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The Question Still Haunts Us

Ed. note: This was my response to a letter from a friend, updated only very slightly, and was posted three months before the 2012 general election. Sadly, the question still haunts us.
 

Reading time – 3:34; Viewing time – 8:36  .  .  .

Thanks so much for your comments.  I completely and enthusiastically agree  .  .  .  You said we have bigger fish to fry and we certainly do have enormous financial issues.

We really have been living beyond our means for decades and our politicians (both R’s and D’s) have done a good job of protecting their jobs instead of doing their jobs and, in the process, they have led the public to believe that there is a free lunch.  We, the public, somehow went along with them when, to paraphrase Richard Pryor, the politicians said to us, “You gonna believe me or your lying good sense?” And we believed them. Go figure.

Notwithstanding the stupidity of all parts of that dynamic, my original comments that perhaps seemed polarized were and are intended to be focused on the broader issue. You used the word “reprehensible” and it is both apt and at the heart of my meaning. Here are a few data points, all of which raise a singular question.

The Republicans, led by Ted Cruz, held hostage the entire nation – even the entire world economy – to their fiscal demands. I understand that it was a leverage point, but the debt ceiling and a new budget are two entirely different things and the authorization to increase the debt ceiling should have been done as an independent issue. It should have been done immediately in order to declare our resolve to remain the standard for the world economy. Threatening financial disaster can be seen in another way: It is a statement of the kind of America the Republicans are trying to create. Is that really who we Americans are?

Conservatives Reagan, Bush I & Bush II, each in his time, ran up the biggest deficits/debt in the history of the world. Reagan and Bush I increased taxes to pay for their spending. Bush II instead both decreased taxes and started two unnecessary wars. All of that pushed us to the brink of financial disaster. Is that really who we Americans are?

Recall for a moment the Reagan-initiated frenzy for deregulation, a Republican mania that continues today. That led directly to the financial collapse of 2008 and, yes, D’s were complicit in that. All those trillions of bail out dollars are gone and with no accountability and nearly no mechanisms to prevent another round of “too big to fail.” Strangely, the Republicans are howling for still more deregulation which would put us at ever greater risk. Is that really who we Americans are?

A violent storm went through my area this morning and a power line was downed by a broken tree limb just a block from my house. The police were out in the violent storm within minutes, cordoning the area and protecting everyone from the continuous blast of 600 volt sparking and fire. Before heading to my basement due to a tornado warning, I saw more flames from another direction, called 911 and was connected to the fire department. I reported the situation and a bunch of guys saddled up and headed out in a fire truck, this while most of us were huddled in our basements from the continuing storm.

Consider, too, the school teachers to whom we entrust most of our kids’ education and those who drive snow plows through blizzards so we can go where and when we want. All these people protect and support us, including in dangerous situations and often in terrible conditions. They are also the people who the Republicans want to strip of some of their pay, their pensions, their right to bargain collectively and the Republicans want to lay off a bunch of them, too. In Wisconsin, Scott Walker wants to take nearly all of the savings from the heavy load put on the backs of Wisconsin cops, firemen, teachers and others and give it to rich people. Is that really who we Americans are?

Paul Ryan wants to kill Medicare, send everyone and their money to a few private medical insurers and leave millions of those who need health care adrift in their poverty. 70% of the savings from his plan to kill Medicare would go directly to rich people and corporations. Is that really who we Americans are?

In Michigan, the Republican controlled state government has decided that they have the right to take over any local governmental body in the state if the geniuses in Lansing decide that the locals need their help. [Update: Take a look at the Flint, MI lead-poisoned kids to get an idea of what a fine job those geniuses are doing.] They have effectively stripped voting rights from entire communities and imposed a dictatorship on the state. Is that really who we Americans are?

In Arizona, former governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio enshrined discrimination into the law and into desert concentration camps. Is that really who we Americans are?

Rand Paul says that it’s immoral that we helped the victims of Hurricane Katrina. That pretty much captures the America he and so many of the hair-on-fire R’s want us to become. Is that really who we Americans are?

The Republicans voted in lock step to continue to give tax breaks to the biggest oil companies which have the greatest profits in the history of the world. Huh?

Everything I see tells me that the Republican party wants to turn the clock back to the days of the robber barons. Life was very good then for the very rich. For everyone else, well, it wasn’t so good. The Republicans seem to be in favor of anything to kill those hated programs that help people who need help. Yes, I know there are plenty of dim-witted and even self-defeating programs that never should have been started or which have long outlived their usefulness. And don’t misunderstand me:  There is nothing wrong with being rich. The wrong is in excluding everyone else.

The financial burden from the past is enormous and vexing. The financial challenge of the future will look different from the free lunch nonsense to which we are accustomed. There is plenty of fixing to do. The key, though, is our clarity of vision of who we want to be – our national True North. That direction is being decided right now, in part, by people doing reprehensible things. The reprehensible behavior is not one-sided, of course. The bulk of it that I see, though, comes from the right.

I wish I could find one of those moderate Republicans you mentioned who has the backbone to speak what s/he believes, rather than what they thought would get votes from “the base” and who would offer reasonable centrist views. I’m hoping that you are incorrect about them being extinct, but instead find that they are in hiding, waiting for the chest thumping storm of temper tantrum insanity to pass. I will welcome an honest exchange that focuses on making a better America.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I believe we are right now at an important crossroads in the battle for the soul of America. We are in a defining moment of setting a vision – a self-image – of who we Americans really are.

In my Money, Politics & Democracy presentations I break the news about our American vision in this way:

We are crafting the America our children and grandchildren will inherit – and we’re doing it right now!

We better get about the task. We better speak up about the task, because:

If you don’t make your voice heard, people who want a very different America from the one you want will be heard, because they will be the only ones talking.

Speak up! In the Comments section below. With your friends, your family and, yes, even your crazy brother-in-law. Speak up or you and your children will have to put up with what you’ve tolerated.

 

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Things Could Be Worse

Reading time – 2:13; Viewing time – 4:15  .  .  .

In a most accessible article in the November 10, 2014 Christian Science Monitor, author Henry Gass reviewed a fresh examination of wealth inequality, comparing 1929 America to today. Here are selections of Gass’ writing:

In the late 1920s, the top 10 percent of Americans possessed 84 percent of the country’s wealth. Since then, wealth inequality in America has followed a U-shaped trajectory, declining through the Great Depression until the mid-1980s, then steadily increasing since then.

Professors Saez and Zucman found that the richest 0.1 percent of Americans [today] have as much of the country’s wealth as the poorest 90 percent. Both groups control roughly 22 percent of total wealth .  .  .

While the bottom 90 percent of Americans and the top 0.1 percent control about 22 percent of the country’s wealth each, the top 0.01 percent of Americans now control 11.2 percent of total wealth. That share of the wealth held by the country’s richest 0.01 percent .  .  .  is the largest share they’ve had since 1916, the highest on record, according to the study.

Wait a second: the study’s authors said that, ”  .  .  .  wealth inequality in America has followed a U-shaped trajectory, declining through the Great Depression until the mid-1980s, then steadily increasing since then.” What do you suppose happened in the 1980s to cause that shift? Could it be trickle-down economics that really only trickles up? Could it also have something to do with blind faith in unregulated free markets, with Adam Smith’s invisible hand blessing only the already wealthy?

Perhaps it’s pleasant to have so much power that one can influence laws and regulations in order to continually expand one’s power and wealth. On the other hand, this is exactly why the Founders abhorred monopoly (it had been forced on them by the Crown) and it is why we passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890. “Trust” was what monopolies were called then, and the last time that law was invoked was in 2000 in a case involving Microsoft and its bundling of apps that unfairly restricted competition (Read: put other companies out of business, kept prices unnaturally high and Americans lost jobs). The time it was invoked before that was before Reagan was elected. He refused to use the Act and that hands-off approach and absolute faith in “the market” has led to the enormous roll up of companies in industry after industry, with the result that competition is severely limited and, prices escalate and wealth continues to concentrate in the hands of a very few Americans.

For example, we used to have seven major air carriers in the U.S. Due to mergers, we now have only three. American Airlines just completed the purchase of US Air, claiming that doing so would have no adverse effect on competition. But it is reported that they will be devaluing their Frequent Flyer program in the second half of 2016. And, in a January 29, 2016 conference call, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker explained how American will be increasing revenues by charging more for things like room for your knees and things that they haven’t charged for before. That is to say, now that they own a former competitor, prices are going up.

That’s just one small example of how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in today’s rigged economy.

Given enough economic jabs, people will become angry, and that Chinese water torture of wealth inequality expansion could lead to something ugly. It certainly has given us a crazy election season, the essence of which was captured by one South Carolina supporter of Donald Trump, who explained, “We’re voting with our middle fingers.”

Things could be worse. Unfortunately, we keep proving that to be true.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Stupidity – a Reminder

Reading time – 77 seconds; Viewing time – 3:18  .  .  .

Ed. note: This post was originally published in summer, 2015, but this is the start of our primaries and it’s time to pay attention and take action.

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Said Harlan Ellison, “The most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” That is cynical and harsh, yes, but there surely is an element of truth to be found in that statement. Let me offer a simple syllogism:

Doing self-destructive things is stupid.

We Americans are doing self-destructive things.

Therefore, we Americans are stupid.

Perhaps your mind is instantly pushing back on that condemnation. Fair enough, yet here is a short, off-the-top-of-my-head list to make my case:

  1. We are largely ignoring the threat of climate warming that shows us every day that the planet is going to hard boil us. Evidence of our folly: We subsidize fossil fuel industries and pay scant lip service to non-carbon based energy sources, all of which makes things worse.
  2. After nearly forty years of failure, we still practice the same supply-side, trickle down economics that has forced millions of Americans into poverty. Worse, we keep electing the same self-serving politicians who perpetuate this reverse Robin Hood of ensuring the stuffing of the pockets of the wealthy and subsistence and hopelessness for the masses.
  3. We have waged roughly 50 years of near-continuous war, largely because we have tolerated a spineless Congress that abdicates its responsibility and caves to the war profiteers.
  4. We have allowed our state governments to abdicate their financial responsibilities for the deferred pay owed to state workers. That may put millions into retirement age peril by denying them the pensions they earned.
  5. The First Amendment gives us freedom of speech and that includes the right to lobby Congress. However, we have allowed huge corporations not to just speak, but to control our laws and regulations. That has given us more guns and murders per capita than any other western nation, crops that are designed primarily to resist ever-greater applications of toxic pesticides, rather than delivering safe, nutritious food  – the list could go on and on.
  6. We have passively allowed the need for huge amounts of money to control our elections so that now we hear more about campaign fund raising than we hear from candidates about their proposals for the betterment of America.

All of that and more goes on because we fail to show up on election day. That’s self-destructive. stupid.

Your primary election is coming up soon – here’s a link to a primary election calendar. Find yours and put it on your personal calendar. Do it now.

The general election for all of us is on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Put that date on your calendar now, too.

Then VOTE! Can’t find a great candidate? Then pick the least bad one, because failing to vote isn’t an act of rebellion: it’s surrender.

Failing to vote is, well, stupid. And you’re too smart to do that. So, show up and vote.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Who Should I Vote For?

Reading time – This guest essay is longer than typical Disambiguations & worth it. Grab a second cup o’ Joe and settle in for some thinking  .  .  .

Following a recent post about a Wall street guy who supports Bernie Sanders I received a private email from boyhood pal Frank Levy (boyhood nickname: Skip). That’s him in the pic. I don’t know how he got to look so old.  The Skip Levy I knew looked much younger.

He expressed some concerns about who can actually win a general election and that resulted in some back-and-forth across the email machine. The meat of his concerns were substantive and I asked for and received his approval to offer them to you in the guest essay that follows. The views expressed are his own and you just might find that some could be yours, too.

You should know in advance that Skip is an irritating blend of idealist and pragmatist, so be forewarned that if you possess an idealist’s purity of progressive ethic, your purity may be about to get tweaked by his pragmatism.

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Skip LevyJack – Here is my reply as to who to vote for.

in the primary, vote for who you feel best meets your sense of what America can and should be and who can beat ALL of the Republican candidates still standing at primary time. Then work for and vote for the Democratic Party nominee, whoever that may turn out to be.

One tactical concern about Bernie is that while he generates enthusiastic crowds and a reasonable small-donor base, I don’t think he will be able to generate enough black and brown supporters to win the national election. Right now Bernie’s support among non-white democrats/voters is slim to almost non-existent and he does not seem to be working to change the situation. Bernie and his supporters truly believe that his economic and climate change message will be heard and responded to by black and brown voters like it is by old white voters. So far that is simply not the case.

The black and brown voters I talk with want to hear a message from candidates that speaks directly to them and their specific concerns. They rightfully demand that Bernie or Hillary or Martin listen to them and respect and understand their needs and issues. They are not looking for a “translated” solution to white America’s problems. They want and deserve solutions to the injustices, intolerance, segregation, racism, joblessness, incarceration, lack of quality educational and educational opportunities, and to the violence they live with every day. I do think that Bernie and Martin are still tone deaf when it comes to the issues of non-white voters.

Just looking at the fundraising needed to run a 50 state national election campaign I think Bernie is in trouble. His supporters are mostly our old hippie friends – old, white, and middle-class – not big donor class. And while I long for the day when small donors are the financial engine that drives elections, the ugly reality is that today candidates need major donor-class donors to win elections. That is where Hillary is being pragmatic. She is building an Obama-like donor base of small donors AND taking large donations from big donors while calling for the end of Citizens United. That is not hypocritical; it is pragmatic. You cannot change things unless you get elected.

I am also not convinced that the young people who attend Bernie’s rallies will work for his election or come out on election day. I see a lot of rallies that are well attended but I do not see a lot of ground campaign infrastructure being built in 50 states. I think he is counting on the “revolution” taking hold and providing the motivation and financial support to win. History reminder: revolutionaries have a tendency to be passionate, motivated, poor and not particularly good at recruiting people to the cause, raising money or governing. Unfortunately, ISIS may be the exception to that rule. Revolutions typically take a long time to build and even given all the anger and frustration we all feel, I am not sure we are there just yet.

I am very worried about the 14% or so of Democrats who say they will sit out the election (in essence giving a vote to the Republican candidate) rather than vote for Hillary (bold mine – Ed.), as if she were some evil spawn of the devil. No party has ever nominated a perfect, pure and totally honest candidate.

I do not understand this cloud in the air that makes people say they do not trust Hillary. Hillary is what she has always been – a political animal. She is a pragmatic, driven, type-A, a calculating, intelligent, woman who has more times than not taken the right side of the issues that are important to progressives. As a senator and Secretary of State she got things done, which requires knowing how to work with the opposition party. Personally, I am not interested in a president who, by his or her very nature is such an idealist that they cannot grasp a win when it presents itself just because it is not a perfect win.

It makes a difference, a big difference, who is the White House. All three Democratic candidates are significantly better for the country than any of the Republican candidates. If we fail to work for and vote for the Democratic nominee we will assure the next SCOTUS nominations (as many as four of them) are conservative Republican judges.

I am not willing to see SCOTUS become a conservative Republican court that will never rule in favor of a woman’s right to choose, that will never rule against voter suppression, that will never rule in favor of LGBT rights, that will never rule in favor of religious tolerance, that will never rule in favor of the 1st Amendment or against Citizens United, for sensible guns laws or for equal pay for equal work, or in favor of the best interests of the American people over the gun lobby and the money and corporate class.

So, back to your original question. If you think Bernie or Hillary or Martin can beat ALL of the Republican candidates still standing at primary time, then vote for the candidate who best represents you and your ideals. If, on the other hand, there is only one candidate who appears to be able to beat ALL of the Republican crazies, then vote for that person because we cannot afford a Republican president. Then go out and work for, donate to and vote for the Democratic Party candidates (local, state, and national) on November 1, 2016 and in 2018.

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That is the end of Skip’s comments.

If we sit on our idealism and fail to vote, it will be especially dangerous when in 2017 Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is sending his “privatize Social Security” bill to the President for his signature and the president is a Republican because we – let me say this delicately – sat on our self-righteous, idealist asses and didn’t vote. And when the lawsuit is brought to challenge that law, it will wind up in front of a Supreme Court that is no longer 5-4 conservative; it may be 7-2 and stay that way for a really long time. So, we may have to hold our idealistic noses and vote for the best flawed candidate in the race.

Go ahead. Write your response below. I know you have one.

And Skip, thanks for continuing to care about America and to work to make it better for all of us.

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P.S. From the email signature of a colleague: “Be a good ancestor.” I just might adopt that for these Disambiguations. Be a good ancestor, indeed.

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Trump and Us

Reading time – 39 seconds  .  .  .

There is only one reason I would give any e-ink to Donald Trump. It isn’t to examine and refute the flamboyant, xenophobic, homophobic, baseless, factless, insulting, unconstitutional (see cartoon tweet below) things he’s saying. That’s being handled to excess by our broadcast people. In fact, yesterday I wanted to find out what was going on other than in the despicable world of Trump and had to go to non-U.S. media to find out. What can we learn from that?

New York Daily News Tweet, December 9, 2015

New York Daily News Tweet,
December 9, 2015

No, the real reason to comment about Trump is because of what it says about us that 28% of Republicans like what he’s saying and will vote for him. And it is because there are a bunch of Democrats who like his unconstitutional discrimination of Muslims and they, too, intend to vote for him.

Donald Trump is showing us who we really are and what I see is terrifying.

No, I don’t think he can win a general election. That isn’t the point. The point is that it has become reasonable to ask whether in this blizzard of sensationalism he could. And that’s so because, through their support of Trump, so many Americans are displaying their fear and hate and anger and are eager to support a candidate who plays to their basest instincts.

We better get to the bottom of our self-destruction or we will become something that is very un-American and very dangerous to every one of us.

To understand more of Trump’s “sell,” look at what master marketer Bruce Terkel has to say.

Recorded live in a hotel room in New Jersey.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Occam’s Razor Flipped

Paul Ryan - Hayfield

Paul Ryan, Managing Partner Hayfield Financial – New York

Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  .  NOW IN VIDEO!

Ed. note: Be sure to read the P.S. at the end – it’s not in the video.

What you don’t know about Paul Ryan – no, not that one – the other one – the main guy at Hayfield Financial in New York – is that he is a Wall Street guy who supports Bernie Sanders. And Sanders is the guy who wants to bust up the Wall Street Banks and tax hedge fund managers at the same rates you’re taxed. Seems like a strange pairing. Oddly, Ryan is not the only financial guy backing Bernie.

Ryan was interviewed on NPR’s Here and Now on November 30 and he talked about the complex products and transactions that go on every day in the black box that is Wall Street. Ryan is a smart guy, with a degree in economics from Harvard and a law degree from Fordham University, but he says he can’t make any sense of the crazy stuff that Goldman Sachs and others are doing. In describing his view, he invoked a paraphrasing of Occam’s Razor:

That which is the simplest is the most likely explanation.

He followed that with his criticism of Wall Street:

That which is most complex is probably fraudulent.

I had to check myself before celebrating Ryan’s validation. But after all, credit default swaps are so convoluted and cynical that not even really smart people fully understand them, perhaps not even the sociopath who invented them.

Just before the 2008 meltdown Goldman Sachs was enthusiastically promoting collateralized debt obligations to its clients, selling them at a blistering pace as though they were magic beans going to a gullible Jack (not me). At the same time, Goldman was dumping its own holdings of those worthless things. What was it that Ryan said?

That which is most complex is probably fraudulent.

I’m still looking for the perp walk of the criminals who brought down our economy and cost you and me trillions of dollars. I still want exposed the creeps who twisted political arms to make legal what was illegal, who got permission to imply morality for what is clearly immoral and who believe with supreme, egotistical confidence that their pursuit of greed is all that matters.

Perhaps this Paul Ryan reassures us that there are some in the world of big financial dealings who possess some integrity and good sense. That’s hopeful.

And maybe, just maybe, Bernie Sanders has some good ideas.

Maybe, just maybe, we can get past the stupid, bully-on-a-playground mentality of politics to look at substance and elect someone who will lead the way to restore sanity to American politics and the American economy.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s your job to see that that happens. It’s time to get to work.

P.S. While our politics are surely crazy and not what our founders intended them to be, there are some who offer us reminders to keep us focused. Please have a look at this video of 500 high school kids in Kentucky (be patient, as it may load slowly). Turn up your computer speakers and take it in. Feel the timeless message that Francis Scott Key intended for those boys on the battlements of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in 1814, as they were withstanding the brutal British naval bombardment.

Those soldiers did that for us. What is our obligation to those who will come after us?

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Be Grateful

turkey-218742_640Reading time – 27 seconds; viewing time – 1:41  .  .  . 

When the sun is shining, be grateful for its energy, its beauty and the life it gives.

When the storms come, be grateful for their energy and the cycle of water that keeps us alive.

When the politicians blather idiotically and incessantly, be grateful you can think.

When terrorists terrorize, be grateful that it wasn’t you and that you can care about others who are suffering.

When you’re stuck in the middle seat and there’s nowhere to go because the plane is full, be grateful for the reduced use of fuel compared to two partially filled airplanes, because it extends fossil fuel availability, reduces emissions and allows the airlines to make a profit, so they stay in business and that enhances competition. And remember that it’s okay to claim your share of the skinny armrest.

When a cop snuffs out the life of another non-violent black guy, be grateful you can stand up and demand justice.

When yet another fool with a microphone spews hatred in the name of God, be grateful that he has the freedom to screech like a brain injured moron; and be grateful that you know he’s an idiot.

When you’re in a hurry and traffic is backed up due to road construction, be grateful that the road will be better and that all those workers have good jobs.Highway Constuction Sign

If you’re super rich, be grateful you can buy the laws and regulations you want.

If you’re not super rich, be grateful you can campaign and vote for people who will take unfair advantage away from the super rich and level the playing field for all of us.

And on Thanksgiving Day, be grateful you’re not the turkey.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder – v2.0

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder - a Republican affliction

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder – a Republican affliction

Reading time – 70 seconds  .  .  .

Boyhood pal Frank Levy offered a comment to last Sunday’s blog, Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder, focused on how Republicans work to divide Americans. His question is worthy of consideration and comment. Here is what he wrote:

I don’t have a comment, only a question – what is it about the 158 richest families in America that the Republicans feel they must build their entire economic policy around what they think these people want? I get that they help them win elections every 4 years, but in reality these families provide nothing of substance to individual Republicans, their friends, or their families.

In order to address Frank’s question, let’s separate Americans into two groups: politicians plus very wealthy people; and regular, non-super wealthy Americans.

For politicians and very wealthy people there is a plain and simple, very powerful system in place. Elections are hideously expensive, making the groveling for money from people who have lots of 220px-Serpiente_alquimicait consume 50% of the time and energy of politicians. The largess of those money baggers makes politicians beholden to them, so politicians do their bidding. The donors get regulations and legislation they want to maximizes their profits, laws like those that: cripple the regulatory power of the EPA, allowing ever greater air, water and land pollution; severely limits the ability of consumers to sue corporations for the harm they cause; and the absence of limitations of who should be able to own firearms, allowing for the continuation of our national massacre. The wealthy people then use a little of their enlarged stash of cash to fund the campaigns of their next hand-picked politicians. It’s a toxic cycle of life thing. But, of course, you knew all that.

The second group of people is composed of ordinary, non-wealthy Americans. The question that puzzles so many is why these folks vote against their own interests – that’s Frank’s question. There are many answers and, interestingly, numerous studies have shown that large numbers of Americans identify with very wealthy people and believe that they will be in their ranks some day. While that clearly is not going to happen for nearly any ordinary American, those aspirations provide powerful blinders and people act irrationally – i.e., against their own interests.

The larger reason, though, for Americans voting for those who, ”  .  .  .  provide nothing of substance to individual Republicans, their friends, or their families,” is what I detailed in the preceding blog. Republicans appeal to hate and fear and that drives people to the polls to vote for those who stimulate them with their “scare ’em and save ’em” tactic. That kind of manipulation is used to sell underarm deodorant, security systems, investment services and, yes, politicians.

Listen to the words of consumer commercials (ignore the visuals) and you’ll hear the appeal to fear. Listen to a Republican running for office and you’ll hear the same thing.

So, to answer Frank’s question, there are three powerful responses that lapdog politicians running for office create as they manipulate ordinary Americans with their calls to hate and fear and get them to vote against their own interests.

First, the politicians tell those angry people that they’re right. That’s very gratifying. This has the additional benefit of letting voters feel a bit in control, this in stark contrast to their ongoing sense of powerlessness in their lives.

Second, voters get to vent their frustrations. That feels good.

Third, and most powerful, most persuasive, they imply a promise of freedom from fear. That they never deliver is quite beside the point. That the lapdog politicians stoke fear and hatred in order to get elected – courtesy of the financial muscle of their big donors – is the point.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder - a Republican affliction

Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder – a Republican affliction

Reading time – 77 seconds  .  .  .

I heard a comedian explaining that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who laugh and those who make people laugh. Hard to argue with that.

And it turns out that there are always two kinds of people in the world. For cabbies it’s people who drive and people who need a ride. For children it’s kids who are fun to play with and kids who aren’t.

My view, too, is that there are two kinds of people in the world: people who divide people into two groups and those who don’t. And that is the most important difference we’re being shown by the presidential candidates.

The Republicans – every one of them – are dividing us into two kinds of people:

  • – We good Americans and immigrants who are taking our jobs.
  • – The makers and the takers.
  • – The straights and the gays.
  • – Those who know that military solutions are best and the weak-knee wimps.
  • – We good Americans and the terrible government.
  • – The gun-toters and those who would take their guns from them.
  • – The Christians and all those who are wrong.
  • – Good Americans and the “lame stream media.”
  • – The cops and the Black Lives Matter people who incite the murdering of cops.

In all these cases Republicans tell us that the cause of the problems of the first group is all those in the second group. No need here for personal responsibility or even good sense. As Church Lady would say, “How convenient.”

At the last Republican debate, divisions like these and attacks on those in the “other” group are all we heard. Okay, that’s not entirely true. We also heard about taxation plans based on math with rounding errors in the negative trillions of dollars, but which would put trickle-down economics on steroids, thus accelerating the transfer of all money in this country to 158 families.

In contrast, at the Democratic debates we heard about bringing us together:

  • – Healthcare for all Americans as a right.
  • – Economy-stimulating infrastructure rebuilding that will create millions of good paying jobs.
  • – Ending income inequality so that everyone benefits from a growing economy.
  • – Ending our corrupt election finance system and driving special interests out of control of government.
  • – Common sense gun safety laws so that we begin to end our self-inflicted, ongoing massacre of innocents.
  • – A shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy so that we don’t all die on an uninhabitable planet.

This list could be much longer, but you get the idea. It’s about all of us, not a dividing of us.

Again, and with a few extra words this time, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who try to manipulate us with fear and hate in order to divide us from one another; and those who don’t.

The key is this: Fearful, angry people are motivated, so they vote. They may vote in self-destructive ways, but they show up on election day and vote. People who aren’t fearful and angry aren’t as motivated, so they don’t bother to vote. That distinction is exactly what led to a Tea Party wacko getting elected governor of Kentucky last week.

The Republicans are affected with Issues Separation Anxiety Disorder (dividing us over mostly bogus issues) which they spread to unaware Americans via media contact. The acronym is ISAD, and I assure you that I am sad over this debasement of America.

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who vote and get what they think they want; and those who don’t vote and are willing victims of the manipulators who divide us.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

It’s Obvious

Reading time – 76 seconds  .  .  .

Long time reader DL offered in a private email that he sees me as an iconoclast and that I help people to realize the obvious. That’s a compliment, right?

iconoclast –  a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. – Apple Dictionary, v2.2

I’m not confident that I attack cherished institutions, as I’m not sure that any institutions are cherished any longer. Okay, perhaps that last sentence did attack cherished institutions.

On the other hand, and as you already know, I commonly attack cherished beliefs, like the notion that there is anything of benefit to trickle-down economics, except to further stuff the pockets of the already wealthy. That cherished belief and many other common wisdom, common knowledge notions deserve to be skewered. We need for them to be sliced and diced and dumped into a landfill for ultimate decomposition so that they cannot be brought back and used to harm those in the future who will be sadly unaware of the destructive power of these harmful cherished beliefs.

And there are other cherished beliefs that I stab, like all religious extremist beliefs. People who hold these cherished beliefs are guilty of the murder of hundreds of millions of people and, oddly, people of most major religions are guilty of these atrocities. There is no more effective and motivated killer than one whose cherished belief is that God wants him to kill all who don’t see things in the killer’s delusional way. There are plenty of people who screech the message to kill, literally or politically, doing it from the pulpit and the airwaves and the halls of government.

Another favorite is the cherished and arrogant belief that, “I got it right, so if you disagree, you’re wrong. Maybe bad, too.” For clarity about the ultimate outcome of such thinking, refer to the paragraph above.

Consider the politics of destruction. And the rejection of science and learning. And the refusal to solve problems and instead to allow people to suffer and to die in favor of self-centered jockeying for political advantage.

And allowing big money interests to poison and subvert our democracy. We’ve gone through many iterations of learning this lesson, then forgetting and then re-learning it, then forgetting the lesson yet again. We don’t seem to be able to keep in mind how very harmful it is and to take steps to permanently slay this ruinous beast. There is more.

Like the much-too-human and completely predictable “it’s all about me” attitude of politicians and the certainty of the corruption of politicians by big money.

And the craziness of self-destruction through citizen laziness, sub-consciously assuming that someone else will handle things to our liking. Or that they won’t, but that we’re powerless, so there’s no use in taking action. Or that just being disinterested in broader issues and instead being focused solely on our over-filled lives somehow makes sense.

These cherished beliefs are the things I write about and they are real and they are harmful to us all, but you already realize that, because it’s obvious.

Thanks, DL, for your comments. To you and to all readers, put your thoughts in the “What Do You Think?” section below both today and in response to future posts (freebie subscribe on the right side of this column) in order to help all of us be better informed and to gain a clearer perspective on reality.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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