Principal Reasons a Bill of Rights
for Future Generations is Needed
respectable luminary Mark Twain has provided me with an unambiguous piece of
can have ideas -- the difficulty is to express them
a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering
ponder this idea as I reflect in this treatise on the need for a Bill of Rights
for Future Generations. Why belabor the
obvious? Why adduce a hundred good
points, when the bottom line is really quite simple: Humanity should commit to
treating future generations more fairly because it is the right thing to
do. A new intergenerational and
future-respecting Bill of Rights is an expansive extension of the fair-minded
Golden Rule that would encompass not just neighbors and fellow citizens, but
all of humanity yet to be born. This
idea is commendably consistent with each and every one of the eight principles
of moral conduct taught by wise Buddhist philosophers in their Noble Eightfold
Path. Of particular importance in these
moral principles are Right Understanding, Right Intention, and Right Action.
I’ve clearly failed to achieve the celebrated ideal of brevity in expression, I
hope readers will indulge this shortcoming, for this essay contains some truly
Bill of Rights consisted of the first ten amendments to the U.S.
Constitution. These great amendments
were introduced in Congress about eighteen months after the Constitution was
adopted in September 1787. They
importantly outlined personal and collective rights of liberty and justice that
were guaranteed to the American people.
This Bill of Rights was designed to establish legal assurances to the
people that basic principles of human freedoms would be fairly protected -- and
that the power of the federal government would be specifically limited.
different forms of power abuse are undermining the freedoms of the American
people than the ones that bedeviled our colonial ancestors. Instead of the economic exploitation of
colonists and despotic governance by the British monarchy, wealthy people and
large corporations are the entities exerting domineering power and influence,
and they are taking advantage of people in nations world-wide and contributing
to an ominous deterioration in natural ecosystems that will inevitably prove to
be disastrously unsustainable.
developments are making it clear that a new variety of protections are needed
to best ensure public confidence that our elected representatives will govern
well. These protections should assure young people and everyone in future
generations that our collective undertakings are honestly dedicated to
farsighted, responsible and ecologically sane ends that are sufficiently
beneficial to society as a whole.
A Bill of
Rights for Future Generations is needed to provide overarching guidance to
accomplish goals consistent with the greater good. In short, this new Bill of Rights is required not only because
many intergenerational injustices are taking place but also because of
increasingly extreme disparities in economic insecurity, social inequalities
and political representation between the wealthiest 1% of Americans and all
others. This trend is eroding
democratic fairness and undermining social cohesion and diminishing the
prospects of our descendants to have a prosperous future, and it is also
creating bigger risks of social instability and potentially increasingly
A Call for a
Visionary and Yet Practical Strategic Initiative
“Great republics do not last. Whatever has been the rule in
history may be depended upon to remain the rule. History repeats itself. Vast
power and wealth corrupt a nation. It incites dangerous ambitions and could
bring the republic down. It can pack
the Supreme Court with members friendly to its purpose, rundown the Congress,
and crush the people’s voice. This has
been a strange panic. It’s like a
blight, a paralysis, in which a mighty machine has slipped its belt and is
-- Mark Twain, written during the Panic of
Since a primary
reason we need a Bill of Rights for Future Generations is to prevent the
on-going misguidance and subversion of our democracy by moneyed interests, a
bold new and truly transcendent Strategic Initiative must be formulated. Consider this closely. Professor George Lakoff defines a strategic
initiative as “a plan in which a change in one carefully chosen issue area has
automatic effects over many, many, many other issue areas.”
For instance, an
initiative to give tax cuts to the wealthy is more than just a scheme to reward
the moneyed class. It is really a plan
that is a “double con” gambit to give more money and greater power to the rich
so that they can in turn give our representatives large campaign contributions,
and then the recipients of this political largess reward such legalized bribery
with additional benefits to the privileged and further regressive changes in
laws that force public services to be eliminated and more progressive tax plans
to be blocked.
low tax rates for the highest income earners are financed by borrowing money
from people in the future, it is a damn unfair form of intergenerational
exploitation. By making already
fiscally irresponsible levels of national debt even worse, tax cuts are used to
paralyze our nation’s ability to finance investments in the greater good, like those
made in public education, community well-being, physical infrastructure, social
safety net programs, and environmental protections. Regressive tax cuts are thus a type of Strategic Initiative that
has negative impacts on the vast majority of Americans.
anti-government conservatives support retrogressive gimmicks like this because
they claim to want to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it
in the bathtub.” They seem to
completely ignore the fact that tax cuts have consistently led to larger
federal budget deficits, NOT to less government spending. This was particularly true during the years
that Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were in the White House, when both
spending levels and budget deficits spiked.
pledge made by almost every “conservative” politician is radically absurd. What they are really saying, under the guise
of honorable principle, is that they refuse to even consider rolling back
permission by the government for wealthy people to continue the
intergenerational crime of running up the national debt to finance historically
low tax rates on the highest levels of annual incomes. They staunchly refuse to end the all but
criminal tax evasion by hedge fund managers’ in the “carried interest” loophole
for really fat cats on Wall Street.
They adamantly refuse to alter the outrageous provision that allows zero
percent tax on all capital gains made by the richest two out of every 1,000
taxpayers who are so wealthy that they are subject to any tax on their wealth
after they die. And they refuse to
consider closing any tax loopholes that giant corporations have written into
the tax code to let them evade taxes.
Another kind of
Strategic Initiative, this one a positive progressive one, was enacted in 1973: the Endangered Species Act. This law was passed to protect critically
imperiled species of life from extinction “as a consequence of economic growth
and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation.” This Act has had the collateral benefit of
preventing some shortsighted damage to the overall ecological health of our
providential environment. It has also
had a wide variety of largely beneficial impacts on protections of habitats and
ecosystems. Developers and giant
multinational corporations do not like this kind of strategic initiative, but
it does generally serve to advance the greater good in the long run.
acting like unrepentant stooges for corporate power and private profiteering,
are working fervently to reduce protections associated with the Endangered
Species Act. The purpose of the
Endangered Species Act, it turns out, is not just to save threatened species
from habitat destruction and other harms, but also to save ourselves, since our
fates are linked in this interconnected and interdependent world. As Garrett Hardin wrote in 1968 in his
influential article, The Tragedy of the
Commons, “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing
his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the
Hear these words
now. Here is one obvious and truly
transcendent Strategic Initiative that should be implemented. Almost everyone is in denial not to
recognize it and support it. This is
the ultimate Strategic Initiative, and the fairest one possible -- Make an
overarching national commitment to new assurances in a Bill of Rights for
Future Generations. This agreement
would be a declaration that all people in the future have an unalienable right
to live on a planet where vitally important ecosystem services have not been
severely compromised, and resources have not been depleted wastefully, and
wildlife habitats have not been irreparably harmed, and pollution and toxic
wastes are reasonably controlled.
This Bill of
Rights for Future Generations would also commit us to a goal of leaving a
legacy to future generations of societies that are financially sound, and ones
that are not subject to extreme austerity measures, revolutionary unrest, or
heightened risks of hyper inflation and future debt crises. This initiative would create a guiding
context in which all national policies would take into account their likely
impact on our children and grandchildren and their descendants. It would provide a strong and flexible
framework within which we would see the overarching need to prevent or mitigate
many of the extraordinarily shortsighted and unfair expediencies that have
become such definitive hallmarks of our dysfunctional economic and political
systems. And it would include uncommon
measures designed to create mutual security that would ensure that our nation
coexists more peacefully with people in other countries. It would also support worldwide movements
that honor personal liberties, freedom of speech, freedom of religion or
irreligion, and economic and political fairness.
time is always right to do what’s right.”
--- Martin Luther King, Jr.
A specific proposal for the content of this new
Bill of Rights is published in Common
Sense Revival (available from Lulu Publishing), and on the Earth Manifesto
Once a Bill of
Rights for Future Generations like this is developed and ratified by Congress,
and indeed by people in nations worldwide, it would automatically focus our
efforts on making all countries in the world better places. It might even help prevent hyper-partisan
politics from enabling short-term-oriented political and economic expediencies
that myopically undermine the prospects of people in future generations.
have “unalienable rights” to have a fair modicum of opportunity to enjoy their
lives with guaranteed personal liberties, and with hopes for prosperity and
security and meaningful existence, and perhaps even with a lusty pursuit of
happiness. Let’s heed the words of the
Dalai Lama and the Pope and psychologists and deep ecologists, and hold these
understandings with us during our daily trespasses. We surely have a collective need for the counsel of scholars and
spiritual leaders to understand What
Really Matters and other important stuff.
Pledge of Allegiance promises liberty and justice to all Americans. Yet most of our national policies utterly
ignore fair treatment of our descendants.
In recognition of this glaring oversight, this new Bill of Rights for
Future Generations will honor the greater good that is represented by a concern
for the consequential impacts of our actions today upon all our heirs.
detailed guidance for smarter ways forward can be found in Part Four of the
Earth Manifesto online, and particularly in
One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies.
is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”
strongly believe the concept that it is our ethical obligation to “pay forward”
some good deeds to improve the prospects for our descendants. To best
accomplish this eminently fair idea, we should honestly redesign our economic
systems. As the brilliantly sensible
businessman and author Paul Hawken wrote in The
Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability:
"To create an enduring society, we will need a system of commerce
and production where each and every act is inherently sustainable and
restorative. ... Just as every action in an industrial society leads to
environmental degradation, regardless of intention, we must design a system
where the opposite is true, where doing good is like falling off a log, where
the natural, everyday acts of work and life accumulate into a better world as a
matter of course, not as a matter of conscious altruism."
The fairest and most effective way to
accomplish this goal, and to change people’s behaviors and habits is by
creating powerful motivations in the form of attractive incentives and
deterring disincentives. Let’s demand
that these incentives be well designed -- and let’s make sure they are
implemented sooner rather than later!
Save Ourselves by Saving the Planet
Kennedy, Jr. once pointed out the false dichotomy “between economic prosperity
on the one hand and environmental protection on the other.” He noted ruefully that we treat the planet
as if it were “a business in liquidation” by striving to convert natural
resources to cash as quickly as possible.
“Environmental injury is deficit spending”, he said. “It’s a way of loading the cost of our
generation’s prosperity onto the backs of our children.”
One need not be
an accountant to know that it is crazy to profligately squander assets instead
of investing in earning a sustainable stream of income to finance operations
and earn profits. Many corporate
gambits are unethical, especially those of private equity firms and “corporate
raiders” who buy undervalued companies to liquidate their assets and lay off
employees in order to make big short-term profits. The resulting harm is a socially unacceptable aspect of what
Naomi Klein writes about in The Shock
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
It seems apparent to me that, not only should we
be able to collectively afford to include the costs of reasonable environmental
protections in the prices of all products and services, we cannot afford not
to include them. Otherwise we will
continue to sacrifice the material and ecological foundations of future
well-being to goals that are disturbingly shortsighted. Since the trend in the past three decades is
for poverty rates to increase and the middle class to become less well off, the
majority of Americans cannot afford to pay higher prices for the things they
need, so it becomes an overarching goal for us to make sure the distribution of
wealth is broader and LESS CONCENTRATED in the hands of the richest few.
driving force behind increasing inequalities and intergenerational inequities
in our society is the unwarranted excessive influence of wealthy people and
multinational corporations. This
influence enables them to dominate our national policy-making and subvert
needed political reforms. Wealthy
people and the organizations that facilitate their abuses of power are also
driving forces behind wasteful consumerism and the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’
degradation of the environment. Our
national priorities are skewed by these forces, which deprive workers of
collective bargaining rights and allow our national infrastructure to
deteriorate, our military to overreach, and too-big-to-fail corporations to be
subsidized and bailed out at the public’s expense.
goal of wealthy people and corporate entities is naturally to secure for
themselves tax rates that are near the lowest levels since the late 1920s. They are doing this at the same time that
the U.S. government is setting record levels of national debt year after year
after year. To reverse these trends, an
overarching commitment is needed to a Bill of Rights for Future Generations.
People who are
enjoying really good fortune in their lives should not begrudge those who are
experiencing severe economic insecurities a little more security. This is an essential, empathetic, and deeply
human assessment. It is a perspective
so basic that it predates the development of the philosophy of ethics, and reaches
back to the impulses that led to religious mythologies, moral codes, cooperative
problem-solving, and social cohesion in human clan groups.
People on Easy
Street should not be allowed to pay historically low tax rates on the top
levels of their incomes, capital gains, dividends and inheritances. A more steeply graduated tax structure is
the only good source for financing things like a basic affordable social safety
net, universal healthcare, environmental protections and other programs
designed to create a fairer, better functioning, and saner society.
exploration of the principal reasons we need a Bill of Rights for Future
Generations provides a clearer understanding of this transcendent issue.
Citizens United against
the Citizens United Ruling by the
Several years ago, Professor Robert Reich weighed in about the dangers
of increasing extremes of inequality, a “perfect storm that threatens American
democracy: an unprecedented
concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money,
drowning our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical
about a government that is raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable
to get it back to work. We’re losing
our democracy to a different system.
It’s called plutocracy.”
rule by the rich, with political power controlled by wealthy people. The respectable journalist Bill Moyers warns
us about the dangers of allowing our democracy to be dominated by Big
Money. “Plutocracy and democracy don’t
mix,” says Moyers. And the Supreme
Court Justice Louis Brandeis provided Americans with a provocative perspective
when he said, “We can have democracy
in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,
but we cannot have both.”
the basic vehicles by which wealthy people gain the preponderance of Big Bucks
and benefits of our capitalist economy for themselves. Wealthy people and investors then use some
of the great wealth generated to mold public opinion, influence elections, and
lobby for greater advantages for themselves.
have managed, over the years, to effectively get a doctrine of “corporate
personhood” established. This doctrine
subverts Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th
Amendment and other rules by giving corporations the rights to enjoy the legal
status and protections meant for real human beings. These supposed “corporate personhood” rights allow big businesses
to evade the responsibilities of good citizenship by using their deep pockets
to radically influence elections, corrupt our laws, stack the courts with
ideological conservatives, and profit by taking unfair advantage of people,
depleting resources, and degrading the environment.
The abuse of
corporate power is a root cause of many of the daunting challenges that face
humanity. Our nation’s decision-making
has been allowed to be controlled and contorted by this narrowly
self-interested segment of society.
This trend is proving to be harshly contrary to the interests of the
American people. We the People should
emulate our honorable ancestors who wrote the Declaration of Independence and
the Constitution by placing greater value on good governance and responsibility
for keeping a positive legacy for people in the future.
“The political and commercial morals of the United States
are not merely food for laughter --
they are an
--- Mark Twain
Multinational corporations have narrow legal purposes, and so they are
amoral by design. They use three main
methods to drive shortsighted strategies on behalf of investors who want high
returns on their investments:
(1) They exploit and deplete resources as if there
will be no tomorrow;
(2) They privatize profits while socializing some
of their production costs, such as those related to workers and the
environment, by externalizing these costs onto the general public and all
people in future generations; and,
(3) They abuse their political power to get the
federal government to stimulate the consumer economy through deficit spending,
and to allow big businesses to minimize the taxes they pay, and they evade
sensible regulations and demand to be bailed out when their gambles fail.
The Citizens United ruling by the Supreme
Court in January 2010 was patently political and legally wrongheaded. This ruling has allowed the influence of Big
Money to become further entrenched in our political system, and it has
enshrined profits as more important than people, subverting hopes of achieving
greater good goals.
“I hate to hear people say this Judge will vote so and so,
because he is a Democrat -- and this one so and so because he is a
Republican. It is shameful. The Judges have the Constitution for their
guidance; they have no right to any politics save the politics of rigid right
and justice when they are sitting in judgment upon the great matters that come
--- Mark Twain, Letter to the Alta California, 1868
since John Roberts and Samuel Alito were appointed to the Supreme Court, the
five “conservative” members who formed a narrow majority on the Court (until
Antonin Scalia died in February 2016) consistently sided with corporate
interests against the people in its rulings.
In both houses of Congress, Republicans have been obstructing almost all
legislation that would give fairer representation to the people, and it is
really reprehensible that Republicans in the Senate have been refusing to do
their duty to replace Scalia. As a
result, a Constitutional Amendment is needed that would reform campaign finance
laws to reduce the overriding influence that rich people and big corporations
have in our political system. Such an
Amendment would reverse the Supreme Court’s rigid anti-democratic
interpretation of our Constitution that was evidenced by the Citizens United ruling. The time is NOW to act to return power to
Imagine the positive impact that could result if
millions of American citizens were to join a “We the People” Campaign and
signed this powerful pledge:
Independence from Corporate Power
pledge my support for America’s founding principle of government of, by, and
for the People. I believe that a
corporation is not a person, money is not speech, and corporate money should
not be allowed in our country’s elections.
pledge to work with other grassroots Americans for reforms that will free
today’s politics from the dominating power of what Thomas Jefferson called “the
aristocracy of our moneyed corporations.”
I encourage all
of my fellow Americans to set aside partisan biases that you may have, and hear what Bernie
Sanders said upon entering the race for president on April 30, 2015:
“The issue here
is the huge amounts of money that it takes to run a campaign today. I wonder now in this day and age whether it
is possible for any candidate who is not a billionaire or who is not beholden
to the billionaire class to be able to run successful campaigns."
This is a big problem
for Americans who cherish democratic self-government, and for hopes that any
electable presidential candidate can honorably espouse visionary long-term
greater good goals.
candidate Bernie Sanders declared on CBS Face the Nation that, if elected president, he would
have a litmus test for any new Supreme Court Justice. Any such
nominee that he made would need to support the overturning of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme
Court. I heartily endorse this notion,
because Bernie Sanders was right in pointing out the obvious:
decisions of the Supreme Court in the Citizens
United case and in other related cases are undermining the very foundations
of American democracy, as billionaires rig the system by using their Super PACS
to buy politicians and elections.”
encourage all Americans to consider the highly negative implications of giving
Republican politicians overwhelming power, and to ignore the blaring noise of
Big Money-fueled conservative spin in the 2016 elections. Reject these politicians’ bid for
uncompromising dominance! The next President will likely fill three or
four vacancies on the Supreme Court, and if Republicans were able to choose
more ideological conservatives, the Supreme Court could become a body
overwhelmingly reactionary and biased against the rights and prerogatives of
workers, women, minorities, and the vast majority of the American people.
Weigh In Some More, Mark
rascal Mark Twain lambasted the extremes of economic
inequality during the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century.
Such unjust conditions prevailed at the time that they were once
described as “the Great Barbeque". There was a deceptive appearance of
prosperity in that era because wealthy industrialists, financiers and ‘robber barons’ were indulging in
extravaganzas of conspicuous consumption.
Rich people dominated
American society and politics, and they corruptly used the power of their money
to put economic and political policies in place that allowed them to amass
great fortunes. They
tactically and sometimes violently suppressed worker organizations, causing
intense labor strife. Also, rich people
were able to gain most of the benefits of the economy for themselves because
federal income taxes had not yet become a permanent fixture of the U.S. tax
system. There were, in fact, no federal
income taxes until 1913.
Industrialists made huge profits in those
times without being required to share the bounty of their often ill-gotten
gains with society at large. Working
conditions were dangerous, worker security was almost unknown, and
environmental protections were all but non-existent. Industrialization and urbanization trends, however, were creating
very serious social and ecological problems.
between capital and labor has been one of the biggest stories ever since the
beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
This conflict led to the ideas asserted in the Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in
1848 (“Workers of the World, Unite!”).
This strife was the main driving force behind the unionizing era from
the late nineteenth century through 1980.
Unions and collective bargaining rights gave workers improved workplace
safety and the power to gain a share of the benefits derived from their labor
and productivity, and this movement helped create a healthy, growing and
socially beneficial middle class.
The social ills associated with unbridled
prerogatives of people with capital sparked the Progressive Era, a far-reaching
reform movement, in reaction. This
period of reform to the prevailing system of laissez-faire industrialization
lasted from the 1880s to the 1920s. In
response to serious problems associated with industrialization, the supporters
of the Progressive movement advocated a wide range of economic, political and
social reforms to improve working conditions and to reduce unfair competition
and corrupt practices.
One of the most important reforms was
designed to reduce monopoly interests by busting up large corporate ‘trusts’
like railroad conglomerates and big oil companies. More than 130 giant companies were ‘busted’ into smaller entities
to thwart the corrupting power and monopoly practices of businesses that had come
to dominate various industries. At the
same time, a number of vitally important government regulatory agencies were
Decades later, during the Great Depression,
the failings of capitalism became even more starkly apparent. Massive unrest resulted from the nation’s
most severe economic recession, which came abruptly in the footsteps of the
Roaring Twenties with its lavish consumerism, low taxes on the wealthy,
stimulated growth of a speculative bubble in real estate and stocks, and
flappers, Art Deco and the Jazz Age.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 ushered in this disastrous economic
Eventually, the political elite was forced
to allow policies to be implemented that created a social safety net and made
society fairer in many ways. These
policies helped build a larger middle class, and the concentration of income
and wealth became less extreme for the following 50 years.
The gap between rich people and poor people has again
been widening dramatically since 1980, largely due to regressive changes in tax
policies put in place by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Another “great barbecue” is going on today,
and it’s sure not all that “great” for the majority of Americans! The disparities of wealth between rich people and poor people today have grown
to be nearly as large as they were during the Gilded Age. The top 10% of people in California, for instance, saw their incomes
increase more than 40% from 1987 to 2008, while the top 1% earned 80%
more; but the bottom 60% of people
experienced a net decrease in their incomes of more than 10%. Since 2008, inequalities of income and
wealth have grown markedly more extreme and disproportionately beneficial to
the top 1%.
People who are
super-rich have been using the power of their money to pervert our democracy
into a plutocratic feast from which the majority of Americans are being
excluded. Workers are being squeezed,
with their incomes stagnating while many costs for basic necessities like
housing, healthcare, education, food, utilities and water are increasing. At the worst point in the recession, there
were more than 15 million unemployed Americans, out of a workforce of about 150
million people. Home foreclosures
reached an extremely high level. A
record number of homeowners were financially “underwater” due to bubble
economic policies that trapped them into negative equity positions in their
homes. Tax revenue declines, together
with the costs of the bloated military and entitlements for senior citizens,
have been the biggest contributing factors to record budget deficits. In the face of this reality, few politicians
are courageous enough to make fair-minded difficult choices, or to honestly
tackle extreme imbalances.
It is high time
that we cooperated together to achieve fair-minded goals, and to redesign our
system so that it works better for everyone.
Sacrifices are going to have to be shared by all. Highly compensated people and investors and
rich people must contribute the most because they receive the lion’s share of
the income and benefits and privileges in our society.
admitting the truth of this characterization, “conservatives” in Congress are
trying to slash spending on public education, infrastructure investments,
environmental protections, public broadcasting, family planning, and programs that
help women and children and poor people.
These opportunistic politicians are striving to reduce regulations on
banks and other corporations, and to further weaken the power of workers by
eliminating collective bargaining rights.
Public workers in Wisconsin and Ohio attest to these facts, their
influence having been emasculated by Republican politicians. Congressional Republicans have voted more
than 60 times to effectively take away healthcare coverage (“Obamacare”) from
increasing numbers of people, now nearing 20 million.
all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and
--- Martin Luther King Jr.
industry groups and lobbyists are fighting tooth and nail to stop the
Environmental Protection Agency from protecting clean air, clean water and a
stable climate. This attempt to undermine the greater good was supported by the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which differs markedly from local chambers of
commerce because it is financed by giant corporations. More than 50% of the budget for the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce comes from just 16 giant companies.
problems are exacerbated by regressive changes in taxation that have reduced
revenues the government receives by cutting taxes on high incomes, capital
gains and inheritances to nearly the lowest rates in 85 years. Simultaneously, the share of the national
budget that corporations have been required to pay has been reduced by 60%
since 1960. Sixty percent less! What a deal.
the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, less than 11% of total federal
revenues were collected through corporate taxes between 2000 and 2009, in
contrast to almost 30% of revenues collected through corporate taxes in the
1950s. This shift in taxation from
corporations and wealthy people to working people, and to all people in future
generations by means of deficit financing, is the result of outrageous systemic
corruption. This misguidance is
irresponsible to society and the common people.
development comes at a time when corporate profits in the
United States are the largest ever in history. This is an obscenely
unfair state of affairs. The interests
of our children and all of our descendants in future generations are being
sacrificed to give ever-larger benefits to the Few. The lives of tens of millions of Americans are being figuratively
burned to a crisp in this “disaster capitalist” barbecue. The USA today is clearly
engaged in a race to the bottom that benefits the few on top at the expense of
the vast majority of Americans. This
sustained headlong rush to pander to those who already have the most perks and
power is characterized by wrongheaded assaults on worker pay and benefits, and
on environment protections. The results
are a social and ecological disaster to the people in our diminished democracy.
We have gotten
into this predicament because we have allowed our politics to be
corrupted. It reminds me of a
thought-provoking political cartoon that shows two guys in a prison cell, with
one saying, “I followed accepted marketing strategies, but I strayed from
generally accepted accounting principles.”
When a new
proposed international trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations was being
pushed in Congress for “fast track approval” in May 2015, some observes said
that it would be like the NAFTA agreement on steroids. Elizabeth Warren sensibly suggested that the agreement should not include the “Investor
State Dispute Settlement” process that could allow foreign investors to sue
governments over what they consider unfair treatment, so that “unfair
treatment” charges could be invoked to knock down legitimate regulations that protect
workers and public safety and the environment.
pamphleteer Thomas Paine published his carefully considered and passionately
expressed treatise Common Sense in
January 1776, adducing his reasons why a nation subject to colonial mercantile
exploitation and taxation without fair representation and other forms of
tyranny should throw off the yoke of the despotic government of British King
George III. Thomas Paine published his revolutionary
ideas anonymously because their content was treasonous at the time from the
perspective of the British.
soon thereafter declared independence from the oppressive rule of the British
Empire. They embraced the radically
progressive principles of the Age of Enlightenment on July 4, 1776 in the
Declaration of Independence. Hear their
“We hold these
truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights,
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the
consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes
destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish
it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles
and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to
effect their Safety and Happiness.”
These words in
the Declaration of Independence were followed by an interesting list of
particular offenses that so seriously provoked the liberty-loving American
colonists in those days. Today, we are
experiencing a new but similarly oppressive form of tyranny. This new kind of power abuse is being
perpetrated by a tiny minority of Americans who have huge amounts of money that
they are using to exert an outsized influence on our national priorities. Many of them are among the richest 1% of the
people, who possess more than 40% of the nation’s wealth. And an even longer list of specific wrongs
can be adduced today that are being foisted on our society by these few who
control our economic and political systems.
challenges are discussed at length in this manifesto, which is the Common Sense manifesto of modern times.
accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary in the same
hands -- whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary,
self-appointed, or elective -- may justly be pronounced the very definition of
James Madison, Federalist Paper 47
Think about this
quote, and then consider the sobering fact that Republicans today control the
U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, and an ungodly proportion of them
are so ambitious and unethical that they want to see D.J. Trump become
president, despite Trump’s demagogic, divisive, dangerous and economically
bankrupt tax plans and con man tactics.
They thus want a temperamentally unfit and bizarrely unhinged character
to be the kingpin of a new potential overriding tyranny. Reject the rascals, I say!
The Risks of
a prominent American journalist, made a sensational point in April 2011 in an
article titled The Peasants Need
of a classless America in which opportunity is equally distributed is the most
effective deception perpetrated by the moneyed elite that controls all the key
levers of power in what passes for our democracy. It is a myth blown away by Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz
in the current issue of Vanity Fair. In an article titled Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%, Stiglitz states that the top thin
layer of the super wealthy controls 40 percent of all wealth in what is now the
most sharply class-divided of all developed nations: “Americans have been watching protests against repressive regimes
that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet, in our own democracy, 1% of the people
take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income -- an inequality even the wealthy
will come to regret.”
Hanauer wrote a thought-provoking article in 2014 that provides a similar
perspective (paraphrased a bit for relevance):
frankly to each other. I’m not the
smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student.
I’m not technical at all -- I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart from others, and helped
me become a billionaire, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what
will happen in the future. Seeing where
things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?
I see pitchforks
(stereotypical weapons carried
by angry mobs or peasants enraged by gross injustices).
At the same time
that billionaires are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history,
the rest of the country -- the 99.99 percent -- is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots
is getting worse really, really fast.
In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national
income. The bottom 50 percent shared
about 18 percent. Today the top 1
percent share about 20 percent; the
bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.
But the problem
isn’t that we have inequality. Some
inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at
historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and
more a feudal society. Unless our
policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be
back to late 18th-century France.
Before the revolution.
So I have a
message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble
worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.
If we don’t do
something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are
going to come for us. No society can
sustain this kind of rising inequality.
In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated
like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I
will show you a police state. Or an
uprising. There are no counterexamples.
It’s not if, it’s when.
Less than two
years after this article was written, anti-establishment fervor broke out in
the 2016 presidential primary elections.
These are the
reasons that I believe that an exceedingly convincing case an be made for making
modestly larger investments in “social insurance policies” that give wealthy
people increased protections against the mounting dangers of social unrest
associated with rising inequalities and increasing anger and desperation in
America. The best form of financing
these policies is not by adding to the national debt, but by assessing higher
tax rates on the highest levels of incomes.
“There are really two Americas, one for the
grifter class, and one for everybody else.
In everybody-else land, the world of small businesses and wage-earning
employees, the federal government is something to be avoided, an overwhelming,
all-powerful entity whose attentions usually presage some kind of financial
setback, if not complete ruin. In the
grifter world, however, government is a slavish lapdog that financial companies
… use as a tool for making money.”
Taibbi, Griftopia: Bubble Machines,
Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America
The Big Picture
and the Bottom Line
through my consciousness like flurries of snowflakes falling from a fulsome
sky. Often when my thoughts are not
focused on the follies and absurdities of human behaviors and activities here
in the second decade of the 21st century, they observe thusly: “Yay for good
fortune! We live in a bountiful world,
and rich experiences are widely available.
A big yay f or rich experiences!”
rich experiences, along with the leisure time, material goods and personal
health that can make them more easily accessible, are being greedily and
jealously hoarded by those who feel entitled to abuse their power to gain as
much of a monopoly on these things as they can. Unempathetic attitudes like this are often ruthlessly
mean-spirited in their practical impacts.
They cause undue hardships and stresses in the world, and undesirably
provoke frustration and anger. These
attitudes carry the foolhardy risk that eventually they may stoke intense
social strife and a revolutionary zeal may arise that would be particularly
dangerous to the privileged. The
populist Occupy movement and reactionary Tea Party and the rise of powerful
anti-establishment sentiments are manifestations of this destabilizing unrest.
It is for a very good reason that the Preamble to
the U.S. Constitution asserts that “We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal.” One main
purpose of government should be to help ensure that all people are accorded
“certain unalienable rights”. Fairness
is a cornerstone of democracy. Many
different interest groups naturally want to grab bigger shares of the extensive
benefits of economic policies for themselves rather than accepting a fairer
distribution of them to the majority of people. To fairly balance this aspect of our natures with overarching
social and moral goals, we need to cultivate empathetic understanding and enact
smarter national policies.
Empathy is at
the center of human values, and true morality is grounded in empathy. Morality is found as much in empathetic
understanding as in reason, and much more fundamentally in ethical empathy than
in righteously moralizing religion.
Linguist George Lakoff points out that the neural circuitry of our
brains is wired for perceiving the emotions that others feel. This is the biological basis for
empathy. Empathy is of great value in
social groups because it allows us to connect with others, and to a wider
appreciation of the world. The natural
companion of empathy is responsibility for helping others, not in taking advantage
of them or harming them.
It would be
advantageous, in the aggregate, if we redesigned our societies to ensure that
the potential for positive experiences and economic security are shared more
broadly, and to make sure we also ‘pay forward’ a fair legacy to future
generations. What would the character
of this fairer legacy be? For one, we
should not wantonly deplete natural resources.
Secondly, we should not overly degrade natural ecosystems. We should act to prevent the extinction of
other species of life, instead of continuing to rapaciously destroy habitats,
slaughter wildlife, and disrupt climate patterns and cause ocean acidification
with uncontrolled emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We should insist that our societies be governed
more fairly, and effectively, and in a reasonably frugal manner.
We should strive to
see that our state and federal governments, and governments worldwide, allow a
maximum of personal freedoms for all people while at the same time ensuring
that prosperity is more fairly shared, and that desperate poverty is
alleviated. Young people and everyone
in future generations should be assured that their prospects will not be
overwhelmingly compromised by short-term-oriented expediencies that pander to
those with the most power, influence and money.
While we are at it, we
should create a Department of
Peace with a mission to help foster international peace. A Cabinet-level Secretary of Peace should be
appointed to demonstrate a new commitment to the causes of conflict-resolution
and international cooperation and peaceful coexistence with other peoples. These commitments would help us achieve a
truer kind of national security.
to fair guiding principles are needed so that we have a better chance of
achieving big-picture goals that advance the longer-term greater good. A Bill of Rights for Future Generations
would help provide our societies with this overarching guidance. Fairer societies will be healthier
societies, in a physical sense as well as in psychological and spiritual
senses. This is one reason our
principal national goal should be to make our societies fairer.
Instead of helping
accomplish greater good goals, many of the people who dominate our politics
cling passionately to their ideologies and work tirelessly to make our
societies ever-more UNFAIR to the vast majority of people. They do this to get bigger benefits for
themselves and their benefactors and financiers. Our economic and political systems are primarily oriented to
allowing such corrupt dealings, so radical reforms are required. We need to reduce the overbearing influence
of rich people and corporations on our legislatures and the Executive Branch
and federal courts.
“We shall require a substantially new manner
of thinking if humanity is to survive.”
--- Albert Einstein
Enormous obstacles confront us in this
quest for intergenerational fairness.
At the top of the list of these obstacles is the obstruction of progress
and reforms by established interest groups that are powerfully vested in
maintaining the status quo. These words
are focused on the overarching importance of promising reasonable rights and
prospects to people in future generations, as well as to taking steps to create
greater social justice for Americans who are not in the top 1% today.
Fairness: A Golden Rule Necessity
sensibilities have been upset by the glaring growth of economic inequalities in
the past 35 years in the United States.
The fervor of my outrage has been stoked by the fact that the policies
that have helped create this state of affairs are unnecessarily unfair. The ideals of our Founders are being
betrayed by the ruling class in our country so that wealthy people are able to
get more and more of the benefits produced in our capitalist economic
system. My maternal and humanistic
intuitions are offended at this betrayal of ideals, and even more so by this
very real betrayal of the interests of young people and those in future
The wealth gap between older and younger
Americans has widened sharply in recent years, according to an analysis by the
Pew Research Center. People over age 65
saw their net worths increase on average by 42% between 1984 and 2009, while
those in the 35-to-44 age group had their net worths decrease by 44% and
those younger than 35 experienced a decline in their net worths by 68%.
Attention! Read that last
paragraph again. Mark Twain is often
credited with having declared that there are three kinds of lies: “lies, damned
lies, and statistics”. This observation
generally describes the potentially persuasive power of numbers, particularly
when statistics are used to bolster weak arguments. But it does not take a great amount of perspicacity to see the
damning implications of these statistics in their practical impacts on people
in our society. Even more damning is
the cause of this trend.
The policies that have enabled this trend
are a form of intergenerational warfare that is another aspect of the class
warfare waged by the richest 1% against the other 99%. Such widening economic inequity represents a
pathetic misallocation of our national resources to old people instead of
investing in younger people. If we
could extrapolate this trend and measure the gap between the relative prospects
of people alive today and those of all people to be born in the next 50 years, we
would find a similar and even more startlingly extreme trend of growing
inequities. This is a principal reason
that we need a Bill of Right for Future Generations!
the interests of young people and those in future generations, and the
hardships that result from this consequential scam, have been facilitated by
the corrupting influence of Big Money in our elections and in the halls of
Congress. The corporate-controlled
media is partially responsible for this situation because it has too often
served as a propaganda organ for greedy interests and the extreme right. Big Media has given these special interests
the ability to unfairly influence our national political debate by
manipulatively engineering consent and using misinformation and deceptive spin
to mold public opinion.
the increasing concentration of the media in recent decades have resulted in
more than 80% of all radio stations, television stations, cable networks, and
newspapers being owned by a very small number of massive corporations. With this status, it is not surprising that
our democracy is careening off the rails!
Since the two primary purposes of the U.S. Constitution were to create
a national framework for democratic fairness and to prevent the usurpation of
power by either a despotic few or by the federal government, it is bizarre that
we find ourselves today with the most unfair distribution of wealth in 85
years. It bears repeating: Rich people have collectively abused the
power that comes with great wealth by getting politicians to give them tax
rates that are near the lowest since 1928 on income, capital gains, dividends
class has furthermore managed, in a very real sense, to steal more than $18
trillion from future generations in the past 35 years by means of the fiscally
irresponsible expediency of deficit spending.
The confirmation of this contention is found in national debt
statistics. In 1980, just before Ronald Reagan took office, the
national debt was less than $1 trillion.
By August 2016, it had exceeded $19 trillion. (To see the spiraling costs of this debt, and the even more
rapidly increasing level of unfunded government liabilities, search the
Internet for “National Debt Clock”.)
If a law had been
passed in 1980 that required a balanced federal budget, thereby prohibiting
this $18 trillion increase in the national debt, it would have been necessary
to control government spending more rigorously AND continue to assess marginal
tax rates at high levels like those in effect from 1936 to 1980. Instead, Ronald Reagan slashed these rates
from 70% to 28% between 1981 and 1988, and as a result we have unwisely
mortgaged the future to give this windfall to rich people.
To begin to correct this rash intergenerational transfer of wealth, and
to prevent the rash inequities that accompany it, we should undertake a bold
course of action. We should reform our
tax system to make it more steeply graduated.
Robert Reich recommends revising the income tax
rates to 70% on all portions of anyone’s incomes that exceed $1 million per
can be heard muttering in the heavens.
Thunderbolts strike trees, which smolder in consequence. The wealthiest 1% of people are outraged by
ideas like this. But it is an integral conclusion of these
observations, nonetheless, that
we must create a more progressive system of taxation. It is not at
all true that there are no good ways to reduce budget deficits. It is simply that widespread conflicts of
interest exist, and hardly anyone is willing to compromise in a fair-minded
manner, particularly not those fortunate enough to earn huge incomes. Issues are very complex, but excellent ways
exist to fix these problems. 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.
Essentially, to be
successful in changing our tax structure to make it fairer to the vast majority
of Americans, new legislation must
be put into effect to change the status quo by reforming the “multi-trillion
dollar influence racket” of our national political system.
A good first step to
accomplish this goal would be to enact a well-designed Fair Elections Now
Act. Stunningly, at a public campaign financing cost of $5 billion
dollars in the 2012 national elections, we could have saved hundreds of
billions of dollars per year in taxpayer funds squandered on corporate
welfare, corrupt deals, military misappropriations, no-bid contracts, misguided
earmarks, banking excesses, bailouts, and low marginal tax rates for the
highest income earners. This would be
the best return on investment for the vast majority of taxpayers that they will
ever see in their lives -- and this, just from such a simple change!
Simple, that is, except
for one menacing obstacle: plutocrats.
People of the World,
Unite! We cannot afford to let our
societies fall apart, particularly when the remedy that is most easily
affordable would affect people to whom the burden would be the least
cumbersome. Republicans say remedies
like this are “politically impossible”.
But one certainty in the world is that things change; and big changes come about when they become
needed in an urgent enough way. This
time is rapidly approaching in the United States!
faith-embracing Tea Party conservatives to stop gullibly buying the snake oil
that the Koch billionaires are selling them about the merits of making more tax
cuts for the wealthiest 1%, and I evangelically advise them to join
progressive-minded people who see the heavenly illumination that a better
America is a less inegalitarian one that invests in the general welfare of all
Americans, especially including the well-being of younger people and all those
to be born in the future.
Let us demand
that our representatives take into account fairness toward future generations
in all the public policy decisions they make.
All economic and political equations should factor in long-term impacts
on people and the natural world. These
are the basic ideas behind my advocating that we make an overarching commitment
to people in the future by ratifying a Bill of Rights for Future
Generations. Let us make a courageous
and honorable determination to do this!
A Perspective of Martin
Luther King, Jr.
realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
--- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Point taken, Dr. King,
with heartfelt appreciation to you and your philosophic soul mates for such
sentiments! I don’t want to quibble,
but the arc of history is, in the long run, toward one of a terminal destiny
for every individual living thing. In
the interim, during our individual times alive, it behooves us to enjoy life as
much as possible, and we are best advised to seek meaningful connections and
fair-minded involvements. But
meanwhile, many factions seek to bend the arc of our national policies toward
special deals for themselves that can wreak injustices on the masses, so we
need to be eternally vigilant and proactively involved to prevent this
hijacking of social justice. And we
should never forget to honor our transcendent responsibility to play a fair role
in leaving our human heirs a planet on which natural resources and ecosystems
are not too severely compromised.
Economies of Scale
It is stunning to realize that there were less than 3 million colonists
in America in 1776. Many of them were
sufficiently outraged at what they regarded as British tyranny that they
willingly risked their lives and fortunes in the cause of gaining national
independence. There are now more than
321 million people in the United States, and the glaring extent to which the ruling
class is depriving the majority of these people of fair dealings is arguably
even more extreme than was the case during British colonial days. This essay analyzes the nature of this
economic exploitation, and explores modern issues that involve even more
leaders were courageous men with great ideals, for the most part. After throwing off the yoke of British
oppression, they united to create a new kind of federal government that was
designed to prevent future despotism. They wrote a Constitution that
brilliantly set forth the purposes and method of organization of the federal
government. We can take pride in the
fact that our Constitution is the oldest written constitution still in use by
any nation in the world today, other perhaps than the one in effect in the tiny
Republic of San Marino in northeastern Italy.
created a clever system to balance power between the Executive, Legislative and
Judicial branches within the federal government, and between the Federal
Government and the various States.
Every system, unfortunately, can be gamed and held hostage for the
advantage of greedily shrewd and unprincipled people.
In the past three
decades, a new form of divisive economic exploitation has gained ascendancy.
The new despots in charge have built a political coalition of rich people and
social conservatives and religious fundamentalists to achieve rigid,
domineering and self-serving goals.
These unprincipled privileged people use misleading propaganda and the
unfair influence of Big Money in our political system to create a new variety
of political oppression that jerry-rigs the economy of the nation and the world
to benefit an extremely small proportion of the populace at the expense of the
corruption gives the rich many benefits at the direct expense of people in the
future, so it is an epic form of treachery.
It is extraordinarily inegalitarian, sensationally unfair, and immorally
unjust. It is a form of insidious
warfare against the greater good. In
many ways, it is an assault against economic stability, responsibly balanced
budgets, intelligent investments, social fairness, peaceful coexistence and
ecologically sane precautionary principles.
This new tyranny
adversely affects the vast majority of Americans alive today, and billions of
people worldwide. This makes it a far
more odious form of treachery than the British tyranny of 1776, which adversely
affected only 3 million colonists. This
new system of tyranny is being perpetrated not by a King, but by a small cabal
of rich and powerful people who control the economy by legally bribing
politicians and getting corporate shills appointed to the nation’s federal
courts and the Supreme Court to do their bidding.
Concerning the Extension of the Regressive Bush Tax Cuts
The need for a
Bill of Rights for Future Generations became startlingly clearer in light of
the tax “compromise” that President Obama and Mitch McConnell came up with in
December 2010. This was a compromise
that extended the regressive Bush Tax Cuts for two more years at a cost of an
estimated $858 billion. The entire cost
of this overly generous deal was borrowed, adding to our national debt.
disproportionately large portion of the $858 billion benefitted the 1% of
Americans who have the highest incomes and largest net worths. This profligate generosity is absurd in
light of the fact that the U.S. today currently has historically low tax rates
on income and capital gains and inheritances for multi-millionaires and
Such borrowing is a gimmicky, shortsighted
expediency that allows us to irresponsibly avoid making difficult choices and
trade-offs that a balanced budget would necessitate. It is an undisciplined course of action, and because of its
essential intergenerational treachery, it is a dastardly form of tyranny. We must stop mortgaging the future to give
benefits to rich people today!
Make no mistake
about it. This state of affairs is
absurd precisely because of our overwhelming national need for investments in
better education, social well-being, research and development, physical
infrastructure, and environmental protections.
We also have a compelling international need for investments in peaceful
coexistence, environmental justice, and efforts to mitigate climate
How could we have allowed inequalities in
income and wealth to become the most extreme they have been since the Roaring
Twenties while allowing rich people to pay the lowest tax rates in
generations? How can we let our
national infrastructure crumble around us merely to ensure that those who are
already wealthy get richer? Mark Twain would have unleashed a cynically
sardonic salvo of invective at such a frankly foolish lack of credible
consideration for the greater good.
“Something is fishy here. It looks like an Inside Job!”
--- The underground Mole
It is a wrong-headed priority to allow the
perpetuation of regressive changes in taxation that are being preserved
here. And it is a misguided national
policy to be so conveniently undisciplined as to facilitate the on-going risky
fiscal expediency of allowing the national debt to increase year after year
We need to honestly face the difficult
decisions that need to be made. The
best footing upon which to make tough choices is to understand problems from
the most comprehensive and inclusive possible perspective, and to be guided by
“Government must give priority to the needs of
ordinary citizens, workers, consumers, students, children, the elderly, 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)
What’s It All About, Alfie?
“I’m going to level with you. I’ll tell it to you straight. We are facing far-reaching challenges. We don’t need a one-party plan; we need an inclusive plan. We need plain brown wrapper ideas, not
fancy, complicated, gimmicky ones. We
need to avoid evasion and obfuscation.
We don’t need polarization and partisanship; we need collaboration and cooperation for the larger good.”
Governor Jerry Brown, to the L.A. Chamber of Commerce (paraphrased)
It is a
corruption of the purposes of government to facilitate ever-increasing extremes
of inequality in our societies. The
U.S. has the biggest income inequality of all nations in the developed
world. Is this civilized? Over the past 35 years, this measure of
disparity between rich people and poor people in the U.S. has increased at a
rate in excess of that found in most other nations of the world. Why is this trend toward the increasing
concentration of wealth taking place?
contribute to income inequality, as discussed in books like Professor Larry
Bartels’ Unequal Democracy: The Political
Economy of the New Gilded Age. A
significant reason for this anti-egalitarian trend is to be found in public
policies that determine taxes as well as the amount of spending on education,
public health, and social safety net programs.
Republicans generally are strongly opposed to policies that would reduce
income inequality, like increases in the minimum wage. Professor Bartels concludes that “economic
inequality is, in substantial part, a political phenomenon.” Thanks a lot, guys!
ideological arguments are made in opposition to policies that “redistribute
wealth”. Conservatives tend to dismiss
egalitarian efforts to increase equality by labeling them as being “socialism”,
as if they are some sort of abstract but distinctively threatening force. Liberals point out that without fairer
public policies, the real redistribution of wealth is one that concentrates
wealth upwards. “Trickle-down”
economics has resulted in the gushing up of wealth into the hands of a small
minority of the Few. This outcome is enabled
by a suspiciously unfair “choreography of American politics” in which
inequality is stoked to feed into political polarization, and polarization in
turn creates policies that further increase inequality. Ouch!
policies” are discussed in the book Polarized
America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches. Increasing inequality means that most people are becoming
less financially secure. This increase
in insecurity, in turn, creates economic instability. The greater good of
society is strongly correlated with fairer policy-making and fiscally sound
planning, not with initiatives that encourage economic booms and busts and
increasing concentrations of wealth in the hands of the few.
Having a lot of
money buys not only a relative freedom from economic insecurity, but also a
bigger variety of choices. When wealth
is highly concentrated in a society, it tends to concentrate not just money but
the keys to variety and financial security and freedom. A sufficient excess of money also buys
power, and power gives those who wield it with aggressive ruthlessness an
ever-greater concentration of wealth at the expense of all others. Conservatives like billionaires David and
Charles Koch and the Waltons and the Sciafe family and the Coors family are
prominent among these abusers of power.
The tragedy is that to accomplish their achievements and make more
money, they resort to curbing workers’ rights and externalizing some of the
costs of their business activities onto society.
Read Jane Mayer’s
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the
Radical Right for an eye-opening understanding of how these wealthy people have
distorted our national decision making.
Constitution and laws that govern us should rightly treat each person
fairly. The people who have the most
power and influence in our country must be firmly steered toward dealing more
fairly with others. At a time when the
challenges of governing human affairs is pregnant with overarching global
implications, those who have the most influence and the most money must be
responsibly required to contribute according to their capabilities.
benefit the most from the way our society is structured should be required to
contribute commensurately with their wealth to environmental protections and
the maintenance of our national infrastructure and a more generous social
safety net. These people should not be
allowed to abuse their influence to gain an ever-greater proportion of the
benefits of our economy. They should be
prevented from grabbing expanded prerogatives to exploit our rigged political
system for narrowly selfish advantages, particularly now, when the need to
invest in healthy and sustainable courses of action for the greater good is
growing so imperatively clear.
A National Addiction About to Hit the Wall
States is addicted to deficit spending like a junkie to heroin. The withdrawal symptoms associated with
going “cold turkey” would be really ugly, so the chances of us balancing the federal
budget anytime soon are slim, despite the vociferous proclamations of the Tea
Party and the sober warnings of fiscal conservatives and the dawning common
sense realizations of the American public.
Who are the
pushers who have helped enable this dangerous addiction? FOLLOW THE MONEY! In general, the responsible parties have been lobbyists and
apologists for rich people, and ideologues, and operatives in right-wing think
tanks, and others who distort facts and deny the truth. A comprehensive list would be very long, and
it would include the expensive efforts of the Obama administration to stimulate
the economy during the 2008 recession and its aftermath.
Bush’s administration would be prominent among those responsible. It admonished and later fired its economic
advisor Larry Lindsey for giving an estimate during the run-up to the invasion
of Iraq in September 2002 that the war could cost up to $200 billion. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed
his estimate was too high, calling it “baloney”. It is now expected that the eventual cost of this war will be
more than 15 times as much, or more than $3 trillion.
facilitators of deficit spending are proponents of
laissez-faire capitalism and “trickle-down” propagandists and “supply-side
economists” who claim that tax cuts for rich people will stimulate the economy
enough to cause total tax revenues to increase. What really happens when taxes are cut is that revenues generally
decrease, deficits increase, and the stability of the system can be put at
Congress is also culpable for making
deficits worse by spending wastefully.
It allowed a pay-as-you-go law to expire in 2002, a misguided action
that has helped facilitate a rapid increase in the national debt since that time. Republican efforts to sell the Medicare Prescription
Drug Act to legislators in 2003 featured a deliberate and scandalous
underestimation of the cost of this new entitlement program in order to get
enough of our Congressional representatives to vote for it. Drug company profits have increased
substantially since then, while federal budget deficits have ballooned, because
the plan was designed to maximize prices for drugs that the companies were
selling, increasing drug company profits while dumbly preventing the federal
government from negotiating volume discounts on drug prices.
And economic stimulus programs and huge
government bailouts were necessitated by the credit crisis of 2008 and the
ensuing recession. This has
dramatically worsened the debt problem.
The list goes on and on and on.
and propaganda battle associated with efforts to wean ourselves from this
dangerous addiction are intense. The
unintended consequences of our undisciplined and weak-willed inability to
responsibly manage our affairs will have far-reaching detrimental impacts on
people in the future. This issue is
explored in depth in Earth Manifesto essays like Existence, Economics, and Ecological Intelligence. But let me make one thing perfectly clear
here: we are deceiving ourselves to
think we can fight trillion dollar wars without paying for them. And we are
being stupid to continue to let rich people pay historically low tax rates,
financed by borrowing money, without expecting extremely high costs to be incurred.
will likely eventually be found in higher interest expenses, and also in slower
future economic growth and an eventual spike in inflation. It could also come in the form of a severe
economic shock that would profoundly affect the lives of most Americans and our
overall well-being and standard of living.
The people of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Britain are
already paying the piper for similarly foolish enormous amounts of debt financing
and consequent austerity politics. We
would be wise to seriously reform our econopolitical system before our debt
addiction reduces us to similar levels of desperation and austerity measures
and social unrest.
and mayors in local communities, and city and county supervisors, and state
officials and governors are all dealing with the challenges posed by shortfalls
in their budgets. These financial
challenges were made worse by the 2008 credit crisis and the recession and
volatile property values. Then there
are high costs of needed investments in repairs and maintenance of the nation’s
infrastructure. And look here! Hugely inadequate funding of liabilities
loom for government commitments to employee retiree healthcare and pension
challenges are complicated by the growing strength of anti-tax sentiments among
taxpayers, particularly by those in the political donor class who have been
required to pay a larger share of the tax burden in the past and who could most
easily afford to do so today. These
vested interest groups are not required to pay more, predictably, because the
representatives they have bought with their political contributions give
outlandish preference to their selfish priorities.
Horse Trading and Hostage Taking
Rich people often
demand that our representatives not give benefits to anyone without getting
even larger perks for themselves, and they have the power to secure these
advantages. The only way, for instance,
that President Clinton was able to increase the minimum wage from $4.25 per
hour to $5.15 in 1996 was by coupling the law with a variety of big tax breaks
for banks and the wealthy. Bill Moyers
noted with understandable cynicism that: “In Washington D.C., you can’t even
give working people a modest raise without giving big contributors a windfall.”
2010 said: “You want to extend unemployment benefits for a whole year for
millions of people adversely impacted by the credit crisis and the economic
downturn? No way! That would cost too much. Not on your life! Deficits are evil. We’re
against them. Well … unless, of course,
you are willing to come up with $100 billion for business tax breaks and $200
billion for lower taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Americans. Say, I think we have a bipartisan deal in
the making here!” And the fat cats
added, “This is the best deal you’re going to get, you can trust us on that!”
Republican in the House of Representatives said that the December 2010 tax
compromise represented “a bipartisan moment of clarity.” Clarity?
I think clarity would include concern for, and insight into, the
unintended consequences of this action on future budgets and future
generosity to the wealthy was made starkly more extreme by the Bush tax cuts of
2001 and 2003. These initiatives
reduced taxes in a significantly regressive way to primarily benefit rich
people and big corporations. As a
result, the wealth of rich people has gotten much larger while the fortunes of
almost all other Americans have stalled in limbo. The Big Lie of “trickle-down theory” has been exposed, for very
little has trickled down to the vast majority of Americans in the past three
decades of stagnating wages and high rates of inflation for many costs of
living. This is a dramatic contrast to
the 30 years from 1950 to 1980, before the “Reagan Revolution”, because in that
earlier and fairer period, workers saw their average earnings increase very
economic fundamentalists, social conservatives and people in right-wing think
tanks have been pushing the story since 1980 that big government is the source
of all our national problems. But an
honest understanding reveals that an even bigger problem is the selfish abuse
of power by the superrich and the privileged class at the top. These people have rejected fairly-shared
prosperity in order to get expanded prerogatives. The time has come today for the privileged class to be held accountable
for this domineering despotism! The
time has come to hold the top 1% responsible for helping make our societies a
little fairer and a bit more egalitarian.
What has Congress
done instead? In a
counterproductive and inegalitarian development, Republicans in the House of
Representatives pandered to their richest friends in America by voting in April
2015 to repeal the federal estate tax entirely. This tax law change, if approved by the Senate and President
Obama, would have given the richest two-tenths of 1% of Americans an average of
$3 million in reduced taxes after they die. This giveaway would add more than $250 billion to the national
debt over the next 10 years. That crazy
idea is now being fervently pushed by Republican aspirants for the White House
and Congress in 2016.
Examining Some Important Lessons of History
The legendary historians Will and Ariel Durant
spent decades of their lives studying thousands of years of the history of
civilization and writing an eleven-volume Story
of Civilization. Then they
distilled down the insights they had gained from this extensive study of world
history into a momentous and brilliantly concise book, The Lessons of
History. One lesson they discovered is that there is
a natural tendency in human societies for wealth to be increasingly
concentrated in the hands of small groups of privileged people, and that this
trend occasionally reaches a critical point where either sensible legislative
redistributions of wealth must be enacted (like progressive tax reforms), or
else exacerbated conflict and occasionally even violent revolutions take place
that generally destroy wealth rather than providentially redistribute it.
Today, We the
People are finally getting really frustrated and angry at the domination of
our economic and political system by excessively selfish greedy rich
people. The Occupy movement and
subsequent growing anti-establishment fervor are an expression of this
anger. It would be smart for the
wealthiest 1%, and better for the national security of everyone, if the rich
were to responsibly act like wise rulers who compromise “while the getting is
good”, and act with greater fairness, and show better stewardship of the
natural resources our civilizations depend upon, and show more concern for
investments in the greater good. The
richest 1% should agree now to higher marginal tax rates to help finance the
good causes that need strong support.
Let these observations be a shot fired across the
bow of our privileged-class-dominated ship of state. “Stand and Deliver!” Mark
Twain was once accosted with these words by a gang of robbers who held up a
stagecoach in which he was riding one cold night on his way to Virginia City,
Nevada. Let us collectively demand that
the wealthiest 1% of Americans “Stand and Deliver”. Let’s also make greater commitments to collectively create fairer
societies and more equality in education, job opportunities and universal
healthcare. Let us demand initiatives
that will give fairer representation to 99% of Americans, and make justice more
equal for all. And let us find ways to
mitigate the exploitation of people in the future by today’s frenzy of the few
to gain more money, possessions, perks and power.
Since governments derive their just powers from
the consent of the governed, We the
People must withhold our consent from the corrupt state of the status
quo. We arguably need First Amendment
remedies to national problems, so I heartily encourage every American to speak
out forcefully for fairer policies and the greater good!
Moving Forward for the Greater Good
Hope springs eternal, and well it should. Life can be filled with marvelous
experiences, and the world is an extraordinary place with much beauty and
Hope springs eternal because each of us individually, and all of us
collectively, figuratively stand in every moment at a juncture in the woods
where two paths diverge. We are faced
with a choice of traveling one way or the other, and thus we have an
opportunity to make choices that can make a remarkably positive difference. As poet Robert Frost wrote in The Road Not Taken (paraphrased): “Knowing how it is that way leads on to way,
I doubt if we shall ever come back.”
Now is the time for us to make the best choices
for the greater good as a matter of responsible conduct, right understanding,
and sensible direction. Social justice
and environmental justice are matters that should transcend politics,
partisanship and propaganda. Greater
fairness and Golden Rule considerations are not some God-dispensed grace or
mere utopian ideal, nor do they rely on belief in any deity. And they are certainly not some sort of
reprehensible socialist dogma.
The Golden Rule
actually has roots that grew long before holy books were written. Its tenet of “doing unto others, as you
would have them do unto you” is a principle born of empathy and the
evolutionarily adaptive advantage of social cohesion. It is an insight of reason, and of an innate sense of empathetic
fairness. Treating others fairly is a
kind of social intelligence, aesthetics, and even of fundamentally hygienic propriety
analyzed the motives for our failure to do good in his thought-provoking book The Aristos. He noted that most people fail to do good, despite the fact that
“almost every great thinker, every great saint, every great artist has
advocated, personified and celebrated -- or at least implied -- the nobility
and excellence of the good act as the basis of the just society.” Fowles concluded that there is a functional quality of doing good that is
a form of right action, and that it is characterized by what he describes as
basic acts of hygiene, rather than
shallower motives of gaining recompense or pleasure or self-esteem for good
actions. He essentially asserts that we
should collectively take actions against injustice and inequality in our
societies as a matter of functional right-doing and the public health and the
greater good, not just merely as a means for getting personal rewards.
“Over the last two hundred years there has been a
great improvement in personal and public hygiene and cleanliness; and this was largely brought about by
persuading people that the results of being dirty and apathetic in the face of
disease were not acts of God, but preventable acts of nature; not the sheer misery in things, but the
controllable mechanisms of life. We
have had the first, the physical, phase of the hygienic revolution; it is time we went to the barricades for the
second, the mental. Not doing good when
you usefully could is not immoral; it
is going about with excrement on the hands.”
--- John Fowles, The Aristos
Yuck -- that metaphor is disgusting! But, then again, the set of unethical
behaviors and unfair attitudes that it refers to are markedly worse. Let us seek to understand this observation
in practical terms. It is a basic
aspect of the human condition that we are NOT all created equal. Each of us is born with different individual
abilities and circumstances. This
lottery at birth is a ticket, for better or worse, to material and emotional
and spiritual rewards -- or adversities -- later in life. The rightful purpose of government should
not be to encourage the fortunate to leverage their advantages to the distinct
detriment of all others.
can involve degrees of mischaracterization that are sometimes grotesque. There are many generous and wonderful rich
people. As with any group, it is almost
always a small number of the members of a group who can give the entire group a
negative image. Billionaires David and Charles Koch, for instance, act with
zealously self-interested ruthlessness, and they demonstrate dramatically more
greed and anti-worker, anti-environmental attitudes than other sensationally
more fair-minded billionaires like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Soros, or
‘greedy’ and ‘mean-spirited’ may sneak into these Earth Manifesto observations
in the passion of the moment, but let me make one thing perfectly clear. These words are not meant as personal
insults or mere hyperbole. When the
power affiliated with Big Money is abused to radically skew benefits to special
interest groups, and to create public policies that are contrary to the
interests of the vast majority of Americans, passionate expostulation is an
appropriate and possibly effective means of motivating people to support
understanding, to be redundantly clear, is that Big Money wields unconscionably
unfair influence in making decisions and formulating policies in the USA. Wealthy people have been abusing their
influence and insidiously undermining our democracy, and this influence is
having consequences that are socially and environmentally disastrous. As a result of the ruthless and regressive
ratcheting up of the recklessly domineering power of Big Money, marginal tax
rates on the highest levels of incomes have been reduced to nearly the lowest
level in generations.
In the process,
wealthy people have managed to get policies put into place that have achieved
three highly undesirable things:
(1) They have engineered the theft of more
than $18 trillion from the American public and future generations, as explained
(2) They have insidiously squeezed workers,
and then squeezed them some more, again and again, and again, with the negative
outcome of radically increasing income inequality and disparities in wealth and
economic insecurity of the overwhelming majority of Americans; and,
(3) They have wreaked
reprehensible harm on the environment, and torpedoed initiatives that would
have protected the public from the ramifications of these activities.
There are deep structural problems in our public
policies and wasteful programs in our economy, along with these unfair
influences by a wide range of constituencies.
But bigger dynamics
are also at play. Giant multinational
corporations are moving jobs abroad to take advantage of cheap labor
overseas. At home, technological
innovations and ruthless management actions are eliminating jobs to increase
profits. And the power of anti-tax and
anti-government fervor has grown overly strong.
Some people are
more fair-minded than other people, and more generous in nature and magnanimous
in spirit. Those who abuse the power of
their influence may just be doing what almost every self-interested person
would do if they had the same power:
strive to get more advantages and perks for themselves. It is apparently beyond our collective
capabilities, within the context of the current economic and political systems,
to limit the influence of these various constituencies, and to thus create
So, the best course of action is to require every person who makes out
like a bandit, by whatever means they succeed in this, to contribute a bigger
percentage of the higher levels of their earnings, on a more steeply graduated
scale, to the financing of our societies.
make more than $1 million per year achieve this great monetary success in a
wide variety of ways. The people who do
this include corporate executives, bankers, hedge fund managers, real estate
developers, big investors, speculators, inheritors of vast fortunes, Hollywood
stars, and those who have impressive skills in professional football,
basketball, baseball, golf, boxing, NASCAR racing and other sports. Bravo for their success!
sorry! The top 2% of income earners and
wealthy people must be required to take a breather for a while and stop
pressing for ever-increasing advantages in their relentless crusade to gain
more and more money to get more power for themselves at the expense of all
others who have less money and influence.
It may be self-righteously self-interested extremists like the
billionaire Koch brothers who spearhead efforts to get taxes reduced for those
who earn high incomes, but all people who earn more than $250,000 in any given
year are big beneficiaries of those efforts.
So all of them should be required, willingly or not, to contribute more
to the greater well-being of our societies.
The Fairness Doctrine in the Media
Listen for the truth underlying these words. Media matters. Big Media
is often in cahoots with those who scheme to help entrench the unfair status
quo. About 85% of all television
stations and radio stations are owned by fewer than a dozen giant corporations. Republicans have been making concerted
efforts for decades to eviscerate the counterbalance that public broadcasting
provides to this dominating control of the media by giant corporations.
One reason these politicians are doing this is
seemingly to cynically undermine people’s understanding of true causes and
effects of public policies. Outlets
like Fox News prefer unbalanced reporting, divisive spin, and biased “arguing
heads” rather than objective, fair-minded reporting. Conservatives appear to want a conforming electorate rather than
a free flow of fair-minded ideas.
Perhaps they want broadcasting to be used principally to disseminate
propaganda, rather than to responsibly provide more accurate and meaningful
A free press is
critically important to an honest understanding of issues, so it is crucial to
the fairness and vitality of democratic governance by the people and their
representatives. One main reason that debate in our nation has become so
sharply partisan and so intensely contested, and so filled with antagonism, is
that mainstream news has become biased, unbalanced and sensationalistic.
once observed that a marked atrophy of the civic sense in ordinary
people is strongly correlated to “an asphyxiating smog of opinions foisted on
them by society.” He wrote these words
long before partisanship became as extremely polarized as it has become in the
past few decades. Today, the smog of opinions
and propaganda and marketing that envelops us has only gotten denser.
developments are correlated to the termination of the Fairness Doctrine in the
media. The Fairness Doctrine was a
Federal Communications Commission policy for almost 40 years from 1949 to 1987. The policy required radio and television
stations to present controversial issues that are important to the public, and
to do so in a manner that is honest, equitable and balanced.
used an Executive Order to abolish the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. This ending of fairness-oriented broadcast
rules has had the negative effect of reducing open and free debate, and of
suppressing a balance of diversity in viewpoints expressed. Reagan’s order also had the effect of giving
more influence to conservatives on talk radio shows and of helping enable the
rise of Fox News, which has become a media arm of corporate interests and the
Republican Party. This, in turn, has
given more power to extreme views like those opposed to fair reforms of our
financial system and our healthcare system.
And it has undermined the social insurance policies found in the current
social safety net.
Fairness Doctrine, scientific understandings have been denied scheming
spokespersons for socially irresponsible corporations have tried to prevent our
representatives from taking responsible environmental actions to address
far-reaching problems like that of human-exacerbated global warming and climate
disruptions. Big Money has been allowed
too much influence to use the airwaves and ballot initiative processes to
further narrow goals. The lack of a
fairness doctrine has contributed not only to unbalanced and deceptive
reporting, but also to dishonest journalism, and an overly heavy influence of
Big Money on reporting related to controversial issues. This distorts people’s thinking, and
contributes to support of wrong-headed ideas by millions of people. It also lends support to regressive,
retrogressive, wrong-way-Charlie reforms to our out-of-whack economic and
A more diverse
media ownership is needed, along with strong protections of a free press. Today’s ownership of various broadcasting
outlets is already too dominated by big corporations. Publically-supported broadcasting is needed to provide a
counterbalance to the corporate slant of the news and its propaganda and
shallow entertainment aspects. An
increase in minority ownership of print media and broadcast outlets would also
help ensure the news is more honestly and fairly portrayed.
Republicans have tried for decades to cut funding
for public broadcasting television (PBS) and public radio (NPR). The simple fact of the matter is that
viewers and listeners can trust the news on public broadcasting services much
more than news and content provided by stations like Fox News. Public broadcasting also provides
substantially better programming on public affairs.
Congress attempted to cut $430 million from public
broadcasting in early 2011. This would
have had the negative effect of disproportionately impacting small communities
and rural television and radio stations, because these outlets rely on the
services provided by public broadcasting for much larger percentages of their
budgets than stations in urban areas.
By bankrupting rural news outlets, a further undesirable concentration
in the media would result.
The trend in recent years toward the increasing
concentration and consolidation of the media in large corporate outlets serves
to thwart unbiased reporting and reduce the valuable diversity of opinions. We
are being distracted from focusing on important issues by sensationalistic
reporting and slanted opinions and shallow entertainment values of corporate
broadcasters. Public broadcasting is
important because without it there would be fewer entities that would explore
local issues or focus on truly vital public interest problems.
don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own!”
--- Wes ‘Scoop’ Nisker
An old Chinese
blessing/curse goes, “May you live in interesting times.” For better or for worse, we sure do live in
real interesting times! A sense of
curiosity about the true nature of our times is a positive quality, so let’s
explore the nature of this reality.
Let’s honestly assess the preponderance of the evidence to see if it
suggests any even relative truths.
Let’s develop more expansive worldviews!
Are You Joshing Me?
A famous scandal took
place in the 1880s that involved a counterfeiting operation in which 1883
Liberty Head V nickels were gold-plated and passed off as five-dollar gold
pieces because the U.S. Mint had inadvertently failed to include the word
“cents” on them. A deaf mute named Josh
Tatum was one of the principal perpetrators of this scam. He was apprehended and prosecuted for the
fraud along with others, and while the others were convicted, Josh Tatum never said
they were $5 gold pieces (because he was a deaf mute) and he merely used them
to make small purchases of less than a nickel and then accepted the change, so
he was found “not guilty” of the most serious charges against him. This episode was the source of the saying,
“Are you joshing me?”
Josh Tatum had been gilding
the nickels to give them a false appearance of being $5 gold pieces. It is not too big a stretch to say that a
Gilded Age is an era that is given a tawdry patina of prosperity by those in
power, even though it is an age of desperate conditions for millions of
people. It is reprehensible for those
with vast fortunes to turn their backs on society by obstructing fair-minded
reforms during times of such inegalitarian extremes. It is wrong for the 1% of Americans who have more than 40% of all
the wealth in our nation to refuse to pay a larger share for military costs and
prisons and environmental protections and costs of dealing with social ills
associated with unbalanced economic and political systems. Such attitudes by wealthy people are
objectionable because they are a form of harsh “tough luck” hubris, of “you’re
on your own” anti-social avarice, of sociopathic selfishness, and of a lack of
basic ethical individual responsibility.
Politicians play a perverse game when they favor
those with Big Money. This is a modern
expression of the strife between capital and labor. By allowing the nation’s wealth to be ever-more concentrated in
the hands of the few, power and influence are concentrated in the hands of
those whose goals undermine the middle class and disempower the vast majority
of Americans. A litany of new ills is
being foisted upon Americans and future generations in these efforts by greedy
super-rich people to gain more and more and more of the benefits of the economy
The destitution of the
masses in America is being engineered by aggressive industrialists like the
billionaires David and Charles Koch. These powerful partisans are in cahoots
with amoral profit-obsessed corporate entities, and bought-and-paid-for
politicians and even a narrow 5-4 majority of corporate apologists on the
Supreme Court (from 2006 until Antonin Scalia died in February 2016), all of
which collaborated to perpetuate this abuse of power.
The majority on the high court included John
Roberts, Samuel Alito, and -- mum’s the word! --
Clarence Thomas! These Justices seem to
hold the opinion that We the People
are mere rabble in the shadows of the wealthiest Americans, and these Justices
treat the elite as the most deserving people, the noble rich, the first-class
citizens, the cream of society -- like privileged new robber barons of the
twenty-first century. While the rich
are paying the lowest tax rates in generations, due largely to the excessive
political power of pandering and misguided “conservatives”, the need is
unprecedented for investments in public policies that are more socially just,
and for better and more affordable public education, and for environmental
protections, cleaner water, greater commitments to cleaner renewable sources of
energy, and initiatives designed to prevent too extreme a destabilization of
the climate. Perhaps it would be
inconvenient for the super-rich to be deprived of the power to dominate our
politics, but the time has come that we simply must have fairer representation
so that we can create more just laws and broader enforcement of these better
The American people
are being treated as second-class citizens, subservient to moneyed interests
and to socially irresponsible giant corporations. Our freedom, our well-being, our democracy, the life support
systems of the Earth, and the prospects of all those yet to be born are being
sacrificed on the ideological altar of a hypothetical superiority of the
prerogatives of moneyed interests over workers and the larger community.
For these reasons, we
need political reform NOW. We should be
working together to create a Golden Age of peace and fairly-shared
prosperity. A true Golden Age would be
characterized by social justice and enlightened support for maximizing personal
freedoms and human potentials, and it would be a responsible age of humanistic
fair-mindedness, ecological intelligence, and overarching commitments to the
long-term greater good. It would not be
gilded with false appearances, but would focus on true justice and the best
ways of achieving peaceful coexistence.
It would involve a revival of broad-minded learning, and of artistic and
intellectual accomplishments, and of enthusiastic dedication to humanitarian
Instead of moving in
this laudable direction, an increasingly unfair nation is being created that
features obscenely-growing disparities between wealthy elites and tens of
millions of others who suffer from insidiously-growing financial
insecurity. This may ephemerally seem
like a Golden Age for the super-rich, but it is an age in which opportunities
and financial well-being are unequal and unfair, so change must come!
strident developments took place in Wisconsin in February and March of
2011. A better understanding of these
conflicts is illuminating. Collective
bargaining rights give organizational power to workers to negotiate better
wages and benefits and working conditions.
More power often results in abuses of power, and sure enough, some
unions are involved in serious issues like pension spiking, teacher tenure
inequities, large unfunded liabilities for retirees, and other challenges
related to compensation for public employees.
Pension reform is, in fact, becoming urgently necessary.
should be no doubt about the fact that the real bulwark of power in our
capitalist economic system lies with capital, not with labor. The most outrageous abuses of power are
being perpetuated by bankers, corporations and rich people, NOT by
workers. One result is that union
participation in the private sector has been eviscerated, declining from a peak
of 36% of workers in 1945, and more than 25% of all workers between 1945 and
1975, to less than 7% of all private sector workers today.
Intense discord took place in Wisconsin over
rights of public employees to use collective bargaining. Curiously, the budget for the state of
Wisconsin was on track to record a surplus until the newly-elected Republican
Governor Scott Walker signed two new business tax breaks into effect that
reduced overall tax revenues and created a fiscal crisis. Having helped create a budget deficit, the
Governor then used the funding shortfall as a justification to advance an
agenda of cutting the compensation of public employees and busting unions and
crushing the rights of workers to organize.
And having supported tax cuts for millionaires and
billionaires, he then turned his focus to reducing salaries for teachers and
slashing funds for public education while giving well-to-do people vouchers for
was scammed by a telephone caller who misidentified himself as one of Walker’s
biggest financial supporters, the arch-conservative billionaire David
Koch. Walker told the prank caller that
this is a defining moment in history similar to the time in 1981 when his
anti-union hero Ronald Reagan fired 11,345 striking air traffic
controllers. Ian Murphy, the liberal
editor of Buffalo Beast website, was
the man who made this call to Governor Walker in the middle of the acrimonious
conflict in Wisconsin over the right of public employees to use collective
David Koch was
one of the biggest contributors to Governor Walker’s election campaign, so the
Governor talked on the phone to the impersonator in a very chummy tone for 20
minutes. He made some embarrassingly
candid remarks to the man he thought was his patron. Walker stated that he would continue to refuse to negotiate or
compromise. He even indicated that he
had thought about planting troublemakers in crowds of protestors.
referred to State Senator Tim Cullen as the “only reasonable” Democrat, “but
he’s not one of us”. Cullen is not, in
other words, a member of the corporate rich people’s club -- people who claim
they know exactly what’s right for public policy. Tim Cullen is one of fourteen Democratic members of the state
senate who actually resorted to fleeing the state for several weeks in 2011 to
delay the Republican majority from railroading through anti-union legislation.
Workers in the
private sector have had their benefits frozen or reduced to a much greater
extent than public sector employees.
They have been subjected to stagnating wages, longer working hours,
significant increases in healthcare costs, and heightened job and retirement
insecurity. Millions of them have been
laid-off. A primary reason that
employees in the private sector have been subjected to such adverse developments
is that unions in the private sector have been crushed by the power of giant
corporations in the past 35 years.
Curiously, Republican strategists and exploiters have used the
grievances that have resulted from these ploys to blame liberals and grab more
power, with the intention of doubling down on these hardship-imposing
tactics. This is grotesquely
Ohio is another state
where Republicans have tried to drastically limit the bargaining power of
unions and public workers like firefighters, police officers and teachers. In the November 2011 election, voters
handily rejected a law passed by the Republican establishment that would have
curtailed collective bargaining rights.
The widespread unrest
that is affecting authoritarian regimes in the Arab world proves that when
nations do not deal fairly with the causes of deep discontent, they become more
vulnerable to political chaos. Many
nations are beset by outraged citizens because they have failed to address
extreme social disparities of class and privilege, high rates of unemployment,
a lack of fair economic opportunities, high costs for necessities, a lack of
fair representation, and corruption in the government that enables these
developments provide Americans with a stark lesson as to the inadvisability of
failing to adequately deal with our own unemployment and underemployment
problems and healthcare injustices and high costs for housing, energy and
nutritious food. This is a cautionary
tale to those who oppose fair-minded reforms and fairness of opportunity and
collective bargaining rights for working people.
Valuing Social and Environmental Justice
The desire for respect and approval is one of the
defining yearnings in human relationships.
One of the central convictions of my personal worldview is that a
society should cultivate a reasonable modicum of fairness and social justice so
as to create a healthy and adequately harmonious and secure social group.
People tend to have longer individual lifespans in
societies that are more fair and egalitarian in the opportunities they provide
and in their systems of healthcare and legal justice. This makes it wise to support progressive policies that are focused
on Golden Rule fairness, for such policies are the best ways to ensure that
greater good goals are achieved. Such
policies are the best means to institutionalize greater equality, justice and
respect for individuals.
The famous writer and philosopher Ayn Rand
maintained a perspective that was passionately contrary to this one. She felt that titans of industry deserve all
the money and power they can get. She
thus contended that societies should allow such individuals an unalloyed
freedom to gain and enjoy the fruits of their accomplishments. Her ideals of selfish individualism,
rational self-interest, materialistic gains and hard work were stridently
opposed to what she regarded as ‘collectivist’ notions.
Actually, I am not intimately familiar with the
whole scope of Ayn Rand’s intellectual philosophies. But I do know that they have been powerfully influential with
people like Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve regulator who basically opposed
effective regulation. Rand’s
convictions seem strange because she regarded laissez-faire capitalism and
defiant individualism as the only moral
system. She felt that the economy
should be organized in ways that minimize government rules. She believed that rationality, free will,
logic, productivity, property rights and the narrow self-interest of individuals
should be paramount.
The merits of Ayn Rand’s worldviews are undermined
by undesirable effects of extreme inequalities created in capitalist systems,
and by the overriding absurdities involved in systemic schemes that increase
profits by socializing costs. By
foisting costs onto everyone, the prospects of people in future generations are
jeopardized. More money is given in
“welfare to the rich” than in welfare for the poor due to the lopsided
distorting effects of political power and influence.
Ayn Rand’s belief in the virtue of selfishness, and
her unremitting hostility to taxation and the state, are simply absurd in light
of the exigencies that face humanity today.
I believe that the political sentiments found in the Earth Manifesto are
more sensible and hopeful for a propitious future. The proverbial “social contract” requires every individual to be
more responsible to the societies in which they live. We simply must create effective incentives that motivate every
person to act in ways that are a bit more consistent with fairer outcomes for
society as a whole.
Glaring unfairness in the economic system of the
United States was documented in the 1963 report by the Commission on the Status
of Women, which had been empanelled by President John F. Kennedy. This report provided a cogent understanding
of how systemic injustices and inequalities come to dominate, and thereby
refute extreme stances on intellectual ideals like those that Ayn Rand held
economic and political systems fairer for the vast majority of people is the
best plan from the standpoint of the whole of society. Our national goal should be to actualize the greatest good for the
greatest number of people over the longest period of time. This means that instead of putting public
policies into place that continuously increase the disparity in income and
wealth between older people and younger people, and between rich people and
poor people, we should act to ensure that these gaps are actually made smaller.
is the cornerstone of a healthy democratic republic. More unfairness is dangerous, so it is NOT in the best public
interest. Public policies should be
changed to ensure that the benefits of economic activities are fairer to the
vast majority of workers, as well as to the countless number of our heirs who
will follow us.
To Have or Not to Have, That Is the Question: Gimmickry or Wise Priorities?
Federal and state
budgets should express properly weighted priorities of the aggregate values of
the people. Fatefully, they do
not. Budgetary decisions are perversely
distorted by the undesirable and excessive influence of the wealthy. Deficit spending makes this misguided
tendency worse by allowing avarice driven, materialistic, and anti-empathetic
values to dominate. The protectors of
the established order are stubbornly intransigent, and public officials often
recalcitrantly oppose reforms because they are part of this order. Some of the privileged are cold and arrogant
in their greed, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, as if their hearts had been
hardened by long winters of traditionalism and socially reactionary opposition
to fairer attitudes.
Gimmickry dominates our public decision-making and
budgeting. We seek easy answers and
half-baked solutions and engage in shortsighted expediencies. We live in a short-attention span, simplistic-sound-bite,
bumper-sticker-sentiment society in which the average person Twitters more
frequently than they write a heartfelt letter or read a good book.
Donald Rumsfeld once wrote a ‘snowflake’ memo to
himself in which he noted that “bumper sticker statements” should be used to
rally public support for unpopular wars.
I assert that we need deeper and wiser understandings of issues, not
merely slickly manipulative bumper sticker sentiments!
We could do much better. Let’s
start by simplifying our laws, and making them fairer!
“I do not feel obligated to believe that the same
god who has endowed us with sense, reason and
intellect has intended us to forego their use.”
--- Galileo Galilei
after these words were written, Trumpism burst on the scene, and the
exploitation of people’s fears, insecurities and antagonisms has made stupidly
simple ideas seem even more dangerous than before.
An Aside on Peaceful
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was a revolutionary call to arms. The Earth Manifesto, in contrast, is a call
to revolutionary social change through peaceful action. Some of the greatest philosophers and
activists the world has ever seen have been proponents of non-violence and
commitments to making positive change in their societies. Think of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther
King, Jr., and Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. These are true heroes of humanity. Most religious traditions preach non-violence, but many religious
establishments nonetheless often hypocritically join with oppressive governments
to effectively oppose fair-minded and salubrious changes in social policies.
King, Jr. once convincingly expressed the feeling:
that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and not concerned about
the city government that damns the soul, the economic conditions that corrupt
the soul, the slum conditions, the social evils that cripple the soul, is a
dry, dead, do-nothing religion in need of new blood.”
The changes we need are bigger than
economic and political ones. The global
challenges that face humanity today require extensive changes in the habits and
behaviors of all people. It is clear
that human drives and propensities do not change much over time, for they are
basic aspects of human nature, but our habits and behaviors are quite malleable
and can be easily influenced by incentives.
One need go no further for proof
of this contention than to a local retail clothing shop with a big red 50% Sale sign in the window to
see how eagerly consumers respond to targeted incentives.
points out in the Introduction to his book, Change
of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us about Spreading Social Change: “If we want to change society, the only
way we can do so is by changing the attitudes and behaviors of human
beings.” As indicated previously, the
fairest and most effective way to change people’s behaviors is by creating
powerful motivations for them to change, in the form of attractive incentives
and deterring disincentives. “Let’s
design these incentives well, and do it soon!”
wrote in her book America by Heart that
there is a “shameful tendency on the left not simply to declare their opponents
wrong, but to declare them evil.”
People “on the left” point out that this tendency is most often
characteristic of people who believe in Manichean worldviews of absolute good
and absolute evil. Curiously, Sarah, it
is people on the political far right who have the strongest tendencies to cling
stubbornly to self-righteous dogmas and simplistic black-and-white
interpretations of issues. It is people
on the far right who cling to worldviews that regard their in-group as being
the only good one, while others are condemned as evil.
declares that Hillary Clinton is unfit and “a monster.” This example of psychological projection is
transparently preposterous, and points to his own much more devilishly unfit
Folks like this
fall into the folly of “seeing one’s own sins in others”. They criticize others for having tendencies
of which they themselves are guilty.
This is often true of religious fundamentalists and of people on the
extreme right in general. Such skewed
perceptions are a form of misunderstanding with deep psychological
underpinnings, which spring, perhaps, from a lack of self-awareness, or from
feelings of paranoia, persecution, anger, inadequacy or insecurity. Repressed desires may even be involved. But whatever their source, such attitudes
reflect a sprawling kind of hypocrisy.
I’ll have to read Idiot America
again to see if the book provides any clues to why people act the way they do. Ha!
“Sarah Palin: Excellent argument for separation of church and brain.”
--- Denis Leary (Ho, Ho, Ho!)
In the parlance
of the Bible, we need to inspect the logs in our own eyes before attending to
the splinters in the eyes of others.
The ideas in the Earth Manifesto have been scrubbed to make them more
scrupulously fair; this is an on-going
challenge of objectivity, with perhaps only moderate success on my part. I hope others will strive for similar
A Prelude to
Calls for Action
One of the precautionary principles of intelligent
action is to choose the best option, whenever faced with uncertainty in the
future. In other words, the best choice
is generally the one that leaves the most options open. It is highly incautious to choose courses of
action that foreclose many other potentially good options!
the United States advocate austerity measures because of rising national debt
and revenue shortfalls related to low tax rates on those who can afford to pay
them. Such austerity measures may well
prove to be extremely shortsighted. Nearly
half of the police force and about one-third of the firefighters of Camden, New
Jersey were laid-off in January 2011 to balance the budget. While many people may begrudge the high pay
and benefits of public servants and first responders, there must be a better
way to balance our institutions than by endangering the citizenry! (How about sensible pension reform?)
Listen. The issue of skyrocketing U.S. national debt
in the past few years is made even more risky by the fact that the percentage
this debt represents, relative to the Gross Domestic Product, has been
radically increasing. In 1980, federal
debt was about 35% of GDP; this ratio
is now about 100% of GDP. It is risky,
indeed crazy, to put policies in place that allow this to happen!
It is downright stupid to borrow money from future
generations to squander it on short-term oriented expediencies. Even assuming that we will never pay back
any of the principal borrowed, the obligation for interest costs on all
borrowed money adds up to more than 100% of the amount borrowed every 18 years,
over and over again, indefinitely, assuming a very low long-term average of
just 4% interest cost on federal debt.
From this perspective, it is even more foolish to incur large amounts of
deficit spending for non-productive purposes, and it is really a bizarre “plan”
to allow the rich to get us to borrow money to let them amass larger fortunes!
Mark Twain once satirically stated: “It could
probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native
American criminal class, except Congress.”
Woe is us! Too many of our representatives
lie to us about their principles, and betray our best interests once they are
in office. They allow our national
priorities to be profoundly perverted by our pay-to-play political system and
the excessive power of the “complex” of military, industry,
banking, Congress, corporations and big media interests.
principles are required. New guidance
for sensible national priorities is needed.
Yep! -- We need tax policies that are more progressive, and a commitment
to a far-reaching Bill of Rights for Future Generations! As Martin Luther King, Jr. once observed,
positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the
question, “Is it popular?” But
Conscience asks the question, “Is it right?”
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither
safe, nor politic, nor popular, but it must be done because Conscience tells
him it is right.”
Jesus must have
been really riled at rich people, for he told a rich man that he should help
the poor,. supposedly saying, “it is
easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to
enter the kingdom of God.” Today, the
cavalier attitudes of the wealthy, when combined with the domineering influence
of giant corporations and their amoral and narrowly-focused purposes, make our
society even more ruthless, unempathetic and uncompassionate. Our societies reek of mindless self-serving
mean-spiritedness and plenty of criminal negligence of greater good goals.
does create exceedingly odd bedfellows!
When Bible-thumping social conservatives throw in with the wealthiest
Americans, something strange is going on.
Absurdity reigns when conservatives are against conservation, and when
religious fundamentalists join those who stand staunchly against initiatives
that embody Golden Rule fairness.
Absurdity is ascendant when people deny that human activities are disrupting
Earth’s climate, and they thus stand resolutely in opposition to scientific
understandings and precautionary ecological principles. It is not at all acceptable for our
representatives in Congress to give lip service to fiscal responsibility while
enacting policies that are fiscally and socially and environmentally
I once watched the film What Would Jesus Buy. The film brings home the point that
consumerism is a rather insane approach to meaningful and healthy living. Thanks, Reverend Billy and the “Church of
Stop Shopping Choir” for your over-the-top entertainment and poignant
insights! Check out Profound
Psychological Perspectives and Prescriptions for Trying Times to find an incisive discussion of the
motives that drive mindlessly compulsive buying and high levels of consumer
debt and other such materialistic foibles.
It is precisely
because human nature does not change, and because selfish avarice is
widespread, that we need to re-design our economic and political systems to
fairly prevent corporations and rich people from unduly taking advantage of
everyone else. We can no longer allow
big corporations to externalize so many costs onto society, and we can no
longer afford to let investors gain big profits at the expense of the greater
The number of
unethical scams that are being perpetrated upon the nation, and the world, at
any given moment is beyond counting, and beyond knowing. In addition to corporate abuses of power,
there are Ponzi schemes, embezzlements, investment scams, mortgage frauds, monopoly-pricing practices, price
fixing, cheating on Medicare billings, contractor over-charging, money
laundering, tax evasion scams, thefts by con artists, counterfeiting, insider
trading, pyramid schemes, pension spiking
by some retiring public employees, fatal Black Widow intrigues, scheming uses of tax-advantaged
philanthropy, dark money abuses of influence, war services overcharging, and
many other fraudulent and unethical activities.
American Greed is a CNBC program narrated by Stacy Keach that is in its tenth season
in 2016. The segments profile the dark
side of American profiteering, as reflected in a wide variety of scams that are
being perpetrated upon the public. The
program is intriguingly titled The Scams,
the Schemes, the Broken Dreams: Some People Will Do Anything for Money. They sure will, and sure do!
But make no
mistake about it. The harm caused by
these numerous egregious instances of greed pales in comparison to the corrupt
practices by giant corporations that involve tax evasion and the externalizing
of costs onto society of pollution, harms to workers, environmental
degradation, and rapid resource depletion.
“Small-potatoes” criminal activity is overshadowed by banking
shenanigans and systemic frauds that cost trillions of dollars in bailouts and
manipulations in the markets for unregulated derivatives. Even more insidious intergenerational
inequities exist in the form of the deficit financing of wars and social
programs and the underfunding of overly generous entitlements and the
assessment of historically low taxes on the highest levels of incomes.
The inflation of
the real estate bubble and its subsequent collapse in 2008, along with the
entire mortgage-backed securities debacle and the resulting credit crisis and
economic recession, are merely a few of the most blatant and harmful of these
scams. This economic disaster was,
sadly -- because it could and should have been prevented -- an Inside Job.
Another Interesting Perspective from John Fowles
Aristos, John Fowles expresses an opinion that there is an “alarming growth
of both national and individual selfishness”, and that this condition has been
caused, in part, by a growing awareness that each of us has only one life to
live, and that death will be the definite end for every individual, and that
dying will involve a complete termination of our consciousness as well as our
Some people fervently contend that
selfishness is good in many respects.
They enthusiastically reassure us that this is surely true, despite
significant numbers of instances in which this cliché is blatantly and
Every tick-tock of the clock brings each of
us closer to our final moment alive.
All of us have an indeterminate length of time to live, and at the
moment that each of us individually expires, the world will then be inhabited
by every person still alive, and all other animate members of species of life
that have survived extinction until that date. It is highly probable, but
certainly not certain, to assume that none of us will be the last ones of our
species to survive on Earth. In any
case, it is our responsibility to help ensure that the legacy we leave will be
a propitious one, and not one that seriously diminishes the prospects of our
descendants to be able to survive and lead good lives.
In some senses, each of us has an earlier
expiration date than our deaths. We will all no doubt get to the point
where, like the brilliant Voltaire in his old age, we will be content to
proverbially appreciate tending our gardens.
In the mean time, a little positive and honorable social activism,
ideals of our political system are being undermined by people with Big Money
today. This source of unwarranted
influence dominates our decision-making and controls and dictates our national
policies. Our system is one of
excessive lobbyist influence and institutional bribery, of too-big-to-fail
banks, Big Oil, Big Pharma, the Military-Industrial complex war machine,
sprawling Homeland Security, a multi-trillion dollar “war on terror” and a
multitude of intelligence agencies engaging in clandestine activities. And of the socially irresponsible National
Rifle Association and widespread ownership of guns and assault weapons, and a
hyper-costly war on drugs and prison guards’ unions and corruption in
Washington, D.C. Etc., etc.!
This system is
costing us far too much, and in too many foolish ways. When Mark Twain cynically stated, “We have
the best government money can buy”, he recognized that government and industry
were even then too wasteful and inefficient, and that an enormous premium is
paid for the privilege. Two of our
primary social institutions -- corporations and governments -- have created an
unholy alliance that is unacceptably unfair and that encourages an “ethical
rot” in Washington D.C.
system is broken primarily because Congress has become a multi-trillion-dollar
influence racket. Private Big Money has
broken it. Our economy is rigged, and
it is requiring large amounts of public money and borrowings. We should get the public big money from
those who have private Big Money, rather than from their victims, i.e. working
stiffs and ordinary taxpayers and people in future generations. Once again, it seems obvious that we need to
stop blatantly saddling people in the future with enormous debt and interest
expense obligations just to let rich people pay historically low tax rates.
The December 2010
tax compromise between President Obama and Mitch McConnell was a form of
tyranny that is extremely unfair to people in the future because it constitutes
an irresponsible exploitation of those who will follow us. Since that compromise basically compromised
the well-being of our heirs by borrowing an estimated $858 billion in just the
first two years, it was a radical political expediency fraught with myopic
shortsightedness. This tyranny arises
because of self-centeredness and undisciplined greed and anti-democratic
Franklin D. Roosevelt once pointed out the pathetic nature of such
gambits. He stated: “The malefactors of great wealth have
concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other
people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor, and other
people’s lives.” For rich people, this
is a game not only about money, but also control, power, unbridled ambition,
ego, protected privileges and indulgent dominion. But it is a pathetically rigged game that extensively and
adversely affects the lives of millions of honest hard-working Americans.
Thomas Piketty in
his epic tome Capital in the Twenty-First
Century adduces convincing evidence that the capitalist system will
continue the on-going trend toward increasingly concentrated wealth and power,
unless smart remedies are implemented.
And Bill Moyers
asserts that there is “a widespread recognition that unaccountable authority
and cutthroat capitalism will not produce a fair and just society.” He concludes that it is time to fight the
good fight and “to make the crooked ways straight …”
“An imbalance between rich and poor is the
oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”
--- The Greek historian Plutarch, in the
first century BCE
As the Year 2011 Progressed, Absurdities Escalated
Investors in the U.S. have been seriously
celebrating the rebounding success of giant corporations in being able to make
bigger profits. The recession of 2008
had crimped the power of workers to gain wage and benefits increases, and this
improved the corporate bottom line and the fortunes of CEOs and rich
investors. But it did so at the expense
of millions of laid-off workers. This
marvelous outcome was effectuated to the detriment of millions of people who
lost their jobs and tens of millions of people who are still employed but have
diminished purchasing and bargaining power.
commentator and author Jim Hightower pointed out another facet of this triumph
by multinational corporations. He wrote
in Playing with Economic Dynamite: “America's corporate elite have learned that they can prosper by
deliberately holding the workaday majority in a new normal of job insecurity.”
“No one at the
top wants to admit it,” he continues, “but big business has quietly been
imposing a structural transformation on our economy, shifting from a workforce
of permanent employees to one in which most jobs are temporary, scarce,
low-paid, without benefits and with no upward mobility. Of the 1.2
million jobs created by the private sector last year, for example (he wrote of
2010), 26% were temporary positions, and in November, temporary jobs soared to
80% of that month's total. What's
happening here is not merely a matter of a few million folks being momentarily
down on their luck, but of an intentional dismantling of America's middle-class
Another serious change in America has been a
dramatic increase in CEO compensation.
In 1965, CEOs at the biggest U.S. corporations made 24 times as much as
the typical worker. By 2007, these CEOs
made 275 times as much, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and
that percent continues to increase. In
1970, the top 1% of Americans received 8% of the total national income, and by
2012, they received more than 20% of it.
Furthermore, IRS data reveals that the top 1% of
Americans collectively earn more than the bottom 50%. These facts are the rude details of an increasingly unfair income
gap that make it even more egregious to have regressive tax breaks given to
principally benefit wealthy people.
Predictably, the disparity in people’s net worths in the U.S. is even
more extreme than the income gap.
These are among the reasons that our tax system
should be restructured so that it is graduated more steeply. This would serve as a counterbalance to the
rapid growth in the concentration of wealth in the hands of the top 1%, and of
the accompanying inequities that affect the vast majority of Americans. In radical contrast, because money is
equivalent to power in our corrupt influence-peddling political system, our tax
system has been made significantly more regressive since 1980. Those who benefit the most from the
ruthlessness and unfairness of our economic system once again become the ones
who can easily game our political system so that it gives them more
advantages. Simultaneously, our system
gives ever-lower priority to workers and the young, the unemployed, the
vulnerable and the powerless -- and to the health of the environment and the
prospects of people in future generations.
Our econopolitical system drives our nation and the
world further along the path toward less equity and more strife. This outcome is not merely unsustainable and
unenlightened, it is a severe violation of democratic principles. It is also a harsh violation of the true
values of an honest, sensible and just republic that is supposed to fairly
represent all of the people. Indeed, in
its widespread and far-reaching inimical impacts, our system is a veritably
fraudulent crime against humanity.
Not only do we need fairer political representation
and reformed income tax policies, we need more steeply graduated estate
taxes. It is sensational that such
plans currently affect only the wealthiest two out of every 1,000 Americans. Estate taxes are a good mechanism to settle
up, once every generation, for the inequities caused by giving rich people most
of the benefits of tax evasion schemes and the cumulative effect of national
deficit spending. It is revealing to realize that about 55% of the value of estates worth more than
$100 million is made up of untaxed capital gains. This means that more than half of really
rich kids’ inheritances are already being passed on without being taxed at all. And most Republican politicians are
proposing that we extend this generosity to the richest of the rich -- after
It would make much more sense to extend the estate
tax so that it is paid by the top 50 in every 1,000 of the wealthiest families,
rather than just the top 2. That way we
would ensure that the biggest beneficiaries of the benefits of our economic
system will also be the ones who help finance more of the investments and
social costs necessary to a civilized society.
As it currently stands, we are allowing too many of the costs for
national security, prisons, healthcare, and environmental protections to be
foisted upon today’s “wage slaves” and everyone in future generations!
The Vision of Our
Let’s go back and
see if our present day actions are in any way in accord with the intentions of
our Founders. Let’s see, the Founders
designed the Constitution to create government by fair rules of law to protect
American citizens from abuses of power.
Hmmmm. The Founders also went to
great lengths in the Constitution to make sure that States and local
communities had enough power to prevent the federal government from abusing its
power. Hmmmm ...
The Founders were
strongly opposed to infringements on personal rights, or unfair treatment of
any citizen, or religious interference in any way, or foreign military
adventurism. They promised to promote
“the general Welfare”. They surely
would be aghast to see the extent to which rich people are being favored in our
nation, and how staunchly these people and their representatives are rejecting
fairly-shared prosperity and the general welfare of the American people.
would be shocked -- shocked! -- to see how poorly we have safeguarded their
carefully designed balance-of-powers system.
They could only be dismayed to see that our federal government and
federal courts are now primarily dedicated to the welfare of rich people and
the State and the political class that runs it. Ambrose Bierce’s most terse definition in The Devil’s Dictionary is also one of the most telling:
“Impunity, n. Wealth.”
A class war is
going on here, folks, and ordinary people are losing it. This clash has been taking place for
centuries between the moneyed class and workers, but this internecine warfare
has intensified since 1980, and it is high time that We the People negotiated a fairer deal. It is time that we negotiated a fairer truce between the
strife-torn opposing sides.
representatives betray us when, as Mary Elizabeth Lease observed long ago, our
political system “clothes rascals in robes, and honesty in rags. The Parties lie to us and the political
leaders mislead us.”
changes in our system of taxation tend to concentrate wealth and increase
disparities between the fortunes of the Few and the Many. This results in increases in inequality that
make everyone in society less secure.
Poor people and those in the middle class become less secure in economic
terms because their struggle is made harder to pay for safe housing, good
nutrition and adequate healthcare. Rich
people become less secure because a heightened impetus develops in society
toward stress-engendered conflicts, crime, and excessively costly repression
and incarceration. More money is
consequently needed for police forces and prisons to enforce this inegalitarian
state, and to defend against increasing impulses toward revolutionary
change. More money is also spent on
wars to distract people from a lack of fair opportunities, and from the
daunting existential dilemmas associated with our unfairly gamed and gimmicky
--- Existence, Economics, and
How has our noble
Constitutionally brilliant system gotten so screwed up?
The Supreme Court’s Ruling in the Citizens United vs. the Federal Election
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was one of the four Justices who
disagreed with the Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision to allow unlimited
corporate and union spending in our elections.
He read his dissent aloud to give additional emphasis to his words,
saying 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 Roosevelt.”
Jim Hightower wrote
scathingly in his February 2011 issue of The
Hightower LOWDOWN about the corporate bent of the Supreme Court today. He indicates that, with the narrow 5-4
majority of “conservatives” on the Supreme Court (at the time), the judicial
body “has become openly and aggressively political, deliberately rigging the
scales of justice to enthrone big corporations -- the least democratic force in
our society -- over the rest of us.”
Hightower adduces decision after decision in which the current Supreme
Court has rendered rulings that have “enhanced the power of corporations at the
direct expense of workers, consumers, local communities, our air and water,
voters, the elderly, and … well, anyone and everyone who stands up in court to
resist the rise of corporate hegemony in America.”
continued: “The Supreme Court’s
corporate bloc has evolved into the most dangerous branch of the federal
government, routinely using its arbitrary power to undermine the people’s
democratic authority over our country’s economy, environment, and political
process.” … “By stomping on traditional principles of conservative
jurisprudence, jettisoning clear Court precedents, perverting constitutional
and statutory language, ignoring logic, distorting legislative intent, and
simply making up laws, these Supremes have delivered a rash of sweeping
victories to the corporate class.”
that Chief Justice John Roberts “is doing major structural damage to America’s unifying
sense of fairness and justice. We can’t
allow him to keep hiding behind the judicial robe while he mugs us and our
democratic ideals. He should be
impeached.” Tell us how you really
feel, Jim Hightower!
In the October 2011
issue of his Lowdown, Jim Hightower
provides readers with a menu of action that could help achieve “big democratic
results.” One of these actions he
recommended would have been to impeach Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence
Thomas for their “blatant disregard of basic ethics” and their undisclosed
conflicts of interest, such as their involvements with the billionaire Koch
brothers while they were deciding the Citizens
Bob Edgar, President
and CEO of the nonpartisan advocacy organization Common Cause has written a
public letter to Chief Justice John Roberts suggesting that Supreme Court
Justices should formally commit themselves to the Code of Conduct for federal
judges. This Code of Conduct applies to
all other federal judges, so why is it, exactly, that Supreme Court Justices do
not strictly abide by such common sense ethical rules that would help ensure
their integrity and impartiality, and prevent glaring conflicts of interest?
Perhaps God took
justice into His own hands by prematurely whisking Antonin Scalia off to his
eternal fate, whatever it may be for that believer in the devil. But Rump Republicans in the U.S. Senate are
denying the divine will altogether, and the people’s will, absolutely refusing
to do their constitutional duty to consider the well-qualified replacement that
President Obama has nominated.
The Need for
Campaign Finance Reform
The rich get an
astonishing “return on investment” for their political contributions. They gain hundreds of billions of dollars in
special deals for mere millions in contributions to politicians.
This is why Fair
Elections legislation should be passed that mandates public financing of
election campaigns. This is a matter of
common sense. I repeat that, at a
public cost of $5 billion dollars of campaign financing in the 2012 national
elections, we could have saved hundreds of billions of dollars a year in
taxpayer funds that are being squandered on corporate welfare, no-bid
contracts, banking excesses, bailouts, corrupt deals, military
misappropriations, yada, yada, yada. As
Bill Moyers says:
“So the multitudes go
on faithfully voting (well at least half of them do), knowing that the savior
on the ballot likely will turn out to be one more pretender, making only
nominal changes to a system that is costly and inefficient but thrives by
rewarding the very people who have gamed it.”
Clarion Call for Sensible Tax Reform
Think again about
the fact that rich people have gotten increasingly wealthy since Ronald Reagan
presided over the slashing of the marginal tax rate on the highest levels of
income from 70% to 28%. And consider
that, simultaneously, the poor have gotten increasingly desperate, and middle
class people have seen their prospects stagnate, partially due to unfair and
unwise national policies. One can only
conclude that we should increase the marginal rates on highest earners again,
and make our tax system significantly more steeply graduated. If rich people don’t like it, I guess they
can take their pro-war-slogan advice from the Vietnam War era, and “Love it, or
I call for true
tax reform to improve fairness, make taxes more progressive, raise more
revenue, finance needed infrastructure investments, boost U.S. competitiveness,
protect the health of Earth’s ecosystems, and allow us to undertake energy
modernization projects and move toward independence from dirty fossil fuels,
and to make a simultaneous transition to a greener and more sustainable
honestly to improve and strengthen our democratic republic for a change. In addition to establishing a Bill of Rights
for Future Generations and enacting a fairer and more sensible system of
taxation, other good ideas abound, and a long list of them can be found in Common Sense Revival – Book One of the Earth
Exceptionalism” --- Yay! for Us!!
This leads to
another compelling insight. A new era
must begin that advances a new narrative of American Exceptionalism that is
based on healthier communities, social justice, responsible fiscal propriety,
respectful dialogue, peaceful coexistence, ‘soft power’, and ecological
intelligence. This new form of
Exceptionalism should explicitly renounce the old “shining light on the hill”
variety of American Exceptionalism that was based so fixedly on the
hubris-filled ‘hard power’ of the military-industrial complex. This complex is dominated by Wall Street
shysters, crony capitalists, people with empire-building aspirations, and
corrupt politicians who all seem to favor retrogressive, war-engendering,
special prerogative defending and deficit spending ways.
E.J. Dionne Jr.
of the Washington Post Writers Group once wrote:
“There are more
important priorities than preserving low tax rates for rich people, and larger
strategic concerns than Iraq or even Afghanistan, and more compelling national
purposes than rote attacks on government or a fear of new immigrants, or Islam,
or our diversity as a nation. And we
will all be in this effort together only if all of our citizens know
they will have an opportunity to share in a resurgent America’s success. For Obama, political renewal requires a bold
and persistent campaign for national renewal.
This would challenge his political opponents. But more importantly, it would challenge all of us.”
candidates have had a major impact driving the Republican Party to the right in
recent national elections, but this is not a mandate to pursue policies that
are increasingly unfair, more retrogressive, more inegalitarian, more fiscally
irresponsible, more reactionary, or more militaristic than the status quo.
We are in
uncharted territory here, folks. Shall
we mindlessly and rashly proceed in obedience to established interests and
accept business as usual? Or should we
instead move boldly forward with more common sense, intelligence and smart
planning? Let’s demonstrate some moxie
by demanding a radically progressive transformation! Bernie Sanders has called for a political revolution, and his provocative
appeal resonated with millions of Americans.
And his reactionary counterparts on the extreme right preached their own
version of how to fix our country. Now
it’s up to the American people in the November 2016 elections to make the clear
choice of fair-minded representatives who will lead us forward with integrity,
honest principle, and sensible environmental sanity.
In her book America by Heart, Sarah Palin criticized
Big Government for many ills. She
accused Hollywood of “reflexive anti-Americanism”. And she declared: “America doesn’t go to war for big business or
for oil or for the sake of imperial conquest.”
She asserts that we get into wars only to defend our freedom.
This opinion is
simplistic and naïve. It is a slogan,
not a deeply-considered understanding.
The motives for war are deeply entwined with profit motives, power,
control and the “unwarranted influence of the military-industrial complex”, as
President Dwight Eisenhower warned against in 1961. Numerous untruths have been used to involve our nation in wars
over the years. This fact was starkly
revealed in the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, and in many other
documents and historical disclosures since then.
War is the
ultimate expression of ruthless competition. It is a “continuation of politics by other means”, as Carl von Clausewitz once wrote. And
politics is a continuation of economics by other means. Political corruption is more than just some kind of clever game.
It is a form of cheating that undermines fairness to millions of
Americans. In our economy today, political corruption has joined
with unethical and unfair methods of competing to make our societies less
healthy and less secure.
Check out the
deeper perspectives explored in Reflections
on War - and Peace (paraphrased):
“The causes of wars and conflicts throughout history are clear. Rulers fight for control, power, competitive
advantage, and their nation’s ascendancy.
They fight for nationalistic pride and for ideological supremacy. The underlying struggle is generally about
acquiring or defending territory or getting access to energy or other natural
resources or foreign markets or cheap labor.
We also get into wars, in part, so that bankers and the defense industry
and myriad contractors and war suppliers and investors in these companies can
make bigger profits. Investors and
shareholders seem to love growth in revenues and profits over all other values,
and they wield enormous influence in our corporate-dominated capitalist
It is far from
anti-American to make these observations.
True patriotism consists of questioning and
opposing abuses of power, not in obsequiously accepting them without
question. Our American literary hero
Mark Twain was incisively perceptive when he noted: “my kind of patriotism and loyalty is loyalty to one’s country, and not
to one’s institutions or officeholders.”
Patriotism is not an unthinking obedience to the
politicians in power. In truth, patriotism in America should be an honest
commitment to the principles and ideals this country really represents.
These principles include the main concerns of our Founding Fathers:
fairness, justice, guaranteed liberties, expansive human rights, limited
government intrusiveness, and fair representation of the best interests of the
understandings and ideas have the potential power to upset the established
order, so they are a threat to rulers of every persuasion. This is one reason why authority figures try
to suppress clear conceptions and populist movements. The people in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria and other
Arab nations were ruled for decades by dictators, and they would attest to the
truth of this statement as their countries experience agitated turmoil and
ambiguity beyond our clear comprehension affect every situation and
opinion. In light of this fact, a new tone and character of civility is needed in our
societies. We should accord greater
respect to others, even when we do not agree with their opinions.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once explained the nature of uncertainty
during a press briefing when he confoundingly told the American public that, in
our dealings with Iraq, there are “known knowns”, “known unknowns”, and
philosophic ramble inspires me to apply this analysis to the profligate levels
of deficit spending by the government in the past 35 years. Known knowns of past debt-financing frenzies
in world history include the fact that they increase probabilities of
destabilizing debt defaults, create more pressure to diminish the value of a
nation’s currency, heighten risks of hyper-inflation, and make potential
economic and social turmoil more likely.
overlapping unknown knowns in the extremely complex concatenation of causes and
effects set in motion by fiscally irresponsible deficit spending. These include poorly prioritized spending
cuts on essential investments, more urgent needs to impose austerity measures
on the common people, increases in the stimulated depletion of resources, and
accelerated damages to ecological commons.
unknowns? Who knows?! We cannot accurately predict what the
outcomes will be of our rash experiment in undisciplined increases in
government spending and simultaneous historically low taxes on the
wealthy. We do not know for sure, as we
collectively grope in the dark for a safe and sensible way forward, the best
direction in which to proceed. But we
should not ignore the convincing preponderance of evidence, or the most likely
probabilities. And we should
courageously admit that adamant denials of adverse possibilities do not
diminish the probabilities that negative outcomes will occur, whether or not
popular opinion agrees. Alert, deniers
of global warming and climate disruptions!
Unintended consequences occur -- gasp! -- even though they are not
Another Unnecessary War
political “climate war” has been taking place in recent years. Trillions of dollars are at stake in this
conflict over whether or not to take bolder steps to limit emissions of
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Powerful vested interest groups oppose initiatives that would help
preserve the habitability of planet Earth by limiting such emissions, and they
have managed to sow doubt by denying the problem and delaying efforts to solve
it. Big oil conglomerates like Exxon
have known these risks for many years, yet they have spent large sums of money
to instill doubts about the overwhelming scientific consensus on the risks
involved. The well-being of billions of
people and the fate of millions of species of life on Earth are at stake.
The evidence for
climate disruptions, nonetheless, grows increasingly ominous. There has been an
unmistakable increase in the number of incidents worldwide of catastrophic
extreme weather events, including thousands of record high temperatures in
dozens of nations, record droughts, and devastating floods in many places like
Pakistan, Australia, Brazil, Sri Lanka and Texas, Oklahoma and South
Carolina. There have also been record
cold snaps in many other locales as overall planetary warming has injected more
moisture and heat energy into the atmosphere and caused the jet stream to shift
from normal patterns.
Somerville, a Nobel-prize winning scientist who led the UN Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change report on climate science in 2007, provides this
“This is no
longer something that’s theory or conjecture or something that comes out of
computer models. We’re observing the
climate changing. It’s real. It’s happening. It’s scientific fact.”
routinely measuring these increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere. The Scripps Institution of
Oceanography has maintained a research laboratory high atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa
since 1958. Since that time, the
concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from less that 320 parts per
million to more than 400 parts per million.
Within the next century, this concentration is expected to increase to
between 540 ppm and 970 ppm. Changes of
this magnitude would almost certainly be environmentally and socially
activities are significantly contributing to this insidiously destabilizing
effect on global weather patterns. The
main mechanisms of this impact are the burning of copious amounts of fossil
fuels that result in billions of tons of carbon dioxide being spewed into the
atmosphere each year, while at the same time vast tracts of tropical forests
are being chopped down. These forests
serve as the “lungs of the planet”, and it is stupid to insidiously harm these biotic
This political “climate
war” is a side skirmish in an ominous development in which billionaires like
Charles and David Koch, and unethical politicians and giant corporations, are
stubbornly continuing to abuse their power by striving to discredit scientific
understandings about the dangerous effects of our industrial activities. Many vested interest
groups staunchly oppose the best idea for dealing with this issue -- enacting
carbon taxes that would dampen demand for fossil fuels. Making matters worse, corporate entities
that exploit fossil fuel resources have been abusing their power to achieve a wrongheaded
goal of getting taxpayers to give them billions of dollars each year to
subsidize the depletion of these critically important resources. This allows them to continue to make
excessive profits at the expense of the victims of air pollution and climate-disruption
disasters -- and of all people in future generations.
It seems obvious
that we should be collectively acting more responsibly by adhering to sensible
precautionary principles and reducing wasteful uses of fossil fuels. It would be a smart idea to take effective
steps toward achieving independence from our risky addiction to fossil
fuels. We should honestly do these
things instead of allowing power-abusing vested interest groups to hijack our
policy-making by buying our representatives and dishonestly casting doubt on
the probable severity of the impacts of our activities. Many CEOs, big corporations and investors
are complicit in this intrigue due to their exerting powerful political
pressure to maintain the status quo of allowing costs of climate disruptions to
be foisted onto the people in every nation.
The book and film Merchants of
Doubt shed chilling illumination on these efforts.
effective way to correct this problem would be to create a powerful incentive
to use fossil fuels more efficiently and to discourage wasteful usages of oil
and coal and natural gas, and to simultaneously stimulate a necessary
transition to a cleaner, greener and more renewable mix of energy sources. One simple plan would be to implement
national carbon taxes that would increase in measured increments every
year. Production processes and consumer
demand would shift as a consequence, in beneficial directions, since it would
make fossil fuels more expensive to use in wasteful ways. This idea is better than cap-and-trade
schemes that are utilized in some places like California to reduce carbon
emissions. Cap-and-trade plans are too
complicated, bureaucratic and vulnerable to cheating, and they are not
adequately effective. We should heed Thomas
Paine’s simple insight,
expressed in Common Sense, that “the
more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the
easier repaired when disordered.”
We clearly need a
cleaner energy future. Unfortunately,
lobbyists for Big Oil and Big Coal and their advocates in the Republican Party
have captured the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate,
and this myopic majority opposes actions to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas
emissions being spewing into the atmosphere.
This aspect of business as usual is completely crazy!
A good solution
to this overarching challenge needs to be found. The political will to find it begins with comprehensive
understandings of the true nature and scope of the problem. One of the aspirations driving the creation
of the Earth Manifesto has been the hope that clearly-stated ideas will sway
the debate toward effective and intelligent solutions. Climate Change Considerations, Carrying
Capacity, and Ecological Overshoot is a valuable essay exploring this issue in depth.
A Wee Catastrophe
affect us at many levels. On an
individual level, we often have a difficult time figuring out what our goals
should be, or to come to grips with a wide range of perplexities that concern
us in deeply personal ways. This is one
reason that pundits caution people: “Be careful what you wish for!”
On a collective
level, we all have a hard time deciding what best courses of action are for
society. The best way to understand
something is in a way that corresponds most credibly with reality.
There is some
merit in almost every way of seeing things.
Good arguments can be made on opposing sides of practically every
issue. Deciding on the best course of
action is thus quite complicated.
People with conflicting interests passionately assert that their
particular point of view is the right and proper and best one. But we are all in a kind of “Bet
Situation”. Just by living in society,
we are inextricably involved in the game.
Each of us essentially places our bets, either through our actions or our
inactions. It is incumbent upon us to
bet on which probabilities are the most likely, and the outcomes that are most
potentially auspicious -- or at least potentially catastrophic.
“Experience is a good school, but the fees are high.”
Albert Einstein called our perception that
we are separate from the whole of the world “a kind of optical delusion of
consciousness”. We are demonstrably
intimately interconnected and inextricably interdependent, so to solve the
potentially dire problems facing us, we need to strive to see reality as
accurately as possible. By gaining
greater knowledge, rather than embracing customs, stubborn ideologies or
inflexible doctrines, we will be more effective in providentially altering the
“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as judge in the field of truth and
shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
--- Albert Einstein
Human beings are
having transformative impacts on planet Earth through the rapid growth in human
numbers, along with industrialization and hyper-stimulated consumerism. The state of our planet today is brilliantly
portrayed in the extraordinary ecological message conveyed by Yann
Arthus-Bertrand in his beautiful large-format book of aerial photography, Earth from Above. The text that accompanies the stunning photographs contains
incisive and vitally important insights.
Check it out, or watch the compelling 90-minute film Home, which Yann Arthus-Bertrand
produced based on this book. It can be
viewed online. It is a sensational
There is no doubt that a growing series of
urgent crises are confronting people worldwide today. The crises that are confronting us -- environmental degradation,
pollution, overpopulation, worldwide economic and political disorder, growing
inequities and injustices -- are partially a consequence of widespread conflicts
of interest and delusion and misunderstanding.
there has developed a widespread feeling of helplessness and despair, in the
face of what seems to be an overwhelming mass of disparate social forces, going
beyond the control and even the comprehension of the human beings who are
caught up in it.”
physicist David Bohm, Wholeness and the
Implicate Order, 1980
Let’s not be apathetic. Let’s not despair. In fact, let’s be cheerful and chipper! Bravo for positivity and hope!
Bravo for honesty and fair-mindedness!
But let’s simultaneously be seriously determined to radically reform our
political system and make our tax system more steeply graduated to generate
more revenue to help deal with gathering challenges. Let’s not get lost in divisive arguments about partisan
conflicts. Let us instead focus on
overarching goals. And let’s
collaborate to find fair ways to achieve these goals! We will be much stronger together!
I strongly support a much more significant
rights issue for the future of all humanity.
Let’s act to give fundamental rights to every child yet to be conceived
in all future generations. Let’s amend
the U.S. Constitution to give all persons born in the future guaranteed rights
to live on a planet with healthy ecosystems, unpolluted waters and skies,
natural resources that are not exhausted, a stable climate, fairer
institutions, and an economy that is more sustainable because it runs on
renewable energy. Let’s commit to a
Bill of Rights for Future Generations!
That’s All, Folks!
There is good
hope for the future. But to really make
our communities healthier and our society better, we must deliberately choose
to change our system to empower the American people and to reduce the influence
of those with entrenched power from abusing our systems for their own narrow
benefit. My common sense intuition
tells me the best approach for making our societies better would be to make
sure that our economic and political systems are as fair as possible to the
vast majority of people. We should
strive to do this while maintaining a “live-and-let-live” attitude with regard
to hot-button social issues. We can do
constitutional framework of our democracy is entirely sufficient to allow the
people to once again make our country one that is “of the people, by the
people, and for the people.” We simply
need to assert our constitutionally guaranteed rights, and to demand reforms to
our political system that will reduce the dominating influence of Big
Money. We should simultaneously agree
that, in turn, we must assure our heirs a modicum of rights so that our legacy
to them will be a fair one.
I will wager that
if we wisely restructure our societies to make them fairer, more egalitarian,
more sustainable and more ecologically healthy, the Dow Jones Average would be
at least twice as high in 20 years than it would be if we continue to buy the
“trickle-down” Big Lie and let rich people have an ever-more extreme monopoly
on the benefits of worker productivity.
By allowing a rashly skewed concentration of wealth to continue to
increase, and by enabling corporations to continue to indulge with impunity in
business-as-usual cost externalizing activities, we facilitate the squandering
of resources, the ravaging of the planet, and the undermining of the vital
ecological underpinnings of our well-being.
Here is a monetary gauge that coincides with a moral one that clearly
tells us we should courageous “fight the good fight!”
I urge our
leaders to act courageously in the best interests of the people. I urge them to stop being such blatantly
sycophantic lackeys to wealthy people and giant corporations! To paraphrase Thomas Paine in Common Sense, “The Sun never shined on a
cause of greater worth. Now is the
seed-time of union and honor and faith.
Now is the time for courage and truly fair problem-solving. To betray the common good today would be
like engraving a rude name with the point of a pin on the tender bark of a
young oak; the wound will enlarge with
the tree, and posterity will read the ignominy of the material injury in full
Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
August 16, 2016 (begun in
November 2011 and updated annually since then