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On the lighter side of life... 

#1445: Tommy, Riposa in Pace

requiescat in pace

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Trump & The Mob

http-//www.politico.com#13C5A6C

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"Give me your tired, your poor

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore

Send these, the homeless, tempest-toss'd to me

I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door."

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Hundreds of Oregon Corporations Escape the Minimum Tax

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Half of the US Is Broke

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The myth of the Christian country

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“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

FDR, 2nd Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1937

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A Just Peace

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SIP contract online

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Middle East friendship chart

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Corporations enriching shareholders

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- Intel tax abatements

- INTEL, come clean!

- Leashing INTEL  

- Free to Be Hungry

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Facts not fiction on universal gun background checks

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"Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere"

Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The GOP - Not One of US.

Wall Street, our new criminal class...       

   Business in the USA is sitting on $2 trillion dollars refusing to invest their own funds in expanding and hiring workers.  

   When one adds to this the reserves that banks, equity firms and hedge funds have - the picture is clear - "capitalism in the USA is on strike." 

   The engine of our economy - the spirit of entrepreneurship is not in evidence today.  So much for business being dynamic and risk taking. 

   They hire K- Street lobbyists and their ilk at the state level because they are averse to risk taking - pleading for tax breaks, tax credits and endless loopholes. 

   The "business of business" in America today is not about job creation, it's about wealth hoarding and redistribution from the middle class to the top 1%. 

   So for those who claim government doesn't create jobs, my response is that business doesn't either until given "corporate welfare" by government.  The fact is that the private and public sector are highly integrated, something the anti-tax, anti-government Tea Party types don't understand. 

   Job creation requires public/private partnerships but the benefits of such collaboration should go to the 99% not just the 1%.  

 

RAD'S

WEBSITE PICKS: 


 

  • An Independent View

Oregon Outpost

  • A Middle East View      

Rami G. Khouri

  • RealClearPolitics:

Realclearpolitics

  • Jim Hightower:   

Jimhightower.com

  • Robert Reich:

Robert Reich

  • Thomas Friedman: 

Friedman Column

  • Nicholas Kristof: 

Kristof Column

Oregon's Motto: 

She flies with her own wings! 


Hard Times in Oregon: 

Hardtimes

The Oregon story - the rich get richer, the poor and middle class lose ground.  Check this front page Oregonian article out. 

Oregon wage gap widens

Homelessness in Oregon - a call to action

Chuck Currie The crisis of homelessness


  

      Oregon's coming 34th out of 41 states in the Obama "Race to the Top" illustrates the failure of leadership from Governor Kitzhaber and his predecessors as they have built an educational bridge to nowhere called high stakes testing.

   Instead of being in a race to the top we seem to be dumpster diving to the bottom despite doing education reform since 1991.  Insanity is termed doing the same thing over and over again.  When can we put a fork in this stupidity? 

   To confuse matters more the Oregonian's editorial board has pontificated that this was a lost opportunity to get federal funding for innovation.  How firing principals and teachers equals innovation is a mystery to me.   

   The way to reform schools is to reduce class sizes, to encourage teacher collaboration and to support their continued education.  High stakes testing and performance based assessment of teachers are NOT the answer!    

   If you want students to succeed you first have to resolve the issues they confront before they come to school.  Children who face poverty, hunger, homelessness, health care issues and family instability require wrap around services for them and their families, 24/7.   

   Every child needs a safe home of their own and parents who know how to be good parents.   

There is only one way to address this impending crisis.  Schools must have a stable source of funding. Until that happens - we will limp from crisis to crisis.   

 

 

    

    Why does the richest nation in the world have the moral blight of homeless people?

Invisible People

http://www.npr.org


 Homelessness

    Connecting the dots between homelessness & hunger in Oregon and Washington County: 

Homelessness:  

•    The faces of the homeless are families with children, single men and women, vets, and many who are impaired. It is estimated that in Washington County up to 56% of homelessness occurs to families.

Hunger:

•    Hunger is highest among single mother households (10%) and poor families (15%) as well as renters, unemployed workers and minority households. 

     In Washington County, Oregon's "economic engine," the divide between the affluent and the working poor continues.  We have a 19,000 unit gap in affordable low income rental housing.  County political and business leaders are indifferent to this crisis...   


A RAD rhetorical question - Were Madison & Marx "Marxists"?  

 

"History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments."   

- James Madison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAD Lines

See my FACEBOOK @ Russ

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  • He lost by 2.9 million votes...

  • He's a con artist...

  • He's a pathological liar... 

  • He's a failed business man...

  • He's a fascist... 


Every Fascist Needs an Enabler. Donald Trump Will Have Mike Pence.


Trump's role models are Vladmir Putin and Benito Mussolini.  He has contempt for our checks and balances system.  He wants to "rule" not govern like a strong man, a despot.  He will shredd the Constitution anytime he feels the urge to do so and like all despots he only listens to his inner circle.  And he is paranoid and narcissistic. 

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SB 1533 passes!  

http://oregon.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=10863

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Housing Needs in Oregon 

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"There are men who believe that democracy... is limited or measured by a kind of mystical and artificial fate [and that] tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future..." 

FDR, 3rd Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1941

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Mourning for a Judaism Being Murdered by Israel

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Taking on the Pro-Israel Lobby 

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Sign the petition ►

Walgreens - pay your fair share of taxes!


  • "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws." - Mayer Amschel Rothschild


  • Miguel de Cervantes, from The Duke - "I accuse you of being an idealist, a bad poet and an honest man."  Cervantes' response - "Guilty as charged, I have never had the courage to believe in nothing."   from Man of La Mancha  


Intel failed to report fluoride emissions for almost 30 years   


Professor Kingfield, from the Paper Chase

   "I'm not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead – ahead of myself as well as you." 

- George Bernard Shaw

 

BLOGS:

From the Left Wing:

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman - The New York Times

Democracy Now
democracynow.org

The Daily Kos

dailykos.com

Blue Oregon

blueoregon.com

 

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." 

- Emilie Buchwald 

 


    "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law." 

- Justice John Paul Stevens, Bush v. Gore, 2001

    The state of our union - check out the map, it's a reality check for those who can't figure out why people are so ticked off... 

americanobserver

    Here's Garrison Keillor's rap on the rightwingnuts:   

GarrisonKeillor

 

     Garrison Keillor - "...The Founding Fathers intended the Senate to be a fount of wisdom... but when you consider...  moon-faced Mitch McConnell, your faith in democracy is challenged severely. Any legislative body in which 41 senators from rural states that together represent 10 percent of the population can filibuster you to death is going to be flat-footed, on the verge of paralysis, no matter what. Any time 10 percent of the people can stop 90 percent, it's like driving a bus with a brake pedal for each passenger. That's why Congress has a public approval rating of [11] percent...." 



"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war"

- John Adams

"Loyalty to country always.  Loyalty to government when it deserves it."  

- Mark Twain  

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  

- George Santayana 

"The love of one's country is a natural thing.  But why should love stop at the border?" 

- Pablo Casals

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." 

- William Butler Yeats  

 

"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' 

But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?"  

- George Bernard Shaw, "Back to Methuselah" (1921) 

"...the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society...  The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government..."  

- James Madison, Federalist Papers #11 

"Why … should we have government? Why not each individual take to himself the whole fruit of his labor, without having any of it taxed away?”   

The legitimate object of government, is to do for the people whatever they need to have done, but which they can not do, at all, or can not do, so well, for themselves – in their separate and individual capacities … There are many such things … roads, bridges and the like; providing for the helpless young and afflicted; common schools … the criminal and civil [justice] departments."    

- Abraham Lincoln 

Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society  

- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 

"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates, but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole..." 

- Edmund Burke  

“It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever hath been done before may legally be done again, and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice and the general reason of mankind.  These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities, to justify the most iniquitous opinions.”  

- Jonathan Swift 

" Every satirist who drew breath has flung pots of ink at this parade of tooting lummoxes and here it is come round again, marching down Main Street, rallying to the cause of William McKinley, hail, hail, the gang’s all here, ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay."  

- Garrison Keillor 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

  

 


  

 

Tuesday
Nov212017

THE RUSSIAN BEAR ON THE PROWL.  

Hedrick Smith

What’s Putin After? Is It a New Cold War?

  • November 17, 2017

What does Putin want? What’s his end game? What’s next?

     Putin’s interference in elections in the U.S. and western Europe is his way of striking back at the U.S. for pushing NATO up against Russia’s borders, building a power base in Russia’s backyard and stationing anti-missile defenses in eastern Europe, says Hedrick Smith, former New York Times Moscow Bureau Chief and author of the global best-seller, “The Russians.”

     “The Russian hacking and the Russian intervention in the 2016 campaign is just the peak of it,” Smith told WTTW, PBS in Chicago. “It’s kind of Putin’s revenge for the fact that we pushed the Russian bear back in the cave by moving the frontiers of NATO into the Baltic states—Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. And (Putin) sees us as being behind the overthrow of the pro-Russian president in the Ukraine. So he’s hitting back.”

The New Czar – Projecting Russian Power

     Smith calls Putin the new Russian Czar projecting Russian military power into eastern Europe and challenging the West with diplomatic brinksmanship and cyber/social media warfare taking advantage of openness in Western democracies.

     “He’s put Russia back on the global stage,” says Smith. “He’s bolstered his own support at home because the Russians, as a people, have wounded pride. They feel as though they have been shoved aside by the major powers.”

     In the 1970s, ’80s and into the ’90s, which was era of detente between President Nixon and former Communist Party Leader Leonid Brezhnev. President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, or President Bill and Boris Yeltsin, Russia got used to being treated as a super=power equal of the United States. But in the Putin era, Russia has been downgraded, shoved aside by Washington, replaced by China, unable to compete economically or in power terms. that loss of status has hurt and angered the Russians and left Putin hunting opportunities for revenge.

     “There’s no question that our policies during the Clinton years — pushing NATO eastward— and during the Bush years, carrying that policy forward, has really upset the Russians and made them feel on the defensive,” Smith observes.

Putin – Hunting for Revenge

     Largely hemmed in by NATO’s military strength, Putin has turned to cyber warfare, using his intelligence services and computer hackers rather than military force to disrupt the West – and we can expect more of that in the 2018 elections and beyond, Smith says. Putin is playing a long-term game of restoring Russian power and global influence by bolstering allies in places like Syria and trying to intimidate the West.

     Smith dismisses Putin’s denial of interference in the 2016 elections in answer to President Trump’s questions. “I don’t know what Trump expected,” Smith said. “You don’t go ask a former KGB colonel ‘Did you interfere in our elections?’ and expect to get a straight answer.”

     “It is just stunning that Trump will attack members of his own political party. He’ll rip up not only Democrats but Republican senators like Bob Corker and John McCain, who speak out against him, but even Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who worked to get Trump’s bills passed. Then he turns around and won’t say anything critical about Putin. That’s weird.”

     In fact, Smith suggests, Trump’s peculiar reluctance to criticize the new czar in the Kremlin, coupled with his reluctance for a long time to affirm his clear support of NATO, adds to people’s suspicions that either the Russians have something on Trump and he’s afraid of Putin or that Trump is un cahoots with Putin in some strange way. That may not be true, but Trump has put himself in a position where he has to take some actions to prove it.

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     EDITOR'S NOTE:  What's intriging about Putin is that he's using a combonation of "soft"power - cyber attacks on Western elections and media plus "hard power" on easy targets such as Ukraine and The Crimea plus using Trump as his foil or fool...      

Wednesday
Nov012017

THE LEGITIMACY CRISIS IN A DIVIDED AMERICA

  

     With the Special Counsel's first indictments in the Russian hacking probe now public the question is will stalking the minnows lead to the bagging the sharks?

* Trump's approval ratings are dropping like a rock, the current Real Clear Politics average has 56.5% disapproving while only 38.9% approve of his leadership - an historical low in presidentail poll ratings.


      But it's not about Trump anymore it’s really about the integrity of our political system, especially how we elect a president. I don’t think those numbers will change. They will resonate for decades – much like the divisions over the Vietnam war have and still simmer. So no matter who wins future presidential election for a third to two-thirds of American voters won’t trust the results.

PS:  For more fodder on Trump's trials and tribulations check out Nick Kritof's NYTimes op ed - https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/opinion/trump-mueller-fire.html

     The is the collateral damage the Trump’s campaign and election have created keeping in mind he lost the popular vote. We have always had two Americas – one White and one Black. Now we have a new normal one the majority and one the minority. And there is no civil discourse between the two sides – just voters bunkered into their respective ideological and news silos. The center of American democracy has disappeared. There is no common ground.

     A divided America belies our national motto E Pluribus Unum - from many one. Sadly the America President Obama rhetorically called for - not a Red or Blue America but a United States of America is frayed by urban/rural divides, racial divides, cultural divides and religious divides. The belief that with hard work anyone can make it in the USA was crushed by the Great Recession. Hope has been replaced by fear, natavism and the loss of a sense of a shared heritage.


      The damage extends to the state and local level as well with its urban/rural divide. In Oregon we have the populous Portland metro area which is predictably liberal, while rural Oregon we have a solid conservative “Other” Oregon. I’ve lived in both Oregons – Roseburg and now the Metro area. One drives SUVs, the other pick up trucks. One is Green, the other eats spotted owls for lunch (or so they say).
      At the congressional level, due to gerrymandering – this has led to most members of the House coming from so-called “safe districts.” For example, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D) faces only token opposition from Republican candidates in the precincts of Portlandia. On the other hand Congressman Greg Walden has nothing to fear in his district which stretches east of the Cascades into Southern Oregon. This is mirrored across the nation.
      But it’s worse in the Republican column because moderate R's like a Mark Hatfield or Tom McCall both revered Oregonians – are akin to an endangered species and wouldn’t survive a GOP primary given ultra conservative ideological proclivities of the base in the era of Trump. This uphill race for moderate Rs is also made more problematic by voter ID laws, voter suppression tactics, scrubbing voter rolls all of which penalizes minority and elderly voters and “fake news” from our friends in Mother Russia.
      It’s doubly ironic that the Trump base lauds the Russian hackers since their partisan brethren in the past were staunch anti-communists. While Putin came up through the ranks of the KGB in the communist regime he’s more a throwback to a nationalist in Czarist Russia. Some might ask is there really a difference? Once a thug, always a thug no matter the current dogma du jour.  One of course could ask the same rhetorical question of Trump – the bully.
      So at the end of the day we are a nation divided.

Monday
Oct162017

THE CASE FOR IMPEACHING TRUMP...  

I sat through weeks of impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon. Forty-plus years later, I see the makings of another case.

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     The thinking used to be that the 2018 midterm elections might go a long way toward deciding whether the next Congress would take up this question. But with all the president’s recent saber-rattling, combined with his impulsiveness and alarming tendency to ignore his most qualified advisers, the matter is now considered more urgent.

     As is well known, the Constitution sets forth two ways to remove a president. Article 25, which establishes the mechanism for getting him out of office if he’s seen as “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” is clumsy and perhaps unenforceable. Then, of course, there’s impeachment. Observers have insisted that Republican leadership would never allow an impeachment proceeding against Trump, or that too many Republicans fear “the base” to move against him. Such things can change over time. Richard Nixon had a base until he didn’t. Yes, Trump’s might be different. I’m not, however, addressing the question of the likelihood of such a proceeding but, rather, if Congress were to seriously take up the matter of impeachment, what might be valid charges against him. Depending on what special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation turns up, there could be several such charges.

     To impeach a president (in the House, by a majority) and then convict him (in the Senate, by a two-thirds vote) is appropriately difficult. It shouldn’t be easy. But it’s a critically important instrument for holding a president accountable for his actions. Impeachable offenses aren’t the same thing as crimes listed in the U.S. Code. In fact, that’s the point: A president can be held accountable for actions that aren’t necessarily crimes. A crime might be an impeachable offense—but not all impeachable offenses are crimes.

     An impeachable offense is a crime against the Constitution, or the body politic—as Alexander Hamilton said, “injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

     Impeachment isn’t a process by which an established set of principles is enforced. There’s no tablet to be taken down from on high and followed; there’s no code of offenses for which a president can be charged. There are precedents, but they’re not binding, which is a good thing. Two of the previous impeachments, of Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were essentially partisan exercises that fell short of the needed Senate votes. On the other hand, Richard Nixon would have been impeached and convicted had he not given up the presidency to avoid that fate (and to hold on to his pension). The proceeding against Nixon in effect succeeded because it was serious and bipartisan. Whether such a formation is possible in today’s politics is questionable, but as the Republicans get increasingly worried about Trump, a bipartisan move against him becomes less far-fetched than has been widely assumed.

     Having sat through weeks of deliberation by the House Judiciary Committee when it considered the impeachment of Nixon, and having kept up with the subject ever since, including talking to constitutional scholars, I believe that there are valid charges to be brought.

     A critical principle adopted in Nixon’s in-effect impeachment that could also be applied to Trump was, to my mind, the most significant adaptation of the impeachment power by the House Judiciary Committee. Article II listed a number of “abuses of power” committed by Nixon himself or through his subordinates—including wiretapping, use of the IRS against Nixon’s “enemies;” the break-ins of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate and, far more menacing, into the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, who had leaked the Pentagon Papers. The drafters were interested in looking for a “pattern or practice” of a certain kind of behavior.

     Thus the drafters of Article II significantly broadened the scope of impeachable offenses by holding the president accountable for the acts of his subordinates. Under this principle, winking and nodding but not saying anything incriminating (or caught on tape), wouldn’t exempt a president from responsibility for their acts. Thus the answer to the persistent question—Did Nixon know ahead of time about the Watergate break-in?—is, “It doesn’t matter.” He gave enough signals to his subordinates that he wanted to “get the goods” on Lawrence O’Brien, the then-chairman of the DNC.

     Thus, even if Trump’s hand isn’t found in any proven collusion by his campaign aides or associates with associates of Vladimir Putin, or even Putin himself, Trump himself could be impeached for collusion.

     The charge would be that through his aides and associates, he aided and abetted a foreign adversary in subverting the American democratic electoral system set forth in the Constitution. Of course if Trump himself is proven to have colluded with the Russians to tilt the election in his favor—whether or not these efforts can be shown to have accounted for his victory—he could be impeached and convicted for those same infringements of the Constitution. Though such activities would have occurred before Trump took office, it’s argued that working with foreign interests to bring about one’s own election would be an offense against the polity and the constitutionally prescribed democratic election process and could be considered treason. (Treason, as it happens, is one of the few specific impeachable offenses listed in the Constitution.)

     All of this, of course, depends on what special counsel Robert Mueller finds. Mueller is known to be particularly interested in a meeting held in Trump Tower in June of 2016, in which all of the top campaign officials sat down with a Russian lawyer known to be close to the Kremlin who had elicited Donald Trump Jr.’s interest by saying that she had dirt on Hillary Clinton. The president himself got involved in writing a false statement for his son, Donald Jr., to give to the press about that meeting.

     While no one offense may be sufficient to impeach Trump, and perhaps shouldn’t be, a combination of potential offenses would be harder for Congress to ignore, should there be an impeachment proceeding.

For the rest of the article go to my Facebook page - Russ

Thursday
Oct052017

AMERICAN DEMOCRACY DESCENDS INTO HYSTERIA

Why American Democracy Has Descended Into Collective Hysteria

We are a great power in decline—but neither party has a clue what to do about it.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump after a campaign rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, February 2016. (AP Photo / Gerald Herbert)

     The pundit class loves to refight the last election and explain the why and wherefore of what should have happened in 2016 but didn’t because candidates didn’t follow the pundits’ script. The talking heads sound like sourpuss theater critics who wanted to rewrite the third act.

     Gene Robinson, the amiable Washington Post columnist, is an honorable exception. He has lost patience with the conventional wisdom that failed so miserably last election season, and his recent column spoke the plain truth about the collapsing party system.

     “I believe a political realignment is underway, and those who fail to discern its outlines could end up powerless and irrelevant,” Robinson wrote. The traditional left-right, progressive-conservative political axis has lost its validity. “I believe neither party has the foggiest idea what the new diagram looks like.” Amen to that.

     It has been my message too. During last year’s campaign, I described Bernie Sanders as the “high road” to fundamental change, while Donald Trump owned the “low road.” It may take several election cycles to determine which road the country embraces—if it doesn’t choose a path very different from either.

     Both major parties are stuck in the past and afraid of the future.

     For now, our governing system resembles a kind of collective hysteria, an emotional breakdown that reflects problems far broader than our having a crackpot president. Both major parties are stuck in the past and afraid of the future. Fear and confusion have overwhelmed the establishment. They have no plan for our future—not one that speaks candidly to the troubled conditions that have emerged over the last generation.

     There’s a familiar pattern in American history: When the two-party system was stalemated and radical reforms were needed (abolishing slavery or voting rights for women, for example), people organized powerful third-party challenges to advance their cause. The country is now ripe for another rump insurgency.

     The long-standing presumption, at least among political centrists, has been that independent activists have no choice but to align with a major party to gain a voice in government. But digital technologies, which lower the cost of communication for ordinary citizens, have disrupted the two-party monopoly. The fruitcake election of 2016 has not generated a new third party, but it’s early days yet.

     People are torn between what they have always wanted to believe about their country and the contradictions they see in real events.

     People have won the means to speak for themselves and compete directly with the official truth packaged by the two major parties. And dissenters have learned how to gain voice and power by attacking the established ranks. This is healthy for small-d democracy. Maybe party professionals will learn how to listen.

     The American dilemma is deeper than mere politics. People are torn between what they have always wanted to believe about their country and the contradictions they see in real events, often in their own lives. I believe this tension is the source of our political hysteria.

     Who are we really, as the American people? Where am I in the larger scheme of things? What happened to the country I loved? These imponderables are not confined to left or right, rich or poor, but obviously are felt most poignantly among people experiencing personal loss and disappointment.

     This sense of loss is the psychological wound that Donald Trump picks at maliciously, exploiting the pain and despair with his self-inflated vow to miraculously restore America’s “greatness.” The slogan is brilliant. It is also Trump’s most cynical lie.

     The crux of America’s conflicted feelings is this:

     We are a great power in decline, but one that pretends nothing has changed. The decline in our dominance of world affairs is not a tragedy, and may actually be liberating in many ways. But the so-called American Century is definitely over, mainly because so many other countries have caught up with us. Neither major party wants to talk about this, partly because they don’t know what to say, but also because whatever they say might sound vaguely unpatriotic.

     This global realignment of relative economic power does not mean the United States must become weak or impoverished. On the contrary, once we recognize our changed position, it should free us from certain things. The burdens of neocolonialism—fighting half a dozen wars at once to discipline “lesser” nations—are very expensive. In fact, they have weakened us.

     The popular chanting of “USA! USA! USA!” sounds like false bravado to anyone who knows what’s happening. How will Americans react when they wake up one morning to discover that China is now the largest economy in the world? I doubt they will chant “We’re Number 2! We’re Number 2!”

     The history of great nations in decline ought to be a cautionary tale for Americans. On their way down, declining powers have often squandered their assets on wasteful wars in vain attempts to deny the reality of new competition. 

     Ken Burn's PBS series on Vietnam is a classic example of a once great power gone awry. 

     One classic example is the British Empire, which sent its army to put down a colonial upstart in North America. Washington policy-makers would doubtless deny the neocolonial comparison, but we do seem to be following the same old script—using military force in an attempt to shape the economic playing field.

     What should Americans do?

     First, drop the nostalgic rhetoric of past glory and triumph. Instead, begin a serious analysis of our current situation, and future possibilities, and explore the options that are plausible and worth trying. Forget old political factions and labels. Ask the big questions and invite everyone to the table.

      We can dispel stalemate and confusion by reopening the oldest questions Americans have always asked themselves. What kind of country do we wish America could become? And how might we get there? 

     Editor's note:  One of the flaws in American society is that we've never reconciled two fundamental contradictions - possessive individualism and the social gospel.  The former values the marketplace and the autonomous individual the latter values community what  MLK, Jr. termed "the beloved community." 

     One reason the split personality exists is that the word "socialism" has always been a four letter word to many Americans. 

     Yet if we look at the high points of the American Experiment it has been during "socialist" eras - the building of the Erie Canal and the transcontinental RR, the Morrill Act of 1892 which established the land grant college system, the trust busting of Teddy R, the New Deal, the GI Bill, the building of the interstate highway system and our cultural trust - such as our national parks and the Smithsonian. 

     Contrary to Reagan "government is not the problem, the quest for a unregulated economy is...    

     JFK's inaugural address posed these two contradictions - "don't ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."  The problem with this formulation is that it presumes the answer is individual not collective action.  JFK had two irreconcilable policies - the Peace Corps which embraced good works and the War in Vietnam which embraced a culture of death.  That's the modern American dilemma.    



Thursday
Sep212017

WHY THE RICH GET RICHER & THE REST OF US GET POORER

The Growing Danger of Dynastic Wealth

ROBERT REICH

9/16/17

     White House National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, former president of Goldman Sachs, said recently that “only morons pay the estate tax.”

     I’m reminded of Donald Trump’s comment that he didn’t pay federal income taxes because he was “smart.” And billionaire Leona Helmsley’s "only the little people pay taxes.”

     What Cohn was getting at is how easy it is nowadays for the wealthy to pass their fortunes to their children, tax-free.  

     The estate tax applies only to estates over $11 million per couple. And wealthy families stash away dollars above this into “dynastic” trust funds that escape additional taxes. 

     No wonder revenues from the estate tax have been dropping for years even as wealth has become concentrated in fewer hands. The tax now generates about $20 billion a year, which is less than 1 percent of federal revenues. And it applies to only about 2 out of every 1,000 people who die.

     Now, Trump and Republican leaders are planning to cut or eliminate it altogether.

     There’s another part of the tax code that Cohn might also have been referring to – capital gains taxes paid on the soaring values of the wealthy people’s stocks, bonds, mansions and works of art, when they sell them.

     If the wealthy hold on to these assets until they die, the tax code allows their heirs to inherit them without paying any of these capital gains taxes. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this loophole saves heirs $50 billion a year.

     The estate and capital gains taxes were originally designed to prevent the growth of large dynasties in the U.S. and to reduce inequality.

     They’ve been failing to do that. The richest 1 tenth of 1 percent of Americans now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

     Many of today’s super rich never did a day’s work in their lives. Six out of the ten wealthiest Americans alive today are heirs to prominent fortunes. The Walmart heirs alone have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined.

     Rich millennials will soon acquire even more of the nation’s wealth. 

     America is now on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers expire, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children over the next three decades. 

     Those children will be able to live off of the income these assets generate, and then leave the bulk of them – which in the intervening years will have grown far more valuable – to their own heirs, tax-free.

     After a few generations of this, almost all of the nation’s wealth will be in the hands of a few thousand families.  

     Dynastic wealth runs counter to the ideal of America as a meritocracy. It makes a mockery of the notions that people earn what they’re worth in the market, and that economic gains should go to those who deserve them.

     It puts economic power into the hands of a relative small number of people who have never worked, but whose investment decisions will have a significant effect on the nation’s future.

     And it creates a self-perpetuating aristocracy that is antithetical to democracy.

     The last time America faced anything comparable to the concentration of wealth we face now, occurred at the turn of the last century.

     Then, President Teddy Roosevelt warned that “a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power,” could destroy American democracy.

     Roosevelt’s answer was to tax wealth. The estate tax was enacted in 1916 and the capital gains tax in 1922.

     But since then, both have been eroded. As the rich have accumulated greater wealth, they have also amassed more political power, and they’ve used that political power to reduce their taxes.

     Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, helped create a movement against dynastic wealth. Trump and today’s congressional Republicans will not follow in his footsteps. I doubt even today’s Democrats would do so if they had a chance. Big money has become too powerful on both sides of the aisle.

     But taxing big wealth is necessary if we’re ever to get our democracy back, and make our economy work for everyone rather than a privileged few.

     Maybe Gary Cohn is correct that only morons pay the estate tax. But if he and his boss were smart and they cared about America’s future, they’d raises taxes on great wealth. Roosevelt’s fear of an American dynasty is more applicable today than ever before.