Thursday, January 18, 2018

MLK's grave disappointment with the white moderate is our grave disappointment with the moderate Democrat

Above: Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife Coretta Scott King, 1964. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

MLK's frustration with the white moderate

In his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, MLK wrote:

"... I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

Our frustration with the moderate Democrat

MLK's frustration with the white moderate is the same frustration that I, and millions of others, have with the moderate Democrat today. Let me substitute a few words in MLK's statement, and show you what I mean:

"... I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the moderate Democrat. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the lower income person's great stumbling block in his stride toward more economic opportunity is not the Republican or the Tea Partier, but the moderate Democrat, who is more devoted to 'order' than to opportunity; who prefers slight changes around the margins to drastic reform; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's economic freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the lower income person to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance by moderate Democrats is much more bewildering than outright rejection by Republicans and Tea Partiers."

The Democratic Establishment's paternal frown of disapproval upon Bernie Sanders and his supporters

All throughout the 2016 Democratic Primary, supporters of Bernie Sanders were scolded for being too radical, for suggesting reforms that "just weren't practical." We were berated time and time again, "Change always takes a long time! It must be done in small steps!!" Yes, that's right, even though history tells us different--the New Deal radically transformed America in just a few months--we were browbeaten, "You're being ridiculous! Nothing but pie in the sky!!"

Journalist Kevin Drum, over at the left-leaning Mother Jones, epitomized this cynicism, calling Bernie Sanders a con man, and then describing his own feeble approach to public policy: "I'll grant that my pitch--and Hillary's and Barack Obama's--isn't very inspiring. Work your fingers to the bone for 30 years and you might get one or two significant pieces of legislation passed."

Got that folks? Commit yourself to decades-long incrementalism! - incrementalism so protracted & weak that it's unlikely to improve your life in any measurable way. Anything else is just a con, according to Drum and his ilk. The New Deal? Bah... don't pay any attention to that, it didn't happen.

Incrementalism isn't good enough


Above: "N.R.A. Parade," an artwork by Don Freeman (1908-1978), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. The National Industrial Recovery Act, creating the National Recovery Administration (NRA) was a radical law, effecting prices, working conditions, and also setting forth a bold infrastructure plan (the results of which we still benefit from today). According to U.S. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, "NRA was enormously popular. The Blue Eagle spread everywhere, and in some people's minds the New Deal and NRA were almost the same thing... there was a great lift in the spirit of the people as they marched in parades, proudly displayed the Blue Eagle in their windows, and listened to Roosevelt explaining it on the radio" (Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew, 1946, p. 210). Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Museum of the City of New York.


Above: The department store "S. Klein" displays the NRA Blue Eagle (note the spelling error, "Klien," in the "N.R.A. Parade" artwork above). Photo by Berenice Abbot, provided courtesy of Wikipedia and the New York Public Library.

Dear Paternalistic, Moderate Democrats:

--For people dealing with poverty and permanent insolvency, because of merciless debt-relief restrictions and stagnant wages, decades-long incrementalism isn't good enough.

--For people who can't maintain their families, or even start one, due to crap jobs and wages, it isn't good enough.

--For people who can't get an education without going into crushing debt, it isn't good enough.

--For people who can't enjoy their older years, because Social Security hasn't been expanded and because fixed pension plans are going the way of the Dodo Bird, it isn't good enough.

--For people without adequate sewage disposal, in the 21st century, it isn't good enough.

--For children drinking lead, while the super-wealthy keep hoarding more billions, it isn't good enough.

--For the millions of Americans who are thinking about blowing their brains out, it isn't good enough.

--For the millions who still don't have health insurance, it isn't good enough.

--For the millions who can't get dental care, it isn't good enough.

--For Americans turning to opioids and other drugs, "to stay blanked out of this world," it isn't good enough.

--For a country being ripped off by pharmaceutical price gouging, it isn't good enough. 

--For those who must stay in jail, even though they are presumed innocent, because they're too poor to afford bail, it isn't good enough.

Moderate democrats must learn to fight with us; or, if they don't have the required strength or empathy (like Joe Biden admits he doesn't), they need to find another line of work and get the hell out of the way.

"True leadership calls for the setting forth of the objectives and the rallying of public opinion in support of these objectives... The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation... We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer."

--President Franklin Roosevelt, Address at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, May 22, 1932

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The New Deal's helping hand to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation inspires... while our present-day indifference shocks the conscience

Above: This photo shows American Indians enrolled in a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, 1933. CCC work on the reservation included protecting trees from insect damage, increasing the size of buffalo herds, constructing water reservoirs for livestock, putting up telephone lines, fence maintenance, making truck trails to access timber reserves, building firebreaks, firefighting, and planting thousands of trees for the Shelterbelt Project (from various issues of "Indians at Work," 1933-1941). Photo from "Indians At Work," U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, December 1, 1933, p. 28.

Above: The Pine Ridge CCC men, working on the "Kyle Dam," and related projects, 1938. Other New Deal programs assisted the Pine Ridge Indians too. For example, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration contributed cattle ("Indians at Work," May 15, 1935, p. 21), and the following was reported in the September 1939 edition of "Indians at Work": "With the completion of the new $16,800 Indian day school, largest rammed earth structure known, a new chapter has been written into the story of education on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The modern schoolhouse was sponsored by the United States Indian Service and constructed by WPA labor" (p. 34). Photo from "Indians At Work," U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, April 1938, p. 24.

Above: The Pine Ridge CCC men working on the "White Clay Dam" and irrigation project. The men of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation were very appreciative of the CCC. One wrote: "This work has provided an income for us and has enabled us to keep alive while, at the same time, it has given us a better perspective on our goals in life" ("Indians at Work," July 1, 1936, p. 19). Photo from "Indians At Work," U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, September 1938, p. 21.

Above: "Tribal Self-Government at Pine Ridge Reservation, S.D., Oglala-Sioux Council." The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (The "Indian New Deal") promoted a return to tribal self-government. Photo from "Indians At Work," U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, February 1941, p. 21.

Above: The positive relationship between the federal government and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation during the New Deal era was not a one-way street. For example, the reservation contributed to America's victory in World War II. The May 1943 edition of "Indians at Work," reported that "Sergeant William Iron Elk, Pine Ridge Sioux, and now a radio operator in the Signal Corps, was wounded in action in the Meuse-Argonne and Ypres in the last war [World War I]. Iron Elk is 42 years old." We also see, in the photo above, "Pfc. Clement P. Crazy Thunder, Pine Ridge Sioux... a Paramarine." The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation also bought war bonds to support the war effort, $50,000 worth as of May, 1943 (about $720,000 in today's dollars). Photo from "Indians At Work," U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, May 1943, p. 39.

President Franklin Roosevelt's statement on the American Indian

"We can and should, without further delay, extend to the Indian the fundamental rights of political liberty and local self-government and the opportunities of education and economic assistance that they require in order to attain a wholesome American life... the continuance of autocratic rule, by a Federal Department, over the lives of more than two hundred thousand citizens of this Nation is incompatible with American ideals of liberty. It also is destructive of the character and self-respect of a great race... the figures of impoverishment and disease point to their impending extinction, as a race, unless basic changes in their conditions of life are effected" (Statement on the Wheeler-Howard Bill [also known as the Indian Reorganization Act], April 28, 1934).

The New Deal response to the American Indian: empathy and action

New Deal policymakers saw the needs of the Pine Ridge Indians and responded with action. The projects above highlight just a few of the ways that they tried to improve their quality of life. In December 1933 the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, John Collier, reported that, "Except for the infirm and aged, the 8,200 Pine Ridge Sioux all have work. Save for the various emergency grants [which funded the New Deal work programs], most of them would be on the ration list now" ("Indians at Work," December 15, 1933, p. 1).

New Deal assistance for Pine Ridge was not an anomaly. For example, across the U.S. over 85,000 American Indians were employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps; and it was noted that "The improved economic condition of the Indians has definitely influenced their morale. They were participants in the planning, they did the work, and they directly benefited by the results." And like the Pine Ridge Indians, "Thousands of enrollees became skilled workers as a direct result of their participation in the Corps and are now contributing to the war effort, as members of the armed forces, as skilled workers in war industries, and as producers of food" (Perry H. Merrill, Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, 1981, pp. 44-45, citing reports from the time).

Other New Deal programs employed American Indians too, for example, the WPA and the National Youth Administration (but not on the same scale as the CCC - see, e.g., Donald S. Howard, The WPA and Federal Relief Policy, 1943, pp. 297-298). Also, the Public Works Administration funded infrastructure on Indian land, the New Deal's Arts and Crafts Board protected and promoted native art, the Public Works of Art Project hired Indian artists, and the short-lived but massive Civil Works Administration provided jobs for American Indians involving home repair, sewing, cutting firewood, disaster response, roadwork, and more (see, e.g., Henry G. Alsberg (ed.), America Fights the Depression: A Photographic Record of the Civil Works Administration, 1934, pp. 141-145.)      

Above: "Classrooms and quarters of the first Navajo day school to be completed under PWA." Photo from "Indians At Work," U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, March 1, 1935, p. 31.

Our present-day response to the American Indian: a wicked indifference

Compared to the quick, caring, and significant New Deal response, our present-day indifference to the plight of the Pine Ridge Indians shocks the conscience. As the super-wealthy keep hoarding more and more cash, and as Republicans keep giving them more and more tax breaks, and as American voters keep putting more and more sociopaths into high political office, let's take a look at what's happening at the Pine Ridge Reservation:

1. Record-breaking rates of suicide.

2. Widespread poverty and despair, with a per capita income of less than $10,000.

3. 80% of residents without a job.

4. Lack of proper heating in brutally cold winters.

5. Lowest life expectancy in the United States.

(#'s 1-4, from "Native Americans Who Can’t Afford Heat Take Desperate Measures To Stay Warm," Huffington Post, January 13, 2018; #5 is hyperlinked to its source.) 

These types of problems have been going on for a long time on the Pine Ridge Reservation (see, for example, "Ghosts of Wounded Knee," Harper's Magazine, December 2009), as well as other reservations. But that hasn't stopped the Trump administration from threatening Pine Ridge with budget cuts that would "touch every part of life from access to clean drinking water to block grants that fund programs to feed the elderly to much-needed after-school programs" ("Looming Trump budget cuts deepen distress on Pine Ridge," CNN, May 28, 2017). The Obama Administration, though not as callous as Republicans of course, offered only band-aid solutions - nothing too bold, nothing that would offend their neoliberal sensibilities.

What the hell is wrong with us?

Unfortunately, nothing is likely to change for the Pine Ridge Indians until Americans stop voting for the puppets of Wall Street and the puppets of secretive, reclusive billionaires. And I don't see that happening anytime soon. Instead, it looks like we're just going to keep sinking further and further into the cesspool of plutocracy and apathy.

At the end of the day, the poverty of the Pine Ridge Indians is simply a reflection of our national poverty of character. We have exchanged the New Deal ethos for an ethos of shameless indifference. Yet still, somewhere deep down inside, perhaps in crevices of our conscience that we haven't tapped into for decades, we know that we should be ashamed.

"I submit that neoliberal capitalist culture in the U.S. deadens feelings of social solidarity, pathologizes how we view ourselves and stunts our natural feelings of empathy and moral responsibility."

--Gary Olson, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, "Why So Little Empathy and Compassion Within American Culture?" Common Dreams, January 14, 2018, emphasis added.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The New Deal: Millions of new opportunities and benefits for African Americans

"If [the WPA theatre program] had been less alive it might have lived longer. But I do not believe anyone who worked on it regrets that it stood from first to last against reaction, against prejudice, against racial, religious, and political intolerance."

--Hallie Flanagan, director of the WPA's Federal Theatre Project, responding to the closing of her project, in 1939, by conservative congressmen who hated, among other things, its racial inclusiveness (Hallie Flanagan, Arena, 1940, p. 367).

Above: A new chemistry building for Howard University in Washington, D.C., built with funds from the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA). At the dedication for this building, October 26, 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt said, "Despite the constant raising of the scholastic standards of the University, as the years went by, the demand for higher training and higher education among our Negro citizens has increased to an extent which has created a strain upon its facilities. And so the Federal Government has provided three new structures for it at this time, and there are more to come... As far as it was humanly possible, the Government has followed the policy that among American citizens there should be no forgotten men and no forgotten races." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: African American actors rehearse their scenes on a WPA theatre project in Birmingham, Alabama, 1936. The New Deal offered millions of new opportunities and benefits for African Americans: Jobs, job training, adult education, recreation projects, art projects, health clinics, new libraries, new schools, and much more. The February 1939 edition of the African American journal, Opportunity, noted: "It is to the eternal credit of the administrative officers of the WPA that discrimination on various projects because of race has been kept to a minimum and that in almost every community Negroes have been given a chance to participate in the work program." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

The New Deal was not perfect in its racial inclusion; FDR was constrained by existing prejudices & customs in America, and also the need for southern political support. How far he could have pushed for more racial inclusion will be a topic debated for eternity. However, it is indisputable that the New Deal opened up millions of new opportunities and benefits for the African American community. Roosevelt surrounded himself, in one way or another, with people committed to social justice and racial inclusion - Harry Hopkins, Harold Ickes, Ellen Woodward, Aubrey Williams, Hallie Flanagan, and Helen Tamiris, to name just a few. 

The Roosevelt Administration also opened up new opportunities for African Americans in the federal government. For example, when education advocate Mary McLeod Bethune told Roosevelt how important the National Youth Administration (NYA, a subdivision of the WPA) was to young African American men & women, "The president was openly moved by her speech, and, grasping her hand in both of his, assured her that he would do his best" (Nancy Ann Zrinyi Long, The Life and Legacy of Mary McLeod Bethune, Cocoa, FL: Florida Historical Society Press, 2004, pp. 36-37). Shortly thereafter, Bethune was in charge of a new Office of Minority Affairs within the NYA.

And of course, FDR was married to a woman who was constantly prodding him to do the right thing. After Eleanor Roosevelt died, Martin Luther King, Jr. said: "The impact of her personality and its unwavering devotion to high principle and purpose cannot be contained in a single day or era."

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Joe Biden, a leader of the soulless and aloof Democratic Establishment, has "no empathy" for his debt slaves. Yet another reason for progressives to leave the Democratic Party.

Above: "Prisoner," a linocut by Edward Hagedorn (1902-1982), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Joe Biden's lack of empathy is the Democratic Establishment's lack of empathy

In a recent interview, Corporate Democrat Joe Biden said, "The younger generation now tells me how tough things are - give me a break... No, no, I have no empathy for it, give me a break."

That's right folks, Joe Biden has no empathy for younger folks dealing with America's lost manufacturing jobs, stagnant wages, their worsening retirement prospects, the lead they've been drinking, sky-high eviction rates, or the inescapable debt he put them in when he voted for the merciless 2005 bankruptcy reform. Reflecting on the consequences of that horrible law, Northeastern law professor Daniel Austin said, "It is perverse and obscene. We are creating a generation of indentured people. It is mind-boggling that we would do this to a whole generation of young people. I can't understand any other modern society doing this" ("Joe Biden Backed Bills To Make It Harder For Americans To Reduce Their Student Debt," International Business Times, September 15, 2015; also see, "Study: Law creates many too broke to file for bankruptcy," Nasdaq, February 2, 2015).

Also during the interview, Joe Biden scolded younger generations for not becoming more involved in politics, and said, "The penalty people face for not being involved in politics is being governed by people worse than themselves." What a horrible statement, coming from Joe Biden's mouth. First of all, "worse" people seems to be a description of himself. Is he saying, "Well, since you didn't vote, you get assholes like me"? Second, when young people did get involved, and rallied behind Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Establishment didn't like it, rigged the primaries, and shut them down.

The Democratic Establishment's Frankenstein Monster

If you want to know why Trump won, look no further than the Obamas, the Clintons, and the Bidens of the world. They are elitist and aloof; or, using Biden's words, lacking in empathy. They've lost touch with the middle-class and poor, and many middle-class and poor voters decided, in economic desperation, to back Trump. The Democratic Establishment is Dr. Frankenstein, dabbling in cold-hearted neoliberal experiments, and Trump is the resulting monster.

And now, it seems, the Democratic Establishment has its eyes set on yet another aloof neoliberal to lead them - Oprah Winfrey, one of America's many "wealthy mythmakers, masquerading as progressive thinkers" ("Nicole Aschoff Publishes The New Prophets of Capital," Boston University, April 17, 2015; also see, "Oprah Winfrey: one of the world's best neoliberal capitalist thinkers," The Guardian, May 9, 2015). 

Yes, that's right folks, the Democratic Establishment, and their wealthy celebrity cheerleaders, are eyeing an inexperienced, billionaire, self-help guru to lead them on towards the neoliberal promised land. Anything... ANYTHING... to keep Bernie Sanders (the most popular politician in America) and younger generations in their place. And younger folks, if you don't like it--if you don't like your debt slavery and your dim future--you better keep your mouth shut, because wealthy Joe Biden, one of your enslavers, says, "No, no, I have no empathy for it, give me a break."

I've said it before and I'll say it again - progressive-minded Americans need to untie themselves from the rotting, sinking Democratic Party. Stop trying to change elitists who have no empathy for you, who don't give a rat's ass about you. Let's start a new political party, away from the stink of the Democratic Establishment. Yes, it will split the vote in the short term. But, over time, people will grow tired of the foulness and plutocracy of both the Democrats and the Republicans. You could see this potential during the Democratic primaries, when Independents and disillusioned Democratic voters started gravitating towards Bernie Sanders. We can build on that.

The only thing stopping us is our short-term fears. Let's squash those fears and think long-term. Let's divorce ourselves from Joe Biden and his ilk - for the benefit of ourselves, and especially for the benefit of our children and grandchildren. Let's give future generations a fighting chance for a better life than ours.

"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

--FDR, first inaugural address, 1933 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dear Norwegians: Do not move to America. We are your canaries in the coal mine.

Above: Children from low-income families are enjoying a meal at a WPA-funded health camp in Jacksonville, Florida, ca. 1935-1943. This photo highlights the ethos of the New Deal - an ethos of helping the less fortunate, an ethos that respected the General Welfare sections of the U.S. Constitution, and an ethos that holds dear the concept of a government that is truly of, by, and for the people. That ethos is now dead in America, replaced by a foul-minded plutocracy and an apathetic electorate. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

For most Norwegians, moving to America would be calamitous

President Trump recently frowned upon immigration from impoverished non-white nations, and hoped for more immigration from Norway. But if Norwegians are smart--and we know that they are--they will not come here, unless they are very, very wealthy - wealthy enough to barricade themselves away in private compounds, safely tucked away (maybe) from the chaos of wildfires, crumbling infrastructure, economic despair, financial predators, and millions of angry, stressed-out, gun-toting citizens who, on a fairly regular basis, get so fed up with life here in America that they try to take out as many of their fellow citizens as possible.

An American professor in Sweden recently wrote, sarcastically, "Of course people from Norway would love to move to a country where people are far more likely to be shot, live in poverty, get no healthcare because they're poor, get no paid parental leave or subsidized daycare and see fewer women in political power." And even Norway's conservative party doesn't seem too keen on the idea of immigration to America, with one party leader saying, "Thanks, but no thanks." That's right... America has become such a mean-spirited right-wing wonderland, that even conservative parties in other countries are wary of us!

If Norwegians moved here, without bringing along a few million dollars of financial armor, not only would they be more likely to get shot, become poor, and receive inadequate health care and inadequate time off from work, they'd also be more likely to receive stagnant wages, more likely to become permanently insolvent (i.e., few-or-no debt relief options), more likely to kill themselves, and more likely to end up in prison. And if they end up in prison, oh my, it will be much worse than if they served time in Norway. In the U.S., many citizens eagerly expect that prison rape will be part of the lawbreaker's punishment, and routinely joke about it.

America's new, callous ethos

In America, we've rejected the New Deal, favoring cold-hearted trickle-down economics instead. In America, we've rejected the common good, favoring tax-breaks-for-the-rich instead. In America, we've rejected the teachings of Christ, preferring instead to scold, insult, and persecute the poor. Financial sadism is our religion, not Christianity; and God must weep every time we use his son's name to describe our predator-prey culture of sociopathy, greed, and extreme income & wealth inequality.

Things have become so merciless in the United States, that many members of the wealthy class not only try to outsource and export as many jobs as possible, but then also lobby (and pay) politicians to reduce or eliminate any government programs, for example, unemployment benefits, food assistance, and Medicaid, that would help the workers they took the jobs from. That's like hitting several people with your car... and then blocking the paramedics from assisting them. As billionaire Tom Steyer has said, "There is an absolute, unspoken war between corporate interests and the American people... We're seeing a deliberate attempt to take away [working families'] future by really rich people." 

There are many reasons why Norwegians are the happiest people on the planet. And one of the main reasons is because they're not here. Dear Norwegians: Do not move to the United States. Instead, stay where you're at and enjoy life. We are your canaries in the coal mine.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Tax cuts for the rich won't stop the mud

Above: Stranded motorists wade through the recent mudslides in southern California, the result of heavy rains and burnt hills that have lost their ground cover. The hills were burnt by record-setting wildfires this year - wildfires caused by climate change, cultural apathy, and a rejection of the New Deal (for example, a large-scale Civilian Conservation Corps that could have greatly mitigated the wildfire damage). Image from a CBS SF Bay Area video, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.


Above: In this video, published recently by ABC7, we see a fire near Oprah Winfrey's estate in Montecito, California, and we also see Winfrey walking through her backyard in ankle-deep mud & muck. It's very ironic that super-wealthy Americans are now being negatively affected by preventable disasters. Though they've benefited tremendously from decades of tax-cuts-for-the-rich, deregulation, privatization, stagnant wages, job exporting, and other pampering, it seems that the domestic neglect that wealth-hoarding causes is coming back to haunt them. It will probably get even worse in the not-too-distant future, for example, when coastal areas are are overtaken by rising seas and seaside mansions & private playgrounds-for-the-rich are devoured. "Soak the rich" may take on a new meaning. YouTube link to above video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7QSblPK-hc.

America has been engaged in an experiment for nearly 40 years now. This experiment has involved enormous tax cuts for the rich, financial deregulation, privatization, and a soft-on-white-collar-crime approach to criminal justice. This experiment is called trickle-down economics, or Reaganism, and it's a rejection of the New Deal.

Trickle-down economics has caused our infrastructure to fall apart while the rich have acquired record wealth. Trickle-down economics under-funds our fire prevention and firefighting systems while the rich purchase more mansions, yachts, and $20,000 dresses. Trickle-down economics scolds those born into poverty, while praising those who cordon themselves off from us - barricaded away in private communities, private compounds, and private islands. Indeed, the Republican Party just gifted these people another round of large tax cuts - for example, a generous estate tax cut to make sure that the children of the rich will never have to work alongside the rest of us.

Trickle-down economics makes a mockery of government. For example, the idea of a new CCC and/or WPA is a "non-starter" - assumed from the get-go to be wasteful government spending on lazy people who don't want to work. Despite the record of the CCC and WPA (i.e., the unemployed) in fire prevention, firefighting, and infrastructure modernization, and despite the consistent warnings of the American Society of Civil Engineers about our present-day infrastructure problems, we've collectively preferred to ridicule the unemployed and let our infrastructure and forests fall into disrepair. We've collectively preferred tax cuts for the rich over investment in the common good.

Unfortunately, tax cuts for the rich won't stop the mud. It also won't stop cracked dams, broken water lines, and poisonous sewage overflows. Tax cuts for the rich won't fill pot holes, won't rebuild crumbling schools, and won't stop our children from drinking lead. Make no mistake about it, tax cuts for the rich is both damaging and deadly.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Oprah for president? A uniquely horrible idea, and more evidence that many liberals have abandoned the New Deal - or have never heard of it in the first place.

Above: Piers Morgan and Oprah Winfrey laugh it up, after Oprah tells Morgan she knows she's worth $2.7 billion because she's counted it. This was in January 2011, at the height of the Great Recession (for working people; the rich had already recovered), when millions of Americans couldn't find jobs and were being financially decimated. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKvpJ7O-XDI. Images used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Oprah's conservative, limited-government views

In the interview referenced above, Piers Morgan asked Oprah, "How do we get America back on its feet?" Oprah responded, "I don't know the answer to that, that's out of my lane." But she also discusses her job-creating powers; tells Morgan that writing a check to the IRS is painful; and discusses the hundreds of millions of dollars she's given away to charitable causes. 

Those are the classic philosophies of a neoliberal, conservative person who believes in limited government and who has very little understanding of the role that government played in improving people's lives and creating a vibrant middle-class during the middle decades of the 20th century. The super-wealthy often have inflated views of their job-creating skills and the magic of their charitable giving, even as their fellow citizens deal with stagnant wages, crumbling infrastructure, underfunded schools, rising debt, rising suicide, constant evictions, and persistent and worsening poverty.

Oprah's "Promised Land" is not the promised land that America needs

Oprah calls her multi-million dollar compound in California, "Promised Land," in an apparent salute to the Bible and Martin Luther King, Jr. The latter once said: "I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land! I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land." Notice he says, "we as a people." But Oprah's compound is not "we as a people." It's her sanctuary away from the misery that tens of millions of Americans are going through, in our present age of debt slavery and extreme income & wealth inequality. In light of this, it's interesting to read another of MLK's quotes:

"Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. For we know that it isn't enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn't earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?"

Does anyone honestly think that MLK, or God, or Christ, would look favorably on an African American woman living on a multi-million dollar estate, counting her billions, while so many millions of other African Americans live in extreme poverty in our inner cities? Hmmm, I believe Jesus once told a rich person to get rid of his wealth, and then said, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

Oprah for President? Really? Are we really going to be that stupid?


Above: Kyle Kulinksi of Secular Talk, who has provided much better political commentary over the past few years than the mainstream media, does a good job explaining (with some colorful language) what's wrong with an Oprah Winfrey presidential run. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQsqlkdNjwE
   
Oprah does not represent MLK's vision or message. And she does not truly understand a government that is of, by, and for the people. If anything, she has embraced trickle-down economics and the exaggerated importance that we have foolishly placed on the super-rich. And yet, after her Golden Globes award speech, many liberals are in awe of her, and hoping, begging, even trying to force her to run for president. Actress Meryl Streep said, "She launched a rocket tonight. I want her to run for president. I don't think she had any intention... But now she doesn't have a choice."

All across the Internet, liberals are cheering Oprah to run for the White House. I turned on CNN yesterday, and the talking heads were uniform in their affirmation that it would be a good and interesting thing for her to do. I received an email from Democracy for America, giddily telling me, "Oprah Winfrey gave an amazing speech last night at the Golden Globes - and it's generated talk about her running for president in 2020." And there are rumors that, yes, Oprah is seriously considering it.

Oprah and those backing her have little-to-no interest or knowledge in the Democratic Party's New Deal history. It's painfully clear (oh so painful) that they're far more interested in identity politics, celebrity "culture," and neoliberal policies.

Fortunately, there are some commentators calling out the idea of an Oprah presidency for the absurdity that it is. For example, Mehdi Hasan at The Intercept asks: "Is this really what most Americans want or what the United States government needs? Another clueless celebrity in possession of the nuclear codes? Another billionaire mogul who doesn’t like paying taxes in charge of the economy? And how would it be anything other than sheer hypocrisy for Democrats to offer an unqualified, inexperienced presidential candidate to the American electorate in 2020, given all that they said about Trump in 2016?" ("Oprah Winfrey for President: Have We All Gone Bonkers?").

Dear Oprah: Run for mayor or governor (or even a state legislative seat), and show us that you can lead a city or state in a successful and inspirational way, and then come back to us. But don't use your celebrity status, and your billions of dollars, to cut in front of the line - in front of more qualified, more experienced, and, frankly, more progressive African American women.