Apr 012013
Scan of cover of Common Sense, the pamphlet. N...

Scan of cover of Common Sense, the pamphlet. No alterations were made to the scan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What a difference a few centuries makes!

It was early 1776, when Thomas Paine penned one of the most important literary works of all time. Long held as the pamphlet that sparked the Revolutionary War, Paine’s “Common Sense” made a compelling argument for American independence and drove colonists down off the fence of indifference regarding British excess.  Paine’s work gave voice to the growing unrest of a nation being actively exploited by an unholy partnership between an all-powerful monarchy and the corporate profiteers of the time. That much should resonate with the vast majority of citizens of 21st Century America, but today, the “common sense” of the Founders has largely been replaced with something very different.

Contrary to the tenets of modern conservative mythology, the Founders were anything but anti-government zealots. There was indeed much debate over the degree of power appropriate for the federal branch, and even within that body, the extent to which the executive should have control. But be that as it may, there was never any argument over the absolute necessity of government. In Paine’s own words, “Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world.” It wasn’t a desire to be free of government that brought about the dumping of the East India Company’s tea into Boston Harbor, nor was it rejection of the public good or the tax revenues required to provide it that drove the colonies to war; it was the overwhelming need to end the tyranny of governance without morality.

Read the long list of “injuries and usurpations” listed within our Declaration of Independence in the indictment against the Crown. Each and every entry addresses the corruption of an immoral government, not the immorality of government.  The problem with the Tea Act of 1773 wasn’t simply that it raised taxes on tea; the problem that led to the Boston Tea Party was that the law was enacted to give a corporation, the East India Company, full and unfettered access to the American tea trade and extend to it unfair advantage by granting an exclusive exemption from any tax on tea exported to the colonies. Those ships in Boston Harbor weren’t boarded in protest of taxation – the protest was against the corrupt effects of corporate lobbying and the government sponsorship for which it pays.

The Founding Fathers fully understood and appreciated the need for moral government and knew all too well the debilitating impact, the exploitation and erosion of rights inherent in a system intended to serve the few at the expense of the many. It was no accident that the Constitution of the United States was a strengthening over the articles that held together our young republic, nor was the enactment of the Bill of Rights merely a political endeavor.  The Constitutional Convention of 1787 signaled clear acceptance of the premise that a strong nation required a government that was both strong and moral, and the system of government that emerged was clear acceptance of the core principle of our democracy: so eloquently stated by Thomas Jefferson, “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves.”

How can it be then that that which was so patently obvious as to be considered “common sense” in the time of wooden ships and oil lamps is now so hotly debated in the age of information?

Can it be that the Founders were wrong, that the drive for less government will actually pave the path to more freedom, to an increase in happiness? Somalia has far less government, but it’s unlikely that many Americans would argue to adopt Somali style law here at home. Although our founding establishes the “pursuit of happiness” to be an inalienable right, it’s the countries of Northern Europe that consistently register as those where the citizenry is the most happy – and they do so with far higher taxes and more government than that of the US.

Perhaps instead, the Founders were actually right: maybe, it’s not so much the size of government, but rather the size of the group in control of the government, that threatens true freedom and inhibits the happiness of the people?

This was the “common sense” that pervaded American thought from the time of our founding up until the late 1970s. It was clear to Thomas Jefferson where the real threat to liberty resided, “The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed corporations.” Lincoln too was astute in his mastery of this common sense, “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” Progressive Republican (now an oxymoron) and noted trust-buster, Teddy Roosevelt, had no qualms with loudly voicing this wisdom, “to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task.” His cousin and 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, could not have stated it more clearly, “We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.” Even former 5-star general and president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, warned of the potential for corruption when economic power casts its shadow on government, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence . . . by the military-industrial complex.”

But alas today this wisdom that brought us independence and enabled our ascension as the greatest nation in the history of the planet has somehow been brought into question.  Our nation now stands divided between those who still believe in the “common sense” that prevailed for the first 200 years of our history, and those who instead embrace a different way of thinking, a new paradigm steeped in dogma, devoid of factual substance, bereft of moral underpinning, and made popular by the very powers that so many good Americans strived, and often gave their lives, to keep in check.

Paine, Jefferson . . . all of the Founders, Lincoln, the Roosevelts,  they all had one thing in common that bound them to “common sense” – they believed that government was the “solution” to the ills of society, a means to address the “inability of moral virtue to govern the world.” Sadly, both that belief, and to a constantly increasing extent, the ethic upon which it is based, no longer hold their honored position at the forefront of the American political psyche.  Adhering to their core tenet that no good crisis should ever go to waste, the powers of money and greed seized the opportunity presented by a 1970s America struggling to address a global shift in the energy market, and like vultures circling a wounded beast, swooped upon a fragile and unwitting public. Hawking a new ethic, where the immorality of greed was turned on its head, and selfishness suddenly became a virtue, Americans were sold a counterfeit bill of goods – government was painted to be “the problem,” not the solution, and the age of “common sense” gave way to the new era of “common nonsense.”

Make no mistake, while this claim may sound like hyperbole, it only seems so because the utter nonsense of the “government is the problem” cult has been so wildly popular and widely accepted, it’s become a cultural article of faith for many Americans. But unlike “common sense,” which can be argued with sound reason, based on empirical evidence and historical precedence, any argument in support of the new “common nonsense” must, by necessity, be rooted in the same deceptions, distortions, and distractions from which the entire paradigm was spawned.

Unless one believes that Paine was wrong in his assertion that government is made necessary by the failure of humanity to otherwise govern itself in a moral manner, then the very premise of the argument to shrink government to where “we can drown it in a bathtub” is flawed at its core . . . provided you actually object to immorality. The simple truth that seems to evade so many good people is that, whether government is small or large, or whether it exists at all, we will all be governed. We can be governed by a body formed “of, by and for” the People, or we can be governed by some form of ruling elite, but one way or the other, governance will occur – decisions will be made and rules will be set into place. The only real question is by and for the benefit of whom?

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that what’s good for the billionaire is not necessarily good for the working person, but still the purveyors of “common nonsense” have somehow managed to hoodwink millions of people into diligent support of policies that cannot lead anywhere but to the demise of the American worker. Just as the monarchy of King George served the English Crown at the expense of the colonies, the new American plutocracy serves the economic elite at the expense of the rest of America. The key difference is that in 1776 we united, embraced “common sense” and went to war to fight against the tyranny of the ruling elite, but today we stand divided, with half of the American public embracing “common nonsense” and fighting to strengthen the suffocating stranglehold the ruling elite have around the throat of our democracy.

The fact of the matter is that, where sound government is built on a solid foundation of unity and morality, the argument to shrink government “in order to serve the people” is built on a smoldering dung heap of manufactured division and self-serving propaganda.

Arguments for a strong and efficient government “of, by and for” the People, contend that working people deserve a fair wage; that no American should work and not be able to afford food, shelter and healthcare; that investing in our nation: in the education of our people, in developing clean sources of energy, in protecting the environment, in building and maintaining our infrastructure — is the best means to make America stronger, and that the true greatness of any nation is measured by the well-being of its average citizen, not the vast wealth of its richest few.

In stark contrast with this vision are the arguments that form the entire basis for the “shrink government” movement. Strongly upheld in the dogma of contemporary conservatism, yet proven time after time to be utter falsehood is the entire hit parade of “common nonsense.”

Trickle-down economics, the notion that wealth allowed to accumulate at the top will be shared, has been revealed to be a sick joke. It has never worked, not in the 1890s when it was graphically referred to as “horse and sparrow” — where the more oats fed to the horse, the more edible matter there is available in their droppings — and it surely doesn’t work today. Wealthy individuals don’t invest more in additional capacity because they have more money leftover after taxes — they do so when increases in demand require increases in supply. It’s really that simple: in order to rev up the economic engines, you need to increase demand, and it doesn’t take a quantum physicist to understand how that’s best accomplished —through policies that benefit the middle class.

When it comes to government budgeting, contrary to GOP doctrine, tax cuts do not actually pay for themselves. This is easily evidenced by the results of the Bush cuts of 2001 and 2003, which as “common sense” would suggest, are the source of the single largest portion of the present federal debt. The argument that tax cuts for the rich will raise tax revenues is nothing but the same “voodoo economics” used to support the rest of the “common nonsense” about trickle-down. Of course . . . nobody actually believes it’s true — not even the liars who say it’s so. Everyone knows there’s ZERO empirical evidence to support the claim. In fact, all evidence supports exactly the opposite.

In a 2005 Congressional Budget Office study looking at the macroeconomic impact of an across-the-board 10% tax cut, the CBO estimated that the BEST CASE return on such an “investment” would be to recover 22% of the lost revenue over the first 5 years and 32% over the subsequent 5 year period. And those were their “most optimistic” projections. Using their more conservative assumptions, the CBO concluded that the recovery would be only 1% over the first 5 years, and that the second 5-year period would actually produce a 5% increase in lost revenue. What’s important to keep in mind is that this study looked at “across-the-board” tax cuts — for rich and poor alike. If the cuts were isolated and applied to the top tax rates only, even less of the money would find its way back into the productive economy, ensuring a net negative result. A 2009 study by Mark Zandi, head economist for Moody’s, came to the same unavoidable conclusion regarding tax cuts, and also offers an eye-opening comparison to the “common sense” net-positive impact of government stimulus spending.

Unfettered by fact or substance, “common nonsense” is abundant and free of the ties that bind rational argument. Take for instance the story that the fight to keep the top marginal tax brackets from rising is about protecting small business. This is a great talking point, but when placed under the light of factual scrutiny, it becomes immediately apparent that when you increase taxes on people earning more than $250K, you don’t — in the real world — actually impact small business . . . unless that is, you share the elitist view that the 2.5% of “small businesses” that include large hedge funds, law offices, and billion dollar companies like Bechtel and Koch Industries are actually “small” businesses. If it seems to you a little deceptive to label billion-dollar hedge funds as “small business” because they employ so few people, or perhaps a bit disingenuous to use the same label for billion-dollar companies because of the legal form of the business, you just might have some grasp of “common sense,” on logic, reason, and honesty. There are many terms that fit this particular “small business” type of distortion, and “common nonsense” is probably the most kind.

How about the “common nonsense” that President Obama has raised taxes on average Americans? It’s a valid claim — only if signing 18 tax cuts for actual small businesses, lowering income taxes for 95% of the population, and bringing about across-the-board payroll tax cuts can somehow be construed as raising taxes on average Americans.

At the center of the entire “common nonsense” narrative is the story of the pending doom of Social Security and the assertion that it requires we raise the retirement age and cut benefits. The truth is that the program is actually able to pay full benefits through 2037 and pay 75% of benefits thereafter without making any changes. And the further truth is that full benefits could be paid for the entire 75 year horizon and beyond, simply by lifting the taxable earnings cap, thereby treating the richest Americans like everyone else and requiring them to pay on every dollar they earn.

Medicare too has a “common nonsense” crosshair painted over the program. The story goes that issues with Medicare are “forcing” us to swap the program out for a voucher system that will place all burden on elderly recipients to cover cost increases. The perpetrators of this cruel lie euphemistically refer to it as “premium support,” but in the real world, the one where “common sense” still prevails, it’s clearly seen for the throw-the-elderly-to-the-wolves option it actually is. Sadly, in the immoral world of “common nonsense” this choice is preferred over allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, moving away from the profit centric fee-for-services healthcare model, or otherwise dealing with the soaring cost of healthcare, which presently costs us more than double the average for other OECD nations and consumes over 17% of our GDP.

“Common nonsense” also dictates that defense spending is sacrosanct, even though we spend nearly as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, with a Department of Defense budget that’s actually tripled in size just since 1997. Still, somehow the argument is that, in order to protect ourselves and remain safe, we must continue to increase defense spending that already runs more than $1 trillion annually, when all defense related spending is included, and is pushing 30% of the federal budget.

The tenets of “common nonsense” assert that the American Dream is still what makes our nation special, yet completely ignores the fact that upward mobility in the US has gone the way of the Dodo bird. They contend that taxes are too high, even though they’re at the lowest portion of GDP since 1950. They posit that the debt is our most pressing issue, threatening to bankrupt the economy, in spite of the fact that we once paid down the bill for World War II that weighed in at 122% of GDP. They even argue that the federal stimulus of 2009 was a failure, while the fact is that it added as much as 4.5% to the GDP and increased domestic employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.

Many ideas may be “common,” but there’s nothing sensible about the need to give tax subsidies to oil companies that already enjoy profits of $341 million per day. The denial of climate science may be accepted in the halls of “common nonsense,” but in the halls of science, it’s clearly seen as “nonsense” by 97-98% of those performing research on the topic. The promotion of the Keystone XL pipeline for the jobs it will create, the assertion that corporations are people, or the fight to protect the robber banksters from regulation are all both “common” and utter “nonsense.” There’s no legitimacy in the argument that we need to both balance the budget AND maintain special tax advantages for the wealthy, like a 15% tax rate for hedge fund managers and provisions that allow the very rich to hide their earnings in tax havens abroad. This is all “common nonsense” of the most bold and blatant variety!

Those people who strive to exploit American workers, send jobs overseas, leverage capital to dismantle and destroy productive companies, and fight to defund unemployment insurance, should be openly rejected when they then stand and complain that the 47% of Americans who’ve been left with no money, and no job, pay no income tax. It’s like kicking somebody in the teeth and complaining that they got blood on your shoe. Such people should be seen as the snake-oil-peddling purveyors of “common nonsense” they truly are. Vulture capitalists don’t feed the productive economy — they feed on it!

Like carnival barkers, these hucksters want Americans to believe that we’re faced with such rampant voter fraud, that draconian measures that may interfere with the ability of legitimate voters to participate is regrettably necessary, that the problem is just too dire to ignore. So, what’s the truth? That your odds for winning the Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot are 6 times better than finding a single case of in-person voter fraud. But of course, when you just can’t compete honestly on the issues, the “common nonsense” justification to suppress democracy becomes an absolutely essential component of your plan to retain control — and America gets 30 states enacting measures to disempower voters over the past two years.

Yet as ridiculous as the tenets of trickledown may be, as egregious as the efforts of voter suppression, as reprehensible as the arguments illegitimately attacking the “entitlements,” possibly the master stroke of “common nonsense” is the utterly absurd notion that, if we fail to cut government spending, the United States of America is going to become another Greece — we’re going to go bankrupt.

Now that’s one hell of a scary prediction! But never mind the fact that the entire “what we have is a spending problem” meme depends entirely on the “common nonsense” of trickledown and tax-cut doublethink — predictions of an American bankruptcy are, in fact, forecasts of the IMPOSSIBLE. The truth is that it’s impossible for Japan, Australia, Canada, the U.K., or any other nation that issues its own non-convertible, floating exchange-rate currency to go bankrupt. As Alan Greenspan has clearly stated, “a government cannot become insolvent with respect to obligations in its own currency,” because, “Central banks can issue currency, a noninterest-bearing claim on the government, effectively without limit.” Yet in the Bizarro World of “common nonsense” we must embrace the same austerity that’s destroying the economies of Europe in order to avoid a scenario that can’t happen anytime before pigs fly.

“Common nonsense” is not some natural and unavoidable phenomenon. The sad truth is that, like in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the natural human process of cognitive dissonance has been systematically replaced with a form of doublethink, where people simultaneously embrace certain long held values and their contradictory opposites. This can only be made possible through deliberate deception and promotion of falsehood, through constant revisionism — through perpetual generation and repetition of “common nonsense.”

Just as the tobacco companies of the 1960s lied to suppress the truth about cigarette smoking, willfully polluting the lungs of so many Americans just to maintain corporate profits, the corporatocracy of today feeds the “common nonsense” pump and pollutes every aspect of American society for the very same purpose. Thomas Jefferson made it abundantly clear that, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people,” and the opposite is also true — a misinformed citizenry is a vital requisite for exploitation of a free people.

Make no mistake, the source behind the wellspring of “common nonsense” has but one motivation — the thirst for money and power. Thus far their deception has been overwhelmingly successful. They’ve permeated the American consciousness with a false meme of government that takes from a hard-working middleclass to gives to an undeserving poor, yet the plain truth is that “91 percent of the benefit dollars from entitlement and other mandatory programs goes to the elderly (people 65 and over), the seriously disabled, and members of WORKING households.”

They’ve used this “common nonsense” to distract the public and conceal the truth that what’s really occurring is the systematic use of power and influence to control government for the benefit of the most wealthy, to take from that hard-working middleclass and feed the proceeds to a voraciously greedy and disconnected rich. Nowhere in the annals of “common nonsense” will you see reference to the growing concentration of wealth, to the fact that the richest 1% now hold more financial wealth than 95% of our population combined, nor will you hear the barkers speak of the 93% of all economic gain in the present recovery that’s gone to that same 1%. And rest assured, you damn sure won’t hear any mention of record-breaking CEO salaries or the huge bonuses they’re paid while offshoring American jobs and forcing workers to accept more than 3 decades of stagnant wages culminating in the recent drop in nationwide median income, the first since 1967.

American democracy is under attack, and the war isn’t being waged by a foreign foe. The enemy of a strong and prosperous America is the very same enemy Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Eisenhower and so many others warned about. It’s the enemy of which Jefferson expressed his wish to “crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government to trial and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

If America is ever to save its middleclass and return to a system of shared prosperity, it must first come to reject the blatant falsehood and turn from the “common nonsense” of the cult of gutted government. The common sense of our forefathers holds as true today as it did when they formed our fledgling government: the solution to tyranny is now and always has been the unity of the People — and government “of, by, and for” those People is the only mechanism through which their authority can be set into force.

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Mar 202011
Smile & Frown

Image by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr

Is there any political issue upon which all Americans agree? If there is, it’s certainly not defense spending, social programs, taxation, campaign finance, healthcare, or abortion, nor is it energy, trade, marriage, foreign policy, guns, illegal immigration, unionization, or the national debt, the economy, the environment, education, civil rights, crime, or drugs . . . hell, we can’t even all agree on jobs and infrastructure!

Unanimous agreement on any of these issues is extremely rare, even on a historical scale. World War II may have brought us to statistical unanimity on defense spending, and back in 1789, there were few voices of dissent offered against the general provisions of the Second Amendment. Yes, true consensus seldom occurs, but the degree of division found today is equally uncommon.

Last year’s debate surrounding healthcare is an excellent example of not only how wide the chasm between liberal and conservative voter opinion, but also of the nature of the divide. From the onset, Republicans spared no effort to cast the healthcare bill in the most negative light possible; labeled “Obamacare,” it was a “government takeover” of healthcare; it was being “forced down the throats” of voters and would result in bringing “death panels” to destroy the “best healthcare system in the world.”

The result of this unrelenting slander campaign was to completely pollute public opinion amongst conservatives. Voters rallied against the bill, believing the hyperbole to be fact, and stood in stringent opposition. Conservative opinion became so stacked, that the repeal of “Obamacare” became a vital element of the Republican election campaign of 2010.

But then, as the din of election rhetoric started to subside, the campaign dust began to settle, and another dynamic soon emerged. Preposterous claims of “death panels” were replaced by a slow seeping of factual information regarding what the healthcare bill actually contained. This soon led to liberals and conservatives alike arriving at more well-developed positions, and public opinion on repeal quickly began to tilt.

Once the equation changed from “do you want to repeal the government takeover of healthcare” to “do you believe that insurance companies should be able to refuse coverage because of preexisting conditions,” people were suddenly empowered with real knowledge of the issues, and were soon to adopt a position that actually reflected their personal values.

Many voters previously in favor of repeal found that they actually supported certain aspects of the bill, like allowances to help Medicare recipients cover out-of-pocket prescription costs, parents being able to include children up to age 26 on their plans, and the prohibition on denial for preexisting conditions. Once armed with facts in place of manipulative hyperbole, support for complete repeal dropped to only one in four voters.

If this were an isolated story, it may be dismissible as an aberration in an otherwise healthy political process. But the sad truth is that this sort of deception and manipulation is the rule, not the exception, and the process in question is not only unhealthy but exceedingly destructive.

The real story about healthcare or jobs or the deficit, or whatever specific issue you choose, is that the Republican spin machine has become so expert at political theater that no matter what the underlying facts, they’re able to develop a script for each issue that portrays the conservative position as pro-American and patriotic. They’ve actually become so adept at this manipulation that conservative voters accept their contrived plots, and willingly suspend reality, without question, most often to their own demise.

Regardless of political views, any observer of this dynamic has to be in awe of its power. The spinmeister’s craft is dedicated to beguiling the unwitting victim by playing on emotions of fear, pride, and fairness. By evoking the emotional response, the skilled spinmeister obscures the facts, avoids troubling questions about substance and effectively uses distraction to open his victims to exploitation.

Who isn’t against “government takeovers” — of any kind? The government is supposed to represent the people, not rule over them. And “death panels” or having anything “rammed down your throat?” What American wouldn’t be repulsed by such imagery?

The truth is that these characterizations have nothing to do with the underlying issues. They’re offered for the sole purpose of poisoning the well in order to drive opinion without any real evaluation of substance.

In reality, when all the extraneous bullshit is stripped away, all Americans care about the same things: about the wellbeing of their family and friends, and about the values upon which they base their lives. These core values may vary from person to person in terms of what they might hold as most important in a given situation, but they are, at the same time, universal. All people care about fairness and reciprocity, and they also care about protecting others from harm, about loyalty and respect and the sanctity of life. These values form the moral foundation of our culture.

Sadly, the Republican spin machine has succeeded in co-opting this basic set of American values, casting them as unique unto itself, and has in the process managed to artificially split the nation. They’ve created an alternate reality where they alone are held to believe in hard work, where fairness is dictated by the market (instead of by people), and where corporations are entitled to more rights than the citizens of our nation. Amazing? Absolutely, but the truly inconceivable part is that something approaching half of all Americans buy into this nonsense.

The truth of the matter is that what divides Americans is much less about a split in values and much more about the split in valuables. If left to discuss and debate our values without self-serving provocation by manipulative elites, the vast majority of Americans would be able to find common ground on which to build consensus and develop workable solutions. But such interaction would not serve the goals of those who seek to keep us divided, so they do everything they can to drive the wedge as deep and often as possible.

We’ve allowed the politicians and media to cast the debate as “big government” versus “small government,” when we all know that what we really need is “effective government.” We argue over raising or cutting taxes without first discussing the services We the People deem appropriate and how best to fund them. We accept that we’re divided over energy and defense and abortion and all manner of social and economic issues, but instead of engaging in dialogue and attempting to find real solutions, we just accept the winner-take-all, zero sum game of American politics that’s been defined for us.

This is not the way our democracy was intended to work. The Founding Fathers established a republic designed to ensure that the interests of all citizens would be taken into account. But in spite of their sage efforts, our representative government increasingly represents only the interests of a very small, very wealthy, and very powerful minority.

The real division in America has nothing to do with left and right. This is an artificial construct designed to keep the masses in perpetual tension — to keep us divided. Today’s public is presented with one fraudulent dichotomy after another, all stemming from complex political positions built on heaping assumptions with questionable logic. It is this complexity that prevents solution, because it ensures that the public never engages in meaningful discourse at a level low enough to find our common ground — the level of our core values.

There is no issue on the social landscape upon which a majority of Americans cannot find a suitable compromise. All that’s needed is an earnest discussion at the most basic level. Americans are decent people with a true sense of fairness, who have proven time and again that they’re capable of working together for the common good. All they need is leadership willing to speak the truth and stop beating the drums of division long enough to foster real dialogue.

Unfortunately, politicians want us all to believe that our differences are irreconcilable, that the other side is the enemy, unpatriotic and incapable of coming together and agreeing upon workable solutions. This is a fallacy, but it’s kept alive by constantly reintroducing issues that are recirculated and debated over and again, whenever The People threaten to expose the truth — that the only real divide in America is top and bottom, between the haves and have-nots, and that divide is widening with every passing year.

It is up to We the People to reject yet another season of the Kabuki Theater that is left/right politics in America. We must demand an end to the deceptive practices of both major parties, equally to Republican fear-mongering and Democratic lip-service, for it is their dance that’s taken us to the edge of destruction. We must come together as a people and insist on a real conversation, or else continue to be exploited by our nation’s economic elite and their servants in public office.

The People only win when we unite.

If interested in a look at how your personal values fit with your politics, pay a visit to Your Morals.org.

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Nov 122010
Image via Wikipedia

This is a different type of blog post for me. It’s born of the frustration encountered at Huffington Post when trying to get a comment approved by their censors. When my posts are blocked, I typically scour the text in search of anything objectionable, make edits to anything that could possibly give cause to censorship, and repost. But in spite of this effort, I’ve had many times in the past when I could not for the life of me determine what their issue was with my post. Today is one such occurrence.

The topic of the article is the new Whitehouse position stated by David Axelrod yesterday regarding the extension of the Bush tax cuts. This was a very popular topic with a huge number of comments of which I posted several.  One particular comment was in response to an individual who posted asking the question, “Why do Democrats act as if the government is the owner of the citizens’ income and can hold a blank check on our earnings?” My response was to assert that we live in a democracy, that the government belongs to us all, and that it’s our only means to “address excesses and exploitation by the upper class.”

A response to my post was given by the person to whom I had commented. That response conveyed certain assertions with which I did not agree and, in my opinion, was based on assumptions that I find to be erroneous. The text of that comment is as follows:

The equality that will happen for ALL AMERICANS under the plan the left has is equal poverty and equal misery.

You cannot reward failure and punish success and increase innovation and the quality of life. It has never worked and will not work if you change the name to “progressive.”

Of course there are differences in intelligence, skills, knowledge, abilities, attitude, willingness to work and other factors. Each and every one of those creates differences in contribution.

In a fair society, you are compensated for your contribution. The liberal idea of equal wealth distribution ignores the differences in contributions and is doomed to fail.

The mistaken belief that government can create equal outcomes is foolish. The result of liberal’s attempts is to bring civilization down to the lowest common denominator. It happens every time you try and create social justice. The only way for liberals to succeed is to punish success and human nature then creates poverty and misery.

I attempted to respond in a respectful way, but even after a series of earnest attempts at editing was unable to get the Huffington censors to accept my post. The following is the text of my last attempt:

“reward failure and punish success” Success and failure at what? To make money? Now, there’s an appropriate metric with which to measure the worth of a person. It’s actually the core flaw in conservative thinking and the source of much suffering in the world.

“increase innovation” That’s just patent falsehood. Our ruling class system retards innovation in order to sustain the status quo. Just look at energy consumption and infrastructure in the U.S.. We’re still married to fossil fuels at the cost of the people and planet because it serves the needs of those stuffing their pockets with oil money. Innovation is in green technologies and alternatives, which are suppressed because of the threat of competition.

“In a fair society, you are compensated for your contribution” So CEOs really contribute 300 times more than average workers? By what measure? It’s the conservative idea of distribution of wealth that ignores all factors of contribution except monetary. Is that moral?

“The result of liberal’s attempts is to bring civilization down to the lowest common denominator.” Quite to the contrary – it’s the conservative ideals that are base, that focus on the worst characteristics of humanity.

For conservatives to succeed, the majority of people, as well as the planet itself must pay the price. John Kenneth Galbraith best summed up the conservative ethic: “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy: that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

I ask for your critique and honest feedback. Is this comment disrespectful? Is it inappropriate as a response to the comment that preceded it? Does it warrant being censored? Is it appropriate for Huffington Post to censor without feedback as to cause?

And on substance: what are your thoughts on the debate?

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