If Donald Wins in 2020 Blame the Mainstream Media

Reading the reactions of pundits and press to two nights of Democratic Party debates should actually soothe Donald Trump’s anxieties. The press, especially the mainstream press along with a few temporary volunteers from the Conservative Party, is going to do Trump’s job for him. We are being whipped up into a sense of panic for a number of reasons, all related to the reactionary judgments of people who have reached “a certain age” and beyond.

The angst over the use of the word socialism could be enough all on its own to put DT back in the oval office. Progressives are not trying to turn America into a socialist nation. Some progressives may one day manage to overturn capitalism, but not today. Most Democrats see ways to be progressive without displacing the capitalist system we have. Admittedly it would be much easier if wealthy capitalists pitched in to help keep America’s core values alive, but change can be legislated step-by-tedious step if necessary. Or we can start with blue states and use envy to get working Americans to insist that their red state follow suit. If we the people decide to make a budget that offers social programs rather than an obscene tax cut for billionaires, it’s a democracy, we can do that. All we have to do is get enough other Americans to agree. As long as the media keeps asking Democratic candidates about their view of socialism this will remain an unsettled question in the minds of many voters. Democratic socialism is not the same as socialism.

As more Democratic candidates design more and more programs to meet the needs of parents in a world where two parents probably work, or where there are many single-parent families, the mainstream media raises questions about their ability to get these things done. As long as they vow to pay off everyone’s college loans, pay reparations to Americans of African Descent who have been held back economically by discriminatory practices, offer everyone free medical care even though you might have to pay taxes that are a bit higher (offset by free medical care), make the economy more equal, and many more great ideas, the mainstream media passes on the message that these left-wingers are fringe people who will not be able to deliver on their promises. Then the media reminds us of how centrist most Americans are, and implies that we the people don’t want these things and will, as usual, vote against our own best interests. Clearly it is unlikely that all these benefits can accrue to working Americans at once. There are designs that must be debated, bills that must be written and passed. These things take time. And, although all of these programs would be paid for by the federal government they would be paid for with our money and most likely would be run by free-standing agencies with federal oversight.

Everyone who offers Progressive ideas admits that we will have to raise taxes on those at the top of the economy. There are justifications for this. Whether you think they are valid depends on your own ideological bent and perhaps how big you bank accounts are. (Most of us have only one bank account; some of us have none.) The biggest argument offered up so far is the “you did not build it”/”you did not build it alone” impasse in which some people say (“the makers”, in this scenario) that without the business they established society would be poorer. They call the rest of us “the takers”. Well that can’t be right. Without workers they could never have made such great products or offered such in-demand services and they would have stayed very small or failed. What they mean is that, now that they have found new workers, cheap workers, they don’t need us anymore. Except now we are their best consumers. And we can’t consume as much as they would like because they did not share the wealth with us. Workers did not think of themselves as “takers”. It’s insulting. Workers thought of themselves as partners, as family, but now they have been disinherited. New worker families are reaping the benefits of corporations and they are slowly becoming new consumers.

Are corporations American corporations, or do they belong to whatever country has the least expensive workers? If they can switch nationalities for economic reasons, haven’t they switched their nationalities altogether. If they strive to pay as few taxes into the government of the nation they still like to claim as their own, are they still patriots? If they pay no taxes can they still lobby as insiders for more favors from a federal government they no longer support? If they do not contribute to the federal budget should they have any say in deciding how the budget is divvied up?

I believe that if corporations continued to invest in America and American workers this nation would blossom and could, once again, become the hot crucible of innovation that it used to be. The media keeps telling Americans how centrist they are, how moderate. They do not ever get Americans excited about how lifting away some of our worries might free the nation to explore new technologies, medicines and medical treatments, ways to keep the planet clean and healthy and to solve lots of pesky problems that seem inherently solvable, but never get solved.

And finally, Progressive or Moderate, whoever becomes the Democratic candidate must not be obstructed by a moderate mainstream press from having a real shot at beating Donald Trump because he is an existential threat to our democracy/republic. Unless we have decided to stop flirting with authoritarianism and to actually become an authoritarian state; unless we kiss the forefathers goodbye – you tried, you lasted two and a half centuries – but close only counts in horseshoes and (I forgot the other one) but Google says it’s hand grenades. In the 2020 election there are only two choices, Trump or the candidate the Democrats choose. You cannot afford to be an independent voter. Not this time. You cannot afford to sit this one out. And if you saddle us with Donald Trump for four more years we may not be as nice to you as we have been so far.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Left Voice

Conservatives and the Social Safety Net

Conservatives and the Social Safety Net

Conservatives adamantly oppose government programs because they say they believe that everything can be done better by the private sector, by capitalists, than can be achieved through any government program. (Well think about it for a minute, which works better, the public option in the ACA or the private prisons for criminals and immigrants?) Further, these Conservatives argue, large public programs that help people who are disabled, who are unemployed, who are poor, who are children, who are sick, and who are old are socialist programs and Americans are not socialists.

Our forefathers were farmers and entrepreneurs, in other words, capitalists, but they did not mandate any particular economic system for our young nation, and since socialism and communism both came out of Europe in the 1900’s, they probably didn’t even imagine that such an economic idea might exist one day. In the 30’s there was a pretty prominent movement of socialists in America, especially when the stock market crashed and the nation was slogging through a Great Depression. Many of our social safety net programs originate from those days of bread lines.

In the 1950’s communism had a moment of philosophical consideration by some Americans but was brutally stomped out by McCarthyism. Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R) (WI) mowed down anyone who had ever even whispered to a communist, or at least he tried. People were black-listed and lost their jobs often for no reason except McCarthy’s say-so. Communism certainly did not fare well in the USSR and proved to be as corruptible as any government/economy. Interest in communism waned in America. Conservatives insist that capitalism is the only economic model that matches with democracy. Here’s a quote from The American Conservative offered up on June, 6, 2019, “Socialism will Always Destroy Democracy”. (Although it seems to me that Conservatism is doing a pretty good job of that these days.)

By definition (Merriam Webster) “Socialism definition is – any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

Strictly speaking none of the benefit programs produce anything or distribute any goods. They involve budget items that describe how we the people wish to spend our money. In a time, like now, of great income inequality, where we the people are a bit short of money because recent laws have favored the wealthy, and have allowed them to own an inordinate proportion of our nation’s wealth, these same wealthy Americans are telling us that they do not want to spend their money on a safety net. They also let us know that they have not left us enough money and that we cannot afford to spend our money that way either.

But the story they always tell us, about the mismatch between democracy and social programs that they label as socialism is not borne out in the real world. Canada is a thriving democracy with a very sound social safety net. There are many such nations around the world.

Conservatives still tell us these messages constantly. Capitalism rules. We don’t have enough money to offer benefits.

Of course, Conservatives go beyond this. They tell us that using our money to lift up the less fortunate, or any of us in a moment of misfortune is harmful to us and to society as a whole. It destroys initiative (hard to prove) and poor, sick, old, disabled people or people being discriminated against would rise higher, fight harder without “free” money. However, getting rid of the social safety net might also be a good way to bring back plagues, which were common before there were humanitarian programs.

Conservatives convince people who need to benefit from these programs that illegal (undocumented) immigrants are collecting the benefits that citizens’ taxes have paid for, and there does seem to be some truth to that, but numbers are not huge and cutting off benefits to “the undeserving” seems to mean cutting off benefits to everyone.  Conservatives convince people of the unfairness of it all, they label it socialism and people end up voting against their own best interests.

Conservatives want to stay in the Industrial Age although the factories they long for have fled or switched to robotics. They want to stick to fossil fuels. It is all about money and profits. To do this against all evidence that industry has moved on to nations with cheaper labor and lots of laborers, and that burning fossil fuels is destroying a planet we don’t know how to escape from, means that holding on to power is essential. Without power the Conservative dream topples and the gravy train travels on more than just one track. I doubt we’ll see our money come back to us anytime soon.

Conservatives may be able to hold on to the 50’s or whatever was their favorite age, but for the rest of us we feel the end of the Industrial Age in our everyday lives, we are not all prepared to participate in the Tech Age, and that leaves a lot of us in a sort of economic limbo that can be quite scary. This is no time to take away the social safety net. And this is certainly no time to take it away because of a label. The social safety net is about people and it functions well in many democracies. At the very least Conservatives need to come up with something better than the same old arguments.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Atlantic

Are Democrats as Bad as Republicans?

Are Democrats as bad as Republicans? It seems to depend on who’s talking. I hear people, mostly young people, saying that those at the top of both parties favor capitalism and this is making them greedy. Powerful members of both political groups take money from lobbyists and special interests. Senior members of both parties have stock-piled wealth, 20-somethings point out. This makes them indebted to and vulnerable to the those who are looting the middle class and ignoring the poorest Americans. If those in power control the capitalists they hurt their own bottom line.

Voters still matter for now it seems, because parties continue to conduct expensive campaigns to get elected. Given enough time and power parties may find ways to turn voting into an empty gesture. Some feel we are already there. For now what trickles down to voters in terms of policies depends on which power broker goes to Washington to represent us. Neither party has championed workers and the environment as they should have.  I expect nothing from the GOP as they have actively stripped workers of benefits and power; and because they are avowed climate change deniers who seem determined to plunder the planet until every drop of fossil fuel has been burned. Perhaps Democrats, who have tried harder to help the fight against fossil fuels and the development of alternative energies, have made some progress, although not enough; but they have not done nearly enough for workers, especially workers who are parents.

It seems that the real contrast between what various people say about our political parties does tend to be generational (and yes, this is an over-generalization). We know that people of all ages nodded yes to Bernie Sanders’ progressive and worker-focused ideas. But, the children of the Boomers had heard their parents express liberal compassion and, it seems, these children became disillusioned by what Boomers actually accomplished. They looked to their parents and grandparents to be more authentic, to hold the greedy at bay.

Our children (who are hardly children any more) resent the Boomers, feel we “sold out”, abandoned our ideals, and traded them in for financial success and material comforts. Boomer parents and grandparents perhaps convinced themselves that they did what was required of mature people in America and that they did this for their children. They found that their education made them desirable employees and before they knew it they got seduced by big paychecks, promotions, investments, McMansions, vacation homes, power, and convinced themselves that they did this for their families and, of course, providing for their families was important. Perhaps they even convinced themselves that America had cleaned up its act. But it is also possible that conservatives and 60’s and 70’s activists fell for the Gordon Gekko “greed is good” mantra (1987 movie, Wall Street). Did we not see the handwriting on the wall, the empty factories, the workers who lost their pensions? Did we think these were isolated events in an otherwise healthy economy? Did we not notice that wealth was being squirreled away by a few who became rabid protectors of unfettered capitalism? If we had not “sold out”, but had stuck to our activist roots would our economy be different now?

There were roughly three groups of Boomers. There were some who came from wealthy and conservative or liberal families, were educated at top schools, and followed in the footsteps of their families. They tend to make up the rich and powerful “class”; the owners and the CEO’s of businesses. These Americans are capitalists and actively malign socialism.

In the second group were the activists, the hippies, those who demonstrated against the war in Vietnam, and attended women’s liberation  consciousness raising groups, and wanted to fight poverty and racial prejudice and inequality. Many of this second group of Boomers had also been to college, although they may not have been from wealthy homes. Some may have risen to be CEO’s and some may have worked in government jobs and as teachers. This group is not quite as susceptible to fear mongering about socialism.

And in the third group there were the Boomers who went to work after high school and started families while they were quite young. They believed that they would have a great job in a factory for all of their lives (if they stayed healthy), that their pay would steadily increase, they might even be promoted, and that they would have benefits like health care for their families and good pensions when they retired. The third group of Boomers were most injured by a transitioning economy (manufacturing to service) and affirmative action (they say). Many have slipped from solidly middle class into the lower end of the middle class. And yet many of this third group voted for and still support Trump. They are the biggest fans of capitalism and the most frightened by the idea of socialism.

Could any of the Boomers have stopped the migration of manufacturing to nations with cheap labor and plentiful consumers? It seems to be a common understanding that high taxes and union demands for more money contributed to the flight of our factories. However, having China open up to capitalism was probably a far greater motivator. Our government did not really try to stem the exodus because those in our government stood to profit from these new markets.

Most middle class parents thought their children wanted the lives they (the parents) had. But after all the parental talk about “the establishment” and the “military-industrial complex”, the millennials and Gen Xer’s seemed to be angry because their parents did not see the dangers of unregulated capitalism and find ways to rein in the most ardent capitalists who were aligned with the military (such good customers).

Young people are idealistic. They easily feel betrayed by what they see as hypocrisy—the failure of their elders to honor stated values. Many young people see capitalism as a pernicious economic system that hoards wealth and sees people with less money merely as “workers”, rather than people with responsibilities and interests. Union busting has been pursued systematically and successfully by the powerful and wealthy. Small wonder young people are hunting around for another economic system. They also see where greed has gotten us in terms of some scary climate change realities and the frightening possibilities recently predicted. Younger people are aware of the unwillingness on the part of those in power to help us switch to energies that are cleaner than the fossil fuels we have relied on. Younger people accept that fossil fuels have created the global warming that is changing climates and biomes.

These same young people seem embarrassed by materialism. They do not seem to believe in hoarding. They do not subscribe to the doctrine of perpetual growth—that an economy must always offer more—higher prices, higher wages, higher profits, more and better stuff. Where does the constant drive to grow take us? Will a nation fail if it cruises once in a while instead of always going full throttle? (You can almost hear the old capitalists saying, “sacrilege”.)

Millennials and Gen Xers find imperialism despicable—a crime against the humans whose lives are changed by a land and power grab. Annexing territory, now that the earth has been everywhere carved up into nations, has pretty much gone out of fashion, although heavily populated nations may have eyes for more territory eventually. These young Americans (20 and 30 somethings) are not proud of America’s sins, which is how they think of things like regime change and proxy wars, or persistent racism, or acting as missionaries to spread democracy/capitalism (and perhaps even Christianity). In these matters they blame Democrats who did not fight against these policies as much as they blame Republicans who insisted on them.

Our offspring are the future of America and the world. The things they don’t like that they see in the parental generations may determine what America (and the world) will be like in the future. Unless corporations win; and then they will be serfs. It is one thing to choose an organic and low-demand lifestyle for yourself. It is another thing altogether to have a low-income life thrust upon you.

Sadly, since the flaws in economic systems reside in us, rather than in the systems themselves it doesn’t matter if we become socialists, communists, or remain capitalists. It is the messages human minds hear and channel that need work. These message determine the laws we make, which in turn determines the level of corruption those at the top can indulge in. What we used to call the “puritan ethic” or the “protestant ethic” should be replaced with an economic code more suited to the post-industrial age. There may not be enough consumer demand to justify three shifts and long work weeks. Robotic workers which take the place of human workers may provide the leisure hours we once imagined were coming. The idea of “manifest destiny” suited the promise of an almost empty continent and the white supremacist entitlement felt by even our poorest colonists. Now, unless we go to space, there are no new lands to populate. We could change our goals so that we pay attention to the quality of our lives rather than producing endless quantities of unnecessary and unaffordable goods. If we consider all of this, a progressive agenda makes good sense. Short of revolution can it be accomplished?

I am speaking for younger generations I do not belong to and I am sorry about that. I may not have this right, but I am trying to understand an age that could either bring exciting and life-changing developments, or could put us in a new dark age, with capitalists and CEO’s as our “aristocratic masters” for decades. I recently read America: The Farewell Tour by Chris Hedges which inspired some of my thoughts, as he has no great love of capitalism and no great fear of socialism. He is the child of a calm and confirmed pair of activists, though they are not boomers and he is not as young as most Americans who hold similar views. His book has left me with food for thought. This is what books do for us. They send us off into ideas and analyses that continue to occupy our minds. He agrees with younger Americans that the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans. I am not there yet and whether or not I get there depends on what the Democrats do next.

This is a view from the cheap seats.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Happy Quilters


Election Woes

Confusing Voters

We are 18 days out from the 2018 midterm election with Democrats and Republicans locked in a desperate struggle to control the Legislative branch of our Federal government. Things start to get very confusing for voters right about now. The Democrats might be turning into Socialists. The Republicans are now claiming that they are the protectors of health care in America, although they voted at least 60 times to overturn the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). We are apparently thick as thieves with Saudi Arabia right now and may be inclined to ignore the assassination of journalists by other dictatorships or “illiberal democracies” if we have advantageous economic arrangements with these nations. Apparently sword dances are also very helpful in this regard. Voter suppression is rampant because Democrats encourage voter fraud (what?). Democrats are a violent mob paid to resist by a Jewish billionaire (George Soros). And thousands of immigrants are on the way to violate our southern border and create mayhem. If all of this is true I say how could 45 allow our nation to get in such bad shape?

Health Care

Ask yourself, who is likely to offer Americans the best health care for the least amount of money, the Democrats or the Republicans? Well, first there is the evidence available for all voters to see in the various health plans that have been offered during the Obama administration and the Trump administration. Obama’s plan was demonized by Republicans for allowing “death panels” to decide who lives and who die (which never came to pass), and was declared unconstitutional by courts that skew to the right because of the individual mandate (you cannot force Americans to buy something or pay a penalty for not buying it even if it would accomplish a larger goal of bringing down the cost of health care for everyone). The Republicans ripped all the teeth out of the ACA and backed the private health insurers (so unfair to billionaires, who are considered sacred even if they are making enormous profits from people’s pain, because they provide jobs and have generous lobbyists). Red states proved their bona fides to the party by refusing the Medicaid expansion, making their poorest citizens do without to keep a greedy party in power. And yet the ACA still worked pretty well and it has provided health care for millions of Americans who never had it.

We also saw what was on offer from Republicans in the Better Care plan which was in no way better than the ACA, and would cause millions to lose coverage. The “skinny repeal” was not their finest hour either. Republicans know insurance companies do not want to cover preexisting condition without being paid big bucks (and who will pay those big bucks, government or individuals). Since all Republicans really care about is the bottom line and backing corporations/businesses, they are trying to help out the insurance companies, not the American people. We have also been learning that almost anything can be classified as a preexisting condition. And yet I hear Republicans telling voters in commercial after commercial that it is Democrats who plan to take away coverage of preexisting conditions and, incidentally, also end Medicare.

Democrats Will End Medicare (what?)

Their claim is based on a cynical argument about linguistics, I guess. They argue that if everyone has “single-payer” health insurance then seniors will lose their Medicare and coverage for preexisting conditions will prove either skimpy or outrageously expensive. Of course if we call “single-payer” Medicare-for-all their argument falls apart. Republicans think that Americans will accept a “catastrophic coverage fund” that people contribute to separately from their health care plan. That will mean that health care only covers people who are healthy. People who are sick will be covered by the catastrophic plan if there is enough money in it. I am guessing that limits will be set on how much help people can expect from this catastrophic plan and then they will be on the hook for the balance, which still may be enough to wipe out their personal finances.

Why Democrats Should Have the Con in 2018 (and beyond)

Does your head hurt? Mine does. But I am not fooled by Republican obfuscation ( in plain language; lies, truth twisting). I know that in the matter of health care the Democrats need to have the con. I don’t care if Republicans keep referring to the idea of single-payer health care as socialism. A label will not kill you; inadequate health care, or health care that excludes because it is too expensive will put many people’s lives or lifestyles at risk. Republicans do not like the government to contribute to any programs that benefit citizens. They truly believe this is not the province of government. However, as world populations increase and climate change (which is real) affects things like food supplies and clean water and rising rates of disease, the government (our taxes) may need to contribute more to our comfort and protection rather than less.

Republicans are Bipartisan (what?)

As for the nonsense in some ads that claims our Republican representatives in Congress are bipartisan it is all I can do not to throw something weighty at my TV. There are many people in America and in my community who believe that these claims are accurate. If you followed the votes on Countable or listened to any news channel other than Fox or the local channels now owned by Sinclair then you know the facts. Once in a while, when Republicans had enough votes to pass legislation without requiring everyone to vote yes they excused some congress people in contested districts to allow them to vote no so they could later claim to be bipartisan. But voting with Trump 90% of the time is hardly a valid claim to bipartisanship. In this case this is just lying. Aren’t we sick of such blatant lying? Is bald-faced lying more honest than less-obvious lying? Can lying come out of a President’s mouth and be classified as “just a game”?

Which Party Actually Serves We the People?

Democrats may not be able to deliver on their promise of “single-payer” health care right away, or family leave, or guaranteed employment programs that cover people when jobs are scarce, but they will govern in such a way as to begin to move our federal government in directions that offer more to we the people and that stop pandering to the wealthiest among us. I really have nothing against wealth but I have a real problem with stacking the deck, with the rich legislating in favor of the rich, and with hoarding. Do people not hear the vastly overconfident Mitch McConnell daring to talk about cutting Medicare and Social Security right before an important midterm election? Doesn’t it get you riled up enough to vote this old man right out of his position at the head of the majority in the Senate. Vote in a new majority, get a new majority leader and end the drumbeat against programs we pay for.

Don’t let these ads confuse you. Vote anyway. Vote wisely.

Graphic: From a Google Image Search, Phys.org