May 272010

Even after Democratic leadership scaled back its bill to reauthorize several domestic aid programs, reducing its impact on the federal budget deficit by $50 billion, conservative rank-and-file Democrats remain unhappy.

Huffington Post

soon to be alternative energy
Image by Shae — not the butter! via Flickr

The Democrats need to reassess who the heck they are. We have to extend unemployment, but that’s really just another short sited solution, another stop-gap. Unless the Democrats engage in an honest debate over priorities and values, we’re doomed to endure an unending flow of half-steps, and in the end — business as usual.

We’re in a freaking recession and we have 30 million Americans out of work. It’s time for the federal government to invest in infrastructure and create JOBS! We’re just going to have to continue deficit spending for some period of time, and the Democrats need to face that. They do need to plan for the end of the deficit, but right now they need to support a bold initiative to commence the new New Deal.

The place to start is with a new energy policy. We need to stop tinkering around the edges and face the issue. We can’t produce enough oil; coal is freaking dirty, and clean coal is too expensive. We should be investing heavily in alternative energy R&D and moving to sustainable sources. In the meantime, nuclear and natural gas are our only options.

President Obama needs to stand up and LEAD. He should be driving us toward energy independence. We need a vision like JFK offered for landing on the moon. We can make it happen, but it will require Americans to join together as we have in the past. This is what real leadership is about.

The obvious truth that the Democrats are too afraid to address is that there are ample financial resources at our disposal, but in order to tap them, they will need to raise taxes on the fat cats who fund their campaigns. We are suffering in the wake of the massive concentration of wealth that’s occurred over the past 30-plus years and it needs to end.

It’s time to restore power to the middle class and remove any of the corporatist pigs who stand in the way. This entire dilemma is manufactured within the political spin machine. When We the People stop the petty debate between us and join together, we’ll topple this tower of corruption and bring a new prosperity to America.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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May 252010

“Standing before a room full of fellow African-Americans, Jamila Bey took a deep breath and announced she’s come out of the closet.

Bey and other black atheists, agnostics and secularists are struggling to openly affirm their secular viewpoints in a community that’s historically heralded as one of America’s most religious.”

Chika Oduah and Lauren E. Bohn, Religion News Service

Pie chart of religions of African Americans
Image via Wikipedia

I think this break with traditional religious frameworks is both natural and healthy. For far too long, people have been asked to swallow the entirety of the religious teachings for whatever faith they choose. Religions all preach a special knowledge of the truth, and most present their way as the exclusive path to a desirable eternal life.

When people of good heart question the doctrine of their church, synagogue or mosque, they are typically dismissed as unknowing or immature. To cite inconsistencies in scripture is seen as heretical. To question God is blasphemy. Religious leaders profess to have the answers of eternity, but any thinking person knows that they’ve taken those answers from the works of men.

That said, I also think that atheism is a reactionary overcompensation for the dogmatism of our religious history. Atheists often express an intellectual superiority over those who believe in a god. Of course, their superiority is an illusion. They know no more of the reality beyond what science can explain than their Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist counterparts.

The real truth is that we humans only get to know so much. In the final analysis, we cannot even be 100 percent certain that a physical world actually exists, yet there are people who claim to know whether or not there is a god — or life after death.

Whatever position a person takes regarding the existence of god, they need to do so with full understanding that unless they choose agnosticism, they are taking a leap of faith. As Einstein stated, “What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.” Such humility is the only appropriate posture with which to approach the question of god.

In the end, there are few things as personal as an individual’s belief in god. There should be no fear in exploring the possibilities. There should be no ridicule for believing something different. Questions should be honestly solicited and eagerly asked — and
“I don’t know, nobody does” should be a perfectly acceptable answer.

I look forward to a time when people of all faiths can band together and share their thoughts and beliefs without fear of reprisal. I look forward to a time when we focus on the common threads that weave their way through all religions. I look forward to a shared faith of what holds us together rather than what tears us apart.

Is there a god? I don’t honestly know.

Is there life after death? I can’t answer that for certain either.

I can say that I choose to believe in God and a hereafter. I take that leap of faith knowingly, sincerely, and with great humility.

And this I know without doubt: we are here, and whatever the truth is, we’re all in this together — our system of faith should start with that.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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May 222010

“For most of the past 70 years, the U.S. economy has grown at a steady clip, generating perpetually higher incomes and wealth for American households. But since 2000, the story is starkly different. There has been zero net job creation since December 1999. No previous decade going back to the 1940s had job growth of less than 20 percent..

Fred Branfman, Huffington Post

Maybe we need a newer New Deal
Image by TheeErin via Flickr

So begins Fred Branfman’s account of the status of politics and the economy in America. The story he tells isn’t a happy one, but it’s honest, and it should be mandatory reading for all Americans. If you care about our Country, if you truly want your children and grandchildren to have a better future, then you’ll take the time to read this. These are dire times for America. We are at war, but not with a foreign enemy. The enemy is greed, and nothing less than the future existence of the middle class is at stake.

The truth of the matter is, as Mr. Branfman points out, the American middle class is slowly being squeezed from existence. Job growth has been zero for the past decade, and the current real unemployment rate is over 17 percent. Looking more closely at 21st Century America, Mr. Branfman tells us, “Economic output rose at its slowest rate of any decade since the 1930s as well. Middle-income households made less in 2008 than they did in 1999. And the net worth of American households … has also declined compared with sharp gains in every previous decade since data were initially collected in the 1950s.”

The flip side of this is the increased wealth and abundance experienced by America’s richest few over this same period of time. The upper 1 percent of Americans is now worth more than the bottom 90 percent combined. The redistribution of wealth, away from the middle class, was achieved by squeezing American workers, sending massive numbers of jobs overseas, creating the Robber Banker complex and all the while making sure that the rich kept paying lower taxes.

Mr. Branfman shares in vivid detail much of the story of the Robber Bankers and how their unbridled greed has taken our Country to the brink of economic ruin. How they traded their own economic prosperity for the wellbeing of a nation, and of how the incompetence of the federal government let it happen. In his words, “The basic fact that none of our leaders dare say aloud–from CEOs to economists to politicians–is that the U.S. private sector and capitalism itself have failed, as well as the government charged with controlling its worst excesses.” The American people need to hear this truth and contemplate its full meaning.

The Great Recession is the current culmination of a failed test in free-market politics. It is the predictable result of decades of deregulation and lowered taxes on the rich. What we’ve netted is over 30 million Americans without jobs, and a gutted U.S. industry where now the money changers, the makers of NOTHING — the financial sector has amassed over 40 percent of overall corporate profits.

Middle class Americans need to wake up and join together. The path back is through better government — government that again serves The People, and through higher taxes on the rich. Average Americans need to understand that the present tax cut mentality is a poison apple sold by the wealthy to stuff their own coffers.  It was the high top income tax rate that essentially wrote the epitaph for the tyranny of the elite after the Great Depression. It provided the funding needed for the New Deal and created the American middle class. The top rate never dipped below 63% from 1932 until 1982, and the 91% bracket held for most of 1951 to 1963.

But the sad truth is that Ronald Reagan tore the structure down and returned power to the robber barons. Reaganomics was the accelerated beginning of the march to the Great Recession. President Reagan presided over a top rate reduction from 70 percent to 28 percent that shifted power firmly back to the elite. Once back in power, they managed to either get regulations removed or to achieve adequate corruption within the regulatory structures to allow unfettered activity. George W. Bush then came along and reversed the small tax rate increases established under Clinton, drastically skewed government practices to favor business, and accelerated the concentration of wealth into the upper 1% to 2%.

So, today we have history repeating itself. The elite gambled and lost and brought us the Great Depression and now the Great Recession. They presently own the Congress and are ensured their lackeys will provide legislation that looks like reform but is actually continued tribute. The recent healthcare legislation will feed billions to medical insurers and the pharmaceutical companies. And the just passed financial “reform” bill is sure to emerge from reconciliation as a toothless gift to Wall Street.

American government is controlled by the wealthy. They’ve led us to a gutted tax base and a huge debt, and now the solution they propose is the destruction of the government structures that helped to create the American middle class in the first place. Privatization of Social Security is just one example of code talk for “the rich want more money and power.” The programs of the New Deal were essential to the great prosperity that preceded the deception of Reaganomics and the ensuing calamity of the Great Recession. Those same programs, along with an effective government that serves the good of The People, are critical to a new age of prosperity for all Americans.

If Americans want to even have a middle class, they need to understand the need to generate more tax revenue. They also need to not fall prey to the false logic of arguments for flat taxes or movement solely to a value added tax. A system of progressive taxes is the only equitable vehicle of taxation. It not only ensures that citizens pay back to the society based on the benefit they’ve extracted from it, but it also provides the essential balance of power and control of government that’s required to maintain a middle class.

The reforms we need are obviously very easy to espouse and very difficult to achieve. The richest of the rich have seized power and will fight to retain it. They don’t want increased regulation, and they damn sure don’t want higher top tax brackets. If We the People want to retain an American middle class, we need to take back control of our government first. The path back to the power of The People lies on the road to campaign finance reform. We need public campaign financing, preferential voting, term limits and a barring of the lobbyist’s revolving door.

These are the things that all voters should be able to rally behind, regardless of their political philosophy. This is the path back to restoration of American greatness and prosperity for ALL Americans.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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