To the extent my political views have shifted away from the GOP, it has more to do with changing circumstances than a change in my personal political opinions. For one, the general mindset of the GOP base has moved way right into a radicalized place with an unbending devotion to a dishonest/corrupt administration. Another big factor is based on the facts & statistics we see from the articles below, where the American Dream & prosperity at this stage in the evolution of our free-market capitalist system are increasingly elusive for much of the lower/middle class. These realities have been shifting from the realm of mere opinion into verifiable data. The GOP conveniently ignores the new realities as a way to protect outdated ideologies that made sense decades ago, since they have no cogent new ideas for addressing a growing uneven economy in our fast-changing world. A viable competitive, free market, capitalist system was never designed for the top 1% to confiscate almost all the new profits, so let’s examine the facts with an eye towards what various ideas might lead to solutions.
But even a cursory glance at how America’s income distribution has changed over the past three decades shows why it doesn’t make sense to talk about the whole top 20 percent as a cohesive group or to give short shrift to the rise of the 1 percent. According to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, the share of after-tax income going to households in the 81st to 90th percentile dropped a bit between 1980 and 2014. The share belonging to the 96th to 99th percentiles rose slightly. And the most dramatic change, by far, has been the rise of the 1 percent.
It turns out that this “new aristocracy” isn’t a coherent group at all, even if you just look at trends in wealth. Instead, it’s really three groups: one whose share of the pie is shrinking, one whose share is holding steady, and one whose share is growing. The average net worth among adults in the 95th to 99th percentile is about $1.7 million. Among the 0.1 percent, it’s about $60 million. Who, exactly, are the aristocrats again?
America as a whole creates such enormous wealth, it’s nothing but a crying shame if not outright highway robbery that workers dedicated to their jobs putting in their time every day, are not receiving a bigger share of the pie. That is, their fair share of the pie for the effort put in. We’ve practically turned into an oligarchy where powerful interests in the private & public sector enable a system which ensures wealth keeps getting directed to the top, & restricts the opportunities & potential of the working class. Labor has been greatly & unfairly devalued compared to capital. Investors are making a killing relative to the laborers doing the work. Something’s got to give. If workers keep working hard but can hardly make ends meet, & if growing income inequality & even our democratic process persist, expect a working class revolt soon, both at the ballot box & nationwide protest movement. Something is indeed out of proportion within the system, which has huge ramifications for financial distress & quality of life issues affecting millions of American families: 10-reasons-americas-
The GOP’s plan raises all sorts of bigger questions, but an alternative plan by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) asks a pretty straightforward one: Is the problem that people aren’t working enough? Or is it that they don’t receive a high enough wage or generous enough benefits from their employer? Brown thinks the latter is the real problem, and wants to charge corporations a “freeloader” fee if their employees depend on government aid like food stamps. His proposal implies that a big overarching problem in America isn’t that poor people aren’t working hard enough; it’s that their wages aren’t high enough, their jobs and hours can be unpredictable, and their employers don’t provide robust enough benefits for them to live without support.
Brown, who is up for reelection in 2018, actually put forward his plan to tax companies whose workers depend on government programs last fall. He paired it with a plan to offer tax credits to companies that provide more generous benefits. It got a Senate floor vote while the GOP’s tax bill was under consideration and received support from every Senate Democrat. Raising wages and increasing worker benefits are the point of his proposal. But his plan is as much a political statement as a policy proposal, arguing that the onus should be on corporations to do better by workers, rather than on workers to do more to earn their benefits. Brown’s proposal exists in a world of increasing income inequality, where the rich are accumulating more and more wealth while incomes of middle- and lower-income Americans fall behind.
The tax bill Republicans passed last year, which was centered on a massive corporate tax cut, is expected to only deepen that disparity. Yet at the same time, the Republican solution for the social welfare programs on which so many Americans depend is to impose work requirements, in the hopes that conditioning a person’s benefits on working or looking for work will result in them being paid more wages and lifting them to a better financial state where they don’t need federal assistance. But the data we have on low-income workers belies that argument. We don’t have a pandemic of lazy welfare recipients in this country, by and large, but we do seem to have an economy that doesn’t provide many people with enough financial support for basic human needs. The problem is an economy that has rewarded corporations, and by extension the rich people who disproportionately invest in them, more than workers. That is the wrong Brown is trying to right. Whether this proposal is the answer is up for debate. But he is asking the right question.
I don’t dig up all these news stories to depress us, but rather they are ongoing issues which the people should insist our DC leadership address, while DC leadership should stop sweeping these problems under the rug. In other interesting articles, these trends can’t be good over-75-in-debt-in-good-c
President Trump has dispatched tweet after tweet after tweet savaging the representatives of a free press in the United States. He has publicly riffed about the possibility of retaliating against critical outlets and revoking the credentials of journalists. Through it all, certain voices have preached calm: The media attacks are just “theater,” they’re devices to trigger more coverage, they drive a mutually beneficial arrangement. Those takes have relied on a wealth of evidence. Trump is a one-man bluster-fest, after all. There have been times when he’s publicly threatened measures — like pulling broadcast licenses and “opening up” libel laws — that he doesn’t even have the authority to promulgate. A new phase in the understanding of Trump vs. the media, however, is now opening up. According The Post’s Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey, Trump himself has “personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages.” What does that have to do with the media? Amazon’s founder and chief executive is Jeffrey P. Bezos, who is also the owner of The Post — a juxtaposition that has angered Trump for years.
Donald Trump’s battle with Amazon is not just a public one playing out on Twitter — he’s also taken out his anger on the e-commerce giant in private, specifically when it comes to the post office. Behind closed doors, he has reportedly pushed US Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double what the US Postal Service charges Amazon and other companies to ship packages, and he’s met with White House advisers to ask about Amazon’s shipping practices and taxes. On Friday, Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey at the Washington Post reported that Trump has pressed Brennan to up Amazon’s shipping costs, despite her multiple explanations that she can’t just do that — Amazon and the post office have a contractual agreement — and that the post office isn’t being hurt by Amazon, as the president suggests. Trump has gone as far as to sign an executive order mandating a review of the Postal Service. That Trump has a bone to pick with Amazon and its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, who is also the owner of the Washington Post, is no secret. He has publicly criticized the company on multiple occasions.
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Amazon and some of its business practices. It is an enormous company with a broad reach into a wide range of sectors — retail, e-books, content, groceries, cloud services, etc. — and its shareholders have for years given it a long leash to lose money in an effort to establish market dominance and, in turn, make life harder for competitors. The median salary it pays to employees is $28,446, decidedly lower than other tech companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Google because of its use of fulfillment centers that rely on low-wage workers, and it’s upped lobbying efforts significantly in recent years. “Amazon’s dominance poses a question of how comfortable we are with more and more of our commerce going through a single company,” Lina Khan, director of legal policy with think tank the Open Markets Institute and author of a groundbreaking paper on Amazon’s potential antitrust issues. “If Jeff Bezos wants to tax all of our economy, are we okay with that?” But Amazon is also a beloved company. Amazon just topped Harris Poll’s survey of top US brands for the third straight year. In the retail arena, it helps keep prices low, and its Amazon Prime now has more than 100 million members worldwide. The Post’s Friday story isn’t the first time reports of emerged of Trump’s attempts to meddle with Amazon behind closed doors. Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair reported in April that the president was discussing ways to escalate his Twitter attacks on Amazon. Whatever you think about Amazon, you should be worried about Trump’s campaign against it. A president attempting to use the power of his office to retaliate against a perceived political enemy is disturbing, although it’s unclear what, if anything, will come of his efforts.
Trump promised to rein in drug prices. It was his only sensible campaign promise. But the plan he announced last Friday does little but add another battering ram to his ongoing economic war against America’s allies. He calls it “American patients first,” and takes aim at what he calls “foreign freeloading.” The plan will pressure foreign countries to relax their drug price controls. America’s trading partners “need to pay more because they’re using socialist price controls, market access controls, to get unfair pricing,” said Alex Azar, Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, who, perhaps not incidentally, was a former top executive at the drug maker Eli Lilly and Company. By this tortured logic, if other nations allow drug companies to charge whatever they want, U.S. drug companies will then lower prices in the United States. This is nonsensical. It would just mean more profits for U.S. drug companies. (Revealingly, the stock prices of U.S. pharmaceutical companies rose after Trump announced his plan.) While it’s true that Americans spend far more on medications per person than citizens do in any other rich country—even though Americans are no healthier—that’s not because other nations freeload on American drug companies’ research.
Big Pharma in America spends more on advertising and marketing than it does on research—often tens of millions to promote a single drug. The U.S. government supplies much of the research Big Pharma relies on through the National Institutes of Health. This is a form of corporate welfare that no other industry receives. American drug companies also spend hundreds of millions lobbying the government. Last year alone, their lobbying tab came to $171.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s more than oil and gas, insurance, or any other American industry. It’s more than the formidable lobbying expenditures of America’s military contractors. Big Pharma spends tens of millions more on campaign expenditures. They spend so much on politics in order to avoid price controls, as exist in most other nations, and other government attempts to constrain their formidable profits. For example, in 2003, Big Pharma got a U.S. law prohibiting the government from using its considerable bargaining clout under Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate lower drug prices. Other nations with big healthcare plans routinely negotiate lower drug prices. During his campaign Trump promised to reverse this law. But the plan he revealed Friday doesn’t touch it. Trump’s plan seeks only to make it easier for private health insurers to negotiate better deals for Medicare beneficiaries.
President Trump‘s health chief is struggling to show that the administration is serious about taking on drug companies after its proposals for lowering prices last week left big companies relieved and even spurred an uptick in their stock prices. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar insists that the companies are misreading the administration’s plan and that it will bring down drug prices. Yet drug stocks rose after Trump’s plan did not include most of the immediate actions that the industry had feared. The proposal left out two big ideas that Trump previously supported when he was running for president: Medicare directly negotiating drug prices and allowing the importation of drugs from abroad. Azar is trying to show that Trump is not backing off from his campaign promises to take on the drug industry, even though the plan no longer includes those big ideas, which Azar says would not work anyway. Asked about critics who say the plan lets drug companies off the hook, Azar said on CNN: “They can’t read and they can’t listen and they’re not understanding.” But many analysts view the plan as underwhelming. “There was little in the President’s speech or in the blueprint that took direct aim at industry, despite the president’s tough talk against pharmaceutical company pricing practices,” Rachel Sachs, a drug pricing policy expert at Washington University in St. Louis, wrote in Health Affairs.
A new analysis by The Washington Post found that more people have been killed at schools so far in 2018 than have been killed while serving in the U.S. military, based on data from Defense Department news releases. After the shooting deaths of 10 people at a Texas high school on Friday, the newspaper’s database has recorded 29 deaths in 16 different incidents in the U.S. as of Friday. Since the publication of the Post’s article, the death toll has risen to 10 people. During the same time period, according to Defense Department data, only 13 service member fatalities were recorded in seven incidents. Seven of those fatalities occurred during a helicopter crash in Iraq this March. Three military casualties were not related to combat.
More info showing our desperately broken gun culture are in us-gun-violence-statistics-map
More Scary Trends
“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party,” Ronald Reagan famously quipped. “The Democratic Party left me.” At a moment when our main political parties are looking unrecognizable, large numbers of Americans are feeling politically homeless. Even the Gipper would likely be thrown out of today’s Republican Party as an apostate. Reagan was, after all, the president who called for an amnesty for illegal immigrants, believed in American leadership underpinned by a human-rights agenda, personally denounced bigotry, and launched the process that led to the formation of the World Trade Organization. Today’s Republicans would in all likelihood call him out as a RINO—Republican in Name Only—and shame him on social media.
We have arrived at a point where the old political and policy divisions between left and right are less important than the divide between the liberal (in the term’s original Enlightenment sense) and the illiberal. The liberal believes in individual rights and tolerance, international engagement and the rule of law while the illiberal believes in nativism, populism, protectionism and isolationism. For the moment, momentum seems to be with forces arrayed with the illiberals, and against liberty. This must be taken as an alarm bell, a clarion call to action.
We are at a frightening moment. A Washington Post survey just prior to the 2016 election found that 46 percent of Americans reported that they have lost faith in democracy—or never had it to begin with. A Harvard study found one in six are ready for a military dictatorship, up from one in sixteen twenty years ago. Thirty-one percent of Americans (including 51 percent of Republicans) believe the press is “an enemy of the people.” One in four Americans believe that the government should be able to prevent publication of information that officials deem biased or inaccurate.
It’s worse among young people, a dangerous harbinger. Only thirty percent of millennials think it is essential to live in a democracy, compared to almost seventy-five percent of those born before World War II. Millennials also show a low tolerance for free and open debate: according to a Pew Research Poll in 2015, forty percent (versus twenty-seveneight percent of Gen-Xers) think the government should be able to ban potentially offensive speech. The news from abroad is just as bad. For 12 straight years, Freedom House has judged the world less free than the year prior. Authoritarian regimes are not only ascendant throughout the world—they are actively supported by many who value efficiency over liberty or whose cynicism fuels a pretense that no fundamental difference exists between free and unfree societies.
Our group seeks to rally those who demand a civil, effective government, where moderates of the left and right can come together to solve problems and respond to the needs of their citizens. Our organization embraces people of good will on all sides of the political spectrum who value the liberal democratic order. Over 120 prominent thinkers and leaders have signed the manifesto, including former heads of state, Nobel laureates, writers, business leaders, diplomats, academics, artists, and a certain chess player, our co-founder and Chairman Garry Kasparov. We aim to bring together the centrist majority to fix our government and repair our political dialogue by proving once more what history has shown again and again: that the best system for human governance is liberal democracy.
“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely,” cautioned Franklin Roosevelt. “The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” Education is at the heart of our project. Proponents of the democratic idea must do better articulating the importance and necessity of this idea for contemporary audiences. We must demonstrate that the principles animating it are alive, powerful, and critical to preserving and bettering the lives of all citizens. We aim to take up that challenge by convening meetings, engaging on campus, publishing books and articles, providing a platform for moderate voices and leaders, and generally explaining and defending the principles we all believe in.
“Democracy never lasts long,” John Adams warned two centuries ago. “It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” Alarming words at a moment when some Americans themselves are leading the call to dismantle the institutions that have preserved our Republic. The Founding Fathers created a unique and uniquely effective system, codified in the Constitution, to address the problems representative democracies face. It is hard to overstate the value of this system and of its international corollary: the American-led post-war liberal democratic order of international institutions and treaties, the rule of law, and the respect for human rights as a universal good. We have weathered the tragedy of slavery, a Civil War, two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Cold War—and remained strong. Despite the headlines and crises, never have so many in the world enjoyed such prosperity and peace. Ronald Reagan may have had John Adams in mind when he declared that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Let us ensure we are not that generation.
The idea for our song today came directly from this link While-My-Qatar-Gently-Weeps-no
They bought and sold you.
You were perverted too
Still my guitar gently weeps.
(Click on image for full video)