Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hillary Clinton, Goldman Sachs, Corporate "Inversions," and the Whole Tangled Mess of Organized Money

Above: Listen to what FDR thought about organized money controlling government. 

In 2010, Goldman Sachs settled securities fraud charges for $550 million. In April 2014, Goldman Sachs allegedly sought "U.S. non-prosecution agreements after saying they had reason to believe they helped Americans violate tax laws, according to three people familiar with the banks’ actions" (see "Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley Swiss Units Seek Tax Deals"). Also see, "Ex-Goldman director Gupta's insider trading conviction upheld."

Currently, Goldman Sachs is making millions by helping corporations leave America, so that the corporations don't have to pay taxes in the U.S. anymore.

Hillary Clinton is likely to be our next president and she has received hundreds of thousands of dollars--perhaps millions--from Goldman Sachs. And if a Republican happens to beat Clinton, we can be sure that he/she will have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Goldman Sachs too, just as Republican Mitt Romney did.

If you want to know why American society is screwed up in so many ways, you can look to this whole tangled mess of organized money. And the fact that we continue to vote according to the wishes & supervision of Goldman Sachs (and other big financial institutions) indicates that we're asking for the financial abuse we receive.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

UCLA Water Main Break: A WPA could have prevented that

(WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

On Tuesday, a water main that was installed around 1921 broke near UCLA. Eight to ten million gallons of water caused damage across the campus, including flooding the Pauley Pavilion--a sports arena that "recently underwent a $132 million renovation" (see "UCLA Broken Water Pipe Floods Parts of Campus").

This incident was hardly an isolated one. For example, in Baltimore, up to 20 percent of public water is lost through leaking and breaks (see "Baltimore's leaky infrastructure seeping into city's budget"). Many of the water lines that Americans use today were installed by New Deal work & construction programs (three quarters of a century ago) and have lasted longer than they were intended to. Some water lines, like the one that broke near UCLA, are even older. It's time for an upgrade. Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America's water line system a "D" letter grade, noting "At the dawn of the 21st century, much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States."

(WPA laborers working on a water main project in Cumberland, Maryland, 1937. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

During the New Deal, WPA workers installed 16,000 miles of new water lines across the country. These water lines have served multiple generations. We could do the same today (and it's well past time to) if Republicans in Congress weren't so focused on suing Obama, casting the unemployed as lazy parasites, and giving tax breaks to billionaires.

In the above-referenced article about Baltimore, journalist John Schoen highlights how "a typical family of four has seen their water and sewer bills jump nearly 50 percent since 2008. In July city officials voted to boost water and sewer rates by another 42 percent over three years." This is a phenomenon that is occurring across the country. As corporations move offshore to avoid paying taxes, and as super-wealthy Americans are enjoying some of the most favorable tax rates of the past 100 years, the revenue burden is falling on middle and low-income Americans, in the form of regressive taxes, tolls, fees, and fines at the local level. As Schoen explains, "cities will have to continue going it alone, as both federal and state support continues to dry up." Federal support, in particular, is diminished by tax evasion & avoidance by many super-wealthy Americans (as well as their low effective tax rates) and also by Republicans & Tea Partiers who obstruct most spending bills, even infrastructure spending bills.


(Michele Bachmann--the unhinged U.S. Congresswoman from Minnesota--explains how Republicans are going to sue Obama, de-fund the Executive Branch, and impeach elected officials. Even Fox News commentator Niel Cavuto, a staunch conservative, is bewildered by Bachmann, telling her, "You're being silly." Indeed she is, as are just about all Republicans in Congress. Instead of trying to help struggling Americans and improve the nation's infrastructure, they're focused on hating Obama and scolding low-income Americans. Original YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eswz4Fjrw20.)

We need a new, and even stronger New Deal. Unfortunately, because of the voting (or non-voting) tendencies of millions of Americans, all we're likely to get are more politicians like Michele Bachmann (mentally unstable), or Hillary Clinton (funded and controlled by the big banks). Hence, our infrastructure will continue to deteriorate and we will continue to have our stagnant incomes hammered by regressive taxes, tolls, fees, and fines. But look at the bright side--at least the Koch brothers are adding more money to their wallets! Yippee! (See "Koch Brothers Net Worth Soars Past $100 Billion")

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

WPA Poster: Pennsylvania

(Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Reverse New Deal: Obstructing access to food, water, shelter, and healthcare

Obstructing Access to Food:

Our political "leaders" in Congress--those "rudderless bunch of idiots" with the record low approval ratings--have been working feverishly to deprive low-income Americans of food assistance. They've scaled back food stamps, lowered funding for Meals on Wheels, and scolded the idea that low-income children should receive free or reduced-price school lunches.


(New Deal policymakers felt that food was important for all Americans. That's why they facilitated the serving of 1.2 billion school lunches to America's schoolchildren, made sure that men in the Civilian Conservation Corps were well fed, and distributed food to low-income Americans via a surplus commodities program. WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) 

Obstructing Access to Water:

The city of Detroit has shut off water to many of its low-income residents who have fallen behind on their bills (but, apparently, they have not shut off water to businesses that have fallen behind on their bills). 

This is probably a sign of things to come. As income & wealth inequality grows, and water becomes more scarce, sociopathic behavior by those in power will likely increase.


(New Deal policymakers felt that water was important for all Americans. That's why they paid unemployed workers to install 16,000 miles of new waterlines, 420,000 water consumer connections, and 4,000 new water wells. Above, WPA workers are installing water mains in Wicomico County, Maryland, 1940. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

Obstructing Access to Shelter:

In Kansas, where massive tax-cuts-for-the-rich have busted the state's budget, a homeless shelter is having its state funding cut in half. Hence, it will soon be closing so that rich Kansans can retain their unnecessary tax breaks. And, to add insult to injury, super-wealthy Kansans did not create many jobs in return for their tax breaks. Kansas lags far behind their neighboring states (states with higher taxes on the wealthy) in job creation...highlighting, yet again, the failure of trickle-down economics.

(See, for example, "What's The Matter With Kansas And Its Tax Cuts? It Can't Do Math" and "Budget Cuts Force Homeless Shelter To Close As Tax Breaks Go To Wealthy Kansans")

In addition to the trickle-down foolishness occurring in Kansas, we know that many laws criminalizing homelessness have been instituted across the nation. The homeless have also frozen to death, been beaten to death by thrill killers, and had their belongings stolen and/or destroyed by law enforcement.


(New Deal policymakers felt that shelter was important for all Americans. That's why they created affordable housing, built work camps for homeless people who wanted jobs, and rebuilt areas devastated by natural disasters. WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) 

Obstructing Access to Healthcare:

Republicans and Tea Partiers--funded by the Koch brothers and inspired by Ayn Rand--have burned the midnight oil trying to figure out how to bar low-income Americans from preventative healthcare. Their most high-profile and deadly action has been to prohibit the expansion of Medicaid in the states they control, even though the federal government would foot the entire bill for the first few years and 90% thereafter. According to a study from Harvard, this will likely result in thousands of low-income Americans living shorter lives. Of course, this is common sense. If you don't have health insurance, you're less likely to visit a doctor (for fear of the bill), and thus less likely to catch problems--like cancer or diabetes--early enough to prevent them from becoming debilitating or deadly.

And, of course, you're less likely to get the medicine you need without health insurance.

 
(New Deal policymakers felt that healthcare was important for all Americans. That's why they operated health clinics, built hospitals, and hired unemployed nurses to tend to the health needs of low-income Americans. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

Why?

Why are all these things being done to low-income Americans? Because, even as Corporate America (a) sends jobs overseas, (b) replaces workers with machines, (c) lays off thousands of workers to enrich their executives, (d) refuses to give workers a raise, (e) scales back health & retirement benefits, (f) practices employment discrimination against the jobless, (g) engages in all manner of criminal & fraudulent behavior, and (h) bribes politicians to enact laws favorable to them and detrimental to everyone else, millions of Americans continue to buy into the right-wing declaration that all low-income Americans are unskilled "parasites" who don't deserve assistance--and that their low-income status is entirely their own fault. It's akin to blaming a store clerk beating, during a robbery, on the clerk's inability to avoid the beating. In other words, it's an assignment of blame steeped in a callous & cartoonish absurdity.


Historical evidence to the contrary:

If low-income & unemployed Americans are so lazy and unskilled, how did these so-called "lazy" and "unskilled" people accomplish the greatest modernization of American infrastructure in U.S. history during the New Deal years? How did they create & improve thousands of parks that we still enjoy today? Why did Ronald Reagan praise the WPA in his autobiography? Answer: Because the idea that all low-income & unemployed Americans are lazy, unskilled, and entirely to blame for their low-income status, is nothing but politically-motivated bulls&*t.

Welcome:

Welcome to the Reverse New Deal: A persistent, perverted, and misinformed obsession to block low-income Americans from food, water, shelter, and healthcare.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

WPA Poster: Party & Barter

(Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

400 square miles burnt and no sign of a Civilian Conservation Corps

(Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers in Georgia, 1933. Millions of men, including World War 1 veterans, Indians, and young adults desperate for a paycheck, found work in the CCC. Among their many work responsibilities were fire prevention and fire fighting. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

Recently, about 400 square miles have burned in Washington State

Currently, unemployment is still high for young adults (as it has been for the past 6+ years). For example, for men between the ages of 20 and 24, the unemployment rate in June 2014 was 11.7% (and we know that official unemployment figures rarely capture the whole problem).

One would think that a country facing record-setting wildfires, higher-than-normal temperatures, and a high unemployment rate for young adults, would look to the past and see what has worked before. For example, the Civilian Conservation Corps. Are we?

Nope.

Republican & Tea Party politicians are too busy trying to bar low-income Americans from health insurance, and Democrats are trying desperately not to appear too "socialistic."

So, we let the goals & dreams of our youth burn alongside our natural areas, as we wait for the mythical "JOB CREATORS" to come to the rescue, and as our political "leaders" pocket their campaign cash.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WPA Poster: Can You Stop?

(Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Right-Wing Lies vs. New Deal Truth (part 10 of 10): "The New Deal did not work!"

(U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) summed up the modern right-wing philosophy on the New Deal when he said: "...we know for sure that the big spending programs of the New Deal did not work."

But when FDR took office in 1933, the national unemployment rate was about 20-23%. In 1940, before the U.S. entered the war, it was at 9.5% (McConnell says it was 15%, but that figure does not include Americans working in the WPA, CCC, NYA, etc.). Also, in the three years before FDR took office, the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) plummeted by 12% in 1930, 16% in 1931, and 23% in 1932. During the New Deal, America saw its GDP skyrocket. These are the figures from 1933 to 1940: -3.9%, +17%, +11%, +14%, +10%, -6%, +7%, and +10%. (Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, here.)

(A graph showing rising GDP during the New Deal era. Image by Brent McKee.)

If the big spending programs of the New Deal did not work, how do we explain the American economy expanding, after World War II, along thousands of miles of New Deal roads, across thousands of New Deal bridges, and out of hundreds of New Deal airports?

If the big spending programs of the New Deal did not work, why are we still enjoying & utilizing so many thousands of New Deal creations (see, e.g., The Living New Deal)? It seems just a tad hypocritical to scold the New Deal, and then use a WPA-built road to take the family on a vacation to a CCC-created state park.

(A historical marker at Swallow Falls State Park in western Maryland, honoring the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Photo by Brent McKee.)

If the big spending programs of the New Deal did not work, why is there a statue of Ronald Reagan--the icon of the right-wing movement--standing at a big New Deal project site (see next photo)? And why did Reagan enjoy the WPA & CCC-developed Camp David more than any other president? And why did Reagan write in his autobiography, "The WPA was one of the most productive elements of FDR's alphabet soup of agencies because it put people to work building roads, bridges, and other projects...it gave men and women a chance to make some money along with the satisfaction of knowing they earned it."

(The Ronald Reagan statue at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, formerly called Washington National Airport. The airport is a New Deal creation, utilizing funds from the PWA, labor from the WPA, and a great deal of advocacy & arm-twisting by FDR. Photo by Brent McKee.)



(A presentation I made about the WPA's infrastructure improvements during the New Deal era. The presentation includes some nice narration, music, statistics, and historic film & photos. YouTube link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snOXQsVipwE.)

Aside from the work & construction components of the New Deal, if FDR's alphabet soup was so bad, why do we still enjoy FDIC protection for our bank accounts, Social Security for our grandparents, and unemployment insurance when we get laid off via corporate greed, corruption, and crime?

So, let's sum up the New Deal: Lower unemployment; higher GDP; infrastructure for our post-World War II economic expansion; thousands of New Deal projects still being used today; Reagan's statue at a large New Deal site; Reagan praising the WPA in his autobiography; and New Deal policies that still help us, three-quarters of a century later.

That's failure?? Wow, okaaaay...


(U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren explains how a New Deal-era policy--Glass-Steagall--helped stabilize the American economy for decades. Excellent commentary by Cenk Uygur. Original YouTube link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTWfa-iO9Nc.)

The truth is, people who say the "New Deal did not work" are people who either (a) don't know their history, (b) do know their history but place zero cultural or economic value on roads, bridges, schools, airports, state parks, and public art, or (c) work for think tanks, media outlets, legislative bodies, or non-profits that are funded & controlled by right-wing millionaires & billionaires who don't want the public to know the truth about the New Deal. Why? Because, if the public ever fully realized (1) just how badly they're being treated by Corporate America and our corporate-controlled government, and (2) just how valuable the New Deal was to this country, they would demand a new & stronger New Deal. And a new & stronger New Deal would require more tax revenue from the super-wealthy and, perhaps, fewer 24-karat gold bathtubs for their children to soak and gloat in.

Don't listen to the right-wing lies....learn the New Deal truth. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Right-Wing Lies vs. New Deal Truth (part 9 of 10): "Half the country doesn't pay taxes!!!"

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

In an attempt to cast some middle-class Americans, and all lower-income Americans, as "takers" and "parasites," therefore marginalizing their political voice, right-wing extremists often claim that middle & lower-income Americans don't pay taxes.

The problem here, is that they routinely leave out the words "federal income." The political right screams, "They don't pay taxes!", when they should be saying, calmly, "They usually don't pay federal income taxes." Why is this important? Because middle & lower-income Americans get hammered by an array of other taxes, tolls, fees, and fines, usually at the state & local level. Perhaps their federal income tax relief is an acknowledgement that they are getting battered elsewhere.


Middle & lower-income Americans pay one or all of the following: Federal fuel tax, state fuel tax, sales tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, property tax, state income tax, local income tax, and more. And these taxes are more burdensome (i.e., regressive) on lower-income Americans, for two reasons. The first reason is because it takes a higher percentage of their income to satisfy, for example, the sales tax. If a middle or lower-income person buys a $100 air conditioner, the $5-6 sales tax extracts a much higher percentage of his/her income, than it would from an upper middle-class or wealthy person's income. Does that seem fair to you? And that's just one purchase. Multiply this regressive taxation over hundreds of transactions, year after year.

The second reason these taxes are more burdensome on middle & lower-income individuals is because they extract money from their necessity income, whereas, from a wealthy person, it is extracted from his/her luxury income. To put it another way, a middle or lower-income person needs every penny he/she has for rent, car payments (or public transportation costs), groceries, utilities, clothes, etc. Wealthy people have these necessities covered, many times over, and so when they pay a tax it merely cuts into the money they might otherwise use for non-necessity spending, e.g., luxury items like boats, multiple homes, vacations, art, car collections, and gold-plated bathtubs.


In addition to regressive taxation, middle & lower-income Americans are also pummeled with regressive tolls, fees, and fines. A $5 bridge toll, a $60 car registration fee, a $25 parking fine are all regressive, meaning the government is forcing a middle or lower-income person to pay a higher percentage of his/her income to satisfy the toll, fee, or fine. Again, does this strike you as fair?

Interestingly, some countries base their traffic fines on a person's income. This is how it should be. If a fine is intended to deter behavior, e.g., speeding, then it needs to be in proportion to one's income so that the deterrence effect is equal. Bill Gates is not going to be deterred from speeding by a $100 fine (he may, or may not, be deterred for other reasons, e.g., a sense of social obligation to obey the law). However, most low-income drivers will be deterred by such a fine. Once again, does this seem fair to you--that government uses a heavier hand of deterrence on middle & lower-income folks? Of course, we rarely think about these things do we? And that's just how the political right, and the millionaires & billionaires who fund them, want it: Keep the people embarrassed about their lower-income status, and sheepish about the regressive taxes, tolls, fees, and fines that they are forced to pay.


As if all of the above were not bad enough, many super-wealthy Americans hide money in foreign bank accounts, or set up complicated estates & trusts, to evade and avoid taxes. These types of schemes are largely unavailable for middle & lower-income Americans. In this same vein, Corporate America is infamous in its ability to lobby for tax loopholes, and to play states & countries against one another, to secure the lowest possible effective tax rate. Do you think middle & lower-income Americans can play states & countries against one another, to secure lower taxes, the way Corporate America does?

And all this tax evasion & avoidance by many super-wealthy Americans (e.g., 22,000 at just one foreign bank; see next set of links) causes a downward pressure on revenue. In other words, to make up for the lost revenue from the super-wealthy (i.e., less potential for federal assistance), state & local governments are forced to raise taxes, tolls, fees, and fines on middle & lower-income Americans. And, indeed, that's just what they've been doing for the past 30+ years.


New Deal policymakers realized that our tax system is skewed in favor of super-wealthy Americans who can game the system with lawyers, accountants, lobbyists, tax shelters, foreign bank accounts, and political campaign contributions. That's why, when President Franklin Roosevelt advocated for the Revenue Act of 1935, which increased taxes on the super-wealthy, he said, "Our revenue laws have operated in many ways to the unfair advantage of the few" (from The New Deal: A Modern History, by Michael Hiltzik, 2011).

Sadly, we haven't followed Roosevelt's lead but, instead, are back to coddling the super-wealthy. And this coddling is one of the major reasons why poverty is rising and the middle-class is shrinking in America.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Right-Wing Lies vs. New Deal Truth (part 8 of 10): "The Civil War was mainly about states' rights, not slavery!!"

(A WPA project to improve the area around Antietam National Cemetery. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.)

According to a 2011 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, "most Republicans said slavery was not the main reason that Confederate states left the Union" (emphasis added).

But when the state of Mississippi seceded from the Union, it said: "In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course. Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin" (emphasis added). (See "A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.")

(The WPA helped build exhibits for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

When Georgia seceded from the Union, it said: "The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery."

In Georgia's declaration of secession, "slave" or "slavery" is mentioned 36 times. (See "Confederate States of America - Georgia Secession.")

When Texas seceded, it complained that, "(The northern states) demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and the negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States."

Texas's declaration mentions "slave" or "slavery" 22 times. (See "DECLARATION OF CAUSES: February 2, 1861: A declaration of the causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union.")  

Another important secession document was "The Address Of The People Of South Carolina, Assembled In Convention, To The People Of The Slaveholding States Of The United States." It was written by Robert Barnwell Rhett, a South Carolina politician and newspaper owner. In this document, "slave" or "slavery" is mentioned 30 times. Rhett declares: "South Carolina desires no destiny separated from yours. To be one of a great Slaveholding Confederacy, stretching its arms over a territory larger than any power in Europe possesses – with a population four times greater than that of the whole United States when they achieved their independence of the British Empire...We ask you to join us in forming a Confederacy of Slaveholding States."

So, was the Civil War primarily about slavery, or about states' rights? It seems to me that, even if we answer "states' rights," we have to add "to enslave people for personal profit." In other words, no matter how you slice it or how you dice it, it was about slavery.

(In the 1930s, the WPA collected oral histories from former slaves. The above compilation is by Applewood Books, in cooperation with the Library of Congress. Image from personal collection.)

New Deal policymakers were very concerned about historical accuracy. Hence, they hired unemployed Americans, e.g., teachers, lawyers, writers, historians, to document various types of history all across the country--music history, art history, local history, historic buildings, etc. Researchers still utilize this data today.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Right-Wing Lies vs. New Deal Truth (part 7 of 10): "Raising the minimum wage will destroy the economy!"

(The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor helps enforce minimum wage law. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

The political right hates the minimum wage. They believe that wages should be as high or as low as "the market" demands. So, if a job pays $3 per hour, you should either accept that or look for another job. The allure of this philosophy is its simplicity--it just sounds so right, so pure. But then the complexities of life begin to materialize. For example, if there are far more workers than jobs (as there are now), then wages will be suppressed (as they are now) because employers realize that if you're not interested in working for peanuts, there are thousands of other desperate workers who will (as there are now). Further, looking for another job is not so easy when, again, there are far more workers than jobs. Suddenly, the "free market" of work & wages becomes a game tilted heavily towards the wealthy class. Throw in other problems, like job-outsourcing to third-world labor markets, and the game becomes even more rigged in favor of those with deep pockets and political connections.

The minimum wage is part of an array of policies & laws that protect us from people who would have us working in chains if they could. This might seem like a harsh statement, but it must be remembered that legalized slavery was the rule, not the exception, for most of human history. Whether it was the Romans enslaving the defeated, or the Vikings enslaving the Gaelic peoples, or Americans enslaving Africans, slavery has been with us far longer than not.

 (A diagram of a slave ship, showing its human cargo. Image courtesy of Wikipedia and the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

But let's look at the economics. Does an increase in the minimum wage destroy jobs, and thus the economy? Well, according to a recent study, "The 13 U.S. states that increased their minimum wages on January 1 (2014) saw higher employment growth, on average, than the states where the minimum wage didn't change."

Also, there are countries where the minimum wage is higher than ours, yet the unemployment rate is the same or lower. For example, when adjusted for the cost of living, Australia's minimum wage is about $9.77. It's unemployment rate is 5.9%. Luxembourg is $10.37 and 6.1% and New Zealand is $8.17 and 6.0%. (In the U.S. it's $7.10 and 6.1%)


Interestingly, according to Forbes journalist Parmy Olson, "The Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark don’t have a minimum wage at all because they are so highly unionized. 'The unions there felt that a national minimum wage would interfere with collective bargaining, and it might even bring the price of labor down,' says Chater" (referring to Robin Chater, secretary general of the Federation for European Employers). And these countries are doing quite well. For example, Norway has an unemployment rate of 3.5% and a much higher per capita GDP than the U.S.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Many countries are doing as well, if not better, than the U.S., despite the fact that they have higher minimum wages and/or unions, things that the political right in America scolds as job & economy-destroyers.

The fact is, in America we have the worst possible situation: Low union participation and a low minimum wage. Is it any surprise that poverty is rising and the middle-class is shrinking?

("One Third of a Nation" was a WPA theatre play about poverty in America. WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)  

I have asked some conservative-minded folks the following question: "What do you think was a good time period in American history, with respect to the economy?" The answer I most frequently get is "the 1950s," which is a good choice. But when I point out that the national minimum wage law was in existence then, and that union participation was very strong, they have little, if anything, to say. I'm not sure if they fully see the dilemma of scolding unions & the minimum wage, yet picking a time period where those two things were firmly established.

New Deal policymakers created the national minimum wage because they knew that power, in the supposed "free market," is concentrated in the hands of wealthy business owners, wealthy executives, and wealthy shareholders. And history shows us that those with power will abuse those without power. All the political jargon about "skills," "the free market" and "personal responsibility" won't change that fundamental aspect of human nature.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Right-Wing Lies vs. New Deal Truth (part 6 of 10): "Unions are bad!!!"

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Many super-wealthy Americans who "earn" most (or all) of their income through investments do not like unions. Unions bargain for higher wages and better benefits for workers, and these things cut into profits. In turn, lower profits equals less investment income.

Make no mistake about it--it's in the best interest of wealthy investors that workers get paid as little as possible and have the fewest possible benefits. Indeed, that was the whole point behind slavery: Reduce your labor cost as much as possible, and get richer and richer and richer.

And so unions were formed to provide a balance of power between laborers and rich non-laborers (i.e., wealthy owners, wealthy executives, and wealthy shareholders). Union power peaked in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and, it just so happens that, during this time, the middle-class grew like never before or since.

When the Reagan Revolution began in 1981, union power began to decline and tax-cuts-for-the-rich became the dominant philosophy of the land. And so here we are today with stagnant or dropping middle-class wages and a shrinking middle-class. Meanwhile, the rich are getting richer, and often stashing their money in foreign bank accounts to evade their historically low tax rates.

   (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

The political right, and their right-wing millionaire & billionaire political sugar daddies, have demonized unions and argued that they're bad for workers. Middle and lower-income conservative voters--unaware of our nation's history--have accepted this argument and voted against their own economic interest. They have been brainwashed to despise the very organizations that would increase their income and benefits. Right-wing millionaires & billionaires are probably having a good laugh over this. "Wow!," they must be saying, "We actually convinced them that smaller paychecks for them, and more riches for us, are a good thing!!"

New Deal policymakers knew that unions were a good way to counterbalance the inevitable and huge income & wealth disparities that capitalism causes. They also knew that unions were a good way to keep government out of the employer-employee relationship, as much as possible. Instead of the government nit-picking, legislating, and taking sides on every employer-employee issue, they felt it was better that unions be guaranteed the power to negotiate with the owners, executives, and shareholders, i.e., let the parties involved work out their differences.

And so, New Deal policymakers created the Wagner Act to protect the ability of Americans to bargain collectively, i.e., unions. Today, we are straying from union and New Deal philosophies, in favor of free market fantasies and "job-creator" myths. And so your paycheck remains the same while super-wealthy Americans get richer and richer off your labor, and as they cloak this ballooning disparity with anesthetizing words like "freedom" and "liberty."

 
(The description for this 1938 photo reads, "Picket line at the King Farm Strike. Near Morrisville, Pennsylvania." Note the sign in the back that reads, "We want a living wage." This is the same message that low-wage workers and strikers use today, and thus shows hows the struggle for decent pay has been a very long struggle. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

For two interesting articles about unions, workers, and the middle-class, see "Middle-Class Decline Mirrors The Fall Of Unions In One Chart" and "How the middle class became the underclass." 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Right-Wing Lies vs. New Deal Truth (part 5 of 10): "Tax-cuts-for-the-rich are good for everyone!!"


We’ve been cutting taxes on the wealthy for a very long time. Top marginal, capital gains, estate, and corporate tax rates are all historically low, helping super-wealthy Americans become even more wealthy while everyone else is buried in debt and stuck in meaningless low-wage employment (if they have a job at all).

It can be argued that President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, started the tax-cutting frenzy, calling such cuts a "rising tide" that would lift "all boats." Interestingly, Republicans at the time disagreed (see "JFK on the Economy and Taxes"). But when Ronald Reagan entered the White House in 1981 he injected steroids into JFK's tax-cutting philosophy. For example, he advocated & implemented decreases in top marginal income tax rates, from 70% to 50% to 28%.

So, since at least the time of Reagan, Republicans have become the party of tax-cuts-for-the-rich, a.k.a. trickle-down economics. They've sold much of the American public on the idea that, if you just give the super-wealthy colossal tax cuts, they'll take that extra after-tax income and invest it back into the economy and create lots of good middle-class jobs.

Have they?

Right now, the super-wealthy are enjoying some of the most favorable tax rates of the last 100 years. They are also enjoying a historically high percentage of our nation's wealth. You would think, if massive tax-cuts-for-the-rich was really such a great thing for job creation, we'd have jobs falling on us like manna from heaven.

Are we?


(Nick Hanauer, a super-wealthy man, discusses why the super-wealthy are not the true job creators. Original YouTube link at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKCvf8E7V1g.)

Here's the truth: Tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy, when done in the religious, fanatical, and obsessive way that the political right does it, doesn't help the middle-class & poor. It just widens the income & wealth gap. Our national debt is high, our real unemployment levels are high, our labor force participation rate is low, middle-class wages are stagnant, and the middle-class itself is shrinking. Does that strike you as a set of good policy outcomes? Also, Republicans are always saying, "we can't afford it!!" when presented with any type of infrastructure or social program spending. Well, wait a minute, I thought tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy was supposed to broaden the tax base and bring in more revenue? That was one of the outcomes it was marketed on. Well, why can't we afford anything? Where's that great bloom of revenue we were promised when we coddled the rich with massive tax cuts? (Revenue, when measured as a percentage of GDP, has been historically low for 4 out of the last 5 years).

One of the most frightening aspects of trickle-down economics is that those who peddle it never acknowledge their failure. For example, in 2012 Kansas lawmakers instituted tax-cuts-for-the-rich in their state. The state's revenue has since plummeted and the predicted job growth never occurred. Republican Governor of Kansas Sam Brownback's solution? Hand out MORE tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy. This is akin to a doctor saying, "Well, Mr. Smith, I see you've ingested rat poison. I have the perfect remedy for you: A nice large cup of rat poison!" (See "Kansas Governor Wants To Double Down On Massive Tax Cut That Tanked State Finances" and "After Huge Tax Cuts For The Rich, Kansas’s Economy Is Foundering")

And, of course, we see this tax policy foolishness on the national scale as well, with some Republicans even pushing for tax immunity for the rich. We have Republican & Tea Party politicians stumbling over each other, promising tax cuts and regulation reduction, in an effort to solicit super-wealthy campaign contributors. "Pick me, pick me! Let me kiss your feet! Bribe me with campaign money and I'll lower your tax rates and allow you to pollute and defraud the public as much as you want!!!" (See, e.g., "House GOP cuts IRS, SEC funding," and remember that they are doing this after one of the most financially fraudulent periods in American history. They have become advocates & facilitators of white collar crime; and this compounds the problem of the Obama administration's light-handed approach to corporate wrongdoing.)

(WPA workers building a bridge in Harford County, Maryland, 1936. New Deal policymakers didn't wait for the mythical, super-wealthy "job creators" to come to the rescue. They simply paid unemployed Americans to work on projects designed by local communities and local governments. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

New Deal policymakers understood that, from time to time, you have to level the playing field a little by taxing the rich more and funding programs that give middle- and lower-income Americans a fighting chance, e.g., job training, reduced tuition for college, and public job programs for those who fall through the cracks. They understood that if you just let things run amok the super-wealthy will vacuum up every last penny. It's human nature. Like a wolf pack, people at the top will gobble up all they can and leave only scraps for everyone else...or perhaps nothing at all.

When President Franklin Roosevelt advocated for the Revenue Act of 1935, which increased taxes on the super-wealthy, he said, "Our revenue laws have operated in many ways to the unfair advantage of the few...wealth in the modern world does not come merely from individual effort...(T)he people in the mass have inevitably helped to make large fortunes possible" (from The New Deal: A Modern History, by Michael Hiltzik, 2011). In other words, increased taxes on the wealthy are a way of "paying it forward," especially when the wealthy are not following through on their promise to create good jobs with their enhanced wealth. Unfortunately, many Americans today have a different philosophy: "It's all mine! Mine, mine, mine! Screw you!" And so, the children of the rich show us pictures of themselves bathing in bathtubs made of gold, while broke residents of Detroit have their water shut off.

So, what do you think? Have tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy created a great society?


(Watch Kevin O'Leary, of the television show "Shark Tank" explain how he is extremely happy that the 85 richest people on the planet have more wealth than the bottom 3.5 billion people. He explains how the poorest of the poor will now be motivated to become part of the 1%. Original YouTube link at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rMPea0lm9U.)

(Photo of snake at top courtesy of Wikipedia)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Right-Wing Lies vs. New Deal Truth (part 4 of 10): "We can't afford it!"

(WPA workers in Maryland, on a food distribution project. This was a win-win situation, where unemployed workers were offered jobs to help other low-income Americans. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

Whenever there is mention of adding funds to social welfare programs, or infrastructure improvements, you can count on the political right to cry out, "We can't afford it!" But when talk turns to war or prisons, their financial concerns quickly disappear.

What the political right really means when they say "We can't afford it!" is that they would prefer to spend on policies that address their anger and soothe their fear. This preference was recently put under a bright spotlight when right-wing hero Dick Cheney said of military & defense spending, "That ought to be our top priority for spending. Not food stamps, not highways or anything else." The political right holds dear the common defense clauses of the U.S. Constitution. But the general welfare clauses? Neh, not so much. 

To the great detriment of our culture, many Americans have a far greater capacity for anger & fear than they have for sympathy & care. And this goes a long way towards explaining why we've wasted hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq, when we could have improved things--on a gargantuan scale--within our own borders.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Right-Wing Lies vs. New Deal Truth (part 3 of 10): "The unemployed are lazy!!!"

(New Deal policymakers didn't spend their days fantasizing about how to better insult the unemployed. Instead, they created projects for the unemployed to work on--projects that we still enjoy & utilize today. WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)   

People who lost their jobs during the Great Recession, and have had trouble finding work again, have faced a merciless onslaught of insults from the political right. They've been called every name in the book: "Parasites," "moochers," "takers," "lazy good-for-nothings," and so on.

Republican talking-head Ben Stein summed up the disgust that the political right has for laid-off Americans when he wrote: "The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities...in general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work."

Of course, we know that right-wing hatred of the jobless is steeped in hypocrisy because, when they criticize President Obama, they say, "He's destroying the economy, where are the jobs??" But, when they criticize the unemployed, they say, "There's plenty of jobs out there, get off the couch!!" But hatred is a satisfying & soothing emotion for many people, and so this hypocrisy gets a free pass from many American voters.

(New Deal policymakers felt that, when given opportunities instead of insults, unemployed Americans would perform well. WPA workers honored this belief by creating or improving 650,000 miles of roads, laying 16,000 miles of new waterlines, building nearly 6,000 new schools, and much more. WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

The reason jobless Americans are having a hard time finding employment is not because they are lazy, but because there are far more job seekers than job openings. For example, in November of 2013, it was reported that "More than 23,000 people are vying for only 600 job openings at (Walmart)" (see "It's Easier To Get Into Harvard Than To Get A Job At These Walmarts").

For some reason, the political right simply can't fathom the possibility that there are more working-age adults than jobs. Unless, again, they're criticizing Obama. Then they wholeheartedly believe it.

Stereotyping the unemployed as "lazy," as the political right is so fond of doing, has consequences. Some percentage of employers will no doubt internalize this message and thus avoid hiring the so-called "lazy unemployed people." And, indeed, empirical research has shown that the jobless are discriminated against by employers (see, e.g., "Unemployed Face Discrimination Just One Month After Losing Their Jobs, Report Says").

(New Deal policymakers felt that lifting the jobless up, instead of stomping on them, was a better & more ethical policy response to unemployment. What do you think? WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

New Deal policymakers realized that what most jobless Americans need are jobs. And so, through programs like the WPA, CWA, CCC, and NYA, they gave them jobs. And what ensued was the largest and most successful expansion & improvement of infrastructure in American history. This infrastructure work provided the backbone for our nation's post-World War II economic boom. The American economy expanded along New Deal roads, across New Deal bridges, and out of New Deal airports. And, as if this were not enough, we are still enjoying & utilizing much of this work today (see, e.g., the Living New Deal). Even Ronald Reagan praised the infrastructure work of the WPA. But most right-wing politicians don't want you to know this history. They're scoring way too many political points by casting the unemployed as "parasites." It's a vote cow that they don't want to give up. This is probably why they blocked legislation that would have created a public works program for unemployed veterans. To them, jobless veterans are much more valuable as unemployed punching bags.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Right-Wing Lies vs. New Deal Truth (part 2 of 10): "Man is not contributing to global warming!!"

(Image courtesy of wpclipart.com.)

The political right would have us believe that pumping endless amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, for decades, has no effect on the environment. For example, Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.), who receives a large chunk of his campaign cash from the fossil fuel industry, informed his fellow Republicans that human-caused climate change is nothing more than a politically-motivated lie (see "House Directs Pentagon To Ignore Climate Change"). And a Republican legislator in Kentucky, who just so happens to own a mining company, said there's no truth to the claim that man is contributing to climate change because Earth and Mars have the same temperature (see "Republican Calls Climate Change A Hoax Because Earth And Mars Have 'Exactly' Same Temperature").

Of course, Earth and Mars do not have the same temperature (and even if they did, it would still be difficult to follow this legislator's wacky reasoning), but that probably doesn't matter. Millions of Americans will continue to vote for Republicans and Tea Partiers, no matter how outlandish their claims. A Republican candidate could declare that global warming is a hoax because Santa and his elves are still making toys at the cold North Pole, and still get plenty of votes as long as he/she stated the obligatory "Obama is a Marxist," "the unemployed are lazy-good-for-nothings," and "billionaires are struggling to survive under the oppressive tax system."

(WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Right-wing politicians--and the super-wealthy Americans who control their puppet strings--have fueled so much insanity that some people have now rigged their vehicles to pollute more, apparently in protest of Obama, the EPA, and environmentalists. They are breathing in their vehicle's exhaust, and spraying people with it, to thumb their nose at people who want to breathe clean air (see "Political Protest Or Just Blowing Smoke? Anti-Environmentalists Are Now 'Rolling Coal'").

CNN anchor Carol Costello asks "Why are we still debating climate change?" It's a good question, when you consider the following: (a) 97% of climate scientists agree that man is contributing to global warming; (b) the U.S. Department of Defense has warned us about national security issues related to climate change; (c) the United Nations has highlighted that climate change is already causing problems; (d) former EPA chief William Ruckelshaus, a Republican who served under Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan said of climate change and pollution-curbing regulations: "We all feel strongly that something should be done and we should get on with this"; and (e) a scientist funded by the Koch brothers reversed his opinion after considering more research and said: "Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

(WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

New Deal policymakers knew that humans could have a detrimental impact on the environment. It was (and should be today) common sense. That's why they had young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps plant three billion trees across the nation. That's why they had WPA workers plant eight million bushels of oysters. Not everything they did was environmentally sound, but at least they tried. Further, they didn't claim that Earth and Mars have the same temperature (which is false) and so we don't need to be concerned (which is idiotic).
 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Right-Wing Lies vs. New Deal Truth (part 1 of 10): "The poor have it easy!"

(According to many on the political right, this homeless person is living in the lap of luxury. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that most conservatives believe that low-income Americans have it "easy."

But we know from empirical research that low-income Americans have shorter lifespans than the well-to-do. For example, research from the Brookings Institute shows that "Life expectancy is rising for those at the top of the distribution of individuals ranked by alternative measures of socio-economic status, but it is stagnate or declining for those at the bottom" (see "Poor People's Lives Are Getting Shorter"). So, um, how is a shorter lifespan "easy"?

Also, anyone who has experience with poverty--either personally, or by working with low-income groups--knows that something like a major car repair can wipe out a poor person's finances. For example, if you're wealthy, a broken transmission is a minor inconvenience. If you're poor, the $2-3,000 repair bill is devastating, if not impossible. And, for many people, if they're out of a car they may soon be out of a job. Also, contrary to right-wing fantasies, the Obama Administration is not going to deliver a new transmission to your doorstep.

But facts & reality don't matter too much to the political right. What matters is that people like Bill O'Reilly say that poor Americans get a bunch of free stuff and have an easy life. The homeless get free mansions, the unemployed get free Corvettes, and low-income workers get free transmissions--personally delivered by President Obama. "It's a Marxist outrage!!"

(WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)
  
New Deal policymakers didn't live in a fantasy bubble of paranoia & misinformation. Hence, they realized that being poor is no cakewalk. That's why they created jobs, health clinics, and school lunch programs for low-income Americans. What a shame that we don't have many New Deal-type policymakers today. They've been replaced with liars, charlatans, and a "rudderless bunch of idiots." And that's why Congress has a record low-approval rating, the poor have shorter lifespans, and the Koch brothers keep adding billions to their personal fortune.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

WPA Poster: Barber Shop Quartet

(WPA poster created by artist Jack Rivolta, New York, 1936. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Poverty Reduction Technobabble vs. New Deal Action

Puzzled


The Urban Dictionary defines "technobabble" as "The art of using a bunch of nonsensical ramblings to solve or explain a problem. Usually used by SCI-FI writers once they have written themselves in a corner."

The financial powers-that-be also use technobabble, probably because they have written themselves into a corner of greed. This technobabble was on full display in a recent op-ed by Sergio Ermotti, CEO of UBS, a global wealth management firm, in an article titled (if you can believe it) "Furthering the Fight Against Poverty."


Mr. Ermotti tells us that, by "testing and stimulating innovation...Development Impact Bonds (DIBs) are also a tool that UBS is using to encourage 'pay for performance' in a model where investors provide financing for an essential and effective development project and, if agreed outcomes are achieved, returns are provided by an 'outcome payer.'"
Confused face

Gosh, why didn't someone think of that before?!? Poverty, your days are over!

How much do you want to bet that, by the time we figure out what this actually means, UBS will have sucked another few billion dollars out of the global economy for the personal enjoyment of their clients?  


In addition to technobabble, Mr. Ermotti uses many of the happy-words that we've become accustomed to hearing when the powers-that-be discuss unemployment and poverty-level wages: "Entrepreneurs!" "Innovation!" and "Creativity!" These are the buzzwords that financial elites use when they are trying to avoid tax increases (or fraud-curbing regulations), and the buzzwords that government elites use when they don't have the will, or the courage, to promote real action.

Afraid

Perhaps the most laughable part of Mr. Ermotti's op-ed is the statement that "Today less than 1-in-5 live in extreme poverty, which we now measure at $1.25 a day." Wow, I feel so much better. People making $1.36 a day, or $2.12 a day, must be doing a-okay!


The fact of the matter is, we don't need poverty reduction technobabble from financial industry elites any more than a rabbit needs advice from a rattlesnake on how to live a long & prosperous life. What we need is a new and stronger New Deal. Social Security, the minimum wage, and public job programs for the long-term unemployed did far more to reduce poverty than fraud, tax evasion, interest rate rigging, and technobabble ever will.

 
(A WPA worker looks at his paycheck in Washington, D.C., 1939. New Deal policymakers didn't twiddle their thumbs waiting for free market fairy dust or billionaires sipping martinis by their pools to create jobs. They simply paid unemployed men and women to work on projects created by local communities and governments. It wasn't rocket science. But perhaps for today's clueless Congress, it is rocket science--and thus they can't figure it out: "Wow, jobs for the jobless?? I don't understand!" Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

***Emoticons courtesy of sherv.net

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Reverse New Deal: A never-ending tidal wave of insults and hatred

(Image courtesy of clker.com.)

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney scoffed at the idea that low-income Americans have a right to food and health care. (link)

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain said, "...if you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself." (link)

Prominent conservative "thinker" Charles Murray once wrote, "when we know the complete genetic story, it will turn out that the population below the poverty line in the United States has a configuration of the relevant genetic makeup that is significantly different from the configuration of the population above the poverty line." (link)

Republican school official John Huppenthal (Arizona) wrote that low-income Americans are "lazy pigs." (link)

Republican-appointed judge Richard Cebull circulated an email joke, about President Obama being the result of a sexual encounter between his mother and a dog. (link

A Republican party official in North Carolina said this about a new voter identification law, "If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it." (link)

Republican political commentator Ben Stein wrote: "as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work." (link)

Tea Party official Inge Marler told a joke at a political rally that included the following, "A black kid asks his mom, ‘Mama, what’s a democracy?’ ‘Well, son, that be when white folks work every day so us po’ folks can get all our benefits.’" (link)

(Image courtesy of wpclipart.com.)

Republican Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina Andre Bauer said that feeding low-income children is like feeding animals, and should be avoided because they might breed. (link)

A Tea Party activist, and a member of the Republican central committee in Orange County, California, circulated an email depicting President Obama and his parents as chimpanzees. (link)

A Texas Republican candidate for U.S. Senate referred to illegal immigrants as "wetbacks" and said President Obama was a "socialist son of a bitch." (link

Republican Congressman Don Young (Alaska) said, "My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes." (link)

A Montana Republican candidate for Congress called for an "Operation Wetback" to deport immigrants. (link)

A Republican contender for U.S. Senate compared people receiving food stamps to wild animals. (link)

Glenn Beck, thought leader of the modern right-wing movement, said this of the long-term unemployed: "Some of these people, I bet you'd be ashamed to call them Americans." (link)

And then there are the Internet comment-makers who follow the lead of the right-wing politicians & talking heads. For example, in response to an article about low-income residents having their water shut off, a commenter wrote, "If they cut back on the beer, wine, liquor, cigs, movie rentals, expensive cars, latest fashion statements, latest electronic gadgets, tatoos like this fatty has and the pies and cakes and potato chips this fatty obviously crams her mouth with, et al., she (and they) would have no problem paying their bill" (see "United Nations Says Turning Off Poor Detroiters' Water Violates Human Rights," comment at June 27, 4:09pm).

(WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Things have gotten so ruthless, that even Republican Governor John Kasich (Ohio) has questioned the tidal wave of insults: "I’m concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor. That if you’re poor, somehow you’re shiftless and lazy. You know what? The very people who complain ought to ask their grandparents if they worked at the W.P.A."   

Indeed, when New Deal policymakers offered the less fortunate work opportunities, as an alternative to the insults they were receiving from everyone else, they performed at a high level, working on thousands of projects that we still utilize & enjoy today (see the Living New Deal). Of WPA workers, author Nick Taylor observed: "They excelled. They created works that even without restoration have lasted more than seventy years and still stand strong, art that is admired, research that is relied upon, infrastructure that endures...These ordinary men and women proved to be extraordinary beyond all expectation. They were golden threads woven into the national fabric. In this they shamed the political philosophy that discounted their value and rewarded the one that placed its faith in them" (American-Made, New York: Bantam Books, 2008).

President Franklin Roosevelt once said "We are going to make a country in which no one is left out" (The Roosevelt I Knew, Frances Perkins, 1946). Across the Atlantic, Heinrich Himmler had a different view of humanity: "Antisemitism is exactly the same as delousing. Getting rid of lice is not a question of ideology. It is a matter of cleanliness." (Recall the Arizona official who wrote that low-income Americans were "lazy pigs.")

Which philosophy do you like better? And which direction do you see America heading towards--inclusion or persecution?

("It Can't Happen Here" was a WPA theatre play about a Nazi-like government occurring in America. Some people think that such a thing could not happen. What do you think? WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)