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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fourth of July

Another Fourth of July has marched in and out. Small towns across America like Sonoma parade in patriotic fervor, even permitting the dissidents and dissenters their voice in the march, past reviewing stands with waving local politicos. Happy, joyous, bright, stepping to the local band, adorable gaggles of children in costumes, wannabe cowboys and girls on horses, old-time fancy cars and their proud papa owners, fire truck squirting the kids and barbecue and fire works to top it off. And here comes Bill Moyers to piss on the parade. To remind us in that soft Texas drawl, that annoying sting of truth and morality to pop the bubble of belief of the myths that sustain us. The Fourth: Independence Day, Freedom and Liberty Day, to welcome in a new world order, a new kind of government that guaranteed equality and justice and rights for all. “… The ideal of equality Jefferson proclaimed, he also betrayed. He got it right when he wrote about "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" as the core of our human aspirations. But he lived it wrong, denying to others the rights he claimed for himself. And that's how Jefferson came to embody the oldest and longest war of all - the war between the self and the truth, between what we know and how we live.” –Moyers “What we know and how we live.” But those foundational rights, so eloquently expressed were not the reality that was lived. The black men and women were only free to be worked to death, have their children taken away, and be lashed and worse at the whim of another. Women were free only to serve where they were told or allowed to, generally for a pittance or nothing at all. Native Americans were free to be slaughtered and their lands stolen, just like before. Voting was only for (some) white men. What a bummer, these nasty facts, but that was Independence Day then. And now? Technology aside would it be a shock unimaginable for the Founders to drop into these times: society integrated with all colors, same sexes married, equality under the law, public education and the voluminous legal restrictions that keep us (mostly) in check? I like to think the best of them – Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Paine – would say,” “Yes, this is what we had in mind, but could never do it then.” But that’s wishful rumination given how the Native populations were driven from Their lands and their numerous cultures systematically destroyed by these and ensuing U.S. presidents. Wishful thinking considering the American Empire’s colonization of foreign lands in the ever-expanding interests of U.S commerce. The chasm of hypocrisy between what was said on paper and what was done in practice is a Grand Canyon-sized one, and we are obliged to acknowledge it to ourselves and teach it to those who’ll replace us. We live in the United States of Amnesia, Gore Vidal told us, and it seems true. Each time we seem to forget the reality of war – what really happens to the people caught up in it, perpetrators and victims alike – from one to the next. Each time it begins with a patriotic fervor and ends in a tally of bodies and treasure. Each time we say, “How stupid. What a waste!” and yet it doesn’t take much to set it all in motion soon again. Is it amnesia, willful ignorance, or some sort of insane denial to reckon with what is? Author, journalist Chris Hedges grimly reminds us of some of the truths we’d rather not face. “Catastrophic climate change is inevitable. Arctic ice is in terminal decline. There will soon be so much heat trapped in the atmosphere that any attempt to scale back carbon emissions will make no difference. Droughts. Floods. Heat waves. Killer hurricanes and tornados. Power outages. Freak weather. Rising sea levels. Crop destruction. Food shortages. Plagues.”—Hedges The truth is the chasm that divides us in this country has never been so great save for the Civil War. The disparity in wealth and power between the small percentage at the top and the rest of the populace is more extreme than ever before. Healthcare, provided to all in every industrialized country on Earth, is still doled out as a privilege rather than a human right. Our public education system ranks far below many other countries, while our incarceration level is higher than most of the others. And the list goes on. But it’s far easier to don our red, white and blue outfits and parade around, stuff our faces with barbecue and tell ourselves and any who’ll listen what a great country we are and how superior to all others. Even though it’s just not true. The ideals that were set forth in print from the minds of those extraordinary men some 230+ years ago point the way toward the goal of an egalitarian society, something unknown in history before that time, but far yet to be reached. And all the patriotic ballyhooing and backslapping won’t make it so.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

America is Not Broke

In the fall of 2008 a giant mud ball - created by Wall Street financial schemers and irresponsible big bank mortgage lenders, hit the fan - and it splattered on just about everyone in our country and even globally. The result of these frauds has resulted in double-digit unemployment and millions of home foreclosures. In order to stanch an economic meltdown and crash that threatened to reverberate at home and internationally the Bush Administration instituted bailouts for some of the largest banks and investment corporations. It was a necessary action agreed upon by a majority of the most respected, credentialed and acclaimed economists.

The close to one trillion in bailout money to these “too big to fail” corporations was supposed to go, in part, to loans to businesses to create economic stimulus and toward readjusting improperly made mortgage loans, but it hasn’t. The ranks of the unemployed and under employed have hardly budged, but the richest 1 percent among us received tax cuts amounting to hundreds of billions. About 400 wealthy Americans now have more wealth than 150 million Americans combined!

Even more egregious and mind-boggling than this incredible imbalance is the astounding fact that some of the biggest banks and corporations in America pay NO taxes or a pittance of what would be their fair share. In 2009, after having been complicit in the crash of the American economy and despite earning record profits, Bank of America and General Electric paid $0 taxes. In fact GE got a tax rebate of $3 billion. All the while we are being told that there’s no money for schools, food programs or health care, and that it’s the fault of the public sector. Yes, it’s the greedy teachers, firefighters and social workers that caused the crash on Wall Street, not the corporations that pay no taxes and the CEOs who make 500 times the average employee that have destroyed the middle class and absconded with the wealth.

Former Secretary of the Treasury and renowned economist Robert Reich states: “The only way America can reduce the long-term budget deficit, maintain vital services, protest Social Security and Medicare, invest more in education and infrastructure, and not raise taxes on the working middle class is by raising taxes on the super rich.” He goes on to point out that if this richest 1 to 2 percent were taxed at the same rates as 50 years ago, they’d be paying in over $350 billion more this year alone, “… which translates into trillions over the next decade.”

This theft of the American economy has got to stop, and that’s why a rally on the Plaza and demonstration in front of Bank of America will take place on Tax Day, April 18 at 5:00 P.M. America is not broke. Its wealth, our wealth, has been stolen and is being hoarded by the big corporations that pay no or a small semblance of the taxes they owe, and the super rich tax evaders.

On Monday the 18th we will present a bill for taxes to the Bank of America owed to the American people. We need you to walk with us in a peaceful protest and make your voices heard. Enough is enough. We will not be cheated and lied to by those who drove us into the worst recession since the 1930s, obliterated our jobs and took our homes. This is the day to make the deadbeats pay.