Friday, March 31, 2017

New Deal Art: "Blast Furnace"

Above: "Blast Furnace," a lithograph by Elizabeth Olds (1896-1991), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1938. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The New Deal believed in science. Today, 80 years later, Republicans don't.

Above: The description for this WPA photo, taken between 1935 and 1943, reads, "Making a study of ultra violet rays in the study of air pollution in New York City." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

President Roosevelt and his fellow New Deal policymakers funded thousands of science projects all across the country - environmental science, social science, and medical science. In modern America, however, Republican politicians and their wealthy donors are busy defunding and denying science, for example, trying to cut funding for the EPA, cut funding for the National Institute of Health, and loosen or terminate any recent rules that were designed to protect our air and water.

At a recent conference hosted by the right-wing "Heartland Institute" (I guess the name "God, Mom, and Apple Pie Institute" was already taken), and attended by right-wing billionaire donors Robert Mercer and Rebekah Mercer, various speakers blabbered various things to reinforce each other's psychosis, for example, that fossil fuels and rising temperatures are needed to avoid starvation; that the government is engaging in "perverted science"; that there is "no such thing as climate science"; and "There isn't a consensus [humans are causing climate change]. The people who did the survey reported it as 97 percent because they were communists and they didn’t care about the truth." Yep, it was the commies! It's always the commies.

Above: In this brief video clip from BBC News (showing fossil fuel-caused pollution in China in January 2017), we see America's future if Republicans, their super-wealthy donors, and their voters have their way. In fact, it's already begun. Doctors in Utah, one of the most polluted states in America in terms of air quality, have been warning pregnant women to stay indoors for several years now. Youtube link:

Above: In this 2015 video clip from Denver 7 news, we see that some people have rigged their vehicles to pollute more. It's called "rolling coal," and it's being done to protest clean air. Some of the people who do this intentionally try to "smoke out" people who don't share their political views, such as "BlackLivesMatter, Trump Haters, Tree Huggers." Youtube link:

Isn't it amazing how we're devolving as a society? How we respect science less than we did 80 years ago? And how we're slowly but surely rejecting higher learning in favor of talking points and slavish devotion to the rich? Because remember, it isn't just the knuckle-dragging policies of Republican politicians and their super-wealthy donors. It's also the tens of millions of voters who are saying, "Yes, yes! I believe you! Science is a hoax! The billionaires are our gods, we MUST obey them! Hallelujah!!!"

Conservative voters have now placed climate-denying, air-polluting Republican politicians and billionaires in charge of most state governments, the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, the White House, and, soon, the Supreme Court. Indeed, right-wing politicians and billionaires have so much political control right now, that they're on the verge of being able to call a constitutional convention to rewrite the way we live. Who knows, maybe in a few years, you will be required to carry an assault rifle and a bible at all times; and also forced to drink contaminated water and wrap your mouth around the exhaust pipe of a "rolling coal" truck - to prove you're a genuine God-fearin', billionaire-lovin', low-paid American. Hell yeah!!!

Organizations like UNICEF, the American Lung Association, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have warned us that we are breathing highly polluted, lethal air - killing hundred of thousands of us every year (and children are especially susceptible). Unfortunately, as evidenced by their rallying cry "Drill Baby, Drill!", their "rolling coal" vehicles, and their ridicule of environmental protection laws, Republicans clearly don't give a crap. Even as we see children in China routinely wearing breathing masks, and surrounded by clouds of fossil fuel smog, Republicans just keep screaming, "It's a hoax!!"

Monday, March 27, 2017

New Deal Art: "The Plague"

Above: "The Plague," a woodcut by Adrian Troy (1901-1977), created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: A closer look at the people in the engraving, highlighting the range of expressions and emotions. The patient is in pain, the mother is grieving, the father is stunned, the doctor seems to be embarrassed or uncomfortable that he can't do more, and the first child in the loft appears to be irritated.

Above: A WPA poster promoting vaccination against Diphtheria. According to the World Health Organization, "Throughout history, Diphtheria has been one of most feared childhood diseases, characterized by devastating outbreaks... Transmission occurs through droplets and close physical contact. Although most infections are asymptomatic or run a relatively mild clinical course, many patients succumb to airway obstruction caused by laryngeal diphtheria or toxic myocarditis... Diphtheria vaccines are based on diphtheria toxoid, a modified bacterial toxin that induces protective antitoxin antibodies..." The CDC informs us that "Diphtheria once was a major cause of illness and death among children. The United States recorded 206,000 cases of diphtheria in 1921, resulting in 15,520 deaths. Starting in the 1920s, diphtheria rates dropped quickly due to the widespread use of vaccines." During the New Deal, "immunizations against diphtheria, typhoid fever, whooping cough, and other infectious diseases were widely administered in schools and clinics," as part of the overall WPA work program (Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, 1946, p. 69).

Saturday, March 25, 2017

New Deal Art: "Finishing the Cathedral of Learning"

Above: "Finishing the Cathedral of Learning," an oil painting by Harry Scheuch (1906-1978), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. The Cathedral of Learning is part of the University of Pittsburgh campus. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: A closer look at the workers in the painting. The figures depict laborers from the New Deal's Civil Works Administration. Two exhibit labels describe the scene: "Workers scurry like busy ants to complete the University of Pittsburgh’s lofty Cathedral of Learning. The men and trucks trample the winter's snow into mud as they labor through the frigid winter of 1933-1934 to house much-needed new classrooms... Scheuch emphasized the dramatic scale of the cathedral against the tiny workers to show what can be achieved when people work together."

Above: A photo of the Cathedral of Learning, ca. 1933-1934, from the book, America Fights the Depression: A Photographic Record of the Civil Works Administration, New York: Coward McCann, 1934, p. 37. Used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

According to historian Kenneth J. Heineman, John Bowman, the chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh, was a critic of the New Deal but, "Once Roosevelt established the Civil Works Administration in 1933 to provide temporary work to the unemployed, Bowman stood in line for federal aid" (Catholic New Deal: Religion and Reform in Depression Pittsburgh, Penn State University Press, 2005, p. 64). This is a phenomenon that we frequently see today too, where some people feel that government programs that help other people are "wasteful spending," but programs that help them are okay. And it's a phenomenon that work-relief administrator Harry Hopkins explained in his 1936 book Spending to Save: "There is a curious thing about these [New Deal] operations which have been dotting the landscape of the United States for the past three years. Although they are attacked constantly in newspapers, people who visit them report that workers, public officials and citizens alike exhibit strong pride in them. Derision is reserved for projects elsewhere that they have never seen" (p. 169).

Thursday, March 23, 2017

For Republicans, punishing the poor and securing tax breaks for the rich are much higher priorities than investigating potential treason

"I have seen a lot in my lifetime. But I have never seen anything like this."

--Dan Rather, on the "chaos and confusion" surrounding the Trump Administration, as well as Congressman Devin Nunes tipping off President Trump about intelligence investigations, instead of conferring with his fellow members on the House Intelligence Committee. (Dan Rather, Facebook post, March 22, 2017)

Above: In this video clip, Carl Bernstein, one of the main journalists during the Watergate scandal, argues that there is a cover-up going on in the White House, with respect to contacts between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian operatives. He also highlights how Republicans in Congress appear to be unconcerned about these potentially treasonous activities. YouTube link:

If you've been paying attention to the news lately, you know that there are all sorts of strange activities that have occurred, and are continuing to occur, with respect to Trump operatives, Russian operatives, bizarre allegations of Obama and the United Kingdom spying on Trump, claims by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway that microwave ovens sometimes turn into cameras, and so on. Though it's not been proven yet, there appears to have been collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian hackers to release emails damaging to the Hillary Clinton campaign.

To add another layer of intrigue, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Devin Nunes, appears to be working openly (and perhaps secretly too) for Donald Trump. He shared investigative information with Donald Trump before he shared it with with his fellow intelligence committee members. This is a brazen breach of the fundamental American concepts of separation of powers and checks and balances. And it also raises the question: Is he secretly sharing any other information with the Trump Administration? How can we trust him, or the Intelligence Committee, after this?

But perhaps these things are not so surprising after all, when you consider that Republicans recently voted to keep Donald Trump's tax returns secret from the public, which also hinders investigations into just what the heck is going on between actors in our government and actors in the Russian government.

Above: A new hospital building in Jamestown, North Dakota, funded by the New Deal's Public Works Administration, ca. 1933-1943. New Deal policymakers & workers engaged in tens of thousands of projects to improve the health of all Americans - regardless of their income & wealth. That's quite a different philosophy from today's Republican Party, which strictly adheres to the principal that wealth should determine your access to care. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.
What's really interesting to me, is that all this possible wide-scale treasonous activity seems to be having zero effect on the Republican party's rabid determination to kick low-income Americans off Medicaid in order to give massive tax cuts to the their super-wealthy campaign donors. Huffington Post reporters Jeffrey Young and Sam Stein explain the Republican frenzy to repeal the Affordable Care Act:

"Something extraordinary is on the cusp of taking place in Washington on Thursday. An unpopular president and a House Republican leadership team with a seemingly weak grasp of its own members' priorities is preparing to rush through legislation that would trade 24 million people's health coverage for a huge tax cut on wealthy households and health care corporations... The Republican health care reform bill polls poorly, has sparked protests across the country, and would have disproportionately harmful effects on the older, poorer and rural voters [who voted for Trump]... House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will ask his majority to vote for this bill despite all this..." ("Everything About This Republican Obamacare Repeal Vote Is Nuts," March 23, 2017).

And here's something really eye-catching with regard to Nunes tipping off Trump about intelligence investigations: Politico reported that "Nunes said he briefed House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on the information on Wednesday morning before heading to the White House to brief the president." First off, Ryan is not a member of the House Intelligence Committee, so why is Nunes conferring with him, but not his fellow Intelligence Committee members? And second, can you imagine the conversation between the two? Here's how I picture it:

Nunes (knocking on Ryan's office door): "Paul, you got a minute?"

Ryan (annoyed): "Devin, I'm very busy here. I'm trying to kick poor people off Medicaid, raise insurance premiums on seniors, and get billions in tax breaks for our political sugar daddies. I need to get this done, and quickly, to make sure we get our campaign donations."

Nunes: "It'll only take a minute."

Ryan (acquiescing with a sigh): "Alright, come on in."

Nunes explains the investigation materials he wants to secret off to Trump. Ryan seems only half-interested, distracted.

Nunes: "So... are you okay with all this."

Ryan: "Dude, whatevers. It's hard for me to focus right now. I've been dreaming about kicking poor people off Medicaid ever since I got smashed at a keg party back in college." (His empty blue eyes drift off, and a sinister smile appears on his face as he remembers those days... but then he quickly snaps back to the present) So yeah, sure, fine, go tip off the Don... I mean, um, brief him. I've got work to do."

Though my skit is in jest (but perhaps closer to the truth than we know), it's clear to me that punishing the poor and securing tax breaks for the rich is so vitally important to Republicans, that they're willing to suppress, deceive, downplay, and obstruct investigations into possible treasonous activities. And this is what happens in a plutocracy. This is what happens in a political system manipulated by big money. Justice and truth get thrown out the window, as if they were garbage.

"This is a bizarre situation. I'm calling for a select committee because I think this back-and-forth shows that [the Republican-led] Congress no longer has the credibility handle this alone."

--Republican U.S. Senator John McCain, after Nunes's strange visit to the White House ("'This is a bizarre situation': John McCain says Congress no longer has 'credibility' to conduct Trump-Russia probe alone," Business Insider, March 22, 2017).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

As the richest 400 Americans are vacuuming up record wealth, children in California are being poisoned by lead

Above: A WPA exhibit, displayed in Washington, DC, January 1940. New Deal policymakers cared more about children's health than they cared about the fortunes of the super-wealthy. So, they taxed the super-wealthy more to help pay for the common good. Image courtesy of the National Archives.

Times are great for super-wealthy Americans. As Forbes magazine pointed out a few months ago, "The country's 400 richest are wealthier than ever, with a combined net worth of $2.4 trillion and an average net worth of $6 billion, both record highs." Plus, the super-wealthy are paying historically low tax rates; can engage in tax avoidance and tax evasion with little fear of discovery or scrutiny; can take advantage of all manner of tax shelters, loopholes, deductions, credits, deferrals, and other gimmicks; and their friends on Wall Street, for example, several Goldman Sachs alumni, are once again controlling the levers of power in the federal government... thanks, of course, to Donald Trump. Yes, times are very, very good for super-wealthy Americans. And, as long as they keep the campaign cash flowing to the politicians, and the advertising cash flowing to the corporate media (which dutifully keeps the public stupid for them), the good times will continue to roll.

$2.4 trillion in wealth, in case you're wondering, is equal to two thousand four hundred billion dollars. And just one, just one of those two thousand four hundred parts, is equal to one thousand million dollars. You need to read that again, very slowly, and very carefully, because it can be difficult to comprehend those kind of numbers. And that gargantuan amount of wealth is for just 400 people. Yes, my, my, my, life is good!!  

Except, however, if you're a middle-class or poor child. Because millions of them are being poisoned by lead, thanks to America's crumbling infrastructure - old homes, old schools, old hospitals, old water mains, old plumbing, and so on. And that lead-poisoning causes permanent brain damage. Today, for example, it was reported that many children in California are being poisoned by lead:

"In one central Fresno zip code, 13.6 percent of blood tests on children under six years old came back high for lead. That compares to 5 percent across the city of Flint during its recent water contamination crisis. In all, Reuters found at least 29 Golden State neighborhoods where children had elevated lead tests at rates at least as high as in Flint."

And this is just one of an endless stream of stories that we've seen over the past few years, from all across the country, about children (and adults) drinking lead.

But don't worry, our faithful & heroic public servants, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan, are on the job! They're responding to this health & infrastructure crisis by (a) forcefully trying to cut Medicaid, so that low-income children can receive less care (and the wealthy can receive more tax breaks), and (b) cutting the budget for infrastructure, so we can have more money for more military adventures!

You see, by reducing health care for low-income children, giving tax breaks to the rich, neglecting infrastructure, and focusing primarily on the affairs of other countries, we can solve our lead-contamination problems here at home! Isn't that awesome!?! I mean, it's just pure and simple logic. Well, pure and simple right-wing logic, if you want to quibble over details. Understand?


"It's the worst transportation bill I've ever seen during 35 years of public service."

--U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican, on a Republican infrastructure bill, "LaHood: GOP highway bill 'the worst'," Politico, February 2, 2012

"The problem with this [Highway] bill is really more Republicans than Democrats... If you remember the 27-month bill, we had a hard time with all these Republicans... We had a bunch of demagogues down there, Republicans who were trying to say, 'Oh, we can't do this. We can't spend all this money on it.' I thought that's not right."

--U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican, "Top GOP Senator Blames His Party For Lack Of Highway Funding," Huffington Post, May 19, 2015

"Republicans say nice things about infrastructure but haven't shown any interest in paying for it. As a result, the nation has failed to take advantage of historically low interest rates to invest more in our overcrowded airports, outdated railways and flimsy bridges."

--Michael Grunwald, Senior National Correspondent for Time Magazine, "The Huge Obama Transportation Bill You Heard Nothing About," Time, April 30, 2014

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Drug-testing struggling Americans... while subsidizing heroin purchases by the rich. If you're a middle-class or poor person, you should be outraged.

Above: WPA workers in Tuskegee, Alabama, April 1936. During the New Deal, millions of unemployed Americans were given jobs to repair & modernize our infrastructure. We're still reaping the benefits of that work today, 80 years later. And if Republicans and their super-wealthy donors weren't so busy insulting and demonizing the unemployed today, we could create another WPA to help repair & modernize our crumbling infrastructure again. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Paul Ryan Targets Struggling Americans, Again

While everyone is mesmerized and distracted by the daily lunacy of Donald Trump's presidency--as well as the ties between his election campaign team and the Russian government--U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is pushing forward legislative changes to make it easier for states to drug-test unemployed Americans before they can receive unemployment insurance benefits.

Why is Ryan doing this? Well, beside the fact that he is one of the biggest assholes in Congress (see, e.g., my blog post, "Meet the Republican Flim-Flam Man..."), the rationale is obvious: Most Republican politicians, and their super-wealthy donors, believe (a) something must be wrong with you if you're unemployed or poor, most likely a character flaw or a moral deficiency, (b) there is a high probability that you're a drug addict, and (c) they don't want you to use public money to support that drug habit (unemployment insurance benefits are funded by unemployment taxes on employers).

Why Is Paul Ryan So Hell-Bent On Persecuting The Less Fortunate?

This isn't the first time that Ryan has thought about punishing those who are struggling to get by. He's pretty much dedicated his life to it. For example, it was recently revealed that Ryan has fantasized about kicking people off Medicaid ever since he was at a keg party in college. Plus, he's a big Ayn Rand fan; and we know that Ayn Rand fans get off on demonizing and persecuting the poor, whom they consider to be genetically inferior. For example, Charles Murray, one of the most prominent thought leaders of the political right, and a fan of Ayn Rand, 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."

Who Will Be Targeted For Testing? 

Interestingly, most people receiving unemployment insurance benefits were laid-off through no fault of their own. In other words, most chronically unemployed people aren't even eligible for benefits (see, e.g., "A Lot Fewer Americans Get Unemployment Benefits Than You Think," Huffington Post, March 13, 2015). This means that Americans with steady work-histories will be subjected to more drug-testing than those with less-steady work-histories.

For example, consider this scenario: You work for 20 years, and then get laid off because the company you worked for sent your job overseas (in order to increase bonuses for executives and profits for shareholders), an now you must submit to a drug test, thereby broadcasting your unemployed and criminally-suspect status to a receptionist at a medical clinic, or anyone within earshot of the receptionist, or a nurse. Perhaps one of these people is your neighbor. Isn't that lovely? "Hi Linda, I'm here to get tested for illegal drugs, because I'm jobless." And maybe Linda will say to her co-workers during lunch break, "Guess who I saw today." And this humiliating scenario will occur because super-wealthy executives and shareholders decided your job would profit them more if it were shipped to a foreign country, or eliminated altogether.

To add insult to injury, the right-wing millionaires & billionaires who are funding these cruel Republican policies will never have to face this shaming ritual themselves. Why? Because they're past the point of working for a living (if they were ever there in the first place). They "earn" their money through investments and interest. And, if that isn't bad enough, the U.S. government actually subsidizes illegal drug purchases by the rich.

How The U.S. Government Subsidizes Heroin Purchases For The Rich

Many rich people use illegal drugs, and heroin is one of their favorites (see, e.g., "Heroin use rising among women and wealthy," CBS News, July 7, 2015). The Michigan drug-treatment clinic Best Drug Rehabilitation, a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, informs us that "The most obvious reason wealthy people get involved with drugs and alcohol is the easy access to money. Drug addiction can be very expensive. Because money is not a problem for the wealthy, they are able to buy plenty." Other reasons for illegal drug use by the wealthy include guilt issues, a sense of entitlement, and feelings of being above the law.

The U.S. government subsidizes illegal drug purchases by super-wealthy Americans by, among other things, granting them a generous mortgage interest tax deduction. The deduction can be up to $1.1 million, and can include a second home. The extra after-tax income that the deduction facilitates can be used to purchase heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other black market drugs. But, amazingly, we don't drug-test wealthy people who take advantage of the mortgage interest tax deduction. Why not? Why are we bestowing on them a public benefit, in the form of a gargantuan tax deduction (which enables them to buy more illegal drugs), but not testing their urine to see if they're on anything?

Now, if you're thinking, "But not every rich person is on drugs!", fair enough, but then, neither is every unemployed person. So why should the latter have to produce bodily fluids for the state, but not the former, when both are receiving a public benefit?

You see, this is what happens in a plutocracy. The rich, through their campaign cash, can force YOU to be drug-tested and shamed, but THEY can avoid it. And frankly, you should be outraged.

If you have a Republican political representative, you should write to them and ask:  Why should working-class Americans be subject to drug-testing when they hit hard-times (hard-times that are, by the way, often caused by criminal activities on Wall Street) while heroin purchases by the rich are being subsidized by the federal government? There is no justice-based answer to that question and, if you're representative is honest with you, he or she will reply, "Because we live in a plutocracy, and I'm paid by the rich to give them special favors and privileges. I'm paid to protect them from the criminal justice system, and also to shield them from governmental intrusions into their privacy and habits."

Monday, March 20, 2017

New Deal Art: "Spring Plowing"

Above: "Spring Plowing," an oil painting by Helen Dickson, created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

New Deal Art: "California Farm"

Above: "California Farm," a water color and pencil on paper by Alexander Nepote (1913-1986) created while he was in the New Deal's Treasury Section of Fine Arts, 1939. According to the Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery, Nepote was born in California's Central Valley and, after World War II, taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts and also at California State University in San Francisco. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Trump Administration wants to cut funding for infrastructure in rural areas

Above: The description for this photo, taken in May 1938, reads, "Water supply dam and system. WPA constructed this dam and ran 10" conduit, 5 miles down mountain. Supplies town of 2,000 people [Bryson City, North Carolina] with water." Across the nation, various New Deal agencies provided funds and labor for tens of thousands of waterworks projects. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

As Republicans seek to increase military spending and give tax breaks to the rich, the Trump administration "plans to eliminate its water and waste-disposal loan and grant program, which helps with rural water and waste infrastructure, for a savings of nearly $500 million." The rationale: "Rural communities can be served by private sector financing or other Federal investments in rural water infrastructure, such as the Environmental Protection Agency's State Revolving Funds." (See "Trump seeks $4.7 billion in cuts to USDA discretionary spending," Washington Post, March 16, 2016)

We also know that many Republicans, for example, Trump, want to drastically cut the EPA's budget. So, it's more likely than not that rural areas (that supported Trump) will have to rely more and more on private sector financing - and that means higher interest rates, or higher utility bills, or more regressive taxation on the middle-class and poor, or all of the above. After all, CEO's and wealthy shareholders have to make their millions.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently came out with their new Infrastructure Report Card. America's drinking water infrastructure received a "D" letter grade and its wastewater infrastructure received a "D+" letter grade. Among other things, the ASCE noted that there are about a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks in the United States, every single year, and that "sewer overflows are a leading source of water pollution in the U.S." Given these facts, not to mention the problems we've had with lead-contaminated drinking water, why would the Trump administration propose cutting an infrastructure program to assist rural Americans? Could it be that Trump and other Republicans really don't give a crap about rural Americans? Nooooo.... couldn't be!

Above: A new sewage disposal plant in Carbon Hill, Alabama, constructed by WPA workers in 1937. Across Alabama, WPA workers installed 386 miles of new sewer lines and built or improved 40 utility plants (Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, 1946, p. 136). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

On November 2, 2015, the USDA announced that 88 projects had been approved for funding through its Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. It also noted that "Since 2009, USDA has helped provide improved water and wastewater services to nearly 18 million rural residents by investing $12.3 billion in 5,174 projects." As an example, it highlighted Sparta, Tennessee, where "antiquated equipment could not handle rainwater runoff, causing sewage to spill out of drains. In 2011, USDA provided $2.9 million to Sparta to build a new wastewater system, ending the major sewage problem." ("USDA Provides $314 Million in Water and Waste Infrastructure Improvements in Rural Communities Nationwide," USDA, Press Release No. 0304.15)

At a time when the richest 400 Americans are enjoying record wealth ($2.4 trillion and growing); and at a time when the Walmart heirs have more wealth that the bottom 40% of the population; and at a time when our nation's infrastructure is falling apart and poisoning our children, shouldn't federal programs to improve our infrastructure be enhanced rather than eliminated? Especially when more and more Americans are having trouble affording their utility bills, and are being nickel-and-dimed left and right with increasing taxes, tolls, fees, and fines at the state & local level?

All of the above is an example of how many (not all) rural Americans vote against their own economic and health interests by voting for Republicans. Of course, the corrupt Democratic Establishment isn't helping the matter by talking out of both sides of its mouth (i.e., trying to be champions of the middle-class while bowing down to corporate interests). You see, if the Democratic Establishment is going to be two-faced, then it's hard to make the case to rural Americans that, "hey, you should have voted for Hillary Clinton."

We need a New Deal for our infrastructure - not budget cuts, not "Third Way" Democrats, not trickle-down economics, and not "Make America Great Again" hats made in China or Vietnam. We need another, even stronger New Deal. Unfortunately, I don't suspect Americans will understand this any time soon. So, in the meantime, open up that wallet and pay more to your utility company... pay higher road & bridge tolls too... and pay some higher sales taxes... oh yeah, and pay a little more to register your vehicle... pay, pay, pay while the rich get richer and snicker at you. Yes, pay, pay, pay, it's the Republican way!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The WPA's 32 million housekeeping visits vs. today's depraved discussion about health care

Above: This photo was taken in New York City in 1937, and shows a WPA-employed housekeeper. The description for the photo reads, "Housekeeper in the home. Usually mother is too ill to take care of home." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Between 1935 and 1943, WPA housekeepers made 32 million visits to lower-income Americans who needed help with their homes and children. Sometimes the parents were very ill, perhaps with cancer or pneumonia, sometimes they worked long or odd hours, or, during the war, perhaps they worked in the defense industries. Whatever the case may have been the WPA tried to help and, in the process, WPA workers earned modest paychecks. (Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, 1946, pp. 69, 87, and 134.)

All of this occurred during a time when the government was making a conversion from plutocracy to democracy, to a form of government that embraced the general welfare clause of the United States Constitution, and to a form of government that was truly of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Over the past few decades, we've reverted back into a plutocracy. Like a sick and twisted gravitational pull, the super-wealthy have put us back under their thumb (with the powerful assistance of middle & low-income voters who, for whatever reason, can't stop voting against their own economic interests). This new plutocracy can be seen, for example, with Trump's cabinet and administrative selections--full of billionaires and Goldman Sachs alumni--and it can also be seen by the current and vigorous efforts of congressional Republicans to kick millions of people off Medicaid in order to give massive tax cuts to their sociopathic, bloodthirsty donors - people who would gleefully allow people to die, if that's what it took to increase their wealth from $3.5 billion to $3.6 billion.

Look again at the photo above. That comes from a civilization that most Americans today have never even learned about, and--brainwashed by corporate media, distracted by celebrity-worship, and hypnotized by free-market fantasies--can't even comprehend. And so here we are in the 21st century, with a billionaire reality TV star in the White House (surrounded by Wall Street cronies and white supremacists), and watching our political "leaders" have a depraved discussion about which segment of the American population will be blocked from receiving adequate health care.

Isn't that pitiful?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New Deal Art: "Old Pennsylvania Farm in Winter"

Above: "Old Pennsylvania Farm in Winter," an oil painting by Arthur E. Cederquist (1884-1954), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), 1934. Cederquist was born, and also died, in Titusville, Pennsylvania and "his three paintings for the PWAP were all set in rural Pennsylvania." Image, information, and quote from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The ASCE's Infrastructure Report Card falls short in its recommendations by not promoting New Deal-style programs and by not promoting increased taxes on the super-wealthy

Above: A WPA worker scrapes out a runway for the new airport in Morgantown, West Virginia, 1936. The WPA built or repaired hundreds of airports across the country. These airports helped the development of American aviation, helped the war effort, and helped the economy boom after the war. Many (and probably most) are still in use today. The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), gives our airports a "D" letter grade, but makes no mention of utilizing the labor and skills of America's un- and under-employed population, now at 19 million. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

The ASCE's anemic, and often regressive-based solutions detract from its otherwise excellent Infrastructure Report Card

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) does a fantastic job of evaluating and reporting on the condition of America's infrastructure in its latest Infrastructure Report Card (America received a "D+" again). It's recommendations, however, fall short. For example, it correctly recommends increased federal funding; it less-correctly recommends increased state funding (states have a tendency to implement regressive revenue systems); and it wrongly emphasizes private sector involvement and regressive taxes and fees. With respect to the latter, tens of millions of Americans are already strained to the limit - with over half in such poor financial shape that they can't even handle a $500 emergency (in the ASCE's wastewater section, at least, they do mention "bill payment assistance"). 

Many of the ASCE's recommended solutions are likely to hit lower-income Americans the hardest. For example, private funds for highways will result in toll roads, or perhaps even user fees--which are regressive forms of revenue collection. Increased utility rates for drinking water are also regressive. A recent study indicated that water rates have been rising steadily these past many years, "increasingly leaving many Americans struggling to pay for their water service" ("Water Could Soon Be Unaffordable For Millions Of Americans: Water bills are on the rise nationwide. And poor communities are being hit the hardest." Huffington Post, January 31, 2017). 

The ASCE also recommends an increase in fuel taxes. And while some argue that fuel taxes are not regressive (because, for example, wealthy people often drive gas-guzzling SUVs and sports cars - and thus pay more), we know that, all things being equal, fuel taxes are indeed regressive. For example, if Bill Gates and I visit a gas station, and we each pump 10 gallons of gas into our Honda Civics, a higher percentage of my income will be taken to satisfy the tax. Further, the increased fuel taxes I pay are subtracted from my necessities, i.e., money that I would otherwise put towards food, clothing, shelter, retirement, etc., while the increased fuel taxes Bill Gates would pay would be so inconsequential that it would not even significantly subtract from his luxury.

No mention of higher taxes on the wealthy. No mention of a new CCC or WPA. Why not?

Here is where the ASCE's report card really falls short: Nowhere in its recommended solutions, for each of its 16 categories (roads, dams, drinking water, etc.), can I find anything that proposes higher taxes on the wealthy, or a New Deal-style infrastructure program. To be fair, it does not rule them out, and you can possibly extrapolate such outcomes from the ASCE's recommendations, but the failure to specifically mention them is a major shortcoming. 

With respect to taxes, the richest 400 Americans are worth a record $2.4 trillion, which is, by the way, more than the $2 trillion, 10-year infrastructure funding gap that currently exists. The Walmart heirs alone have more wealth than the bottom 40% of the American population. Given these obscene realities, it makes no sense whatsoever to not specifically say, "Raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help fund infrastructure." In 2014, Republican political strategist Matthew Dowd wrote

"My humble suggestion is that we need to have a well-paying jobs program tied to infrastructure improvements administered locally by cities, counties and states where people still trust government to get the job done. And this should be funded by tax policies at the federal level which put a much bigger burden on the wealthy in this country." 

The ASCE's recommended solutions are littered with utility rate increases, user fees, motor fuel tax increases, privatization, public-private partnerships, etc., but not a single mention of "higher taxes on the super-wealthy." Indeed, the omission is so glaring that I suspect that they didn't want to offend their wealthy members and donors, by suggesting that they needed to be taxed more. True, the ASCE frequently mentions the need for increased appropriations, but without more details, e.g., higher taxes on billionaires? increased borrowing? cuts to the defense budget? we're left guessing.

With respect to New Deal-type solutions, it's interesting to read the ASCE's recommendations for the multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog that exists in our public parks. The ASCE recommends user fees (another regressive revenue system), increased appropriations, improved partnerships with private groups, etc. But there is no mention of a new Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), despite the fact the CCC is largely responsible for the creation and/or improvement of our state & federal parks and forests. The work that the CCC did in our parks and forests was so massive, and so beneficial, and so long-lasting (tens of millions of Americans still benefit from that work today), that its absence as a recommendation is really disappointing.

The same is true for the failure of the ASCE to mention the possibility of a new WPA. Between 1935 and 1943 the WPA was a main factor in the build-up and modernization of our nation's infrastructure - 16,000  miles of new water lines installed, 124,000 bridge projects, 650,000 miles of roadwork, to highlight just a few of its accomplishments. So, why is there no mention of a new WPA today? In my opinion, the mythology of the unemployed as "lazy" and "worthless" is so ingrained in our culture (thanks to decades of hateful right-wing rhetoric) that the idea of hiring them to improve our infrastructure--even though we've done it in the past to great success--is not even considered a possibility. Isn't that an amazing cultural phenomenon? Isn't that an amazing spectacle of cultural forgetfulness and self-delusion? 

It's painfully clear that very few people or organizations understand the magnitude, and lasting impact, of the New Deal's infrastructure work. And that's a big problem.

Americans today, and quite possibly the ASCE too, do not fully comprehend the amount of infrastructure work that was performed during the New Deal, nor do they fully comprehend the lasting value of that work (a value that is proven by the many thousands of those projects that we still use today - see, e.g., the infrastructure projects mapped by the Living New Deal). And this failure of comprehension does not bode well for our infrastructure, nor for our middle-class and poor citizens who will be nickel-and-dimed everywhere they turn with an array taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rate increases. Worse still, this attempt to fix our crumbling infrastructure with regressive revenue systems will ultimately fail because tens of millions of Americans won't be able to withstand the financial beating. You can only squeeze a sponge so many times before water stops dripping out.

In sum, the ASCE's report card is a phenomenal resource to use in evaluating our infrastructure. Its recommendations, however, are too timid, too focused on regressive funding mechanisms, and too reverential towards private sector involvement. And failing to highlight the New Deal--the largest work & construction program in human history--is an oversight, to say the least.

Friday, March 10, 2017

New Deal Art: "Sunbath"

Above: "Sunbath," a painting by Harold Black (1913-1993), created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1941. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Republican policies, super-wealthy donors, and the definition of second degree murder

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

--Dr. Samuel Dickman, Harvard Medical School, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, "Study: Thousands of People Will Die In States That Don't Expand Medicaid," Talking Points Memo, January 31, 2014.  

Above: A lithograph depicting death and sorrow, by Boris Gorelick (1912-1984), created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1941. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

A few months ago, UNICEF reported that about 600,000 children under the age of 5 die from air pollution every year. More recently, the World Health Organization reported that about 1.7 million children under the age of 5 die from polluted environments of all types (air, water, second-hand smoke, etc.).

Here in the U.S., the American Lung Association reports that "more than half of all Americans--166 million people--live in counties where they are exposed to unhealthful levels of [air] pollutants." A few years ago, researchers at MIT concluded that "air pollution causes about 200,000 early deaths each year" in the United States. In Utah, where air quality is particularly bad, "Recent studies have linked exposure to urban air pollution with stillbirth, preterm birth, birth defects and low birthweight."  

We also know that many thousands of Americans will die sooner than they have to if Medicaid expansion is repealed - and repeal is something that Republicans and their super-wealthy donors are craving to do. Without Medicaid, millions of low-income Americans will delay or avoid doctor visits, for fear of the cost, and/or will not be able to afford their prescription medicines. (See, e.g., "Study: Thousands Of People Will Die In States That Don't Expand Medicaid," Talking Points Memo, January 31, 2014; "I Watched My Patients Die of Treatable Diseases Because They Were Poor," Alternet, November 19, 2013; and "Repealing the Affordable Care Act will kill more than 43,000 people annually," Washington Post, January 23, 2017).

Above: This WPA poster embodies one of the most important aspects of the New Deal ethos: that your health and life should not be dependent on your income and wealth. During the New Deal, unemployed health care providers were hired to address the medical needs of low-income Americans; thousands of hospitals and clinics were built or repaired; immunization campaigns were started; drinking water was purified and wastewater removed; diseases and illnesses like malaria, pneumonia, and hookworm were greatly reduced. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Despite all the evidence of death related to environmental pollution and lack of health insurance, Republicans and their super-wealthy donors are busy repealing the Affordable Care Act, eliminating regulations that restrict environmental pollution, cutting the budget of the EPA, and adhering to Sarah Palin's command to pump more fossil fuel exhaust into the air - "Drill, baby, drill."

In relation to all this, it's interesting to consider the definition of second degree murder. The definition varies from place to place, but one common definition is highlighted by Justia: "when a defendant does not intend to kill, but acts with a complete and utter reckless disregard for human life, or 'depraved heart,' this mental state is also sufficient for second-degree murder. One common example of 'depraved heart murder' is where an individual shoots a gun into a crowd. He or she may not intend to kill, or to cause a particular person serious harm, but such actions demonstrate a total indifference to human life."

Isn't it amazing how similar the policies of the Republican party are to the definition of second degree murder? For example, despite the overwhelming evidence that air pollution causes many millions of people to die every year, Republicans want to pump even more air pollution into the environment. To me, that seems like a "reckless disregard for human life" and a "total indifference to human life."

Think of it like this: Suppose you are burning toxic waste on your property, and doctors, coroners, and scientists inform you that the smoke you're creating is sickening and killing your neighbors. But, instead of stopping, you burn even more toxic waste. You may not specifically intend to kill your neighbors, but your continued burning, even after being warned of the deadly consequences, is in fact killing them, and thus you're showing a "reckless disregard for human life" and a "total indifference to human life." That's second degree murder.

Republicans and their super-wealthy donors have been warned, time and time again, by thousands of scientists, and by organizations that have been well-respected for decades (like UNICEF, the American Lung Association, and Harvard Medical School), that the results of their policies are deadly (refusing to expand Medicaid, continuing to burn fossil fuels, etc.). And yet, they continue with those policies - even doubling down on them. That's a "reckless disregard for human life." That's a "total indifference to human life." That's second degree murder. But, because Republican politicians wear suits and ties, disguising themselves as leaders, and because tens of millions of us are submissive to their super-wealthy donors, worshiping them as holy "JOB CREATORS," we let them get away with it.

"What we have found is that austerity--severe, immediate, indiscriminate cuts to social and health spending--is not only self-defeating, but fatal."

--David Stuckler, sociologist, Oxford University, and Sanjay Basu, epidemiologist, Stanford University, in "How Austerity Kills," New York Times, May 12, 2013. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Why are we poisoning our children to protect the fortunes of the rich? More cases of lead-contaminated water arise.

Above: In this photo, taken in Annapolis, Maryland, in April, 1938, we see some of the 16,000 miles of new water lines that were installed by the WPA between 1935 and 1943. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

In the past few days, we've learned of more lead-contaminated drinking water in Texas, Illinois, Arizona, Wisconsin, New York, and other areas. Lead causes irreparable brain damage to children and the CDC has warned us, many times, that no amount of lead is safe for consumption.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is busy removing regulations that protect the environment, making plans to reduce the budget of the EPA (the same EPA that helps test drinking water systems for lead), and trying to divert that money to America's war machine, which already dwarfs every other war machine on the planet. On top of this, Trump and the Republicans are planning to give massive tax cuts to the rich and reduce health care for the middle-class and poor, because, of course, "we can't afford it."

The super-wealthy, for their part, keep adding billions to their already bloated wealth, and are enjoying a record high stock market - a stock market whose growth never seems to have much effect on our crumbling bridges, our wages, or our lead-contaminated water systems. The rich also continue to manipulate our "democracy" with campaign contributions, lobbying, and Lord knows what else, so that they can continue accumulating more wealth. And if that increasing private fortune means neurotoxins and Legionella bacteria run rampant through our decaying water systems, ready to strike the most vulnerable among us, they collectively snicker, "Who gives a shit? I'm wealthy." On the Rich Kids of Instagram, for example, where young rich people flaunt their wealth, we are informed, "They have more money than you and this is what they do." And "what they do" does not involve ensuring that children have access to clean water; it involves $50,000 per day yacht parties, $23,000 bottles of champagne, and gold bathtubs.

So, here's the question: Given their vain purchases and sociopathic mindset, and given that our wages haven't gone anywhere for decades despite their proclamations of being "JOB CREATORS," why are we not taxing the super-wealthy more, to help pay for the repair and modernization of our infrastructure? Or, to put it another way, why are we poisoning our children to protect the fortunes of the rich?

Are we so subservient to the rich, so scared that they'll take our jobs away, that we're willing to sacrifice our children's health to them?

What is happening in America today is pure, undiluted madness. And we should probably start thinking of an answer to the question our children will ask, when they grow up and realize what was done to them - when they ask: "Why did you allow us to be poisoned?" Are we going to look at them stupidly and reply, "Because the Rich Kids of Instagram needed tax cuts"?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

New Deal Art: "Inside A Lumber Mill"

Above: "Inside A Lumber Mill," a watercolor by Claire Falkenstein (1908-1997), created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), 1934. Falkenstein graduated from the Anna Head School for Girls in Berkeley, California (today, the Head-Royce School in Oakland), and then earned an art degree from the University of California Berkeley in 1930 (see her biography at the Guggenheim Foundation). When she was in the PWAP she lived on Berkeley's Benvenue Avenue. Then, shortly after painting "Inside A Lumber Mill," it appears she created a fresco at Oakland's Piedmont High School, while in the WPA's Federal Art Project. But the current status of the fresco is unclear (see, for example, "Poppy Fresco for Piedmont High School, Oakland, California," Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco). After her time as a New Deal artist, Falkenstein went on to become a very prominent sculptress, and her art can be seen at many indoor and outdoor locations in California (see "Claire Falkenstein's strangely contradictory sculptures," Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2016). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Cancer kills over half-a-million Americans every year. Yet, we devote 120 times more money to national defense than to the National Cancer Institute and the research it supports.

Above: Franklin Roosevelt, 1930. When President Roosevelt dedicated some new buildings at the National Institute of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland, 1940, he said: "We cannot be a strong nation unless we are a healthy nation… Among the buildings of the National Institute of Health to be dedicated here today stands the National Cancer Institute… The work of this new Institute is well under way. It is promoting and stimulating cancer research throughout the nation; it is bringing to the people of the nation a message of hope because many forms of the disease are not only curable but even preventable... In dedicating this Institute, I dedicate it to the underlying philosophy of public health; to the conservation of life..." Roosevelt and his fellow New Deal policymakers had started the National Cancer Institute in 1937. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.

The National Cancer Institute works with a $5 billion dollar annual budget. This supports their own research, as well as their grants to universities and medical centers. This sounds like an awful lot of money. Yet, we spend 120 times more than that on national defense & military provocation, about $600 billion per year.

Today, President Trump is pushing for even more defense spending - even though the United States already accounts for 35-45% of the world's total military spending (depending on what source of information you use); and even though it was recently revealed that we waste tens of billions of defense dollars every year (see "Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste," Washington Post, December 5, 2016). 

I've spent a lifetime listening to right-wingers scream, "You can't solve problems by throwing more money at them!!" But, strangely, the political right isn't making that same argument here. They're just drooling, "spend more, more, more..."

Now, consider this: Well over half-a-million Americans die every year from cancer. In 2014, for example 591,699 of us died from various forms of cancer (see "Leading Causes of Death," Centers for Disease Control). That's far more than are killed by foreigners. In fact, none of the top 10 leading causes of death--which range from heart disease (about 600,000 per year) to suicide (40,000+ per year)--have anything to do with foreign threats. To put it another way: Since the 9/11 terrorist attack, about 8 million Americans have died from cancer.

Does any of this make sense to you? Does it makes sense that cancer causes far more death and sadness in America than foreigners do, yet we spend 120 times more protecting ourselves from foreign threats? To me, that sounds like the policy priorities of a lunatic. Now, some might say, "well, if we didn't spend so much on national defense, then there would be far more danger coming from those other countries." Hey, I get it, I completely agree with the notion that we need a very strong military; but couldn't we get by on, let's say, $300 billion per year, and spread that other $300 billion around on domestic needs, for example, tripling or quadrupling the National Cancer Institute's budget? I mean, what good is national defense if you're diagnosed with terminal cancer? (And remember, $300 billion is still far more than any other nation spends.)

In my opinion, our national priorities make no sense whatsoever - and hundreds of thousands of Americans are paying the price for that, with their lives.

Above: A WPA public information poster. During the New Deal, WPA workers assisted universities and medical centers with their cancer research, and funds from the Public Works Administration (PWA) facilitated many thousands of additional hospital beds across the nation, for cancer patients and others. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Republican potholes cost American drivers $3 billion every year

Above: Many roads in rural America are in horrible shape, like the one you see above. But strangely, many rural Americans continue voting for Republicans - Republicans who don't give a damn about infrastructure. Many rural Americans (certainly not all of course) are easily bamboozled by hollow rhetoric about "God" and "liberty" and "family values," and by fear-mongering about gays, Sharia law, and "inner-city youth" (Republican code for "black youth"). Right-wing politicians and their billionaire puppet-masters use this rhetoric to reel in rural voters, and then to distract them from (a) Republican & billionaire attacks on social programs that benefit rural Americans, and (b) tax-breaks-for-the-wealthy that leave precious little money for infrastructure repairs (let alone modernization). Photo by Brent McKee.

From AAA: "A recent study from AAA Automotive Engineering, revealed that pothole damage has cost U.S. drivers $15 billion in vehicle repairs over the last five years, or approximately $3 billion annually" (AAA, Motorist, Ohio / West Virginia, March / April 2017, p. 19). In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers reported on the overall condition of our roads (not just potholes) and found that  "32% of America's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, costing U.S. motorists who are traveling on deficient pavement $67 billion a year, or $324 per motorist, in additional repairs and operating costs."

Over the past many years, Republicans have made a habit out of blocking infrastructure plans put forth by President Obama, Bernie Sanders, and others (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here). Things were so bad that even a senior Republican in Congress blamed his own party for infrastructure neglect. And when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (a Republican) looked at a Republican infrastructure plan in 2012, he said: "It's the worst transportation bill I've ever seen during 35 years of public service." Worse still, Republican governors like Sam Brownback (Kansas) hand out tax breaks to their wealthy residents, then take money from their highway funds to make up the difference, and then ask the rest of us to pay for their highways (read that again, very carefully, and then see my recent blog post "While its infrastructure falls apart, Kansas continues giving tax breaks to the wealthy... and then asks the federal government for a bailout" for more details).

Will things be better with Trump in the White House? After all, he's proposed that $1 trillion be put towards our infrastructure. Well, maybe things will be better... but probably not, because Trump wants private funding to be included. This means a high probability of more toll roads. And let's be frank: if you want to sit in long lines of traffic, waiting to pay Corporate America at their toll booths, for the privilege of driving on "their" roads, you're probably a moron.

It's abundantly clear that when it comes to infrastructure, Republicans have proven themselves to be completely & utterly incompetent. They have no business even speaking on the matter, let alone legislating it. 

See, "In Texas, Toll Roads Proliferate - And A Backlash Builds," for an interesting story about red-state Texans getting fed-up with right-wing-created toll booths and traffic congestion.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Obamas kite-surf with billionaires and sign record-breaking book deals. It's good to be the Neoliberal King!

Above: President Franklin Roosevelt examining his stamp collection, 1936. Though FDR was born into great wealth, he did amazing things for the common man & woman. He surrounded himself with the most progressive policymakers ever to serve in the U.S. government and, with them, created work programs for the unemployed, electricity for rural Americans, Social Security for senior citizens, the G.I. Bill for veterans, and the list goes on and on. Heck, he even gave his beloved home and land to the people. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Remember the line, "It's good to be the king," from Mel Brook's History of the World, Part I? Well, since leaving office, President Obama is showing just how incredibly good it is to be the Neoliberal King. A few weeks ago he was kite-surfing with a billionaire in the Virgin Islands, and just today we learned that he and Michelle have signed record-breaking, 60 million dollar book deals. Perhaps we can start calling them "The Sixty-Million Dollar Family." Eat your heart out, Lee Majors.

Of course, we read the obligatory "some proceeds will be going to charity" (for example, their presidential center foundation, run by capitalists, investment managers, and financiers of course), but you can be sure of one thing: You'll never see a dime of benefit from those "charitable" contributions. Just like you'll never see a dime of benefit from the Clinton Foundation, the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, or whatever millionaire & billionaire-backed foundations pop-up next. Isn't it funny (and purely a coincidence I'm sure) how some of the biggest foundations in the world never seem to benefit you in any way, shape, or form, no matter how desperate and devastated your life may be? Facing bankruptcy? Where are the foundations? Unemployed? Where are the foundations? Need health insurance? Where are the foundations? Suffocating under student loan debt? Where are the foundations? Your car broke down and you don't have the money for a new one? Where are the foundations? But I digress... 

Yes, President Obama is making out very well since leaving office. While the rest of us will have to deal with the negative aspects of a neoliberal-caused Trump presidency, e.g., racial tension, more war, cuts to the social safety net, environmental pollution, the Obamas will be safely tucked away in a gated community--perhaps at the exclusive community, Rancho "Poor People Need Not Apply" Mirage--sipping Martinis by the pool and patiently waiting for their multi-million dollar tax breaks - tax breaks that Trump and the Republicans are sure to deliver to them just as soon as possible.

Yes, never mind that tens of millions of Americans are living in poverty; that millions of children are drinking lead and incurring permanent brain damage; that the suicide rate continues to soar; that the infant mortality rate is a "national embarrassment"; that perpetual war will continue chew up more money and lives; that student loan debt is at $1.4 trillion and growing. No, no, no, never mind all that because...  

... it's good to be the Neoliberal King!