit-financed wasteful spending and interventionist aggression and divisive distraction.  In the process, controlling interests have perverted our domestic priorities and undermined the prospects for peaceful coexistence and mutual security amongst the peoples of nations around the globe.

“Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself;  in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies:  lies, damned lies and statistics.”

                                                                        --- Mark Twain

Here is great news!  We can take back our country by twelve primary means:

 (1) Slash the outrageous projected $10 trillion increase in the national debt in the next decade by 75% without imposing severe austerity on the masses.  To accomplish this, the markedly regressive changes in the tax code of the past 30 years must be reversed in ways recommended in specific detail in One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies. 

 (2) Fix the Social Security and national healthcare systems so that they are affordable and indefinitely sustainable.  Recommendations to accomplish this are contained in Radically Simple Ways to Make America Fairer, and to Fix Both Social Security and Health Care So We Can Move On to Address Much Bigger Issues. 

 (3) Embrace the Progressive Agenda for a More Sane Humanity.

 (4) Reform our political system to reduce the overwhelming influence of corporate lobbyists in Washington D.C.  In particular, enact farsighted restrictions on the financing of politicians’ campaigns by corporations and wealthy people.  Also, put stronger Congressional ethics rules into effect.

 (5) Find sensible ways of establishing fairer protections of workers and the environment.

 (6) Implement a 2% Future Viability Assessment on all products and services to cover some of the costs associated with corporate scams that externalize a variety of the real costs of making goods and providing services onto society.  The details of this Assessment are spelled out in One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies.

 (7) Adopt a Bill of Rights for Future Generations.  This would help ensure that we succeed in protecting the best interests of humanity in the long run.  It would serve to prevent us from continuing to sacrifice the best interests of future generations to primarily enrich the Few today.

 (8) Reverse the concentration of Big Media by requiring a break-up of enormous conglomerates that control television networks and newspapers and radio stations.  Also, take steps to reverse the trend toward “too big to fail” corporatism in the banking industry.

 (9) Reduce military spending by 25% over the next 5 years, and create a cabinet-level Department of Peace to commit our nation to soft power initiatives rather than hard power aggression.  Simultaneously, extricate our troops from military occupations of other countries.

 (10) Devote 2% of our federal budget to foreign aid, and target it to helping other peoples by reducing poverty, encouraging family planning, and protecting forests, wetlands, rivers, oceans, and ecosystems worldwide.

 (11) Impeach Clarence Thomas for his ideological rigidity and his deep conflicts of interest on the Supreme Court, and agree to replace him with a Justice who is committed to the greater good of the people instead of the narrow prerogatives of corporations and wealthy people.

 (12) Ensure that we make a national commitment to a fairer society and a greener future by striving to achieve a good portion of the goals specified in Book Two of the Earth Manifesto (Part Four online). 

Reasons that Progressive Tax Reform is Required

Consider three indisputable facts: (1) The national debt has increased by more than $14 trillion since 1980;  (2) The net worth of the top 1% of Americans has increased from less than $3 trillion in 1980 to more than $20 trillion today;  and (3) rich people are paying the lowest rates of taxes on their incomes, capital gains and inheritances in generations. 

In a very real sense, $14 trillion has been borrowed in the past 30 years from people in the future to give it to the richest Americans today.  This $14 trillion heist since 1980 is a Big Cheat and a Big Fraud.  A large portion of the additional $10 trillion deficit projected in the next 10 years is due to the on-going insidious effects of the regressive tax cuts enacted by Republicans during the Administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. 

People are thrown in prison for the rest of their lives if they rob a liquor store three times in any one of the 25 states that have enacted Three Strikes laws.  But rich people who are part of this $14 trillion class-action rip-off of our children, and theirs, and theirs, are treated as though they are completely deserving of impunity for their grotesquely unfair participation in this all but criminal malfeasance.

“Conservatism is bedeviled by the pig belief that the fortunate must at all costs be allowed to perpetuate their good fortune.”

                                                --- The underground Mole

The people who have benefitted the most from this fraud are like the robber barons of the late nineteenth century.  In many respects, their success has been achieved through political corruption rather than through fair competition or providing superior products or services.  Their success has often not been achieved through honorable innovation or personal integrity, and certainly not through fairness to future generations.  This state of affairs emphasizes the need for an overarching Bill of Rights for Future Generations to guide our decision-making in fairer ways.

The more that wealth is concentrated, the more that power becomes concentrated.  As power becomes more unfairly distributed, the probability increases that it will be abused.  Where, one might wonder, are we headed?   

  “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

                                                                             --- The historian and moralist Lord Acton

It was inevitable when Reagan slashed marginal tax rates on the highest incomes from 70% to 35% in 1981 that this fiscally irresponsible action would dramatically increase the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the Few at the expense of the vast majority of Americans. 

It was also inevitable that, when inheritance taxes began to be reduced by the George W. Bush tax cut plans, such policies would lock in Easy Street forevermore for the heirs of the richest 1% of wealthy people.  The late author John Fowles pointed out in The Aristos that the envious masses tolerate wealth in this order:  most, they applaud wealth acquired after birth by pure luck;  next, they admire wealth that is fairly earned according to the current system;  and least, they are cynical about all great amounts of wealth acquired at birth through inheritance.

People are sensibly opposed to concentrations of wealth when they are inherited instead of being earned through hard work, intelligence, merit or smart entrepreneurial risk-taking. 

Our political system has been so corrupted by moneyed interests that the outrage of socially-unaffordably low taxes on the richest Americans has been concealed under a barrage of propaganda, subterfuge, and deceptive ideological arguments that advocate lower taxes on the highest incomes.

It is foolish for us to have allowed inequality to grow so rapidly in the U.S. since 1980.  This trend is strongly correlated with increases in the power of individuals and groups who have a stake in doing little to counteract the disparities between the Few who have the most income and wealth and the Many who have much less.  The manipulation of public opinion by the forces with the most money and power is a distinct factor in perpetuating this state of affairs.

Social injustices, in all their many, many, particular manifestations, are pathetic, particularly when they are harshly perpetrated by privileged people to selfishly gain themselves more advantages at the expense of those with fewer privileges and less power.  The sad irony is that these social injustices not only have a negative impact on people today, but also one that is unconscionably detrimental to the prospects of all people in future generations. 

It is arguably immoral for our leaders to create ever-increasing inequalities of income, privilege, opportunity, wealth, security, and access to healthcare.  And it is unfair and mean-spirited to push economic policies that are designed to increase already glaring social inequities. 

   “Courage sometimes skips a generation.”

                                                    --- The 2011 film, The Help

A small modicum of greater social justice would be unquestionably positive for the greater well-being of all.  Even the famous economist Adam Smith would have corroborated this assertion.  He stated in his veritable manifesto of capitalism, The Wealth of Nations, that the wealth of a nation is measured by the productivity and living standards of ALL of its people, not just by its accumulated wealth. 

Adam Smith’s book was essentially dedicated to improving the welfare of the common man, not just that of the merchants or the upper class.  It is one of the most colossal ironies in the history of ideas that Adam Smith’s book has been used by wealthy people and the industrialist class as a justification for NOT seeking to remedy the scandalous social ills that have been caused by industrialization.  Bah, humbug!

A Psychological Perspective

Inequities exist in the access to the sources of happiness in capitalist societies.  By giving free reign to ruthless and unalloyed greed, we exacerbate a great conundrum:  one of the chief sources of happiness in capitalist societies is found merely in having access to it.  Capitalist nations condition their members to envy and be envied.  As John Fowles pointed out in The Aristos, envious people covet not just the apples in an orchard, but the access to the orchard itself. 

This envy is an impulse, a form of movement, and as such it contains the healthy seeds of its own transformation.  The positive expression of this potential is to be found in people who demonstrate a socially responsible support for fairness and humane dealings with others.  The unhealthy expression?  Since the average person feels like a pawn in this game, and a smaller and smaller pawn as the size of the electorate grows, people’s civic senses tend to atrophy.  This is bad news for democratic self-governance.  A withered civic sense, according to John Fowles, is “one of the most striking phenomena of our age.”

Conservatives deem it “politically impossible” to achieve reforms that require increases in federal revenues.  To the extent this is true, it is mainly true because anti-democratic forces control our public decision-making.  Moneyed interests use the undue influence of their Big Money to gain Big Power, thanks in part to the narrow-minded “conservative” majority on the Supreme Court.

When the Supreme Court struck down even the anemic efforts that have been made to control campaign financing in its Citizens United decision, former Justice John Paul Stevens expressed a strongly-worded dissent to this ruling.  He stated that conservative ideologies about campaign finance laws “rejected the common sense of the American people, who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.” 

Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas should begin to heed the implications of the understanding that money is subverting the greater good in our nation by giving far too much power to the Few.  The tsunami of special interest and Super PAC money is creating such a barrage of negative political ads that it is likely to drive Americans practically crazy, and make our democratic process even less effective.

The Continuing Need for a New and Fairer Deal

President Theodore Roosevelt proposed a Square Deal in 1904.  He vowed not to favor any one group of Americans, but to be fair to all.  The Square Deal was a proposed domestic program that was formed upon three basic ideas, according to Wikipedia:  “conservation of resources, control of corporations, and consumer protection.  Thus, it aimed at helping middle class citizens and involved attacking plutocracy and bad trusts while at the same time protecting business from the extreme demands of organized labor.”

Teddy Roosevelt worked to break up large business trusts and fight against monopoly practices by railroads and other conglomerates.  He endorsed new federal regulations that were designed to control some of the egregious practices and unsanitary conditions and dangerous ingredients that were being exposed by the “muckraker” writers of the time. 

As President, Teddy Roosevelt also supported a form of universal health insurance because he believed that no country could be strong whose people were sick and poor.  More than 100 years have passed since Roosevelt’s presidency, and today there are almost 50 million people without health insurance.  Strong opposition by “conservatives” persists to any sensible and fair reforms that would make healthcare more preventative and universal.

The time has come for truly universal healthcare that enacts effective cost controls and is socially affordable.  All interested parties should show up to work together to make this happen!

Politics, n.  A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.  The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

                                               --- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Much of our national decision-making and policy formulation in domestic and international arenas is done by our political representatives.  But politics is far too narrowly-focused to give fair and sensible consideration to the best plans for the greater good in the long run.  Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota once observed that politics should be about far more than power, money, and winning at any cost.  He said, “Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives.  It’s about advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and in the world.” 

What politics is, and what it should be, are definitely different things.  Politics today has become an internecine conflict between different interests which are competing for influence, power, money, and narrowly selfish advantages.  Compromise and working together have become dirty words.  Narrow-minded purity pledges by “conservatives” have become the order of the day.

One primary theme of the Earth Manifesto is that more comprehensive Big Picture perspectives could lead to more responsible collective actions in our societies.  To prevent the perceptible ecological degradation of our wonderful planet, we must find ways to reduce the influence of short-term thinking, ignorance, denial, ruthless competition, mismanagement, greed and hubris.

I highly recommend that readers enjoy some hot Ginger-Infused Health Beverage or icy cold Delicious Mango Lassi while perusing these words.  For the simple recipes to make these hyper-healthy beverages, see Tiffany Twain Entertains:  A Philosophic Cookbook.  These two beverages, with all their Ayurvedic good-health spices, could in themselves change the world!

Ginger helps one’s body maintain a proper alkaline balance.  This is a key to good health because too much acidity causes a variety of health problems.  Acid-forming foods deplete electrolyte minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium in vital organs and bones, and they thus make people more susceptible to diseases and afflictions.  All foods tend to be either acid-forming or alkaline forming.  Fresh fruits, vegetables and ginger help maintain a healthy pH balance, while acid-forming foods have the opposite effect.  Acid-forming foods include meat, sugars, eggs, dairy, most grains, white flour, coffee, carbonated beverages, alcohol, drugs and artificial sweeteners.

Enjoying one of these good health beverages may help readers maintain a cool, calm and collected attitude, which is desirable because here comes a real shocking proposal!

A Brilliant and Fair Plan

Here is a recommendation that would radically mitigate the national debt crisis.  In 2011, our nation’s attention was focused on efforts by a so-called Super Committee to come up with a plan to cut $1.5 trillion from the anticipated $10 trillion in additional deficits that are projected to be incurred in the next decade.  The Super Committee failed to come up with a debt deal, so an automatic “fiscal cliff” of budget cuts was created that will take place on December 31, 2012.

The 15% reduction they were seeking was actually an inadequate amount.  President Obama had proposed a “grand compromise” of a $4 trillion reduction, but even that amount is not enough.  After all, such a reduction would still leave us indulging in the shortsighted expediency of borrowing another $6 trillion from future generations to finance out-of-control spending and low tax rates for rich people.

Each and every American has been complicit in wanting lower taxes, and our aggregate demands have driven steady increases in federal government spending.  The American people want these things without having to pay for them.  The only beneficiaries, however, who have big bucks in the bank to show for the foolishly expedient courses of action we have been pursuing since 1981 are the top 20% of Americans who own more than 92% of the total net worth (excluding home equity) in America. 

Most of this total net worth in the U.S. is highly concentrated at the top.  The richest 1% of people own about 42% of all non-home wealth.  This includes stocks, bonds, business equity, trust funds, savings accounts, non-home real estate, and the cash value of life insurance and pension plans.  This concentration of wealth has been facilitated by rash reductions in taxes on the wealthy, an outcome initiated by Ronald Reagan when he slashed tax rates on high levels of income from 70% to 35% in 1981. 

Let’s go figure.  The total net worth of all Americans in the U.S. was about $56 trillion in late 2011.  Of this, home equity is about $6 trillion (which is down astonishingly by more than 50% from $13 trillion in 2007, due to the housing market bubble bust).  So there is a net $50 trillion in financial wealth in the U.S.  The richest 1% of Americans, who own 42% of this wealth, thus have about $21 trillion in assets. 

This 1% of people has seen their assets increase by about $18 trillion from the $3 trillion they had in 1981.  During this period, Santa Claus tax-cutting scams have resulted in borrowings by the federal government of more than $14 trillion.  So in a direct correlation sense, we have given the richest 1% of Americans $14 trillion by borrowing it from future generations.  Interest expense obligations on borrowed money make it so that this $14 trillion will be paid over and over and over again in the next 100 years, or added to the national debt.

This is not a grand larceny form of highway robbery, or an armed bank hold-up.  It is the biggest financial crime in world history, and it is being committed against our children and all people in future generations.

There has, of course, been a much wider participation in this wealth embezzlement scheme than just the top 1% of Americans who have been the ring leaders and the primary beneficiaries.  The top 20% of Americans who own more than 92% of the total non-home financial net worth in our country also have been complicit, and they have been definite beneficiaries.

Our nation is desperately seeking a solution to 7 primary big problems that are spelled out below.  Our failure to solve these problems endangers our national security and well-being.  There is little question but that the richest 1% of Americans hold the key to these solutions, so we should look to them for restitution.  We must demand that they Stand and Deliver!

The principal of restitution is an integral part of virtually every formal system of criminal justice.  Perpetrators of financial crimes are required to make payment to the victims of fraud.  The civil justice system also has provisions for civil recovery of losses and damages.  This system does not attempt to determine the guilt or innocence of offenders, or to incarcerate them.  Civil courts determine whether offenders and/or third-party participants in scams have a civil liability for harms sustained as a result of a particular crime.

Here’s a plan.  Let’s demand restitution for the monumental scam that rich people have been perpetrating on the U.S.  To do this, immediately assess $5 trillion to the wealthiest Americans.  This $5 trillion will only be a part of the $21 trillion owned by the wealthiest people in America.  Make this Wealth Obligation Assessment progressive, assessing it to the following 5 groups of rich people, and fairly graduating it as follows:

(1) Americans whose net worth is between $3 million and $10 million         $  250 billion

(2) Americans whose net worth is between $10 million and $25 million           250 billion

(3) Americans whose net worth is between $25 million and $100 million:      1,000 billion

(4) Americans whose net worth is between $100 million and $1 billion:          1,500 billion

(5) Americans whose net worth is between $1 billion and $100 billion:          2,000 billion

                                                      Total One-Time Assessment                 $  5,000 billion

To most fairly apportion this Wealth Obligation Assessment to each person within these categories, assess whatever percent is needed to achieve the group’s targeted reductions.  Adjust the calculations or categories as appropriate to make it fairest for all, ensuring that no person’s net worth is reduced by:      

                                          Category (1):   More than  5%

                                          Category (2):  More than 15%

                                          Category (3):  More than 25%

                                          Category (4):  More than 35%

                                          Category (5):  More than 50%

Presto!  At the stroke of a pen, we will have $5 trillion to reduce the national debt.  That would significantly reduce this debt problem here in the United States.  Europe should follow suit to solve their serious debt problems by a similar initiative, because it has also been engendered in part by similar swindles of the wealthy. 

Let’s distribute 10% of the proceeds, or a total of $500 billion of the $5 trillion, to all of the estimated 150 million Americans who are so financially insecure that they have a net worth of less than $10,000.  This plan would diminish the extreme insecurity of half of the people in our country, and it would stimulate the economy by giving these people some money to spend for things they desperately need. 

Since wealthy people would have to liquidate some of their investments in the stock and bond markets to satisfy this restitution to the American people, the net $4.5 trillion proceeds should initially be invested by the federal government in stocks and bonds.  As government borrowings mature, they should be covered by sales of these funds in equal amounts over the next 10 years.  Initial market turmoil will settle out and a steady appreciation will begin as more sane economic policies are allowed to pertain after this one-time adjustment.

Having mitigated big worries over this global debt crisis, we should then proceed to make our world safer, more mutually secure, greener, and more committed to sustainable ways of living.

Simultaneously, we must honestly tackle the driving forces behind the annual budget deficits that are being incurred.  Our goal must be to formulate a fair plan for future generations that keeps the national debt from ever again reaching such monstrous proportions.  This leads directly, once again, to the proposals in One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies.

The Seven Primary Problems We Must Honestly Solve

The seven biggest problems we collectively must tackle are:

 (1) The deterioration of the ecological foundations of our physical well-being and a related global water crisis and the risks inherent in massive extinctions of species on Earth.

 (2) Changes in weather patterns and correlated increasing incidences of natural disasters that are being exacerbated by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities.  These activities include deforestation, the burning of fossil fuels, and the maintenance of large herds of methane-producing ruminants like cattle.

 (3) The strife which threatens peaceful coexistence and the mutual security of nations worldwide.  This strife is made substantially more risk-laden with enormous amounts of spending on armaments and wars, and with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and with the U.S. having set an international precedent of initiating preemptive warfare.

 (4) The looming insolvency of the U.S. and other debt-ridden nations and the concomitant increases in the risks of heightened economic turmoil and potential recession.

 (5) The disintegration of the physical infrastructure of the U.S. and the failure to adequately invest in future well-being.

 (6) The increasing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the Few and the correlated diminishment of the security and prospects of prosperity for workers, young people and future generations.

 (7) The dangers of peak oil and subsequent declines in the production of oil from diminishing reserves, and the failure to put into effect smart measures focused on resource conservation, efficiency of energy use, and the development of renewable alternatives.

The August 2011 Downgrade of the U.S. Government Credit Rating

Standard and Poor’s downgraded the credit rating of the United States in the wake of the debt deal debacle that was concluded at the last minute on August 2, 2011.  This credit ratings agency made this move after having warned that stubborn intransigence by our political representatives in addressing projected deficits would result in such a credit downgrade.  The unwillingness of wealthy people to pay any higher rates of tax, or to allow any of the existing generous tax loopholes to be closed, contributed to this evaluation.

The historic episode of political brinksmanship that led up to the August debt deal, together with an unwillingness to fairly compromise, caused this appropriate downgrade in the credit standing of U.S. debt obligations.  The downgrade “was as much a political critique as a financial conclusion,” according to the Associated Press.  It is an indictment of the pathetic nature of the gridlock between Republicans and the Tea Party, on the one hand, and Democrats in Congress and the White House, on the other.  It would seem like this ratings downgrade would put much more pressure on these intransigent parties to find more sensible compromises in the future, but the politics of this election year has prevented such a development.

We certainly should find ways to more tightly control government spending.  We should also establish clearer national priorities, ones that are as fair as possible to all competing constituencies.  One of these constituencies is all people in future generations.  We simply must stop mortgaging the prospects of people in the future with high levels of borrowing to finance high levels of spending and low tax rates for the wealthy. 

At the same time, we must recognize that slashing government spending is an anti-Keynesian plan that has contraction-oriented impacts.  By reducing government spending, economic stimulus is reduced, and thus such actions have the opposite effect from what conventional economic understandings prescribe.  Government spending is needed during economic hard times not only to stimulate the economy, but also to ensure that we continue to invest in future well-being by providing funding for education, infrastructure, and jobs.  The narrow strategy of slashing spending on these things, and on health care for the vulnerable, and on environmental protections, will “kill” lots of jobs at a time that unemployment is very high. 

There is good news on the front of solving large spending challenges related to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  Positive straight-forward solutions exist, as proposed in Radically Simple Ways to Make America Fairer, and to Fix Both Social Security and Health Care So We Can Move On to Address Much Bigger Issues.  We simply need the political will to make such fair-minded changes. 

The three dominant ratings agencies in the U.S. are Standard and Poor’s, Fitch Ratings, and Moody’s Investor Service.  These agencies failed to make responsible assessments of the over-inflated housing market in the lead-up to the collapse of the real estate bubble in 2007.  These agencies also failed to recognize and acknowledge the monumental risks that are associated with speculative financial derivatives like mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps.  More honest assessments are obviously needed.  This downgrade is an example of more honesty, painful though it has proved to be as global stock markets experience heightened volatility. 

The great strength of American democracy has always been its capacity for self-correction.  Political power fueled by the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few is beginning to alter this central aspect of our democracy, and to cast doubts on our collective ability to achieve more important goals.  Anti-democratic abuses of power are having a corrosive effect on the economy and the long-term future of the country.

The debt deal mandated a “super committee” of 12 lawmakers who were charged with coming up with $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions for the next 10 years.  A provision in the deal stipulated that if the lawmakers on this committee were unable to come up with this reduction, automatic cuts in entitlements and military spending would take place on December 31, 2012.  This is the “fiscal cliff” that is causing much consternation in the nation today.

Republicans have ideologically refused to consider any higher taxes on the wealthy or the closing of any of the overly-generous loopholes for giant corporations and rich people.  These refusals are contrary to the greater good.  It seems clear to me that the people who have benefitted the most from our skewed economic system must be the ones who are required to pay a significantly higher proportion of the burden of balancing the budget.  To most fairly accomplish this, more steeply graduated taxes are needed on inheritances, capital gains, and income for every person who makes more than $250,000 per year.  And tax loopholes should be eliminated like the one that gives unbelievably generous benefits to millionaire and billionaire hedge fund managers.

Sly Hands of the Scales of Justice

All Americans love the courageous and idealistic Founders of our country.  Every single one of the Founders, if alive today, would be horrified to see how easy we have made it for special interests to game the system and abuse power in this country.  After all, the Founders had strived valiantly to establish the safeguards of a balance of power between Congress and the Executive Branch and the Judiciary, and between the States and the Federal Government.

But Big Money speaks loudly and carries a big stick.  Even the Supreme Court’s narrow 5-4 majority of supposed conservatives strictly prescribes that we give “freedom of speech” to Big Money, along with the unconstrained ability to manipulate and control our societies.

This insight leads us straight to the purpose for implementing a more steeply graduated system of taxation.  Here is the convincing rationale.  Since Big Money has an outsized influence in determining the rules and regulations of our economic system, and since Big Money yields Big Power, very heavy hands are laid on the scales of justice.  These shrewd hands collude to manipulate markets and establish unfair rules.  The result is a profusion of tax evasion schemes and no-bid contracts, pork barrel spending, subsidies for resource depletion, accelerated depreciation provisions, regulation loopholes, negative externalities, and exemptions from environmental protection laws. 

Giant corporations abuse the power of their size to the considerable disadvantage of smaller businesses and partnerships and mom-and-pop businesses and non-profit organizations and fairness to consumers.  They exploit the system, often by making competition unfair through monopoly-like practices.  Too-big-to-fail banks and conglomerate businesses are one result. 

The crux of the matter is that the interests with the most money have jerry-rigged the system to primarily benefit themselves.  So a balancing mechanism is needed to counter-balance the heavy hand on the scales of justice and on public policy-making which is being applied by giant corporations.  This is why a more steeply graduated system of taxation is needed, even for corporate taxes.  Such a plan would level the playing field somewhat, and make fairness a truer cornerstone of our democratic republic. 

Business taxes should be assessed on a progressive scale.  All business entities that have gross incomes in excess of $50 million should pay higher taxes.  All of the proceeds so generated should be given to smaller businesses in the form of lower tax rates.  The bigger the company, the higher the tax rates.  The smaller the company, the lower the tax rates.   

Additionally, all corporations should be required to pay at least a minimum amount of tax every year on their net incomes to prevent many giant corporations from evading the payment of any taxes on their incomes in any given year.  General Electric, for instance, earned $14 billion in worldwide profits in 2010, but paid no taxes to the U.S. federal government.  GE employs over 900 highly compensated tax lawyers and accountants to game the system to get such a benefit.

The idea of more steeply graduated tax rates should also apply to individual income taxes, capital gains taxes, and inheritance taxes.  Marginal tax rates should be revised immediately to make them fairer, i.e. more steeply graduated.  A detailed proposal on how to accomplish this is contained in the Fair Taxation Initiative in One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies.  

Back to the Future

The August 2, 2011 debt deal was all but ridiculous.  It identified $900 billion in “spending cuts” over the next 10 years, but only a paltry $10 billion was to actually be cut out of the budget in the first year.  This is almost nothing compared to the $787 billion stimulus spending increase that was contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or the $858 billion “compromise” in December 2010 that extended the debt-financed Bush tax cuts.  Both of these totals will have been added to the deficit by the end of 2012.

The mania for using borrowed money to finance the government has finally reached a dangerous tipping point where the expediency of enormous levels of deficit financing simply must be reined in.  The people who have benefitted from this long reign of fiscal insanity must be the ones who contribute to our nation’s stability and recovery and the reduction in our federal deficit spending.

We have been collectively kicking the proverbial can down the road for so long that we don’t even recognize the consequences of our fiscally irresponsible actions.  The U.S. went from being the world’s largest creditor nation to the world’s largest debtor nation during the 1980’s.  We deregulated the banking system and stoked risk-taking on borrowed money.  Debt-financed bubble economic policies were facilitated, and capital was boosted in its efforts to triumph over labor by reducing worker’s rights.  The Few usurped the wealth generated by increased worker productivity.  These mega-trends are not working out very well for most Americans today.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to focus our attention on ideas about what a better plan it would have been to embrace precautionary principles.  Holy Cow!  Check out Intelligent Precautionary Principles in the Earth Manifesto for valuable and interesting insights.

Economics 101 and Corporate Power

Corporations long ago began sprawling across national boundaries.  Their power has thus grown beyond that of any nation’s government.  Globalization has some positive economic merits, but corporations are far too socially and environmentally irresponsible to allow them to continue to monopolize business and to grow too big to fail.  They can no longer be allowed to privatize profits while foisting significant real costs of production upon society and future generations.  Corporations cannot be allowed to continue running roughshod over the greater good.

Capitalism and democracy are, in a sense, basically opposed to each other, just as freedom and equality are essentially opposing values.  The greater the freedom a society allows, and the fewer the regulations, the more that inequalities naturally multiply.  And the rich get richer. 

Capitalist societies have incorporated socialistic provisions into their economic systems in order to ensure a fair modicum of equality.  Meanwhile, socialistic societies have included capitalistic provisions of free enterprise and individual liberties in their economic systems in order to offer a fairer modicum of freedom and entrepreneurial activity.  “East is West and West is East, and soon the twain will meet,” poetically opined Will and Ariel Durant in The Lessons of History.

Socialism benefits from capitalist ideals by providing people with freedoms and stronger motives to be productive, and by allowing people to benefit from their labors.  A Russian social experiment showed that individual farmers on small private plots are much more productive than farmers who work on acreage devoted to giant collective farms.  This is one reason that China and Russia and other socialistic societies have embraced laissez-faire economics to a degree.

Capitalism puts the profit motive on the highest pedestal of our imaginations.  But then it insidiously allows wealthy people to commandeer all of the benefits of increased productivity for themselves.  This is why capitalist societies need to limit abuses of power and ruthlessness of monopolies through ‘socialistic’ legislation and tax plans that effectively share wealth more broadly.

Unfortunately, the tentacles of Shock Doctrine Disaster Capitalism are insidiously squeezing the vitality out of workers and the middle class in the U.S..  These corporate tentacles are sapping the strength and fairness from our great American experiment in democracy, causing a ruinous and damnable erosion of the greater good.  It is an assault on the majority of people by the Few, an assault on good governance, on fairness, and on the environment that sustains us.  It is an assault on the quality of life and standard of living of the majority of people.  No amount of hyperbole is sufficient to express the outrageousness of this inegalitarian exploitation, or the amount of damage to our home planet and the biological diversity of life on Earth.

It is a revealing part of our capitalist economic systems that we allow corporations to make the maximum profits that they can.  Yet this state of affairs need not necessarily be changed in order to reduce the distortions caused by corporate cost-externalizing practices.  We simply must require all businesses to include these costs in the prices of the products they sell.  They can pass them on to consumers if they are able.  This requirement would have the effect of mitigating the misallocations of resources caused by cost-externalizing gambits and their distorting impacts on purchases and decision-making.  A specific proposal to achieve this sensible goal is contained in One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies.

The Struggle by Capital to Exploit Workers

Capitalist economic systems seem to have triumphed over societies that listened to the ideas of Karl Marx, with his oh-so-Marxian declaration, “Workers of the World, Unite!”  Capitalists today are in a sense triumphing over workers in a more startlingly unfair manner than at any time since the Roaring Twenties. 

Instead of worker unity and power to the people, wealthy people in our capitalist societies have collaborated with right wing ideologues to use the power of their money to create ever-more insecure conditions for workers.

CEOs made 25 times as much as the average worker in 1970.  Today, CEOs make an estimated 500 times as much as the average worker.  And yet the net effective rate of taxes that these highly compensated people pay has gone down significantly.  CEOs have proven their value to the profit-making of the corporations they lead by ensuring that worker headcount, compensation and benefits are very tightly controlled.  These developments are bizarrely and obscenely unfair, because the efforts of workers are crucial in helping corporations to succeed. 

The rich are winning a Pyrrhic victory over the greater good of the vast majority of the people.  They are also winning a Pyrrhic victory over the common good of our communities, our countries, peoples of other nations, and all people in future generations.  And they are spearheading a kind of ecological Pyrrhic victory over all other forms of life on Earth. 

The original Pyrrhic victory was one won with devastating losses by Pyrrhus (319 - 272 B.C), the King of Epirus, over the Romans at Asculum in 279 B.C.  The King used war elephants and a superior cavalry to gain a costly triumph over the Romans, but the heavy losses he suffered caused him to exclaim:  “One more such victory, and we shall be undone.” 

Today’s Pyrrhic victories over workers are temporary triumphs where workers are required to work harder for less compensation and less security.  These ephemeral victories are achieved to give the rich more wealth.  High costs for worker healthcare and retirement security are being foisted onto others, and the harm done to people and the health of our communities is tragic and costly. 

There are two reasons that Pyrrhic victories of the rich presage future calamities.  First, there are economic reasons:  it is a poor strategy to undermine the solvency of the majority of consumers, who are responsible for 70% of the total spending in our economy.  And second, it is politically dangerous to court the wrath of the poor and the middle class and even the upper middle class by imposing austerity measures on the majority while allowing the highest income earners to pay the lowest rates of taxes in generations.

The international economy is practically predicated on American consumerism.  Since 70% of the U.S. economy is based on consumer spending, it is inevitable that consumers cannot keep up this spending spree in light of the fact that the housing bubble has burst.  Real incomes of workers have been flat or declining ever since 1981 when the Reagan Revolution began to undermine the power of workers and give all of the enormous benefits of increased productivity to CEOs and investors, and very little of it to workers.  The economy had been supported until the housing bubble burst by debt financing and borrowings against home equity, but those factors have been eroded by subsequent developments and steep declines in the total amount of equity people have in their homes. 

A more fairly-distributed prosperity would be better for all concerned in the long run.  This is true because the egalitarianism of more fairly-distributed wealth would ensure less insecurity for the masses.  When people are subjected to ever-growing insecurity, it is a dangerous condition because it harms people, stokes crime, increases the potential for violence, and provides a powerful impetus toward political instability and even revolutionary change. 

This is why we need to enact fairer legislative partial redistributions in the form of more steeply-graduated taxes.  In the short term, we must ensure that poor people and those in the middle class are made more secure.  This will stimulate the economy much more holistically and sanely than allowing policies to prevail in which regressive tax cuts principally benefit the richest Americans.  Fairer treatment of workers would result in growth in the economy, which would engender more tax revenue and help mitigate projected budget shortfalls.

“The war against working people should be understood to be a real war.  It’s not a new war.  It’s an old war.  Furthermore, it’s a perfectly conscious war everywhere, but specifically in the U.S. … which happens to have a highly class-conscious business class … and they have long seen themselves as fighting a bitter class war, except they don’t want anybody else to know about it.”   

          --- Noam Chomsky, Propaganda and Control of the Public Mind

I challenge all Americans to demand that their representatives begin to honor the greater good and the general Welfare of the vast majority of the people.  We must reject the insidiously unfair goals of giant corporations and the wealthy because they are undermining the prospects for prosperity of the vast majority of American people. 

We have been goosing the world economy with stimulative deficit-financed consumerism for decades.  Now that consumers are so strapped that they can no longer afford to buy as much stuff, this game is reaching a crescendo, and new fairer policies are needed.  The paradigms of human behavior simply must become more sustainable.

Rich people have been abusing the power that comes with their increasing monopoly on the nation’s wealth by refusing to contribute a fairer share of the total tax burden.  They are slowly strangling American workers, slashing the compensation and benefits that workers receive, and demanding that federal and state governments cut spending on programs that benefit the poor and the middle class while preserving the many methods by which the rich prosper.  They do not want to share the prosperity that results from government investments in infrastructure and education, and they refuse to share in the sacrifices being made by the majority of Americans.

As a result, the United States has the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world.  The implications of this fact are unconscionable.

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning it.” 

           --- Warren Buffet

President Obama has repeatedly proposed ending the low tax rates that rich people have felt entitled to ever since they were enacted by Republicans during the Administration of President George W. Bush.  Responding with vitriol to such an Obama proposal on September 19, 2011, Republican Paul Ryan accused the President of “class warfare”. 

One thing should be perfectly clear to Americans:  the class warfare started long ago with regressive tax policies and political favoritism of the wealthy.  Ending this extreme favoritism in our nation is an important goal.  Republicans are on the wrong side of reform on this issue.  Once again, as in much of their opposition to progressive reforms in the past century, they are also on the wrong side of history.  Pandering to Big Money may be good politics, but it sure isn’t Christian, or fair, or ultimately sustainable.

“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

                                         --- Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice from 1916 to 1939

Introspections into the Tea Party Leaves

People have been striving to divine fortunes from tea leaves for thousands of years.  This practice is accomplished by someone with alleged clairvoyance who sees symbols or omens in the patterns found in the dregs of a cup of tea.  This practice even has a name:  Tasseomancy.  Using a new method of enlightened divination, let us explore the big picture of tea parties.

Great economic thinkers of the past two centuries have strived to understand and explain the aggregate nature of humankind’s economic activities.  In doing so, they have formulated some fascinating theories.  Adam Smith claimed that an “invisible hand” propitiously guides market economies.  Robert Thomas Malthus predicted that agriculture would inevitably be unable to provide enough food for rapidly growing numbers of human beings.  Karl Marx opined that “surplus value” (profit) was created primarily by the productive efforts of workers, so that social justice would require fairer treatment of workers.  He strongly advocated greater social justice rather than narrower considerations of industrial efficiency or amoral initiatives that socialize costs to maximize private profit. 

Joseph Schumpeter analyzed the dynamics of business cycles and described entrepreneurs and innovation as being part of a “perennial gale of creative destruction.”  John Maynard Keynes stated that the economy needs to be stimulated by the government during recessionary times by using deficit spending.  But he sensibly pointed out that this was a short-term expediency that must be offset by the dampening of consumer spending and the balancing of budgets when economic growth recovers and the threat of a spiral of inflation begins to be felt. 

These great thinkers are being discounted by the mindless fervor of the Tea Party, which is distinctly committed to ideologies that are consistent with a right-wing agenda that is socially, economically, and environmentally unwise.  Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann assured the American public that if she became President, “I guarantee you the Environmental Protection Agency will have doors locked and lights turned off …”.  That is a radically shortsighted proposal, Michele!

The Tea Party has ironically constituted the most passionate political movement in the U.S. in the last two years.  It is a curious coalition of Libertarians, creationists, Birthers, economic fundamentalists, climate-change deniers, religious fundamentalists, anti-choice activists, flat-tax proponents, gun-lovers, and those who oppose big government and sensible protections of the environment.  Tea Party believers have been brilliantly manipulated by wealthy people and well-financed front groups into agitating for policies that are divisive, retrogressive and beneficial to multi-millionaires at the expense of the majority of Americans.  At a time when we should be moving in the direction of solving the big problems that confront us, the Tea Party has become a roadblock to progress.

The preoccupations of the Tea Party with slashing public spending are helping to engineer a more unfair society, and they risk causing another Great Depression in the process. 

The shaky Tea Party “platform” is incoherent because it contradictorily supports lower taxes and wasteful spending on the military.  It denies the risks of climate disruptions being caused by recklessly unlimited emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  It supports politicians who advocate regressive changes in tax policy and a retrogressive social agenda.  It accepts the idea that men are more equal than women by opposing fairness in pay for equal work.

The Tea Party inadvertently helps facilitate corporate prerogatives which allow big companies to externalize costs of pollution and worker healthcare onto society.  It mindlessly goes along with the rights of corporations to dominate “free speech”.  It supports anti-immigrant policies, and is tacitly in favor of racial and gender discrimination.  It supports religious fundamentalism as long as it is of the right stripe;  all others are deigned heretics or terrorists.

Think about the classic political “double con” that is going on here.  Conservative politicians pander to social conservatives like Tea Party types and religious fundamentalists.  Then they use the support they gain to help elect corporate enablers and economic fundamentalists to positions of leadership.  In turn, these politicians use the power they get from special interests to raise lots of money, and they use these Big Bucks to pay Washington lobbyists to implement policies that advance the interests of a narrow minority of wealthy people at the direct expense of the majority of people in the general public.

Tea Partiers, wise up!  You are being duped, manipulated, exploited and double-crossed by shrewd operators.  Subversive agitators have lit a fire under angry Tea Party enthusiasts with their incoherent anti-tax, anti-deficit, anti-government, anti-immigrant, anti-healthcare reform, and anti-science dogmas.  These shrewd subversives are a radically different breed from the peace advocates and idealistic Berkeley radicals of the Sixties.  They do not advocate for peace and social justice because they are establishment insiders who are supported by billionaires such as the notorious Koch brothers, and corporate shills like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and right-wing think tanks like the Federalist Society.  These insiders aggressively propagate deceptive propaganda. 

Republicans like Sarah Palin pretend to be populists, but their policies actually are in accord with fat cats.  Republican ideologies are aligned with forces that oppose fairness.  They act as if they believe in good management and the greater good, but they pander narrowly to rich people and the interests of CEO’s and investors and socially regressive groups.  They should instead give more consideration to the interests of workers and the vast majority of American people.  But because they are in bed with the interests of the wealthy, they generally oppose fiscally fair ideas and Golden Rule principles and ecological sanity and sensible precautionary principles.

Tea Party Republicans have cooked up a “purity pledge” that refuses to ever support increased revenues for any purpose.  The Tea Party threatens to punish any politician who will not sign this pledge.  The Party also threatens anyone who signs the pledge and then subsequently makes any compromise that supports any tax increases or the closing of any tax loopholes.  This purity curiously contains a distinct portion of defilement and corruption.  This purity is pure pig-headedness, pure ruthless partisanship, pure anti-pragmatism, pure dishonesty, and a pure power grab.

This purity, from one perspective, may be pragmatic because uncompromising positions may be the best hope the right wing has to make Barack Obama a one-term president.  By striving to paralyze the country and prevent fair-minded solutions, persistent high unemployment has made the incumbent president less popular.  But this purity is more like manipulative tantrum-throwing immaturity and even terrorist hostage-taking than a noble Golden Rule willingness to deal fairly with all competing interests in our society.  It is a purity that is a form of reactionary political fundamentalism which is contrary to the greater good.  Fundamentalism, whether religious, economic, or political, is about power and manipulative control and strict adherence to doctrine, and not about honest ideas or fairness.

“Fundamentalism comes from very primitive parts of us that have always been the default setting of our species:  amity toward our in-group, enmity toward out-groups, hierarchical deference to alpha-male figures, and a powerful identification with our territory.  This is the brutal default setting that all civilizations have tried to raise us above.  But civilization is always a fragile thing, and it must be achieved over and over and over again.”

                                                                           --- Reverend Davidson Loehr (paraphrased)

Republicans hem and haw and pretend that their ideologies are honorable and moral.  They claim their ideas are full of integrity, rectitude, populist righteousness, and providential wisdom.  Give us a break!  The emperor has no clothes!  Republicans have become a minority party for good reasons, and they must stop obstructing efforts to manage our society more fairly.  They must accept responsibility and begin to help solve our national problems.  They must stop functioning as they have for the past 4 years to obstruct every initiative designed to right the ship of state.

Extreme partisanship is sharpening the distinctions between the two dominant political parties.  To me, the Tea Party defense of wealthy privileged people at the expense of the vast majority of Americans looks like a losing proposition for the Republican Party, for the nation, and for humanity as a whole.

Our colonial ancestors bridled at taxation without fair representation.  That is what the original Boston Tea Party was all about.  The reason they felt so strongly about being fairly represented was that they hated the despotism of the colonial British mercantile system.  The Tea Party today has been duped into a fervor in which they think the federal government and taxes are the main problems in our society.  In this, they have been completely deluded into believing the propaganda of billionaires. 

Tea Party types are not even coherent with their ideologies, as stated above, because they generally defend hard-nosed military Keynesianism in which profligate deficit-financed military spending and endless wars are staunchly defended year after year after year.

I have a sensible message for Tea Party adherents:  Let us come together to embrace more visionary, fair-minded, and longer-term oriented priorities.  Issues must be emphasized that are vitally important to the greater good, and to future generations.  We must focus our attention and energies on these issues.  Let’s transcend doctrinal convictions and conditioning.  Let’s relinquish impulses to dominate, control and repress others.  Let’s breathe deep and exhale slowly, and resist the impulse to be obedient to the voices of fundamentalists and authoritarian figures. 

Honest efforts must be made to solve the transcendent problems which face us.  We must make these efforts in the best ways possible.  We must remember to recognize how wide the array is of competing interests in our society.  Let us listen to others, and try to see things from other people’s point of view, open-mindedly and empathetically. 

Tea Party types:  Please help find a way for all factions to work together to begin honestly addressing mega-problems like deficiencies in public education, corporate abuses of power, risky Wall Street activities, the high costs of healthcare, social inequities, wasteful spending on the military, climate-disrupting carbon emissions, the rapid growth in human numbers in the poorest countries on Earth, and the exploitation of young people and future generations by powerful vested interests.

We must demand that our government become a more trustworthy proponent of the people, rather than a patsy for the powerful or an expedient-addicted, wastefully profligate spender.

The words of Swami Beyondananda echo once again across the interstices of space:  We don’t need more theories of evolution, we need to make a better practice of it!  Prosperity, the quality of life, and even our species’ survival hang in the balance.

Tiffany Twain Investigates the Noble Assertions of Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany & Co. was founded in 1837, the year after Samuel Clemens was born.  In 2011, in keeping with modern times, the famous high-end retailer of diamonds and precious metal objects claims to be committed to social and environmental responsibility.  The company’s Chairman, Michael Kowalski, has written a laudable article that takes a company stand against gold mining in the Bodie Hills east of Highway 395 on the dramatic east side of the Sierra Nevada. 

This issue is related to a modern-day land grab effort by conservatives to open up wilderness areas to private exploitation.  The House of Representatives is considering a bill sponsored by the arch-conservative Rep. Kevin McCarthy which would eliminate national protections of wilderness areas and allow development on more than 43 million acres of America’s most fragile and important lands.  Some observers called this legislation a “Great Outdoors Giveaway” because it would mine beautiful public lands and undermine decades of conservation protections.

This private land-grab scheme compares with financial scams in which the nation’s wealth is monopolized by narrow vested interests.  Both ploys are unacceptable as official public policy.  Rep. Kevin McCarthy is the Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, and he’d just love to whip up public lands in a slurry of profiteering.  McCarthy is a founding member of the GOP Young Guns Program, along with arch-conservatives Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan.  It’s amazing to have such a cast of young guns trying to undermine the greater good with such perseverance and dedication to right-wing principles.  

Remember the theme of Mark Twain’s The Gilded Age - A Tale of Today.  It was about corruption and the lust for getting rich through land speculation.  Here is a 43-million-acre land grab.  Have these people no shame?  Kevin McCarthy has also voted against a proposed Cap and Trade Program that would address carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, and he has opposed Renewable Energy initiatives. 

To understand the psyche of Kevin McCarthy, consider the strange fact that he played a clip from the movie The Town at a closed-door meeting just prior to the August 2011 debt ceiling vote.  He was reportedly seeking to foster a sense of unity among House Republicans.  In the clip, a bank robber says to his accomplice “I need your help.  I can’t tell you what it is.  You can never ask me about it later.  And we’re going to hurt some people.”  Cheers may have erupted from the Republican audience.

Hurt the American people to advance narrow interests?  This seems to be the overarching mindset of the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives.  The Happy spin is this:  once we see things in the clearest possible light, the chances increase that we will make better decisions about how to proceed most propitiously into the future.

The Current State of Affairs

The rich have been getting much richer for the past 30 years while the poor are getting poorer and more insecure.  The middle class has been faltering, their real incomes stagnating.  Home equity has been declining since 2007.  In the mean time, sensationally, the wealthiest 1% of Americans has increased the share of the total wealth of the United States that they own by 75% since the Reagan Revolution began in 1981.

Rep. Paul Ryan and other Republicans are proposing to slash the top tax rates on high income people and corporations by almost a third, from 35% to 25%.  This policy would certainly increase the amount of wealth that the richest 1% of Americans have.  Golly, how much do they need?  Has greed no limits?

Let’s think about these issues honestly.  I repeat my earlier recommendation that readers make a thermos of Ginger-Infused Health Beverage to enjoy while you peruse these words.  The recipe is in Tiffany Twain Entertains - A Philosophic Cookbook.

The trickle-down theory has been discredited because of its highly adverse effect on American society.  It has been used as a rationalization to borrow trillions of dollars in the past decade from people in the future -- adding it to the biggest national debt in world history -- to give it to the wealthiest people in our nation.  Enough!

Think about this.  First of all, it is extremely irresponsible to have borrowed this money from people in the future to give it to rich people today in the form of reduced tax rates.  It is downright immoral from the standpoint of people in future years, as we are now seeing with the prospects of slashing spending on education, healthcare, physical infrastructure, programs that benefit the poor, and government agencies that protect the environment, the food supply, and the safety of drugs.  It is pathetic to see misguided spending cuts for all the targets of right-wing opportunists -- like protections of public lands, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, Planned Parenthood programs, and public broadcasting.

If this borrowed money had been given to 100 million Americans instead of the 1 million richest people, these 100 million people would have spent the money, stimulating the economy and creating demand-driven economic growth.  This would have generated jobs and increased tax revenue, so it would have been a much better and fairer plan than giving the borrowed money to the richest 1% of Americans. 

Apologists and ideological sycophants for rich people assume that tax cuts for the rich are the best plan because they stimulate the economy and create jobs through entrepreneurial activities and stock market investments and things like the sales of yachts and vacation homes.  But it seems to me to be a poor option compared to fairer plans.  Tax breaks for the rich arguably do not really contribute to the greater good.  We have 30 years of statistics to support this contention.

Meanwhile, our civilizations are flailing around in the face of daunting existential dilemmas.  There are deep economic conundrums, a looming crisis over the constantly increasing national debt, complex social challenges, resource depletion problems, environmental damages, climate-disrupting activities, cultural conflicts, costly wars, and ever-growing disparities between the Haves and Those Who Don’t Have Much. 

The approaches of our political representatives in addressing this host of challenges are uncompromising and shortsighted.  They smack of collective insanity.  Yet it is really quite simple.  We need to exert the political will to do what needs to be done for the best interests of society in the long-term. 

We can no longer let our society crumble around us just to further increase the concentration of wealth in the hands of the richest 1% of Americans.  There is a steep price to pay for believing deceptive and manipulative stories like the Big Lie of trickle-down theory!

Our nation was founded on Enlightenment Era philosophies that asserted “All men are created equal.”  This was an explicit rejection of earlier claims that kings had “divine rights”.  Our Founders were strongly opposed to tyranny and all forms of power abuse and anti-democratic authority.  They were angry at the British because of taxes on the colonists which were assessed without giving them fair political representation. 

Today, relentless increases in disparities of wealth between the wealthiest Americans and the vast majority of others mean simply that our societies are becoming less equal.  Thus, we are heading in a direction distinctly contrary to the one embraced by our respected Founders.  We arguably need greater equality, not ever-increasing inequalities between the Few and the Many!

The Conundrums of Conservatism

Those who are conservative have it tough.  What are they to do?

The Republican Party has cobbled together a curious and in many ways contradictory coalition of fiscal fundamentalists and social conservatives in their bid to regain dominating power like they exercised so ruthlessly from 2001 to 2006.  First, there are the perk-defending, privilege-embracing wealthy people who provide big chunks of money to politicians to advance their own narrow interests.  No matter which political party is in power, the rich have been getting their way, in spades, for the past 30 years. 

George W. Bush did not veto a single piece of legislation during the first five and a half years of his Administration.  When he arrived in office, Bill Clinton had left a budget surplus for the prior year.  The tax cuts that the Republicans enacted in 2001 and 2003, when they controlled the White House and the Senate and the House, have added an estimated $3 trillion to the national debt since being enacted.  This is an amount equal to more than 50% of the $5.7 trillion of debt that was outstanding when George W. Bush came into office.  Nice going, guys!

It seems perfectly clear to me that the promised positive trickle-down effects of this policy are taking an ungodly long time to trickle down to the masses!

Republicans today say they are against deficit spending.  But their actions belie that assertion.  Paul Ryan proclaims that he is a fiscal conservative.  This characterization directly contradicts his votes while George W. Bush was president in support of budget-busting tax breaks and the new Prescription Drug entitlement passed in 2003 and the bailouts when failed policies caused the Great Recession.

The Republican coalition does not in the least bit really want balanced budgets.  It would just be so unfreedomly for the privileged to be deprived of further benefits from the colossally clever swindle which has allowed the top 1% of Americans to pay the lowest rates of taxes in 80 years.  “DO NOT CUT THEIR ENTITLEMENTS!” proclaim the billionaire Koch brothers and their ilk.  “PLEDGE TO THIS OR ELSE!”

The second primary component of the squabbling but loyally obedient coalition that the Republican Party has cobbled together consists of social conservatives.  They also demand purity.  Yet they somehow passionately, persistently and gullibly parrot the prescriptions of laissez-faire capitalism advocates, corporate CEOs, economic fundamentalists, corporate think tanks and other mouthpieces of wealthy people and industry groups.  The narrow 5 to 4 “conservative” majority of Justices on the Supreme Court nod their heads in solemn agreement, as if this is exactly what the Founders and lawmakers ever since have intended.

Amongst these Republicans, there is a large subset that vociferously denies that there could be any problem with our spewing tens of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.  “Less tax on rich people and giant corporations”, they demand.  “Subscribe to these ideas.”  Meanwhile, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, causing historic disruptions in weather patterns worldwide.  If we must insist on mindlessly sticking with the status quo of fossil-fuel-powered civilizations, the least we could do is to compromise by investing in the protection of more of the world’s forests, which take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in the process of photosynthesis.  Instead of doing this, of course, humanity is chopping these forests down at alarming rates, especially in the tropics.

Neither of these contingents within the Republican Party seems to be honestly concerned about one of the most urgent problems facing our nation:  the current high rates of unemployment in the U.S.  Republican actions are consistently in favor of increasing the extremes in disparities between the Haves and the Have Nots in our country in terms of opportunity, education, income and wealth.  Few of their proposals seem designed to honestly create jobs or fairer outcomes.

Read-my-lips-Republicans, stubbornly sticking to their Santa Claus tax-cutting tactics, have steered the United States toward national insolvency in order to defend historically low tax rates for the richest 1% of Americans.  Our hyper-partisan political system continues to be paralyzed by the inordinate and unjustifiable power of this extremely small minority of wealthy people. 

  “Who woulda thought that the crazies would be allowed to run the Republican Party?”

                                                                                     --- Comment overheard at public forum

Experts predict that the near default in 2011 on our national debt and the resulting downgrade on the obligations of the federal government will eventually result in a substantial increase in interest costs on the national debt and on borrowings by companies and consumers.  The ramifications of this reckless refusal by our representatives to compromise on assessing higher taxes on the fortunate few, who have never had it better, is irresponsible from fiscal, social, and environmental points of view.

Investor anxiety over the demonstrable dysfunctionality of our political system and the Ponzi-scheme nature of most of our public policies is justified.  We should not continue to kick the can down the road.  Instead, we should enact a Bill of Rights of Future Generations to guide our public policy decision-making and mitigate the distinct intergenerational conflicts in our policies.

Now is the time to begin pursuing more intelligent courses of action.  Check out the ideas in the Earth Manifesto for good solutions to these problems.  Particularly germane are the ideas in Radically Simple Ways to Make America Fairer, and to Fix Both Social Security and Health Care So We Can Move On to Address Much Bigger Issues.

The current trajectory of our attempts to get government spending under control is ridiculously effete.  We are faced with an overarching need to make difficult decisions that are necessary to make our society better, safer, fairer and more sustainable. 

The Silver Lining to These Daunting Challenges

The last-minute deal on August 2, 2011 to raise the national debt limit included a political gimmick that Congress must vote on an amendment to the Constitution which would require the federal government to balance its budget every year.  This provision was laughable political posturing.  It was not a serious effort to make specific decisions on how to reduce budget deficits over the next decade. 

There is a silver lining in the dark cloud of the near default.  The $14.5 trillion national debt at the time had been projected to increase to by $10 trillion in the next 10 years.  This gambit of borrowing money from people in the future to give it to the wealthiest Americans today must be halted.  Turmoil caused by the Republican brinksmanship sharpened the focus on this necessity.  So far, the Republican anti-tax dogmas have prevailed, but the obviousness of the need to stop indulging in fiscally insane expediencies of borrowing money to give rich people low tax rates is now more apparent than ever.

The potential default crisis presented us with a great opportunity to actually do something about the projected 70% increase in the national debt in the next 10 years.  It is appropriate that we address this issue now.  Marginal taxes on the rich must be increased from their current intergenerational lows, and tax loopholes must be eliminated for hedge fund managers and other rich people who are using the power of their money to buy undue influence to skew the system ever-more radically in their favor. 

An honest Balanced Budget Initiative, as proposed in One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies, is a revolutionary reform that would help us create a society which is fairer to people in future generations.  This reform would involve a Fiscal Responsibility Act which would provide a powerful and effective motivation for the principal deciders in our political system to be brought on board to support efforts to create national policies that are consistent with the best interests of people in future generations.

Our national policies are skewed almost exclusively to benefit the top ten percent of Americans.  In a fair democracy, ninety percent of people would vote for fairer policies, and this injustice would be curtailed.  If people in future generations could somehow vote, more than 99% of votes would be cast for fairer and more socially responsible policies, and less than 1% would be in favor of allowing the powerful to continue to receive the lion’s share of benefits at the expense of all others.  It is simply wrong to allow the people with the most power to insidiously exploit the young, the vulnerable, the unfairly underrepresented, and all people in future generations.

Reasonable people see that there are sensible solutions to this deficit spending problem.  They also realize that it is only because our political system is so dysfunctional and corrupt that this goal is so hard to achieve.  Let’s reconnoiter, and cooperate together to make well-considered decisions on how to make our cultures fairer to future generations, as well as to all people alive today.  We simply must manage the economy in a smarter manner. 

Cooperation, not ruthless competition, may be the key to survival.  Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  Let’s go SANE!

People have been arguing heatedly about the theory of evolution ever since Alfred Russell Wallace, a commoner, and Charles Darwin, an aristocrat, courageously proclaimed that all species of life have descended over eons of time through a process of evolutionary transformation.  The stakes are too high today to continue this discord over how life has evolved, or indeed about WHETHER life has evolved.  It is high time now that we begin passionately agreeing on a practice of evolution, an intuitive, practical, common sense, intelligently-directed, and fair-minded evolution that will alter the unquestionably unsustainable state of the status quo.

Alfred Russell Wallace favored the idea that cooperation is the dominant feature of evolution, rather than ruthless competition.  Today we are finding that laissez-faire competition is having distinctly undesirable consequences for the vast majority of Americans.  Let’s emulate the 50 trillion cells in our bodies and cooperate together to try to maximize the prospects for the greatest well-being of the whole.

   “Stick to your story and you’re stuck with it.”

                                                           --- Swami Beyondananda

A Propitious Plan Enunciated

Oddly enough, the excellent remedy mentioned earlier to address the burgeoning deficit spending and national debt crises is to be found in proper pricing for every product sold and every service provided.  It is deeply ironic that mere PROPER ACCOUNTING could be so significant.  We need not accept smoke-and-mirrors gimmicks any more;  we simply must stop allowing profits to be privatized while considerable costs are socialized.

The smartest way forward is found in the clearest understanding.  The optimum answer comes from the best and most comprehensive understanding of the problem. 

Our capitalist free-market economy allows large corporations not only to abuse the power of the undue influence of their wealth to gain enormous subsidies and evade paying taxes on all of their income, but also to indulge in the insidiously undesirable gambit of externalizing a wide range of costs onto society.  Significant socially-disadvantageous effects are associated with allowing corporations to have these privileges. 

Millions of individual buying decisions are distorted by allowing real costs to be externalized onto society rather than more fairly including them in the prices of products and services.  Once again I recommend that readers refer to One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies.  It contains a Future Viability Assessment as proposed in the 4th Initiative, A Sound Economy.  This is a fair-minded and effective proposal for how we should shift the real costs of products and services -- costs which are being externalized onto society -- back to the products and services which are the source of these costs.

Many negative externalities are involved in allowing real costs to be shifted from the prices of products and services to taxpayers and future generations.  It should be noted that there are also many kinds of “positive externalities”, or ways in which taxpayers and future generations are providing funding for propitious investments in the public good.  The most distinct examples of these positive externalities are public investments in education and healthcare. 

Public investments made in education cascade into future earnings and general social well-being.  They also cut down on the need for increasing costs of social support programs for low-income people and higher costs of incarcerating people in prisons.  Increased investments in education lead to better prospects for employment and better job opportunities.  And they lead to a lower population growth rate, which is beneficial to the sustaining capacity of natural resources and ecosystems.  Also, public investments in universal healthcare would lead to lower costs and a healthier work force and fairer health outcomes.  It would allow people some reassurance to become more confident in taking entrepreneurial risks without the fear of losing health insurance.

All we have to do is find the political will to do what needs to be done.  We should embrace cooperative problem-solving, smart thinking, intergenerational fair-mindedness, courageous willingness to govern well, empathetic understanding, and common sense.  We can no longer let every public decision be made by corrupt politicians and K-Street lobbyists in Washington D.C.  If we do not change this state of affairs, inequalities will continue to increase between the Haves and Those Who Don’t Have Much.  It is as if we are completely failing to realize that increasing the flame under a simmering pressure-cooker causes an increasing potential for a dangerous explosion.

For the greater good of ALL concerned, let us immediately implement a more steeply-graduated tax system with fewer loopholes for the wealthy, as recommended by the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet.  And let us crack down on greedy citizens and corporations that use foreign tax havens to evade paying taxes.

These thoughts evolved out of Sad Implications of the Two Dueling Santa Claus Strategies in Political Economics.  At the same time of this development, I was reading the revealing and important book Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (and How We Can Get There from Here).  This book provides compelling understandings of how we could be co-creating a much more propitious future for ourselves and our descendents.  It gives a good sense of hope for how we could be moving forward in positive directions.  NOW is the time to start!

The Overarching Need for a New Paradigm of Human Perception

There have been four principal paradigms of human perception since our Cave Clan days.  Long ago in human prehistory, Animism prevailed.  Then came Polytheism, and later Monotheism, and then the current day Scientific Materialism. 

Animism was a harmonious state in which people made little distinction between themselves and the environment in which they lived.  Everything was seen as possessing an intangible spirit, and all of the world’s spirits were regarded as a part of the collective whole.  It was a period in which humanity was emerging from a primitive but ecologically-integrated existence into a new era of greater knowledge but less unity and more discord and less respect for our home planet.

Polytheism came into prominence about 4,000 years ago.  This was a way of regarding the world that involved a more sophisticated but fractured religious story in which intangible spirits were projected into iconic deities that represented Nature’s elements.  Presto, gods and goddesses!  The ultimate expression of this paradigm was found in the ancient Greek and Roman deities who exhibited human and superhuman qualities.  During the time that polytheistic beliefs were in ascendance, a disconnection from Nature began that has gotten worse as changing religious and materialistic paradigms have evolved since then.

The next leap forward (that’s debatable!), was the Eureka! revelations of Monotheism.  Aha -- there are NOT lots of gods and goddesses, there is only ONE God!  Unfortunately, a plethora of competing faiths all claimed that their God was the only true one.  Holy books proliferated.  In this new doctrinal era, the God of every other faith was regarded as not only false, but evil to boot.  This sparked extensive conflicts.  Monotheism was a rather more sophisticated way of seeing deities in everything, but it involved such dogma, moralizing and obedience-demanding faith that it became terribly destructive.  Divisiveness and enmity between believers and non-believers became much more pronounced.

The theory of evolution came along, providing a much more sophisticated and accurate way of understanding life and how it has come to be.  Along with it, Scientific Materialism gained great power, and the Industrial Revolution and economic competition facilitated rapid economic expansion and an astonishing growth in the population of human beings on Earth.  It also unfortunately caused completely unprecedented environmental destruction and led to wasteful uses of resources.

A new way of seeing the world is needed, a new existential paradigm of perception.  The latest materialistic paradigm to dominate humanity’s worldview does not give adequate respect to the natural world and its crucially vital ecosystems.  This is exceedingly odd, because the human race ultimately depends completely upon these ecosystems for our prosperity and survival, and upon the biological diversity of life on Earth that healthy habitats support. 

Every species of animal has its own animal awareness, it own appreciation of pleasure and well-being, and its own sensitivity to pain.  It is beyond folly to allow the poisoning of the environment, the paving over of paradise to put up parking lots, and the slaughter of Earth’s terrestrial and marine wildlife in mindless obedience to a dominating materialistic paradigm of human perception.  This paradigm of human behavior, with its marketing-stimulated consumerism, is unethical in much deeper senses than all of the admonitions of humankind’s holy book moralities put together.

One of the greatest contradictions of our human nature is that we have great difficulty living the lofty principles we claim to hold dear.  When we understand the contradictions of our nature, perhaps we will be able to more easily forgive ourselves, and others as well.  This might be a key to seeing more clearly how to sensibly and feelingly control the impulses which undermine the vital greater good.

The new worldview which is needed must be accompanied by a reformed means of organization and new behavioral incentives.  Let’s give this new worldview a name:  Life-Affirming Healthy Ecosystems Protectionism.  This new paradigm will be one that respects Mother Earth and protects the health of the vital ecosystems that sustain us.

A primary measure of our progress toward achieving this new paradigm and a sustainable existence will be found in our making a commitment to intergenerational fairness as defined in a Bill of Rights for Future Generations.  The agonizing death throes of unsustainable practices and old ways of living are converging with the growing pains of new ways of being that are struggling to be born.  In this condition, a variety of morbid symptoms appears and intensifies and struggles to persist.  We must re-program our perceptions and perspective, and redesign our economic and political systems to adapt them to be consistent with the long-term greater good of the human race in its pursuit of happiness, its quest for pleasure, and its struggle for survival.

One of the more honorable people in history was Alexander von Humboldt, a German naturalist and explorer who has been hailed as “the second Columbus”.  Humboldt traveled widely in South America, Mexico, and Cuba from 1799 to 1804.  He visited Thomas Jefferson in the United States before returning to Europe to live in Paris from 1804 to 1827.  He was an “enlightened discoverer” who published 30 volumes on the scientific findings of his travels in the Western Hemisphere.  His understanding of the link between living things and their environment provided a key inspiration to Charles Darwin, who called him “the greatest travelling scientist who ever lived.” 

Humboldt’s science had heart.  In The Passage to Cosmos, Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America, Laura Dassow Walls writes that “Humboldt blended an Enlightenment-derived certainty in the agency of reason, factuality, and precision with a Romantic’s enthusiasm for feeling and poetry.”  She asserts that he spoke out boldly against American slavery and European imperialism, and made courageous stands against racism and inequities.  He viewed nature holistically and explained natural phenomena without appealing to religious dogma.  For these characteristics, I give him a happy and hearty salute!

Voltaire famously concludes his short story Candide with the simple prescription that despite all else, “we must cultivate our garden.”  Spontaneous Evolution tells another great story which has arisen like a hope-inspiring phoenix firebird rising from the ashes, providing great hope that we can identify ways to change the world for the better. 

Spontaneous Evolution introduces the notion that a miraculous healing awaits this planet once we accept our new responsibility to collectively tend the Garden rather than fight over the turf.”                                                 

                   --- Dr. Bruce Lipton and Swami Beyondananda

Let us all embrace such broader visions!

    Truly,

      Dr. Tiffany B. Twain   

        Hannibal, Missouri    

          August 12, 2012 (Originally written in September 2011)

             Feedback?    Contact me at:  SaveTruffulaTrees@hotmail.com

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                                                     The End               

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 “The Earth Manifesto is destined to become the most widely read manifesto in all of eternity,

    or whatever is left of it before the End Times.”

                                                                 --- God (imagined)

I call for college courses to be devoted to the insights of the Earth Manifesto.  The Dalai Lama would likely agree.  Start the curricula, after a cursory review of the entire Home Page, by studying:

  The Sustainability Index

  The Bill of Rights for Future Generations

  Intelligent Precautionary Principles Enunciated -- Holy Cow!

  Existence, Economics, and Ecological Intelligence

  Happy Harbingers in Good Ideas for a Better Future

  Sad Implications of the Two Dueling Santa Claus Strategies in Political Economics

  Huckleberry Finn, the California Gold Rush and Related Reflections

  A Quite Curious and Illuminating Biography of Mark Twain

  Gaia’s Geological Perspective

  A Feminine Vision of An Achievable Better World: Anima Should Reign!

  Principal Reasons a Bill of Rights for Future Generations is Needed

  Tall Tales, Provocative Parables, Luminous Clarity and Evocative Truths:

       A Modern Log from the Sea of Cortez

  Tyrants and Damsels and Associate Incisive Insights

  Rapture Mania: Bizarre Beliefs and Epic Epiphanies

  Tiffany Twain Entertains:  A Philosophic Cookbook

  Common Sense vs. Political Realities:  An Anatomy of Dysfunctionality

  Reflections on War

  Revelations of a Modern Prophet

  Comprehensive Global Perspective:  An Illuminating Worldview

 

“Ideally, the Earth Manifesto is destined to become the most influential manuscript

   of the 21st Century.” 

          --- Cover Page, the original Earth Manifesto (Part Seven online today), September 2004

 

         “What if it did?” --- Comprehensive Global Perspective: An Illuminating Worldview

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