Friday, July 25, 2014


There is a knock on your door and you open it to discover a 7 year old child alone, cold, hungry and in shock.  What do you do?  Do you slam the door?...tell her to go away?...sic your dog on her? the National Guard?  Or do you invite her in and wrap her in a blanket, give her some food and drink?  Do you make her feel safe while trying to figure out where she came from?  You do call the police and social services in the hope they can find her family and knowing she will be kept warm and protected.  Questions about how she got to your door and why she is alone and where she came from would all be secondary to meeting her immediate needs.  Right?

     It’s baffling to me how a humanitarian crisis has morphed into an existential threat to our nation's security, and yet it is what is happening since thousands of unaccompanied minor children began washing up on the shores of this great country seeking asylum.  The rhetoric and hyperbole from regressives borders on the maniacal.  One Texas congressman likens the children to an invading army while invoking images of the invasion of Normandy on D-Day and calls on the state's governor to use all force, including warships, to stem this human tide.  Another southern member of Congress claims the children are carrying the Ebola virus and could cause an American pandemic.  Regressive talk radio talks in dystopian terms of the end of all our borders and the collapse of American culture if these children are not stopped and force used to deter any future attempts to enter this nation.  Our infrastructure and institutions are on the verge of imploding due to this children's crusade.

     Huh?  These flights of fancy and fact-less frenzy would be the stuff of great satire were it not for the serious crisis occurring and the fact some Americans are buying into this nightmare scenario.  The conspiracy theories are flying fast and furious.  These children are coming here at President Obama's behest to become a new voting block for the Democratic Party.  (considering the average age is about 9-11, those elections they will tilt Obama's way would appear to be quite a few years hence)  This human tidal wave is a result of a 2012 law signed by Obama slowing the deportation of some children by this nation.  (in reality it is a 2008 law signed by George W. Bush which mandates that undocumented children be protected and placed with any family which can be found in this country)  This crisis is a result of borders which are not secure and they are not secure because Obama wants more and more new immigrants to bolster his political power.  (under this president, the budget for the Border Patrol has increased dramatically to its highest level ever and there are more border patrol agents now than at any time in history and the numbers continues to climb)  There is even talk by the likes of Sarah Palin and others that this is an impeachable offense because Obama is deliberately undermining the strength and security of the nation by encouraging or ignoring all these children at our border.

     When the real facts are examined, the reason for this mass movement of children is readily apparent.  The highest percentage of children are coming from nations like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.  These also happen to be the most violent and unstable nations in Central America.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says Honduras has the highest murder rate in the entire world.  Crime and mayhem from drug gangs and criminal wars, along with crushing poverty, has trapped these children and their families in the middle of it all.  (as proof look at a nation like Nicaragua which has a low homicide rate and rate of violence...very few of the children appearing at our borders are from there or from other more stable and less violent nations in the area)

     Texas governor Rick Perry wants to put the National Guard (with fixed bayonet's?) on the Texas border.  Under questioning on Fox News of all places, Perry had to admit the Guard could not arrest anyone or hold these children and it was unlikely they were going to shoot them (right?) so what good would they do?  Perry said they could scare the kids and send a message back to their homes so no more will venture forth.  I'm sorry?  These unaccompanied minors, some as young as three years old, have trekked over thousands of miles of mountains and deserts, against all odds, to escape abuse and violence, but the sight of some soldiers is going to frighten them enough to get them to turn back or not to leave in the first place?

     The U.S. has facilities to handle about 8,000 children and families at any given time.  There are not enough camps and bases and old prisons to hold them all right now.  There are not enough medical personnel to evaluate them for illness and disease and not enough food and beds.  Obama is asking for billions to remedy this, but regressives say it's too much money and are refusing to pass his request.  (Perry, along with El Rushbo have shouted about a looming health crisis because these children haven't been vaccinated against things like measles and chicken pox.  Ironically, because of free health care, the children from Guatemala are more likely to be vaccinated than children in Texas)

     Perhaps the most disturbing image among all the news footage, more disturbing than shoeless, hungry, emaciated children begging for help while some of their companions lie dead on the desert floor, is the picture of crowds of angry white Americans attacking buses carrying the children, screaming at them and refusing to allow them to be sheltered in their communities.  (this is happening all over the nation from California to Michigan)  What is it they are so angry about?  What threat do these children represent?  Who have they offended by risking their lives to escape violence, abuse and poverty?

     All of these children need to be kept safe, warm, fed and clothed.  They then need to be evaluated to see if they have family in this country and why they fled and what dangers they would face if repatriated back to their homes.  It is not going to be quick or clean but it is the right moral choice to make in a "Christian" nation.

     The "invasion" of these children shows the real moral fault lines in this nation and again they fall along racial and economic concerns.  These are the same racial and economic concerns which created the No Nothing Party, the Klan, the Chinese Exclusion Acts, Japanese internment camps and the signs saying" no Irish need apply".  Lady Liberty carries a torch to light the way for those children.  Who among you wants to snuff that out?


When George Bush ran for the presidency in 1999, he promised to cut taxes resulting in "...a tax cut to sustain our nation's prosperity and reflect our nation's decency."  He went on to promise, "...a higher standard of living for all Americans."  Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston says that those tax cuts actually stole $48,000 from every American taxpayer, a total of $6.6 Trillion (yes with a "T") over 12 years.

     Where is the prosperity we are all supposed to be enjoying?  Unemployment and under employment are continuing drags on the economy which still cant shake off the last depression.  (except for the 1% who are richer today than before the depression of 2008 along with the hedge funds and Wall Street)  Students graduate now with debt levels the equivalent of a first mortgage resulting in their inability, as they go into the job market and marry and start families (maybe), to be able to purchase a first home. This undercuts one of the basic foundations of a healthy economy.  (much of this debt is the result of lost revenue on the federal and state level due to tax cuts and much of this debt is taken on by the children of the middle class for whom tax cuts were supposed to be a godsend)  The job market is dismal for most middle class Americans who watch their productivity increase but their wages do not.

     Johnston analyzed long term personal incomes as reported by American taxpayers from 2000-2012.  " 10 of those 12 years, when the Bush tax cuts were in effect, the average income was lower than in 2000.  The total net loss for the taxpayers over those 12 years was $48,000.” says Johnston.  He goes on to ask, "...after 12 years of tax cut mania real hourly wages are now 6% lower than they were in 1972-1973.  Hourly workers today make less than their counterparts 40 years ago.  Where did it all go?"

     According to Johnston, hold on to your seats, over 33% of that money went to just 16,000 households and about 95 cents of every dollar went to the top 1% while the 99% lost ground.

     When Al Gore debated George Bush, he accused him of "funny math" and even used the line Bush's father used against Ronald Reagan, accusing Bush of using "voodoo economics".  Bush laughed him off.  He repeated the mantra of trickle down theory that when the rich get to keep more of their money, all boats are raised.  (isn't it funny as we debate raising the minimum wage, the same argument doesn't work for regular folk.  Why isn't it good for America for the middle class and poor to keep more money in their pockets?)   Twelve years later it is clear by Johnston's analysis that tax cuts have become an albatross around the neck of most Americans and the only boats being raised are luxury yachts belonging to the 1%.

     Tax cut mania trickled down from the feds to the states as well.  The result is a loss in revenue necessitating cuts in most infrastructure projects resulting in a continuing degrading of roads, bridges and utility grids across the land.  The prime example of this is the state of Kansas, where Republican governor Sam Brownback dramatically cut personal taxes promising on explosion in economic activity and new job growth.  Brownback is now fighting for his political life as Kansas has had to take a butcher knife to the state school's budget and is running up debt as it borrows to cover the revenue shortfalls.  The state is unable to fund road projects or repair bridges and faces an increasing deficit.

     Americas electrical grid is being compared these days to that of a third world country.  The loss of a few key pieces could shut down most, if not all, of the nation's ability to deliver electricity.  (in Gaza electricity is only on four hours a day...Egypt maybe 8 hours...Iraq about 12 hours maybe)  Civil engineers say thousands of bridges are in need of repair and the nation's interstate highway system is falling apart.  (Congress can't even come up with the revenue for that)  When asked about all of this, Washington, and regressives in particular, throw up their hands and bemoan the lack of money and site the rising deficit as the reason their hands are tied.  (a deficit of their making to a great extent)

     (In the master plan for education in California, the University of California system is supposed to be free to residents of the state.  Today, as tuition increases year over year, that goal is lost due to cuts in state funds due to lack of revenue)

     $6.6 Trillion is missing from the incomes of average, gum-chewing Americans while the rich continue to get richer.  (in just the last few days, the Wall Street Journal is reporting how one hedge fund, in collusion with banks, avoided paying over $6 billion in fund)  In his new book, Thomas Picketty states the wealth of the 1% is approaching levels similar to the wealth enjoyed by French nobility just prior to the revolution.  The gap between the rich and everyone else is the worst in this country since the Gilded Age at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

     Regressives are outraged and offended any time class is discussed or the gap between the rich and everyone else.  To bring this up is to be a Marxist, Communist, Pinko symp and it's a direct assault on capitalism.  Pope Francis, as well as his predecessor Pope John Paul II, both proclaimed free market capitalism to be immoral.  The Pope says it puts too much power into the hands of the wealthy and puts everyone else at their mercy.  Warren Buffet says there is a class war going on and his class is winning.  Johnston's research, along with PInketty, shows Buffet is right.  When you cut taxes for the 1%...when you tax investment income and carried interest differently than you do income generated by labor...when you create a code where a hedge fund can avoid $6 billion in taxes...when corporations are avoiding billions more in taxes by buying companies in other countries...when Mitt Romney can make over $50 million in one year but pay a tax rate of around 18% while middle class Americans are paying in the mid twenties range...when Wall Street creates more and more millionaires while Main Street is falling apart and behind, something is very wrong.  The fact is this is not a mystery.  We don't have to go looking for Professor Plum in the library with a candlestick.  It's clear what has happened and the only question is when will the 99% force some balancing of the scales.

Friday, July 4, 2014


On this Fourth of July, I sit behind fences covered in razor wire, watched over by guards whose job is to seriously curtail my freedom.  Tonight we may be able to glimpse fireworks from the local town, but what are we to think upon when they light up the night sky?  No one here is "free" in any sense of the word, but we brought this on ourselves.  We made choices which put us here.  What is your excuse?

     I once heard a speech in which a prominent Silicon Valley icon expressed his view that all freedom is economic.  It is only when a nation's economy is healthy and the widest swath of its population benefit from this, are the people really free.  If you are afraid to leave a job you hate...if you can't leave a city of state because you can't sell your house or don't have a job or have lost your house or can't afford to buy or rent one anywhere else...if your health is held captive by plans you only receive through your employer or because you are dirt poor...if jobs are so scarce or offer such low wages you can't afford to live where you are nor seek to relocate...if workers allow themselves to be pitted against one another in an economic race to the bottom by abandoning the one power they have-to bargain collectively-then how free is anyone in this land on this day?

     This nation was founded on a principle of representative government...a republic.  Does anyone feel today's government, whether in Washington, Sacramento or locally, represents us or our wishes?  Americans in poll after poll say they want more jobs...they want a more robust economy...they want educational opportunities and a chance their children will be able to achieve more than their parents...they want a foreign policy which is honest and which sees solutions outside of the brute use of military force...ironically President Obama is being constantly dinged in popularity because he seems to be listening on foreign policy)...yet, the grease which coats the wheels of government is not popular opinion or popular elections, but rather the billions of dollars ponied up by those for whom the word populist is an anathema.

     Would a truly free people allow one half of one percent of the population to keep to themselves 80% of the wealth produced in this country?  Wouldn't a truly free people storm the halls of Congress demanding change...demanding the end of special tax breaks...demanding that investment income be taxed at the same rate as income generated by labor...demanding, as they did at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the capitalists share more of their profits with those who produce them?

     Would you like something to smile about...a note of optimism...a lesson from history on this Independence Day?  Would you like some hope?  At the beginning of the 20th century, the so-called Gilded Age, the gap between the rich and poor was as dramatic as it is today, perhaps worse.  Congress was bought and paid for by the Morgan's, Rockefellers, Carnegies, Stanford's, Hopkins, Crocker's and Huntington's who also owned most of the media.  Yet, people rose up...they elected Progressive politicians...they passed laws making it easier to form unions, outlaw child labor, create a 40 hour work week even the beginning of an environmental movement and the creation of national parks and nature sanctuaries.  Monopolies were broken and worker's pay began to rise.  The people demanded and got government to mandate cleaner food and drugs and safer places to work.  Safety nets were created to keep people from falling so far into poverty it could kill them.  All of this was done by Americans, populists who demanded change and received it from the Roosevelt's, Taft's, Lafollette's and others.  It can be done.
     I am not free today.  However, I'm not sure how free I was before I became a guest of the federal government.  How free are you?  How much do you feel in control of your life or the lives of your children and neighbors?  Are you free to express any opinion you wish?  Are you free to change jobs, or move to a better city?  How free are you to affect the direction of this nation?  Are you free from fear and anxiety?  Is this a nation where everyone has a shot or has it become a collection of oligarchs where only the privileged few get to participate freely in all the benefits this nation has to offer?  Am I significantly less free than you on this 4th of July behind my fences and razor wire?

  It would be nice if on this day if we engaged in a few moments of reflection, in between the beer, burgers, dogs and fireworks, on the promise this experiment represented on July 4, 1776.  We appear to be at a similar crossroads as were the founding fathers.  Will we continue to be oppressed by a far off government which doesn't represent us, or will we again declare our independence and throw off the economic and political chains shackling us at the direction of those who want to preserve an oligarchy very similar to the one in place in London 238 years ago?

     I hope you have a glorious holiday and hope even more, after the last sparkler and piccolo Pete is fired, you will step up and demand this nation change for the better from sea to shining sea.