Saturday, December 15, 2018

A Tea Party Christian under criminal indictment is on the verge of taking healthcare away from millions of Americans

"We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are... The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health..."

--President Franklin Roosevelt, Second Bill of Rights speech, January 11, 1944

Above: This WPA poster embodied the New Deal spirit of making sure that everyone, regardless of income & wealth, had access to healthcare. During the New Deal there were large immunization campaigns, increased funding for medical research, new hospitals & clinics, WPA nurses making house calls, medical check-ups for young adults in the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Youth Administration, and much more. President Franklin Roosevelt even wanted a national health insurance system put into the Social Security Act, but the opposition was deemed too strong. Further, there is a direct line of philosophy, i.e., greater federal assistance for those in need, linking the New Deal to the creation of Medicare, Medicaid, and protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Conservative Christians attack the poor

Tea Party Christian and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is currently under criminal indictment for securities violations, and is funded by a who's who of Corporate America (for example, Walmart, Comcast, Raytheon, Citigroup, Microsoft, Pepsi), has successfully argued that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional. A Republican judge nullified the ACA yesterday.

It appears that the ACA will remain in effect though, pending appeal. But once it reaches the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh may finally have his golden opportunity to exact revenge on the liberals who, he says, destroyed his family.

Donald Trump is delighted. The ruling was a culmination of numerous Republican activities, including his own, to dismantle the ACA bit by bit. In two tweets, he wrote, "Great news for America!" and, "Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions."

Yes, the un-indicted co-conspirator praised the attorney general under criminal indictment, for jeopardizing the healthcare of millions of Americans who need help because (a) they have pre-existing conditions, (b) they're very poor and must utilize the ACA's Medicaid expansion, or (c) they could not access America's greed-based private health insurance market for other reasons.

Of course, the Tea Party, Republican, and corporate ghouls behind all this will say, "We'll find free market solutions!" Except... they won't. There is no free market solution for poor people and people with pre-existing conditions. No private health insurance company will offer good, or any, health insurance to people who are going to cost far more than what they're paying in. Private health insurers can't turn a profit on these people. The executives can't buy more yachts and mansions if they insure these people. Instead, we'll be right back to square one, with tens of millions of more Americans with zero health insurance.

But there is something much larger going on here, and that is this: Conservative Christians have an intense, intense hatred of the poor, and they resent the fact that their millionaire & billionaire sub-gods are being forced to pay more taxes to help the poor. In various parts of the New Testament, particularly in the book of Matthew, Jesus criticizes wealth and uplifts the poor. Conservative Christians today, however, have turned that philosophy on its head. Now the rich are to be praised and the poor are to be scrutinized, or even mocked. This is why you see Republican and Tea Party politicians & talking heads--who are supported by conservative Christians--constantly insulting the poor--for example, "parasites," "takers," "moochers," "lazy good-for-nothings"--and also constantly trying to cut programs that help the poor, in order to funnel the savings back to the rich in the form of tax cuts.

Make no mistake about it, conservative Christians are a clear & present danger to the lives of the poor. And the fact that they are trying, among other things, to pull the Medicaid rug out from under the poor, with no viable alternative in place, is indisputable proof of this.

"Political decisions have consequences, some of them lethal."

--Dr. Samuel Dickman, in: "Study: Thousands Of People Will Die In States That Don’t Expand Medicaid," Talking Points Memo, January 31, 2014

Friday, December 14, 2018

Dear Corporate Democrats: I'm not voting for Corporate Joe

Above: "Grim Hope," a lithograph by Pat Jackson, created while the artist was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Joe Biden has put many Americans in a state of grim hope, or no hope, with his support of the 2005 bankruptcy restrictions. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

CNN has conducted another poll showing that Joe Biden is the most popular Democratic contender (among Democratic voters) for the 2020 presidential race, although his support has dipped a little since October, and even though Bernie Sanders has gained a little ground.

Joe Biden supported the 2005 bankruptcy restrictions that have devastated so many lives (see, e.g., "Study: Law creates many too broke to file for bankruptcy," Nasdaq, February 24, 2015; and "Joe Biden Backed Bills To Make It Harder For Americans To Reduce Their Student Debt," International Business Times, September 15, 2015). The bankruptcy restrictions that Biden imposed on the middle-class & poor have no doubt contributed heavily to the soaring rates of suicide, drug overdoses, and deaths of despair in this country. He took from these struggling Americans the centuries-old concept & tradition of a fresh start.

And now Democratic voters want to reward Biden with a presidential nomination? Are you kidding me? Why? With Democratic voters like these, who needs Republican voters?

I'm sure as heck not voting for him, and I bet a lot of independent voters, who are key to the presidential elections (and which Trump won the majority of in 2016), won't either. In fact, I might even vote for the Republican candidate, just out of spite. During the last election, I didn't vote for Hillary or Trump, but I might just go to the dark side, and vote for a Republican candidate, if the Corporate Democrats nominate (yet another) Wall Street crony.

Just say "no" to Corporate Joe.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The New Deal Around DC: The Home of Harry Hopkins

Above: New Deal administrator Harry Hopkins lived in this house, at 3340 N Street NW, Washington, DC (in Georgetown), ca. 1943-1946. This photograph was taken during Hopkins residence, but I'm not sure if the car in front of the house was his (it looks like a 1940 Chrysler Windsor Coupe). Photo by International News Service, scanned from a personal copy, and used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: The Hopkins Home today. A 2008 article about the home reported: "Recently completely remodeled and restored, this home is now on the market for $2,495,000. The restoration project, completed this year, was undertaken by John Richardson Ltd., known in Georgetown as a premier provider of period restoration" ("House hunting: Georgetown home with charm," Washington Times, October 24, 2008). Personally, I think the home looked brighter and more inviting during Hopkins' ownership; but the 2008 renovations probably restored the house to its original 1830s appearance (see next image). Photo by Brent McKee, December 2018.

Above: A plaque shows that the house was constructed around 1830, and also shows that there is a preservation easement on the deed. Such easements typically limit alterations to historic homes, especially on the exterior, and frequently offer tax benefits. Photo by Brent McKee, December 2018.

Above: The front view of the Hopkins Home is a little deceptive, making it appear somewhat small. But, as you can see from this side view, the house has surprising depth and a rooftop patio--and there is also a basement level--all of which makes it a fairly large house. Photo by Brent McKee, December 2018.

Above: When Harry Hopkins first came to Washington, DC, to serve in the FDR Administration, he was too busy with work to look for a house or apartment, so he stayed at the Cosmos Club on Massachusetts Avenue (his family stayed behind in New York). His living conditions at the Cosmos Club were described as: "good library and newspaper facilities, comfortable beds, very reasonable and very good food, and not very good bathroom accommodations" (Henry H. Adams, Harry Hopkins: A Biography, 1977, p. 53). Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid, provided courtesy of Wikipedia, used here under the CCA-SA 3.0 license.

Above: Harry Hopkins also lived at the White House, from about 1940-1942. FDR offered a room to Hopkins so that Hopkins could perform his national defense-related duties while convalescing from his numerous health problems. (I'm not sure where Hopkins lived in between his time at the Cosmos Club and his time at the White House.) Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

If food stamp recipients were treated like the Pentagon, they'd each receive $10,000 in monthly food benefits

Above: "Marching On," an etching 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.

"Poor people: Screw up and we'll throw you in prison! Pentagon: Screw up and... well... we'll give you even more money! Lots more!"

Low-income people who receive public benefits, for example, food stamps (also called "SNAP"), are frequently threatened with punishment if they misuse those benefits. They're mailed warnings about fraud, and the application & update forms they fill out are full of alerts about the hefty fines and prison sentences they'll face if they screw up. And, of course, they're told that they'll have to pay back any benefits that they've improperly utilized.

Low-income people who receive public benefits are also routinely insulted by right-wing media personalities and talking heads. And Republican, Tea Party, and Libertarian legislators are constantly trying to cut funding for the programs that help them.

In sum, low-income Americans receiving government assistance face a brutal, never-ending barrage of heavy-handed warnings, cruel insults, and funding threats.

Not so for the Pentagon.

In 2016, a study found that the Pentagon was wasting $125 billion--that's one hundred twenty five thousand million dollars--and further, that it was trying to hide the report from both the public and the Congress ("Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste," Washington Post, December 5, 2016). More recently, the Pentagon failed an audit. The private accounting firms found "the DoD’s financial records were riddled with so many bookkeeping deficiencies, irregularities, and errors that a reliable audit was simply impossible" ("The Pentagon’s Massive Accounting Fraud Exposed," The Nation, November 27, 2018).

So, are right-wingers holding the Pentagon to the same standard as low-income folks - demanding accountability, demanding that the Pentagon pay back improperly used funds?

Nope.

Instead, the political right wants to increase the budget of the Pentagon (see, for example, "Trump backs $750 billion defense budget request to Congress," Reuters, December 9, 2018).

Yep, even though America's national defense spending already makes up anywhere from one-third to one-half of total global spending on such activities, and even though the Pentagon wastes enormous amounts of money, tries to hide it, and can't even pass an audit, right-wingers want to shower it with more--and more, and more, and more--taxpayer dollars.

All throughout my life, I've heard right-wingers declare, "You can't solve problems by throwing money at them!!" We now know what a load of horsesh&t that declaration is. They threaten, insult, and try to pull the rug out from people who need food assistance, or health assistance, or education assistance, but then gleefully hand over even more public funds to a financially incompetent Pentagon. $750 billion, $800 billion, $850 billion, $1 TRILLION... no amount of money is too much for their national defense mistress.

What a joke.

The truth is, if food stamp recipients were treated like the Pentagon, they'd each receive $10,000 in monthly food benefits.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Eleanor Roosevelt celebrates African American art

Above: Oliver LaGrone (1906-1995) sculpts "Mercy," for display in the the Carrie Tingley Crippled Children's Hospital in Hot Springs, New Mexico, 1938. The WPA funded this artwork (and also the hospital itself). LaGrone went on to have a prestigious art career (see, e.g., his Wikipedia page, and this Penn State page). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

On May 7, 1941, Eleanor Roosevelt spoke at the opening of the Negro Art Center in Chicago (now called the "South Side Community Art Center"). After sharing an uplifting story about an African American artist and her uncle, Theodore Roosevelt, the First Lady told the audience, "because of that... I have always thought more about the contribution of the colored people. And, there is no question in my mind that in music, in painting, in sculpture, in drama, you have particular gifts. And in writing also, you have many distinguished people who have brought us much..."

Eleanor continued: "Now, today, it is a joy to be here and to see what this Chicago committee working with the Federal Art Project has been able to do for the Negro Art Center... And just as I [had hoped] that Art Week--W.P.A. Art Week--would develop a feeling all over the country that it was possible to possess works of arts and things that had been made by craftsmen. So, I hope that we will go on doing that... and in this way we will create a democracy in art."

Above: A WPA poster, promoting National Art Week and also promoting a market for art. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: Two actors in Birmingham, Alabama, rehearsing their scenes, as part of a WPA Federal Theatre Project production, September 1936. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: An African American orchestra in Mobile, Alabama, 1937, funded by the New Deal's National Youth Administration. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: George Jordan, a painter in the WPA's Federal Art Project in Washington, DC, ca. 1935-1939. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Author Zora Neale Hurston worked for the WPA, ca. 1935-1937, collecting life histories in Florida. This work inspired her most famous book, Their Eyes Were Watching God (see, Amie Wright, "Zora Neale Hurston and the Depression-Era Federal Writers' Project," New York Public Library, January 8, 2014. Photo by Carl Van Vechten, provided by the Library of Congress.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Idioplutocracy

Above: "The Pied Piper," a lithograph by Albert Webb, created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. To me, the piper represents the super-wealthy and their political and media minions. The soldiers represent us, following along to our economic, health, and climate doom. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Most Americans want Medicare-for-All. We won't get it.

It was reported today that the Democratic Party's soon-to-be chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Richard Neal, is heavily funded by the private insurance industry and is also, surprise surprise, against Medicare-for-All. Therefore, even though most Americans, even most Republicans, want Medicare-for-All, this single, corporate-funded Democrat may be able to stop it from happening (with a wink and a nod from other Corporate Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi). And for those of us who want Medicare-for-All, Neal has some advice: Calm down.

It's so easy to be "calm," isn't it?... so easy to be the "adult in the room," when you have great income and great health insurance, as all members of Congress do. Barack Obama was also an expert at being the "adult in the room." He was so calm wasn't he? So peaceful and ineffective.       

And this is just the latest story of a government that does not represent us. Everyday we see the foolishness: Tax breaks handed out to the rich, decade after decade, even as our infrastructure falls apart, our wages stagnate, and our children drink lead; greenhouse gas emission rules weakened, right after a federal report about looming climate catastrophe; funds cut for fire prevention, even as wildfires grow larger and more deadly; blaming & fearing migrant workers, while Corporate America gleefully sends our jobs overseas or replaces us with machines; restricting bankruptcy relief even as suicides--fueled in large part by financial stress--rise every year; engaging in perpetual military intervention & occupation abroad--to protect the investments of the rich--while neglected middle-class & poor Americans increasingly inject and swallow themselves to death.

Above: Drug overdose deaths in America, since 1999. Trickle-down economics, and all its attendant social maladies, has made us a hopeless, miserable people (also see, "Americans are more depressed and miserable than ever," New York Post, February 13, 2018). Chart from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

Our Idioplutocracy

All of the above, and more, is evidence that America is not a democracy, but rather a plutocracy - with a thin, oh so thin, veneer of democracy on top; just enough for the electorate to have a choice between Plutocrat A and Plutocrat B. 

But it's also a sign of something more: idiocy. You see, tens of millions of people who are negatively affected by centrist and right-wing-fueled plutocracy, support it nonetheless. They support it when they vote for the likes of Trump, Ryan, and McConnell, and also when they vote for centrist, milquetoast Democrats (to be fair though, tens of millions of others feel trapped, forced to vote for the plutocrat who is less ruthless). And on the rare occasion that we do get a different choice--a candidate who will truly represent us--we usually conclude, "No, no, it won't work, we can't have that!!" Why? Because we've been brainwashed into idiocy. This is a major reason why, for example, Bernie Sanders lost. 

The American people have been so thoroughly brainwashed, for so terribly long, that they think to themselves, either consciously or subconsciously, "I can't possibly vote for someone who has a policy agenda that will benefit me directly. All policies must first be filtered through banks & billionaires. Yes, enrich them first, and then maybe I'll get something too - like a few extra pennies in my hourly wages, or some other type of peanut or trinket."

On top of this political foolishness, of course, is the more nuts & bolts type of foolishness we see in America. For example, we're famous for not knowing our history and not having great critical thinking skills. And even though we kind of understand these mental handicaps, there is no great national initiative to increase our historical knowledge or critical thinking skills. Instead, there is an emphasis (obsession really) on STEM. Yeah, that's what we need alright, a bunch of moral midgets to create more machines to replace more workers; more sociopaths to create medicines that heal the wealthy and bankrupt the poor; more ethically dead automatons to design trips around the moon for bored billionaires. Yeah, that'll make a great culture. Go STEM!

The best word that describes American government and culture is Idioplutocracy. Plutocracy supported by idiocy. Learn it, understand it, and then open your eyes and see it around you everyday.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

New Deal Art: "Perilous Merry-Go-Round"

Above: "Perilous Merry-Go-Round," a lithograph by Jack Markow (1905-1983), created while he was the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. According to his Wikipedia page, Markow was a cartoonist whose work appeared in "books, greeting cards, calendars, advertising campaigns and major magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post and The New Yorker." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the University of Iowa Museum of Art.