Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

Celebrating the Much Despised Labor Day

5 Sep

Labor DaySince the Reagan era, we seem to have surrendered to what I would term an irrational, inexorable disdain for the laborer. Labor Day seems to have become a hollow holiday for some without a sense of history. Let us remember why it is important to celebrate and elevate the laborer. This is a time for us to reflect and look at how we value human beings; how we look at and address income disparities; how we address and look at people who are over-employed!

Yes, over-employed, those who have to work more than one job and still remain in poverty, while CEOs and those who enjoy being in the top echelon of corporations and organizations earn exponentially more than those who actually allow those organizations to sustain themselves. According to the Economic Policy Institute and Fortune, many top executives make over 300 times that of their employees, many of whom live at or below the poverty line. Yes, CEOs earn 20 times more than they did 20 years ago and 30 times more than they did 30 years ago. In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, “In between 1978 and 2014, inflation adjusted CEO pay increased by 1000%,” while the typical worker has only seen a possible 11% increase in that same time frame. That 11% means workers are now either earning the same as they earned in 1978 or even less, allowing executives to earn so much money that it is next to impossible to chart.

We saw the architecture of this with Ronald Reagan, who did his best to bust unions. You remember the union, the reason why we have a little something called a “weekend,” and an 8 hour workday, and protections against the exploitation of children workers. Unions: the reason  we hope to never witness another tragedy like the Triangle Shirtwaist Company.

Just a little history about Labor Day. Labor Day was started in 1882 by labor unions, but it would be many more years before it would be recognized as a Federal Holiday. Oregon was the first state to recognize and honor Labor Day in 1887.  Finally in 1894, under the Cleveland administration, it became a national holiday on the first Monday in September.  Congress passed it unanimously, a very rare event indeed. Today we have an opportunity to reflect on why we need to celebrate the laborer and to look at the maldistribution of wealth in the United States. It’s particularly important to note how Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan show nothing but contempt, disdain, and even disgust for the laborer.

Many of us have been working in movements to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. This would be just a very small move forward and still does not address a living wage. Sadly, the common theme from Trump and Ryan and their ilk — remember, they aren’t as different as they’d like you to believe —  has been nothing less than hostile. They all seem to subscribe to the false notion of a meritocracy. Our current Republican controlled House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted against the equal pay act — the same people who want to throw out the Affordable Care Act and witness millions suddenly going without health care. All the while ALL of those in our congress have Cadillac insurance packages and earn a minimum of $174,000. Yes, you read that number correctly. Please watch this very short video of the maldistribution of wealth in the United States.

Labor Day isn’t just an excuse for a long weekend or a chance to grill an extra burger before autumn sets in. It’s a chance to reflect on the work that is done at all levels of our society and the value of all that labor. It’s a chance to celebrate the collaboration that makes work better and working conditions safer. In the words of the great Joe Hill (as sung by Billy Bragg)

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child

There is power in a Union.

Happy Labor Day to all who have to work today and that have no pension, no health benefits, and are at the poverty line. We must stand in solidarity!

Mourning James Brady

5 Aug

James BradyJames S. Brady passed away yesterday. I am saddened by this loss and offer my deepest condolences to the family. I remember very clearly the day Ronald Reagan was shot by John W. Hinckley Jr. and watching all the commotion on the television.  We would learn later that it was James Brady, the White House press secretary who was shot in the head. While suffering memory loss, some paralysis that required a wheelchair,  and language impairment, Brady eventually prevailed and was transformed by the tragic incident.

Brady became a fierce gun control advocate and used his power and privilege to encourage the nation to look at requiring background checks and waiting periods for gun owners.  Fortunately, Brady’s legacy is that of working towards greater gun control and eliminating unnecessary deaths. I can only hope that his death will provide the impetus needed to work even harder at limiting access to guns and take a serious look at groups like Open Carry Texas –w hat good is coming from that? Have we learned nothing from the long and absurd history of gun violence in just the last 33 years?

James Brady was a dedicated public servant who turned his personal tragedy into an opportunity to engage the public in a much-needed conversation. His heroic efforts spurred Congress into taking simple, common-sense action. Sadly, 30 years later we see an even more partisan Congress paralyzed by the historically inaccurate Second Amendment rantings of the Tea Party and the shrill but effective lobbying of the NRA. What does it say about our nation that the shooting of one outspoken man could once lead to needed change but the slaughter of dozens of students and children now motivates us to do nothing?

Let us honor James Brady’s legacy by pausing to reflect on our national discourse around guns and look for meaningful solutions to prevent future tragedy.

 

Distribution of Wealth in the United States: A Scary Picture of Money

1 Apr

bag_of_moneyI have been rather astonished and disappointed with all of the hullabaloo being made over the record highs achieved with the Dow, as though it were an accurate instrument measuring the financial success and stability of ALL Americans. This continued subscription to “trickle down economics” is part of the dark legacy of Ronald Reagan.  This distorted view of economics does hold true…if you are standing in front of a Fun House mirror.  Regardless of my own philosophy and my own political convictions, the unbiased truth is that the recent record highs of the Dow only demonstrate the exponentially increasing wealth of the top 10% of Americans.

I admit to having my own very conflicted feelings around money and about capitalism, so I will try to contain all of this article to just facts regarding wealth in the United States.  I have to thank my friend Steve Joiner for inspiring me to write this.

First, let us divide the country into five sections of wealth: The Bottom 20%, The Second 20%, The Middle 20%, The Fourth 20%, and finally the top 20%.  92% of all Americans believe the distribution of wealth needs to be more equitable and distributed more fairly.  Sadly, this same 92% of Americans’ perception of the actual distribution of wealth is far removed from the reality.  The reality is that the bottom 40% of Americans have an infinitesimal portion of the distribution of wealth, while the top 1 % have more than the entire wealth that 9 out of 10 Americans believe the top 20% should have.

I will try to make this a bit more simple and understandable.  Let us say the entire country has 100 people total.  Of that 100 people, 60% of those people are either destitute, or struggling to make ends meet. Another 20% are doing well financially.  The final 20% can be split up as follows: 18% are doing exceedingly well and controlling a great amount of wealth, but then the top 1% control so much wealth that it cannot be pictured on a simple bar graph of wealth due to its disproportionate size.  For greater detail and so you can see the actual graphs, click here.

What can be done?  We know that 92% of Americans want this inequality to change, so where do we begin?  Here I have to thank my friend Bruce Kestelman for inspiring me to address Paul Ryan’s budget redux.  Here is where the disparities in wealth have to become political and I have to call out bad behavior.  Paul Ryan continues to offer a budget for the United States that only  benefits the top 2% of Americans.  Yes, he continues to beat the tired old drum of ending Medicare and gutting Medicaid and of course, lowering taxes on the very wealthy.  Am I the only one nonplussed here?  While claiming to be in alignment with “Catholic Values,” see what Catholics say in response to Ryan.  How on earth does Ryan’s budget honor the social contract or social justice in any way?  We can change the inequitable distribution of wealth with our votes.  We can take power away from Paul Ryan and John Boehner by not voting for them!

I realize today is April Fool’s Day, but I regret to say this is not an April Fools joke.  Well, sadly the joke is at the expense of the American people.

Buffett Rule or Reagan Rule: U.S. Senate refuses to even vote on tax fairness…

17 Apr

You mean I got one right?

Today is the day that most Americans are required to file their taxes. (Not Mitt Romney, of course, who has filed for an extension…) Thanks to President Obama and a strong push from fair-minded progressives, this requirement has sparked a lot of conversation about tax fairness and tax rates. Billionaire Warren Buffett also helped lead the charge, making a recommendation which has come to bear his name: The Buffett Rule. This would require that anyone making more that $1Million in a year would be required to pay a minimum tax rate of 30%. This proposal is wildly popular, polling at over 70% approval, including support from many of the people who would be required to pay the higher rate. Senate leader Harry Reid brought forward the Buffett Rule for a vote yesterday. It was denied cloture along mostly party lines missing the 60 votes required to move to a vote on the matter itself.

Why is the Buffett rule necessary? Sadly, the complex tax laws make it easier for people with large incomes to shelter money, engage in deductions, and take advantage of loopholes. A typical one- or two-income family making $60,000 or less per year simply doesn’t have the fiscal diversity to make the most aggressive use of the tax code. As President Obama noted this weekend, his secretary, whose income is less that 12% of the Obamas’ income for 2011, pays a higher tax rate because of the way the code works. This is wrong.

Why else is it necessary? It is, as the wonderful Elizabeth Warren reminds up, part of the social contract. Making vast sums of money requires the support (willing, intentional, or otherwise) of the whole of society. Paying that back is a reasonable request. It is also true that income inequity forces a larger tax burden on households headed by women and people of color. Of course the loudest voices in the Republican party disagree. The Ryan budget does nothing to address this inequity. Candidate Romney, who refuses to share more than one year’s worth of his tax papers with the country he wants to lead, is also a vocal opponent. Anti-tax goblin Grover Norquist, of whom many Republican legislators live in fear, is adamant in his opposition.

Ironically, as the President has pointed out, this isn’t a new plan:

I’m not the first President to call for this idea that everybody has got to do their fair share. Some years ago, one of my predecessors traveled across the country pushing for the same concept… So this President gave another speech where he said it was “crazy” — that’s a quote — that certain tax loopholes make it possible for multimillionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary. That wild-eyed, socialist, tax-hiking class warrior was Ronald Reagan.

But of course 21st Century Republicans in Congress can’t be bothered with inconvenient things like history, or facts…

Sonny and Cher and Ronald Reagan: Now Tie These Together…

23 Oct

Late last night my husband and I watched an old Sonny and Cher show — a great piece of nostalgia.  We got to see a very young and cherubic Steve Martin and a baby-faced Teri Garr.  What started as a lark turned out to be a very interesting conversation and reflection of just how far backwards we have gone as a country.

In the early 1970’s, America was on a progressive trajectory.  We witnessed the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the second wave of the Women’s Rights Movement, and Roe v. Wade.  We witnessed desegregation finally being implemented in the South. We also saw a nation angry and protesting the war in Vietnam and it was safe to be anti-war / pro-peace and still be considered patriotic.  All of these values are reflected in a witty and fun-loving way on the Sonny and Cher Show.

The particular episode we saw included a skit that both mocked and celebrated CBS’s All in the Family.  The skit was exceedingly well crafted and addressed racism, misogyny, homophobia (Steve Martin plays the gay character), and hypocrisy.  It was this particular skit that gave both my husband and me pause to reflect, “what the hell happened to this progressive trajectory our country was on at that time?”

We had no further to look than 1980 and what I will call the American Reign of Terror for 12 years: the Reagan/Bush Years.  While the GOP have canonized St. Ronnie (and today he would be considered a socialist by Republican standards), Reagan set into motion the undoing of the United States.  Reagan gave voice to religion in a qualitatively different way that set a course for the co-opting of religion to its current incarnation of a cult of unadulterated hate; by no means am I lumping together all religions, but certainly the loud and powerful christians.

Reagan can also take credit for expanding government and for his signature “Trickle Down Economics.”  We have now had over 30 years empirical data to prove how ineffective and damaging Trickle Down Economics is, unless you are part of the top 1% of Americans. Is it any surprise that we have the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, with Republicans categorically refusing to create jobs and raise taxes on the wealthiest of Americans?  Talk about obstructionist!

While watching one of my favorite skits, The Vamp, I experienced both being tickled by Cher as Nefertiti and saddened as I thought about where we are today as a nation. When I think about the Tea Party (the party of hate and blatant racism, homophobia and misogyny) and I think about the current crap (oops, I mean crop) of GOP presidential candidates, I’m horrifically shocked at the downhill slope our country has taken.

I hope the OWS movement will pave the way for thinking Americans to take back our country from being held hostage by white heterosexual christian terrorists. I hope Americans will learn from people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who refers to Rousseau’s Social Contract. I hope we, as a nation, can stop the greed and talk again about peace and civil rights for all.

And the beat goes on…

Singing A Different Tune: Republican Candidates’ Campaign Hypocrisy

1 Jul

Mine...All Mine!

What is it with Republican Presidential campaigns and the theft of intellectual property? It seems that once a GOP candidate starts running for the highest office, (s)he rises above the law and says, “Oh, I like that, I think I’ll take it!”

The latest offender is serial hypocrite and history buff Michele Bachmann. Since announcing her official candidacy (ironically after appearing in a candidates’ debate), Bachmann has taken to using Tom Petty’s song American Girl at her campaign stops. Petty, a staunch supporter of artists’ creative control rights, issued a cease-and-desist letter, which Bachmann has so far ignored. In fact, her campaign started using another song without permission, Katrina and the Waves hit Walking On Sunshine. Lead vocalist Katrina Leskanich immediately laid into Bachmann:

As the singer of ‘Walking on Sunshine’ I don’t endorse its use by Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign.  I’ve performed ‘Walking on Sunshine’ for so many years in so many different countries that it’s become the one constant in my life and the one thing I can count on to bring happiness to myself and others. The song is used in commercials and movies as a vehicle for a feel good moment or empowerment but if I disagree with the policies, opinions or platforms for its use, I’ve no choice but to try and defend the song and prevent its misuse.

Sadly, Bachmann is far from alone. Here are just a few other examples:

  • Saint Ronald, whose politics were frighteningly far to the left of this current crop of loonies, started the trend when he practiced the unwitting irony of name-checking Bruce Springsteen and referencing Born In the U.S.A. during his re-election campaign. At least Ronnie didn’t actually steal the song.
  • Mike Huckabee got into hot water with Boston’s Tom Scholz for appropriating More Than A Feeling.
  • George W. Bush borrowed at least two songs without permission. He got into trouble with Orleans leader and NY Congressman John Hall for misuse of the 70s hit Still the One. He also practiced Petty theft with the rocker’s I Won’t Back Down. Petty did not, and Bush was forced to drop the song.
  • Former half-governor Sarah Palin stole Heart’s Barracuda during her Vice-Presidential campaign disaster, prompting an angry cease-and-desist from Ann and Nancy Wilson. Ironically, this song was about the music industry mistreating women.
  • Palin’s top of ticket man, John McCain, is the champ in this category. He most famously misused two John Mellencamp songs, Pink Houses and Our Country. The very Democratic Mellencamp sued. McCain also borrowed Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger and hits by the Foo Fighters and Van Halen, as well as playing a Bon Jovi song for appearances with Palin.

Other Republicans have behaved similarly. Senate wannabe Chuck DeVore stole two Don Henley songs during his failed bid to unseat Barbara Boxer. Florida’s Charlie Crist couldn’t decide which party to run with during his failed Senate bid, but he did steal Road to Nowhere from David Byrne and was forced to air a public service announcement apology. Here’s a great overview of these and other thefts.

The great irony, of course, is that Republican candidates are so aggressively “pro-business” in their politics. They argue for tax cuts, business incentives, deregulation, and protecting the rights of businesses over workers at every turn. If the business in question happens to be music, however, they turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. Ignoring the actual messages of the songs, the political wishes of the performers, and the property rights of the writers, they lift the soundbite they want with a grotesque sense of entitlement. Clearly, Bachmann et al. send the message that they are above the law. What does that promise for how they would lead this country?

How Many Wrongs Make You Right(-wing)?

30 Jan

The Querulous Quartet Try to Trump Truth

Just saying something doesn’t make it so. Unless, apparently, you bloviate from the Right wing. Don’t get me wrong, there are idiots and fact-averse blowhards left, right, and center. It is particularly creepy, however, to see the culture of “don’t bother me with facts” that has become a replacement of logic on the Right. This culture started with the bumblings of Reagan and the insidious architecture of Gingrigh. It perpetuated through the pseudo-christian machinations of Dobson and Buchanan. Today it is exemplified by that Querulous Quartet: Beck, O’Reilly, Limbaugh, and Palin.

I had an embarrassment of riches when choosing examples:

  • First, there’s the recent Bill O’Reilly hypocrisy over the use of Nazi rhetoric (good summary here). If anyone else does it, it’s abominable. If Bill does it, he’s taken out of context. If people don’t buy that, he just repeats it REALLY LOUD. That’ll make it true.
  • Republican leaders in Congress maintain that the Affordable Care Act is Socialism while gladly accepting their own generous government-sponsored health care.
  • How about the invention of the phrase “activist judge” to describe anyone who does something the Right doesn’t like, going to such extremes as ousting judges for doing their jobs. Of course, pretending that corporations are people isn’t activist at all.
  • A great non-fact is the myth of the leftist media. The pundits cry “First Amendment” when Juan Williams is fired for violating his contract and shriek ‘BIAS” when Katie Couric actually dares to interview Sarah Palin. Meanwhile, FauxNews dominates in the ratings and corporate-owned news outlets put profits ahead of stories.
  • Of course, the good old First Amendment doesn’t matter if you want to censor an art exhibit. It’s especially handy if you can pretend that it was publicly funded (even though it wasn’t). That’s right out of the “public broadcasting is all government funded” playbook of lies.
  • It’s also fun to argue that “homophobia” isn’t a real word, unless, of course, you can take a test online that proves you aren’t a homophobe when you spread lies and vicious invective against the LGBT community for a living.

Pundits and politicians on the Right are happy to create these deceptions to reinforce their worldview. If questioned by anyone, they scream about the left trying to silence them, which would be laughable if it weren’t so tragically, transparently false.

Ask for a fact, get a talking point, never a simple response or an honest “I don’t know.” Sadly, the American public are more and more like Yahoos, snatching up the non-facts like they were the last McNugget in the box.

This is especially apparent when you look at public responses in online forums of any sort. Leftist commenters are capable of being strident and rude just like anyone else, but they tend to at least try to make a supportable point. The rightward comments come straight from the great bible of non-facts.

A great example pops up any time a forum starts dealing with gay rights issues. A simple kiss on a popular television program turns into an opportunity for a screeching double-standard about affection. A conversation about the wrongful dismissal of a gay student teacher summons up the old “why must the gays always bring up the bedroom?” canard, ignoring the fact that it’s the Right that seems strangely obsessed with sex whenever the word gay pops up. More insidiously, playing the bedroom card skirts the central fact that the agenda is control over civil rights, not real concern about propriety.

Right-wing bloggers are as prone to play the “because I said so” card as the pundits and the prowlers. Recently, the blog NW Republican took exception to our Bigot of the Week award. The thrust of the initial post was that the word “bigot” is loaded and mean-spirited. When commenters pointed out that the word was used in context and with substantiation, the reply of the blogger was quite telling:

“MY POINT WAS NOT TO DEBATE THE ISSUES IN THE VARIOUS POSTS.”

That’s right, the context and the issues aren’t relevant. All that matters is that the blogger found the certain words “loaded” even though they were used in contexts that substantiated them, linking back to the words and deeds of the people who were discussed. Ironically, he simultaneously labelled the bigot award as fascism, quite a loaded word in itself. The whole comment thread is a great case study in the Right-wing approach to argument. Point your finger, scream a label and a talking point, and ignore any facts that are presented. Those who debate you are mean-spirited fascists who use loaded language. The actual issues at hand are not relevant.

Arguing with someone who takes the non-fact, because-I-say-so approach to discourse begins to feel like Heinlein’s quip:

“Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

Bonus points to our regular readers Jan (PenguinLad) and Lex (WebWordWarrior) for offering the singing lessons in this particular sty.

As futile as arguing with the unreasoning may be, we must not lose heart. In fact, we cannot afford to do so. Although we might prefer not to, we must gaze into the darkness presented by the non-facts. We cannot stop the Right from playing the “because I said so” game, but we can counter it by making sure the facts are out there. If we give up, the narrative is theirs, and we cannot afford to let them decide what rights we’ll get to have if everyone begins to believe that the can choose their own facts.

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