Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What A Difference A Few Decades Make

“The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sometimes I wonder what has happened to us as a nation. How have we allowed greed and selfishness to thrive and flourish so rampantly in our society? How can anyone take these so-called leaders seriously when on the one hand they continue to provide the corporate class and the wealthy with tax-cuts and on the other they tell the other classes that they are costing the country too much money? Can someone explain to me how the last time we faced similar economic conditions and the country was suffering so much pain that we created safety nets and today we are demolishing safety nets? How could we in the midst of a catastrophe find the resources and courage to provide for our countrymen but today we can provide for oil companies, wars, and corporate subsidies yet nothing for education, the unemployed or medical care?

I wonder what has fundamentally changed in our national psyche that we can now look at our fellow citizens suffering and have the ability to not only walk right by them but also curse them as we do so. The problem is not that we don’t have enough resources. It comes down to our priorities and what things do we value. Shortly there will be debates concerning our national priorities and what resources we are willing to allocate to them. There will be a lot of posturing and demagoguery concerning entitlements. Entitlements have become the new scapegoat for all that is wrong in America. Programs that have allowed seniors to live longer and more fulfilling lives will now be cut to shorten those lives. Obviously, it has been working too well and we have to cull the herd according to the wing-nuts. Death panels? Pulling the plug on grandma? How is this possible that even programs that have been successful are now being cast as failures? Sound familiar?

It is simple they have to cast these programs as failures so they can cut and eventually demolish them. The wing-nuts are realizing that the socialism tact is losing steam and so they have to develop a new strategy and with the help of the Democrats they will. If you continue to reduce revenues or shift revenues to corporate subsidies and war then of course the deficits are going to go up and spending cuts are going to seem like a necessary evil. The problem with this theory is that it flies in the face of reality and in the face of the majority of Americans who do not support these draconian cuts being proposed by the wing-nuts and the teabaggers. The majority of Americans do not support reducing the deficit on the backs of the poor and the elderly. The majority of Americans want to see the taxes of the wealthy increased not reduced and yet here we are. In America it is never about lack of, it is always about priorities.

We have gone from the poor and the elderly having problems to saying they are the problem. You see this is one of the things governments do, they support the weak and the old. So by saying that the government is the problem you are by extension saying these folks are the problem and to me that is a problem. The continued and strategic assault on unions, the middle-class, the elderly, and the poor is beginning to pay dividends, but for whom? If the majority of Americans support these items and yet the politicians are continuing to press their eradication then somewhere there is a disconnect. The will of the people is being circumvented by the interests of the moneyed few.

If our politicians aren’t willing to listen to us then we must “take our government back”, but not in the false sense of the teabaggers and their desire to return to 1776 when only white male property owners had rights. No, we must return to a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. Decades ago in the midst of a worse economic crisis our leaders used that opportunity to tell the American people the truth that many of our economic woes were due to the greed of unchecked capitalism and laid the foundation of many of the programs that ushered in the middle-class and dignity for our seniors. Wow, what a difference a few decades can make. Now our political leaders are telling us that the problem is no longer unchecked greed and capitalism it is the victims of unchecked greed and capitalism. Yeah, that’s it. This is akin to saying that prior to Nader’s crusade against unsafe cars that what caused the needless traffic fatalities wasn’t that automakers were designing and building unsafe cars, it was that drivers were buying and driving the unsafe cars.

When the “great debate” begins about cutting this and cutting that I hope we remember what made us a great nation. It wasn’t our huge military, it wasn’t our giveaways to corporate America, and it certainly wasn’t the unchecked greed of capitalism. What made us a great nation was our willingness to provide for the least of these and to provide an opportunity for all to succeed. These policies allowed a child from a family of 12 children living in a 2 bedroom house to attend college and grow up to be the Speaker of the House. It’s funny how these same folks who have benefited from these policies once they gain power want to pull up the ladder behind them. I will never understand the arrogance of these people.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Citizens United By-Product?

We need to start making things again in this country, and we can do that by reducing the tax and regulatory burdens on job creators. America will have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Think about that. Look no further to see why jobs are moving overseas.Michelle Bachmann Response

I cannot remember ever having three State of the Union speeches in one year. Normally the party in the White House gives the traditional State of the Union speech followed by the out of office party giving a response. Now thanks to our political system being awash in cash any crank can go on television and get their 15 minutes of fame. My question is who funded this little Bachmann escapade? Michelle Bachmann is supposed to be a money maker and according to reports she is a fund-raising machine, but where does this money come from? No one knows. I would venture to guess that it is the same AstroTurf funders who started the teabagger movement.

I have a hard time believing that it would be difficult to raise money with a platform of tax-cuts for the wealthy, removing regulations on businesses, and repealing health-care reform. I think there are a number of wealthy folks who would contribute to those causes, so the fact that she raises money should not be falsely correlated to her popularity. Cranks like Bachmann will always appeal to 15-20% of the population and while this sells a lot of gold and dog food it doesn’t translate well in national elections. Michelle Bachmann and her ilk are the pit-bulls of the right to make sure any compromise will be their compromise which is no compromise at all. Moving forward the new hostages won’t just be the unemployed, the poor, and the middle-class it will be the full faith and credit of the United States.

The new target will be the infamous entitlements. The line will be that you can’t be serious about deficits if you don’t cut entitlements. This of course will come from the same folks who want to make the Bush tax-cuts for the wealthy permanent. What I fail to understand is that we are having this one sided conversation about cutting the deficit without the other side of the equation which is to increase revenues. The way that Bill Clinton created a surplus was not by cutting Social Security and our safety net; he did it by raising revenues. And guess what the sky didn’t fall and the wealthy and the corporations did not move to Eastern Europe where the rates are much lower. The idea that you are going to cut your way out of this debt is ludicrous.

Is it just me or is it coincidental that following the Citizens United decision we are now being provided with every extremist view on full display. My concern is that we will be bombarded by these fanatical views not because those who espouse them are credible or even electable. The strategy will be to push the center further and further to their extreme view so that views that were once unthinkable are now being debated as mainstream. How many formerly extreme views are now a part of our political discussions? Anyone remember the 14th Amendment and how now it is open for public debate and re-litigation against Latinos? It wasn’t that long ago that this would have been considered an extreme remedy for the immigration crisis. Or how about referring to the unemployed and seniors as lazy and stopping benefits in the middle of an economic downturn like we haven’t seen since the Great Depression? Even the most ardent critics would not have proposed cutting off unemployment benefits in the midst of the "Great Recession".

The upcoming Presidential election is going to be full of cranks and fanatics and their goal will be to distract and confuse the electorate. They will be able to do so with the help of the Citizens United decision and the 501(c)4 organizations flush with cash that it spawned. These unnamed donors will be able to manipulate the issues and steer the debate away from the real issues and towards the dark hordes that are storming our borders or the socialist liberals who have the audacity to ask them to pay their fair share of taxes. Thanks to 24/7 cable news and the Supreme Court the airwaves will be flooded with the likes of Palin, Bachmann, and O’Donnell. The teabagger Barbie’s will be on full display and in rare form providing not only verbal, but visual distractions for the punditry.

We now have Supreme Court Justices hiding income from their spouses and conducting behind the scenes political talks for congressional audiences. My question is what job did Ms. Thomas perform to make $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation? Whether there is criminal intent or conflict of interest is not the issue. The issue is that under this Court more controversial decisions have been made and it doesn’t appear those decisions were based in Constitutional law, but instead on a political agenda. It is odd to me that the citizen’s of this country are overwhelmingly opposed to the Citizens United decision and yet our judiciary blatantly and apologetically displays their partisanship in a way that would have been unheard of just a few years ago.

It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first. - Ronald Reagan

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

He Doesn’t Feel Our Pain

After listening to the President’s State of the Union address I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of loss. I understand that this was a political speech in a lot of ways and will surely be the kick-off speech to his 2012 run for re-election, but with all of its platitudes and feel good rhetoric there was something missing. Could it have been that unemployment was not mentioned? Or that the poor and the middle-class were conspicuously absent? I don’t know about the state of your union, but in my union these issues are still alive and well. I have yet to hear this President connect to the pain that so many Americans are suffering from, especially black Americans.

One of the troubling aspects of the speech was how the President basically threw American manufacturing under the bus as a consequence of globalization. He stated that the American worker had to raise their game to compete for the future. That’s funny everything I read says that the American worker is one of the most productive workers in the world. Maybe instead of prodding the worker the President should have mentioned how the worker’s boss’ have outsourced all of their jobs overseas as China’s and India’s economies are the fastest growing in the world because they are making the things we used to make. The challenge should not have been that we have to give up manufacturing to these other nations but how American manufacturing can return and compete against these other nations.

This speech is named the state of the union for a reason; instead we got the state of globalization. The President should have been imploring this nation to support and rebuild our manufacturing base and buying our products. I don’t understand how promoting one’s own nation today is now considered un-American. I guess that’s because it is no longer what is good for America it is what is good for America’s multinationals. The truth be told as we found out during the gilded age is that what is good for Standard Oil is not always what’s good for America. I know there are those who will defend this President no matter what he says and does and I understand their fierce loyalty, but this is not about personality it should be about principles.

My fear is that in an attempt to appease the wing-nuts this administration is going to cave in some form on Social Security. We will either raise the retirement age or cut some benefits to show their seriousness in cutting the deficit. What is not being discussed is that Social Security was created by taxes that we all pay throughout our working lives for the benefits we receive. This isn’t some government give away where we take general tax dollars to support the weak, aged, and affirmed. There are less draconian ways to shore up Social Security but none of this is being mentioned or even part of the discussions. The problem with negotiating with folks who want to destroy what you are negotiating is that their aim is not to salvage it but to undermine it. I think Congressman Ryan made that point crystal clear last night.

This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency. - Paul Ryan's remarks

So on the one hand we have the President telling American workers they have to stop whining and on the other hand we have the wing-nuts telling the American workers that they are lazy and complacent. I don’t know about you but my answer to Republicanism is not Republican lite. Just once I would like this President to speak to the pain of those folks on Main Street as eloquently as he spoke to the folks in Tucson. He should give a voice to the voiceless instead of vocalizing the talking points of the opposition. I am not naïve to the process of negotiation and it is important to throw meat to the opposition to appear open to compromise, but what has been missing from this equation is the suffering of the poor and the middle-class and the enunciation of their concerns.

Last night the President spoke to Wall Street and the business communities letting them know loud and clear that this administration is open for business. The problem with this is that they aren’t the ones suffering. The Dow is approaching 12,000, the banks are sitting on boat loads of cash, and businesses are doing likewise. These folks need signals like the millionaires and billionaires need a tax-cut. The message the President should be sending is to Main Street that this administration is serious about creating equal opportunity and securing workers rights. The problem is not the American worker it is the greed of the American corporation.

“What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures,” - Samuel Gompers (1st President of AFL-CIO)

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bankruptcy Is Not An Option

"Should taxpayers in Indiana who have paid their bills on time, who have done their job fiscally be bailing out Californians who haven't?" House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., asks. "No. That's a moral hazard that we are not interested in creating." - Fox News Blog

So the financial wiz-kid of the Republican Party believes that we are just a group of states that happen to share borders but have no inherent connection to one another? It is this type of rhetoric and mentality that fosters the divisions that keep us from moving forward as a nation. This simplistic view of the economy shared by the wing-nuts and tea-baggers makes it difficult to take any of their proposals seriously. We are not talking about some teenagers who have overspent their allowance and so the answer is to send them to their room with no dinner. We are talking about our fellow countrymen who just happen to live in another part of the country, our country. We are talking about our fellow countrymen who just happen to live in another part of the country, our country. We already know that being born in Hawaii makes you a foreigner, but this is ridiculous.

The fact that these clowns speak about morality just demonstrates their own immorality. Is it a moral hazard to watch our fellow countrymen suffering because the wealthy in this country decided they needed another transfer of wealth through market manipulation? What is a moral hazard is that we have seen the biggest financial theft of our economy in history and no one was prosecuted, no one was so much as even charged. Has our definition of morality been so corrupted that it is morally right to give billions to millionaires and billionaires, but immoral to give support to the elderly, the unemployed, and or the mentally ill?

As long as we continue to allow these snake oil salesman to advocate their bad medicine we will continue to focus on cutting out our safety nets so we can continue to provide tax breaks to the wealthy. I’m sorry I obviously missed the memo that stated paying taxes in a democracy is optional. It’s amazing how all of the tea-baggers want government services, but they don’t want to pay for them. The wing-nuts want wars, nuclear arsenals, and government bail-outs they just don’t want to pay for them. There is a reason why we pay taxes. There are certain things we have decided as a society that are important enough to share the costs. The problem arises when one segment of the population is paying more than their share.

One of the challenges we will face as a country is how do we make the tax code more progressive and more balanced in the face of this anti-tax and cut spending at all costs false meme being promoted by those who have demonized the very concepts that have made our country great. Shared sacrifice, social safety nets for the needy, and a common sense of fairness are concepts that make a nation strong. We can no longer continue to allow the corporate interests and the money changers to undermine and tear at the fabric that makes us a nation. This idea of undermining the middle-class and the poor is nothing new to America. From the Hooverites, to the greed of the 80’s, to the butter and war rhetoric of the last administration we have been under assault it seems with every generation. And every generation has had to reconfirm our commitment to what makes America great.

Unfortunately with the decline in liberalism and the ascension of conservatism with it’s everybody for themselves mentality the very underpinnings of our society are at risk. Programs such as Social Security, benefits for the unemployed, and funding for education are now bargaining chips, but what is not on the bargaining table are tax-cuts for the wealthy and military spending. What type of society is willing to defund the programs for the middle-class and poor to reduce the taxes of the wealthiest among them? I could understand if the tax burden for the wealthy and the corporations were oppressive but under our current tax system the secretary of a CEO will probably pay more in taxes than her boss. To argue that our current tax system is unfairly slanted towards the wealthy is an understatement. To present Mr. Ryan, as a voice of reason in the deficit conversation when he is saying that everyone is on their own is like saying that a secessionist was a voice of reason during the civil war.

We are a country; we are a diverse nation that still manages to share some common threads. We should not allow those common threads to be unraveled for the benefit of a small group who value profits over national interests or their own citizenry. It’s amazing to me how the media and the pundits criticized the Chinese when their president was visiting, but no one has found it necessary to criticize the very American business people who have handed the keys to the American economy over to the Chinese and the Indians. Mr. Ryan doesn’t want to bail-out the states but he doesn’t have any such misgivings about bailing out the folks who have put the states in dire straits.

“Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today” - Mahatma Gandhi

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Cost of Victory

The ultimate decision about what is accepted as right and wrong will be made not by individual human wisdom but by the disappearance of the groups that have adhered to the "wrong" beliefs. - Friedrich August von Hayek

As the President begins his victory laps and the pundicracy begins to fall back in line by touting the recent passage of some historic legislation I think it is important that we remember what the cost of these victories has been and what it will be in the future. So let’s be clear it took 700 billion dollars to get the Republicans to enact legislation that the majority of Americans supported. Is paying the ransom to the kidnappers a victory? I do not want to appear as if I am raining on the President and the Congress’ parade but the reason this legislation got passed was not because the Dems finally realized they had a majority that was due to expire or that the Republicans finally decided that bi-partisanship was worth pursuing, it was because the Dems gave them 700 billion dollars.

What we have seen the last few weeks is how our legislative system was created to work. Legislation was proposed, debated, and voted on. The only problem is that in America for our political process to work it took a bribe of 700 billion dollars. Welcome to the banana republic of America where payoffs and kickbacks are required to do the people’s business. The fact that everyone is so thrilled that the process worked just demonstrates how truly broken our system is. Forgive me but I will not celebrate this process as a victory. It may be a victory for this President but it is not a victory for the American people. The question we must ask is simply this, is any one President’s personal political survival worth giving up our principles? The repeal of DADT is an historic achievement by this President but at what costs?

Some may say that I am being overly dramatic but I don’t think so. By making the concessions that this President and Congress have made they have created two very big problems in the coming years. The first is that they have embolden the wing-nuts to take more hostages and this will be played out following the holidays when they begin debating the budget for the fiscal year of 2011 since no spending bill was passed this year. Anyone who thinks that what has happened recently will ring in this era of compromise from the wing-nuts is in for a rude awakening. Their constant refrain has been and will continue to be that everything must be paid for except tax-cuts for the wealthy. Now that they have delivered on the tax-cuts they will focus their attention on paying for them through cuts to our social safety nets. Funding for health and financial reform will be their first targets followed by our regulatory apparatus.

The second problem will be that by accepting the wing-nut philosophy of tax-cuts the President has now opened the door for negotiations on Medicare and Social Security. Based on how they have negotiated thus far I am not convinced that these programs will remain intact. The wing-nuts have learned that if you say something loud enough and enough times it becomes fact and in this case it will be that we can no longer afford these programs. The wing-nuts don’t want to “pull the plug” on granny they just want to work her to death. Make no mistake about it Social Security and all of the other safety net programs we have come to accept will now be re-litigated and are now negotiable. Were the legislative victories of the last few weeks worth dismantling the last 50 years of liberal values and programs?

Unlike many of my progressive and liberal friends I am not calling for a primary challenge of this President. To me this would be counterproductive and would allow a group that I know does not represent anything I support to come to power and this to me would be foolish. I am not a purist but I refuse to accept that everything is negotiable. There has to be some principles that are not open for debate or negotiation. I refuse to accept this false moral equivalency being promoted by the media and funded by the wealthy. There is no moral equivalency between funding unemployment for those ravaged by the greed of Wall Street and the huge bonuses for those same Wall Streeters. There is no moral equivalency between funding the medical expenses for first responders and tax-cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Our job as progressives and as liberals is not to fall in line with the pundits and the apologist but to remain true to our visions and our principles that we may keep the light burning for those who may lose their way in the darkness. If those who seek our support will not stand for our principles then it is incumbent upon us to find those who will be willing to stand and create our own vehicles for success.

As long as we continue to allow these clowns the cover of moral equivalency then they will continue to take hostages. Our government has to become more representative of the people. We cannot continue to allow Senators from under populated and safe states to undermine the will of the majority of Americans. There is no moral equivalency between someone who represents 100,000 people and someone who represents a 1,000,000 people and by allowing this travesty to continue we will continue to have these obstructionists holding the rest of the country hostage.

Enjoy your victory Mr. President but know that those who were preparing your demise continue to lie in wait with their steely knives and their deceptive smiles.

In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. - Mark Twain

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Failure of Liberalism

I think experience will teach you a combination of liberalism and conservatism. We have to be progressive and at the same time we have to retain values. We have to hold onto the past as we explore the future. – Oliver Stone

One of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century has been the decline of liberalism and the ascendancy of conservatism. While there are many opinions for the cause of this phenomenon the one that is the most fraudulent is that America is a conservative nation. This false premise has been propagated by those who want to maintain some fictitious sense of America’s past and a desire to reverse the progress we have achieved. Over the course of the last 50 years they have steadily and persistently chipped away at those ideas which defined liberalism (shared sacrifice, equality, and shared responsibility) and replaced them with greed, selfishness, and special interests while simultaneously demonizing liberalism as socialism.

Unfortunately, those of us who call ourselves liberals and subscribe to those principles that not only provided freedom, equality, and dignity to blacks and women, but also created the largest middle-class the world has ever known have allowed what we have accomplished to be tarnished and vilified. Unions which offered working-class Americans with livable wages, benefits, and organization became excessive and corrupt allowing themselves to be marginalized and thus laying the foundation for the corporate takeover of our political process. Without ongoing political organizations like unions to balance the scale the American worker has seen their share of the American Dream shrink while at the same time the wealthy class has seen their share increase to historic levels. While this is not a new phenomenon without the counterbalance of unions and organized political dissent the wealthy have been able to transform the political landscape in such a way that while the American worker is one of, if not the most productive worker in the world and yet they have seen their industries shipped overseas and their wages reduced or become stagnant.

The failure of liberalism is that while we focused on the physical aspects of inequality and poverty we did little to focus on the psychological effects of these issues. To use the analogy of “cream” rising to the top as that happens what is left at the bottom is more concentrated and more difficult to rise. You get less cream rising to the top and more sediment at the bottom. That sediment becomes more intransigent and begins to develop a mindset of poverty. Unfortunately today America is suffering from a large segment of our population with both situational poverty and generational poverty. Many of the people who are now dealing with situational poverty (poverty caused by a situation such as unemployment, medical reasons, etc.) will find it more difficult to overcome these circumstances as we face large unemployment as the new normal. Those suffering from generational poverty (poverty that has lasted over multiple generations) will find it next to impossible to overcome their external as well internal obstacles.

A couple of generations ago we had a strong manufacturing base that could absorb many of these low-skilled workers and offer them a pathway out of poverty. Today there are fewer opportunities for these workers to make a livable wage and move out of poverty. Because there is no longer a connection between effort and benefits or success we now have an intransigent underclass which is mostly urban and mostly black that lacks the opportunities to become middle-class and also lacks the desire to put in the work. Overcoming poverty requires hard work on the part of the individual to overcome the many obstacles designed to prevent their success and there appears to be an attitude among many of our young people that success no longer requires hard work. They instead seem to believe that there are short-cuts and easy money. It is important to be prepared for the opportunities but opportunity must also exist.

What we failed to realize is that while the fight to reduce poverty and inequality to us are self-evident concepts worthy of support there are many people who view them as collateral damage of capitalism. We falsely assumed that most caring people agreed with our position and supported the fight that has been waged yet there has been a slow erosion through materialism and greed undermining our social safety net and demonizing those who rely on it. We have not done a good enough job of combating the immorality of their argument and have allowed them to couch it in economics. Instead of it being our moral obligation to help those less fortunate, the weak, and the aged it has now come down to we can’t afford them. We can afford to give tax-cuts to the wealthy and corporations but we can’t afford to help the poor and less fortunate.

If we are to overcome the propaganda of the wealthy to demean and undermine the needy then we have to once again regain our moral footing and call out these tactics and their proponents for who and what they are. We must also be willing to address the excesses of our programs and be willing to innovate to overcome the intransigence of poverty. It is difficult to make the case for “food instability” while at the same time we have high rates of juvenile and adult obesity in these same communities. There is and has been a concerted effort on the part of the wealthy to undermine our social safety net. It has become fashionable to label the poor as lazy and morally bankrupt, but it wasn’t the poor who extorted billions of dollars from our economy, it wasn’t the poor who nearly brought our economic system to the brink of collapse, and it certainly wasn’t the poor who requested and received billions of dollars in wealth transfer.

There is this talk about class-warfare and I find it amazing that the only time we have this conversation is when the wealthy are being asked to contribute. I didn’t hear the term class-warfare when the rich were asking for TARP, bail-outs, and tax cuts. Hmmm, I wonder why? I guess it isn’t a transfer of wealth if it is going up only when it is comes trickling down.

My generation of the Sixties, with all our great ideals, destroyed liberalism, because of our excesses. - Camille Paglia

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Older Unemployed and Social Security Reform

But that does not seem to matter, not for her and not for a growing number of people in their 50s and 60s who desperately want or need to work to pay for retirement and who are starting to worry that they may be discarded from the work force — forever...Of the 14.9 million unemployed, more than 2.2 million are 55 or older. Nearly half of them have been unemployed six months or longer, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate in the group — 7.3 percent — is at a record, more than double what it was at the beginning of the latest recession. - New York Times

One of the least covered issues facing this country is the growing number of older workers who are now unemployed and who because of it have gone through their savings, investments, and retirement accounts and who may never become employed again. Many of these workers had planned to retire with their savings and retirement accounts to supplement their Social Security and now they will have to rely entirely on the government for their retirement and medical needs. While this is a tragedy in and of itself, the real calamity is that not only will these people be old and poor but they have become the means by which the wealthy has decided to balance the budget. The really sad thing is that many of them will also be highly in debt and will spend their golden years struggling to survive.

As a nation we have decided that our best years are behind us and we are determined to repeat them especially the “Gilded Age”. If the wealthy and the wing-nuts have their way not only will there be no retirement accounts for many but there will also be little if any Social Security to sustain them. Folks this isn’t about class warfare, this isn’t about being envious or hating on the rich, and this isn’t even about taxes, this is about what is the fundamental character of this country. Many of these workers through no fault of their own have found themselves unemployed through downsizing and the “great recession” created by the same folks who want to displace them from the only thing that will separate them from elderly poverty the likes of which we haven’t seen since prior to Social Security.

The insidiousness of what the wealthy are trying to do with Social Security reform is that they recognize that not only is America getting older, but also the aged are going to have fewer resources. Prior to the real estate bubble crashing many of these workers had already racked up tremendous debt using their homes as credit cards which they will be carry into retirement. This environment will cause many people to have to continue to work beyond retirement and thus increasing the pressure to extend the retirement age for Social Security. I suppose the thinking will be since they can’t afford to retire anyway we may as well hold off on their government checks. The unfortunate aspect of all of this is that the wealthy through their minions have convinced a number of Americans to believe that these programs have become obsolete and a waste of taxpayer money. The main impetus of this strategy is to blame the poor and the elderly mantra casting them as lazy and a drain on society.

These were the same folks who lambasted this administration for “pulling the plug” on grandma during the health-care reform debate. I guess they want the elderly to live, but only in poverty. The strategy is the same in all of their proposals. They fight for the unborn until they are born then they are on their own. They refuse to provide for their education, to stabilize their families, or offer a pathway out of poverty besides their bumper sticker rhetoric. It is obvious they see the writing on the wall and realize that in order to address the long-term structural problems of this nation revenues will have to be increased so in their usual preemptive fashion they are laying the groundwork to minimize their portion or to shift those obligations to others. It is becoming painfully clear that reducing spending will not be enough but I guess they have adopted a scorched earth policy to squeeze as much from the most vulnerable as they can before we even begin to discuss increasing revenues.

I predict in the coming years that poverty amongst the elderly will increase dramatically as they watch their investments being looted, their homes being devalued, and their pensions disappear. These won’t be people who were marginally involved in our economic system but people who had worked hard and played by the rules but who have become expendable like so many before them. These people will be the collateral damage of globalization and free trade. Those who have profited from these strategies will continue to obstruct and demonize any policies to help those they have sacrificed for their own gain. We can continue to ignore the coming catastrophe by clinging to the fear and uncertainty being propagated by the wealthy or we can take a cue from our European brethren and demand that the system begin to work for the 98% for whom it no longer does.

If we refuse to act then many of our parents and relatives who have been replaced way before their time will become the new faces of poverty. Millions of workers will be too young for retirement and too old to work in a shrinking job market. They will have no health-care, no savings, and plenty of debt as they float in this purgatory of not knowing what their future will hold. In this backdrop the true character of America will emerge and to be honest I am not sure what that character will be. The more I read comments from folks extolling the virtues of giving the wealthy more the less hopeful I am for the future.

“You know, if I listened to him [Michael Dukakis] long enough, I would be convinced we're in an economic downturn and people are homeless and going without food and medical attention and that we've got to do something about the unemployed.” - Ronald Reagan

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