Thursday, November 26, 2009

A More Decent Society

Reform would make us a more decent society, but also a less vibrant one. It would ease the anxiety of millions at the cost of future growth. It would heal a wound in the social fabric while piling another expensive and untouchable promise on top of the many such promises we’ve already made. America would be a less youthful, ragged and unforgiving nation, and a more middle-aged, civilized and sedate one.David Brooks; NY Times

I never thought I would see the day when I would agree with David Brooks, the syndicated Conservative columnist from the New York Times. But when you’re right, you’re right. This health care debate is about the values we hold as a nation and those things we think are important. However, after that point our views are markedly different. You see Mr. Brooks believes that wealth should only flow upwards from the middle and lower classes to the wealthy. He believes that by taxing the wealthy we stifle future growth and make ourselves a less vibrant nation. I would be curious as to how he would explain the Bush tax-breaks for the wealthy and how removing the regulations from Wall Street made us a more vibrant nation?

You see what Mr. Brooks fails to divulge is that giving money to rich people has never stimulated anything except profits made from capital manipulation and not the profits made from manufacturing anything. The goal of the wealthy is not to spend money but to hoard money; this is how you get to be wealthy by not spending your own money. His premise that if we continue to funnel money upward that this will insure the future growth of this nation is false and has historically been proven to be false. What has stimulated growth in our nation’s history have been those expensive promises that he and so many other compassionate Conservatives have been opposed to from their inception. It was not the robber-barons that made us a vibrant society; on the contrary it was those programs put in place that created the middle-class. If Mr. Brooks and his cronies had their way we would have two classes: the very wealthy and the rest of us.

But beyond the economic benefits of these “promises” there is also the moral imperative of a society to provide basic services to all of their people. Just once I would like to completely shut down this evil government for one week. For an entire week the government stops providing all the services it now provides and then see how these anti-government wing-nuts would respond. My guess is they would do rather well considering the have the funds to replace government services, but what about all of those folks without a pot to piss in or a window to throw out who turn out for these anti-government rallies? I remember during the Presidential campaign at McCain rallies when he would say Obama wants to raise taxes on those people earning over 250,000 dollars a year and there would be boos and then they would pan the audience and no one at the rally appeared to make over 50,000 a year and it was amazing to me to see their responses to policies that would benefit them.

Another thing that troubles me about the column is its inherent divisiveness. Mr. Brooks is attempting to appeal to the young to choose greed over compassion. As if money and the acquisition of stuff is all that defines a nation and a person and this conversation has come to dominate the health care debate in our country. What’s in it for me is the new mantra of our society. There was a time not long ago when sacrifices for our country was more than a bumper sticker; when having compassion on your fellow citizen’s did not have to be justified by a bottom line. It’s funny whenever we discuss helping the least of us we become suddenly fiscal hawks, but where were these fiscal hawks when Mr. Bush was funding two wars and giving tax-breaks to the richest among us? Why weren’t these expenditures scrutinized to the level that health reform has been?

The bottom line is that our systems are failing not just the least of us, but all of us and until we come to that conclusion jointly as people it will continue to do so. This debate isn’t really about right or left, rich or poor it is about what is best for us as nation. We have seen firsthand what the politics of greed has wrought us. Every twenty years we are brought to the brink of self destruction by a financial industry that puts profits not only before people but also our nation. But why should we believe our eyes when we can take the word of shrills like Mr. Brooks and believe beyond reality that the rich folks will take care of the rest of us once they get enough money. The only problem with that theory is that they will never get enough money and so it goes.

Wisdom: to live in the present, plan for the future, and profit from the past – Unknown
The Disputed Truth

Read more!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Forgotten

From the outset of the healthcare debate I have been amazed and deeply troubled by the tone of the debate. I was not troubled by the tea-baggers and town hall crazies; they can be explained by the history of our country’s corporate takeover of any serious debate concerning changing the status quo. I wasn’t even troubled by the Republican’s complete abdication of their responsibility to this country’s future by deciding that short-term political expediency trumps long-term engagement in the political process. No, the thing that has troubled me the most is how this healthcare reform debate has focused not on those who have needed it most (the uninsured) but on those who currently have healthcare. Somewhere a political calculation was made that the best way to pass reform was to downplay the moral imperative of having at least 46 million uninsured and thousands dying every year from lack of healthcare.

I wonder what does it say about a country when you have to frame an issue like this in what’s in it for me? Have we become so selfish and insensitive that we have lost the capacity to care for our fellow citizens who happen to be not as fortunate as we are unless there is something in it for us? Granted with the current economic downturn we all could use some relief and it is only human nature to seek out our own self-interest, but this latest trend of everybody for themselves is a little disheartening. It appears that the only folks who have been the recipients of charitable giving are the ones who least need it, i.e. bankers, CEO’s, etc.

Not since the death of Senator Ted Kennedy has anyone in politics spoken of our moral obligation to one another to give everyone in this country healthcare. It is amazing to me how the Republicans and health insurance companies have frightened the Democrats into abandoning the argument that people are dying every day from a lack of healthcare coverage and not only that but people’s long-term health is being seriously affected by their lack of access today. Rather than treat a cough today we prefer the current system that waits until it becomes pneumonia before providing the highest cost and least effective treatment available. I don’t understand how anyone can get traction from the argument of screw your neighbors because it is going to limit or ration your care. Would this argument be persuasive if we were stranded somewhere and had to rely on each other’s provisions or would we setup “death panels” to decide who was worthy of compassion and who was not? This argument that there is only so much healthcare to go around and that if you share it you will lose what you have goes to the heart of something dark and sinister in the human soul.

With the historic passage of the healthcare bill by the Congress it is still surprising that to me that we have not had a national outpouring for the right of all Americans to have healthcare. When it comes time to transfer wealth from the bottom up we never see commercials talking about how the corporate welfare system is running our “way of life”, but whenever we speak about transferring some of that wealth down to be shared by all Americans we have commercials and rallies comparing having compassion to communism. So let’s be clear, all of the other industrialized nations in the world who provide healthcare for their citizens are communist? The sad part is that the majority of Americans don’t even know what a communist is and so it’s this red herring used anytime anyone threatens the status quo. We must decide as a nation if access to healthcare is a privilege for just the wealthy or a right for all Americans. This I think is the fundamental question that this debate has failed to ask or to answer and as long as we have not answered that question then we continue to address peripheral issues and not the fundamental question of if it is a right then what is the most efficient and cost effective way to do it.

It is unfortunate that the majority of those 46 or so million of uninsured do not vote, so they are the forgotten or the invisible. Who speaks for those who have no voice? We have ads now asking folks to adopt animals like we use to have for adopting children, but there are no ads depicting the carnage of watching poor folks die of curable and common illnesses because they could not afford proper decent healthcare. Who comes up with this stuff? There has to be some mastermind behind this, I cannot believe that we have become this hardhearted on our own. We are willing to speak up for defenseless animals, but defenseless humans they’re on their own.

Real charity doesn't care if it's tax-deductible or not. - Dan Bennett
The Disputed Truth

Read more!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Soul of the Party?

Many people have described what took place in the 23rd district of New York congressional race as an internal struggle within the Republican Party as an internal struggle for the soul of the Republican Party. I find this analogy difficult to accept and understand because how can you fight for something that doesn’t exist? To say the Republicans are fighting over their soul is akin to saying the Civil War was a fight for the soul of America, while poetically it sounds good the truth is somewhat less pleasant. The Civil War was not about the soul of America, it was about the viability of a nation and its dependence on a corrupt regional power structure. What happened in New York was not about the soul of the Republican Party, it was about the viability of a national party and its reliance on a corrupt regional power base.

What we saw happen in New York and what I predict we will see more of in the coming months is the beginning of a third party. If you notice who the main players were in this debacle it is not hard to understand why they would want to see a third party launched. These are the unrepentant right wing neo-cons who believe that the lesson from the last two elections was that the Republicans were not far enough to the right. They continue to cling to the false mantra of Karl Rove that America is a right of center nation. These are the unapologetic neo-con architects of some of the worst policies in American history and believe that it wasn’t their policies that Americans soundly rejected, but the packaging. They are tin-eared musicians who cannot understand the tune that the American public is playing and so they have crafted a strategy that while it may be personally gratifying and enriching to some of their wallets will not translate into any electoral majority.

If these clowns were not so out of touch they would recognize that the voices they are hearing are not pushing to the right or to the left, those are just the loudest voices. The real voice of change that many in Washington, in Alaska, and in other parts of the establishment circles are failing to interpret is not about party affiliation or cultural warfare. The voice of change taking place in local communities is about watching this nation become a second rate empire and there is a feeling of helplessness on the part of many people. They are watching the wealthy plunder this country without any regard for those in the middle who have been the creators of wealth in this nation. They are watching the vice slowly squeeze them from both ends with mounting debt created by a capital system that socializes risk but privatizes profits and an ever increasing social burden for those who are becoming obsolete in this society. They look into the eyes of their kids and for once they cannot say with any conviction, “That your life will be better than mine.”

The problem with trying to harness the voice of change of this magnitude is that it is easy to misread it. The reason that it is so easy to misread it is because it has not crystallized into a single rational voice. Currently there is just this dissonant cry of anguish that is being misdirected down many incongruent and disconnected paths. What we are witnessing is in the face of unknown fear many people are finding comfort in the ghosts and bogeymen of the past, but these are not the majority of voices again they are just the loudest. The majority are sitting quietly in front of their televisions hoping, praying, and waiting for someone, anyone to hear their silent screams and rescue them and their children from the coming apocalypse. What happened in New York was a group of out of touch and disconnected frauds who tried to stage a coup and at the same time launch their third party strategy. But of course because they were not close enough to the action they completely misread the situation and went down in defeat. You can’t be grassroots and not mow some yards. This thing is not about ideology and moral victories on either side, it is about can we prevent the Armageddon that so many are so hell-bent on bringing about?

Let us be clear; there is no soul-searching taking place in the Republican Party. What we have is a group of political hacks who are trying to exploit the fear and uncertainty of some people for their short-term political and economic gain. As this process moves forward it is important not to discount what lies beneath the upheaval which is genuine fear and concern on the part of many well meaning folks and anyone who dismisses this will do so at their own peril. It is important that progressives also realize that many of these voices for change don’t even know what they are looking for so to assume that it is the progressive agenda will be as harmful as the wing-nuts assuming it is in support of their agendas. Right now what we have is this giant blob that is searching for a shape or a form to take and whoever can articulate its goals and direct it will be successful while others will fail. The key in uncertain times like these is to do the right thing for the country regardless of how popular or politically correct it is because in the end that will be the final judge-did it work?

Oh by the way if the Republicans are looking for a soul I understand they can be had pretty cheaply these days on Wall Street and with some insurance carriers it is not considered a pre-existing condition to be without one.

I know well what I am fleeing from but not what I am in search of. - Michel de Montaigne

Read more!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Who Said Change Was Hard?

It’s hard to believe that a year has come and gone since then candidate Obama became President-elect Obama and then President Obama. For some reason it seems like it has been longer than that I guess if you listen to the “newsmakers” and other talking heads he has been in office for at least 3 years. I mean after all the war in Iraq is still going on, not to mention Afghanistan and the possibility of its escalation, unemployment is nearing record highs, we still don’t have health-care reform, and gays still can’t serve openly in the military. The list of unfulfilled promises is longer now than it was during the campaign. What has this guy done, besides win the Nobel Peace prize?

The American capacity for amnesia has never failed to amaze me and in the case of this President it has reached a new all-time record for brevity. Don’t get me wrong I have my own concerns that there is still much work to be done, but I think that what has been lost in these calculations was whether the Obamania would translate into actual activism and not just the usual round of after election complaining. So far there has been very little transformation of the electorate into a more activist population. I love it when people tell me they are supporters of this person or of that policy and then when you ask them what have they actually done to bring about the programs or policy changes that they supposedly support, they will often times say nothing. It kills me to see all of the people still sporting their Obama bumper stickers, yard signs, and tee-shirts (oh did I mention their chia’s) as if they are some new sort of chic fashion to say, “whoo I’m still cool.” If all you do is wear a tee-shirt or sport a bumper sticker on your Honda then you are not a supporter and you are not cool, you are someone who is trying to be identified with something you never understood.

Many people have expressed their displeasure with the pace and direction of change taking place in America and are ready to start blaming the President. To those people I say it took 244 years to end slavery in America, it took 144 years for women to vote, and it took 219 years to elect the first black President so change comes slowly to this country. When you add to this mix an entrenched opposition whose only plan is criticizing and opposing your plans then you really have the ingredients for rapid change. Why hasn’t anyone noticed that the loyal opposition has yet to submit a plan for anything since the President has taken office? Shouldn’t they be required to present some sort of alternative plan to be taken seriously? It’s amazing how little we require of our elected officials. I realize that after W. the bar has hit an all-time low but this is ridiculous. The opposition should be required to present an alternative plan within 60 days of the majority party’s introduction of a program. Ok, you don’t agree with this plan or this solution so what are the alternatives? The least they could do is to present the American public with their alternative and let them decide which plan has more merit.

The fact that change is difficult should not be a reason to accept doing nothing; it should be a rallying cry to continue the push for change. As much as I enjoy sitting behind my laptop and pumping out these compelling diaries what I know is that real change does not occur from behind this screen. For change to be real and sustained it must occur in the streets and in our local communities. A perfect example is the “summer of rage” and the “teabaggers” now of course these were Astroturf demonstrations but imagine if they had of been real the effect they could have had. Hell, they almost had an effect and they were fake. The point is that throughout the history of America real change has required people who were willing to get out of their comfy Lazy-Boys and slippers and take to the streets for what they believed in. If it had not been for those types of folks we would still be sending young men to their deaths in Vietnam and black folks would still be dodging fire hoses and police dogs.

We will only get the change that we are willing to stand up for, not sit around complaining about and if that change does not come fast enough who can we blame for it? One of my biggest concerns following the election would be that too many people would believe that the election changed everything. The truth is that the election changed nothing. It was a nice historic photo-op but the reality is that those who wish the status quo to remain the same are still wielding the levers of power and if you think that one lone black man is going to change that, then you are more delusional than I thought you were. Those levers must be as Charleston Heston famously put it, “pried from their cold dead hands.” Who said change was hard? Change is not hard, the hard part is remembering what needs to be changed and what needs to be changed is our attitudes. Change is not hard. What’s hard is draggin my lazy ass off the couch, now that’s hard!

Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history. - Joan Wallach Scott

Read more!
HTML stat tracker