Tag Archives: economic inequality

Why Trickle-Down Economics Doesn’t Work: The Rich Don’t Share–It Makes Them Feel Poor!

We, as a country, are in collective denial. As Phil Alston states so well in a recent interview with Amy Goodman, we have the money to end poverty, but we simply choose not to, donating money to the rich instead (via tax breaks, tax refunds, and other forms of government assistance.)

Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? Uh no. It actually makes no logical sense at all.

But I would take Alston’s point even further to say this: we’re not only refusing to help the poor but we’re also choosing to persecute the poor as well.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a war on the poor.

A war on the poor! The United States is always at war with something, and it’s usually something defenseless, something or someone we can easily defeat because of their lesser resources.

Here in the USA, we don’t know ourselves. That’s a part of our denial: 36th in water quality in the world, a high infant mortality rate, shorter lifespans than in many other countries, etc…

Yet the brainwashing continues. Schools continue to teach children that they’re lucky to live in the USA, the land of opportunity with freedom of speech, freedom to be yourself, unless, of course, you say something that someone with a lot more money and power than you doesn’t like…

That was true in Hitler’s day, and it is still true today. We’re all free, theoretically. People everywhere in the world are free to say whatever they want (as long as they are physically able to speak.) Problem is, some other people also have the freedom to lock you up in prison for speaking. Yes, you have the right to speak, but if someone else has the right to lock you up in jail for the rest of your life for speaking, you probably don’t feel free to speak, even though, technically, you are.

You see, we all can speak out against social injustice, but some of us worry about losing our jobs, about alienating people who have power over us, or worse, about being imprisoned. So we remain silent.

Here’s my speech:

There’s a type of prison that is rarely discussed in the US these days because the PTB (powers that be) would rather we not notice them. I’m speaking, of course, of the prison of poverty. You may not be in what we commonly refer to as a jail, but not having the freedom to do the things you love and live the life you choose because you don’t have the money to do so, is a lot like being imprisoned. Working at a demoralizing job in an environment that attacks your self esteem and that doesn’t pay a decent living wage, you can become so consumed with stress, always trying to keep up with the cost of living–paying bills late, paying fees charged on top of those bills because you paid late, paying the rent, the utilities, the high cost of healthy food, insurance costs, transportation costs, health care costs, etc. It all adds up for those of us who struggle to make ends meet.

Eventually, many of us just give up and accept that our lives will always be miserable no matter what we try to do to change them. That is the moment when some people succumb to addictions or abusive behavior toward themselves or their families. Some people have just given up on themselves and on the human race in general. ‘What’s the point?’ they ask.

If your voice isn’t listened to, then why speak out?

If hard work doesn’t pay off, then why work hard?

If you’re good at what you do and no one cares, then why be good at what you do?

If you’re a nice person but keep struggling while watching the selfish and the cruel succeed, then why be a nice person? Maybe greed really is good?

Do you see my point?

The worry and fear that goes along with financial struggles limits us, prevents us from fully developing as human beings. When we’re struggling so much that there’s no time to think, it’s easy to become self-centered. We become accustomed to worrying about how to pay for things.

Sometimes we forget about those measley hopes and dreams. We forget how to live life, how to find joy, how to relax and listen for our favorite song or wait for a film we want to see to be released. We forget these little luxuries because we just don’t have the money to pay for them and probably never will again. Sometimes we just have to let these things go and… just… survive. Let go of all that makes you human and just learn to survive, like a stray cat howling in the alley.

Survival. Not much of a life, is it?

Yet human suffering caused by poverty could end in an instant here in the United States where there is plenty of exorbitant wealth that could easily be spread around.

What are you saying? Are you a communist? Look, we already talked about that in my previous blog, didn’t we?

Here’s an excerpt of what Phil Alston had to say about poverty in the US:

“Well, the United States is, of course, one of the richest countries in the world. But all of the statistics put it almost at the bottom. Doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s child mortality rates, whether it’s the longevity of adults [that’s how long we’re expected to live, in case you don’t know,] whether it’s the degree of adequacy of health care, the United States is very close to the bottom on all of these.

What’s really surprising is that when I go to other countries, the big debate is that ‘We don’t have the money. We can’t afford to provide basic services to these people.’

And yet in the United States, they’ve got a trillion or a trillion and a half to give to the very rich, but they also don’t have any of the money to provide a basic lifestyle that is humane for 40 million Americans…

…What’s shocking is that in a country like India today there’s a huge government campaign to try to get sewerage to all people, make it available. In Alabama and West Virginia where I went, I asked state officials, ‘So what’s the coverage of the official sewerage system?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Really. So what plans do you have then for extending the coverage, albeit slowly?’ ‘Uh… None.’ So do you think people can live a decent life if they don’t have access to sewerage? If the sewage is pouring out into the front garden, which is what I saw in a lot of these places?’

‘That’s their problem. If they need it, they can buy it for themselves.

In Alabama where the soil is very tough, it can cost up to $30,000 to put in your own septic system.”

Your thoughts on the United States after this two weeks [of traveling through impoverished areas in the US]?

“Well, the United States is unique. First of all, it doesn’t recognize what we call as social rights on the international level—the right to health care, the right to housing, the right to food. The United States is unique in that, saying, ‘These are not rights.’ Second, the issue with the elimination of poverty always is around resources. We don’t have the money. The United States, again, uniquely has the money. It could eliminate poverty over night, if it wanted to. What we’re seeing now is the classic, it’s a political choice. Where do you want to put your money? Into the very rich or into creating a decent society which will actually be economically more productive than just giving the money to those who already have a lot…”

__Philip Alston, NYU Law Professor, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, from an interview with Amy Goodman on ‘Democracy Now’ 12/19/2017

Related links:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-wealth-reduces-compassion/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201603/beware-americas-shocking-loss-empathy

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-wealth-reduces-compassion/

 

 

 

 

 

The Christian Bible–A Communist Manifesto? Socialist Propaganda? Where is the Gestapo of Righteousness When You Need ’em?

So… the Christian Bible. Do you believe what it says is true? Are you a communist? A socialist? A rebel? A reader of this blog? Wow! That’s impressive!

I’m always amazed by the many people who refer to themselves, and rather sanctimoniously indeed, as ‘Christians’ while they continue to advocate ideas and actions that defy what the Christian bible actually teaches.

I’m no biblical scholar, nor am I the most devout. In fact, I’m rather agnostic these days–unsure about everything. Is there a God? Are humans basically good? Or evil? Are Americans more selfish than the rest of the planet, or are we just playing out the dark side of human drama–human nature at its worst. We’re one of the richest countries in the world but that doesn’t motivate us to make the world better. Our wealth as a nation has just made us greedier, more selfish. So is it better for the spirit to just remain poor? Can you be a good person and be rich? Possibly, the love of money is the root of all evil? Well, that’s what the Christian bible says anyhow…

Whew! That’s too heavy, even for me right now. (It is the holiday season, after all…)

Ehem.

Yet I remain surprised (heck, I’m flabbergasted!) when I meet so-called Christians who support ideas like these:

“Money is great! Ya’ gotta love money, or you’ll be poor! Selfishness is good! Don’t share/Don’t care!  And power over other people too–that’s great! We need to control others. God wants us to be rich! Greed is good! We should want more, more and more! The homeless choose to be homeless, so we shouldn’t help them. We shouldn’t provide safety nets to help the poor because the poor are lazy, don’t want to work, are making bad choices, etc. ”    __the propaganda machine, a.k.a., various mainstream media sources in the usA… (sic)

(And then I meet people who are not Christians, sometimes are atheists, and they can be the kindest most loving people without a big, strong hyper-masculinized god to bully them into being nice ’cause otherwise they’ll go to hell! How do they do it?)

Oh yes, there’s lots more propaganda I could discuss here, but just for the sake of saving time and space, let’s talk about the poor, the homeless, those who are suffering economically. Should we help them? Should we budget cut programs to help the poor while continuing to give to the rich? ‘Cause ya’ know, the rich are so nice. They want to make money so that they can help us. They don’t make money to enrich themselves and their families. They don’t have selfish motives. They make money so that they can give some back to the rest of us, right?

Yeah, right. That’s why they keep trying to get out of paying taxes ’cause they just love giving back to the society that provided them with the resources they needed to get rich in the first place.

Hmm…

But goshly gosh, it’s Christmas/Kwanzaa/Chanukah/the holiday season/an Atheist’sNightmare, so shouldn’t we all come together as a people and share? At least for now? Share the wealth among each other?

Got plenty of money to go to college? Well, then why not  give someone else a scholarship so that he/she can go?

Got plenty of money and then some, for food? Well, why  not go out and give food to those who need it?

Got plenty of energy and physical strength to do work? Well, why not find an elderly or disabled person who can’t and needs help then mow their lawn, trim their hedges, shovel their snow, cook them a meal, etc.

Why not? Why not help someone else? It’s a great way to meet new people. Think of the new friends you could meet. Think of the many ways that person might end up helping you, might become a shoulder you can one day cry upon when there’s a death in your family, or a person you could go to for advice when you’re facing a problem you can’t solve. We never know how we might help each other (and sometimes in small ways that don’t involve money.) Yes, it may take up a little of our time, but may also enrich us on a spiritual level and make our lives worth living. That is both priceless and timeless.

What are you saying? Are you promoting communism? Socialism? Goshly gosh, don’t you like capitalism?

Nope, I’m talking about kindness, fairness, peace and love. I’m talking about what the Bible that you claim to have read actually does teach:

–that at the end of times, the least among us will move to the top:        “…the last will be first and the first will be last…,”  _Matthew 20:16

that we should give and give willingly, be willing to give the shirt off of our backs:  “Give to anyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”  _Luke 6:30

“If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone takes your cloak, do not withhold your tunic as well.”  _Luke 6:29

“If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.” Matthew 5:40

Just be happy with basic necessities. Don’t strive for massive amounts of material wealth:

“But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to be rich, however, fall into temptation and become ensnared by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.” _1Timothy 6:8-9, New Int’l version

The Lord will provide, so don’t worry about money and material possessions: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field,  which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you–you of little faith.”  _Luke 12:28

The way we treat the least fortunate among us is the way we’re treating God himself. Can’t give to the poor? Then you are snubbing God himself!: “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” _Matthew 25:45, New Int’l version

“Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”   _Isaiah 58:7

But my own personal favorite is this one: “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” _1 Timothy 6:10, New International version

Draconian Measures Used to Penalize Student Loan Debtors

Draconian Measures Used to Penalize Student Loan Debtors

People, student loan debtors are being treated differently from other debtors. Is this fair? Why the emphasis on penalizing people for going to college? Is this an effort to prevent poor and middle class people from getting an education?

Read on…

Do you think it is okay for the government to use draconian, i.e., cruel and life-destroying, soul-defeating methods to punish student loan debtors for not being able to pay off their loans?

Aw… am I using hyperbole here?

Nope. (But gotta love that word “hyperbole.” Makes me feel so special whenever I use it…)

In 21 US states, your driver’s license can be taken away from you if your student loans have gone into default. That’s nearly half the country. And this includes states such as California (once a “liberal” state) where a car is practically a necessity for getting around and for getting a job. In fact, some employers require a driver’s license and proof of auto insurance as a prerequisite for certain jobs.

In some states, your professional license can be taken away. So… if you have a license to practice law, medicine, to cut hair, to teach, to fix the plumbing, etc., you can lose your license to work!

Does this make sense? How would debtors pay off their debts if they’ve lost their licenses to work and to drive?

If someone is having trouble paying their bills, and our primary concern was to try to get them to pay those bills (not to destroy that person’s life,) wouldn’t it make more sense to assist them with finding a better-paying job so that they’d be in a better position to pay off their debts? How does it benefit our society to ruin the lives of college graduates by penalizing them for life for simply not having the money to pay off their debt? Immigrants who come to the US usually receive assistance in finding work and housing. Why not provide that same assistance to our very own, fellow US citizens?

Why do we emphasize punishing the poor people who can’t afford to pay their debts? Why aren’t we punishing the employers who refuse to pay their employees a decent, living wage? Or the landlords who charge unreasonably high rents, thus preventing their tenants from paying their other bills on time?

Student loan debt is the ONLY debt that cannot be written off in bankruptcy. Is this fair? Why are billionaires, such as Donald Trump, allowed to declare bankruptcy for debts accrued due to foolhardy and reckless decisions while student loan debtors–who come from poor or middle class families–are not? In fact, gamblers can write off their debts via bankruptcy. Does this make sense? Do we want to reward people for being irresponsible with their money but punish people for trying to make their lives better by obtaining an education?

Student loans are a form of financial assistance. Wealthy students don’t need them because their families can afford to pay their college tuition. It’s those of us who come from poor or middle class families who apply for financial assistance to attend college and are offered student loans.

Scholarships and grants that cover the entire cost of tuition are rare these days. Most students will not be able to obtain scholarships or grants that cover all of their tuition costs and are forced to take out loans in order to go to college.

Increasingly, many jobs require a license or certificate, if not a degree. Either way, that means, going to school and taking some classes. Does it make sense to penalize people who have financial  need (otherwise they wouldn’t be applying for financial aid) by taking away their bankruptcy protections, driver’s and professional licenses, etc.? Do we really want to discourage poor people from going to college and trying to pull themselves out of poverty? Again, while at the same time, we’re encouraging gambling and financial irresponsibility by offering bankruptcy protections for gamblers, millionaires and billionaires?!

Is that really what we want to do as a society?

Seriously?

Being a college student is hard work. It requires countless hours of studying, researching, writing papers, taking exams, and having one’s work  scrutinized and graded. It can be a stressful time for students who take their studies seriously. Why is this hard work not respected? Do we want to send the message to students that their hard work will not be rewarded?  Have we become such an idiocracy that we want to discourage people from not only thinking and learning but for trying to make their selves and their lives better by working hard to achieve a dream?

Student loan debtors can have their wages garnished, their tax refunds confiscated and–get this–their social security benefits taken from them. Is this fair? Does it even make sense from a practical standpoint? Does the punishment fit the “crime?” What is the crime exactly? Trying to obtain an education?

In a few years, we will have a huge population of elderly people who will no longer be able to work yet won’t be obtaining social security benefits in their retirement, won’t have money saved in the bank, won’t have children to help them–because they never started a family due to this oppressive debt–won’t have a home to live in, because they postponed buying a home and starting a family due to this debt, and our society will have a massive crisis on its hands.

What will we do with all these disenfranchised student loan debtors whose entire lives were spent dealing with an impossible to pay off debt so that they never accrued any nest egg, savings or family unit of their own? These will be broken, damaged people who wanted to contribute but were not allowed to fully contribute to society and not allowed to achieve their dreams. People who never really lived but spent their lives struggling financially. Are we going to just kill them off like the Nazis got rid of its “undesirables”? Or are we going to attempt to pay for their health care and basic living needs (while we continue to fund war and the surveillance state?)

Whether we decide to suddenly become a compassionate nation that takes care of its elderly or we continue to be a cruel, heartless, sociopathic nation that that rewards selfishness and greed, we’re going to have a crisis once a critical mass of people grows old with this massive debt. Why are we creating this crisis right now?

Even from a practical standpoint, does it make sense to create a huge population of disenfranchised, broken, defeated people who wanted to contribute but instead will be disabled and damaged from years of impoverishment? These are people we’ll need to take care of eventually. These are people who were our best and brightest who we chose to crush with massive debt and draconian punishment of it. We can, in fact, head back in time. We can go back to the days when poor people had no chance of ever bettering themselves, when only the rich had access to decent health care and education, when cruel and unusual punishments or torture were implemented by the wealthy and privileged against the disadvantaged whenever they dared defy the social order or status quo. Wait a minute, would that involve going back in time? Or are we there right now?

What’s truly heartbreaking is that this country could change over night. In fact, instantly, we could truly be a great America again. It doesn’t matter who’s president, really. What matters is us, we the people, and what we want. As long as we stick together and stand by each other, we can make our politicians bend to our will. (Problem is, we are not sticking together. We are out to get each other–dog-eat-dog!)

But like all of our nation’s problems, the student loan debt issue is a solvable problem. In a heartbeat, we can solve this problem. We can restore bankruptcy protections for student loan debt starting NOW. Then we can start working on other solutions, such as, restoring scholarships and grants that cover tuition costs, eliminating the student loan program altogether (because poor people can’t ever guarantee they will be able to pay off debts–they’re poor dammit!,) lowering or even eliminating the cost of college tuition. Offering free educational programs, especially job-training programs, so that people really will have opportunities to learn and grow and potentially increase their income potential.

This blog first appeared on Disqus:  Click HERE to read

 

 

Meryl Streep’s Speech – An Honest, Heartfelt, Tear-Jerker or Self-Aggrandizing, Limousine-Liberal Rant?

Okay, so I’ll need to be careful of how I word this. Meryl Streep is a very talented actress indeed. She may very well be a nice person too. Who knows? I don’t know her and probably never will because I’m not wealthy. And these days, here in the USA, wealthy people stick with their own kind. Fact is, if Meryl Streep, et. al., saw me on the street, she’d shun me like the plague ’cause I’m not rich like she is. I guarantee she doesn’t frequent the same haunts that you or I do.

However, I don’t mean to offend so much as to provoke critical and rational thinking with this blog article, so I’m giving the following disclaimer: Meryl Streep = good. Donald Trump = bad. Is that simple enough for ya’?

Unfortunately, like most of today’s problems, it’s not that simple. I’m no fan of Donald Trump, mind you. But I wasn’t a fan of Obama, who didn’t create hope and change but did a wonderful job of talking about it. In fact, Obama has a nice personality. He sure looks good in front of the camera. He sure says a lot of nice things. Too bad he doesn’t do any of them…

Look,

Meryl Streep is a millionaire. It’s hard to say exactly what she earns in one year, but one site I came across said it was about $82 million:

http://en.mediamass.net/people/meryl-streep/highest-paid.html

Another site reported her earnings as “only” $45 million:

Meryl Streep Net Worth

 

People, let that sink in for a moment. For God’s sake, think about this; don’t just accept what the televised talking heads are telling you to think.

Meryl Streep is an actress. She stands in front of a camera and pretends to be another person for several hours at a time. This is what she does for a living. Does she deserve to earn $45 million per year? Does anyone, for that matter? What do you suppose she does with all that money? It simply can’t be spent by one person alone. Even if she ate out all day every day, hopped on a plane to travel around the world, bought herself a new outfit every day, bought a new car every six months, she wouldn’t spend $45 million. Well, I suppose she could buy herself another mansion or two… or three… or four…

Meryl Streep makes more–a whole lot more–than the surgeon who saved your life, that EMT who showed up and resuscitated your mom and brought her back to life, the teacher who taught your child to read. Heck, she probably earns more than a lot of CEOs and Wall Street tycoons.

Yet she stood before an audience (also wealthy, privileged and mostly white people. Do you think just anyone could get in to see the Golden Globes live?) and dared to suggest that she and other wealthy millionaires in Hollywood are being “vilified.”

In the words of a peasant in an old Monty Python movie:                            “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!”

You know, in a weird sort of way, Streep sounds a bit like billionaire Tom Perkins who compared the state of the rich in America as similar to that of the Jews in Nazi Germany. I say this is “weird” because this time it’s the liberals, not the conservatives, who are wielding around their privilege, holding it over our heads and expecting us to grovel under their greatness.

Billionaire says America treats the rich like Nazi Germany treated Jews

I mean, I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but I lived in Hollywood–lived and worked there. It is one of the most undemocratic, closed society you’ll ever find in the United States. You just can’t get “in” the entertainment industry unless you were born into it (or are willing to use the people who were.) Everyone in the industry knows this. So why pretend that Hollywood is a diverse place filled with people who are from other places? I suppose Hollywood is as diverse as Harvard University or the Queen’s castle. One needs to keep a few poor people around when one needs to issue orders…

“Snap! Snap! Get to it!” Ugh! Good help is so hard to find these days!

Yes, it would seem that Meryl Streep, as talented as she is, is that out of touch with reality and that far-removed from the average American that she thinks of herself as a part of some sort of disenfranchised minority group. “Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners…”she contends.

Okay…

Uh no, Ms. Streep. Anyone who’s ever been to Hollywood and interacted with its community knows that Hollywood is all about insiders, nepotism, people who were born with money and connections. Are you trying to convince the American people of anything different?

Really?

Seriously?

Because you know, any of us can read the credits of most TV shows and films and see who produces, directs, writes and stars in them. Rarely are they disabled people, minorities, or people who come from low-income backgrounds–the people you and your limousine-liberal Hollywood friends pretend to care so much about.

Yes, Meryl, “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence,” but then so does social injustice. It’s a good thing you are a millionaire, Meryl, because Americans listen to millionaires. Millions of people have spoken out against disrespect, violence and social injustice throughout our history, but no one  seems to listen or care until a celebrity stands up and talks about it.

And that’s where we’ve gone wrong as Americans. We talk about social injustice but we keep worshiping our favorite celebrities. We can’t hear the truth about anything unless someone rich and famous speaks it loudly from our TV set.

Meryl, there’s a lot of disrespect and violence in poor neighborhoods. Why do you think that is? Why do you suppose so many poor, minority kids join gangs and wreak havoc on their neighborhoods? Do you think it’s possibly because they know they have no future to look forward to anyway? Or because their public school education isn’t the same as the public school education the rich kids in the suburbs are getting? Or because only millionaires can afford to attend college anyway? Or maybe it’s because nepotism reigns supreme in our society, so if you don’t know the “right” people you don’t have a chance at success anyway?

Meryl, if you, as a wealthy, privileged millionaire, feel vilified, how do you think the rest of us feel?

Yes, we need journalists, real journalists with the courage and freedom to question authority and hold it accountable. But where have you been, Meryl? Where were you when Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, both who did so much to inform Americans of important information, fled the USA? Are you concerned about  Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou? Brave souls like these speak out because they care more about us than, apparently, many of our political leaders do. They’ve risked their own personal safety to inform the American people. They are the true, honest journalists we need to protect, not the mainstream media corporate protectors who won’t report the existence of their own shadow ’cause it scares them too much.

I’m attempting to include a video response made by a guy who calls himself An0maly because it really sums up quite well my response to Meryl. But just in case it doesn’t post, his web site is here > http://www.legendary.vision/environmentalism/

I’ll leave you with this interview with journalist Abby Martin, a courageous reporter who’s not afraid to speak her mind.