Common Sense vs.
Political Realities: An Anatomy of Dysfunctionality
political cartoon by Matt Davies appeared in national newspapers on January 22,
2010. The political cartoon shows a
billboard with little neon lights on it that reads BOB IS A JERK. A blimp floats overhead with a sign on it
that says GET A LIFE BOB. A bus going
past this scene has one of those international traffic signs on the back with a
red slash across the name BOB. A
political ad on the side of the bus says BOB IS WRONG. Off to one side, a perplexed-looking Bob
stands next to a woman, and he is saying to her:
“ALL I SAID WAS GIVING FREE SPEECH TO A
DIFFERENT THAN GIVING FREE SPEECH TO AN INDIVIDUAL.”
This astute political commentary was
created in response to the landmark ruling a day earlier by the Supreme Court
that overturned long-standing legal precedents designed to limit the powerful
and highly unfair influence of Big Money in our elections. This decision in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission declared that
it is more-or-less unconstitutional for representatives of the American people
to put restrictions on the rights of cash-rich corporations to influence
elections. This decision is stunning!
overturned campaign finance laws that sensibly restricted corporate spending in
elections. Eighty-nine-year-old Supreme
Court Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the four Justices who disagreed with
the ruling, read his dissent aloud to give additional emphasis to his words. He noted that the decision “rejected the
common sense of the American people, who have fought against the distinctive
corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore
of this essay is to develop a big picture perspective on current events and the
lessons of history and experience, and to make a call to action for Americans
to stand up and demand that our representatives actually work to improve our
societies and make them healthier and more just. One of the best ways to accomplish this would
be to find ways to prevent established interest groups from getting special
short-term-oriented advantages for themselves at the public expense. At the same time, steps should be taken to
prevent these groups from undermining the financial health of our nation or
unduly harming the environment or damaging our hopes for a fairer and more
Healthy Solution is Proposed Right Here
chef Giada De Laurentiis has a morning routine that makes her feel good; she drinks two glasses of warm water with
fresh lemon juice the first thing every morning, then does some yoga stretches,
and then dunks her face in a sink filled with ice water. This invigorating routine definitely appears
to work well for her, and if this healthy routine is responsible for her
youthful appearance and exuberant enthusiasm and impressive poise, I heartily
endorse it. I myself believe in
finishing a hot shower with a brief cold one, and in this invigorated state,
let’s give wing to the imagination.
composing these words, often pondering deeply like a feminine and lighthearted
version of Rodin’s The Thinker. Here I am, smiling broadly at intervals,
in touch with the irony and absurdity of my hopes to help humanity overcome the
overwhelmingly powerful ossified inertia of the status quo. I again recall that Niccolo Machiavelli, the most famous
and infamous political strategist in all of history, knew the true nature of
affairs, as succinctly stated n his observation:
“It must be remembered that there is nothing more
difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than
the creation of a new system. For the
initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old
institutions, and merely lukewarm defenders of those who would gain by the new
Then again, signs
of bright hope are everywhere, standing out from the ominously dark background
of stubborn intransigence. There’s Annie
Leonard, for instance, the straight-speaking educator who has created some
simple and easily accessible animated videos in her provocatively illuminating Story of Stuff series. Her ideas in The Story of Stuff and The
Story of Change and The Story of
Broke could help revolutionize our world.
Annie Leonard’s Story of Citizens United vs. Federal
Election Commission tells “the story behind the Story of Stuff.” After
briefing online viewers on the problems associated with excessive corporate
spending in our elections, she observes:
easy to get angry, but it’s time we get smart and realize that the heart of our
problem is not that we have bad lawmakers, but that we have a democracy in
crisis. Eighty-five percent of Americans
believe that corporations have too much power, and people have too little. Eighty-five percent! Hey, that’s a majority!”
All it would
take, as the cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once made clear, would be
for a small subset of people to watch these marvelous videos and understand the
truths they contain, and to get motivated to help create an effective movement
that would utilize these ideas to get our self-interest-obsessed and
vested-interest-prepossessed representatives to act in the interests of the
Leonard calls for a big and ambitious goal of ratifying a smart and clear new
Constitutional Amendment that guarantees We
the People more influence in our government by restricting the outsized influence
of corporations. “I get that amending
the Constitution is a big, ambitious goal, but it is not impossible. Every time
huge positive change has been made in this country it is because people dreamed
big, aimed high and set ambitious goals.”
Corporatism, and Inegalitarianism
“We have the best government
that money can buy.”
trenchant observation by the great American humorist was definitely not an
endorsement of the goodness of our government, or of the wisdom of allowing Big
Money to have a domineering influence on our politics and public
indicators show that too much corporate money is already negatively affecting
our society. The greater good is
diminished when we allow our public decision-making to be dominated by the
amount of money spent by vested interests to influence our national
policies. We need to find ways to ensure
that all people and competing interests have fair representation. One of the reasons
that our economic and political systems are so unfair and dysfunctional is that
rich people and giant corporations have such powerful influence to enact their
own self-interested priorities.
bottom-line confirmation of this contention is embodied in one simple
fact: The wealthiest one percent of
Americans own more of the total wealth in the United States than the bottom 90%
combined. One percent of Americans, in
other words, own more than the combined amount of everyone in the lower
classes, plus everyone in the middle class, plus about half of the people in
the upper class. Furthermore, the top
one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans today earn as much as the bottom 120
million people, and the marginal tax rate on high-income individuals is near
the lowest it has been in more than 80 years.
It is downright stupid for the U.S. to run the
biggest budget deficits in world history while at the same time requiring
people who are super-rich to pay such low rates of tax. This state of affairs is an outrageous affront
to common sense and the common good. The marginal tax rate should be increased to prevent the extreme
unfairness of letting rich people exploit our system to get richer.
Also, since our capitalist system is set up
to primarily benefit wealthy people, it is entirely reasonable to require a
once-every-lifetime reckoning in which wealthy people, after they die, give
back a good portion of their wealth for the greater good. Taxes on rich people’s estates were gradually
reduced from a top estate tax rate of 55% on estates larger than $600,000 in
1997 to zero in 2010, and then they reverted to a top rate of 35% on portions
of inheritances exceeding $5 million in 2011.
It would be a positive development for our nation to establish a more
steeply graduated estate tax on large fortunes.
Revenues generated should be applied to reduce the national debt, which
has been inflated, artificially, in part, to ensure that rich people are able
to accumulate assets.
dominating influence of Big Money in our society drowns out the voices of the
vast majority of people. It thus has the
effect of reducing the power associated with the freedom of speech for
individuals, so it significantly erodes their interests. This is not what the Founders had in mind
when they wrote the Bill of Rights. We
are living in a new Gilded Age of disparities of wealth that is so unjust a
form of inegalitarianism that it could only have come about, and could only be
perpetuated, by UNFAIR representation and by the subversion of democratic
“Government must give priority to the needs of
ordinary citizens, workers, consumers, students, children, the elderly, and the
ill, the vulnerable and the underdog, and not to the needs of those already
sufficiently powerful and affluent to afford their own lobbyists.”
--- Theodore Sorensen (1928 – 2010)
can’t help remembering the compelling observation made by Justice Louis
Brandeis, a Supreme Court Justice from 1916 to 1939: “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.” Yikes! Which shall it be?
Perspectives on Extremes of Economic Inequality
is great risk even for wealthy people in being too hard-nosed toward the vast
majority of people in decisions concerning economic fairness. Famed historians Will and Ariel Durant point
out in The Lessons of History that
reasonable compromises are necessary to prevent forces that advocate revolutionary
change from acting to overthrow the privileged class when the concentration of
wealth becomes too starkly unfair. Rich
people would be wise to learn to be more open to fairly compromising and
sharing wealth a little more broadly.
Otherwise, unrest will erupt and wealth will eventually be likely to be
destroyed rather than being more broadly distributed. No amount of military distractions or harsh
repression or prison incarcerations will, in the long run, be adequate to make
a society fairer.
instances in history demonstrate that too extreme a concentration of wealth in
the hands of a few, and too large a gap between the wealthiest people and the
poorest, creates a dangerously unstable situation. Such a state of affairs should sensibly be
offset by legislation that partially “redistributes” wealth. Redistribution is a dirty word in America
these days, but as certain as the sun is shining in my window the morning I
record these words, the initiatives that Ronald Reagan implemented during his
tenure in the White House have acted to redistribute the wealth upward to rich
people, and especially to the richest 1% of Americans. Without an adequate modicum of fairness in
national policies, the risks rise of a revolutionary insurrection that would
have a net effect of partially redistributing poverty. Warren Buffet would probably concur with this
assessment, and accordingly he has repeatedly called for immediate increases in
taxes on what he called the “coddled” super-rich.
ancient Athens of 594 BCE, the gap between rich and poor reached too great an
extreme, and poor people were faced with deteriorating conditions. Corrupt courts, to make matters worse, tended
to decide every issue against the powerless poor, so violent conflicts seemed inevitable.
Good sense prevailed, however, when moderate elements secured the election of
Solon, a wise businessman of aristocratic lineage. Solon instituted a number of courageous and
fair-minded reforms. This included the
establishment of a graduated income tax that required the rich to pay taxes at
a rate 12 times the rate required of the poor.
The measures he instituted didn’t please either the rich or the radical
advocates for the poor, but within a generation almost everyone agreed that his
reforms had saved Athens from violent revolution.
episode in history proved a contrasting confirmation of this central
theme. The concentration of wealth and
land ownership in Italy under Roman rule had reached a similarly explosive point
in 133 BCE, but conservative elements in the Roman Senate were strongly opposed
to fair-minded reforms, so they adopted an uncompromising course. This led to 100 years of class warfare and
civil war. It was not until Caesar
Augustus came to power that a “Principate” was created in which a fairer Pax
Romana was maintained between the classes for two centuries. Augustus succeeded by forming coalitions and
skillfully promoting peace. This showed
that an era of moderation and peaceful coexistence is vastly preferable to a period
of stubborn refusals to compromise.
The substance of these reflections is informed by the renowned
historians Will and Ariel Durant. Think
about these two eminent historians. They
spent four decades of study and collaboration in writing eleven monumental
volumes of The Story of Civilization,
and then, nearing the end of their lives, they distilled the accumulated store
of their knowledge and experience into The
Lessons of History. This is their
concise and almost poetic reflection on what history tells us about the nature,
conduct and prospects of humankind. The
Durants wrote that they were “seeking in the great lives, the great ideas, the
great events of the past for the meaning of man’s long journey through war,
conquest and creation -- and for the great themes that can help us to
understand our era.”
To the Durants, history is our great human heritage:
“The heritage we can now more fully transmit is richer than ever
before. It is richer than that of
Pericles, for it includes all the Greek flowering that followed him; richer than Leonardo’s, for it embraces all
the French Enlightenment and its ecumenical dissemination. If progress is truly real despite our
whining, it is not because we are born healthier, better, or wiser than infants
were in the past, but because we are born to a richer heritage, born on a
higher level of that pedestal which the accumulation of knowledge and art
raises as the ground and support of our being.
The heritage rises, and man rises in proportion as he receives it.”
“History is, above all else, the creation and recording of our
heritage; progress is its increasing
abundance, preservation, transmission, and use. To those who study history not
merely as a warning reminder of man’s follies and crimes, but also as an encouraging
remembrance of generative souls, the past ceases to be a depressing chamber of
horrors; it becomes a celestial city, a
spacious country of the mind, wherein a thousand saints, statesmen, inventors,
scientists, poets, artists, musicians, lovers, and philosophers still live and
speak, teach, carve and sing. The
historian will not mourn because he can see no meaning in human existence
except that which man puts into it; let
it be our pride that we ourselves may put meaning into our lives, and sometimes
a significance that transcends death. If
a man is fortunate he will, before he dies, gather up as much as he can of his
civilized heritage and transmit it to his children. And to his final breath he will be grateful
for this inexhaustible legacy, knowing that it is our nourishing mother and our
I admire the perspective expressed in the Preface to The Lessons of History: The Durant’s aim in creating this marvelous
big picture assessment of the lessons they learned in their long study of
history was “not originality but inclusiveness,” so they repeated “many ideas
that we, or others before us, have already expressed.” I, Tiffany Twain, have also borrowed heavily
from many sources, and right here now acknowledge my debt and appreciation to
Shall we learn from history, or are the Durants correct in
speculating that “the immense past may be only the weary rehearsal of the
mistakes that the future is destined to make on a larger stage and scale?”
Bottom Line Assessment
is power, and power is control. It seems
glaringly obvious to me that the net effect of the power of money is the
perpetuation of an establishment that controls our political system and
prevents common sense reforms that would otherwise make our societies healthier,
fairer, more just and more likely to be sustainable in the coming decades and
strongly believe that we would achieve greater general prosperity if we were to
implement policies that would make it easier for small businesses and innovative
entrepreneurs and the middle class to succeed rather than pandering so
exclusively to well-heeled established interests.
Since the time George W.
Bush appointed conservative justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the
Supreme Court, the high court has become more narrowly biased in favor of
employers over workers, and of resource exploiters and polluters over
environmental protections. At a time
that the need for ecological sanity is growing more urgent every year, it is
bizarre that power-abusing corporatism and ideological intransigence and
eco-stupidity are gaining such power. We
would be eminently smart to do more to preserve the environment, instead of
trying to rationalize its degradation.
Just a little
more than 9 months after the misguided ruling in the Citizens United case, the bastard progeny of this ill-advised
decision was delivered. A record sum of
about $4 billion was spent on the midterm elections in November 2010, an
increase of more than 40% over the previous midterm elections of 2006. Additionally, the amount of this spending
that came from undisclosed donors increased substantially.
Secrecy in the
financing of elections is anathema in a democracy, for it conceals the source
of opinion and spin, and it makes it easier for misinformation and distorted
narratives to be disseminated that undermine larger perspectives of the greater
good. The preponderance of this secret
money was given to Republican and Tea Party candidates in the 2010 national
elections. This allowed special interest
groups to continue their success in shrewdly manipulating the public in ways
that are contrary to fair-mindedness and good decision-making.
Wealthy people tend to be jealously
protective of their privileges and prerogatives. They seem to feel completely entitled to
their financial security and their high social status, as if the status quo of
circumstances confirms they fully deserve all the rewards they get in our
economic system. They believe in a sort
of self-approving Social Darwinist self-righteousness. The effect of this state of affairs is to
damn others who they regard as less accomplished and less deserving. The overwhelming majority of people who are
less financially fortunate are envious of the rich, and they want to be equally
lucky and secure. But they have much
less power, and many of them feel undeserving of a fairer shake in our economic
system. They may vaguely understand how
unfairly rigged the system actually is, but they can do little about it. Their ability to succeed in endeavors is
often severely limited by the unfair nature of the rules and structure of this
number of super-rich people are essentially making fools of the rest of the
American people. We should all wake up
and shout, “I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it
anymore!" This is not merely an
issue of ‘free speech’ for corporations;
it is an issue of decency, democracy, justice, healthy communities, sound
finances, and the sanity of ecological wisdom.
John Stuart Mill wrote in the early nineteenth century about the principles of
“political economy”. He made the
startling and insightful observation that there is no “correct” distribution
of wealth in a society. Every nation
chooses its own tax structure and incentives and fairness plans and moral
values, and thus chooses how extreme to allow the concentration of wealth to
become, and how severe poverty will be, and whether or not to support the
emergence and strengthening of a healthy middle class.
elections and representation are needed now.
We should not allow the current system to be perpetuated as it is,
because it gives dominating influence to ‘fat cats’! Congress should correct this overriding
challenge to the common good by enacting a proposed ‘Fair Elections Now
Act’. This legislation would have a
salubrious effect on our elections and the health of our democratic republic by
making election campaigns about the best ideas for improving our nation,
and not just a skewed and misguided referendum on which candidates are the most
successful in raising funds. This Act
would use public financing of campaigns to create a fairer forum for the
American people by limiting the amounts of corporate money and private
contributions from rich people in our elections.
should also enact laws requiring the disclosure of the sources of funds
received by candidates and initiatives in elections. Our representatives should reinforce these
initiatives by passing a new Constitutional Amendment that assures the vital importance
of freedom of speech for individuals.
This Amendment should make it clear that our democracy is designed to
give a fair voice to all the people, not just to corporations whose coffers are
vastly larger than those of individuals.
This Amendment would help guarantee a more level playing field of
representation for all Americans.
reforms of ethics standards in Congress should also be put into effect.
Meaningful restrictions should be established to limit the ability of lobbyists
for powerful established interest groups to write the terms of legislation at
federal and state levels of government.
We surely could achieve a better average
quality of life for the American people by refusing to let rich people corrupt
our economic and political systems in ways that give them an ever-bigger slice
of the economic pie. The startling
realization that the greater good of our society can best be achieved by
enacting fairer tax policies makes one thing perfectly clear: We should refuse to allow wealthy people to
continue to pay low tax rates on the highest levels of their incomes. To maximize the happiness of the vast
majority of Americans, new policies should be instituted that will make sure
that income and opportunities are shared more broadly. It is high time we begin curtailing the power
of the super-rich to rig our national policies in ways that concentrate wealth
and privilege more narrowly in the hands of the few. Campaign finance reform and a legislative
overturning of the wrong-headed Citizens
United ruling is a requisite first step.
American Founders’ Point of View
not be a Constitutional scholar or an astute historian to know that our
Founders despised tyranny and abuses of power.
They had risked their lives to gain independence from British despotism
and taxation without representation, so they established a form of government
with broad checks and balances and other mechanisms built into it to prevent
abuses of power. Any contention that it
was our Founding Fathers’ intention to guarantee free speech to powerful
organizations and rich people at the expense of free speech rights and fair
representation for the majority of people is preposterous.
Americans proudly think we live in a democratic republic, we delude ourselves
in this belief. Our political system is
much more accurately understood as a plutocracy and a corporatocracy, i.e. a
system of rule predominantly by wealthy people and giant corporations. As a result, our national goals are narrowed
down to be nearly synonymous with the self-serving priorities of rich people
and CEOs and big corporations, and NOT with the common good.
Yorker named David DeGraw has written essays collectively titled The Economic Elite vs. The People of the
United States of America. He makes
compelling observations in these essays about the terrible physical and
psychological toll caused by mass unemployment and high costs of healthcare and
the increasing numbers of people who are bankrupt or homeless or locked up in
prisons. He asserts that a small
economic elite of wealthy people in the U.S. is managing “to normalize the
unthinkable” by concealing the true nature of our economic and political
systems and by deceiving people into thinking that the status quo is
acceptable. But for too many millions of
Americans, our society is unraveling, and the unfair status quo is becoming
conservatives and simplistic folks in the Tea Party, on the other hand, believe
that we need to turn back the clock on socially progressive initiatives and
reduce the size of government, as if this would somehow be a panacea to make
our nation more prosperous and people more free. I worked for a medium-sized corporation that
was forced to lay off 10% of its workforce several times over the years, so I
have no doubt that most government agencies could be downsized by 10% without
reducing the effectiveness of their most important purposes. But accomplishing this would be difficult,
and it would involve significant hardships.
It would also make overall joblessness worse.
The success of conservative politicians in
the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections has made partisan conflict even more
pronounced. Nonetheless, the need is
growing for all interests to seek
solutions to big challenges that are truly comprehensive,
and to make fairer compromises to achieve the greater good for society as a
whole from a long-term perspective.
proof of the fact that it is wrong-headed folly to allow unlimited amounts of
money to dominate our politics is found in the fact that the degree of
inequality in the United States has increased dramatically in the past three
decades. This outcome has been
facilitated by two primary initiatives:
First, trillions of dollars in tax cuts have been given to rich people,
an enormous windfall that began with Ronald Reagan’s rash slashing of marginal
tax rates on the highest incomes from 70% in 1980 to 28% by 1988.
initiative that has contributed to dramatic increases in inequality was a
startling reduction in taxes paid by
businesses. Corporations are paying 60% less than the share of federal
revenues they paid in 1960, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Sixty percent less! Large businesses have managed to achieve this
goal by contributing huge amounts of money to politicians to secure special
favors, and by financing phalanxes of lobbyists who help ensure that numerous
special benefits are given to the management and shareholders of corporate
entities. These perks include direct
subsidies, tax loopholes, tax cuts, and accelerated depreciation
write-offs. Corporations also exploit
legal tax evasion techniques and offshore tax shelters to avoid paying their
fair share of taxes. Additional
provisions are granted to corporations when sensible common good regulations
are eviscerated and our representatives allow many costs of business activities
to be foisted upon society as a whole.
provisions allow businesses to externalize a wide range of costs onto society,
including costs related to pollution mitigation, toxic waste clean up, resource
depletion, periodic bailouts, medical care for their workers and others who are
impacted by externalized costs, and natural disasters caused by global warming
and related extreme weather events and climate disruptions.
corporations are narrowly focused because they exist for only two specific
legal purposes: to limit the liability
of management and shareholders for damages or harm that may be caused by corporate activities, and to maximize profits for owners and
investors. To argue that free speech for
individuals should be in effect subordinated to paid speech by giant
corporations is not merely naïve or disingenuous, it is dishonest and
practically traitorous to democratic fairness.
Our political system subordinates all public policy priorities and
decision-making to the narrow goals of capitalists and investors, so it is not
adequately accountable. This is a big
reason why our American political system is so dysfunctional, and why it must
shortsighted reluctance to invest in the vital infrastructure of our nation
will lead to “a steady erosion of the social and economic foundations for
American prosperity in the long run”.
This declaration was made by a bipartisan panel of experts who met at
the University of Virginia in September 2010.
For one thing, public support of public education has been reduced in
recent years, despite the fact that education is the underpinning of economic
prosperity. Also, our public road and
transportation system is “rapidly decaying and woefully underfunded”, and yet
the federal gas tax has remained unchanged at 18 cents per gallon since 1993,
despite inflation that has significantly eroded the purchasing power of this
revenue. This tax should be increased to
finance the maintenance of our infrastructure for the future, and to begin to
correct resource misallocations created by artificially cheap fossil fuels.
as a result of giving the preponderance of benefits of our economy to rich
people, the number of Americans living below the poverty level has reached the
highest level since the government began tracking this statistic in 1959. Tellingly, the bottom 90% of American workers
saw a negligible increase in their average income during the 30 years from 1980
to 2010, in radical contrast to a 75% increase they had received during the 30
years from 1950 to 1980.
The Perspective of Thomas
Paine, Plus Even Larger Ways of Understanding
Not long after the terrible terrorist
attacks of 9/11, the honorable and honest journalist Bill Moyers observed the
manipulative forces at play in the aftermath of the tragedy, and succinctly
“The soul of democracy -- the essence
of the word itself -- is government of, by, and for the people. At the
core of politics, the soul of democracy has been dying, drowning in a rising
tide of big money contributed by a narrow and unrepresentative elite that has
betrayed the faith of citizens in self-government.”
Bill Moyers! When the patriotic
pamphleteer Thomas Paine wrote Common
Sense in 1776, it had a revolutionary effect on our nation’s future. Paine saw society and civilization clearly,
and he used the understandings gained from experience and reason as his guide
in advocating a fair and representative system of government. He noted that, in earlier times, simple
democracies consisted of people who governed themselves directly without the
need for intermediaries. As the
population grew, it became necessary to design a system of representation that
modified simple democracy into governance capable of “embracing and
confederating all the various interests” that compete for advantages and
need to respect and integrate all interests is greater than ever before. In fact, it is time that we see an even
bigger picture. We must begin to give
the interests of young people and those in future generations much greater
consideration in all public policy decision-making. Our current economic and political systems
give our children and grandchildren very short shrift. We practically ignore their best interests in
the intense competition of actively involved people and entities trying to gain
why we should adopt a Bill of Rights for Future Generations. This would responsibly create fairer and more
farsighted public policies by providing an overarching context for our national
priorities and the decisions we collectively make concerning such things as
resource exploitation, habitat and environmental protections, waste disposal,
social justice, job creation, deficit spending, the national debt, and peaceful
The health of natural ecosystems and
the vitality of the services they provide are public goods that our leaders
should safeguard by preventing private entities from damaging them and
depleting them at irresponsible rates.
Nothing could be more sensible than the “polluter pays principle”, and
yet polluters successfully circumvent such policies. They do this so they can avoid paying the
costs of pollution prevention and clean up, and to maximize shareholder
All competitors should feel free to
make as large a profit as they can, but only in the larger context that they
are required to compete fairly and include all production costs in the prices
of their products and services. We
should collectively ensure that businesses make their profits in honest ways
rather than by externalizing costs upon society. When we allow some production costs to be foisted
onto the proverbial commons, the true costs of goods and services are
distorted. This results in misguided and
irrational allocations of resources. The
net effect is to influence consumer choices in ways that are socially
It is likely that our heirs in future generations
will regard our aggregate actions as so infamously irresponsible and
shortsighted that they will seriously rue our mindlessness. I’m thinking about our collective behaviors
such as extremely wasteful usages of resources, pollution of the environment,
damages to habitats and ecosystems, and profligacy in incurring debt
obligations. In historical retrospect,
our descendents may come to see the negative aspects of the Industrial Era as
having been reprehensibly obtuse and treacherous to their well-being. The time has come for us today to own up to
the socially, biologically and ecologically detrimental nature of our growing
hordes of human numbers, and to take bold remedial steps.
Economist Paul Krugman talks about a cascade of consumerism that begins
with the conspicuous consumption by rich people and then cascades down to
people who are less able to afford material goods, but who willingly go into
debt to afford more of them so they can keep up with the Joneses.
Nisker expressed the opinion that, more than we need an economic stimulus, we
may figuratively need a sedative.
Ha! He points out that whenever
someone proposes voluntary simplicity, dang it if not enough people volunteer for it. What we actually need may be much more
effective incentives for people to choose simplicity! Being beings that love freedom and choice,
one of my pet theories is that the sanest and fairest plan would be to
establish smarter incentives and disincentives that will powerfully motivate
people to conserve resources and limit wasteful consumption.
The word sanity
is derived from the Latin root sanus,
which means “healthy”. Sanity can be
gauged as healthy in human life to the extent that an individual’s reasoning
and judgment are sound. We are,
unfortunately, collectively acting in many ways that are unsound and thus rater
This is true because our aggregate actions threaten our own
individual well-being, and even our species’ survival. When we realize this truth, it should
motivate us to seek new pathways that would be more likely to create an
increasingly sustainable and harmonious existence. This would be how we can live in ways that
are more probable to be auspicious for our children, and theirs, and all of our
millions of people share the same vices doesn’t make these vices virtues. It is a form of insanity to keep doing the
same thing over and over again and to expect different results. The worship of money and material possessions
in “the overdeveloped world” can be
seen as an unmistakable
mistake. When people crow about loving
to “Shop until you drop”, we should realize that the cultural consumerism
underlying this odd addiction is insidiously unhealthy. The sanest course of action would be for us to
strive with far-reaching commitment to create a healthier commonwealth.
“If you can’t take the craziness anymore, there’s only one thing to
do. Commit yourself to a
--- Swami Beyondananda
consumerism has created a spiritual vacuum that conservative religious groups
like the “Moral Majority” and the Christian Coalition of America blame
erroneously on liberalism and secular humanism.
Humanism, however, is a noble philosophy that has its
central faith in reason, and in a continuously-adapting search for truth by
means of philosophic exploration, critical thinking, open-minded reasoning and
a good synthesis of scientific understandings, intuitive insights, real honest
awareness and spiritual enlightenment.
The philosophy of humanism is further explored in Happy Harbingers
in Good Ideas for a Better Future.
“Man's mind, once
stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes
A Digression on Being Right
divide on the Supreme Court reflects deep ideological differences in beliefs
between the worldviews of conservatives and liberals. The narrow conservative majority on the high
court advocates a ‘strict constructionist’ view of our great American
Constitution that unfortunately interprets this brilliant founding document in
ways that value corporations over people.
Seeing how clearly our Founders strived to prevent the federal
government from being able to abuse power, it is preposterous to suppose they
would be in favor of the views of conservatives that corporations deserve to be
treated as persons, and thus allowed excessive power,
book The Corporation - The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power cogently portrays the concept that, if giant corporations really were persons, the type
of person they most likely resemble would
be a sociopath. Corporations often act
in ways that are manipulative, socially irresponsible, unempathetic, and
practically incapable of guilt, remorse, moral rectitude or genuine
responsibility for the greater good.
wrote that big corporations are basically designed to externalize costs onto
the public. He declared that
corporations are “deliberately programmed, indeed legally compelled, to
externalize costs without regard for the harm it may cause to people and
communities and the natural environment.
Every cost it can unload onto someone else is a benefit to itself, a
direct route to profit.” The fascinating
film, The Corporation, is based on
the book and is well worth watching. It
is available on Netflix.
should not give greater power to such entities.
They are, after all, organized to satisfy overly narrow purposes that
are often in conflict with the greater good.
This myopic focus harms the commons and undermines our democracy.
shortcoming of our democratic process is that politicians are all too often
dishonest in their efforts try to convince voters that they will do the right
thing for the people, if elected. Not
only do they generally break these promises once they get in office, but they
also often do not actually know what the right thing is. Politicians not only generally pander to
narrowly self-interested people over the greater good, but they can be
ideologically rigid and cling tenaciously to the opinions of cherry-picked
“experts” whose biases make them suspect.
Think about the
revelations made by a psychologist named Philip Tetlock, who analyzed
predictions made over a span of 25 years by economists, journalists, foreign
policy specialists and intelligence analysts.
He astonishingly found out that self-professed experts are wrong more than 50% of the time! The main reasons for inaccurate predictions
were overconfidence and the phenomenon known as “confirmation bias”. Experts tend to ignore contrary evidence, and
they are deluded by hubris and ideological dogmatism into believing that they
know what the outcome of trends and policy actions will be. They are thus “prisoners of their own
preconceptions”. Governor Sam Brownback
in Kansas, and other rigid conservatives, heed these words!
ominously concluded: “Our political discourse is driven in large part by people
whose opinions are less accurate than a coin toss.” That makes for bad planning!
is a good line of business, but it is full of risks.”
--- Mark Twain
A Speculation about
Common Sense Fairness
I chuckle at a friend’s observation that we could solve the problems
of alcoholism and drug abuse by a simple initiative: Dramatically improve the reality of the
societies in which we live!
It occurs to me that maybe working people do not have to be chewed
up and spit out by corporate organizations;
maybe a social security safety net should be a human right, and the cost
of it should be fairly included in the price of every good and service.
Chew up workers and spit them out?
That phraseology sounds pretty harsh, Tiffany. Then again, there are countless stories to
support this characterization of how businesses treat people harshly who have
worked for them. That, in fact, is why a
social safety net was created under the New Deal during the Depression of the
1930s. “Thanks for your contributions,
but you’re fired!”
Here is a story that involves Walmart, the giant American
retailer. There was a horrible fire at a
factory in Bangladesh in November 2012 in which 112 workers were killed and
1,800 were injured. The survivors and the
families of these victims suffered terrible hardships, so some of the European
retailers who had goods produced in that factory worked to increase the size of
a compensation fund they established to help these workers out. Not a single American retailer has agreed to
contribute anything to this fund, despite the fact that more than half of the
goods produced in the factory were reportedly made for Walmart. One might think that the Walmart family, the
richest family in the world with four of the wealthiest Americans ranked in
Forbes Top 10, would be willing to provide a little desperately needed aid to
the victims of that fire. Rob Walton,
Christy Walton, Alice Walton, and Jim Walton:
the optics sure looked very bad for this callous indifference!
Walmart is the biggest private employer in
the world, and the largest retailer. It
employs over two million people. Its
business model has generally been one of almost ruthless and anti-social
behavior. Not only does it make
extensively use of cheap labor abroad, but it compensates its employees so
poorly that many of them need social assistance to make ends meet. Why, one Walmart in Ohio once launched a
drive to get its employees to contribute to a food drive to help out other
needy Walmart employees who struggle so hard that they can’t even afford a good
Thanksgiving dinner! A cynical, “Thank
you, Walton billionaires!”
A million other stories could be told about how workers within the
U.S. have been treated shoddily once big corporations are through with their
Sex! And Money!!
Federal and state governments are like rich ladies
of easy virtue who have been plied with alcohol, gullible and easy to exploit,
and rather ditzy and oddly loose with their purse strings. Corporations are like unscrupulous and
highly-sexed men who are eager and ever-ready to take advantage of such
alluring ladies. Money is like Viagra to
these old goats, these clever proxies for wealthy people. The lure of money and the compulsion to
control others seems to stimulate corporations and the CEOs who run them to
fervently court governments for special favors and privileges. Economists use a decidedly unsexy term for
these morally suspect activities:
provides good illumination of the pathetic parameters of activities described
by this term.
Since the overarching goal of corporations is to
make profits without having to be responsible or liable, it would be most
sensible to require all businesses to compete fairly by striving to develop
superior products or by providing higher quality services than their
competitors. It is, however, often much
easier for big businesses to take advantage of the generosity and profligacy of
governments, and of their well-known poor ability to fairly control their
finances. It is thus no surprise that
plying the political representatives of the people with money and intoxicating
favors is a rapid growth industry. These
favors include inducements like campaign contributions, extravagant wining and
dining, inclusion in good-old-boy clubs, lobbyist pressures, self-affirming
ideological rationalizations, and general pandering to the peccadilloes and
predilections of politicians and their hunger for power. In a myriad of instances, these things are a
serious betrayal of the public trust.
The majority of people, meanwhile, are
forced to figuratively keep their noses to the grindstone. They are practically powerless to prevent the
tax man from taking a hefty cut of their hard-earned dollars to facilitate this
game. People are diverted from
understanding the true nature of this scam, and of the tax evasion schemes of
rich people who would have the least difficulty in being able to afford to pay
a greater share of the tax burden than the system currently requires.
Wendell Holmes once stated a simple fact: “Taxes are what we pay for a
civilized society.” High income earners
should be required to pay a higher amount of taxes on the highest levels of
their earnings to ensure the greater well-being of our civilization. A detailed and eminently fair proposal on how to restructure our tax
system can be found in One Dozen Big
Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies.
All the participants in this chess game of complex
strategies seem to be willing to let the powers-that-be grease the economic
wheels by hyper-stimulating consumerism and by borrowing enormous sums of money
from people in future generations to gin up this unsustainable Ponzi-like scheme
to a fever pitch of irresponsible profiteering.
No one seems to be honest enough to proclaim that “the emperor has no
clothes” by revealing the obvious fact that the real outcome of this
laissez-faire debt-financed system is socially unacceptable. One outcome of our current system is an
increasing concentration of wealth -- and of poverty. Another is a debt burden trend that is
driving us toward national insolvency.
These developments diminish the fair prospects of our descendents. Checkmate!
Theft and Other
“Thou shalt not steal.”
--- One of the
Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:15)
Since 1980, more
than $17 trillion has effectively been stolen from our children and people in
future generations by cutting taxes while profligately increasing spending on
wars, munitions, prisons, pork barrel projects, no-bid contracts, corporate
subsidies, and a wide range of “entitlements”.
Our political system is terribly dysfunctional when it is so EASY to
cheat people in the future to benefit the few today, and so HARD to increase
taxes on the wealthiest people as a component of broad measures to bring the
federal budget more nearly into balance.
We have backed
ourselves into a desperate corner where we seem to be incapable of making
fair-minded and farsighted decisions.
“Big Lies” have enabled this state of affairs. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell
promulgated another one of these deceptions when he declared it politically
impossible to increase taxes on the wealthy because “we all know that including
massive, job-killing tax hikes would be a poison pill.”
Tax increases on
incomes exceeding $250,000 per year need not be “massive”, and such increases
would not “kill jobs” anywhere near as seriously as the 2008 financial crisis
did. That economic crisis was caused by
bubble economic policies, the deregulation of financial instruments and derivatives,
and excessive risk-taking in the banking industry. The crisis was made worse by an adamant
insistence on low taxes for those who benefit most from the status quo, and who
could most easily afford to pay more of the costs of ensuring that our nation
remains prosperous, strong, and fair.
politicians have allied themselves with wealthy people and the Religious Right
to subvert honest democratic governance. They have helped facilitate a system
of institutionalized bribery, corporate malfeasance, and unethical
Congressional pandering to lobbyists. In
the process, they have not only allowed wide-ranging corporate cost-externalizing
practices but have also helped perpetuate discriminatory unfairness toward
women, young people, and all people in future generations.
A new vision is
needed for our nation. We cannot allow
the current corrupt system to be perpetuated without substantial reform. Our political system is not only
uncompromisingly dysfunctional, but also ecologically insane as well. This system is undermining the health of our
home planet’s ecosystems, thus reducing their ability to support humankind and
millions of other species of life. This
makes the system ever more starkly wrong-headed.
collectively find a way to practice better stewardship of natural resources and
all of “Creation”. Damage to habitats
and ecosystems and the wantonly wasteful depletion of resources should be
discouraged through powerful incentives and disincentives.
This new vision
should honorably champion a Bill of Rights for Future Generations to ensure
that shortsighted political expediencies do not completely dominate our
decision-making. We must, simply put,
adjudicate deep conflicts of interests in public planning in ways that allow us
to more nearly balance the federal budget and create sustainable economic
growth in the long term. It must no
longer be politically impossible to achieve fair-minded compromises that
respect the prospects of people in future generations. Read the persuasive proposal for such a Bill
of Rights in the Earth Manifesto, and SUPPORT the ideas therein!
Sachs makes the compelling point in his insightful book Common Wealth that we need new economic policies and fairer
political representation on our crowded planet. He provides numerous
recommendations that would, if sensibly implemented, make our societies
safer. The Earth Manifesto likewise contains great ideas for how
we could achieve a sensible role reversal from the business-as-usual dominance
of our politics by entrenched interests that are intent on perpetuating the
More About the
Undesirable Influence of Big Money in our Politics
Think some more about
lavish spending by corporations and wealthy people on our elections. Surely this form of institutional bribery is
particularly contrary to the common good when it is primarily responsible for obstructing
sensible pay-as-you-go rules, and for preventing rules from being enacted and
enforced that require polluters to pay for the prevention or mitigation of the
pollution they cause. Entrenched
interest groups generally oppose such greater good goals because they are so
focused on getting ever-more subsidies, perks, profits and lower taxes for themselves
at the expense of the public good.
Vested interests are largely responsible for the
extreme fiscal irresponsibility of the first 15 years of the twenty-first
century. It is stunning that the U.S.
began this century with a national budget surplus in the year 2000, and then
managed to turn this surplus into the largest deficits in world history. This was accomplished by spending money like
a drunken sailor while giving trillions of dollars in tax cuts to rich people
and large corporations. Simultaneously,
the government rashly subjected the financial system to less regulation, less
oversight and less accountability, and big businesses were given many new tax
breaks and subsidies. More government
spending, coupled with lower tax revenues, is an obvious recipe for fiscal
Corporate money effectively buys politicians and
helps businesses dictate the terms of most laws that affect them. The influence of Big Money in our political
system can be seen in almost every law passed by Congress. Wall Street, Big Oil, defense industries,
large drug companies, health insurance companies, industrial agribusinesses and
almost every other arena of corporate activity can be seen to dominate our
The example of the Medicare Prescription Drug Act
of 2003 is instructive. The provisions
of this legislation were clearly devised to provide huge benefits to the drug
industry by denying the federal government the power to negotiate lower drug
prices. This provision ensured that drug
company profits would be big, and would grow bigger, at the direct expense of
taxpayers. This complicated Medicare
entitlement plan already cost more than $1 trillion in the first 10 years since
it was enacted.
Likewise, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and
Consumer Protection Act of 2005 is another piece of legislation that was a gift
to corporations. In this instance, it
was a form of welfare given to credit card companies and student loan
companies. This law created a hardship
for people who cannot afford usurious interest rates for credit card debt and
high over-limit fees and late fees. The
majority of people who are affected by this bankruptcy law are people who have
fallen on hard times due to costs related to catastrophic illness, divorce,
loss of a job, or the inability to get a job.
To allow the government to side with such changes
in laws in favor of corporations is unconscionable when the changes take
advantage of people who are in existentially difficult circumstances. Prisons for debtors were eliminated long ago,
but today we allow banks too much latitude to exploit people who have suffered
serious adversities in their lives.
One way to start changing this state of affairs
would be to limit the amount of corporate money in political campaigns. Our representatives should be made more
responsive to the American people, not just to the special interest groups with
the most money. We should seek improved
accountability of big corporations, and demand more transparency of campaign
contributors and lobbyist financiers and Wall Street bankers and CEOs. Fairer and more effective management of the
government is needed. To cede power to
economic fundamentalists and Tea Party zealots would let them move us backwards
at a time we should be moving smartly forward.
Power to the people!
Illusions and Delusions
in our Two-Party Political System
convincingly say that the American political system was designed to prevent effective
action by the government, instead of facilitating it. The structure of the U.S. Senate distorts the
notion of democratic fairness by giving equal representation to states with
large numbers of people and states with small populations. Thus the state of Alaska, with its 700,000
citizens, has two U.S. Senators, just the same as the state of California,
which has more than 38 million people.
The dysfunctional nature of Congress seems to be even worse in the House
of Representatives, where the gerrymandering of Congressional districts has
given excessive power to increasingly extreme and uncompromising
conservatives. These facts are one
reason that it is so difficult to get smart things done in our nation today. In this respect, our form of governance may
be somewhat accurately characterized as an “idiocracy”! Ha!
Check out the 2006 comedic film Idiocracy
for some pathetically funny entertainment!
The old observation of P.J. O’Rourke’s -- that
”The Republicans are the party that says that government doesn’t work, and then
gets elected and proves it” -- makes me
reflect on the fact that the Democratic Party does not seem to do all that much
better, because it is also largely controlled by powerful special
interests. The divisive conflict between
the two parties in the struggle for power masks the reality that both parties
pander to the influence of moneyed interests in our politics rather than
honestly striving to help ensure the greater good.
Our political system
is, in a sense, a kind of one-party duopoly system. The dominant ideology of those who control
this system holds that the prerogatives given to those with power and privilege
are properly placed and appropriate. This
ideology effectively endorses the privatization of profits and the socialization
of costs and risks, and it implicitly rejects the great principle in a
democracy that asserts government should be ‘of the people, by the people, and
for the people’.
The U.S. government is
not adequately dealing with many of the really big problems we face. The
primary reason our political system is dysfunctional is because of the outsized
influence of wealthy people, giant banks, Big Oil companies, Big Pharma, large
insurance companies, the National Rifle Association and the military-industrial
complex. This is why the $700 billion
Troubled Asset Relief Program in 2008 was principally focused on helping Wall
Street, not Main Street.
The illusion of a
two-party system is fostered by the sound and fury of rancorous conflict
between Democrats and Republicans over hot-button social issues and a “blame
game” regarding issues that are more substantive. Since politicians are forced to pander to
various vested interests to get money to stay in power, all legislative
decisions tend to be oriented around benefitting CEOs, investors and rich
people, not average Americans or people in future generations. This is why we need serious campaign finance
reform and real Congressional ethics reform and stronger restrictions on the
influence of corporate lobbyists.
There is a blatant
revolving door between corporate management and government regulatory agencies
and the lobbying industry. This should
be restricted, and we should elect leaders who are more socially and environmentally
“The path to the
future should be small-donor democracy, not corporate democracy,” says Bob
Edgar, the president of the organization Common Cause. Instead of moving in this reasonable
direction, the Citizens United ruling
by the narrow conservative majority on the Supreme Court basically rejected common sense and institutionalized unfair
representation of the people, giving overarching favoritism to the corrupting
influence of corporations in our elections and governance.
It is the nature of
our contemporary capitalist system to allow big businesses to nearly completely
dominate decision-making. We should
enact smart laws and regulations to prevent these entities from evading their
obligations to their employees and to society.
To do this, the influence of Big Money in our politics should be reduced
rather than allowed to increase. If this
is not done, then workers and citizens will be forced to bear even more
externalized costs, and people will become more dependent on the vagaries of
the market, and more vulnerable to corporate shenanigans.
Hopes for a
post-partisan world have been shattered upon the political reality that, for
all the bluster about morality and ideological propriety, the intense
competition between opposing politicians is not a competition for the best
ideas, or the fairest outcomes, or the most sensible plans. No, not in the least! Instead, it is a ruthless fight for money,
power, control, dominance, and perks and privileges. Republicans are proving that they are far
less willing than Democrats to compromise, and their failure to work together
with Democrats for the common good has helped prevent us from fairly solving
the most important of our national problems.
democracy relies on citizens being well-informed and independent in their
thinking. Skepticism of vested interest
propaganda is healthy. Democracies rely
on people being able to have their voices heard by their political
representatives. The best government
would be one in which a fair and optimum balance is established between the goals
of strong individual liberties and adequate social responsibilities and a
reasonable modicum of equality and justice.
We should strive to ensure that we re-commit our society to Golden Rule
ethics by overriding partisan biases and reducing stubborn support for
inegalitarian initiatives and special privileges for elites.
The Republicans Get “A
Voters chose to
give Republicans “a second chance” in the 2010 national elections after their
terrible record during George W. Bush’s administration and their subsequent
smackdown in the 2008 national elections.
Recall that Republicans controlled Congress most of the time from 2001
to 2009, and they significantly increased government spending while slashing
taxes on the rich. This created the
biggest budget deficits and increases in the national debt in history until
that time. They also figuratively drove
the economy into a ditch by deregulating banks and encouraging speculative
leveraging and acting to inflate the real estate bubble. They also ramped up spending on the defense
establishment and involved the U.S. in long-lasting military occupations of
Afghanistan and Iraq. They even created
a costly new entitlement program for prescription drugs, and irresponsibly
reduced protections of the environment to allow big corporations to make bigger
profits at the public expense.
Voters in 2008
had been fed up with the results of these misguided Republican initiatives, so
they demanded change and elected Barack Obama and gave control of Congress to
Democrats. But the hopes of Americans
have been disappointed because the Great Recession that had been spawned under
Republican policies resulted in millions of people being laid off and millions
of homes being lost in foreclosure. The
credit crisis that started this negative episode forced the federal government
to bail out big banks and auto companies, and to desperately stimulate the
economy with more corporate tax breaks and recovery spending and other costly
have acted as “the party of no” ever since President Obama was elected. Media spin, financed by wealthy individuals,
has nonetheless convinced many voters that Republicans offer good hope for
actually addressing the daunting problems facing our nation and the world. Republican fear mongering about “socialism”
also has been somewhat effective in scaring people, and this has shifted the
balance of power too far to the right.
In A Feminine Vision, I refer to the great
challenge we face because Americans of all stripes basically “want to eat their
cake and have it too.” We want a large
basket of social goods, but we do not want to pay for them. We want police, firefighters, a strong
military, protective Homeland Security, a fair system of justice, adequate
prisons, and good public schools and libraries and roads and water systems and
sewage treatment plants. We want some
sort of socially affordable safety net for military veterans and old people and
the homeless and the mentally ill and the disabled and the extremely poor. We also want clean air and good water quality
and protected open spaces, public beaches, state parks, national parks,
wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas.
It makes sense
to have these social goods financed by the populace as a whole. But no one seems to be willing to pay the
taxes required to provide all of these things, particularly not rich people who
are best able to afford to pay higher rates on the highest levels of earnings. Our representatives, as a result, do the
expedient thing even though it is highly unfair and shortsighted: they foist the costs onto taxpayers in the
future by indulging in deficit spending.
majority in the House of Representatives since 2010 has adamantly obstructed
reform efforts and undermined progress.
This negative strategy has contributed to our collective failure to deal
effectively with looming problems. And
stubborn opposition by Republican politicians to tax increases and reforms of
the tax code have made it impossible to balance the budget.
Specific Rich People who are
Instrumental in Obstructing Common Good Reforms
Charles and David Koch (pronounced
‘Coke’) are among the most egregious examples of really rich people who are
selfish, greedy and unempathetic in their staunch opposition to sensible reforms. These two billionaire brothers rank as the
4th and 5th richest people in America.
They own Koch Industries, the second largest privately held company in
the U.S. Koch Industries is based in the
city of Wichita, Kansas. It is a huge
conglomerate of manufacturing, oil, gas, chemicals, fertilizers, timber, and
The Koch brothers are best known for
their wealth and influence, and even for their generous contributions to some
good causes. David Koch, for instance,
donated enough money to have a new exhibition hall named for him at the
science-oriented Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins
opened in March 2010 with an exhibit and research and education programs
dedicated to the discovery and understanding of human origins. This was part of an initiative called Human Origins: What Does It Mean to Be
Human? These programs focused on the
epic story of human evolution and how the defining characteristics of our
species have evolved over the last 6 million years as our primate ancestors
adapted to a changing world.
The premiere of this new hall helped
commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the original opening of the
Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum.
This venture is far more laudable than the Creation Museum in
Petersburg, Kentucky, which promotes fallacy over fact by pretending that a
literal reading of the Bible is a plausible explanation for the prehistory of
human existence. The Creation Museum is
an ignorance-embracing undertaking that denies scientific knowledge and
evolutionary understandings. It actually
pretends that dinosaurs and human beings lived at the same time, even though
dinosaurs had been extinct for 65 million years before our human species came
Most important to this narrative,
however, is the role David and Charles Koch play in what are anti-social and
mean-spirited campaigns to obstruct and kill reforms to our economic and
political systems. The Koch brothers
loom large behind almost every major domestic policy dispute in the United
States. Over the years, hundreds of millions
of dollars of Koch brothers’ money has been given to various right-wing think
tanks and front groups and ideologically biased publications.
Koch groups, for instance, maneuvered
to try to stop Barack Obama’s efforts, early in his presidency, to stimulate
the economy in the wake of the financial crisis that afflicted nations
worldwide at the time of the January 2009 Obama inauguration. A Koch-funded group launched television and
radio ads that derided the recovery package as containing wasteful pork barrel
spending and bad ideas. It referred to
the plan as “the Devil in Disguise”. The
famous economist John Maynard Keynes would have turned over in his grave. Efforts to keep the international economy
from entering another Great Depression were evil?
The conservative Cato Institute,
founded by Charles Koch, and other Koch-funded think tanks like the Heritage
Foundation, produced a series of reports that distorted the details of the
stimulus plan and called instead for tax cuts to give even bigger benefits to
corporations and wealthy people. The
Koch brothers cynically stick to the deceptive story that tax cuts for rich
people will trickle down to the vast majority of people who have suffered the
brunt of hardships associated with economic hard times. No matter how much such strategies can be
shown to principally lift the yachts of rich people rather than everyone else’s
rowboats, this dogma is a favorite rationalization for acting to increase the
already glaring disparities and inequities in our societies.
In addition to battling the economic
stimulus plan, the organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP) that was founded
in 1984 by David Koch, spent the opening months of the Obama presidency helping
organize the first Tea Party protests. At that time, these wealthy Koch brother
operatives exploited the anger, frustration, feelings of victimization,
evangelical fervor, and racial and class prejudices of people in the Tea Party
movement to promote their very narrow goals.
Americans for Prosperity has subsequently made
concerted efforts to mobilize Tea Party opposition not only to health insurance
reform but also to clean energy legislation and sensible regulations on the
banking system and the financial industry.
David Koch pretends to be a champion of science,
yet he has arguably done more to undermine the public's understanding of
climate-change science than any other person in America. The AFP provided financing for a so-called
Hot Air tour, a nationwide road show that used a hot air balloon to depict
climate change science as "hot air."
This organization ran ‘populist’ ads that mocked environmentalists as
spoiled brats who are more concerned about their “three homes and five cars”
than they are about economic conditions.
How pathetic and ironic! It is,
after all, the extremely wealthy Koch brothers who act like spoiled brats that
lack empathy for Americans who are suffering adversities caused in part by
policies enabled by the Koch brothers’ extremely self-serving political
The Koch conglomerate has rational profit-oriented
reasons to want to block things like climate legislation, clean
energy initiatives, carbon taxes, regulatory enforcement, collective
bargaining rights for workers, and greater good rules and
regulations, but American citizens and our representatives
simply should be more responsible and stop allowing such
shortsighted and socially irresponsible schemes for externalizing costs onto
Since the Koch brothers brazenly
opposed any form of climate change legislation, they fired up Tea Party folks to prevent the
federal government from taking any steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
into the atmosphere. It seems to me
somewhat crazy to refuse to deal with the present and future costs of climate
change, but that is the approach of the Americans for Prosperity front
group. The Koch brothers have a
definite financial stake in blocking legislation that would deal with climate
change because Koch Industries owns oil
refineries that are major carbon dioxide polluters.
Koch Industries enjoys big benefits in the current system that
allows huge costs to be externalized.
Cost externalizing gambits are like a form of socialism that allows costs
to be foisted onto everyone instead of sensibly requiring them to be included
in the prices of products produced or services used.
Georgia Pacific, a timber subsidiary
of Koch Industries, is a large contributor to causing Earth’s “carbon-sink
capacity” to be reduced by chopping down trees.
And Koch Industries is responsible for over 300 oil spills in the
U.S., and for leaking three million gallons of crude oil into drinking water
sources and fishery habitats, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Koch brothers have spent tens of
millions of dollars on misinformation campaigns and direct lobbying to weaken
the chances that legislation will be enacted to mitigate impacts of climate
change. A team of Koch-funded operatives
attempted to crash the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen
in December 2009. The Kochs are
partially responsible for scuttling prospects for Congress to pass laws to deal
propitiously with climate change. The
Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization funded in part by Koch
foundations, has waged an underhanded campaign to falsely charge that a set of
hacked e-mails somehow refutes the overwhelming scientific consensus that
climate change is being caused by human activities. I shrug a universal, “Huh?” Denials of crucial problems foolishly create
All of these things, taken together, confirm
the simple conclusion: We should not
allow Big Money to have so much influence in our politics.
A Glaring Example of Corporate Social Misbehavior
goals are naturally broader and more long-term oriented than the
short-term-oriented goals of giant corporations. The private sector is highly interested in
maximizing profits, and an easy way to do this is by using up natural resources
at the fastest possible rate while at the same time foisting upon the public
the costs of resource depletion, health-impairing pollution, and ecosystem harms
that are associated with their activities.
Taxpayers and future generations are thus forced to pay for benefits
that CEOs, corporate shareholders and investors gain at the public’s expense.
majority of climate scientists agree that if humanity continues to spew tens of
billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year, the
inevitable result will be huge costs related to health adversities and natural
disasters caused by the disruptive effect of these emissions on the global
climate. These disruptions will be
manifested in more intense storms and weather extremes that will have high
costs due to flooding, hurricane damages, heat waves, cold snaps, droughts, crop
losses, more intense wildfires, ecosystem disruptions, coral bleaching due to
warmer seas and ocean acidification, coastal inundations caused by rising sea levels
and storm surges, and diminishing biodiversity caused by habitat degradation.
The Supreme Court
decided in 2007 that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to
regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Since
Congress and the White House have been largely dominated in recent decades by the influence of Big Oil
and Big Coal and other vested corporate interest groups, a completely
inadequate number of sensible national plans have been made to deal with this
growing, dangerous, unjust, and irresponsible problem of climate disruptions. In this unnecessary void, the state of California passed a Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006, known as AB32, to address the problem at the state level by limiting emissions.
This California law was
one of the first steps toward a necessary transition to an environmentally
safer energy regime that uses cleaner fuels and more sustainable alternatives
to power our civilizations. Two of the
biggest polluters in California aggressively fought to have this bill derailed by
supporting Proposition 23 on the November 2010 ballot. Ironically, both of them were Texas-based oil
conglomerates, Tesoro and Valero. BP
might have joined them, but I reckon that it would just have been too negative
a public relations move after their environmentally-calamitous oil spill in the
Gulf of Mexico in April and May 2010.
These companies, along with the Koch brothers, spent money lavishly to
try to convince voters to postpone global warming mitigation legislation.
“This is a corruption of the democratic
process,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the time. “Today, Valero and Tesoro are in a
conspiracy. Not in a criminal
conspiracy, but a cynical one about self-serving greed. Does anyone think in their black oil company
hearts that they want to create jobs?”
California voters wisely
rejected this corporate initiative. One
journalist likened the Proposition 23 effort to a conspiracy hatched among oil
companies in the 1920s to get rid of light rail systems. Remember that Roger Rabbit story? After
buying up easements for light rail systems in 45 cities, corporations
systematically dismantled these vital public transportation systems. The negative effects of this corporate
‘conspiracy’ against urban public transportation are now becoming starkly clear.
Another Aspect of Koch
Much of the fierce opposition to
health insurance reform was attributable to organizations funded in part by the
Koch brothers. When the health care
debate began, AFP created a front group known as Patients United to attack
Democratic proposals for health care reform.
This organization bought a barrage of ads that distorted various
provisions of health reform legislation, like the proposed public option. In their quest to block health care reform,
Koch-funded groups stooped to trying to foster political extremism, as when a
speaker with the Patients United Hot Air bus tour repeatedly compared
healthcare reform to the Holocaust. A
large banner at an AFP health care rally read, “National Socialist Health Care:
Dachau, Germany – 1945”. The banner
reprehensibly depicted a pile of corpses at a concentration camp. Give us a break! The rally featured, among others, Rep.
Michele Bachmann (R-MN), one of the most radically inane members of Congress at
the time. Honest debate was thus
hijacked by freak-show tactics.
Many people were surprised at the
level of anger that AFP managed to channel into town hall meetings concerning
healthcare that were held in August 2009.
Those efforts were not the first ones that Koch groups made to derail
reforms of our costly health insurance and healthcare systems. Back in 1994, Americans for Prosperity, then
known by the equally deceptive name Citizens for a Sound Economy, worked
closely with the House Speaker at the time, Newt Gingrich, to bring mobs of
angry men to health reform rallies that were being held by First Lady Hillary
Why are Charles and David Koch so
staunchly opposed to healthcare reform?
A main reason is that they want to minimize the cost of wages paid to
their employees in the sprawling conglomerate Koch Industries. There is also a deeper and more insidious motive. The Kochs have a long family tradition of
funding conservative movements to shift the country to the far right. Their father, Fred Koch, helped found the
reactionary John Birch Society in the late 1950s. This ultra-right-wing organization strived to
harness Cold War insecurities and channel them into fear and hate toward black
people and liberals. The John Birch
Society used tactics like warning that President Kennedy and civil rights
activists and organized labor were in league with communists. The Society actually oddly characterized
sensible reforms as a capitulation to the Soviet Union!
By using such propaganda and strategies,
Fred Koch and others who helped fund the John Birch Society were able to
galvanize millions of middle class people into supporting their real agenda of
cutting corporate taxes and undermining regulations on businesses. Racism, fear and manipulative divisiveness
were used to energize this movement, but the bottom line was clear: selfish greed and narrow self-interest were
values that superseded all other principles.
How “Conservatism” Resembles
Wealthy conservatives like the Koch
brothers and another Republican billionaire, Richard Mellon Sciafe, have used
their economic power to establish an interlocking network of foundations to
push their agenda and move the Republican Party to the right. They fund conservative media outlets and law firms,
in addition to right-wing advocacy groups and think tanks. This is the network that Hillary Clinton
described as being a “vast right-wing conspiracy” in 1998 when President
Clinton was being mercilessly smeared because of his sexual improprieties and
evasions during the Monica Lewinski episode.
Richard Mellon Sciafe played a major role in funding efforts to investigate
President Clinton and undermine the president in order to give conservative
causes greater power.
Blankenship, the bullying CEO of Massey Energy, was another wealthy right-wing
activist who contributed heavily to Republican candidates to grease the wheels
of profit-making operations at the expense of employees. Massey Energy operated the Upper Big Branch
coal mine where 29 people died in April 2010 in the worst coal mining disaster
in the U.S. in 40 years. Massey Energy
had been cited numerous times for unsafe working conditions at this mine. Don Blankenship was involved on the boards of
the National Mining Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and was a
highly active GOP fundraiser and bankroller known for his outspoken opposition
to labor unions.
that Don Blankenship displayed an arrogant ruthlessness that has deep roots in
priorities of profit over people. This
is one of the less pleasant, though most salient, aspects of our capitalistic
economic system. It is as American as
apple pie. Human nature has not changed
much over the millennia, but human institutions can, and do, and should evolve
much faster to enable us to cope with gathering threats to our overall
well-being in the coming years.
systems and leaders are failing us, but sometime soon someone must find a way
to unite people and even bring people around who are in “the party of no”. This greater unity of purpose should involve
cooperative and constructive ways of coming up with win/win solutions to big
problems that are national and international in scope. Thomas Paine was right to call for a more
of all the various interests that compete for advantages and privileges and
ascendancy, for we surely need our system of laws and lawmakers to be made more
flexible to prevent Tragedy-of-the-Commons outcomes and fiscal calamities and
catastrophic damage to Earth’s ecosystems.
coal-sludge levee break in Kentucky in the year 2000 resulted in the spill of 300 million gallons of toxic wastes into watersheds. This was one of the worst environmental
disasters ever to take place in the southeastern United States. Elaine Chao, the U.S. Secretary of Labor at the time,
stopped an investigation into the spill by placing a staffer to her husband in
charge. Her husband? The conservative Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). In Sept. 2002, a Political Action Committee
of Massey Energy gave $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee,
which McConnell had previously chaired.
Overall, McConnell was one of the top recipients of Massey-related
contributions. Don Blankenship's
closeness to prominent Republicans helped him land allies at the highest levels
of the federal mine safety system during George W. Bush’s presidency. Using this position, they acted to weaken
mine safety regulations. This is the
best government that money can buy!?
The Federalist Society is another
prominent and highly influential conservative organization. This right-leaning organization frames issues
in favor of minimal regulations and economic fundamentalism and dogmatic
propaganda. The Federalist Society aggressively provides its overly
partisan points of view to judges, lawyers, professors, law students,
legislators, lobbyists, journalists and the media. In the process, they skew democracy toward
undemocratic, elitist and socially harmful dogmas.
The larger context of these conflicts
is the centuries-long struggle between capital and labor. Corporations want lower costs and bigger
profits, and workers want higher wages and safer working conditions and better
benefits. This strife sparked many
reforms long ago during the Progressive Era and in subsequent decades, and it
helped Franklin D. Roosevelt to enact his New Deal. Such conflicts have also given impetus to a
wide variety of legislative attempts to give workers a fairer shake in this
sometimes internecine battle.
I recommend that people check out journalist
John Cassidy’s illuminating 2009 book How
Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities. It contains valuable insights into the ways
that laissez-faire free market capitalism fails people and society. This book makes it clear that we should restructure
our economic and political systems to manage them more effectively. Cassidy sensibly suggests that we should
create more intelligently targeted incentives and disincentives. See the insights in Earth Manifesto essays
like The Common Good, Properly Understood, and Existence, Economics, and Ecological Intelligence, for more comprehensive understandings.
Politics of the Supreme Court
in the Citizens United case was made by a narrow 5-to-4 vote. The slim majority was led by Chief Justice
John Roberts and Samuel Alito, the two conservative Supreme Court Justices who
were appointed by George W. Bush. These
men were essentially expressing their dogmatic convictions that giant
corporations and other vested interests should have unlimited rights to
dominate our politics. Gosh, even conservative Senator John McCain once told reporters he was
troubled by the “extreme naïveté” that some of the Supreme Court Justices show
about the role of special-interest money in elections and Congressional lawmaking.
The freedom of speech guaranteed to
individuals by the First Amendment is assured to all citizens. It should be recognized that an individual’s
free speech is completely different than the amplified megaphones of paid
speech that wealthy people and large organizations are able to finance using
their deep pockets.
Samuel Alito, during his Senate confirmation
hearings, indicated he would approach every question “with an open mind and to
go through the whole judicial process, which is designed, and I believe
strongly in it, to achieve good results, to achieve good decision-making.” Really?
The Citizens United ruling is
serving to reduce the impact of free speech rights of individuals as an even
greater cascade of money from corporations and wealthy people pours into
election ads on television and in other media outlets. A record amount of money was already being
spent in political ads in the 2008 presidential election, and this ruling
opened the floodgates to even more corporate and union money in our
This contributes to bad results more
than good ones, so it is distinctively contrary to good decision-making. Justice Alito mouthed the words “Not true”
during President Obama’s first State of the Union speech in denial of the risk
that the Supreme Court encouraged by opening the floodgates to special interest
groups to spend on elections without limits.
But the national elections since then have confirmed the validity of this
concern that our democracy is being severely undermined by the lack of
disclosure about who gives financing to politicians and initiatives.
“As scarce as the truth is, the supply has
always been in excess of the demand.”
--- Josh Billings
Chief Justice John Roberts, during his
own confirmation hearings, stressed his respect for legal precedents. Once they secured their positions, they revealed
their true pro-corporate ideological biases and their disdain for the laws of
Congress and prior judicial precedents. Were
he and Samuel Alito simply lying to Congress and thus to the American people to
get their lifetime appointments? Perhaps
we would be better off impeaching them than honoring them!
I’m just kidding! Impeachment is
a mechanism established by the U.S. Constitution to allow the American people
to hold their government accountable. It
was designed to be used whenever officials commit “high crimes and
misdemeanors”. Lying to the American
people was one of the principal grounds upon which Richard Nixon and Bill
Clinton were impeached, but we must pick our battles, and this one probably
could not be won, given the current entrenched political status quo.
I do believe that the appointment of
Supreme Court Justices for life-long terms is becoming increasingly
inappropriate in light of the need for our society to be more flexible and
adaptable to changing times. The Supreme
Court is dominated by relatively young conservative Justices who will be
affecting our societies for generations to come with their narrowly interpreted
The guarantee of free speech to the
American people, which is contained in the First Amendment, requires a vibrant
independent media and rigorous laws to prevent censorship, false arrests and
numerous forms of tyranny by the powerful.
Free speech is an extremely important provision for a democratic
republic, and when free speech is suppressed or denied, a variety of
undesirable consequences results.
Regimes like the one in Iran are ruled
by religious ayatollahs who routinely arrest citizens and imprison them when
they dare to speak out or demonstrate against heavy-handed and repressive
rule. They even apparently torture or
kill people who oppose them, and they deport honest journalists. To prevent such negative outcomes, guarantees
of individual free speech are vital.
Corporate power, like authoritarian power in a theocratic government,
generally undermines the power of individuals.
shouldn’t we have truth in advertising, and require the organization Citizens
United to change its name to <Citizens Divided in Order to Promote
--- The underground Mole
Party Perspectives and Broader Considerations
Founders went to great lengths to ensure fair representation to the
people. They recognized the anger
expressed by the people of the American colonies during the 1773 Boston Tea
Party incident, which was directed against the tyranny of taxation without
representation. Today it is imperative
for us to find a fairer way to confederate all the competing interests in our
nation. To do this we must make sure
that no entity is allowed to employ large megaphones that drown out free
expression with hyper-partisan, divisive and dishonest messages like “BOB IS
the Supreme Court declared sensible limits on campaign finance contributions to
be unconstitutional, there was already too much negative campaigning, character
assassination, incivility and political machine politicking in our elections.
Modern day Tea Party activists have
been duped into getting all fired up about taxes and deficit spending AND at
the same time to staunchly oppose spending cuts on their own sacred cows like
the military. Tea Party folks thus
passionately defend the prerogatives and propaganda of billionaires. They incoherently clamor against government
debt without having any realistic idea about how to achieve a balanced budget
in a civilized democratic republic. Cut
government employees and public education and environmental protections? Give even more tax cuts to rich people and
giant corporate entities, and allow them even more power and influence, and
this will make things better for the disenfranchised majority?
Shall we continue to ignore the best
interests of future generations by stimulating profligate consumerism and
encouraging the depletion of resources and facilitating the exploitation and
pollution of the commons? How likely is
it that this course of action will make the average person better off? When staunch opposition arises against
progressive initiatives, social justice, immigrants, religious tolerance and
peaceful coexistence, this is highly unlikely to make the world a better
place. When worker organizations are
weakened, the none-too-subtle invisible hand of the powerful is not likely to
make America freer or fairer or more prosperous. Give us a break!
It is ironic that progressives are
being vilified instead of domineering wealthy people. Actually, I do not believe in vilifying
anyone; “let’s not get mad, let’s get
even”! A wise Buddhist philosopher would
agree with honest spiritual people that love is much healthier than hate, and
forgiveness is a much more salubrious attitude for everyone concerned than
animosity. Whatever! The most important thing is that we identify
the comprehensive real nature of problems and then find the best approaches to
Right wing ideological partisans have
hijacked social conservatives in order to advance the narrow agenda of the
ruling elite. False populists have made
the Tea Party crowd think that high taxes are the biggest problem, when in fact
the most serious problems stem from low taxes on the wealthiest Americans and
on giant corporations, coupled with related high levels of deficit spending
year after year after year. This state
of affairs was made worse by large sums of economic stimulus spending that was
required during the “Great Recession” to get the economy moving after the
rashly inflated real estate bubble collapsed.
Another factor in the challenging
economic climate has been the inadequate regulation of the banking industry and
consequent costly government bailouts required for big banks, the insurance
giant AIG, auto companies and the mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac. It should also be quite clear that
inadequately controlled spending on military weapons systems and military
occupations of foreign countries and a vast network of military bases abroad
are things that seriously exacerbate these financial problems.
What we need today is not lower taxes
and more debt, but more steeply graduated taxes that are the same or lower for
98% of Americans and higher for the richest 2%.
We also need lower taxes for small businesses and higher taxes for
profitable big businesses. We need the
federal government to manage its affairs better, and to stop wasting money on
extravagant earmarks and lavish benefits for vested interest groups. Simultaneously, we need to invest
intelligently in good public education, vital infrastructure, and smart
initiatives that deal with the social ills associated with urban problems,
industrialization, globalization, deteriorating transportation systems,
predatory banking, wars, and our dependence on fossil fuels.
We need both fiscal responsibility AND
more fairness. We should boldly act to
mitigate inegalitarian trends and the deception and authoritarianism required
to enforce such unfairness. The best way
to ensure greater fairness in our societies is not by eliminating estate taxes
that affect only the richest two-tenths of one percent of Americans, but by
making sure that money and power are more fairly distributed to all Americans
by reducing the power that money can buy, NOT by increasing it. Take note, radical Supreme Court
It seems quite apparent that there is
a proverbial elephant in the room: the
only entities in a good position to help finance a healthier society and to
pressure politicians to honestly balance the federal government’s budget are
highly profitable corporations and wealthy people. Yet rich people and big corporations are too
busy milking the system to really help make our societies fairer and more
fiscally sound. This is a major reason
that short-term-oriented selfishness dominates our decision-making at the
expense of the greater good.
No matter what ideological dogma one
personally adheres to, it must be admitted that a free society is better than
one dominated by powerful and ruthless corporations or governments controlled
by them. The long-standing strife
between capital and labor will become an even more pitiful contest as corporate
money asserts the power of its vastly greater financial resources. Good citizen goals will continue to be
swamped by narrower corporate goals and investor goals and consumer goals.
Shall we disresemble the place, Bob? Roger!
Positive changes must be made!
An Astonishing Development
state of Kansas has been trying an interesting economic and social experiment,
and one that reveals crucially valuable lessons learned. The people of Kansas were sold a bill of
goods in the 2010 elections and ended up electing Republican Sam Brownback as
Governor to replace the previous moderate Governor Mark Parkinson, a Republican
who had switched parties to become a Democrat due to the bitter divide between
moderates and conservatives in the Kansas Republican Party. During that election campaign, Brownback
conformed to the dominating conservative ideologies on hot button social issues
and he declared that the way to improve the Kansas economy and school funding
and the plight of poor people in Kansas would be by cutting taxes.
after taking office, Governor Brownback and the far right legislature began to
advance their tax cutting goals. They
slashed top tax rates by 25% or so, and partially offset the resulting lower
tax revenues by increasing taxes on the first $15,000 of income for every
taxpayer. Try to imagine living on less
than $15,000 per year, and then finding out that Republican leaders have
increased the amount of taxes you pay!
This change was a classic instance of a regressive, anti-progressive
change in taxation that serves to shift the burden of taxes from high income
earners to those who earn lower incomes.
I personally find it objectionable for poor people to be required to pay
a larger share of the tax burden merely so that high-income earners may pay
lower tax rates, but this story gets much worse.
than three years have now passed since the recklessly misguided Republican tax
change, and income tax revenues have plummeted so much that the rating on
Kansas’ bonds suffered a downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service on May 1,
2014. This will be expensive for Kansas
due to the need to pay higher interest rates on its borrowings, but there are
much more negative consequences. The inadequate
tax revenues are forcing reductions to school funding and the social safety net
in Kansas, which will have long-term negative effects on the people of
Kansas. I encourage everyone to read
Thomas Frank’s incisive book What’s the
Matter of Kansas to see how “conservative populism” and religious
fundamentalism have come to impact the people of Kansas with such dire
outcomes. A better understanding of what
the matter is with Kansas helps us see one of the main things wrong with our
nation as a whole, due to the harmful influences of disingenuous conservative
how did Sam Brownback handle being confronted with this rude and embarrassing
proof of the Big Lie at the root of his tax cutting ideology? Sensationally, he refused to admit the
significant adversity that his leadership is wreaking on the people of Kansas,
and instead he blamed the black man in the White House! “Hell of a job,
Attention, voters in Kansas: You were fools to have narrowly reelected Sam
Brownback, instead of having thrown him out of office in November 2014!
Sadness and Tea Party Madness
The concept of
polarity management is introduced in Common
Sense Revival. The goal of this type
of conflict resolution is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of opposing
sides of an issue. “Such a process of
mediation encourages disputants to examine the weaknesses of their own
positions and the strengths of others, so that solutions can be devised that
address the issues that each party has, and their respective needs and fears. “
regard the Tea Party movement as seriously misguided. But let’s examine its strengths. The main positive attribute of Tea Party
supporters is their passion and fervent energy.
I believe this zeal should be more constructively channeled into common
good goals. Unfortunately, the Tea Party
has been mobilized to serve the interests of billionaires rather than the
greater good. Additionally, the
blackmail-like tactics of the Tea Party have created a series of unnecessary
economic crises, and are thus proving to be harmful to the best interests of
the American people.
Among the worst
weaknesses of the Tea Party is its stubborn refusal to deal with sensible
reforms of our tax code and our healthcare system. The main focus of the Tea Party since its
beginning has been to obstruct reforms of these systems. This was the issue that first galvanized the
Tea Party into existence in August 2009 when town hall meetings concerning
healthcare were being conducted across the nation. The Tea Party has become the public face of opposition
to efforts to implement reforms to our sadly unfair medical system. This central obsession of
the Tea Party has been to obstruct better plans for addressing the unfairness
of our healthcare system. No one can
deny that this system of medical care and health insurance is ridiculously
costly and distinctly unfair because of its preexisting conditions exclusions,
treatment denials, exorbitant costs of prescription drugs, and extremely
expensive emergency room care for millions of people who do not have health
insurance. A great irony thus exists in
light of the poignant perspective articulated by Martin Luther King:
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most
shocking and inhumane.”
This compelling sentiment makes the Tea Party’s uncompromising
opposition to healthcare reform an obscenely wrongheaded stance. After all, annual costs and inflation in the
current system are much too high.
Additionally, since almost 50 million people were not covered by health
insurance before the Affordable Care Act, these folks generally do not get
preventative treatment, which is one of the best ways to achieve better
health. Also, the high costs of
emergency room medical care for this large number of Americans are foisted onto
everyone else. Mitt Romney once
characterized this as a form of socialism.
It is actually a default form of misguided capitalism, but these are
just simplistic labels given to this dysfunctional state of the status quo of
our healthcare system.
The Tea Party opposed a single-payer system of universal healthcare,
despite the fact that this would have been the best plan for the American
people, because coverage for everyone,
and at a lower overall cost, would be a superior way to spread risks and costs
through insurance. The Tea Party, having
in effect been brainwashed by the Koch brothers, opposed a public option in the
Affordable Care Act reform that would have given people a choice other than
selecting one of the private insurance providers that have contributed to
making such a costly shambles of the current system.
The Affordable Care Act was modeled on the plan passed by Mitt Romney
when he was the Republican Governor of Massachusetts. This plan requires everyone to participate in
the health insurance system, thereby spreading risks more broadly. Under such a plan, if people choose not to
participate, they are required to pay a fine.
This is far from a perfect system, but better than none.
A system of universal health care would be much more ethical and just
than the current system. Right-wing
billionaires and profit-driven health insurance and drug companies oppose
fair-minded reforms, but it is absurd to allow them the power to prevent
sensible changes to our current system.
The Tea Party has been convinced that healthcare reform and
the national debt are two of the worst problems facing the nation. As a result, they forced a partial shutdown
of the federal government that lasted 16 days in October 2013, and they
threatened to force the U.S. to default on its debt obligations. This stunt turned out to be a public
relations disaster for the Republican Party.
You have to laugh at the antics of Ted Cruz, the Tea Party
Republican and junior Senator from Texas whose attention-getting efforts have
made him resemble a modern day Don Quixote.
Don Quixote was a literary character that made rhetorical orations on
chivalrous knighthood and decided to go on a knight-errant adventure in which
he ended up mistaking windmills for ferocious giants and attacking them on his
hack horse Rocinante. Ted Cruz has been
railing nearly as bizarrely against what he misperceives and misconstrues as
monstrous efforts made to reform healthcare.
Don Quixote was “mostly a rational man of sound reason,” but he had
become fixated on ideas in books of chivalry that led to “the distortion of his
perception and the wavering of his mental faculties.” He undertook “an importune, unfounded and
vain effort against confabulated adversaries for a vain goal”.
Cruz emulated Don Quixote’s quixotic quest when he grandstanded
before the Senate in an effort to gain personal attention by staging a 21-hour filibuster-style protest against the
Affordable Care Act in September 2013. This endeavor turned out to be a misadventure
because it was based on misguided ideologies and misinterpretations of
reality. Cruz’ antics, and those of the Tea Party in general, contributed to this
foolishly futile and costly government shutdown. The Houston Chronicle, the largest newspaper in Texas, has expressed
regret that it had endorsed Ted Cruz when he was a candidate for the U.S.
Senate. Now, in 2015, Ted Cruz thinks he
deserves to be President!
Ted Cruz’ approval ratings were laughably low after his ridiculous
grandstanding episode, but you know what?
In politics, they say “no publicity is bad publicity “, and name
recognition can have immense value, almost regardless of how it is
achieved. Ted Cruz had seen the sudden
national fame that Wendy Davis, the Texas state Senator from Fort Worth, had
gained after she took a courageous stand against anti-abortion legislation in Texas by engaging in an 11-hour
filibuster in the state Senate. This was
no doubt a factor in Cruz’ decision to make a hero-defiant filibuster of his
own, even though it made him look like a fool.
Some surprisingly say that Ted Cruz is one of the most intelligent politicians in the Republican
Party, so his atavistic stances must be seen as a gamble to gain notoriety (and
money) for the “purity” of his stubborn refusal to compromise.
Conservative columnist Debra Saunders took stock of the government
shutdown in October 2013 and observed:
“In Washington, a rump group of Republicans preferred a grudge match
over governing -- and incurred the public’s wrath.” Ha ha ha! – “a rump group of
Republicans!” I hope this deserved smackdown
of stubbornness will lead to an honest reassessment of Tea Party goals. These Republicans should stop marching
lemming-like to the tune of the agenda of billionaires, and instead begin to
seek common cause with the 99% of Americans who are being harmed by
misgoverning, corrupt electioneering, the gerrymandering of congressional
districts, and the sad distorting effects of religious fundamentalism in our
Another minor player in this farcical Tea Party drama was Rep. Ted
Yoho, a Republican from Florida, who suggested that it would actually be a good
thing to default on our national debt.
Listen. It’s actually a very good
idea NOT to default on our obligations, but instead to manage our affairs more
fairly and with greater fiscal responsibility.
The time to dispute the amount of money you owe is BEFORE making a
commitment to incur an obligation, NOT when the bills come due! Good ideas for better ways to manage the
government are contained throughout Common
Tea Party politicians almost appear to have abandoned sanity by
refusing to conduct any business in the House of Representatives in the past
few years other than launching assaults against the Affordable Care Act and the
rights of women to use contraceptives or get an abortion under any
circumstances. In the past four years,
Republicans have obsessed over their narrow goal of repealing the Affordable
Care Act of 2010, tortuously voting on 56 occasions (as of February 2015) to
undermine this effort to make healthcare fairer.
The history of conservatives spending great amounts of time and energy
demonizing healthcare reform is long.
Curiously, Ronald Reagan spoke
out forcefully against “socialized medicine” in 1961. Think about this. Reagan strongly opposed the program that
became Medicare. He actually warned
repeatedly about a loss of freedoms if we chose to have any government programs
that helped cover people’s medical care.
Today, all the people who adhere to Tea Party ideologies should do a
little introspection when they hear themselves absurdly declare, “Keep your
government hands off my Medicare!”
freedoms did not all go away after government Medicare was enacted and
expanded. Instead, this social safety
net program keeps millions of older people out of the chains of disastrous
destitution when their health begins to fail in the waning years of their
More Republican Folly
Social conservatism and the attempt to impose a rigid hegemony
over the people are having negative effects on America. This is one reason that a series of
manufactured crises have been bedeviling the American people in recent years
like that bizarre 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government that was
accompanied by serious threats by Tea Party Republicans to force the U.S. to
default on its debt obligations.
Today, conservative politicians are combining obstructionist
initiatives with an evangelical Johnny-come-lately born-again concern about the
national debt. It might be recalled
that, as Republicans railed against increasing the national debt limit in October
2013, such limits had been increased routinely when Republicans controlled Congress
and the White House under George W. Bush.
Back then, Republicans repeatedly rubber-stamped every increase in the
national debt because they found it to be so expedient in justifying the
financing of historically low tax rates on people with the highest
It is as if Republicans live in a narrow echo chamber in an insane
asylum with ideological propaganda bombarding them 24/7, because they seized on
the cockamamie idea that the best way to control the ballooning national debt
is to threaten to stop paying obligations that have already been incurred. This course of action caused a heightened
risk of a downgrade in our national creditworthiness, and if they had not
finally caved ignominiously in, it is highly likely that severe repercussions
would have resulted -- as they have in Kansas.
for years been making sworn pledges to shrink the government down to the size
that it can be drowned in a bathtub, like stubborn iconoclast Grover Norquist
notoriously demands. I’ll wager that
Republicans don’t have the spine to take many more suicidal steps toward
actualizing this goal. Such a course of
action, after all, would involve disastrous economic carnage and a horrendous
human toll. Such extremism in the name
of ideology would make their temper tantrum over the Affordable Care Act look
like a mere momentary infantile mood meltdown compared to an onslaught of a
full-blown epileptic fit.
the freedom loving, anti-tax, anti-government, anti-healthcare-reform,
anti-Obama, anti-collective bargaining, anti-egalitarian, anti-women,
anti-immigration, anti-minority rights, anti-democratic and anti-environmental
billionaires who bankroll Tea Party agitators will turn against the warped
Stupid Wing of the Republican Party long before their obtuse obstructionism
completely eviscerates the government and derails the international
economy. Since Charles and David Koch
and other greedy billionaires provided generous support to conservative front
groups to advance their very narrow agenda, when government austerity programs
begin to seriously damage their business prospects, they will change their
--- The underground Mole
As near as I can
figure, conservative billionaires want the government to be weakened so that
corporate and individual taxes will remain near 80-year lows. A collateral advantage of a weak federal government
is that policies related to labor relations, the environment and public lands
can be made more favorable to corporate interests. But once financial constrictions associated
with truly concerted efforts to slash the size of government begin to torpedo
the economy, the government would be forced to reduce subsidies to big
businesses, and this would quickly cause billionaires to alter their
is a good line of business, but it is full of risks.”
--- Mark Twain
The federal government will spend almost $4 trillion in the fiscal year
ending September 30, 2015, and Republicans will cease their ideological
insistence on slashing government spending long before they succeed in
dramatically shrinking the size of government.
That goal is a laughable fool’s errand because the severe spending cuts
required to significantly shrink the size of the federal government would
plunge the U.S. into turmoil and the world economy into chaos. Hell, even suddenly balancing the budget in
the next year or two by slashing spending would probably tip the global economy
back into recession. This would reduce
tax revenues and make deficits worse. It
is verily preposterous to suppose that a salubrious freedom-engendering rebirth
of good times would materialize if only government spending were to be slashed
enough to satisfy Grover Norquist.
I call on
Republicans to purge their political party of slavish obedience to corporate
billionaire manipulators like the Koch brothers, and Tea Party extremists and religious fundamentalists.
Stances are just too retrograde that staunchly oppose things like
infrastructure investments and programs that provide a modicum of security for
the growing ranks of poor people.
Likewise, it is a big gamble for a political party to oppose socially
positive things like environmental protections, public broadcasting,
contraception, reproductive rights for women, and human rights for gay people.
assessments by the journalist Thomas Friedman, the House of Representatives
“has become a small-minded, parochial place where collaboration is considered
treason, where science is considered a matter of opinion, where immigration is
considered a threat, where every solution is a suboptimal compromise enacted at
midnight, and where every day we see proof of the theory that America is a
country that was <designed by geniuses so that it could be run by
A strain of anarchy pervades Grover
Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” and his avowed goal to shrink the
government down until it can be drowned in a bathtub. This anarchic sentiment makes the memory
cogent of Theodore Roosevelt’s eulogy for president William McKinley. After McKinley was assassinated by a professed
anarchist at the height of his popularity in September 1901 at the Pan-American
Exposition world’s fair in Buffalo, New York, Theodore Roosevelt declared
anarchy to be a political blight that is “a crime against the whole human race;
and all mankind should band against the anarchist.”
Even in the
throes of a childish tantrum at not getting their way, Tea Party folks should
find a better way forward than sabotaging the economy and holding the American
public hostage. Heroic defiance may
appeal to angry and insecure people, but they should remember the sarcasm and
ridicule with which Missourian Mark Twain haunts those who act in idiotic and
Adaptive flexibility is the mainstream of evolutionary
survival. Inflexibility and intransigence
is a dead end. Cooperation is the
magnetic true north of human coexistence, especially as civilizations have
grown in complexity and population density.
In distinct contrast, both ruthless competition and stubborn opposition
to fair-minded compromises are sometimes the hallmarks of failure. We know What’s
the Matter with Kansas, and with its Tea Party adherents who exhibit
anti-progressive tendencies. It is
conservative billionaires, NOT grassroots populists and the middle class, who
gain from national policies that promote social inequities and facilitate the
concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.
Republicans have adamantly clung to
their ideological conviction that healthcare reform is evil incarnate, and that
the federal government is an unfolding disaster, and that the black man in the
White House somehow got to be President even though he is some sort of Kenyan
socialist Muslim fascist anti-Christ.
These Republicans seized on another avowedly calamitous
development: today’s record levels of
national debt, which ballooned by 90% under George W. Bush, and has now
increased by about another 75% under President Obama.
line of thinking leads to a surprising conundrum. While the overall material quality of our
lives has taken a great leap forward in many ways over the last 100 years,
there are always factions that resist progress and cling to old ways of
thinking, especially when rapid changes are taking place. Denials of biological evolution by those who
believe in literal interpretations of the Bible, for instance, or denials of
trends and causative factors contributing to climate change, can have serious
adverse consequences. So it is stunning
to find out that a major political party in the U.S. actually embraces
supremacism and racist biases have had to go underground in our society in
recent decades to conceal their true nature behind a cloak of deception and
denial. Many white people in the Bible
Belt pretend not to be racists or bigots, so they hide behind narrow
ideological arguments and socially conservative politicians to get them to
support initiatives that are contrary to the best interests of minorities. In doing so, they pander to the economic
agenda of anti-progressive billionaires.
in the Bible Belt of the South are acting as if this region of religious
conservatism is a chain that binds them to reactionary opposition to change in
our society. And there is a pathetic
reason why! The majority of voters in
the South supported Democratic politicians for 100 years after Abraham Lincoln,
a Republican, had freed black slaves during the Civil War. But then in the past 50 years, the majority
of white voters in the South have switched to consistently favor Republicans,
and again the reason is racially oriented.
It is because Democrats led the movement to end racial segregation in
the 1960s, and to give black people fairer civil rights. Racism has become more unspoken, but it sure
as heck still exists in the South, and in spades!
fair, the South does have its charms. It
is “a region of great contradictions, holding both savagery and sweetness,
church-goers and evildoers, good cooking and bad.” These are the words of the southern writer,
John Egerton, who died in November 2013.
An obituary published in national newspapers on November 22 provided
“A son of the
South who grew up when the Ku Klux Klan was almost as mainstream there as the
Rotary Club, Mr. Egerton (pronounced EDGE-er-ton) used the written word,
humility and ultimately the power of the Southern table to champion racial
reconciliation and lead a new generation of writers and cooks to look beyond
clichés and divisions to understand the region.”
imagined in The Divine Comedy that
two keys are needed to open the gate of Purgatory for a chance at redemption, a
silver key for remorseful penitence and a gold key for reconciliation. Dante regarded both of these qualities as
necessary for salvation. This great
allegorical poem represents the true Christian life and explores the nature of
sin, vice and virtue, and moral issues in politics and the Church. I heartily encourage the religious faithful
to consider these ideas, and to seek penitence and salvation in fairer
attitudes toward all people.
works zealously to enshrine injustices deserves the harsh opinion of those they
so harm, and of people who sympathize with those upon whom unfair actions are
perpetrated. The reaction against the
feminist movement of the 1960s has been strong, especially in the
traditionalist religious states of the South.
This bastion of white male supremacism, and of poorly concealed sexism
and racism, contributes to keeping the South a relatively backward place. If the people of the South want to dispute
this characterization, I encourage them to take honest steps to treat females
more fairly, so that southern states will not share with Utah the rating of
being the worst states in the Union for women in terms of fair pay, political
representation and health care.
“It is the
glory and the greatness of our tradition to speak for those who have no voice,
to remember those who are forgotten, to respond to the frustrations and fulfill
the aspirations of all Americans seeking a better life in a better land.”
--- The late Senator Edward Kennedy
Aside on Dante’s Circles
Think about Auguste Rodin’s best-known sculpture, The Thinker. August Rodin
originally called his masterpiece The
Poet, for it commemorated Dante Alighieri, perhaps the greatest epic poet
in world history. This sculpture was a
part of a monumental portal that Rodin was commissioned to create for a museum
in Paris. Though this museum was never
actually built, many of Rodin’s original sculptures from this portal were
enlarged and became famous works of art on their own.
The theme of The Thinker was
Dante’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy, the
allegorical masterpiece written just over 700 years ago. The
Divine Comedy has three parts, Inferno,
Purgatorio, and Paradiso -- Hell,
Purgatory, and Heaven. Rodin’s original
Thinker sits atop a portal looking down on the characters in Inferno, as if it is Dante brooding
reflectively on the many well-known people from his contemporary times and from
earlier history who he imagined to be in Hell.
Some scholars have even suggested that The Thinker is a representation of Adam contemplating the
destruction brought upon mankind because of Adam and Eve’s “original sin” in
the Garden of Eden.
Rodin called his portal project The
Gates of Hell. He thereby linked it
to a famous Renaissance work that had Biblical themes itself, Ghiberti’s gilded
bronze doors on the octagonal Baptistry in the Piazza del Duomo in Florence,
Italy. When Michelangelo first saw these
doors, he had called the beautiful sculpted portico The Gates of Paradise.
These reflections give rise to provocative ideas and some more circular
thinking, and lead me to refer to an opinion set forth by a blogger named Zach
Beauchamp. Consider it after this quick digression
The Author Offers an Aside
Readers will no doubt note the redundancy
of many observations in these Earth Manifesto writings. I have long admired poet David Whyte’s
remarkable voice and evocative use of repetition in his readings of poetry. Earth Manifesto essays, however, tend to be
repetitive for a different reason. The
most cogent ideas keep recurring due to the passionate conviction with which I
perceive them, as the manifesto evolves, and as the swirling course of events
repeatedly reveals their relevance and evokes their truth anew.
created an unwieldy monster in the 12 books of the Earth Manifesto, impassioned
and repetitious, as ideas jostle for expression and priority. In the throes of birth, parts of the
umbilical cord are being severed and discarded to launch this baby into its
independent existence. In the middle of
this catharsis, the image comes to me of Thomas Paine having worked hard to
express the passions of the larger causes that drove him to pen Common Sense in 1776.
image arises simultaneously, and it is also one of expanding awareness and potential
personal transformation. It is an image
of Dante, bereft at his forced exile from his hometown of Florence in central
Italy, furious composing his stunningly complex condemnation of villains, bad
actors and greedy people in his Nine Circles of Hell. This image expands as Dante made an imaginary
journey through Purgatorio en route to a reunion with his chivalrous infatuation
with Beatrice in Paradiso. On this
journey, accompanied by Virgil, a paragon of reason, Dante experienced
psychological and spiritual growth and healing as he grappled with the intense
angst of perceived inequities in the world.
The Five Circles of Hell in the
Zach Beauchamp wrote an opinion piece
titled How Racism Caused the Shutdown. It may sound like a stretch, but Beauchamp
convincingly delves into the curious connections between conservatism and
racism in our society today. He talks
about how the battle over civil
rights produced a rigidly homogenous Republican party that is
disproportionately Southern, and how this has created fertile soil for the sort
of “purity contest” you see consuming the South. “There’s no zealot like a new convert, the
saying goes, and the South’s new faith in across-the-board conservatism --
kicked off by the alignment of economic libertarianism with segregationism --
is one of the most significant causes of the ideological inflexibility that’s
caused the shutdown.”
Another blogger describes in detail what he calls the Five Circles of
Conservative Hell. Unlike the circles in Dante’s Inferno,
”these are primarily states of pain and suffering that conservatives
seek to impose on others in this
earthly world -- or places of torment where they drag their fellow Americans
for company.” At the time these words
were first written, Republican offensives were particularly opposed to food
stamps and increases in minimum wages, giving credence to the charge that the
GOP is waging “a war on the poor”.
Extreme reactionary forms of conservatism can obviously be highly
negative for our society as a whole!
five circles of Conservative Hell are:
Repeal the Enlightenment
Repeal the Constitution
Repeal the New Deal
Preserve the Aristocracy
Conservatives often rationalize their stances by blaming liberals and
the government, and unions, and the poor, and immigrants, and Muslims, and gay
people, and non-Christians, and atheists.
I blame them for these attitudes!
Ha! Conservatives should look in
the mirror and see where much of the blame actually lies for our failure to
move forward together to a more salubrious future.
These words may be inflammatory, and might not be
valuable in creating harmony and collaboration, so please take them with a
grain of salt. I hope to purge some of
this cynical strain from these writings, though given the sadly retrogressive
nature of conservative opposition, and with the bias of my perspectives, this
goal is hard to achieve. Consider, for
provocative perspective of the Senior
Washington Correspondent Dan
Froomkin, who provides compelling pause for thought:
… according to
longtime political observers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, campaign coverage
in 2012 was a particularly calamitous failure, almost entirely missing the
single biggest story of the race:
Namely, the radical right-wing, off-the-rails lurch of the Republican
Party, both in terms of its agenda
and its relationship to the truth.
Ornstein are two longtime centrist Washington fixtures who … dramatically
rejected the strictures of ‘false equivalency’ that bind so much of the
capital's media elite, and they publicly concluded that GOP leaders have taken on the role of an “insurgent outlier” and become "ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of
facts, evidence and science; and dismissive
of the legitimacy of its political opposition." …
Republicans in general -- and standard-bearer Mitt Romney in particular -- were
not limited to the occasional TV ads.
The party's most central campaign principles -- that federal spending
doesn't create jobs, and that reducing taxes on the rich could create jobs and
lower the deficit -- willfully disregarded the truth.
What are We the People to do in the face of such
a state of affairs?
Mitt Romney once told President Obama in a
debate: “You’re entitled, Mr. President,
as the president, to your own airplane and your own house, but not to your own
facts.” That statement was bizarre,
considering that Romney himself used his own “facts” promiscuously, apparently
making them up as he went. His bizarrely
ironic declaration that President Obama is not entitled to his own facts is a
classic instance of “projection”.
In psychology, projection is one of the
most primitive of all defense mechanisms.
It is one of Karl Rove’s most cynically Machiavellian tactics. For years Rove has charged opponents with exactly what he himself and his
Party have been guilty of themselves.
For instance, Rove exploited
the politics of fear, so he accused President Obama of using the politics of
fear. Rove snubbed news outlets that he
considered partisan when he was Senior Advisor to George W. Bush in the White
House, and then he accused President Obama of snubbing news outlets that he
considered partisan. Rove questioned the
motives of those with whom he disagreed, and then accused President Obama of
questioning the motives of those with whom he disagrees.
Mitt Romney was running for president, his campaign used a blitz of
disingenuous attack ads, dishonest tactics and outright lying to try to sell
the American people on the desirability of choosing him to lead our country. One spokesman for the Romney camp actually
tried to justify the deceptive nature
of their attack ads against Barack Obama by candidly remarking,
“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Nice going, guys!
Once again I
think of P.J. O’Rourke’s incisive
Republicans are the party that says that government doesn’t work -- and then
The Exaggerated Myth of Makers and Takers
Mitt Romney indulged in shrewd ploys in
his efforts to get elected president by telling people whatever they wanted to
hear. He flip-flopped on many issues, as
if emulating a wily deceiver who was on the path toward Dante’s eighth circle
of hell in The Divine Comedy. He preyed on people’s trust, hope, and
gullibility in his attempt to gain power.
His morphing visions were hyper-amplified by means of the use of
secretive Super PAC-funded spin and ideological rhetoric.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive.“
Sir Walter Scott
It is an auspicious development for the
well-being of our society that voters soundly rejected Romney’s presidential
bid and the candidacy of a good number of other even more extreme right-wing
politicians of the misguided Tea Party.
Thomas Paine would be scratching his head
if he were around to witness these developments today. He would be astounded at our modern day lack
of common sense when we allow rich people and giant corporations to run
roughshod over the greater good. He had
forcefully advocated independence of the American colonies from abuses of power
by the British in 1776, so he would no doubt be studying his Bible with renewed
zeal and furiously penning a new treatise in support of the independence of the
American people from the tyranny of abuses of corporate power, if he were alive
today. Let’s respect his perceptive and
fair-minded intuitions, and act to establish fairer laws that ensure our
nation, and all countries in the world, will enjoy greater freedom from this
new form of tyranny.
argued that conservatism and tradition should not be allowed to obstruct all
efforts at fair-minded reform. He
further insisted that monarchy and aristocracy should be replaced by a more
honest form of democratic governance. He
expressed support for a steeply graduated system of taxation that would
distribute concentrated wealth somewhat more equitably. In such a system, he envisioned a
progressively structured tax system that would help finance efforts to allay
poverty, reduce unemployment, give every child a good education, and provide a
pension for all workers in their old age.
Thanks, Tom -- Good ideas!
Assessing the Republican
Let’s be fair. Mitt Romney had good reason to seem like “a
well-oiled weathervane”. He was a more
sensible and moderate politician as Governor of Massachusetts, but then he was
forced to try to wrest the Republican nomination from a strange and fractious
coalition of religious fundamentalists, social conservatives, frustrated small
businessmen, exploitive capitalists, opponents of healthcare reform and
collective bargaining rights for workers, people who scapegoat immigrants,
apologists for unlimited corporate power, angry taxpayers, billionaires,
deluded deniers of science, patriarchal dominionists, Strict Father
absolutists, and gun lovers.
Mitt had to pander to this wacko right-wing
fringe and abandon the more centrist zone that once represented the Republican
Party when it had more honorable integrity.
He had to suck up to the extreme right because he was competing with
characters like Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann, Hermann Cain,
Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum. This set him up to have a hell of a hard time
once he got the nomination to shiftily alter course like an Etch-A-Sketch. Good God!
base wanted a candidate who would represent their extreme positions. They wanted a candidate who would guarantee
them that women would be denied reproductive rights and all freedom of
self-determination if they got pregnant.
Many of them wanted an ironclad guarantee that legal “rights of
personhood” would be assured for a woman’s egg as soon as it was fertilized by
a sperm, no matter how the squiggly little guy got into her fallopian
tubes. The Republican base wanted more radical
positions on tax cuts, reductions in the size of government, the elimination of
social programs and federal agencies, and the rejection of all initiatives
designed to control military spending and access to guns. The Republican base also wanted to repeal the
healthcare reform bill passed by Democrats in Congress in 2009, so they were
uneasy about the fact that it had been created on a template that used the same
mechanisms and rationales as the Massachusetts healthcare law enacted by Mitt
Romney in 2006.
One of the Republican
strategies in the 2012 elections was to pretend that their takeover attempt is
approved by Almighty God. They wanted
the American people to believe that their attempt to gain more power is a
reflection of supreme righteousness and the sanctity of family values and
honorable commitments to the greater good of the people. But that’s so contradictory! A look at the stated political platform of
the Republican Party and the details of its economic plans, make it clear that
their stated proposals and party planks would have created exceedingly unfair
outcomes, like they are doing today in Kansas after the state has followed the
orthodoxy of Republican ideology.
Probable Perspective of Jesus Christ
would likely regard today’s Tea Party adherents as delusional collaborators
with rich people and the authoritarian wing of political parties. Jesus was, after all, a revolutionary who
opposed the oppressive hegemony of Roman occupiers of his homeland in ancient
Palestine, and he also spoke out against moneychangers and the corrupt priestly
aristocracy of the Temple establishment in old Jerusalem. Jesus came from the Galilee region to the
northwest of Jerusalem, and he lived in tumultuous times when apocalyptic
expectations were running rampant. He
preached of a God who etched Ten Commandments in stone that practically defined
the tenets of in-group morality. This
God advocated mercy and forgiveness for the poor and downtrodden among his
people, the Jews, yet his God called for the utter annihilation of those who
Tea Party faithful today opposes fairer treatment of farmers and workers to the
extent that they inadvertently support an agenda promoted by conservative
billionaires who have bankrolled organizations opposed to the collective
bargaining rights of workers, and against government rules and regulations and
programs designed to help people who are poor and desperate.
“If Jesus came back today, you wouldn’t be able
to hear him talk over Christians calling him a socialist. He was a peaceful, radical and non-violent
revolutionary who hung out with lepers and crooks, never spoke English, wasn’t
an American citizen, was anti-wealth, anti-death penalty, and anti-public
prayer … he was never anti-gay, never anti-abortion, and never anti-premarital
sex … he was long-haired, brown-skinned, homeless, and a Middle Eastern Jew.”
--- John Fugelsang
Civil War Breaks Out in Republican Ranks!
government shutdown in October 2013 and threats of defaulting on our debt were
like a suicidal Charge of the Light Brigade.
This was a foolhardy charge by a British cavalry contingent during the
Crimean War in 1854 that was made famous in a poem penned by Alfred Lloyd
Tennyson. It was a direct cavalry
assault against an artillery battery that produced very high British casualties
but no decisive gains. Tennyson’s poem
emphasized the valor of the cavalry in bravely carrying out their orders
despite the suicidal folly of the obvious outcome. It would take a masterful poet to spin the
modern day Tea Party assault against the ramparts of reason into a valorous
Internal dissention and turmoil broke out within the
Republican Party after the government shutdown debacle. One faction in this uncivil war said that
political positions that are too extreme will cause their party to be relegated
to minority status for years to come.
The opposing faction adamantly stuck with its counterintuitive story
that the party is not conservative
enough. Good luck, guys, and may the
victor be the side that honestly has the better ideas for the greater
I believe that Tea Party conservatives have achieved their
maximum influence, and are witnessing the beginning of their decline. They seem destined to lose influence because their
beliefs are too pigheaded and the dogmas they have faith in are contrary to the
common good. I recommend that Tea Party folks seriously consider the
demographics of America in their anti-immigrant stances, and the optics of
their political positions in opposing women’s rights and prerogatives. I further suggest that they pay attention to
broader ideas, not just those “corn pone opinions”, as Mark Twain would have
called them, in the echo chambers of their tortuously gerrymandered
John Fowles makes clear in The
Aristos that many movements of opposition are like Charges of the Light
Brigade. Often they are disastrous
failures in undertakings that are admired for their bold hero-defiant resolve,
even though it would be more rational and accurate to regard them as wasteful,
futile and socially harmful.
Introspection into Gun Violence in the U.S.
tragedy occurred in Tucson, Arizona in January 2011 that involved a seriously
disturbed 22-year-old white male who shot 19 people, killing six of them. The
gunfire was an attempt to assassinate U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a
congressional Democrat from Arizona.
This shooting was done with a semi-automatic weapon that would have been
illegal from 1994 to 2004 under the provisions of the Federal Assault Weapons
Ban. This sensible ban expired in 2004,
and it has not been renewed. Why
not?! Because of the unduly powerful and
unwarranted influence of the National Rifle Association and the Second
Amendment fanaticism of many of its members, along with the affiliated ranks of
lobbyists that this extreme-right organization uses to prevent the passage of
reasonable gun laws.
ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the
very thing it
--- Martin Luther King, Jr.
This shooting exposed
deep anxieties among hyper-stressed Americans and a host of negative
psychological changes that accompany widespread economic insecurity. Mental health is a becoming a big issue in
the U.S., and our society is unnecessarily vulnerable and insecure in part
because of “on-your-own-economic policies” and the “tough love” policies that
go hand-in-hand with attitudes focused on providing the most benefits in our
society to people who are already exceptionally privileged.
that the Tea Party ran a bunch of candidates for office in the 2010 midterm
elections that coveted guns and often used violent imagery. Sharron Angle, the failed Tea Party candidate for Senate in Nevada,
called for “Second Amendment remedies”. We emphatically do not need violent remedies to our national
problems. This heated rhetoric is
symbolic of a deep lack of civility in our national discourse. People attack other people rather than their
opinions, and many partisans use violent metaphors like calls to put Democrats
“in the crosshairs”. And they shout Don’t Tread on Me while giving staunch
support to the NRA and its agenda of allowing anyone to buy guns, ammunition
and assault weapons with the minimum possible restrictions.
The process of
confederating all the competing interests in our society is one that should involve
intelligent and well-informed debate, and should culminate in the ballot box,
not in a hail of bullets. It is
unfortunate for our democracy that wealthy people and the gun lobby have such
domineering influence in the intense competition of interests in our society,
because this leads to many outcomes that are disastrously contrary to the
politicians are more concerned with their personal status in Washington D.C.
society than with public service or working together to achieve common good
goals. They often are motivated by money
and power. The Republican Party has
become much more extreme in the past decade, and increasingly more
anti-government as Tea Party politicians have wielded hard-core, no-compromise
approaches. Centrist Republican
politicians have lost many elections to more reactionary candidates, including Governor
Charlie Crist of Florida who lost his battle to Marco Rubio in a Republican
primary for a Senate seat, and Richard Lugar, a 35-year member of the Senate and one of Washington’s leading experts
on U.S. foreign policy, who lost his bid for reelection to Tea Party
conservative Richard Mourdock. It was
Mourdock who made bizarre remarks about “legitimate rape” that proved he was
too extreme to beat his Democratic opponent in the general election.
the brilliant election analyst, did an instructive analysis in 2012 that
revealed that only 6 of the 27
moderate Republicans in the Senate in 2007 would still be in the Senate in
2013, while 17 of 28 conservatives would still be in office. The problem with hopes for a resurgence of
more centrist candidates is that a majority -- 54 percent -- of Republicans declare their conviction that the party’s leadership
isn’t conservative enough.
Dog” Democrats who identify themselves as moderate or conservative have lost
many seats in Congress. Their numbers
declined from 54 members in the House of Representatives in 2010 to only 14 in
2013, when Republicans gained control of the House. Thus the two parties have become increasingly
polarized, and consensus in solving our national problems is becoming much more
difficult to achieve.
in Congress stubbornly forced the government shutdown by refusing to enact a
necessary spending bill by October 1, 2013, an editorial in the Wall Street
Journal provided an interesting perspective: “Kamikaze missions rarely turn out well, least of all for the pilots …
The kamikazes could end up ensuring the return of all-Democratic rule.” Strange things happen in politics, but reason
and emotion should be integrated together in forging a new path forward.
The Role of
Unions in Our Society
The last half dozen
pages came from my germinating files.
Thus the following new idea is an abrupt transition. But it is an important consideration in our
Citizens Disunited world. The status quo
of the economic and political establishment in the U.S. has become increasingly
contrary to democratic fairness, and this state of affairs has been made worse
by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens
United case. This narrow decision
has allowed labor unions as well as large corporations to spend freely on
elections. Note that it could be a
potentially positive thing to give unions more influence because more
collective bargaining rights for workers would establish a better balance of
power and help achieve greater
democratic fairness and saner decision-making.
But let’s do the
math. Corporations make trillions of
dollars of profit annually in the international economy, which conducted a
total of about $70 trillion in activities in 2012. Unions and non-profit organizations have
drastically more difficulty raising money.
Which entities are most likely to have the most money to influence
Union representation of
American workers peaked more than 50 years ago with almost 36% of all workers
belonging to unions. This was a
significant reason that the number of people in the middle class grew so robustly
in the decades following World War II.
Today only about 12% of all workers belong to unions, and a mere 8% of
private sector workers belong to unions.
Partially as a consequence, workers in the United States are now working
longer hours on average for lower wages and benefits, after the effects of
inflation are taken into account.
American workers put in
the longest hours of any nation in the developed world. The U.S. also has “the most family-hostile
public policies” due to a lack of subsidized child care or paid family leaves
or mandatory sick leave. There are also
few limits on mandatory overtime, or protected rights to request flexibility on
the job. So much for “family values”!
How has it come to pass
that workers have been saddled with this undesirable state of affairs? Why has the decline in representation been so
pronounced in the private sector? The
principal reason is because of the increase in the power of corporations. This is another reason we need to find more
effective ways to rein in the overweening power of big corporations in our
economy and politics.
The rise of power of
unions in the public sector, on the other hand, is creating high costs of
public employees and dauntingly large unfunded liabilities for employees in most
local, state and federal governments.
Taxpayers and people in future generations are thereby being committed
to pay for rapidly growing liabilities.
We really must find more intelligent ways of controlling the size, cost
and effectiveness of government entities.
Pension reform, in particular, should be undertaken in the near
future. Too many of the outcomes in the
battle for special advantages are contrary to the greater good, so a sensible
redesign of our entire system should be achieved!
If we don’t want unions
to have power, the least we can do is make a legislative increase in minimum
wages. Due to the effects of inflation,
the purchasing power of the minimum wage is about the same today as it was in
1960, and lower than it was between then and the early 1980s.
An Aside on the American Prison System
Wealthy people tend to jealously guard their
prerogatives and privileges. Since they
wield most of the power in our political system, our representatives generally
defend the way things are, and many people without good opportunities are
forced to seek social service help or join the military or commit crimes like
robbing banks or stealing things.
Consider the astonishing fact that there are more
than 2 million
people in prison in the United States, up from just 500,000 people when
Ronald Reagan became president. We now
have more people incarcerated than any other nation in the world. The per capita statistics are stunning: for every 100,000 citizens, the U.S. has 700
people in prison compared to 110 in China, 80 in France, and 45 in Saudi
Arabia. Opening new prisons and
outsourcing prison functions to private companies is a sadly rapid growth
Why is the U.S. prison industry experiencing such
a rapid expansion? One reason for this
trend is the glaring unfairness of our society and the stresses associated with
it. Ruthlessly punitive efforts are
being made to enforce this state of affairs.
To reduce the growing costs of this trend, we need to reform our
sentencing laws and correctional system.
I believe we should try to reduce the motives for crime by creating
greater social justice in our country.
Increasingly inegalitarian social policies and harsher punishments are
counterproductive. Greater fairness is
needed to increase the overall health of the people, as measured by their
average longevity. The U.S. ranks a
pathetic thirty-eighth in the world in the average life span of its citizens.
A Call for Fairer Taxation
Numerous rationalizations are formulated to get
policies enacted that make the rich richer at the expense of all other
Americans and people in future generations.
This is economically wrongheaded, socially disastrous, anti-democratic,
and ecologically harmful. For these
reasons, it is ethically wrong.
and investor Warren Buffet has repeatedly pointed out the folly of having a tax
system in which people who make millions of dollars pay lower effective tax
rates than their secretaries. Rich
people pay lower overall rates largely due to low taxes on capital gains. Stubborn ideological arguments are endorsed
by representatives of rich people to make taxes low on income earned from
owning capital assets. But doesn’t it
seem outrageous to require people who work hard for their money to pay higher
tax rates on their incomes than people who get money from inheritances or
investments? Those who have inherited
money or accumulated it due to the inegalitarian nature of our capitalist
system should be required to pay rates on their incomes that are at least as
high as working people!
Warren Buffet points out that large disparities of
wealth hurt the economy by stifling opportunity and motivation. He testified before the Senate Finance
Committee in 2007 in defense of the federal estate tax, the nation's only tax
on inherited wealth. He invoked the
historical roots of the estate tax, which was established in 1916 to put a
brake on anti-democratic concentrations of wealth and power.
"Dynastic wealth, the enemy of meritocracy,
is on the rise," Buffett told the panel.
"Equality of opportunity has been on the decline. A progressive and meaningful estate tax is
needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward plutocracy." He continued:
"Tax-law changes have benefited this super-rich group, including
me, in a huge way." It is time to
revise these changes with a more steeply graduated tax system! These understandings make it even more
shockingly absurd that our elected representatives in the House voted on April
16, 2015 to repeal estate taxes entirely.
Further Observations, Including a Wide-Eyed
What caused the
Supreme Court to consider the Citizens
United case in the first place? Senator John Kerry had lost his presidential bid in 2004 in part
because of a scurrilous personal attack ad by a right-wing group that called
itself “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth”.
Having seen the effectiveness of the smear campaign by this group, and
of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11
criticisms of the war policies of George W. Bush’s administration, a
‘conservative’ group calling itself Citizens United recognized the
potentially powerful influence of films.
So it set out to produce a ninety-minute attack video against Hillary
Clinton during the 2008 primary campaign for the presidency. The video was called Hillary: The Movie. Its
influence just before the primary elections was deemed by the Federal Election
Commission to be a violation of campaign finance laws. A lawsuit ensued.
It took two years
before the case made its way to the Supreme Court and a ruling was made. The five conservative Justices on the Court
took this opportunity to make a sweeping decision that overturned a number of
sensible campaign finance laws. This
ruling opened the flood gates to an unlimited amount of hyper-negative and
truth-misconstruing political speech. In
the wake of this ruling, it is now important for us to collectively find ways
to limit the influence that corporations and rich people have in our politics
and on our public policies. Legislation
known as Fair Elections Now should be enacted!
this Supreme Court decision, President Obama harshly criticized the
ruling. He told the American people, "I can't think of anything more devastating to the public
interest. The last thing we need to do
is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the
special interests to tip the outcome of elections."
Look. I’ve watched Hillary, The Movie, and it portrays some valid perspectives. To climb to the top in American politics,
politicians must be ambitious and somewhat ruthless and adroit and at least a
bit dishonest. This is why so many
politicians of every party have seedy sides to their characters. Many recruit Machiavellian, manipulative,
shrewd, Karl Rove-like political operatives and associates who engage in
sometimes underhanded activities. The
qualities that allow success in politics seem to almost automatically exclude
forthright honesty and principled dedication to the common good.
elections should be about choosing representatives who work for the greater
good. The global challenges we
collectively face today are more daunting now than almost any time ever before
in history. This makes it urgent for us
to engage in honest debate about vitally important issues. We should focus on these things, and choose
good leaders, and avoid getting derailed by negative campaigning and smears of opponent’s characters and
political machine politicking.
Hillary, The Movie was basically one long propaganda
piece that said: HILLARY IS A JERK. HILLARY IS A LIAR. HILLARY IS WRONG. A similar hit piece could be made about almost
every politician, with more or less damning material for each and every
one. Let’s find a way to stick to the
issues that are most important to the future!
Considerations of the Role of Corporations and Government
The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United case is far more complex
than is construed herein. So are broader
issues of fairness and social responsibility.
Corporations have made many significant positive contributions in the
world. They are forms of organization
that have created millions of jobs and facilitated an amazing proliferation of
products and services. They have helped
employ and feed and clothe and shelter hundreds of millions of people. They have created an extraordinary
distribution system, and they have helped revolutionize things like
transportation, communications, medicine, electronics and social media.
Corporations are a part of a free
market system that rewards hard work and well-made, affordable goods, and
theoretically discourages shoddy and unreasonably priced goods. It also often valuably stimulates innovation,
investment, specialization and productivity.
It does these things when the system is functioning properly. However, the laissez-faire ideology that says
markets always provide optimum outcomes turns a blind eye to the extensive
failings of market capitalism.
These failings have become rudely apparent
in the last decade. A dogma of
deregulation helped create the inflation and subsequent collapse of speculative
bubbles, along with accompanying economic turbulence, and this has had terrible
outcomes for billions of people. Our
system has been rigged through the use of distorted incentives, and extreme
inequities have in effect been encouraged, and Ponzi-like frauds have been
perpetrated, and large-scale environmental degradation has been facilitated.
for the status quo stick to their old story that a beneficent invisible hand
guides all economic activity for the greater good, even though it is quite
obvious that, in fact, hidden hands frequently manipulate people and rig the
system to maximize their own narrow interests.
Much more often than not, these vested interests strive to gain
advantages at the expense of the majority of people. There is proof of this contention: the deep inequities in our societies become much
more pronounced whenever regulations and controls over corporate accountability
are reduced, and whenever less transparency is required.
trillions of dollars of government financing have been required to deal with
“spillover effects” of irresponsible profiteering by banks and other special
interest groups that led to the “Great Recession”. This is a perverse aspect of the status
quo. And yet a refrain swells in the
background, amped up by agitation fomented by wealthy conservatives: Socialism, socialism, evil, evil, horror,
hate, fear, embrace ignorance, drown the government in a bathtub! Cut taxes!!
Corruption and Intelligent Policy
Millions of Americans intensely
dislike paying taxes. Untold numbers of
people are upset by hardships associated with high unemployment, home
foreclosures, difficulties in getting loans, absurdly escalating costs of health
care and medical insurance, retirement insecurity, homelessness, military
occupations of foreign countries, and the rapacious and polluting impacts of
giant corporations on the environment.
Conservatives and Tea Party followers and secret donors have managed to
misdirect this anger toward government and public employees and progressives,
but it would be more appropriate to direct it toward wealthy people and large
corporations that are the most responsible for the current extremely
inegalitarian state of affairs.
There is a considerable range of types of capitalist societies. In the U.S., many aspects of the economy are “socialized”. Tax revenues and borrowed money are used to
finance a powerful military presence around the world, and to pay for police
and other law enforcement officers in cities and rural areas, and for
firefighters, prisons, courts, public schools, libraries, government agencies,
post office funding shortfalls, and investments in roads, bridges, water
systems, disaster relief programs, unemployment benefits, social security
programs, poverty alleviation programs and many other things.
In contrast, the
socially successful economies of countries in Europe and Scandinavia provide
fairer health care and retirement security than in the United States. Those economies are not markedly less
successful than the U.S. in economic terms, but they are considerably less
socially disastrous than our American form of capitalism.
Robert Heilbroner introduces
an interesting idea in The Worldly
Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers. He asserts that executive compensation in
the biggest corporations in the U.S. is twice as much as that of France and
Germany, but the upward mobility of the American poor is only half that of
those countries and only a third of that in Sweden. “The first comparison points to a culture of
greed”, he opines; “the second to one of
social indifference. The combination
hardly suggests the institutional adaptability that will be needed by any
nation seeking to minimize the strains of the decades ahead, much less serve as
a model for world leadership.”
Reflections on Political
Transparency International, a global civil
organization, publishes an annual “Corruption Perceptions Index” to shine a
glaring light on the damaging effects of corruption in public sectors
worldwide. Somalia, North Korea,
Afghanistan, Sudan, Myanmar (Burma), Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iraq were
rated the most corrupt governments in the world in the 2012 Index. Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden,
Singapore, Switzerland, Australia and Norway were rated the least corrupt
governments in the world. The United
States was rated worse than 18 other nations.
Our rating in 2010 had fallen slightly from 2009, possibly due to the
Supreme Court’s decision to allow more institutional bribery in our
elections. Anyone in America who watches
television is aware of the ugly and confusing barrage of political ads that pervaded
the airwaves in the drumbeat that led up to the national midterm elections of
2010, and to Election Day in 2012, and to the 2014 midterms.
We should strive to make
both governments and corporations more socially responsible by requiring
greater transparency and accountability in their activities. Transparency
International notes: “The message is
clear: across the globe, transparency
and accountability are critical to restoring trust and turning back the tide of
corruption.” The organization advocates stricter
implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which is
“the only global initiative that provides a framework for putting an end to
Honesty, integrity and greater fairness
should be restored in our economic and political systems. What would our economy and society look like
if we effectively outlawed the institutional bribery that results from allowing
excessive influence to Big Money in our elections?
Issue of Regulatory Capture
Another aspect of the corporate
control of our politics is the phenomenon known as “regulatory capture”. This is a form of systemic corruption in
which powerful vested interests subvert the will of the people and the purposes
of government regulatory agencies.
Federal agencies were established to represent the people’s interests,
and yet many of these agencies have in effect been ‘captured’ by organizations
they were created to regulate. For
instance, big pharmaceutical companies routinely run circles around the Food
and Drug Administration, sometimes getting unsafe drugs approved and allowing
the use of dangerous food additives and agricultural chemicals. Similarly, the purposes of the Environmental
Protection Agency are undermined by corporate interest groups in order to allow
corporate profits to be unaffected by inconvenient “polluter-pay principles” or
regulations that would prevent costs from being externalized onto society. Banks and Wall Street corporations evade
regulation, supervision and accountability.
And remember that the wily Bernie Madoff somehow managed to perpetrate
the biggest rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul Ponzi scheme fraud in history right under the
noses of Securities and Exchange Commission regulators for many years.
Regulatory capture is made easier by a
‘revolving door’ in which regulatory officials come from corporations they are
meant to regulate. Our representatives
in Congress and officials of regulatory agencies often move on and become
lobbyists who work to influence legislation designed to advance narrow corporate
goals rather than the greater good.
There is also a broader problem than
regulatory capture. Enormous
multinational corporations sprawl beyond the control of any one government, and
they have powerful influence over the entire global economy. These large companies often make profits by
means that are unfair and irresponsible at the expense of the American people
and of people in other countries, and of all humanity, and of almost every form
of life on Earth.
Us Not Forget the Military-Industrial Complex
overriding aspect of the domination of our politics by Big Money is found in
the arena of war and peace. We should
never forget the insightful words that Dwight D. Eisenhower
spoke at the end of his presidency in 1961:
“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.”
What sensational foresight! National security and liberty are good. Unfairness and excessively heavy national
indebtedness are not good. We are
spending far too much money on our military, and on sending our troops
abroad. We would not do this so much if
we were required to actually pay for it today through higher taxes. By allowing these costs to be foisted onto
people in the future, we are acting highly irresponsibly. We should begin to more tightly control
military aggression and spending now!
Earlier Instances of Supreme
The Supreme Court has gone through
prior periods where its biases were so contrary to common sense that things
were ruled “Constitutional” that were actually extremely unfair and even
contrary to many of the ideals and principles upon which our nation was
founded. The dreadful Dred Scott
Decision is the most famous of such rulings.
This 1857 decision held that people of African descent brought into the
United States and held as slaves were NOT protected by the Constitution and
could never be citizens of the United States!
The ruling even stated that their
descendants, whether or not they were slaves, had no more rights than they
did. It held that Congress had no
authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories. The Court also ruled that because slaves were
not citizens, they could not sue in court, and that slaves were ‘chattel’ or
private property, so they could not be taken away from their owners or freed
without due process. Wrong, Bob!
A terrible Civil War was fought over
this and related issues. According to
Supreme Court Justices in 1857, the authors of the Constitution had viewed all
blacks as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with
the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior
that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” What blatant bias!
The Fourteenth Amendment to the
Constitution was adopted in 1868 to finally rectify this egregious and racist
wrong. The bias against black people has
a sad echo today in the way lesbians and gay men are regarded by the religious
right and their minions in politics and the military and the judiciary. Social conservatives in Congress, and in state
and federal courts, must yield to understandings that are fairer, no matter
what their personal prejudices. They
should act to prevent discrimination against people because of their sexual
orientation. This would be consistent
with laws that sensibly prohibit discrimination against people on account of
race, color, creed, gender or national origin.
Ironically, despite the fact that the
Fourteenth Amendment was enacted just after the Civil War to secure rights for
former slaves, its important clauses relating to Due Process and Equal
Protection have been subsequently interpreted by the Supreme Court as providing
a guarantee to corporations of rights that are equal to those of
individuals. This oddly perverse skewing
of law has expanded the power and immunity of corporations, enabling them to
increase their potential to abuse power by harming people and damaging the
environmental commons. This point is
powerfully portrayed in the aforementioned startlingly insightful book The Corporation - The Pathological Pursuit
of Profit and Power, and also in the fascinating Canadian film, The Corporation, which is based on the
book. Check them out for entertaining and valuable understandings!
Any contention that corporations can
and should regulate themselves seems to me to have been resoundingly refuted by
the deregulatory experiment of the past decade in which banking speculation was
encouraged and no steps were taken to prevent risky mortgage lending or the
deceptive packaging of mortgage-backed securities or the unsound ratings of
these securities by ratings agencies.
The resultant credit market freeze caused economies worldwide to
falter. These things have cost people
around the world many trillions of dollars.
This is another form of ‘disaster capitalism’ shock doctrines that have
wrought severe hardship upon millions of people. We are now called upon to manage our
societies more sensibly, and to create smarter controls of banks and other big financial
Landmark Supreme Court Decision, and the Beginning of Environmental Law
to more comprehensively understand Thomas Paine’s visionary common sense about
“embracing and confederating” all competing interests is to give close
consideration to one of the first great legal decisions that halted
environmental despoliation in the United States.
for a moment, to the Gold Rush that Mark Twain wrote about in The Celebrated Jumping Frog of
Calaveras County and other stories. Gold had been discovered in the South Fork of the American
River in California’s Central Valley in January 1848. Before the ensuing Gold Rush, there were less
than 20,000 non-Indian people in California.
An estimated 90,000 people arrived in 1849, and perhaps 300,000 had come
by 1855. It is estimated that miners
extracted $12 billion dollars of gold in the first five years of the Gold Rush,
at today’s equivalent prices. That is a
lot of money for a bunch of wild frontier ‘pan handlers’!
After much of the gold in rivers had
been extracted by panning and placer mining techniques, miners discovered that
they could also find gold in hillsides that contained gravels deposited by
ancient rivers. Miners developed
hydraulic mining techniques in which river water was channeled into miles-long flumes
and then into high-pressure hoses, and then it was blasted against hillsides
from iron nozzles called ‘monitors’.
This process resulted in large quantities of gravel and silt being
washed down into large sluices where the gold could be captured.
The unintended consequences of this
mining method had extremely negative impacts.
Enormous volumes of sediments were washed into rivers and carried down
into California’s Central Valley, resulting in significant harm to towns and
farms. Rivers flooded, causing damages
to farmland and crops and homes, and the waterways became so choked with silt
that ships could no longer navigate upstream to Sacramento from San Francisco
Bay. The scars of these activities are
still starkly visible in such places as Malakoff Diggins, California’s largest
This damaging type of mining had its
heyday in California from 1853 to 1884.
The conflict of interests between hydraulic mining and people who lived
downstream resulted in intense legal battles.
The conflict was finally resolved in an epic environmental ruling by
Judge Lorenzo Sawyer in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco in 1884, when the
Judge issued a sweeping injunction to stop all hydraulic mining
Today, mountaintop coal mining and
large industrial pig and cattle farms are creating similarly vast quantities of
damaging wastes. The corporations
involved in these activities are required to make efforts to prevent the wastes
they generate from getting into rivers and the water table, but they often
fail. Sometimes the Environmental
Protection Agency levies fines for infractions, but this does not usually
happen. Why not? Corporate lawyers are shrewdly able to get
their employers off the hook, and to allow them to continue evading their
theoretical responsibilities as good citizens.
A long view reveals that there are
harmful impacts of many industrial activities, and that these negative effects
take place not only literally and figuratively downstream in location, but also
downstream in time. This is another
reason that, when we are formulating priorities and public policies, the
well-being of our descendents in future generations should always be taken into
“Persons who love nature find a common basis
for understanding people of other countries, since
the love of nature is universal among men of
--- Dag Hammarskjold, Secretary General of
the United Nations from 1953 to 1961
As noted repeatedly in this manifesto,
giant corporations are eager to externalize costs upon society. Pollution costs, resource depletion costs,
waste disposal costs, greenhouse gas emission costs, climate change costs,
worker healthcare costs, bailout costs, a diminishing proportion of the
national tax burden, anything they can get away with. By using the power of their deep pockets to
manipulate our economic and political system, corporations generally get what
they want. They have even been able to
get a narrow majority of ideologically biased conservative Justices appointed
to the Supreme Court to advance their parochial causes!
Vested interest groups tend to oppose
footholds for innovative competitors.
Big oil companies often staggeringly work against things like the
conservation of resources and renewable resource initiatives and energy
efficiency measures. Established
interests generally oppose reasonable regulations as well as protections of
local communities and the environment, and balanced budgets, international
justice, the investments in alleviating poverty.
The Supreme Court has injected a
virulent new impetus into our national politics that will further obstruct
adaptive change and progress toward the well-being of individuals and all of
humanity. Politicians are finding that
it can be political suicide to honorably support common good plans like Wall
Street regulation, sensible gun laws, healthcare reform and cost controls,
moves toward renewable energy regimes, increases in taxes on the highest levels
of income and capital gains, and limits to the power of the military-industrial
complex in our political system.
At a time when the urgency and
importance is greater than ever for us to collectively and boldly deal with
serious economic, social, military and environmental challenges, the Supreme
Court has given strength to the entrenched status quo, and made our representatives
even more beholden to those who favor allowing Tragedy of the Commons
outcomes. The political will to make
fundamental reforms has thus been weakened, especially progressive reforms opposed
by wealthy conservatives and powerful corporations. We must find effective ways to change this!
Let’s Tame the Size and Power
Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, declared in December 2009:
“I want to be very, very clear: too big to fail is one of the biggest
problems we face in this
country, and we must take action to
eliminate too big too fail.”
We are now
seeing that it is not just ‘too big to fail’ that causes costly problems, it is
too big to be sensibly held accountable by Congress and the White House and the
Supreme Court. NOW is the time to
address these challenges!
Recession bizarrely resulted in an even more distinct consolidation in the
banking business. So we have not moved
away from “too big to fail”, but instead the reins of banking power have been
tightened up like a noose around the necks of American citizens. How long will it be before these reins are
jerked abruptly, once again?
Early in the career of Supreme Court
Justice Louis Brandeis, the legal battles he was involved in had convinced him
that concentrated economic power could have highly negative effects on a free
society. The concentration of economic
power has been increasing ever since the federal government more-or-less gave
up on anti-trust prosecutions. Mergers
and acquisitions may sound like a good thing when they are approved by
regulatory bodies, but they generally are not win-win situations for workers or
the public as a whole, and they can often be disastrous to the greater good.
A deregulatory crusade was launched
under Ronald Reagan’s direction, and it has advanced in favor of vested
interests ever since. This has caused
the concentration of power to increase dramatically. Exxon-Mobil, for instance, for years made the
biggest profits of any business in history, and yet there has been no
‘break-up-Standard-Oil’ enthusiasm anymore, as there was a century ago when
Standard Oil was broken into a number of different companies. The trend toward conglomeration and
globalization is creating ever bigger potentialities for economic and
ecological catastrophes. We ignore this
at our own peril, and at the ever-greater peril of our descendents.
Perspective on Money in Politics
One of the
lynchpins of our democratic system at the state level is the use of ballot
initiatives. The initiative process
began just over 100 years ago, and it was created as a means to offset the
power of wealthy interests. California
became the tenth state to adopt this form of direct democracy in 1911, and the
use of initiatives in the state was approved to reduce corruption in politics
and to limit the powerful influence of Southern Pacific Railroad at the
integrity of the initiative process has ironically been undermined by moneyed
interests today. They use their money to
persuade people to pass some distinctly unfair new laws. Thus, the very entities that the process had
been enacted to counter have co-opted the process. Quelle surprise!
profoundly perverts this initiative system.
Signature gatherers who are paid by petition advocates can be pushy and
less than forthright, especially when they are paid by the signature rather
than by the hour. In addition, wealthy
individuals or institutions often bankroll ballot initiatives that are contrary
to common good goals. Or they do end
runs around legislative deliberations related to hot-button-social-issues. For instance, Utah’s Mormon Church
establishment gave millions of dollars to get Proposition 8 passed, an anti-gay
marriage initiative in California in 2008.
The legislative process at least has a better probability than the
initiative process of vetting potential impacts and balancing interests, and of
identifying and addressing constitutional concerns.
curiously face a “Catch-22 of reform”.
If an initiative is not aimed at helping a narrow interest group, it is
hard to raise enough money to get it on the ballot. But if it IS aimed at helping advance the
interests of a narrowly focused group, then it has an easier time of getting on
the ballot yet voters are likely to see through the narrowly self-interested
motives of its proponents and reject the proposal. “That's some catch, that Catch-22!”
Not only are
there many distinctly different interests in every society, but there is also a
wide spectrum of varying opinions about important matters. It is vital that we have accurate
understandings of human nature and economics and the real world in order to
formulate the best public policies. Let
us honestly examine the nature of some differing theories and worldviews.
view evolve that are founded on certain premises, assumptions and preconceived
notions. All of these can be biased to construe
evidence in ways that artificially fit the assumptions made. This is particularly true in the case of religious
convictions, in which religious authorities channel deep-seated hopes and fears
into rigid beliefs in a curiously anthropocentric Supreme Being of one stripe
or another. Good God!
fundamentalists thus often deny the most far-reaching understandings ever
realized about geology, physics and biology in order to cling to antediluvian
explanations of existence that fail to take into account more accurate modern
scientific ways of understanding the world in which we live.
political arena, trade associations and think tanks develop highly specific
theories that center on their own particular self-interested perspectives and
agendas. They make great efforts to spin
all evidence into a somewhat coherent explanation that supports these
biases. Rich businessmen fund a growing number of far-right think tanks in
order to establish a theoretical basis for their causes. These think tanks lack the checks and
balances that keep academic research honest.
As a result, they produce highly flawed and biased studies whose
principal purpose is to promote policies that favor the business classes that
of the status quo abound in powerful organizations like the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute.
These entities try to prove that activities causing billions of tons of
carbon dioxide to be spewed into the atmosphere every year are not having any
adverse effects on the environment. Such
propaganda prevents us from collectively taking bold steps to mitigate these harmful
for such propaganda is provided by large corporations like ExxonMobil, which
until recently was the biggest and most profitable corporate conglomerate in
world history. Organizations like this
keep people from responsibly reducing emissions that are dangerously causing
concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to increase every year. Big oil companies, narrowly focused on making
bigger profits, strongly oppose efforts to change the ‘sweet system’ that
allows them to pollute habitats, externalize costs onto society, and contribute
to disruptions in the global climate.
not good things for the well-being of individuals, or for the prospects of
people in future generations. This is
why we need to find better ways to limit the power of such organizations. We also should seek better ways to ensure
that our market system functions more effectively so that the common good is
promoted and people are prevented from being subjected to enormous systemic
risks such as costly destabilizing economic slumps and ecological calamities.
Boom and bust
cycles of business are an integral aspect of the process of “creative
destruction” in capitalism that facilitates big profits in good times, and then
provides a socially disastrous shock that suddenly resets over-leveraged
positions and “irrational exuberance” in speculative risk-taking. One result of an economic recession is a
downward push on wages and a spike in joblessness. This reduction in wage costs allows a
recovery that then sets the stage for a new burst of economic growth and
profit-making. This tendency toward economic instability is
a salient characteristic of unfettered capitalism, and it is among the most
harmful of its traits.
I’m never gonna stop the rain by complainin’, because I’m free …
--- Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, a song written by Hal David and Burt
Summary and Recommendations
contract between workers and corporations that was a foundation of the
post-World War II economic boom and the growth of the middle class has frayed
badly under the onslaught of regressive tax changes, deregulation, and union-busting
that began with Ronald Reagan’s presidency and were amplified by George W. Bush
and other Republicans.
Republican Party was severely chastised in the 2008 national elections because
of the colossal failure of the Bush Administration to manage the economy either
fairly or well. One of the most
egregious aspects of this failure was an excessive preoccupation with tax cuts
for rich people and giant corporations while government spending was
simultaneously being recklessly increased.
The resulting budget deficits, the largest in history until that time,
have contributed to large and fiscally irresponsible increases in the national
By the time
George W. Bush’s eight years in power came to an end, the economy was in a
disastrous state. A severe crisis was
unfolding that required unprecedented interventions in financial markets to
prevent an even more severe credit crisis and the possibility of another Great
Depression. Trillions of dollars were advanced
by the government and the Federal Reserve to keep banks, insurance companies,
mortgage companies and automobile companies from going out of business.
capitalism’ had once again worked its black magic and forced our nation to bail
banks and other entities like AIG, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. American taxpayers and workers and future
generations are being fleeced even more than before, and short-term
expediencies rule the day.
consequences of these measures were federal budget deficits for 2009, 2010,
2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 that far exceeded the worst shortfall of the Bush
years. The U.S. has effectively painted
itself into a risky corner with deficit spending and a ballooning national
debt. The bad combination of these
shortsighted gambits with bubble economic policies, speculative leveraging,
inadequate regulation of the financial system, and a political system that is
practically incapable of sensibly dealing with these challenges makes the
American people unnecessarily vulnerable.
are desperately trying to regain controlling power of Congress and the
Presidency because they want to reap more of the benefits for themselves and
their wealthy supporters that majority power provides. They rail about taxes and oppose all
Democratic initiatives to reform the status quo. They are like sharks circling
the American people, smelling blood in the water, and becoming ever more frenzied
in preparation for attack. They are committed to
getting power by suppressing the vote and using dirty political strategies like
the ones Karl Rove employed, and they favor the use of divisive tactics. It would be far better if we found ways to
unite people to fairly solve problems, rather than dividing them and causing
downright harmful results.
It would be
foolish to give more power to those who were most responsible for creating the Great
Recession and economic hard times, and to thus effectively endorse their inegalitarian
and fiscally unsound tax and de-regulation policies and their slavish obeisance
to entrenched corporate interests, CEOs, fat cats, Big Oil, giant drug and
health insurance companies, the gun lobby and the military-industrial
complex. Our system should be fixed
instead of just having the people perversely rush from one hoped-for savior to
another in the expectation that one of them, one of these days, will actually
succeed in making positive changes for the greater good of the people.
seem to me to be the ones most staunchly opposed to actually fairly solving any
of our society’s problems. They oppose restructuring
our system to make it fairer to small businesses and the bottom 98% of
Americans, and they have been striving to obstruct all efforts to make
government and corporations work in ways that are more truly consistent with
the common good.
Republican Party, has spent the past six years filling the role of being “the
party of no”. It has opposed practically
every initiative proposed by Democrats, even those things they previously
advocated. They work actively to make
President Obama’s efforts to improve our nation fail. This is a reason Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal once declared,
"We've got to stop being the stupid party.”
Republicans have used the filibuster
in the Senate in the past six years more than twice as much as any other
Congress ever in history. Hundreds of
bills that have been passed by one house of Congress have been bottled up in
the other by this obstructionist tactic.
The abuse of this procedural tool has made Congress more dysfunctional
I have long advocated that Senate
rules should be modified to make the filibuster less obstructionist for normal
business, and Democrats finally became so frustrated with the unprecedented
obstruction of judicial appointments that they resorted to the “nuclear option”
and changed the filibuster rules in November 2013.
The American political system allows
perverse tactics like the one used by Republican Senator Richard Shelby of
Alabama, who placed ‘blanket holds’ on more than 70 nominations of qualified
people to positions that would help make the government work more
effectively. Senator Shelby adopted this
strategy as a kind of blackmail to get more earmarks spending for his
claim to be “populists”, but their agenda seems to be: ‘Damn the American
people!’ While it’s true that politicians on both the left and the right claim to be populists, these political charades are generally performed to gain
political support from elites, and then once elected, conservative politicians often
morph into a caricature of a fair-minded representative who votes in lockstep
with the interests of elite segments of society, not ordinary people.
This crony capitalism is insane! Populism really should be about the best
interests of the people, not the best interests of elites. Congress is ineffective in actually solving
the challenges that collectively face us largely because of the stubborn
refusal by Republicans and Democrats alike to work together for the greater
good. The Supreme Court has now thrown
great gobs of bait to the sharks with its campaign finance rulings, and these
apex predators are engaged in a feeding frenzy.
We must change this!
A century ago, a
true Populist advocate and political activist named Mary Elizabeth Lease worked
assiduously to get the right for women to vote.
She once stated that big business had made the people of America into
“wage slaves”. She declared, “Wall
Street owns the country. It is no longer
a government of the people, by the people and for the people, but a government
of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street.” Now, to believe any different today seems to
me to be a form of absurd self-deception, especially in light of bank bailouts
and tax breaks like the outrageously generous “carried interest” provision that
allows Wall Street fat cats to pay exceptionally low rates on huge profits.
surge in right wing populism has been taking place in Europe in the past
decade, rattling established political parties.
This movement is hostile to immigrants and austerity measures and the
European Union. This movement is like a
European Tea Party movement to the extent that it is “a grassroots insurgency
fired by resentment against a political class that many Europeans see as out of
touch.” The main difference between it
and its American Tea Party counterpart is that in Europe the backlash is
against the European Union, and it is in favor of strengthening the autonomy of
national governments; in the U.S., the
backlash is against the national government itself.
A Parable about the Malaise Aboard Our Ship of State
Alarm bells are going off in the control tower of our ship of
state. Occasional shudders are shaking
the ship’s framework, making the first class passengers uneasy even though they
are in the middle of a lavish and rather intoxicated multi-course dinner in the
posh first class dining room.
Communications systems on our ship of state are malfunctioning, so
reports that are being received from the engine room deep in the vessel’s
bowels are garbled. Key indicators on
the instrument panels are flashing red, yet no one can agree on exactly what
the problem may be.
A growing discomfiture of the second-class passengers
threatens to cause panic, and rumbles of desperation are being heard from the
third class passengers on the decks far below.
Many experts have been advancing unsettling theories about the course
ahead, but a vocal minority has a monopoly on the ship-to-shore communications
systems, and they are staunchly denying the contentions of experts who say
serious problems underlie the grumbling from below. Food and water shortages in the nether
regions of the third class steerage quarters have begun to stir anger and
resentment, and even the first class passengers are becoming aware of the
Clear-eyed advocates of a new system of more fairly sharing
the well-stocked provisions of the first-class larders are being loudly renounced
by law-and-order ideologues who self-righteously and jealously defend the
privileges of those people in first class.
These apologists for the status quo are charging that anyone who
advocates that changes should be made aboard the ship is a wild-eyed socialist,
or treasonous foreigner, or godless communist.
Rumors are beginning to circulate that some of the ship’s officers
belong to a group that fervently believes the Captain of the Titanic was a
brave hero for having steamed full-speed ahead through the waters of the north
Atlantic despite sightings of huge icebergs that are largely submerged as they
float in the treacherous seas.
Entertainment spectacles are being beamed aboard the ship
continuously to distract the passengers from the growing tensions. Intensely competitive sports spectacles are
frequently interrupted by insidiously persuasive commercial messages that
encourage every passenger to obey their material instincts by indulging in the
consumption of all manner of products and the use of a wide variety of
services. Men in tuxedos and top hats
have a monopoly on giant amplified megaphones that they are using to urge
passengers to be calm and not rock the boat.
These eminences claim that the captain is incompetent even as they work
assiduously to undermine his ability to cope with all the problems that are
beginning to afflict everyone aboard.
Half the people on the ship are poorly paid crew members, and
they are being worked mercilessly to perform often menial tasks. They are being distracted from their personal
woes by glowing electronic devices and shiny trinkets and large signs
proclaiming God-ordained commandments. A
stunning number of the passengers have already been confined to long-term
detention in the brig for a wide variety of offenses, even though the resources
devoted to this imprisonment are placing excessive demands on the ship’s
A proper Captain would find better ways to run his ship!
I respect the insightful words of Paul Hawken, who wrote in his
provocative book, The Ecology of
the capacity and ability to create a remarkably different economy, one that can
restore ecosystems and protect the environment, while bringing forth
innovation, prosperity, meaningful work, and true security.”
It is high
time that we begin to come together to do this -- citizens, politicians, CEOs,
unions, judges, religious leaders and all -- to make sure we manage our
societies more fairly and in a manner more likely to prove sustainable.
will likely confirm my conviction that, to make America safer, stronger, fairer
and more prosperous, we will need to restructure our economic policies so that
smart incentives influence people’s behaviors.
This is the best way to make our world a better place. Join with me in supporting the ideas of the
Earth Manifesto to help effect positive change!
Thanks for your consideration of these
Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
May 1, 2015
(Originally published October
10, 2010, and revised on 11/11/11 and 12/12/12 and 6/12/14)
P.S. I enthusiastically recommend that everyone
watch the visually stunning film Home
by the aerial photographer and ecologist Yann Arthus-Bertrand. This beautiful and important film contains
truly visionary understandings! It can
be seen on YouTube. And look into the
conclusions of the Millennium Ecosystems Assessment, because it was one of the
most extensively researched studies in the entire history of humankind. Also, familiarize yourself with more of the
extensive understandings in the Earth Manifesto, especially in Common Sense Revival. Spend some time thinking about these
ideas. Then join with me in demanding a
fairer society, and one that respects rights of all people in future
generations to live on a planet that is not severely compromised, and in
countries that are not burdened by excessive amounts of debt.
As Steve Jobs
recommended, “Think Different”!