Saturday, October 31, 2015

New Deal Art: "Jungle"... and the New Deal's triumph of art over contempt

 
Above: "Jungle," an oil painting by Paul Kirtland Mays (1887-1961), created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933. Mays studied at several art schools and had a successful painting career before the Great Depression came along and destroyed it. The New Deal stepped in to help, giving Mays (and many like him) a modest-paying job to create art for the public. That's what the New Deal did. As opposed to the right-wing mentality that we see today--a mentality that snickers at people hurt by economic downturns, labeling them "takers" and "parasites"--the New Deal offered people opportunities
 
Which approach to economic recessions do you prefer? The approach that pits citizens against one another, fostering an atmosphere of contempt, or the approach that creates beautiful art and needed infrastructure? Believe it or not, a lot of people prefer the former - and that is one of the primary reasons we don't have a New Deal today (other reasons include rampant tax evasion, free market fanaticism, weak political leadership, and campaign money--a.k.a. bribery--from millionaires & billionaires who are opposed to public jobs for the unemployed). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Elizabeth Warren, Puerto Rico, and the New Deal


Above: In this video clip, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the few members of Congress who is not a Wall Street marionette, scolds vulture funds and the U.S. Treasury for not doing more to help the citizens of Puerto Rico during their financial crisis. She points out that vulture funds "want Puerto Rico to raise taxes, cut health care, fire teachers, cut pensions, sell off $4 billion worth of government buildings, privatize public ports, close neighborhood schools and cut support for the University of Puerto Rico, all so these vulture funds can squeeze out more profit." YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gHYsZ87h7s&feature=youtu.be.

The case of Puerto Rico is an extreme case of what is happening all around the world - economies, elections, public policies, courts, and just about every facet of life are being rigged to benefit the wealthy few. Is it any wonder that the American middle-class is shrinking, the number of homeless children has reached a record high, and there will be no Social Security cost-of-living increase... as super-wealthy Americans keep getting richer and richer? Millionaires & billionaires want millions & billions more, everyone else be damned. They seem to be collectively say: "To Hell with workers, to Hell with children, and to Hell with senior citizens... we want more mansions and private islands!"

Instead of grinding Puerto Ricans into the ground, as many wealthy investors want to do today (while they simultaneously use Puerto Rico as a tax haven, by the way), New Deal policymakers tried the exact opposite, as I recently highlighted on the Living New Deal:

"the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) provided funding for new schools, new hospitals, new infrastructure, and public works jobs for the unemployed. Later, the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration (PRRA) did the same, and for a longer period of time. Meanwhile, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) hired thousands of Puerto Rican men to plant trees, reduce erosion, and build fish hatcheries. The National Youth Administration (NYA) helped hundreds of young men and women complete their high school and college education. The Public Works Administration (PWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) put many thousands to work building roads, improving airports, and bolstering national defense. In 1936, the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation provided Puerto Ricans with 970 tons of flour, 440 tons of rolled oats, 25 tons of dried beans, 105 tons of onions, 90 tons of dried peas, and 150 tons of dried prunes. During fiscal year 1940 it provided about 428 tons of food to school lunch programs, feeding tens of thousands of children."

Above: A new hospital in Puerto Rico, ca. 1934, built with funds from the New Deal's Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). Instead of cutting back on medical services for Puerto Ricans, as the vulture funds want to do, New Deal policymakers enhanced medical services. Today, many of the people who sit in offices all day long shifting money around (as opposed to actually creating things) have no clue or concern about the misery they inflict on others. They only think in terms of self-enrichment: The next deal to make, the next trick to try, the next scam to sell, the next politician to buy. Image from a FERA report.

As opposed to Wall Street-imposed austerity, New Deal efforts actually worked. For example, a scholar at the City University of New York recently concluded that the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration "made lasting contributions to local social and economic life" and that "PRRA public works projects made concrete contributions to the physical security of millions of Puerto Ricans through the construction of hurricane-proof houses, schools, hospitals, roads, sewers, waterworks, and rural electrification networks."

But we won't create a New Deal for Puerto Ricans today, will we? Heck, we won't even grant them the same bankruptcy protections enjoyed by the states - we'd rather let them be eaten alive by the vulture funds. What about a bailout? You know, like the fraudulent banks got? Nope, we're not going to do that for them either. Our treatment (or rather, neglect) of Puerto Rico is just par for the course in this, the "Golden Era of White Collar Crime." But remember, don't complain... that would be class warfare!

(To see a variety of ways that austerity is disproportionately impacting the middle-class & poor of Puerto Rico, see "How Austerity Is Making It Harder And Harder To Get Educated In Puerto Rico," ThinkProgress, August 19, 2015.)

Above: New school construction in Puerto Rico, ca 1934, with funds from the New Deal's Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). Instead of closing schools, laying off teachers, and selling off public buildings to sate the greed of wealthy investors, New Deal policymakers built more schools, hired more teachers, and constructed more public buildings. That's the difference between many of today's financiers and the New Deal policymakers of yesteryear. The former are frequently destroyers, and the latter were builders - builders of infrastructure, builders of men & women, and builders of hope. Image from FERA report.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A water main installed in 1885 broke in Philadelphia. 4 months later, residents are still struggling. Welcome to the Reverse New Deal.


(In the two-minute video above, we see the results of a 130-year-old water main break in Philadelphia. What's interesting, is that we keep hearing things like, "We're still trying to figure out the cause of the break." But, is it a stretch to conclude that the age of the pipe was the primary factor? After all, it was installed in 1885, 30 years before World War I. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caYO1ASrWBA.)

Back in June, a 130-year-old water main broke in Philadelphia and damaged dozens of homes and businesses. Four months later, residents are still struggling with the results. It seems that the city doesn't want to compensate the victims for the flood damage, and is even acting rudely towards them.

This is what happens when a nation puts tax-breaks-for-the-rich in front of infrastructure improvements. This is what happens when the rich control the political process. Their desires--more profit, more sports cars, more mansions--are placed above the needs of non-wealthy citizens, e.g., clean & reliable drinking water. Now, you might be thinking, "Well, the rich have to drink water too." True enough, but, unlike most Americans, they can pay for water to be trucked into their gated communities and private compounds. So, who needs water mains when you can pay for your own personal water delivery system?   

It doesn't have to be this way, of course. For example, during the New Deal years, the WPA installed 595 miles of new water mains in Pennsylvania, and 16,000 miles of new water mains across the entire country.

(Do you get this message a lot? I do. My Internet frequently fades in and out. Even after a quarter-century of widespread Internet use, many Americans (like me) can't get affordable & reliable Internet service. Hmmm, maybe another round of tax breaks for the wealthy will make things better?)

Let's face it, America's infrastructure is really bad. It's not just the typical things you think of--roads, bridges, water mains--it's also things like our national parks, which have an $11 billion maintenance backlog, and our Internet Service, which, as I (try to) write this blog post, keeps blinking in an out - as it is prone to do. Our Internet is monopolized by a few large providers and Republican lawmakers have prevented Americans from trying to improve the situation (largely because politicians are receiving campaign cash from the industry). Hence, Americans pay more for the Internet, and receive crappier service, than most developed countries. But that doesn't stop a lot people from continuing to vote for Republicans and continuing to chant, "America number one! America number one!" (Actually, outside of military power, America is number one in very few areas - certainly not in infrastructure, health care, education, level of happiness, vacation time, etc. - and the more we chant "America number one," without using any actual criteria, the worse things will get.)

When will enough be enough? Will Americans ever say, "Stop coddling the wealthy, and fix the damn water mains!"? Probably not. You see, even after years of horrible infrastructure report cards from the American Society of Civil Engineers (a D+ in 2001, a D in 2005, a D in 2009, a D+ in 2013), tens of millions of people keep voting for anti-infrastructure Republicans. And that's why the United States experiences a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks...every single year.

Welcome to the Reverse New Deal.


(Here's a presentation I made about America's infrastructure, with professional narration, historic film, and plenty of photos. It's as relevant today, as when I made it over a year ago. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snOXQsVipwE.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Trickle-Down Economics Gone Wild: As the middle-class continues to shrink, Republicans want to raise their taxes... and then give more tax breaks to the wealthy.

(President Roosevelt and his family, 1934. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

A new report from the Social Security Administration shows that more than half of Americans are earning less than $30,000 per year.

And while the American middle-class continues to shrink, the richest Americans keep adding tens of billions of dollars to their already out-of-control wealth, allowing them to buy more gold bathtubs, more $78,000 watches, more private islands, and more politicians. To add insult to injury, we're told by conservative think tanks & talking heads that these types of purchases & investments will create lots of good middle-class jobs... you know, the whole "Job Creators" spiel. But do you believe that the purchase of a private island, or a mansion on the French Riviera, creates lots of good middle-class jobs in the United States, or helps improve our nation's aging & crumbling infrastructure?

As all this foolishness is going on, Republicans want to raise taxes on the middle-class & poor, lower taxes on the rich, and protect wealthy tax evaders from law enforcement. For example, leading Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson wants to implement a flat tax that would "raise taxes on the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers by an average of $2,887, while cutting them by an average of $209,562 for the richest one percent of taxpayers each year." Further, as if all this were not bad enough, tens of millions of voters are telling Republican candidates, "Yes! We will vote for you to implement these policies!"

Middle-class & poor Americans are already facing stagnant or dropping wages, more debt, and extremely disproportionate taxation at the state and local level - not to mention rising and regressive tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates. Why in the world would an electorate willingly vote to be taxed even more, and also vote to give tax breaks to the people who are already accumulating more and more wealth every year, who are already enjoying historically low tax rates, and who are also engaging in all manner of tax evasion & avoidance?

Welcome to Trickle-Down Economics Gone Wild! - an inexplicable madhouse of public policies and voting behavior.

"When it came to taxes, Roosevelt simply believed that rich people should pay more than poor people. And in emergencies, they should pay a lot more." 

--Joseph J. Thorndike, Their Fair Share: Taxing the Rich in the Age of FDR

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

New Deal Art: "Summer Day"

Above: "Summer Day," a wood engraving on paper, by Minnie Lois Murphy (1901-1962), created while she participated in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. According to the website askART, Murphy "earned a BS from Columbia Univ. Studied at the Art Students League and was a pupil of Boardman Robinson, Kimon Nicolaides, and George Grosz," and her art was exhibited at places like the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Art Institute of Chicago, Minneapolis Art Institute, Brooklyn Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

New Deal Art: "Rapid Transit"

Above: "Rapid Transit," a woodcut by Fred Becker (1913-2004), created while he participated in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A New Deal Time Capsule?

Above: The description for this photo, taken at Antietam National Cemetery in 1940, reads, "Holding sealed jar to be placed in the northwest corner of wall. Miss Ida F. Mongan, Battlefield Clerk, Miss Mary Kane Knode, NYA Asst. Office Help." What's in the jar? Civil War items? New Deal-related items? Both? And is the jar still there? Perhaps we'll never know. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Above: The description for this photo reads, "Antietam Battlefield Personnel and WPA force at the cornerstone laying, April 25, 1940, in northwest corner of cemetery wall." Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Above: WPA men working on the cemetery wall at Antietam National Cemetery. The repair & improvement of the wall was just one of many New Deal projects around the Antietam National Battlefield area. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Above: The cemetery wall today. Photo by Brent McKee.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A PWA ship in Baltimore: The last survivor of Pearl Harbor

Above: The Coast Guard Cutter Taney was built with PWA funds in the mid-1930s. Today, it is a museum ship in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, contributing to the local tourism economy. Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: During World War II, the Taney was fitted with three additional 5-inch guns, anti-aircraft batteries, and depth charges. The Taney saw extensive action in both the Atlantic and Pacific, knocking down several enemy aircraft and earning three battle stars. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Above: The Taney also saw action on December 7, 1941, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Additionally, during her active duty years the Taney served in Vietnam, seized illegal drugs, participated in search & rescue missions, and performed significant weather research duties. Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: Much of the Taney's interior dates to its original construction, including the engines and engine room - a maze of pipes, wires, and gauges. Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: The Taney served America for half-a-century, commissioned in 1936 and decommissioned in 1986. Today, she is a National Historic Landmark. Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: The first day of work on the Taney, May 1, 1935 - U.S.C.G. Cutter No. 68 (not to be confused with the Taney's hull number "37"). Many people, e.g., U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, claim that the spending programs of the New Deal did not work. Yet, the workers you see in the photo above were certainly happy to have a job courtesy of PWA funds. And the incredible service of the Taney to her country, and her continued economic contributions to Baltimore's Inner Harbor, also seem to dispute the "New Deal did not work" talking point. And remember, the Taney is just one of thousands of New Deal projects that we still benefit from today. Indeed, you can visit the Living New Deal for over 10,000 other examples. Photo courtesy of Historic Ships in Baltimore.

Sources: (1) Treasury Department Appropriation Bill for 1936, Hearing Before the Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriation, 74th Congress, First Session, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1935, p. 434.  (2) Federal Works Agency, Millions for Defense, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1940, p. 41. (3) Historic Ships in Baltimore. (4) Naval History and Heritage Command. (5) U.S. Coast Guard, Historian's Office

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fear of the End Times, fear of economic calamity, and fear itself

(Evangelist Harold Camping and his Family Radio organization predicted that the end of the world would occur on May 21, 2011. Some followers of Camping left their jobs and families, and gave away all their possessions. See "Road Trip to the end of the world," CNN, March 23, 2011. Photo by Brent McKee.)

If the past 7 years have shown anything, they've shown that fear (and anger) sells. Predictions of the End Times and predictions of economic calamity--certain to be caused, we are told, by progressive policies like the expansion of Medicaid and the end of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy--have spread across the land. A whole industry of books, DVDs, and survival food is capitalizing on people's fear that the end is near. 

If you go to YouTube, and type in the search words "Obama" and "Anti-Christ," you'll see tons of videos that will make you question the sanity of the human race (if you haven't already been questioning it). And back in 2012, Chuck Norris and his wife famously predicted 1,000 years of darkness if Obama was re-elected. But all I know is this: If Obama is the Anti-Christ, he sure is waiting an awfully long time to brand us all with the mark of the beast. I mean, waiting to the last minute like this is going to create a HUGE administrative nightmare. Think the roll-out of Obamacare was rocky? You aint' seen nothin' yet!

There is also an "End Time" magazine (although, for obvious reasons, I would advise against the long-term subscription options). Pastor Jonathan Cahn, with his best-selling book The Harbinger, has been warning us of impending doom for several years now - and he has the ears of many Congressmen. Pastor John Hagee has been warning us that "blood moons" are a sign the end is near. Jim Bakker is aggressively selling survival food, including End of the World Biscuits and Gravy. And former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has said: "...as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times...we are to understand where we are in God’s End Times history...Rather than seeing this as a negative...we need to rejoice, Maranatha come Lord Jesus, his day is at hand."

This fear and hysteria, often driven by profit, crosses over into the economic realm too. Republicans and Tea Partiers predicted that Obamacare would be a job-killer. They also predicted that raising taxes (i.e., the end of the Bush era tax cuts) on the holy "JOB CREATORS" would be another job-killer. Instead, however, the unemployment rate has been steadily dropping for several years, ever since these two things occurred. And economist Paul Krugman has repeatedly pointed out that perpetual, conservative claims of runaway inflation--caused by liberal policies of course--have failed to materialize year after year after year. Further, many on the political right have predicted, ever since Obama became president, that the price of gasoline would skyrocket. Well, I just filled up a few days ago at $2.19, the lowest I've paid in years. In fact, the highest I ever paid for gasoline, in my entire life, was during the Bush Administration, when it went to over $4 a gallon.

The fact is, the real economic problems we face stem not from progressive policies, but from Corporate America's criminal activity, Corporate America's unpatriotic tax avoidance, and Corporate America's refusal to give American workers a raise despite increased productivity.

 (The President and the First Lady, 1940. The description for this photo reads, "President Roosevelt observes seventh anniversary in White House... by attending services at St. John's Episcopal Church today." Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

President Franklin Roosevelt--himself a devote Christian--had a different outlook on life, an outlook he made clear during his first inaugural address in 1933: "This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Roosevelt then led the nation through the Great Depression and World War II, and also set the stage for America's post-war economic boom. Many conservatives who yearn for the economic times of the 1950s always fail to mention the fact that New Deal policies & infrastructure were firmly in place at that time, e.g., roads, bridges, airports, Social Security, FDIC, protections for unions, higher taxes on the wealthy, and the minimum wage. 

A lot of people today are obviously not heeding Roosevelt's words (if they've heard his words at all). For example, instead of universal health care for all our citizens--a "needed effort" and a policy that has proven workable and beneficial in nearly all industrialized countries--millions of Americans tremble in fear that such a policy will bankrupt the nation, make Americans lazy, and perhaps even cause the end of the world. Ironically though, the lack of such a system is causing people to die; which, I believe, is an outcome that Jesus would probably disapprove of (see, e.g., "Texas’ Other Death Penalty: A Galveston medical student describes life and death in the so-called safety net," Texas Observer, November 13, 2013, and "Study: Thousands of people will die in states that don't expand Medicaid," Talking Points Memo, January 31, 2014).

So, with respect to fear, which is the best approach? Caving in to hysteria and buying lots of End Times books and DVDs (thereby funding lots of mansions and private jets for opportunists) or, being strong in the face of challenges, as Roosevelt advised? Well, you have to decide that for yourself, but I'll end with this: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

Monday, October 19, 2015

New Deal Art: "Paper Workers"

Above: "Paper Workers," an oil painting by Douglass Crockwell (1904-1968), created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. It is noted that "By showing the workers as blocky figures that appear to be roughly carved out of wood, the artist visually likened the men to the source of the wood pulp from which they made newsprint," and "The geometric forms and dull gray colors of the men make them appear like components in the machine, and their concentration emphasizes the determination of many Americans to overcome hardships during the Depression. The suited figure on the left, however, represents the new managerial class, who controlled the men as well as the machines. His presence emphasizes the threat to hourly workers in the 1930s, as machinery grew more sophisticated and required supervisors rather than laborers." Image and quotes courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A 100-year-old pipe breaks, and cuts off water service to an entire town. A WPA could have prevented that.

(WPA workers installing a new water line in Cumberland, Maryland, 1935. Across America, the WPA installed 16,000 miles of new water lines, much of it still in use today, long past its intended lifespan. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

Yesterday, a 100-year-old water line broke in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, and disrupted the entire town's water supply. This caused a run on bottled water. One grocery store manager said, "They're buying up everything on hand. Everyone wants clean, fresh water."

The break in Manchester-by-the-Sea was just one of 240,000 breaks that occur in the United States every single year. And conservative politicians couldn't care less, as highlighted by the fact that they didn't mention infrastructure in either of the Republican presidential debates, by the fact that they've consistently blocked infrastructure improvement bills, and by the fact that a top Republican in Congress scolded his own party for hindering infrastructure work.

Manchester-by-the-Sea is "hoping to set aside $6 million in 2017 to fix all of the community's water mains." And, no doubt, they're planning to do this with some combination of regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, or utility rates on the middle-class & poor. That's how we do things today. Instead of taxing billionaires more (as they're adding tens of billions of dollars to their already out-of-control wealth), or taxing multi-national corporations more (as they stash $2.1 trillion dollars in tax-avoiding foreign bank accounts), we place the infrastructure burden on local communities - communities filled with residents already steeped in debt and/or barely making ends meet. It should come as no surprise that "Virtually every state tax system is fundamentally unfair, taking a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families."
 
Many Americans don't seem to care too much do they? They just keep paying the higher taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates... and keep voting for the conservative politicians who promise more tax cuts for the wealthy. If this phenomenon is not the most extreme case of economic self-flagellation in world history, I don't know what is. 
 
During the New Deal, things were very different. For example, if a town could fund 20% of an infrastructure project, the WPA would kick in the rest and get it done. In Massachusetts, WPA workers--who were formerly unemployed and insulted as lazy-good-for-nothings--installed 686 miles of new water lines and 933 miles of new storm & sanitary sewer lines. They also built or improved 73 utility plants, which typically included water & sewer treatment facilities. (Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946, pp. 132 and 136).
 
We could create a new WPA today. Unfortunately we won't, because we've let super-wealthy Americans hi-jack our democracy with tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions. And with that bribery money, the super-wealthy are sure to be pampered... while our nation's infrastructure falls apart.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

New Deal Art: "Central Park"

Above: "Central Park," an oil painting by Carl Gustaf Nelson (1898-1988), created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Friday, October 16, 2015

No cost-of-living increase for Social Security recipients... as the richest 400 Americans keeping add tens of billions of dollars to their wealth


Above: President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law on August 14, 1935. Many years later, the president argued for the right of Americans to be free "from the economic fears of old age." Today, many Republicans want to privatize Social Security, handing our retirement security over to big financial institutions - institutions that have engaged in rigging the world's currency, rigging interest rates, illegally foreclosing on active duty soldiers, insider trading, illegal tax evasion, mortgage & securities fraud, accounting fraud, money laundering, and more. Do you feel confident that the big banks will handle your retirement security in an ethical way? (See, e.g., "$128 Billion in Bank Fines, in 1 Chart," Huffington Post, August 8, 2014). Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.


Above: Eleanor Roosevelt congratulates Ellen Woodward on her appointment to the Social Security Board, 1938. Woodward was also an administrator in the WPA, in charge of the Division of Women's and Professional Projects. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Retirees suffer, but crime pays: 

The Social Security Administration recently announced that there will be no cost-of-living increase, despite the rising cost of many goods and services. Meanwhile, the 400 richest Americans keep adding tens of billions of dollars to their already bloated wealth. And the big financial institutions that engaged in wide-scale fraud and white collar crime--and were bailed out by our corporate-bought government--continue to rake in profits and, no doubt, continue to abuse people around the world. (Why wouldn't they? They've already seen how profitable it is, and they know they'll get another public money bailout if things go sour.)

The Republican role, and Hillary Clinton's campaign cash:

As if all this were not bad enough, Republican "leaders" openly promote illegal tax evasion by the super-wealthy, and are working hard to eliminate the estate tax for the richest Americans. Why are they trying to reduce government revenue when senior citizens (and many others) need help? Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is hauling in huge amounts of Wall Street cash and "Hesitates on Expanding Social Security."

How should we fund Social Security?

When Social Security was created, the idea was that if it was financed by the workers themselves, it would not be viewed as "wealth redistribution," and thus not as vulnerable to political attack. This philosophy was developed at a time when the economy was improving (e.g., higher GDP and lower unemployment) and economic inequality was dropping. But today, as the super-wealthy suck the lifeblood out of the working class, impoverish millions of children, and pay politicians to disproportionately tax the rest of us, it might be time to re-think the funding sources & formulas for Social Security.

An American billionaire says American-style capitalism is a-ok:

Ken Langone, the Home Depot billionaire who has criticized the Pope's warnings about economic inequality, thinks the Pope is skeptical about capitalism because the Pope comes from Argentina where, Langone says, they have "crony capitalism" - which is different from "how we are in America." But the fact that there will be no cost-of-living increase for Social Security recipients while a few super-wealthy families keep gobbling up more and more of our nation's wealth--and keep paying politicians to maintain the status quo--proves that America is very much a crony capitalist nation. And as we cast our votes for Republicans, and for Hillary Clinton, it shows that we're absolutely unwilling to change it - or, perhaps, that we're completely oblivious to our victimization.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Yesterday, a 74-year-old water main broke in Bethesda, Maryland, and caused a "traffic nightmare." A new WPA could have prevented that.


(In the video above, we see a water main break that occurred earlier this year in Bethesda, Maryland. Across the nation, there are about a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks - every single year. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iodIU_DATOk.)

Yesterday, October 13, a 74-year-old water main broke in Bethesda, Maryland, causing a "traffic nightmare." The Bethesda area has experienced many water main breaks this year (see the video above for example). A new WPA could have prevented this latest problem by installing a new water line. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA installed 124 miles of new water lines in Maryland, and 16,000 miles of new water lines across the country.

We had a chance to create a new WPA back in 2011, when unemployment was even higher than it is today. The late senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) submitted legislation to create a new WPA but couldn't get support from his fellow Democrats in Congress or President Obama. Republicans, of course, were too busy blaming the unemployed and teachers, for Wall Street's fraud, to give a damn. So, the bill died a quiet death in committee, away from the eyes of the public, who, even if they had known about it, probably wouldn't have given a damn either.

There's a price to be paid for all this public apathy, and all this submissiveness to our super-rich fellow citizens: Hundreds of thousands of broken water mains causing disruptions in water service, contaminated water, power outages, fire hydrants that don't work, sinkholes, road damage, flooded homes & businesses, traffic jams, etc.

Many people will say, of course, "Oh, we can't afford to create another WPA!" Meanwhile, the super-wealthy keep gobbling up more and more of our nation's wealth, and keep laughing all the way to their tax-evading offshore bank accounts. Instead of infrastructure improvements that would benefit 300+ million Americans, the super-wealthy take their added billions and buy gold bathtubs, $78,000 watches, and private islands. And the rest of us are taxed more in a futile attempt by policymakers to make up the revenue difference. As the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy recently reported: "Virtually every state tax system is fundamentally unfair, taking a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families." We are also forced to pay higher tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates--all of which are highly regressive--so the super-wealthy can have more time & money to make vanity purchases, take "selfies," and behave rudely towards others (see, e.g., "Wealthy Selfies: How Being Rich Increases Narcissism," Time, August 20, 2013).  

To add insult to injury, Republicans and Tea Partiers tell us: "Hey, you can't tax the rich more, they're the job creators!" Apparently, they think that the purchase of a private island creates lots of jobs. Yep, that's the mentality that shapes our public policy. And that's why our infrastructure is crumbling, why our wages are stagnant or dropping, and why we have a record number of homeless children.

In any event, make sure you stock up on emergency water... you're going to need it. A break is coming to a water main near you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Watoga State Park - A CCC Gem in West Virginia


Above: A CCC statue at Watoga State Park, in southeastern West Virginia. There are two plaques on the statue. The first reads, "CCC Worker. This statue is erected in memory of all the boys who served in the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942. Dedicated June 5, 1999." The second reads, "This statue was erected by former CCC enrollees." Photo by Brent McKee.


Above: A CCC-built cabin at Watoga State Park. According to the West Virginia Department of Commerce, "Development [of the park] began in 1933, when three different CCC camps were established: Camp Watoga, Camp Seebert and Camp Will Rogers. The first projects included the road, cabin construction, office/restaurant building, superintendent’s residence and the dam. The arboretum was established in 1938 with six and a half miles of trails. The last CCC project was the swimming pool completed in 1940." Photo by Brent McKee.


Above: Watoga Lake, created by the CCC. At Watoga State Park today, you can swim, hike, boat, fish, and play a variety of games at the park's game court and recreation building. You can do all these things, thanks to the CCC and the New Deal. Photo by Brent McKee.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pearl Buck, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Sinclair Lewis


Above: Eleanor Roosevelt hands a donation check to author Pearl Buck for relief efforts in China, 1940. According to the group Pearl S. Buck International, the two women met in 1924, had a long friendship, and exchanged many letters. Photo courtesy of Temple University and ExplorePAhistory.com.


Above: The birthplace of Pearl Buck, in Hillsboro, West Virginia. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours of the house are offered by the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation & Museum. Photo by Brent McKee.


Above: Historical marker for the birthplace of Pearl Buck. Buck won a Pulitzer Prize, a Nobel Prize, and, like Eleanor Roosevelt, was a passionate advocate for human rights. Photo by Brent McKee.


Above: Pearl Buck was friends with author Sinclair Lewis, who wrote It Can't Happen Here, a book about fascism taking hold in America. The story was frequently performed as a play by WPA actors. Lewis and Buck shared a dislike for the totalitarian movements occurring across the globe during the 1930s, and their social activism led some critics to disparage their writing awards. But Lewis recommended to Buck: "Don't let anyone minimize for you the receiving of the Nobel Prize. It is a tremendous event, the greatest of a writer's life" (Kim Becnel, The Rise of Corporate Publishing and Its Effects on Authorship in Early Twentieth Century America, 2014, p. 90). WPA poster image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Reverse New Deal: Republican politicians in South Carolina seek federal assistance... after denying federal assistance to low-income Americans and blocking federal assistance to other states in need of help

(A WPA flood control project in York, Pennsylvania, 1936. Instead of demonizing the unemployed, New Deal policymakers offered them jobs improving infrastructure and protecting the nation from natural disasters. We still use many WPA projects today. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum and the New Deal Network.)

After being irresponsible with her state's infrastructure, and after lying about her state's unemployed citizens being on drugs, and after vowing not to expand federally-funded Medicaid to cover more of her low-income citizens (deceitfully implying that it would be mostly state-funded) ... South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley wants plenty of federal assistance to repair her flood-ravaged state.

And when recently asked about the resources she and her Republican colleagues put towards South Carolina's infrastructure, and whether it was enough for proper maintenance & improvement before the floods, she got "testy."

Isn't it ironic (or, perhaps "demonic" is the better word) that Haley has portrayed many of her less fortunate citizens as irresponsible and undeserving of federal aid, yet she wants federal aid... after her administration willfully neglected South Carolina's infrastructure? Interestingly, Haley has also demanded that some of her citizens receiving food assistance prove that they're looking for jobs (the Republican presumption, of course, is that all people receiving government assistance are lazy and gaming the system). Well, golly gee, shouldn't Haley have to prove she is adequately improving her state's infrastructure before she receives federal aid?

("See: Flood Slams South Carolina's Already Shoddy Infrastructure," Associated Press, ABC News, October 7, 2015)

(WPA workers lived on these boats while working on a lake project near the Grand Coulee Dam, ca. 1940. Instead of insulting the unemployed, as conservative politicians do today, New Deal policymakers offered them opportunities. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.)

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, representing South Carolina, has called for "whatever it takes" in the way of federal assistance to repair his state... just a few years after blocking such assistance for states hit by Hurricane Sandy - one of the most devastating hurricanes in U.S. history.

When asked why he voted "no" to help other states, Graham said he couldn't remember: "I don't really remember me voting that way... I don't really recall that" ("Graham opposed Sandy aid but wants help in South Carolina," CNN, October 6, 2015).

(A WPA flood control project in Pasadena, California, ca. 1935-1943. New Deal policymakers understood the value of infrastructure. Even some past Republicans understood. For example, in his autobiography, Ronald Reagan praised the WPA's infrastructure work. Unfortunately, with a new and even more radical generation of "conservatives" in power, those days are over. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

Folks, this is Republican leadership laid bare for all to see: A blatant, cold-hearted hypocrisy... and a complete neglect of our nation's infrastructure. In fact, they're so neglectful of America's infrastructure that even a senior Republican in Congress blames them.

South Carolina is a warning - a warning about climate change, crumbling infrastructure, and what happens when you elect people who are more concerned with tax breaks for the wealthy than with the common good. It's also, unfortunately, a warning that we are likely to ignore. We will probably continue electing Republicans into high office, continue to watch our infrastructure deteriorate, and continue to pay dearly - in both lives and dollars.

(See: "Dams Fail Across South Carolina As Floodwaters Kill 19," New York Magazine, October 8, 2015)

"We’re really not surprised at some of the things that are happening when you don’t have a fully robust state regulation program and South Carolina, unfortunately has not put the time, resources or manpower into their state dam safety program."

--Lori Spragens, Association of Dam Safety Officials ("Devastating Flooding in South Carolina Sparks Questions on Dam Inspections," WSAV 3 News, October 8, 2015)

Friday, October 9, 2015

16 dams breach or fail in South Carolina. A new WPA could have prevented some of the devastation.


(In the 2-minute video above, we learn that South Carolina's dam safety program is below average, that they have only four dam inspectors for thousands of dams, and that the state spent less than $200,000 in 2013 on dam safety. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3Lmw_2WZX8.)

At least 16 dams have breached or completely failed in South Carolina causing evacuations, road & bridge closures, floods, water supply problems, and billions of dollars in damage (see, e.g., "Multiple Dam Failures Aggravate Dangerous Conditions in Flood-Ravaged South Carolina," AccuWeather.com, October 8, 2015).

The Associated Press recently summed up a big part of the problem: "Long before the historic floods of the past week, crumbling roads, bridges and dams and aging drinking water systems plagued South Carolina - a poor state that didn't spend much on them in the first place and has been loath to raise taxes for upkeep. Now the state faces hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars' worth of additional bills to fix or replace key pieces of its devastated infrastructure."

Another part of the problem with dams, is that most of them are on private property and the owners often don't have the money or know-how to properly maintain or upgrade them. During the New Deal, however, the WPA repaired or improved dams on private property - understanding that such work was a public benefit. Formerly unemployed workers--people who were often insulted as lazy-good-for-nothings (just like today)--preserved life and property by fortifying dams. If we had the will, we could do the same today. And with today's technology and equipment, we could do it even better.

(WPA workers building a dam, 1936. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

Of course, we're not going to create a new WPA, as highlighted by the fact that over the past many years Republicans have obsessively blocked infrastructure improvement bills (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here) and have also made a sport out of demonizing the unemployed. Republican Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley, for example, blatantly lied about the number of unemployed South Carolinians who are on illegal drugs. Republican politicians are well aware that they can garner additional votes by portraying the poor and unemployed as nothing more than a waste of taxpayer money.

Democrats are not always much better. Though they don't get a thrill out mocking and scapegoating the less fortunate, as Republicans do, they have forsaken the New Deal and become a party that caters to the rich. And we certainly know now what many of the rich think of the non-rich (hint: not much). So, when the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced legislation in 2011, to create a new WPA, he had very little support from fellow Democrats and zero support from President Obama. They probably wondered, "How will a new WPA help my super-wealthy campaign donors??" The bill died a quiet death in committee.

South Carolina should be a warning to the rest of the nation (even though Governor Haley says now is not the time to critique infrastructure - see video above). But it won't be. Conservative politicians will continue to deny global warming (to get campaign funds from the oil & coal industry), will continue to demonize the unemployed (to get votes), and will continue to keep taxes low on the holy "JOB CREATORS," in the hopes of finding a "market-based" solution for crumbling infrastructure. Who knows, maybe the Free Market Fairy can enlist some of her fellow fairies to repair and improve the nation's dams. With Republican "leadership," that may be our only hope.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

New Deal Art: "Natural Power"

Above: "Natural Power," an oil painting by Raymond White Skolfield (1909-1996), created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934: "From wood fires to hydroelectricity, Raymond Skolfield's painting tells how power shaped the town of Proctor, Vermont." Photo and quote courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Reverse New Deal: Millionaire Republican Governor Bruce Rauner closes the 138-year-old Illinois State Museum to preserve tax breaks for the wealthy

(Bruce Rauner on inauguration day, January 12, 2015. Since becoming the governor of Illinois, Rauner has been working hard to enrich himself and his super-wealthy friends, while cutting services and programs that benefit the middle-class & poor, e.g., programs for domestic violence victims, rape victims, and the homeless. He has also cut, or tried to cut, funding for education and medical care. These efforts have been called "morally reprehensible." Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

On the website of the Illinois State Museum, visitors are told: "We regret that all Illinois State Museum facilities are closed to the public until further notice."

What the 138-year-old museum doesn't tell you is the reason why. And that reason, essentially, is this: Republican Governor Bruce Rauner--a man with a net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars--wants tax breaks for himself and his rich buddies, and paying for a museum doesn't fit into that plan. To see how Rauner and his super-wealthy friends have been enriching themselves through public policy, while repeatedly cutting services and programs to the citizens of Illinois, see...

"Rauner's $100 million in corporate tax breaks drawing fire," Chicago Sun-Times, April 9, 2015

"Rauner to Benefit From Budget Cuts With $750K Tax Break Each Year: Report," CBS News, February 25, 2015

"The wealthy got the bulk of Illinois' tax cut, policy group says," Chicago Business, February 17, 2015.

And the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy recently reported that Illinois is one of ten states that "are particularly regressive. These 'Terrible Ten' states tax their poorest residents--those in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale--at rates up to seven times higher than the wealthy. Middle-income families in these states pay a rate up to three times higher as a share of their income as the wealthiest families."

Of course, the closing of the Illinois State Museum is just the latest in a long list of public services and programs that Republicans & Tea Partiers are trying to destroy, e.g., public education, libraries, post offices, national parks & forests, etc. To them, everything (with the possible exception of the military) should be dismantled or delivered into the hands of millionaires & billionaires - the holy "JOB CREATORS" (the people who can't seem to create anything these days but low wage, stingy benefit, no future jobs).

Amazingly, many citizens of Illinois want to pay more taxes than the wealthy, and want to have their services and programs cut to finance even more tax breaks for the rich, as evidenced by the fact that they voted for a Republican governor (the modus operandi of all Republican politicians is to cut taxes for the wealthy, cut beneficial public programs, and then impose regressive taxation on the middle-class and poor). It's hard to understand why people vote a tax increase on themselves--especially as the super-wealthy keep raking in more and more money and benefiting from more and more tax breaks, loopholes, and gimmicks--but it's a phenomenon that's been repeating itself all across America for many decades now. As America increasingly votes Republican (or doesn't vote at all), the billionaire class is laughing all the way to their tax-evading foreign bank accounts.

(The Audubon Museum in Henderson, Kentucky, and the surrounding state park, were WPA and CCC projects. Like many New Deal projects, the museum and park still serve the public today - although Republican politicians are no doubt trying to close, privatize, or open them up for strip mining & oil drilling. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and New Deal Network.)

New Deal policymakers had a different view towards museums. Instead of closing them, to please right-wing millionaires & billionaires, they strengthened them. For example, WPA workers built, repaired, or improved museums and young men & women in the National Youth Administration worked as guides, helped with exhibits, and cataloged over 1 million artifacts.

Unfortunately, the New Deal is over. And all the things we grew up with, and all the things we've grown to love--libraries, parks, museums, post offices, community colleges, etc.--are under constant attack by right-wing millionaires & billionaires and their loyal devotees. Further--as if that wasn't bad enough--we are also being forced to pay higher & regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates to subsidize tax cuts and tax evasion by the super-wealthy.

Isn't that amazing? Is the public ever going to wake up and say "enough is enough"? Or are they just going to continue to let their wallets be vacuumed out, and their museums, libraries, and post offices be shuttered, by right-wing policies? Well, I guess the closing of a treasured 138-year-old museum, and the regressive tax system of Illinois, answers that question pretty firmly.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Historic flood damage, Rolling Coal, and a suppressed climate change report. South Carolina needs a New Deal.


(In the CNN video above, we learn about the many dam failures that occurred in South Carolina due to the recent extreme weather event. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Nu2bfocpyg.)

South Carolina has just been hit by a 1,000-year storm, causing loss of life, wide-scale flooding, damaged roads, water main breaks, failed dams, ruined homes, and more (see, e.g., "South Carolina Gets Slammed," Associated Press, U.S. News & World Report, October 5, 2015).

The storm was made worse by global warming.

Higher-than-average sea temperatures allow more evaporation, which results in more water being dumped on land during storms. This phenomenon is happening more often than usual, and will continue to increase in frequency as the political right continues to deny what 97% of climate scientists agree on - man is causing higher-than-normal global warming.

Back in 2011, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources created a report warning the citizens of South Carolina about the effects of climate change on the state. The report was suppressed for a year-and-a-half by the administration of South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley. Haley is a former member of the climate denying group ALEC, and also a Koch brothers groupie (SourceWatch - Nikki Haley). Further, the leader of the DNR report was forced out of his position by a Haley political appointee - an appointee who later "resigned her post... after it was determined that she lied under oath to the state legislature" about pushing him out of his job ("What South Carolinians Deserve to Know about Climate Change," Union of Concerned Scientists, April 2013).

The politically suppressed report--suppressed, no doubt, to maintain financial funding from the oil & coal industries and/or their sympathizers & investors--warned South Carolinians that global warming would cause things like "floods," "dam failures," and "loss of human life." In this recent storm--made worse by global warming--there were floods, dam failures, and loss of human life.

So, what was Governor Haley doing while she and her cronies were suppressing the report, and ignoring other warnings about the potential catastrophic consequences of global warming? She was blocking health insurance for her state's low-income citizens, through deceit; and flat out lying about the number of unemployed people doing drugs. She could have been preparing her state for a devastating storm but, instead, she was obsessed with drug testing the unemployed, passionately exclaiming: "I so want drug testing. I so want it." (Many right-wingers believe that if you're unemployed--even if you were laid off through no fault of your own--you must be on drugs.)

Some people in South Carolina are even less concerned about the deleterious effects of climate change than the Haley Administration is. For example, one South Carolina truck owner said, "The feeling around here is that everyone who drives a small car is a liberal. I rolled coal on a Prius once just because they were tailing me. It's bad for the environment. That's definitely true." Rolling Coal is a process where a diesel truck is modified to pollute more, by spewing out heavy amounts of black smoke. And it's very much a political statement. As another man explained: "I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all. If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that. To get a single stack on my truck - that’s my way of giving them the finger. You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you" ("Rolling Coal: Conservatives ‘screw’ Obama by modifying trucks to spew toxic black smoke," Raw Story, July 7, 2014).

(Unemployed workers built or improved many dams in America after they were hired into the WPA. In the photo above, WPA workers are building the Johnson Pond dam in Salisbury, Maryland, 1936. Like many of their projects, the WPA's Johnson Pond Dam is still used by us today. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

New Deal policymakers had a much different view of the environment, and a much different view towards poor and unemployed Americans, than the Haley Administration and many conservatives have. For example, unemployed young men were hired into the Civilian Conservation Corps and worked in South Carolina planting trees, preventing erosion, and creating or improving parks (see, e.g., Myrtle Beach State Park). At the same time, other unemployed South Carolinians were hired into the WPA and made enormous improvements to South Carolina's infrastructure, e.g., 10,000 miles of new or improved roads, 11,000 new or improved culverts (well-built culverts are great for moving out excess water by the way), and 230 miles of new water lines.

As the number of extreme weather events increase, our infrastructure is going to get pummeled - because the infrastructure is aging and because it wasn't designed to handle the type of extreme weather we're seeing now, on such a frequent basis. South Carolina could learn a lesson from the New Deal, and begin improving their infrastructure now. To help with such a task, they could hire the unemployed into WPA-style public work projects. Unfortunately, you're not going to see this because Haley and her colleagues think the unemployed are just a bunch of lazy druggies ("I so want drug testing. I so want it.").

So, instead of a New Deal for South Carolina, you're more likely to see even greater political suppression of scientific results, more infrastructure damage, an intense desire to examine the pee of unemployed and low-income citizens, and, of course, more Rolling Coal.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Do you want a New Deal? Then, feel the Bern. Do you want Wall Street to continue to suppress your wages? Then vote for Hillary Clinton. Do you like fraud, pollution, and old-age poverty? Then vote for a Republican.


(In this two-and-a-half minute video, U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders explains the failure of trickle-down economics. Does Hillary Clinton have a presentation like this? If not... why not? Do Republican presidential candidates have a presentation like this? No, because they're the ones who created this mess by giving colossal tax breaks to the super-wealthy, demonizing unions, and promoting illegal tax evasion. YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcsJGOTnQ1E.)

Bernie Sanders just drew more than 20,000 people to his speech at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, more than twice Barack Obama's crowd eight years ago: "The senator has also exceeded another Obama marker by becoming the first candidate to reach 1 million online donations nearly five months earlier than the president did" ("Bernie Sanders Draws More Than 20,000 People At Boston Rally," Huffington Post, October 4, 2015).

Of course, the corporate-controlled media, and the big-wigs of the Democratic Party, want you to believe that Sanders is still a fringe candidate who can't possibly be elected. And they expect (demand?) that you shape your thoughts accordingly and vote for a candidate with strong ties (or rather, puppet strings) to Corporate America.

Meanwhile, as Sanders is drawing record crowds and a record number of donations from middle- and low-income Americans, "Hillary Clinton lets big banks off the hook for [the] financial crisis, "rakes in Wall Street cash amid [insincere] tough talk,"and "leads all candidates [in receiving Wall Street Cash], with $432,610 from big banks' executives, employees and their spouses. This includes banks like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldmans Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, UBS, Barclays, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank" (and, of course, she's receiving even more cash assistance from millionaires & billionaires through additional channels, e.g., her super-pacs) ("Wall Street Is Putting Money Behind These Presidential Candidates," Huffington Post, July 23, 2015).

And as Hillary Clinton rakes in mounds of corporate, ill-gotten cash, Republican presidential candidates, as always, want to cut taxes for the super-wealthy, and cut taxes for people born into wealth, and cut taxes for Corporate America - thereby forcing the revenue burden down on to the middle-class and poor (again), at the state & local level, with increased (and regressive) taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates. For example, thanks in part to Republican engineered tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy at the federal level over the last 35+ years, "Virtually every state tax system is fundamentally unfair, taking a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families" ("Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States, Fifth Edition," Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, January 2015).

So, do you want a New Deal (i.e., higher wages, more opportunities, better medical care, punishment for white collar crime, and lower student loan debt)? Then, feel the Bern. Do you want Wall Street to continue to suppress your wages? Then vote for Hillary Clinton. Do you like fraud, pollution, and old-age poverty? Then vote for a Republican.