Monday, October 22, 2018

The rich will be the end of us

"Rich Americans live up to 15 years longer than poor peers, studies find"

--The Guardian, April 6, 2017

Above: "Little Man!," 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.

The End of Us

Whether it's through their war or prison investments, the rich will be the end of us.

Whether it's through their fossil fuel industries or their health care rationing, the rich will be the end of us.

Whether it's by their toxins, like their cigarettes and their opioids, or by their resource & opportunity hoarding--leaving the rest of us clawing and bickering and hating in the economic void--the rich will be the end of us.

Whether it's by their political manipulations or their financial "innovations" (fraud!), the rich will be the end of us.

Whether it's through their tinpot dictator, their gerrymandered Congress, or their plutocratic, fascist, kangaroo court, the rich will be the end of us.

By their Goebbels Media, their soulless think tanks, and their selfish tax breaks, the rich will be the end of us.

In allegiance with their self-destructive disciples, whom they want nothing to do with, the rich will be the end of us.

Through their attention to policy and neglect of decency, the rich will be the end of us.

By their rapacious & insatiable gluttony--sowing the seeds of sadness, sickness, and suicide--the rich will be the end of us.

No virus, no parasite, no deadly plague... no flood, no fire, no Earth-shaking quake... can match the efficiency of the rich.

They will be the end of us.

"A new number one and a record-breaking year for America's richest people" while "Suicide rates rise sharply across the United States."

(Forbes, 10-3-2018, and The Washington Post, June 7, 2018)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The death of the New Deal, the death of the American Dream, the death of economic opportunity. The greed of the super-wealthy is killing our youth.

"The suicide rate actually soared between 1929, when the stock market crashed, and 1932, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president... [but] we estimate that every $100 in New Deal spending per capita was associated with... a drop in suicides of 4 per 100,000 people."

--David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, "How Austerity Kills," New York Times, May 12, 2013 (note: "Austerity," in the modern sense, means tax cuts for the rich and cuts to wages and social programs that benefit the middle-class & poor. In other words, austerity is a national belt-tightening, but applied disproportionately, or even exclusively to lower-income groups.)

Above: "Death of an Idea," a lithograph by Grace Rivet Clements (1905-1969), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

Hope-destroyers disguised as job-creators

The super-wealthy have defrauded the American population. Casting themselves as "entrepreneurs," "innovators," and "job creators," they have, instead, sent jobs overseas, taken over the government with campaign and PAC donations, and shifted the revenue burden on to the heads of the middle-class & poor, in the form of regressive taxes, tolls, tuition, fees, fines, and utility rates at the state & local level. The rich have received decades of federal tax cuts, and we've paid for them.

In perhaps their most cold-blooded move of all, the super-wealthy fought for, and won, bankruptcy restrictions on lower-income groups in 2005. They've created a whole class of Americans "too broke to file for bankruptcy." This has had the effect of enslaving the poor to the rich, just as the rich have always wanted. I suppose it was inevitable that they'd find someway around emancipation and the 13th Amendment - an amendment that surely kept them up at night, in fits of rage. 

A gullible public buys the snake oil

The greedy & selfish actions of the super-wealthy have killed much of the New Deal, much of the American Dream, and most economic opportunity (see, e.g., "The shocking decline in American economic mobility," The Seattle Times, April 27, 2017). Simultaneously, Fox News made sure tens of millions of middle-class & poor Americans thought it was all to their benefit - even as their wages stagnated and their debt ballooned. With trigger words like, "God," "freedom," and "flag," and bogeymen like "Socialism," "immigrants," and "inner city youth," massive numbers of Americans have been duped into believing their economic downfall is their social liberation.

The neoliberal elite tell us the economy is great because the stock market is high and unemployment is low. But the stock market is irrelevant to most of us, and the jobs created are low-paid, benefit-deficient, soul-crushing, creativity-obliterating crap jobs.

The role of the super-wealthy in the death of our youth

In killing the New Deal, the American Dream, and economic opportunity, the super-wealthy are also killing young Americans. In New Hampshire, for example, "Youth suicide is a surging crisis," because teens and young adults are thinking, "I'm never going to go anywhere, I'm never going to get out of New Hampshire, there's no point in going to college. I'm just going to incur debt and it's not going to get me anywhere."

Youth suicide is also a problem in American Indian communities, where poverty and unemployment are perpetual problems. A leader of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (South Dakota) told Congress in 2015, "children carry the outlook that things may not get better for them."

Here are some other reports on youth suicide... highlighting our fine ol', God-fearin', "f&ck-everyone-but-me" form of capitalism.

"What’s behind the rise in youth suicides?" CBS News, November 21, 2017.

"Youth Suicidal Behavior Is on the Rise, Especially Among Girls," Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2018.

"Youth Suicide Linked With Economic Downturns," Journal of the American Medical Association, August 14, 2014.

"VA: Suicide rate for younger veterans increased by more than 10 percent," Military Times, September 26, 2018 (also see "Financial Instability: Suicide's Weapon of Choice," by Lieutenant Colonel Samuel R. Cook, U.S. Army Reserve, Army War College Strategy Research Project, March 2013).

"U.S. suicide rate on the rise, teens and young adults at greater risk... [factors include] "job problems and financial trouble... economic burdens...", Pekin Daily Times (Pekin, Illinois), September 24, 2018. 

Our Republican Congress, President Trump, and the super-wealthy don't care about our children dying from economically-driven despair

Unfortunately, and much like the problem of children drinking lead from crumbling infrastructure and plumbing, there is no sense of urgency in Congress to address the problem of youth suicide. Instead, Republican lawmakers are focused on cutting taxes for the rich (i.e., their donors) and cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for the middle-class and poor. Surging youth suicide rates--frequently caused by financial distress--aren't even on their radar.

And when's the last time you heard Donald Trump talk about our national suicide crisis? Perhaps he's too busy telling the media, "I like money. I'm very greedy. I'm a greedy person. I shouldn't tell you that, I'm a greedy – I've always been greedy. I love money, right?"

I suspect that most super-wealthy Americans are quite aware of the social dysfunction they're creating by their wealth and opportunity hoarding. I also suspect they don't give a sh&t. And worse, through their political, media, and think tank puppets, they've convinced many of the rest of us not to give a sh&t either. We know (or maybe we don't, since we don't even know our own nation's history) what reduces suicide: Public investment in the common good (see quote at the beginning of this blog post). But we're so addicted to the ever-elusive possibility of becoming millionaires & billionaires, and so submissive to the directives of the super-wealthy, that we refuse to budge, even if it would save the lives of children, teens, and young adults. "No, no, no!" we collectively say, "I want money! The youth will have to fend for themselves! To hell with 'em!"

This sick phenomenon is the ultimate fulfillment of Ayn Rand's wish for us to be sociopaths, just like her. Congratulations America, you've done it. Never mind the bodies.

"I have moments of real terror when I think we might be losing this generation. We have got to bring these young people into the active life of the community and make them feel that they are necessary."

--Eleanor Roosevelt, in a statement that many Americans would now call "quaint," New York Times, 1934. Eleanor Roosevelt played a key role in the creation of the National Youth Administration (1935-1943), which provided jobs, paychecks, and training to millions of young men and women.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

It's started: The centrist elite have started to embrace Nikki Haley, a complete monster

"It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America."

--Nikki Haley, in a letter to Bernie Sanders, The Hill, June 22, 2018

"Most Americans Can't Afford A Minor Emergency"

--Huffington Post, January 29, 2018

"Homelessness in New York Public Schools Is at a Record High: 114,659 Students"

--New York Times, October 15, 2018

Above: "Sick Bed," a lithograph by Harold Anchel (1912-1980), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Did you know that the New Deal built hundreds of hospitals and clinics, and delivered immunizations and healthcare visits to low-income Americans? And did you know that Nikki Haley, as governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017, denied Medicaid coverage for a quarter of a million low-income Americans, which contributed to the closing of rural hospitals? Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Centrist praise for right-wing extremist Nikki Haley

Two nights ago, around 10:00pm, CNN hosts Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon were gushing over Nikki Haley, Trump's recently-resigned ambassador to the United Nations. They told us how Haley was liked by both the left and the right, how she stood up to the Trump Administration, and Lemon specifically told us how he had nothing but respect for her and how beautiful she looked at a recent event (an event where she was grooming herself for a presidential run).

Back in April, I wrote a blog post where I warned that liberal-minded folks might forget just how horrible of a person Nikki Haley is, especially in their wish to fulfill Hillary Clinton's proclamation that the "future is female." Well, it's starting to happen. You see, CNN, a bastion of centrist milquetoast liberalism, reflects the thinking of centrist, wealthy, elitist Americans. True, on social issues they're quite liberal... but on economic matters, CNN's wealthy executives, anchors, hosts, and advertisers want their tax cuts. They measure their fortune by the stock market; the wages of the lowly working class are a distant, hazy concern. That's why, every single day, they tell us how great the economy is... even as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us, month after month after month, that real earnings (wages compared to the cost of goods and services) are barely moving for most workers.

Haley's record of callousness and hypocrisy

Nikki Haley is not a wonderful person, she is a hideous monster. She has nothing but contempt for the poor. She refused Medicaid expansion when she was governor of South Carolina (even though the federal government would have paid most of the cost), leaving a quarter of a million people without health insurance and thus vulnerable to high medical bills, debt collectors, and bankruptcy or permanent insolvency (permanent insolvency is the state of perpetual debt slavery, thanks to super-wealthy Americans curtailing bankruptcy relief for the poor in 2005). And during the Great Recession, Haley was practically drooling to drug test the unemployed, stating, "I so want drug testing. I so want it." Yep, the financial shenanigans of the super-wealthy brought the Great Recession down upon our heads, and then the super-wealthy got bailed out with public money, but Haley wanted to drug test the unemployed to see what was "wrong" with them. What a despicable ghoul of human being she is.

Nikki Haley is a former member of ALEC, a group that essentially denies climate change and thinks public policy should be geared towards making the rich richer. Haley has also enjoyed major funding from Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers, the poster children for far-right, fascist policies. And Haley is generally part of a movement that pooh poohs the idea of global warming and ignores the need for infrastructure improvements. When South Carolina was hit with historic flooding in 2015, then-Governor Haley didn't want to discuss her state's anemic infrastructure spending but did want plenty of federal money for the clean-up efforts. Typical Republican: Yelling for "limited government" until it's something they want or need.

Policy matters, genitals do not

A warning to liberal Americans: Do not judge a person by their genitals, judge them by their policies and track record. As I wrote before, the future should not be female, or male. It should be all of us working together for the common good. Haley may look elegant in a dress. She may seem awesome compared to Trump. But she is horrible. She worships the rich and frowns upon those who struggle, which is exactly what we don't need in this new, ruthless, and fascist gilded age. We need an Eleanor Roosevelt type of person, not a woman disguised as a diplomatic, level-headed, reach-across-the-aisle sort of gal.

Don't fall for Nikki Haley's calm, bi-partisan masquerade.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The New Deal Around DC: Jacob Baker's apartment

Above: Jacob Baker (1895-1967), at a theatre house in Washington, DC, December 1, 1936. Baker was an important administrator in the work & construction programs of the New Deal, especially with projects involving plays, music, writing, and art. He wrote in the New York Times: "It has been recognized that when an artist or musician is hungry he is just as hungry as a bricklayer and has the same right as a bricklayer has to be employed at his own trade. For the first time in our history, our government has become a patron of the arts, officially and quite unashamed" (November 11, 1934). Read Jacob Baker's biography on the website of the Living New Deal. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: According to the "New Deal Washington Walking Tour Guide" (Humanities Council of Washington, DC, 2009), Jacob Baker lived in apartment 903 at the "Park Central Apartments," 1900 F Street, NW (above). The building is now the "Mabel Nelson Thurston Hall," George Washington University. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: A closer look at the front of the building. The walking tour guide (see previous caption) notes "the fine Art Deco details over the front entrance of this building, constructed in 1930." Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The New Deal Around DC: The White House and Executive Avenue

Above: Long before the White House became a den of corruption, deceit, and incompetence, and long before it became a branch office of Corporate America, it was the epicenter of profound and positive changes in America. With FDR in the White House, the New Deal created policies and programs that still benefit the middle-class & poor today, for example, Social Security to help senior citizens; unemployment insurance to help those who are laid-off; PWA and WPA projects to modernize our infrastructure; the CCC to create or improve state parks; the SEC to police stock market fraud; protections for unions; and much, much more. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) boys removing snow from the White House area. The CCC provided jobs, paychecks, a strong work ethic, and the ability to get along well with others, to many young American men from 1933-1942. Photo by the Associated Press, scanned from personal copy, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: Past all the fences, trees, and shrubs, you can just barely see the White House's West Wing Executive Office Building. Much or all of this building was created with funding from the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA). Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: The description for this photograph reads, "Enlarging the Executive Offices of the White House, Washington, DC. This work is being done with PWA funds." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Men working on the West Wing Executive Office Building, ca. 1933-1940. The PWA facilitated well-paid work for millions of Americans, on projects that still benefit us today. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "A picture of the completed addition to the White House." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: A view of the White House, from the south. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: Today, with all the threatening signs, Jersey barriers, fences, and heavily-armed law enforcement personnel and vehicles, the White House more closely resembles a military compound. It has a very uninviting, "stay away" feel to it. This is the price we pay (fear and paranoia) for starting military adventures all across the globe, and also for creating an angry and despondent citizenry. Our plutocratic government is now always looking over its shoulder for the next attack. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: The description for this photograph reads: "West Executive Avenue is re-surfaced in Washington, DC. The White House is in the background." This was either a PWA or (perhaps more likely) a WPA project, and the photo appears to have been taken before work began on the West Wing Executive Offices. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: West Executive Avenue today - closely guarded, public not allowed. Notice the Washington Monument in the background. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Above: Public architecture was much more important to our ancestors than it is to us. Heck, even street lights and lamp posts were very decorative back in the day. Today, with almost everything, we go with cheap and ugly. I'm convinced that when our current era is looked back upon, by historians and future generations, they will find us to be completely boring and unremarkable. Glued to our televisions and iPhones, and addicted to giving repeated tax breaks to people who don't need them, we are creating a shallow, forgettable legacy. If future Americans have any sense to them, any spirit, they'll smash down most of the buildings, bridges, and other eyesores that were made between about 1980 and today, and start anew. They'll build things that are inspiring and grand instead. Photo by Brent McKee, September 2018.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

New Deal Art: "The Washington Monument as Seen from the Pan American Union"

Above: "The Washington Monument as Seen from the Pan American Union," an oil painting by Mary P. E. Saltzman (1878-1974?), created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1933. I couldn't find much information on Saltzman on the Internet, but it seems likely that she is the Mary Peyton Eskridge Saltzman who died in 1974, and lies at rest at Arlington National Cemetery with her husband Charles McKinley Saltzman (1871-1942). Charles was a major general in the U.S. Army. The couple seems to have had at least one child, Charles E. Saltzman, who also ended up being a general in the U.S. Army. The younger Charles had three children, so it's possible, if all of this information is accurate, that Mary P. E. Saltzman has grandchildren and great-grandchildren living today. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The right-wing "economic miracle" continues... in the form of more stagnant paychecks

Above: "'Receiving Paycheques,' 3,000 men building a reservoir, near Balboa Park, San Francisco, CWA projects - December 1933." This is a watercolor on paper by David Park (1911-1960), created while he was either in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project or the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1933-1935. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The latest Real Earnings Summary (earnings compared to the cost of goods and services), from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, came out today and it shows continued paycheck stagnation for most American workers. For example, "From September 2017 to September 2018, real average hourly earnings increased 0.4 percent" for production and nonsupervisory employees. (Also see, "For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades," Pew Research Center, August 7, 2018). 

Wow! What are you going to do with your extra 0.4%?? A two-week vacation to the Figi Islands?? I'm going to buy a Porsche... either a 935 or a 718 Cayman... I haven't decided yet. Or, maybe I'll just retire early. Heck, with just one week of that 0.4%, I'll be ready to ditch the rat race and live the rest of my life in the lap of luxury.

Yep, the super-wealthy got trillions of tax cuts earlier this year... and we get a 0.4% extra value added to our hourly earnings. That's the political right's trickle-down "economic miracle." Forgive me if I'm not dancing in the street. And somehow, I don't think that 0.4% "miracle" is going to make a dent in the record debt load that Americans are suffocating under.

In any event... just shut down your mind, follow Fox News, and repeat after me: "The economy is great, the economy is great, more tax cuts for the rich, more tax cuts for the rich, debt is good for me, debt is good for me..."

Good... good... you see? Just close your eyes and dream, and everything will be fine...