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             A Clear-Eyed Patriot Issues a Clarion Call for a Second American Revolution

                                                                           An Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain  

Friends, Washingtonians, countrymen and countrywomen, lend me your ears.  I come to champion good ideas, and to constructively criticize all the bad ideas and shortsighted expediencies that have gotten us into the particularly perilous straits we find ourselves in today, in our marvelous world.

Eleven score and nineteen years ago, our Founding Fathers declared independence from the despotic hegemony of the British Empire. These courageous colonists then fought an American Revolutionary War against the “redcoats”, using early guerilla warfare tactics, and they eventually triumphed.  After achieving victory, they set about working together to bring forth upon the North American continent a new nation, dedicated to liberty and the idealistic Enlightenment Era proposition that all men are created equal.

To secure the “unalienable rights” they had declared to be self-evident for all citizens, they commendably convened a Continental Congress of representatives of the people.  Having asserted that the government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed, our Founders assumed the important responsibility of hammering out a master plan for a new fair-minded form of democratic governance that would be guided by a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, and equitable rules of law.

The colonists’ experience with the despotism of King George III had left them wary of abuses of power, so they created a sensible balance of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government, and between them and the various States.  They did this in an effort to ensure that the American people would be forever free from despotic abuses of power, and that they would be represented fairly in all national decision-making.  As if!

Listen again, as if for the first time, to the six overarching purposes that our Founders identified as fundamental principles in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution:  (1) to form a more perfect Union;  (2) to establish Justice;  (3) to insure domestic Tranquility;  (4) to provide for the common defense;  (5) to promote the general Welfare;  and (6) to secure the Blessings of Liberty to themselves and to Posterity.  It is worthy of note that they did not endorse uncompromising partisanship, unethical profiteering, divisive political gamesmanship, hypocrisy in religious righteousness, or a focus on maximizing the perks and privileges of wealthy people.

In the many years that have passed since those formative times, much progress has been made in expanding these basic concepts of justice, guaranteed liberties, equality and fair representation so that they include people in racial minorities and women.  These initiatives were designed to strengthen our Union in these United States of America, and to ensure that considerations of the general welfare are not ignored in the fierce competition between narrowly–focused interest groups vying to gain advantages for themselves.

In the course of human events, and with the passage of time, corrupting influences have crept into our system of governance, and they have come to dominate our national decision-making.  Our political representatives have been bought, and they now primarily serve rich people and corporate masters, and NOT the best interests of the majority of American citizens.  Most of our representatives are cowardly pragmatists who seem to be afraid to emphasize the simple truth that our current system is extremely unfair to younger generations, and downright treasonous to the best interests of people in future generations.

It is sensationally relevant to us today that our nation’s Founders stated in the Declaration of Independence that whenever government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

These understandings make it clear today that it is our right, indeed our duty, to throw off the hegemony of the misguided influences that have come to dominate our nation.  It is time to put campaign finance reforms into effect and to enact policies that make the vast majority of Americans more secure, and to adopt initiatives that give Americans fairer opportunities to achieve happiness.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower made a provocative declaration of his own that should inform our understanding:

“… if a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party;  it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.        

Backroom decision-making, crony favoritism, machine politics, religious conservatism and the influence of Big Money have been allowed to dominate our government for too long.  Common sense tells us it would be wise to avoid the revolutionary strife associated with “politics in the streets” by striving to reach a bold and fair-minded consensus on how to honestly actualize the ideals and values we hold in common.

Wise Guys Speaks Out

   “You can't depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.”

                                                                                                           --- Mark Twain

The honorable Abraham Lincoln waxed eloquent about the ideals of our great nation after the bloody Battle of Gettysburg near the end of the terribly uncivil War Between the States.  He made one of the greatest speeches ever at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in November 1863, proclaiming his vision of the importance of representative democracy and governance “of the people, by the people, for the people.” 

In 2002, the late progressive Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota stated that he believed politics should be about much more than power, money and winning at any cost.  He observed:  “Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives, lessening human suffering, and advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and in the world.”  I salute these important concepts!

The plain truth of the matter, however, is that idealistic visions are not the main forces that guide our national policies.  Much narrower motives drive most of the efforts made to codify into law the collective impulses of the constituencies that compete for ascendency in our society. 

The renowned journalist Ambrose Bierce, a contemporary of Mark Twain’s, created a pithy satirical dictionary in which he defined words with witty and incisive perspicacity.  Here is one of his smart definitions that provides a relevant and intriguing insight:

   Politics, n.  A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.

Ambrose Bierce was “right-on” in this definition of politics.  All the high-falutin’ rhetoric during U.S. election campaigns about vision, righteousness, the moral good, and caring about the middle class is betrayed by the fact that the current intense competition for control of our government is really a conflict between greedy rich people and social conservatives, on the one hand, and people with more fair-minded, empathetic, liberal and future-respecting perspectives, on the other. Ambrose Bierce himself was an investigative journalist who courageously dared to take on the railroad “octopus” that was controlled by the infamous Big Four -- Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker, and Collis Huntington -- whose railroad monopoly wielded excessive power and influence in his day. 

David Sirota corroborates this interesting perspective that giant corporations and wealthy people largely dominate our government in Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government -- and How We Take It Back.  He makes it clear that these special interest groups are working resolutely to make sure the government operates in their own best interests, and not in the best interests of the people.  Both political parties in our duopoly system pander to the financial elites in our society above all else, and they rarely dare to take any action that would displease the richest 1% or CEOs in big corporations.

This confirms Ambrose Bierce’s second definition of politics in his dictionary:  “The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”  This common sense evaluation expresses a much truer reality than all the rhetoric we hear from our political leaders today.  Yes, siree!

True patriotism consists of questioning and opposing abuses of power in one’s country, and not merely accepting them without question.  As Mark Twain once said:  “My kind of patriotism and loyalty is loyalty to one’s country, and not to one’s institutions or officeholders.” 

My own modern sensibilities regard patriotism as less important than a kind of humanism that is loyal to fair-minded principles and Golden Rule reciprocity and the great ideals in their fullness that were espoused in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Patriotism is not unthinking obedience to the politicians and influential factions in power.  Patriotism in America should really be a commitment to principles and ideals and values this country honestly holds dear.  This includes the main concerns of our Founding Fathers:  fairness, social justice, assured personal liberties, guaranteed human rights, sensible limitations on the intrusiveness of government, and fair representation of the best interests of all the people in our country. 

Bravo for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

The primary concerns expressed in the Earth Manifesto are environmental.  That’s why the provisions for a proposed Bill of Rights for Future Generations include important ecological ideas.  Everything on Earth is inextricably interconnected and interdependent, naturally, so considerations for the health of natural ecosystems cannot be made independent of concerns for fairer economic policies and the greater good of society in the long run.  Likewise, considerations of economic policies cannot be made independent of concerns for the environment.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. once warned Americans not to “treat the planet as if it were a business in liquidation”.  He wisely told people at a conference in Toronto, “To me, environmental advocacy is not just about protecting the fish and the birds for their own sake.  It’s about recognizing that nature is the infrastructure of our communities.  When we actively destroy nature, we diminish ourselves.  We impoverish our children.”

Sensible business owners know that they should operate their businesses using the income they generate, and that they cannot stay in business for long if they squander their assets and equity.  It is folly for us to allow corporations to try to convert natural resources to cash as quickly as possible.  Such a strategy may give us an ephemeral illusion of a prosperous economy, but all schemes that allow giant corporations to deplete resources and externalize costs onto society effectively force our children and descendants to bear the costs of these shortsighted activities.

Robert F. Kennedy also pointed out that we should make bigger investments in environmental protections because they help ensure the well-being and economic vitality of generations of people alive today as well as those in the future.  In our free market capitalist system, when we under-value natural resources, we contribute to their excessively wasteful usage.

Smart environmental planning is more important than ever in the world today, and it is getting more crucial with every year that passes.  This fact makes it absurdly ironic that the 2011 – 2012 session of the House of Representatives had the worst environmental record of any session in history, for House Republicans voted on more than 300 occasions to weaken protections of the environment.  Since then, Congress has gotten even worse, according to the League of Conservation Voters, whose National Environmental Scorecard gave Republicans the lowest rating ever in 2014.  The time has come for leadership that demonstrates much greater integrity, and is more reasonable, so I urge Americans to demand that their leaders acknowledge and emphasize the importance of environmental concerns.

Once again, the cogent words of the fair-minded journalist Bill Moyers resonate in the interstices of my brain.  Moyers noted that when he reads the news about all the things humanity is doing in the world, he concludes that it is not as if “Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.”  As he looks at photos on his desk of his five grandchildren, he observes:  “We do know what we are doing.  We are stealing their future.  Betraying their trust.  Despoiling their world.”

It is our collective duty to act more responsibly.  It is for good reasons that Franz Kafka observed, “Nobody wants to introduce as many reforms as children do.”  Nobody’s reforms would be as fair to people in future generations as those made in the best interests of children.  Conversely, when we let entrenched interest groups staunchly defend the status quo by focusing on benefits for rich people and older folks, we effectively betray young people.

Think clearly about the treacherous nature of the way we are treating the prospects of our children and our grandchildren.  We are profligately using up natural resources, failing to conserve energy and water resources, allowing natural ecosystems to be damaged and wildlife habitats to be destroyed, and wantonly foisting the detrimental health and environmental costs of pollution, toxic wastes and greenhouse gas emissions upon people in countries worldwide.  And we are irresponsibly borrowing trillions of dollars to hyper-stimulate these outcomes. 

This whole litany of collective short-term oriented activities is being significantly exacerbated by the myopic expediency of promising a cornucopia of unfunded obligations for healthcare and retirement costs for millions of government employees, military veterans, and people over the age of 62.  It is estimated that there is more than $60 trillion in promised but unfunded obligations like this.  Sixty trillion dollars!  This is more than three times as much as the amount of our national debt, and it represents more than $500,000 for every household in the United States. 

These facts reveal that our national policies are an unkind form of intergenerational treachery.  To allow this heedlessly shortsighted and unfair favoritism is irresponsible, and to facilitate it with accounting gimmickry and financial scams is misguided.  This unmindful ruse resembles an odd new variant of a Ponzi scheme on an unprecedented scale, and it boggles the imagination to think that we could be acting with such a lack of responsibility toward people in the future.  Today we are faced with another crucial turning point in our country’s history.  After having reelected President Obama and chosen a record number of women in the Senate in November 2012, voters then gave Republicans control of the U.S. Senate in the 2014 elections, so we must now elect more progressive leaders to Congress and work together to fairly solve the big challenges we face.  That’s not happening, despite the imperatives, and there is plenty of responsibility for this impasse to go around.

Now is the time for clearer understandings, and for taking a fair-minded stand for a better future.  The Dalai Lama is one of the wisest, most spiritually pure and cool, calm, and collected persons on Earth.  Yet the happy and meditative Buddhist once declared:  “In order to accomplish important goals, we need an appreciation of the sense of urgency.”  Hold that thought.

An Echo of Wise Solon Reverberates through the Airwaves

Economics drives politics.  In Athens more than 2,500 years ago, disparities of wealth between the rich and the poor created a dangerous upheaval.  One faction favored democracy; another favored oligarchic rule by the wealthy few;  a third preferred a mixed form of rule with a strong constitution.  Clan rivalry and many regional conflicts also played a role in the strife of Athens in the 6th century BCE.

According to Will and Ariel Durant in The Lessons of History, the historian Plutarch wrote that, in the Athens of 594 BCE, “the disparity of fortune between the rich and the poor had reached its height, so that the city seemed to be in a dangerous condition, and no other means for freeing it from disturbances … seemed possible but despotic power.”  The poor found that their status got worse every year because the government was in the hands of elite factions, and the courts were corrupt, deciding every issue against the masses.  Talk of violent revolt reverberated through the Athenian city-state.  The rich were outraged at the brazen challenge to their privileges and property and power, so they prepared to defend themselves by force.

As these conflicts escalated between various interest groups vying for control, many people recognized the need for a leader who would sort out the differences between competing factions in an equitable and peaceable manner.  Good sense prevailed and moderate elements secured the election of Athenian statesman and lawmaker Solon to the supreme archonship, because he was seen as having the wisdom and willingness to fairly mediate between concerned parties.

Solon was consequently given extraordinary legislative powers by his fellow citizens, and he made a number of fair-minded reforms of the Greek political system and its economy.  He also laudably addressed a broad agenda of moral issues like slavery, debt bondage, and abuses of the system of inheritance.  The most important reform he made was the creation of a graduated income tax plan that made wealthy people pay taxes at a rate 12 times as much as the poor.  This idea forms the basis for my proposals to reform the U.S. tax code by making it significantly more steeply graduated.

My fellow Americans, make no mistake about it;  the disparity of fortune between the rich and the poor in the U.S. has reached new modern extremes today, and the nation is in a dangerous tinderbox condition.  The lessons of history provide us with an excellent alternative to gathering risks:  smart leadership that is committed to making decent, fair-minded progressive reforms.  Those who do not heed the lessons of history are more likely to be doomed to repeat them, so let’s heed the lessons!

Professor Robert Reich has expressed optimism about the future of our great country.  He points out that our history has a decidedly progressive trajectory, despite periods of backward influences.  Reformers, he believes, will eventually succeed in making our country a fairer place than it is today.  We are at a juncture where we need to heed the will of the people who elected relative moderates to the Senate and the White House in 2012, and reject the extreme anti-compromising conservatives in the atavistic Tea Party and House Freedom Caucus, and the Republican “standard bearer” for president in 2016, and boldly act to create a fairer country.

To achieve the common good, we need honest and clear-eyed understandings, and a hearty measure of fair-minded resolve.  Now is the time for us to insist that our representatives begin to work together with an overarching goal of choosing wiser, more just, and more peaceable national priorities.  For good guidance, it would be providentially positive for us to heed the provisions of a proposed Bill of Rights for Future Generations. 

This is the counsel of the great ghost of Virgil, the veritable voice of reason, and of the spirit of beautiful Beatrice, whose inspiration of an empathetic heart could provide us with the motivation to embark on a more virtuous, redemptive and morally fair-minded path into the future.  For an interlude of fascinating information and introspection, see the Earth Manifesto essay The Odd Brilliance of Dante’s Epic Poem, The Divine Comedy, for it provides additional understanding of Dante’s great poem and its personal, political, religious, historical and moral underpinnings.

Dante essentially expressed the opinion in Inferno that the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.  Let’s not be complacent with inequities and injustices in our world today.  Dante consigned those who commit acts of fraud to the eighth circle of Hell, so he placed them only slightly above the worst of his nine circles of Inferno, where those who committed cold-hearted intentional acts of treachery and treason were to be found. 

In the documentary film Inside Job, which is narrated by Matt Damon, the director Charles Ferguson provides a comprehensive analysis of the causes of the global financial crisis of 2008.  This crisis cost more than $20 trillion worldwide, and it caused millions of people to lose their jobs and their homes in the worst economic recession since the Depression of the 1930s.  Ferguson states unequivocally that pervasive Wall Street fraud was involved in this crisis, which nearly caused a global financial collapse. 

“Three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail,” Ferguson said.  “And that’s wrong!”  This outrage inspired Ferguson to do more research and then write Predator Nation, a compelling indictment of both factions in our political duopoly.

No reports have yet come out whether any financial executives have arrived in the eighth circle of Hell.  It is noteworthy that millions of small-time criminals, poor people, desperate people, and users of marijuana fill our prisons in the U.S. today.  The really big crooks, however, have engaged in various shades of fraud in crashing the national and international economy, and yet have nonetheless secured trillions of dollars in bailouts and liquidity stimulus to prevent another Depression.  These people are treated as pillars of society and untouchable luminaries, and they are members of a hyper-privileged elite that is ironically rewarded with most of the benefits of our national policies -- and low tax rates. 

Not only has nobody gone to prison for the Inside Job that caused the Great Recession, or for all the widespread mortgage fraud, but no one is incarcerated for having misused risky financial derivatives to make huge sums of money, on which they paid low rates of tax.  And no one is being punished for the ruses that resulted in a harsh recession that necessitated huge government bailouts.  Not a single person has gone to prison for these schemes, which caused tens of millions of people to lose large amounts of their home equity and retirement security. 

If we truly want a happier ending for millions of hard-working Americans like teachers, firefighters and other government employees, we should stop blaming them for budget deficits, and instead blame the corporate CEOs, bankers and Wall Street fat cats who largely control the economy and helped cause the dire economic straits we have been collectively enduring since 2008. Tens of millions of people are being required to face unnecessarily austere measures as an unintended consequence of these adverse developments.  Scandalous is far too mild a word for this state of affairs!

Common Sense Arrives on the Scene

    “These are the times that try men’s souls.” 

                                                                    --- Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine was an Englishman who became the consummate American patriot.  He helped change the course of history by writing Common Sense, a highly influential pamphlet that was published in January 1776.  Common Sense originally had the working title Plain Truth, and it spoke plain truths and made straightforward arguments about society and government.  This is said to have been the best-selling pamphlet ever published.  In it, Thomas Paine forcefully advocated independence from tyrannical rule by the British, and he proposed enlightened ideas about the need and desirability of establishing a new form of government that would be more fairly representative, so that all people’s voices would be heard. 

It is noteworthy that Thomas Paine published Common Sense anonymously because the pamphlet was highly treasonous from the point-of-view of King George III and the ruling British Empire.  From our perspective today, this act of treason was one of the most laudably patriotic salvos against tyranny ever written.  We now regard the cause of independence of the American colonies as having been central to the freedoms we enjoy today.  I imagine the stirring music of fifes and bugles and drums accompanying the march of these ideas.

The relativity of treason and patriotism casts a bright light onto our political strife today.  Think about this.  “Conservatives” in modern-day America want to ”drown government in the bathtub” and give rights of personhood to corporate entities, and to thus undermine the rights and power of ordinary people.  Most of all, they want to give rich people larger tax breaks, and finance this generosity by slashing spending that helps poor people survive and middle-class folks to be more secure.  They also want to facilitate the exploitation of resources, and stimulate consumerism, and eliminate many protection of the environment.  And they want to take away rights of women to make their own personal decisions regarding reproduction and their health and the size of their families.

The simple fact of the matter is that we have been consistently avoiding difficult decisions required to fairly compromise between competing interests in our society, and we have consequently used the shortsighted expediency of borrowing huge sums of money from all people in future generations to achieve misguided priorities.  This is sort of stupid, and extremely unfair to our descendants.

“Conservatives” have become increasingly unwilling to compromise with more moderate people for the greater good of society.  They have been adamantly insisting for years that high-income earners should be allowed to pay low rates of tax on the highest levels of their incomes.  Many of them want to undermine efforts to conserve resources, and to reduce protections of public lands in order to benefit private interests.  Some advocate that we allow national parks, national forests and other public lands to be more easily exploited, or privatized.  And many believe we should increase the amount we spend on the military, no matter how wasteful or misguided.  Not exactly incuriously, these are often the same people who advocate more aggressive U.S. stances on the world scene -- and who want assault weapons and mega-clip ammunition to remain easy to obtain by anyone.

These ideological stances and narrow-minded attitudes are radically contrary to true and honorable conservatism.  These are not patriotic approaches, and in fact, relative to our descendants in future generations, they are downright treasonous.  They are treacherous to the future of humankind, and heedlessly inconsiderate of a large number of species of life on Earth.

I, Tiffany B. Twain, Doctor of Philosophy and illegitimate great-granddaughter of Mark Twain, have a vision for the greater good of humanity.  This vision is informed by overarching fairness principles and ideas of sustainable stewardship of our home planet.  It is a vision that encompasses ideas that would help foster more collaboration in good faith on the international stage and attain common sense goals of having less strife and better prospects for justice, peaceful coexistence and a sustainable future. 

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology.  We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”

                                               --- President Lyndon B. Johnson, upon signing the Wilderness Act of 1964

Examining the National Debt

The U.S. national debt first exceeded $18 trillion in late 2014, and then exceeded $19 trillion in February 2016.  This debt represents almost $60,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S.  This large amount of debt is undermining the potential well-being and prospects of people in future generations.  We can no longer afford to allow the all-but-criminal evasion of taxes by the rich that has contributed to this unprecedented level of debt.

We should be clear about the starkly wrongheaded nature of borrowing huge sums of money to finance low tax rates for rich people.  Consider the compelling reason why.  Even if the principal balance of borrowed money is never paid back, the American people are obligated to the interest expense on this debt.  The interest cost on borrowed money amounts to 100% of the amount borrowed every 15 years, assuming a long-term average interest rate of only 5%.  It is completely crazy to borrow trillions of dollars to give it to rich people today, knowing that the boon to wealthy people and their heirs will cost people in future generations 100% of the amount borrowed every 15 years, over and over and over and over again.  This is a downright stupidly expedient gambit!

I call on all our American leaders to come together to help enact a Fair Taxation Initiative enacted like the one that is proposed in One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies.  This change would almost immediately make our economy fairer and healthier, and allow us to invest more sensibly in national infrastructure maintenance and improvements and healthier policies for our communities, and important protections of natural ecosystems.  The American people would be more secure, the size of future deficits would be reduced, and our democracy would be made stronger and more resilient.

Irony is a subversive devil.  After Admiral Mike Mullen declared that “Our national debt is our biggest national security threat”, it should have become starkly clear that it has been a bad plan to spend more than $16 trillion since 1980 on wars, weapons, the Pentagon, intelligence agencies and Homeland Security, and to effectively have borrowed the entire amount.  The conclusion is inescapable:  it would have been a much more sensible plan “to pay as we go.”  By failing to do so, we have put our nation’s financial health in a precarious state that is, in itself, so fiscally irresponsible that it may be the biggest national security threat of all.  Stunning!

A Relatively Objective Assessment

Republicans have obstructed almost every measure in the last 7 years that would have helped Barack Obama succeed in righting the economy and making our country a fairer and more progressive nation.  This intransigence is consistent with their misguided top political priority:  “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” declared Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after the 2010 elections.  Fortunately, McConnell failed miserably at that.

This hard line stance by Republicans can be seen as a blatant form of political sabotage.  Though it was designed to make the President fail, it had the terrible ‘collateral damage’ side effect of hobbling and harming millions of people in the process.  By adopting a top political priority of defeating President Obama, Republicans gave this goal precedence over improving the economy, helping create jobs, honestly dealing with the huge national debt, protecting the environment, or ethically making our country fairer.  Republicans generally want to do aggressive “nation-building” abroad, but they seem dead set against more sensible and fair-minded nation building at home -- particularly if it would have helped the black guy succeed, I reckon!

The President Shares a Perspective

Barack Obama suggests that the best way to grow the economy is from the middle out, not from the top down.  “It’s time for a new economic patriotism rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins with a strong and thriving middle class,” he has said.  The American people have been forced to try the top-down method ever since Ronald Reagan launched his folksy revolution, but the results have not been good.  Well, admittedly they have been very advantageous for the rich.  Everybody else?  No!

Let’s try a different way!  Let’s enact a new simplified income tax system -- one that is more steeply graduated.  This means everyone will pay exactly the same amount of tax on every dollar they earn, as they do now, but that higher rates will apply on the highest levels of earnings.  This is the right way forward.  It is the proper way in fiscal and economic terms, as well as in social and moral ones. 

Consider this closely.  Median household income roughly doubled between 1945 after the end of World War II and 1980.  This increase was about the same as increases in the productivity of workers. But wealthy people generally feel supremely entitled to maximizing their earnings, so a strong resurgent movement began to crush the power of workers.  This movement was stoked by Ronald Reagan’s permanent firing of more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who had gone on strike for better working conditions, shorter hours and higher compensation.  This merciless termination started a long downward slide for American workers.  Since then, all productivity gains in the economy have gone to the wealthiest 10% of Americans, instead of being more fairly shared with workers for their hard work.

Inflation-adjusted compensation to workers has remained stagnant since 1980, despite another doubling in worker productivity in the past 35 years.  This essentially represents a redistribution of wealth to the top.  It is an outcome that nakedly reveals the extreme inequities in our econopolitical system, and it is an outcome that makes clear the understanding that income and wealth should rightly be more fairly distributed.  The best way to accomplish this would be to enact more steeply graduated tax rates on income, capital gains, and inheritances of rich people’s kids.

It really is sensational that the productivity of American workers has roughly doubled in the past few decades while their average hourly compensation has basically remained unchanged.  One outcome of this situation is that wages are at their lowest share of GDP on record, while the profits corporations are making are at the highest share of GDP since the 1960s.  Meanwhile, total taxes paid by corporations as a percent of GDP are the lowest in decades.  These facts reflect highly unfair trends that should be reversed through sensible public policies.  Otherwise, the pressure cooker of inequities will cause increasing adversities for most Americans.

A Bizarre Development

A secretly-taped video surfaced in mid-September 2012 of Mitt Romney talking to supporters at a private $50,000 per person fund-raising dinner.  In the video, he declared that his job is “not to worry about” the 47% of Americans who pay no income tax.  In the video, he conflated “47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what” with 47% of people who pay no income taxes, and he expressed disdain that bordered on contempt for the 47% of Americans “who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims … who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

Embarrassed by the revealing attitudes he expressed to his well-heeled supporters in the video, but unyielding, he defended his statement the next day, conceding only that perhaps it was “not elegantly stated”.  Inelegance, Mr. Romney, was not the problem.  It wasn’t merely an unfortunate choice of words;  it was a poor choice of ideological convictions.  It was, in particular, a really poor choice of words and beliefs for a rich guy to profess in his attitude toward the middle class and working poor. 

Conservative columnist David Brooks provided a damning perspective about the Romney video. “The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers.  They are Republicans.  They are senior citizens.  They are white men with high school degrees.  As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefitted from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.” 

Romney’s words reflected a glib eagerness to oversimplify issues, and to distort them to try to make them conform to his overarching and unapologetic capitalist worldview.  One problem with his hewing to corporate economic orthodoxy is that it represents a basically untenable position of advocating a doubling-down on the regressive and unsustainable tax policies of the Bush era.  Another problem is that it’s difficult to sell unempathetic “you’re on your own economics” to people who are struggling so traumatically with economic hard times.  Romney’s attitude seemed so out of touch and narrowly self-serving, and surely the vast majority of Americans would be better served by leaders who are better stewards of the public interest!

The video was sensational because it showed Romney launching a hostile salvo against millions of Americans who he was trying to dupe into supporting him.  It turns out that half of the nearly 47% of Americans who pay no income taxes don’t earn enough money to owe any tax.  Most of the rest who pay no income taxes receive tax credits that offset their meager incomes because they are senior citizens, low-income parents, or working poor people.  Many military veterans are among the 47%.  Revealingly, the top ten states where these 47% live are in the South, where Republican Governors preside over economic policy in states like Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.  There are also, curiously, 4,000 households that earn more than $1 million per year in this 47% of Americans.  Somehow these people twist the tax code into a selfish tax-free triumph. 

The President is responsible for serving all Americans, and not to abandon large segments of the populace.  “Personally,” concluded David Brooks, “I think Romney’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not -- some sort of cartoonish government-hater.”  Peggy Noonan, a conservative Wall Street Journal columnist and former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, described Romney’s campaign as “a rolling calamity.”  Rush Limbaugh offered his own dumb advice:  “Go ideological!”  He wanted Mitt to pander more slavishly to the extreme right.  He apparently believes Romney hadn’t gone far enough toward the extreme ideologies of the “loony-tunes” crowd.

Mitt, trying to avoid providing specific details of his envisioned policies, once declared, “The devil is in the details.  The angel is in the policies.”  If that’s true, the angel policies are arguably the ones that make the lives of the majority of people more secure, NOT the policies that just make the rich richer.  The right policies are the best plan, NOT the far right policies!

Republicans rhapsodize with vaulting rhetoric about American Exceptionalism, but their bait-and-switch policies worship exceptionally generous policies for top income earners in the United States while proposing increasingly stingy policies for everyone else.  They claim to represent “a shining city on a hill”, but their blurry vision can be seen more accurately to resemble a glaring searchlight atop fortress walls that is blinding many Americans so that they will be deluded into opposing more common sense solutions to our society’s numerous solvable problems.

In addition to their overarching goal of cutting taxes for people who are already wealthy, their goal of imposing a more reactionary form of right-wing social engineering upon the American people -- especially on women! -- is anathema to our national ideals.  The American people value both liberty and religious freedom, and they dislike abuses of authority.  A provocative quote often misattributed to Sinclair Lewis in his 1935 novel about totalitarianism, It Can’t Happen Here, provides a disconcerting perspective:  “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying the cross.”

One of the Tea Party darlings at the 2012 Republican National Convention was Florida Senator Marco Rubio.  Listen to his speech at the RNC at the time:  “Our national motto is ‘In God We Trust’, reminding us that faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all.”  Is this value more important than honesty, personal freedoms, the protection of children, peaceful coexistence, protections of the environment, reducing poverty, and caring about others, including people in future generations?  Now, in 2016, Rubio wants to be President.

Marco Rubio’s attitude is divisive, and unlikely to help us form a more perfect Union.  There is a good reason that when politicians take their oaths of office, they place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution, and that they DO NOT put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.  A robust separation of church and state is an important principle for peaceable coexistence and democratic fairness.

True patriots would reject the new strain of extremism that has hijacked the Republican Party.  Hey, maybe we can end the “war on women” in all its economic, social, reproductive, psychological and cultural dimensions.  That would be a positive plan!  If we really want liberty and justice for all in our great nation, we need to work together to actualize this fair-minded democratic vision.  Let’s strive to reach unity through building a win/win consensus, and reject ploys to establish win/lose gambits that are encapsulated in ever-more unfair policies.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  This arc can, and does, get bent backward toward more injustice for periods of time, but the majority of people should honorably oppose such trends.  Let’s move forward together!

Making a Fair-Minded Pledge

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

                                                                   --- Official U.S. Pledge of Allegiance from 1942 to 1954

Note that the words “under God” were added to this Pledge in 1954 as a kind of propaganda initiative in response to stoked fears of godless communism.  This was during the Joseph McCarthy era and the Cold War.  Republicans are now, seemingly cynically, similarly using the name of God to try to further divide the country to advance their demands to impose a narrow “right-wing engineering“ agenda.  Since all religions have a spectrum of adherents that runs from the liberal left to the reactionary far right, it is high time that moderates and progressives in every faith reject conservative elements that have dominated their religious establishments in recent years.

A second American revolution is needed to overthrow the insidiously despotic aspects of the new monarchs of tyranny in our nation.  This second American Revolution must ensure that the architects of radical social and environmental injustices are removed from halls of power.  The first American Revolution threw off the tyranny of an imperial and undemocratic political system and an unfairly exploitive mercantile economic system that taxed people in the colonies without fair representation.  The second American Revolution must throw off the tyranny of corrupt corporate politics and the hegemony of wealthy partisans whose selfish greed has oppressed the people and is stealing from future generations to enrich the few today.

This new revolution should be peaceful, progressive and fair-minded.  It should be guided by a visionary Bill of Rights for Future Generations, as specifically proposed in the Earth Manifesto.  This is just Common Sense!

I believe the English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton was onto something when he coined the adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”  The salvo of ideas in the Earth Manifesto is my attempt to set forth intelligent ideas to try to overcome the narrow idea-shaping spin and propaganda of irresponsibly exploitive interests.  Let it be!

      Truly,

         Dr. Tiffany B. Twain