CIA’s changing role in U.S. imperialism’s expanding war

copyright © 2010 Michael Prysner.   Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published on Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Attack highlights increased military operations of brutal secret agency

CIA agents in Afghanistan in 2001.

In eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, a member of the resistance infiltrated a CIA compound and detonated an explosive belt, killing seven CIA operatives and wounding six others.  

The CIA promptly vowed revenge for the attack.  Some agents spoke candidly on the day of the bombing, chest-thumping that they were in this fight for the long haul.  “There is no pullout [in 2011],” said one agent anonymously, “there is no withdrawal or anything like that planned.”

In a statement released by the CIA after the attack, the agency stated, referring to the casualties, that “we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives-a safer America.”

This “noble cause” that the CIA and its agents are vowing to fight until the end did not begin in Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.  CIA operations in the country began in the late 1970s.  

Washington’s public rationale for why the U.S. government must fight in Afghanistan-lack of women’s rights, Islamic law, lack of education, and so on-have not always existed in Afghanistan.  There is, in fact, a period during which Afghanistan was on a progressive path.  In 1978, under the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, women’s rights and anti-sexist laws were enacted for the first time in Afghanistan’s history.  Schools began opening throughout the country and a literacy campaign was initiated.  The government functioned on a secular, democratic platform, after a long feudal era.

As Afghanistan was building equality, increasing literacy and education, and building a new progressive society, Washington was worried about one thing.  The new government wanted independence and would not allow itself to be made a puppet serving the interests of U.S. capitalism.  The CIA was promptly dispatched, not for a “safer America,” but for a safer region for U.S. companies to exert their dominance.  

The CIA’s history in Afghanistan begins like this: spending billions of dollars to crush the only progressive period in the country’s history.  

How did they do this? By heavily funding and fighting alongside the most reactionary religious organizations, who began killing and maiming women not observing the most fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law, destroying schools and murdering scores of civilians throughout the country.  Those CIA-backed forces then took state power, and ruled the country-while still receiving millions of dollars from the CIA.  Then, they were overthrown by the CIA in 2001.  

The CIA orchestrated the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001, commanding the war with its operatives on the ground.  One of those agents who masterminded the U.S. takeover in 2001, Henry Crumpton, recently spoke out about the CIA tactics used.  He and his agents would visit tribal leaders, and offer them this ultimatum: “If you do not cooperate, the chances of your survival are greatly diminished.” 

If that particular tribal leader refused to assist the invading foreign forces in his country, Crumpton and his team would openly murder him.  Crumpton admitted, “And the next day, we’d talk to the tribal leader that was next door.  … Given the incentive that we had set the previous day, he was much more amenable to negotiations in our favor.”

The terrorist tactics used by the CIA in Afghanistan make it obvious why their base was targeted.

The CIA has long commanded military operations, from its death squads in Latin America to bloody military coups in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  But there has been a fundamental change in the CIA’s military role since 2001.  

Now, the CIA is on the front lines in Afghanistan more so than in any other mission.  Previously, the CIA primarily commanded U.S. military special operations troops, as well as local militias.  The CIA’s own paramilitary branch, known as the Special Activities Division, was small and rarely used in lieu of U.S. and foreign troops.  

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration began the process of militarizing the CIA, which continues today.  The Special Activities Division was increased in size and funding.  They were given greater authority to clandestinely conduct military operations in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and other countries where U.S.  troops are not legally allowed.  

Now, instead of commanding U.S. or foreign military units and local reactionary militias, the CIA is increasingly conducting military operations with their own agents.  They even operate out of their own firebases scattered all over Afghanistan and Iraq.  This constitutes a major change in the structure of the CIA.  

The growing trend of privatizing the military can be seen as the CIA militarizes.  In addition to increasing their own number of troops, the CIA has also absorbed sectors of the notorious mercenary company known as Blackwater (now known as Xe).  

It was recently revealed that the CEO of Blackwater, right-wing evangelical billionaire Eric Prince, works directly for the CIA.  Blackwater troops became CIA troops, and have been conducting assassination campaigns and military operations in Pakistan and other countries.  

But the CIA’s militarization spans beyond commanding their own troops.  The CIA established a vast network of secret prisons, where suspects endure vicious illegal torture and absolutely no legal rights.

In addition, the CIA now has its own personal air force, commanding and piloting drones that are now being regularly used all over the world, conducting bombing missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.  The Obama administration recently approved even more funds to increase the CIA’s drone capabilities, putting bombs and missiles at their fingertips.  

The CIA is playing a more direct role in U.S. wars than ever before.  The U.S. ruling class wants the so-called “war on terror” to be shifted into the shadows.  

The anti-war movement exploded in late 2002, drawing the largest anti-war demonstrations in history against the invasion of Iraq.  The anti-war movement during the Vietnam War grew to a point where the U.S. government was forced to abandon its colonial aims in Vietnam.  Now, the United States is involved in what is already the longest war in U.S. history, which is growing more unpopular everyday.  The occupation of Iraq still has no end in sight.  The Pentagon brass has made it clear that we should brace for a long and bloody fight in Afghanistan.  Additionally, U.S. imperialism has goals elsewhere in the region.  

Capitalism has developed into a global economic system.  The United States and a handful of countries in Western Europe have competed with each other to dominate the markets and resources of the rest of the world for the past century.  They have also cooperated together in their joint struggle against socialism or against independent non-socialist governments in the developing world.

This has led to the bloodiest century in human history and shows no signs of abating.  

One way that the militarization of the CIA benefits the ruling class is that it allows the U.S. government to substitute other forces for those the U.S. military would have deployed.  U.S. military operations are much more subject to publicity and scrutiny, but clandestine CIA operations are ambiguous.  Working in the shadows allows the government to deny its own role in secret bombings, targeted assassinations and economic sabotage in other countries.  The history of the CIA includes the most blatantly criminal military operations, using the most brutal and murderous tactics to overthrow popular, democratically elected governments who do not submit to U.S. corporations, and installing the most reactionary and repressive dictators, from Guatemala, to Iran, to Haiti, to the Congo, and countless others.  If U.S. troops deployed to conduct these operations, there would have been even greater public outcry.  But they are instead conducted in the shadows, to mask the true nature of the system we live under.

Outright military invasion is often a last resort for the ruling class, when their other methods have failed to achieve their goals of economic domination.  With the changing role of the CIA, the extent of the capabilities of conducting covert operations has been stretched to new boundaries.  The CIA can now deploy its own soldiers, pilot its own bombing missions and manage its own prison apparatus.

In eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, a member of the resistance infiltrated a CIA compound and detonated an explosive belt, killing seven CIA operatives and wounding six others.  

The CIA promptly vowed revenge for the attack.  Some agents spoke candidly on the day of the bombing, chest-thumping that they were in this fight for the long haul.  “There is no pullout [in 2011],” said one agent anonymously, “there is no withdrawal or anything like that planned.”

In a statement released by the CIA after the attack, the agency stated, referring to the casualties, that “we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives-a safer America.”

This “noble cause” that the CIA and its agents are vowing to fight until the end did not begin in Afghanistan in response to the Sept.  11 attacks.  CIA operations in the country began in the late 1970s.  

Washington’s public rationale for why the U.S. government must fight in Afghanistan-lack of women’s rights, Islamic law, lack of education, and so on-have not always existed in Afghanistan.  There is, in fact, a period during which Afghanistan was on a progressive path.  In 1978, under the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, women’s rights and anti-sexist laws were enacted for the first time in Afghanistan’s history.  Schools began opening throughout the country and a literacy campaign was initiated.  The government functioned on a secular, democratic platform, after a long feudal era.

As Afghanistan was building equality, increasing literacy and education, and building a new progressive society, Washington was worried about one thing.  The new government wanted independence and would not allow itself to be made a puppet serving the interests of U.S. capitalism.  The CIA was promptly dispatched, not for a “safer America,” but for a safer region for U.S. companies to exert their dominance.  

The CIA’s history in Afghanistan begins like this: spending billions of dollars to crush the only progressive period in the country’s history.  

How did they do this? By heavily funding and fighting alongside the most reactionary religious organizations, who began killing and maiming women not observing the most fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law, destroying schools and murdering scores of civilians throughout the country.  Those CIA-backed forces then took state power, and ruled the country-while still receiving millions of dollars from the CIA.  Then, they were overthrown by the CIA in 2001.  

The CIA orchestrated the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001, commanding the war with its operatives on the ground.  One of those agents who masterminded the U.S. takeover in 2001, Henry Crumpton, recently spoke out about the CIA tactics used.  He and his agents would visit tribal leaders, and offer them this ultimatum: “If you do not cooperate, the chances of your survival are greatly diminished.” 

If that particular tribal leader refused to assist the invading foreign forces in his country, Crumpton and his team would openly murder him.  Crumpton admitted, “And the next day, we’d talk to the tribal leader that was next door.  … Given the incentive that we had set the previous day, he was much more amenable to negotiations in our favor.”

The terrorist tactics used by the CIA in Afghanistan make it obvious why their base was targeted.

The CIA has long commanded military operations, from its death squads in Latin America to bloody military coups in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  But there has been a fundamental change in the CIA’s military role since 2001.  

Now, the CIA is on the front lines in Afghanistan more so than in any other mission.  Previously, the CIA primarily commanded U.S. military special operations troops, as well as local militias.  The CIA’s own paramilitary branch, known as the Special Activities Division, was small and rarely used in lieu of U.S. and foreign troops.  

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration began the process of militarizing the CIA, which continues today.  The Special Activities Division was increased in size and funding.  They were given greater authority to clandestinely conduct military operations in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and other countries where U.S. troops are not legally allowed.  

Now, instead of commanding U.S. or foreign military units and local reactionary militias, the CIA is increasingly conducting military operations with their own agents.  They even operate out of their own firebases scattered all over Afghanistan and Iraq.  This constitutes a major change in the structure of the CIA.  

The growing trend of privatizing the military can be seen as the CIA militarizes.  In addition to increasing their own number of troops, the CIA has also absorbed sectors of the notorious mercenary company known as Blackwater (now known as Xe).  

It was recently revealed that the CEO of Blackwater, right-wing evangelical billionaire Eric Prince, works directly for the CIA.  Blackwater troops became CIA troops, and have been conducting assassination campaigns and military operations in Pakistan and other countries.  

But the CIA’s militarization spans beyond commanding their own troops.  The CIA established a vast network of secret prisons, where suspects endure vicious illegal torture and absolutely no legal rights.

In addition, the CIA now has its own personal air force, commanding and piloting drones that are now being regularly used all over the world, conducting bombing missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.  The Obama administration recently approved even more funds to increase the CIA’s drone capabilities, putting bombs and missiles at their fingertips.  

The CIA is playing a more direct role in U.S. wars than ever before.  The U.S. ruling class wants the so-called “war on terror” to be shifted into the shadows.  

The anti-war movement exploded in late 2002, drawing the largest anti-war demonstrations in history against the invasion of Iraq.  The anti-war movement during the Vietnam War grew to a point where the U.S. government was forced to abandon its colonial aims in Vietnam.  Now, the United States is involved in what is already the longest war in U.S. history, which is growing more unpopular everyday.  The occupation of Iraq still has no end in sight.  The Pentagon brass has made it clear that we should brace for a long and bloody fight in Afghanistan.  Additionally, U.S. imperialism has goals elsewhere in the region.  

Capitalism has developed into a global economic system.  The United States and a handful of countries in Western Europe have competed with each other to dominate the markets and resources of the rest of the world for the past century.  They have also cooperated together in their joint struggle against socialism or against independent non-socialist governments in the developing world.

This has led to the bloodiest century in human history and shows no signs of abating.  

One way that the militarization of the CIA benefits the ruling class is that it allows the U.S. government to substitute other forces for those the U.S. military would have deployed.  U.S. military operations are much more subject to publicity and scrutiny, but clandestine CIA operations are ambiguous.  Working in the shadows allows the government to deny its own role in secret bombings, targeted assassinations and economic sabotage in other countries.  The history of the CIA includes the most blatantly criminal military operations, using the most brutal and murderous tactics to overthrow popular, democratically elected governments who do not submit to U.S. corporations, and installing the most reactionary and repressive dictators, from Guatemala, to Iran, to Haiti, to the Congo, and countless others.  If U.S. troops deployed to conduct these operations, there would have been even greater public outcry.  But they are instead conducted in the shadows, to mask the true nature of the system we live under.

Outright military invasion is often a last resort for the ruling class, when their other methods have failed to achieve their goals of economic domination.  With the changing role of the CIA, the extent of the capabilities of conducting covert operations has been stretched to new boundaries.  The CIA can now deploy its own soldiers, pilot its own bombing missions and manage its own prison apparatus.

Keep America Safe




Watch CBS News Videos Online

Obama: We Will Do Everything Possible to Keep America Safe

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Do you know one?  Perchance your mother, father, brother, or sister is a person you would characterize as lovingly protective.  He or she maybe an individual who works to shield loved ones from harm.  This fine fellow or femme plots and plans in an attempt to prevent any crisis.  People come to depend on caring souls such as he or she.  Indeed, you may be the cautious crier who actively expresses concern for the health and welfare of those you treasure.  It is a tough task, but you, or someone in your life may have assumed responsibility for the well-being of another.  Surely, someone must keep us safe and sane.  One never knows who might lurk or linger in the halls, bathroom stalls, on a plane, boat or train.  Credentials must be checked.  If family and friends cannot safeguard us from the crazies and fanatics certainly, our sweet Uncle Sam will.  

Article II of the Constitution and the American people provide the Commander-In-Chief the authority to protect and defend at all costs, or currently, it would seem so.  Checks and balance be damned, when the consensus within the country is, “We are at war!”

In a time such as this, few reflect upon the parallels in their everyday lives.  Quietly, each of us recalls when we, personally, were at war.  The conflict was covert.  Rarely were we even conscious of what occurred.  Thus, just as we are as children, in adulthood, we oblige.  When asked to remove our shoes in an airport, American citizens, and visitors to this country, do so.  “Put your sweater in the tray.”  Happy, with the prospect that we might avoid a full body search, we smile, and act in accordance with the command.

This is after we handed the Transportation Security Administrators our boarding pass and photograph identification card.  Indeed, as we shuffle off to Buffalo, New York, Billings, Montana, or Bakersfield, California, we succumb to the many demands put before us. The public is now, for the most part, willing to submit to a body scan. Seventy-eight percent of the Americans polled support the use of technology that in the past, would have been considered a physical invasion of privacy.

Although fifty-one percent of the American people who were asked favor racial and ethnic profiling, this action, in truth, is thought politically incorrect.  Nonetheless, archetypal classifications are “acceptable” to more than half the populace.  People prefer to feel protected.  Most trust they will never be subject to unwarranted seizure.  Nor will the use of these X-rays affect their health.  Certainly, Uncle Sam is scrupulous and will not use the images in an unethical manner.  Others are the adversaries.  Authority figures are as Mom and Dad.  They do as they do in our best interest.  

As humans, we long for love, and interpret protective practice as an expression of this caring, or do we?  Might we muse Americans have become inured to the fragility factor. Constantly, especially in this decade, citizens have been told there is reason to fear.  Hence, Americans have become extremely apprehensive.  Paradoxically, the Office of Homeland Security concludes that much of our trepidation is of our own making.

It begins in childhood.  In the last score or so, fearful parents proclaimed, “Do not talk to strangers.”  The neighborhood is on watch.  Playtime must be supervised.  “The world,” Moms and Dads declare, “is not a safe place.”  Indeed, it is impossible to escape the hazards.  Scary people are everywhere.  Nonetheless, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and of course Uncle Sam will help. Rest assured; “we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your family safe and secure.”

Children were, perchance, comforted.  Today, mothers and fathers ponder their growing pains.  Many reason it is better to cloister a little one.  Thus, parents plan every activity.  From birth forward, it is more than 18 Years in the Making. Cash is stashed for college.  Schools and careers are chosen and charted before a child takes his or her first steps.  Tikes are trained and tested to ensure that they will achieve. Once the standards are set, early in life, our government takes over.  Officials watch our every move and we are comfortable with this.

Americans, compassionately teach their children to be on guard However, as an adolescent medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, Doctor Elizabeth Alderman observes, overprotective parents have left their children with few real-world coping competencies. ”If you don’t have these skills, then it’s very normal to become anxious.”

Diane knows this well. She learned her lessons long before the current trend in parenting.  Darling Diane was but a lass when she discovered that she was not safe.  Decades ago, years before people hid behind locked doors and windows, Diane realized that everywhere she went there was danger.  

In the 1950s the little tike understood, when she walked to school, she did not travel alone.  Her mother marched with her.  Mrs McMahon did not stroll at the young girl’s side.  Nor did the elder woman sweetly saunter just out of sight.  Madame McMahon hung over Diane’s head.  She haunted her darling daughter, and was always in the youngster’s thoughts.

For Diane, it was as it is today for a young patient of Doctor David Anderegg, a Child Psychologist in Lenox, Massachusetts.  As the adolescent spoke with the Professor of Psychology at Bennington College, she said “I wish my parents had some hobby other than me.” Experts appear to agree; being the subject of intense scrutiny can cause a child, of any age, to be anxious.

Diane McMahon concurs.  Whatever she did, Diane could not shake the angst.  Her protective parent influenced her every action; however, not in ways that would benefit the girl or her relationship with her Mom.  

If Diane thought to be with peers, Mom was always in the background of her mind.  When her friends stole makeup from Walgreen’s Pharmacy, Diane did too.  The “culprit” knew she could not keep the cosmetics, at least not at home.  She arranged for a friend of hers, whose Mom and Dad did not go through her drawers, to take the foundation, powder, eye shadow, and mascara.  Each evening these, along with the lipstick and perfume would go home with an acquaintance.  In the morning, on the way to school, all would be returned to Diane.

When classmates said smoking is cool, Diane tried it.  Warnings from her mother, while heard, and alive, loudly in Diane’s head, did not persuade the teen to do what Mom wanted her to do.

She never openly crossed her mother; nor did the girl question Mrs McMahon’s wisdom.  Diane merely hid her heart, the stolen makeup, the cigarettes, and her life.  The mother lived blissfully, ignorant of who her daughter was, and what she did daily.  The two had a good relationship, and seemingly, to this day they do.  However, the hurts, just as the haunts, remain unseen.  

In Diane’s family secrets prevail.  Just as a rebellious child, a sibling, a spouse, or a terrorist, people do what they desire to do.  No one, not even a firm Mrs McMahon, Mister Obama, Mister Bush, you, or I can control what will come.  Indeed, we create it.

When people are presumed to be in need of protection, ultimately, they guard themselves from the protector.  Those alleged guilty persons, often prove not to be as they appear to be. Diane enjoyed her hours at home with her parents.  She cherished the time they spent together away as well.  Yet, there was always unexpressed tension.

Hothouse parenting undermines children in other ways, too, says Anderegg. Being examined all the time makes children extremely self-conscious. As a result they get less communicative; scrutiny teaches them to bury their real feelings deeply. And most of all, self-consciousness removes the safety to be experimental and playful. “If every drawing is going to end up on your parents’ refrigerator, you’re not free to fool around, to goof up or make mistakes,” says Anderegg.

Parental hovering is why so many teenagers are so ironic, he notes. It’s a kind of detachment, “a way of hiding in plain sight. They just don’t want to be exposed to any more scrutiny.”

Infinite inspections, eternal examinations, possible detection did not necessarily stop Diane from engaging in the behaviors her mother feared.  Nor would a prohibition or possible penalty inhibit the lass .  Threats have no power.  As a toddler Dine realized the notion Scott Stewart, Vice President of Tactical Intelligence at the global foundation, Stratfor acknowledges.  The security expert advises; regardless of what type of technology is used at airports, or which techniques are employed by “protective parents, creative terrorists, just as tots, teens, and those at any age, will always find ways to get around it.

When asked if airport body scanners can stop terrorist attacks, he said, “Look at prison systems, where searches are far more invasive – they still can’t stop contraband from being smuggled into the system,”  Mister Stewart continues and cautions. Americans tend to rely on technology, “instead of human intelligence,”  

We might extrapolate.  Protective parents depend upon their ability to provide safety and security.  Rather than teach self-reliance, nervous caregivers coddle, cosset, and lavish “love” on their little ones.  Mothers and fathers create a culture cocooned from harm and believe this is good parenting.

John Portmann, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia has observed, many students, such as Diane,  “There is a ritual every university administrator has come to fear.” He explains.  “Every fall, parents drop off their well-groomed freshmen and within two or three days many have consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol and placed themselves in harm’s way. These kids have been controlled for so long, they just go crazy.”

Professor Portmann feels the effects of overprotection are even more pernicious.  He suggests the whole fabric of society is feeble and fallible when we place our faith in our mother, father, or the Federal government. Portmann is very familiar with what he sees each semester.  Young people and their parents become weaker, “more responsive to the herd, too eager to fit in-less assertive  . . , unwilling to disagree with their peers, afraid to question authority, more willing to conform to the expectations of those on the next rung of power above them.”  

That is, perhaps, the greater threat to the persons who reside on this planet.  Most forfeit their personal power.  People presuppose someone will know what is best.  We trust the crowd or the Commander-In-chief.  Most think as the group does.  “Evil is everywhere.”  “There are enemies all about.”  “Terrorists want to kill us.”  These are considered conventional wisdoms or accepted assumptions.  However, the paradox is, presumptions become projections.  Self-fulfilling prophecies survive.  Frequently, these conjectures thrive, while, just as in all other wars, citizens die.

In counterterrorism circles, the standard response to questions about the possibility of future attacks is the terse one-liner: “Not if, but when.” This mantra supposedly conveys a realistic approach to the problem, but, as Joseba Zulaika argues in Terrorism, it functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy. By distorting reality to fit their own worldview, the architects of the War on Terror prompt the behavior they seek to prevent-a twisted logic that has already played out horrifically in Iraq. In short, Zulaika contends, counterterrorism has become pivotal in promoting terrorism.

Diane, her deeds, Mrs McMahon sense of doom, and the destructive practice of a protective philosophy affirm what scores of Americans dismiss in the abstract.  What we fear most has power.  As is oft-stated, what we conceive, and truly believe, will be achieved.  Ample research asserts, whether what we imagine is for good or the source of our grief, our conviction can be a cause and an effect.  Often we are too close to a situation to see what others easily discern.

To the countless who contemplate traumas such as terrorism and ask, “What next?” There are many possible prospects.  We can choose to cultivate a culture that cares rather than works to control or we can continue to rely on a reality that has never been.  Americans can have faith that the Commander-In-Chief  “Will Do Everything” or we can accept that, alas, the demon is our own dependency.

References for the reality of resentment, revolt, or insurgent rebels . . .

Consumer Confidence Rises; Democracy Declines



March 21, 2007: Benjamin Barber explains why consumer culture is bad for humanity

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Great News!  The good life will soon return to America.  Auspiciously, months before the holiday shopping season began, Americans were told that after more than a year of fiscal recession, or what some have characterized as akin to an economic depression, consumers were optimistic.  The confidence  index and other indicators were much improved.  Manufacturing executives assured the public, the engine that drives the free enterprise system was in a “sustainable recovery mode.” In the very near future, products, and people’s sense of need, would be fabricated again. Everything will be right with the world, economically.  Few feared the threat that, long ago, Americans had come to accept.   The foundation of a democratic system had eroded in favor of consumption.

Egalitarianism had been so swiftly and subtly replaced by free enterprise, only a small number observed what had occurred.  Mostly, Americans were out in the marketplace, the malls, or in the halls of their homes contemplating what else they might buy.  The Declaration of Independence, the document that calls for equality could not be seen amongst the clutter.  People in this Capitalist country do not necessarily ponder the contradiction.  Satisfied and secure in the belief “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  The purpose of government is to protect these rights.  Perhaps not, In the United States the population acts as though there are more important concerns to consider.  

Citizens are certain the core issue is, “How might I retain my right to buy goods and services?”

The oft-heard answer: manufacturing.  American industry and individuals must invent and invest in expansion.  The United States must produce products to sell.  People to serve the needs of purchasers are also indispensable. The need to fabricate an adequate supply, and the staff vital to support it, will increase employment.  Jobs will provide workers with greater purchasing power.  Expenditure will generate profits.  Proceeds provide a gain that can then be invested in manufacturing.  The only missing component in this cycle is perchance the most crucial, promotion.  In America, we, the people, have allowed our selves to be manufactured.  Citizens are no longer the government; they are customers.

Toddlers, teens, twenty, thirty and forty something’s are taught just as earlier generations were,  for an industrialized country to thrive consumers must “feel” confident.  An apprehensive public needs to be convinced it is safe and sane to buy.  Thus, patrons are told they can pay later.  No money need be placed down.  Credit can be arranged.  Long-term loans are available, and why not take advantage.  Americans have been given ample confirmation; debt will not destroy them or our “democracy.”

Besides, banks built empires on binge spending and received billions in bailouts.   The country and Capitalism did not collapse.  The economic crisis was but an ephemeral blip.

Fiscal institutions and  financial advisers assuage Americans; there is bad debt and good debt.  Borrowing has its benefits, a new sofa, a sweet set of wheels, and a sensational home.  Damn democracy, social equality, the homeless persons alongside the road, and those without health care coverage.  Full speed, or better said, a shopping spree ahead.

As a barrage of information built on the argument, the economy is stable, buyers began to believe.  Indeed, faith in the American free enterprise system was born long ago.

Birth of a Notion

Adam Smith introduced an idea. “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.” Later Economists expanded on and extrapolated from the original theory.  Then, early in the twentieth century, Edward Bernays, the father of Public Relations maximized the maxim, much to the delight of American manufacturers., such as the architect of the assembly line, Henry Ford, and the originator of the premise, “planned obsolescence,” Alfred P. Sloan.

Together, this team of 20th century tycoons converted what had been the crawl, from a reluctant consumer, to an abundantly content and avid trot.  In America, babies were not born, shoppers were.  These gents understood that if companies were to create a commitment to covet, it would take time, talk, and constant titillation.  Consumers are as children.  Advertisers must hold the hand of potential customers. Marketers will teach them the lesson; what you think is only a want is truly a necessity.  

Radio and television broadcasters must also encourage expenditures.  Periodicals must print the message. Peers will surely support Capitalist principles, as will those Representatives who are well financed by free marketers.  “As consumption goes, so goes the American economy.”

Economic Expansion Energized

By Thanksgiving eve, with Black Friday just round the bend, bargain hunters had become sufficiently encouraged.  There were signs that consumers and the Commerce Department were sanguine.  Buoyed by the numbers the Labor Department released, retailers trusted there was reason for holiday cheer. “Unemployment benefits slid to 466,000 last week”, the lowest in more than a year, from 501,000 the prior week. It was the fourth straight weekly decline. The first time since January that claims dipped below 500,000.”

The evidence was in.  U.S. durable goods orders were up in August.  Granted, the government’s “cash-for-clunkers” program spurred consumers to spend more on major purchases. Similarly, the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers helped revitalize housing sales.  Nevertheless, what truly drove the American people was manufactured and purchased long ago.  Citizens are nothing but customers. The American people have come to resign themselves to a manufactured reality.  Government is not of, by, or for the people; it is the rival.  Today, the population professes, Administrations do not protect our rights.  The public protests.  Imposed rules and regulations deny the common folk their birthright to acquire.

History; Democracy on the Decline

It all began back in the day, in 1776, to be specific.   Not only did the acclaimed Adam Smith present his political economic essays in The Wealth of Nations, at the same time the American Declaration of Independence was signed, sealed, and delivered.  Author Adam Smith, the oft-acclaimed engineer of a free market system, or more fully his followers, gave birth to a notion that self-interest is a superior mission.   Hence, whilst our forefathers worked to give birth to a democratic nation, one in which egalitarian principles are prominent, those who espouse entrepreneurial ethics endeavored to ensure that free enterprise ruled.

Indeed, tis true; Adam Smith advocated for independent thought and actions.  He, however, was also a believer in the greater good.  He understood and advanced a need for government.  Yet, free-trade Economists such as David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, as well as tempter Edward Bernays, and tycoons Henry Ford, and Alfred P. Sloan promoted a further cultural shift.  Businesses must manufacturer consumers, and so they did.

Purveyors pursued the public.  People were persuaded to purchase.  The American populace became nothing but pawns.  The common folk are not forced to buy; they are only constantly coaxed to believe wants are needs.  Equal representation and freedom to choose has been converted to Capitalism.  Adults have been infantilized.  Mature Moms, Dads, men, and women say, “Give me.  Give me.  Give me.”

Shoppers Succumb. Economic Strength Expands Again

Buyers trust; they can have all they want.  Prosperity was the dream, the undertaking, and indeed, in America, affluence is the way of life.  We ponder it, produce it, and protect policies that will promote it.

Educated elders, Economists, and elected officials expound; if businesses are bestowed with the freedom to bring in new revenue, bliss will be ours today, tomorrow, and for time in eternity.

Wealth will be shared equally amongst all our citizens, or at least the opportunity to acquire; to aspire, to ascend, towards the American Dream will be possible.  We only need to begin to buy again.  Economic experts, just as everyday commoners trust in the Capitalist system of consumption, and why not.  In this country the constant refrain is “Capitalism is the worst economic system  . . . except for all the others that have been tried.”

With this thought in mind, it is easy to ignore history.  We need not reflect upon the seventeen recessions and world crises since The Great Depression.  In this North American continent, forever, we have faith; we are constantly “turning a corner” Perhaps we are.  Americans have moved back to the future.

Back to a Boom and Bust future

‘Without regard for the existing recession, nor the threat of a deeper Depression, citizens brush aside the words of woe and warning.  Mindful of the messages massaged by the powerful few, who control the media, the former Vice President Albert Gore observed television covers trivial excess.  In his latest book, The Assault on Reason, Mister Gore acknowledged American democracy “is in danger of being hollowed out,” as are the brains of buyers who know what they want.  Good news?

The summer doldrums gave way to greater news.   Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke affirmed there is raison d’être for bliss; “Even though from a technical perspective the recession is very likely over at this point.”  

Finally, Americans can muse once, twice, or thrice more; assembly lines with accolades to Henry Ford, will hum again.  The nation’s most powerful tool, mass manufacturing, will ensure near full employment. “Planned obsolescence,” a tribute to Alfred P. Sloan, will still serve as the old reliable economic engine.  The “need” for newer, better, or the best will bring mighty manufacturers new business. The time to consume is once again upon us.  

Indeed, Edward Bernays ensured that the free enterprise system would be easily assimilated.  Adam Smith while the originator of the theory did not implant the seed of shopping as well as later Economists did.   David Ricardo with assistance from John Start Mills enhanced, and would create an American culture of coveters.

In 2009, we witness the outcome.  As US Novelist William Faulkner observed  “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.”  What was is ever-present in our lives.  

The economic downturn has required reflection.  Americans think to adopt a paradigm, which is difficult for those, accustomed to endless shopping sprees to accept, self-control, and a sense of being part of a broader society.  While from appearances, in the near term, it would seem the people have been easily able to reduce spending in truth, consumers lie in wait, hopeful that this recession too shall pass.

Economic Past is Ever Present

For a short while, Americans were given an opportunity to ponder the predicament, people began to save., The electorate believed that economic debt and emotional deficits could no longer be endured.  Fiscal frugality had become the favored fashion in America.  “Reluctance to spend became the legacy of the recession.”  Citizens said, countless decades of spending in excess of earnings must cease. Protests could be heard; government cannot continue to print more paper to cover corporate creditors arrears.  Our countrymen must no longer rely on credit.

During the height of the fiscal crisis, Americans looked to the country’s core value. Social equality, as delineated in the Declaration of Independence, was finally thought to be the more attractive commodity.  However, its appeal was short-lived.  Democracy could not compete with more tangible temptations. Ultimately, citizens, consumers, surrendered to their concrete desires.  

News reports served to reassure restless shoppers.  Advertisers did as well.  Earlier in the year, whilst mechanized factories stood silent and still, merchants remained hard at work, Businesses continued to manufacturer customers.  Commercials sustained America’s shared awareness. “Buy. Buy. Buy!”  The people confidently did.

Capitalism; The Credible Crucible

Indeed, for the first time since the recession began more businesses planned to hire workers rather than fire employees.  There seemed to be ample reason to hope.  

Some Economists stated there will be strong growth in 2010.  Existing Home Sales in the United States Jumped.  Prices fell. Home Depot announced profits were better than analyst estimates. Luxury retailer, Saks Fifth Avenue, whose clientele was once thought immune to severe recessionary slumps, beat the street.  All around, earnings were surprisingly strong.  Principles planted firmly in Americans’ collective consciousness assure us we will be fine.  

It is as Adam Smith proclaimed. The notion of the free enterprise system, works. Every individual is led by an invisible hand to achieve, and ,to do the best with his or her abilities. However, poverty is not necessarily reduced.  Prosperity does not consistently or evenly grow,  Innovation is and is not encouraged’ and social and moral progress is evident only for the elite and entrepreneurs.  

What is true, Statistics say one thing, citizens say another.

The numbers make obvious the need to save.  Nonetheless, consumers covet and cling to the idea that what they want is truly what they need .  Accolades to Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mills, and most assuredly to Henry Ford, Alfred P. Sloan, and the maestro Edward Bernays, the mastermind behind a Century of Self.

With thanks to these theorists and tycoons, consumers are happy to ignore Unemployment rates of 10.2 percent of Americans in October.  Certain that the economy will rebound, consumers will  just shop until they drop.

Black Friday, the holiday shopping season will be blissful.  Customers will remain confident and content.  All will be right with the world. Capitalism will be stable, secure, and the economic system of free enterprise will endure. Only the underlying principles of Democracy will be lost. What a small price to pay.

References for Recession and Reason . . .’

Common Sense Health Care; Individualism or the Commonweal

CmmnSns

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Democrats dance in the streets and declare success.  An ABC News-Washington Post poll released on October 18, 2009, found that only twenty percent of the population defines themselves Republican.  Progressive assert this result will work in the their favor if the public option is to pass.  However, the now ecstatic portion of the electorate discounts the “disconnect” discussed in the aforementioned study and also addressed in a Pew Research Center report published only a week earlier.  The overjoyed overlooked the Independents (42%), the leaner’s, Left and Right (39%), and the less than inspirational number who proclaim themselves proud Democrats (33%).   For these individuals, the topic of health care reform is a complex issue.  Trust in Congress is near nil.  People are engaged in the subject, albeit a bit overwhelmed.  Sixty-six percent (66%) say they do not understand the proposed policies.  Personal matters move most people, more so than Party politics does.  Possibly, that is the problem, or the predicament that precludes authentic medical insurance reform in America.

Health care concerns consume every American and $1 out of every $6 [six dollars] citizens and the country spends.  Currently, in the United States, 17.6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) is devoted to medical costs.  In 2007, a national study, revealed more than sixty-two percent of bankruptcies were the result of expenditures related to illness and injury.  This total reflects a twenty percent increase in financial defaults due to medical bills since 2001.   Eighty percent of the persons who filed insolvency claims had health insurance.

Nevertheless, countless citizens cry our; our current health care coverage system is the “best in the world.”   Several of those who think medically speaking, the American people are not well-served say reform would make matters worse.  All crave what they believe to be common sense.  However, there are as many definitions of good judgments as there are people, politicians, pundits, and regular people.  Personal preferences have power over our opinions.  Perchance that is why so many believe “common sense” in the health care coverage debate is crucial.

When Senator Max Baucus, and the Finance Committee he chairs, unveiled their version of a Bill, they titled the remedy a common sense cure.  However, hours before the measure passed, uncommonly candid assessments appeared.  “Unfortunately, the bill would leave 17 million citizens and legal residents without insurance in 2019.”  Authentic appraisals frequently conflict with assertions.  Consider the notion called common sense.

For months, in town halls, tea parties, and at kitchen tables nationwide talk of health care reform triggers cries for “common sense.”  America’s Chief Executive asserts a need for it.  Cable News Correspondents and Commentators, such as Glenn Beck calls for it.  Magazine Publisher Larry Flynt offered his thoughts on the topic. Columnists Peggy Noonan states, “Common Sense May Sink ObamaCare.”

Entrepreneurs’ enter the fray. Whole Foods Chief Executive Officer, John Mackey addressed the common sense axiom as it relates to our wellbeing.  “Every American adult is responsible for his or her own health.””  Then, there are the American people.  They too are very familiar with what passes for lucid logic.  However, few ponder the variance in veracities.  The subject that supersedes sound judgment is the slant, “Individualism or the Commonweal.”  The two contradictory “ideals” together in a single mind cause conflict, or cognitive dissonance.

Recent Realities

Still, some “truths” remain solid.  Statistics show the rise in health care costs is steady.  Those families and individuals unable to acquire insurance for medical treatments has also increased.  Only two short years ago, measured data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that there were 46 million Americans without health insurance in 2007.  Newer research released by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine stated that in January 2009 almost 52 million Americans were uninsured.  These numbers do not take into account the persons with inadequate coverage or those whose policies are canceled retroactively.  .  Recission is profitable and the preferred practice for many insurers.

Cancelation of policies is a popular notion. Employers consider personal compensations to be of greater value than the health of their personnel or the wellbeing of the common folk.  Perhaps the philosophy in practice explains why, in late 2007, Employer-provided insurance continues to decline.  Poverty is on the rise.  The median income is less than in the past.  Job-based health insurance has become but a dream.

Employee contracts are also now easily eliminated.   In a fifteen-month span, from February 2008 through May 2009, employers have shed 5.1 million jobs.  Many of these laborers cannot expect to be re-hired.  Professionals and business personnel are not exempt from these numbers.  In what was once the most prosperous country on the globe, the losses are great.

Only six months ago, Americans learned, in a single month “more than 320,000 Americans lost their employer-provided health insurance.”  This “amounts to approximately 10,680 workers a day.”  The authors of an investigation analysis avow, “Middle Class families, frequently collapse under the strain of the health care system that treats physical wounds, but inflicts fiscal ones.”   Possibly, that is why in Common Sense 2009 Larry Flint argues, “Wall Street, the mega-corporations and the super-rich . . . decide our fate.”

Thus, the average American struggles with a sense of destiny.  Those who think themselves stable and secure, gainfully employed and covered, are happy with the current health care system.  For the few who believe they are solid citizens, the uninsured as merely careless.  Their thought is, control is best when it is in the hands of commoners with common sense.  Hence, with posters held high in their hands countless have chosen a path of civil disobedience.  Protesters rally.  Everyday people rant.  Collectively, throngs of citizens who oppose the “ObamaCare” chant words first penned by writer Thomas Paine.  However, much is lost in the translation.

Thomas Paine; Reflections From the Past

Essayist, Pamphleteer, Radical, Inventor, and intellectual Philosopher Paine, some say, is the only voice of reason. Voters resolve Paine speaks to the rights of individuals.  He understood and addressed the necessary apprehension for Administrative rule.  Rarely remembered or recited is the founder’s resolve to embrace an elected Legislative and Executive Branch.

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought.

A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing.  This necessity . . . will point out the necessity, of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.

Perhaps, in our shared hours of physical and fiscal pain we might wish to recall the words Paine penned when the New World was young, rather than rely on what in recent years has become the New World Order.  Our forefather, Thomas Paine stated a need for government,.  He understood; human frailties, such as greed, necessitate rules and regulations.  The role access to authentically adequate medical treatments plays in the broader community, would not have been lost on a man who recognized we all share responsibility for societal ills.

Paradigm of Perception; Thomas Paine Text Transformed

Today, those who rant against an official health care policy reason that in this republic elected officials are the enemy.  A person has rights, they shout. People who rage in opposition to plans that would transform the insurance cartel frequently quote Thomas Paine as though he would have supported their contentions, “We are all responsible for our own lives.”

Individuals intolerant of government have a great support system.  The Press, who loves to stir the pot, pours out prose to incite.  Glenn Beck, who thinks himself inspired by the original work of Thomas Paine makes “A Case Against an Out-of-Control Government.” This independent maverick ignores the words written by the man he, and other anti-Administration protagonists, thinks a prophet.   Perchance, the Broadcaster missed the passage,

“Many circumstances have, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all lovers of mankind are affected, and in the event of which, their affections are interested., is the Author.”

A fondness for one’s fellow man is rarely found in Mister Beck’s rhetoric.  Indeed, he has arguably fueled the flame of fury, divided the people, and contrary to the case for a central government, Glenn Beck has ignited a fire in defiance of the Paine doctrine.  In the name of a need to preserve and protect the public’s rights, the modern Author misconstrued Paine’s original text.  Announcer Beck has chosen individualism. He ensured that his economic future is secure and rejected the reality of the commonweal.

Writer Peggy Noonan, on the other hand while not a supporter of causes that advocate for the common welfare, did at least speak of the public as a whole.  She muses; American’s are reluctant to accept reforms.   “Resistance” explains the disdain for a policy change.  Countrywide the mood has been altered.  “The crash gave everyone a diminished sense of their own margin for error. It also gave them a diminished sense of their country’s margin for error. Americans are not in a chance-taking mood.” Perhaps, Ms Noonan is [politically] correct.  Ostensibly, it would seem the former Ronald Reagan speechwriter is “right.”

Today, few Americans have faith.  What they once thought was common sense has proven not to be the case.  The people trusted what earlier Administration’s proclaimed.  However, contrary to what a past President and authoritative candidates said, all was not well in the United States. The Economy (was not) Strong Enough to Handle Turmoil.   The number of uninsured Americans increased by nearly 8 million during the Bush Administration.  Perhaps, cognitive dissonance is contagious.

The Commonweal Crumbles As Individualist Chide

Citizens live in a country.  The American people reside in communities, and yet, most are concerned with only me, myself, and I.  People ponder their personal circumstances, and those of their corporations.  What is truth for persons in the business world affects us all.

No longer willing to believe in government, let alone a new Administration, proprietors who invested in smaller companies think to save themselves from Federal control.  Shop owners say they do not want Uncle Sam to oversee or own insurance options.  For these tycoons, competition in the private insurance industry is preferred.  As individuals these Chief Executives ignore the veracity that they too will pay for the pain they reap onto the public and their personnel.  The cost to companies will be nearly $2.4 trillion dollars for workers health care costs in the next decade.

The decision to emphasize earnings will have other effects. The Congressional Budget Office concluded “Employers who offer to pay for health insurance pay less in wages and other forms of compensation than they otherwise would, keeping total compensation about the same.”

The phenomenon known as “job lock” is also often lost in critical conversations related to health care reform.  The American people, supervisors, and subordinates are disconnected from the details until the day when thy suddenly are affected or afflicted.  A healthy staffer rarely thinks of the time when he or she might become ill or be injured and feel imprisoned by a job that provides health care benefits.   Professional passageways may be closed when insurance coverage becomes more important than the quality of life.  Nor, does a vigorous staffer remember medical care coverage can be retroactively removed.

Recipients Receive Government Medical Care and Reject Reform

Recipients of Medicare also disregard associations.  Rather than think of the generations they gave birth to people who benefit from the Federal plan speak loudly of their opposition to government managed health care programs. This seems contrary to common sense,, since these same individuals are joyous with what they receive.  This dichotomy offers little but a larger puzzle.  Where is the Common Sense? Many love what they have and loathe the possibility that others may profit from a similar or identical program.  

In America, our countrymen have adopted an alternative democracy, one devoid of universal concerns.  Unlike centuries ago, when a now popular Pamphleteer professed the need for a collaborative collective, in recent decades, by design, Americans have come to think of “me” first. Citizens are critical of the text that advocates for the commonweal, while they embrace its original author, Thomas Paine.

How might this have occurred?  Children in the “United” States no longer study civics. The subject has been removed from schools curriculums..  The cost of such classes was thought too high. The lessons were not learned at home.  Parents had to pay the price for a culture that does not cultivate a strong sense of community.  Much of our common history, and perchance, common sense has been lost.

Awareness for the predicament of our fellow Americans is absent.  Frequently,, people in this “affluent” country are detached from what they rather not believe exists.    Prosperous people, those who are, for now, content with their health care coverage, believe that those who lack medical insurance are impoverished.  The general public presumes people who do not work are by choice without coverage. Few can fathom what occurs when a free clinic opens its doors for a day.  In Houston, thousands of employed individuals turned out in search of medical treatment that they could afford.

Salvage Common Sense

If Americans are to embrace common sense as they say they wish to, we, the people must decide.  Does duplicity define us?  Will we choose to work as one; or we once again serve only our self-interest.  

Reform can expand the options for all and sacrifice none.  If Americans again hold dear the notion of the social equality, some citizens could state, I am happy with my employer-provided health care plan.  Others may prefer to opt for a government program.  A few could conclude, I will cover myself, eat well, exercise regularly, and escape most every illness.  It matters not which plan individuals choose.  When we work together we serve the commonweal and act on the axioms Thomas Paine set forth.

In America, should we decide to conserve the commonweal, retain consumption as the rule, establish that indeed we are rugged individualists, or reform our ways.   Will Americans waste not and want not?  Could the original thought transcribed in Common Sense once again be our greater truth? What will 2009 bring; more rants, rallies, or reason?  Only the approved insurance reform Bill will reveal which common sense approach Americans are willing to adopt.

Health Care Reform References . . .

Common Sense Taxation



CNN Crunches Obama and McCain Tax Plans

The only question is as to sustaining the change [to higher taxes] before the people.  

I believe it can be sustained, because it does not increase the tax upon the “many poor” but upon the “wealthy few” . . .


~ Letter to William S. Wait, March 2, 1839, reprinted in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, volume 1, p. 148.  Rutgers University Press. (1953, 1990).

I go for all sharing the privileges of government who assist in bearing its burdens.

~ Letter to the Editor of the Sangamon Journal, June 13, 1836, reprinted in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, volume 1, p. 48.  Rutgers University Press. (1953, 1990).

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

The chap was well-dressed as was his wife.  She expressed her distain with her husband’s choice.  He would cast his ballot for John McCain in this election year.  Taxes were his only concern.  This lovely lady declared herself an active Democrat.  She had been a Clinton supporter, Hillary that is.  Now, she was decisively behind Barack Obama, and proud of it.  I might not have known this or much else about the couple of strangers; however, in the year 2008, everyone seems anxious to share political concerns.  

Times, as the adage states, are “tough.”  Yet, life goes on.  Families still celebrate birth dates, nuptials, and anniversaries.  People continue to purchase gifts, although most do not feel they can afford to shop.  Persons do not purchase until they drop.  Instead, individuals in stores stop and chat of the financial crisis.  They speak of fears and folly.  Countless recount tales of pink slips received.  Others anxiously await what they cannot predict.  Will they soon be among the  6.1 percent unemployed Americans?  

Those in malls understand the woes and are apprehensive they might be next.  With more citizens out of work, millions find they cannot pay the mortgage.  Ruthless subprime rates raked many United States residents over the proverbial coals.  Home loan representatives, who indulged in illicit although not illegal, practices, have helped cause an abundance of  foreclosures. Many Americans are out on the streets.

Rage, resentments, and calls for a revolution, are rampant.  However, on the issue of tax policies those who benefited under the Bush plan want no change.  Dollars held tightly in the palm of an individuals’ hand make sense to those such as this stylish gentleman I met more than a month ago.  

For me, the discussion of government assessments began long before America became acquainted with “Joe the Plumber.” It commenced when, I met a couple, whose names I do not know.  Perchance, as I tell this tale, I will call them John and Jane Doe.  The man, woman, and I did not exchange names, although we had an extensive conversation.  The three of us were in a second-hand store.  Still, we all wondered whether we could afford to buy even one item.  

Today prices are high.  The cost of living soars.  Incomes are depressed; dollars are too.  Small businesses suffer.  Workers employed in large and little companies fear they will not be able to survive.  In September 2008, 159,000 jobs were lost. This monthly calculation is the worst seen in five years.  Americans are not surprised.  This computation confirms what most have felt.  The economic downturn is severe.  Hence, the trepidation for higher taxes.

Talk of tariffs adds to the daily stress people experience in hard economic times.  John Doe expressed, for him, the only issue of import is levees.  His spouse Jane sighed.  Restless, she pleaded to her husband, “There is more to consider.”  However, her husband remained resolute.  This genteel gent was concerned with his own fortune, not with societal failures.  The proposal presented before the public by Barack Obama, says persons such as “Joe the Plumber” and the fine fellow who stood before me, are reminiscent of Socialism.  Republicans and Independents who see themselves as rugged individualist react strongly to the idea of wealth redistribution.  Democrats attempt to remind all Americans of history.

A prominent Republican, Abraham Lincoln, first introduced the strategy that would rearrange the division of riches.  During the Civil War, as costs to run a nation and sustain a war effort could no longer cover expenses, President Lincoln imposed an income tax, a progressive rate of return applied to revenue.  Responsibly in 1862, the then President of the United States, choose to seek and preserve fiscal common sense.  Unlike the current Commander-In-Chief, the former Chief Executive believed budgets must be balanced.  Thus, citizens were charged a fee on income in order to pay for the conflict between the States.  

The Civil War Commander also grasped an awful truth; if war is profitable, people will prefer the fight,  President Lincoln hoped to ensure economic gain would not be an incentive for bloody battles. While his plan worked, the prosperous protested, just as they did during the Persian Gulf conflict.

Commander-In-Chief Lincoln struggled in his efforts to find a way to pay for the Civil War.  Initially, President Lincoln turned to bankers to pay for the battles.  After all, the citizens called barons of capitalism, in a derogatory fashion, had the money and the means.  Yet, then, just as now, financiers would not fund what they thought an uncertain future.  

In the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, lenders groused; loans are liens. Repayment is required.  The individuals of yesteryear who wished to secure and retain personal profits were more than reluctant to part with cash.  Indeed, they refused.  The stranger who stood before me and “Joe he Plumber’ might relate.  They too do not want to contribute a penny more of their cash to assist the country.  Miserly might best describe the early proprietors of principal.  The term may also apply to the gracious gentleman in my presence, the person I refer to as John, or to “Joe,” the man who fits pipes for his wages.

President Lincoln, may too have been as these fellows are, early in his career.  However, wartime realities transformed him.  As Chief Executive of a country divided, Abraham Lincoln realized the toll discordance takes.  Lincoln learned to consider Thomas Paine a prophet.  He acknowledged, as the astute author penned in Common Sense, as the population increases, individuals and small clusters of people can no longer care for themselves, friends, and family.  Nor can a modest collective control the chaos that comes when people are overwhelmed by a desire to be the one and only.

John may wish to ponder the wisdom his wife expressed.  Plumber Joe may want to join him.  What the two thoughtful men might define as Socialism is, what Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln would classify as a society where government is of, by, and for the people.

Perchance, the truth of what became self-evident after the Republican experiment of 1862 had a profound effect on what occurred decades later.  The excise became permanent with the adoption of the Constitution’s 16th amendment in 1913. Earlier the Supreme Court had rejected the duty; however, Congress, members of the Grand Old Party and Democrats together, overturned the decision.

Income tax has allowed America to civically function and build communities that flourish for near a century and one half.  For the last one hundred years, citizens of this country have endured, enabled by a tax system that secures education for all.  The current tax structure redistributes wealth so that we all might travel on paved roads, feel safe on secure bridges, and enjoy the creature comforts of cheap electricity, and access to ample water.  John McCain, Sarah Palin, “Joe the Plumber,” persons of their ilk, and perhaps John Doe may prefer to be without the luxuries Americans take for granted.  Fear of what they characterize as Communism or Socialism, could cause our society to crumble further.

That is exactly what the person I refer to as Jane, John’s  life-long partner had endeavored to communicate as the three of us exchanged philosophies on the floor of A Consignment Shoppe.  Jane attempted to assert the Bush Administration engaged in redistribution.  George W. Bush gave to the super-rich and took from the poor and Middle Class.  The trickle-down theory was in truth a splash up.  The abundantly affluent were doused in dollars.  Common citizens crumbled under the weight of the wealthiest gains.

Jane hoped she could explain, as did I.  Our efforts proved futile.  Neither of us had, close at hand, the evaluation of experts.  Perhaps, had John been able to see the charts and graphs, had he read the terms of an agreement with Barack Obama or with John McCain, he would have recognized as Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, and we did.


Barack Obama John McCain
New Tax Cuts Refundable “Making Work Pay Credit” of 6.2 percent of earnings up to a maximum earnings of $8,100 per worker

Refundable “Universal Mortgage Credit” of 10 percent of mortgage interest for nonitemizers up to $800

Eliminate income tax for seniors making less than $50,000 per year

Make Research and Development and renewable energy production tax credit (wind, solar) permanent

Extend childless Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) phase-in range and increase phase-out threshold; increase EITC phase-in rate to 45 percent for families with three or more children; increase add-on to EITC phase-out threshold for married filers to $5,000

Make Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit refundable and equal to 50 percent of child care expenses less than $6,000

Make saver’s credit refundable and change to a 50 percent match of the first $1,000 of contributions

Rename the Hope Credit the “American Opportunity Tax Credit” and expand it to a refundable credit of 100% of the first $4,000 of college expenses

Mandate automatic 401(k)s and automatic IRAs

Allow first-year deduction of 3 and 5-year equipment, deny interest deduction (expires after 2013)

Reduce maximum corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent (phased in by 2015)

Increase the dependent exemption by two-thirds (phased in by 2016)

Convert Research and Development credit to 10 percent of wages incurred for Research and Development, make permanent

Capital Gains Increase maximum capital gains rate to 20 percent for those earning more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples)

Require information reporting of basis for gains

Make permanent current rates on capital gains and dividends, (0 and 15 percent)
2001/2003 Tax Cuts Permanently extend child credit expansions, 10, 15, 25, and 28 percent rates, and changes to tax implications of marriage

Restore 36 and 39.6 percent statutory income tax rates in 2009

Restore phase-out of personal exemptions and itemized deductions (PEP and Pease) for households making more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples), increase the PEP and Pease threshold

Make permanent all provisions other than the estate tax repeal
Alternative Minimum Tax Extend and index 2007 AMT patch Extend and index 2007 AMT patch, further increase exemption by additional 5 percent per year after 2013 (temporarily)
Estate Tax Make permanent estate tax with $3.5 million exemption and 45 percent rate Make permanent estate tax with $5 million exemption and 15 percent rate
Simplification Provide taxpayers with simple returns the option of pre -filled tax forms to verify, sign, return to IRS Create optional alternative tax with two rates and larger standard deduction and personal exemption
Revenue Raisers and Tax Havens Eliminate oil and gas loopholes

Close loopholes in the corporate tax deductibility of CEO pay

Tax carried interest as ordinary income

Reallocate multinational tax deductions

Impose a windfall profits tax on oil and gas companies

Require publicly traded financial partnerships to pay corporate income tax

Codify economic substance doctrine (requires transactions that qualify for tax benefits have economic justification beyond those benefits)

Create an international tax haven watch list of countries who do not share information with the U.S. and require greater financial disclosure to decrease tax shelters

Repeal domestic production activities deduction

Eliminate oil and gas loopholes

Unspecified corporate base broadeners

Health Income-related federal tax subsidies for health insurance purchased through new health insurance exchange

Require employers to provide insurance or pay a percentage of payroll to support the national plan

Small business healthcare tax credit of 50 percent of employer paid premiums

Replace exclusion from income for employer sponsored health insurance with refundable credit of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families who purchase qualifying health insurance



As economic experts evaluate the numbers, calculate the computations, and consider how the Presidential challengers will pay for public works and raise revenues, the conclusion the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center professionals reach is a resolute reminder from the past.  If John McCain is elected, American wealth will be redistributed as it was under George W. Bush.  The smallest percentage of the population, the select few who qualify as super-rich will prosper.  Should voters place Barack Obama in the Oval Office, we the poorer Middle Class will survive, perchance, even thrive.

The two candidates’ tax plans would have sharply different distributional effects.  Senator McCain’s tax cuts would primarily benefit those with very high incomes, almost all of whom would receive large tax cuts that would, on average, raise their after-tax incomes by more than twice the average for all households. Many fewer households at the bottom of the income distribution would get tax cuts and those tax cuts would be small as a share of after-tax income.  In marked contrast, Senator Obama offers much larger tax breaks to low- and middle-income taxpayers and would increase taxes on high-income taxpayers.  The largest tax cuts, as a share of income, would go to those at the bottom of the income distribution . . .

The infrastructure [the supply of power and water, public transportation, telecommunications, roads and schools,] the luxuries that make life in America lovely will not exist without taxes.  The discreet dude, John Doe, who spoke of his stocks, bonds, and levees imposed on income could have come to the conclusion that if we hold on tightly to what we, as individuals have, our hands are not open and free to build a greater communal wealth.  The Oracle who resides in Nebraska understands this.

The “Sage of Omaha” thinks the strategy Barack Obama wishes to exercise is wise. The multi-billionaire investor states Barack Obama “is going to bring outstanding ideas” to the White House.  Warren Buffett worries that America, under John McCain might stay the course that has not served us well.  As the nation’s economy free falls into a downward spiral, Warren Buffett reasons.

“I think that the US has followed and is following policies which will cause the US dollar to weaken over a long period,” he said.

After voicing support for Obama, Buffett nonetheless noted the US economy had managed to do “awfully well” despite a depression, two world wars, and many financial crises.

“They say in the stock market … buy stock in a business that’s so good that an idiot can run it because sooner or later one will,” he added.

“Well, the United States is a little like that.  We can take a little mis-management from time to time,” Buffett said.

The Presidential candidate, McCain understands that Mister Buffett may muse of more than his personal pocketbook.  However, John McCain grieves not for one vote lost.  Senator McCain and his handlers trust in human nature.  Common people disregard the good sense of one who is unaffected by the financial crisis.

The Arizona Senator has faith; if he devotes his attention to everyday Americans, he can still win the presidency.  The people’s choice is a reflection of how the public feels about the economy. If John McCain can convince John Doe, the man who might be an Investor, and Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, the self-described soon-to-be owner of a profitable small plumbing business, that Barack Obama, like Abraham Lincoln before him, is a Socialist, Senator McCain will be successful in his bid for the White House.  

Granted, if McCain become President, John Doe may not be provided for.  Jane, his spouse, and I are sure Senator McCain will not care for our needs, but then Commander-In-Chief aspirant and Arizona affluent, McCain does not want the vote of those who recognize the rich reaped greater treasures from the Bush redistribution of wealth plan.  Senator John McCain does not desire the vote of Obama supporters, such as billionaire Warren Buffett, who he cannot sway with slams of Socialism.  

John McCain’s only wish is to seize a commitment  from constituents who have not learned from history.  The abundantly affluent Arizona Senator desires to hold on to those voters who are apprehensive.   He seeks support from citizens who declare, as the Republican candidate does, the proposed tax plan of Presidential hopeful, Barack Obama, is as Abraham Lincoln’s redistribution of wealth strategy was, “Socialism”

References to the past and hopeful future . . .

Issue Number One; Economic Insecurity Breeds Bigotry, Bias and Bitterness



Fear Itself

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

He was a beautiful bouncing baby boy.  He was born to two parents that love him dearly.  Even before his birth, indeed, prior to conception, this little fellow was the apple of his parent’s eyes.  His biological beginning was carefully calculated.  As the seeds of life developed into a bright-eyed baby, the people he now knows as Mom and Dad thought of little else but Maxwell.  The soon to be proud Papa and Momma anxiously anticipated the day they could hold this bundle of joy.  Each of his parents was eager to meet and greet the small, sweet face of the guy that they would call Max.  Maximum value, supreme significance, marvelously magnificent, all this was and would be their son.  After Max was delivered and during any political season, such as this, Mom and Dad feel certain Max is issue number one.

The guardians look over their angel.  They plan for his future, and they are apprehensive, just as their parents and grandparents were before them.  For generations the realities of daily life have shaped parental priorities.  First and foremost, families want to survive, to feel safe and secure.  Yet, much that accounts for stability is beyond the control of a parent or any single person.  Moms and Dads agonize, as do all individuals.  Economic, educational, environmental concerns have an effect on caregivers and all citizens.  Military engagements also affect households, even if only one lives within the domicile.  Mothers, fathers, and babies, boys or girls learn to fear.

Ultimately, in the course of a life, each individual will ask, how does any matter affect me, my family, and friends of mine?  Countless citizens sense we have loss the sense that within a society, each individual works for the commonweal.  The words of Thomas Paine On the Origin and Design of Government in General are principles from the past.  In America today, the common folk feel they can no longer trust the government.  In recent years, people profess too many promises were broken; lies were told.  Intelligence was not wise.  Still, Americans sense there is an enemy.

In the minds of most Americans, the foe exists outside self.  Few have fully internalized the truth of the words uttered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  As people do, citizens in this country trust themselves.  People know their faith will guide them.  The Almighty will not disappoint them.  Proud of their personal strength and all they survived throughout the course of their lives, the American public, no matter their economic station believes their family will be fine.  All Americans trust in their ability to fight the opposition.  Residents in the United States are not afraid to take up arms if they need to protect themselves from evil forces.

Nevertheless, Americans are “bitter.”  People in the cities, the suburbs, and in the countryside, resent the precarious position their leaders have placed them in.  In the “Land of the free and home of the brave” the public is “looking for strong leadership from Washington.”  Individuals and communities recognize they cannot go it alone.  Sadly, those previously entrusted with Executive privileges have not served the common folk within the United States well.  Citizens have expressed their ample concern for quite a while and no one seems to hear the cries.  While some of the Presidential aspirants wish to believe Americans are not indignant . . .

Poll: 80% of Americans Dissatisfied

By Associate Press.

Time Magazine

April 4, 2008

(New York) – More than 80 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, the highest such number since the early 1990s, according to a new survey.

The CBS News-New York Times poll released Thursday showed 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.”  That was up from 69 percent a year ago, and 35 percent in early 2002.

The survey comes as housing turmoil has rocked Wall Street amid an economic downturn.  The economy has surpassed the war in Iraq as the dominating issue of the U.S. presidential race, and there is now nearly a national consensus that the United States faces significant problems, the poll found.

A majority of Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, according to the survey, which was published on The New York Times’ Web site.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was doing better . . .

The poll also found that Americans blame government officials for the housing crisis more than banks or homebuyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers.

Americans favored help for people but not for financial institutions in assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis.  A clear majority said they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the depth of a recession.

Intellectually astute, each individual understands to his or her core, a country must work well as a whole.  If we act independently of others, with little regard for those who reside in our nation, we all will realize a reason to feel insecure.  No family can survive alone. Maxwell’s parents can plan and work to provide, but if the country suffers from a crisis, be it fiscal, a protracted feud, the cost of food, or fuel, the family will also find themselves in situation critical.

In a society, we are our neighbors’ keeper, for what affects those in adjacent abodes will influence us.  If one person is poor, so too is his brother.

The tenet is true in the abstract; it is also viable concretely.  We need only consider what occurs when one domicile on the block is in disrepair or foreclosure flourishes in an enclave.  Property values for all homes in the area plummet.  A family functions best as a unit.  A nation fares well when we are one.

Our most conservative estimates indicate that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile (essentially a city block) of a single-family home results in a 0.9 percent decline in value.  Cumulatively, this means that, for the entire city of Chicago, the 3,750 foreclosures in 1997 and 1998 are estimated to reduce nearby property values by more than $598 million, for an average cumulative single-family property value effect of $159,000 per foreclosure. This does not include effects on the values of condominiums, larger multifamily rental properties, and commercial buildings.

Less conservative estimates suggest that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile of a property results in a 1.136 percent decline in that property’s value and that each foreclosure from one-eighth to one-quarter mile away results in a 0.325 percent decline in value.  This less conservative finding corresponds to a city-wide loss in single-family property values of just over $1.39 billion. This corresponds to an average cumulative property value effect of more than $371,000 per foreclosure

In 2008, this consideration consumes millions of persons who thought they were safe and secure.  As the subprime debacle ripples through every community, people realize their very survival is at risk.  Everyone, even some of the elite now experience a profound sense of insecurity.  Again, people ask who or what might they trust.  The average American has faith only in what is familiar.  Max, Mom, and Dad, families turn to what is tried and true.  Whatever has protected them in the past, they hope, will save them from what is an uncertain future.

Certainly, people have no confidence in government.  Many are frustrated.  They resent those who placed them in such a precarious situation.  Mothers, fathers, sons such as Max, and daughters are reminded, without regulations only the few profit.  Dreams die.  Witness the subprime debacle.

Mortgage companies and banks, such as Wells Fargo, have twisted the average prime mortgage loan into something much more incapable of paying by the recipient, but profitable to the company. Subprime loans, as “adjustable rate mortgages,” are packed with deceiving modifications that have low “teaser” rates that expand in interest exponentially after an initial low pay period.  Families that have received Subprime loans have bit into a bitter center of the sugar-coated American dream.

Citizens in this once prosperous country wonder whether they will ever again be able to trust that they can aspire to greater heights.  Homes are no longer worth what they were at the time of purchase.  Payments on adjusted rate mortgages [ARM] are exorbitant and balloon expenditures are now due.  Americans feel pinched.  Businesses are also affected by a slowed economy and bad investments.  Bankruptcy is an option, although brutal.  As the cost of fuel and food rises, financial fears become more real.  Existence takes a toll.  As Americans assess the circumstances within their home region, they realize there is reason to hold on tightly to what they know and love.  

Perchance G-d and country are all citizens can believe in, and maybe there is no longer reason to believe either of these will save them.  Certainly, Administrations in the recent past and present have not protected us well.  After all, our Presidents, Congress, and the Federal Reserve were responsible for the Demise of Glass-Steagall Act.  This law once regulated banks and limited the conflicts of interest created when commercial depositories were permitted to underwrite stocks or bonds.  Without such oversight, Americans lost their security.  Survival no longer seems possible.  The American Dream is a nightmare.

The Next Slum?

By Christopher B. Leinberger

Atlantic Monthly

March 2008

Strange days are upon the residents of many a suburban cul-de-sac. Once-tidy yards have become overgrown, as the houses, they front have gone vacant. Signs of physical and social disorder are spreading.

At Windy Ridge, a recently built starter-home development seven miles northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, 81 of the community’s 132 small, vinyl-sided houses were in foreclosure as of late last year. Vandals have kicked in doors and stripped the copper wire from vacant houses; drug users and homeless people have furtively moved in.  In December, after a stray bullet blasted through her son’s bedroom and into her own, Laurie Talbot, who’d moved to Windy Ridge from New York in 2005, told The Charlotte Observer, “I thought I’d bought a home in Pleasantville.  I never imagined in my wildest dreams that stuff like this would happen.”

In the Franklin Reserve neighborhood of Elk Grove, California, south of Sacramento, the houses are nicer than those at Windy Ridge-many once sold for well over $500,000-but the phenomenon is the same.  At the height of the boom, 10,000 new homes were built there in just four years. Now many are empty; renters of dubious character occupy others.  Graffiti, broken windows, and other markers of decay have multiplied.  Susan McDonald, president of the local residents’ association and an executive at a local bank, told the Associated Press, “There’s been gang activity.  Things have really been changing, the last few years.”

In the first half of last year, residential burglaries rose by 35 percent and robberies by 58 percent in suburban Lee County, Florida, where one in four houses stands empty. Charlotte’s crime rates have stayed flat overall in recent years-but from 2003 to 2006, in the 10 suburbs of the city that have experienced the highest foreclosure rates, crime rose 33 percent. Civic organizations in some suburbs have begun to mow the lawns around empty houses to keep up the appearance of stability. Police departments are mapping foreclosures in an effort to identify emerging criminal hot spots.

The decline of places like Windy Ridge and Franklin Reserve is usually attributed to the subprime-mortgage crisis, with its wave of foreclosures.  And the crisis has indeed catalyzed or intensified social problems in many communities. But the story of vacant suburban homes and declining suburban neighborhoods did not begin with the crisis, and will not end with it. A structural change is under way in the housing market-a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work.  It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes.  And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound.

Perchance, more weighty than the influence of a social degradation on a community is the impression such dire circumstances leave on a little lad such as Maxwell. Young Max will learn, just as his parents had.  Likely, he too will come to believe that he can only depend on himself.  An older and wiser Max will not fully grasp how extraordinary he is, or perhaps he will know all to well that no matter how glorious he is, someone might jeopardize his stability.  No matter how well he lives his life, another force, power, person, or authority might cause his dreams to go awry.  

Maxwell sees how hard life is for his parents.  He comes to understand that he too will always and forever, need to prove his worth.  How else might he hold onto his job, his home, his money, or his sense of self?  For Maxwell, as for us, anyone, innocent as they may be, might seem a threat.  His Mom and Dad, fearful that they might lose their livelihood, health care benefits, the family home, and their ability to provide, let alone survive, teach their young son trepidation.

Mom and Dad look around the neighborhood and they see society is shifting.  People of other races, colors, and creeds are destined to overtake the white majority.  This can be nothing but trouble, or so they think.  Maxwell trusts this sentiment to be true.  The parents wonder; might immigration and  Free Trade deprive them of their life style?  In the United States, Anglo Americans react more to what they muse might be so.  However, ample evidence affirms the contrary.  A 2006 study, by the Pew Hispanic Center avows, the sudden rise in the foreign-born population does not negatively effect the employment of native-born workers.

Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born

By Rakesh Kochhar, Associate Director for Research

Pew Hispanic Center

August 10, 2006

Rapid increases in the foreign-born population at the state level are not associated with negative effects on the employment of native-born workers, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center that examines data during the boom years of the 1990s and the downturn and recovery since 2000.

An analysis of the relationship between growth in the foreign-born population and the employment outcomes of native-born workers revealed wide variations across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. No consistent pattern emerges to show that native-born workers suffered or benefited from increased numbers of foreign-born workers . . .

The size of the foreign-born workforce is also unrelated to the employment prospects for native-born workers.  The relative youth and low levels of education among foreign workers also appear to have no bearing on the employment outcomes of native-born workers of similar schooling and age.

Nevertheless, people continue to fear what is less than familiar.  Maxwell’s mother and father often speak of the immigrants.  The words voiced are unkind.  Assessments often are unrealistic.  In this country, on this globe, our apprehensions, our insecurity, the fear that we might not survive divides us.  Self-surety is issue number one.  

When individuals do not feel as though all is fine, when distressed, emotional reactions may be exaggerated. Many persons prefer to deny that they feel distraught.  The press, the powerful, and persons who wish to be more prominent understand this.  Each is expert in the art of persuasion.  Tell us that we are doing well, that we are strong, that they will help bring certainty, security, and safety to our lives, and to our country, and we will croon along with them.

Anxious Americans, at home and abroad, such as the parents of young Maxwell attack.  Anyone can be considered the enemy.  Bankers, big business, bureaucrats, billionaire oil magnates, migrants, and of course, mutineers of Middle Eastern descent.  Our fellow citizens are easily terrorized, if not by the persons who they think might destroy the neighborhood, or take their job, the people who crashed a plane into the Twin Towers must be a target.  Since September 11, 2001, Maxwell parents have thought it wise to protect United States shores.

Some Americans say we must stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These persons may fear terrorists from the Persian Gulf.  There is great consternation when people do not think they are physically safe.  

Citizens feel a greater concern when they discover the reasons we went to war are invalid.  Again, the people in this country recognize the adversary is the American Administration.  Lie by lie, the Iraq War Timeline reveals greater reason for antipathy.

Those who cite security and survival as the primary concern proclaim, “It is the economy.”  They say, this is the number one issue Americans must address.  Too many persons, today, cannot even live paycheck to paycheck.  Disposable income, discretionary spending, savings to fall back on are luxuries of the past.  People dream of the cushion they hope to create.  Yet, in the back of their minds, they fear.  Again,  foreclosures are in the forefront in people’s minds.  Many are mired in debt.  In February 2008, another sixty percent (60%) of Americans concluded they could no longer pay the mortgage.  Mortgage Woes Boost Credit Card Debt. Balances on charge cards cannot be reconciled.

Plastic Card Tricks

The New York Times

March 29, 2008

Americans are struggling with a very rocky economy while they are also holding almost $1 trillion in credit card debt. In most cases, those cards provide a little flexibility with the monthly bills. But an increasing number of people are defaulting because of the “tricks and traps” – soaring interest rates and hidden fees – in the credit card business.

Before more Americans get in so deep that they cannot dig out, Washington needs to change the way these companies do business to ensure that consumers are treated fairly.

The stories about deceptive practices are harrowing. At a recent news briefing in Washington, a Chicago man told about what happened when he charged a $12,000 home repair bill in 2000 on a card with an introductory interest rate of 4.25 percent. Despite his steady, on-time payments, the rate is now nearly 25 percent. And despite paying at least $15,360, he said that he had only paid off about $800 of his original debt.

Once more Americans are confronted with what causes great bitterness.  No one, not Congress, the companies that lend citizens cash, the corporate tycoons, or candidates can imagine why Americans might be bitter. None of these entities care enough to help the average Joe, Jane, Maxwell, or his parents.

Why might inhabitants in this Northern continent be cynical, or feel a need to cling to religion, weapons, or hostility.  Perhaps, these sanctuaries feel  more tangible.  Faith, as an arsenal, and anger too, are at least more affordable than other options.

Petroleum prices are also an issue of import.  Citizens cry, I now work for fuel.  Only four short month ago, oil hit $100 a barrel for the first time ever.  The rate charged for petroleum continues to climb.  Now the expense exceeds what was once unimaginable. The cost of crude is the cause.  The effect is, Mommy and Daddy do not drive much anymore.  Each trip is evaluated.  Carpools are common considerations.  Vacations are not thought vital.  Parents who had hoped to show Max the seashore this summer cannot keep the promise they made to themselves and their progeny.  Plans did not prove to be predictions.

In 2008, the inconceivable is classified as inevitable.  Scientists share a stingy assessment.  The environment is no longer stable.  Nor are our lives on the planet Earth.  We, worldwide, have passed the point of no return.  Globally, groups and individuals pooh-pooh this determination.  For them, immediate concerns take precedence over the future.  

The question we all inevitably ask, even if not expressed aloud, is, “Will I continue to exist?”  If so, “Will my family and I be comfortable?”  The answers shade our sense of what is right or wrong.  Maxwell hears his Mom and Dad speak of free trade.  This is another hazard that haunts them.

The link between economic integration and worker insecurity is also an essential element of explanations for patterns of public opposition to policies aimed at further liberalization of international trade, immigration, and foreign direct investment (FDI) in advanced economies. Economic insecurity may contribute to the backlash against globalization in at least two ways.  First is a direct effect in which individuals that perceive globalization to be contributing to their own economic insecurity are much more likely to develop policy attitudes against economic integration.

Second, if globalization limits the capacities of governments to provide social insurance, or is perceived to do so, then individuals may worry further about globalization and this effect is likely to be magnified if labor-market risks are heightened by global integration.

It seems every issue intimidates us.  Each challenges the security we crave.  All beckon us and cause us to question whether we, Maxwell, or his parents will survive.  Our serious fears force us to believe we must separate ourselves from others, from our brothers and sisters.  In an earlier speech, echoing the words of Franklin Roosevelt, the eloquent Barack Obama spoke of this situation and how our own anxiety harms us.[ The Presidential hopeful offered solutions.

[W]e need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all . . .

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.”  We do not need to recite here the history of racial [or economic] injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the [any] community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered  . . .

Legalized discrimination . . . That history helps explain the wealth and income gap  . . . and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity  . . . and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of [all] families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban [and now with “no new taxes” suburban] neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

Potential President Obama understands and hopes to help all American realize that we are one.  While this vocalization was meant to focus on the more obvious rift between the races, the Senator from Illinois, the community organizer, attempted to advance awareness for what troubles Americans as a whole.

In fact, a similar anger exists within [all] segments of the  . . . community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch.  They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.  They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense . . ..

Americans, no matter the color or circumstances might contemplate that anger is “often proved counterproductive” as are resentments.  These attitudes distract attention and widen any divide.  If Americans are to find a path to understanding, we must accept that our insecurity, our fears need not distract us.  We will survive if we work as one.

This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of [any child] black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem.  The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy . . ..

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics [poor and those the government classifies as affluent] who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.  This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.  We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

Today, we must be honest with ourselves.  We can admit that we are incensed, irritated, infuriated, and irate.  These feelings do not immobilize us.  Nor do we necessarily need to fight, and be combative.  It is time we teach Maxwell and also Maxine, distress can inspire us to dream the of impossible and make it our truth.  We, Americans can rise above our bitterness and build bridges to a fine future if we unite.

It is not elitist to speak truth.  It is ignorance and obfuscation to deny how we feel and what we fear.  We cannot change what we do not acknowledge.  Elusion will not bring bliss.  We may be insecure; we may question whether we can survive.  Indeed, if we act as we have in the past, if we focus on our faith and antipathy, there will be no reason to hope.  Americans, divisions have distracted us for too long.  To negate our natural response is to restrict our growth.  This time citizens of the United States, let us come together.  Bitterness can become sweet.

Sources of insecurity.  Resources for survival . . .

Power to the People


Paul Kane.  Copyright 2008.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

copyright © 2007 Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

All power to the people.  A nation founded on the principle of the people and for the people must never forget to whom the final power in the nation belongs.

Justice William Douglas in a dissenting opinion in Branzburg

Two principles which follow from this understanding of the First Amendment are at stake here. One is that the people, the ultimate governors, must have absolute freedom of, and therefore privacy of, their individual opinions and beliefs regardless of how suspect or strange they may appear to others.  Ancillary to that principle is the conclusion that an individual must also have absolute privacy over whatever information he may generate in the course of testing his opinions and beliefs.

The people who govern are often far removed from the cabals that threaten the regime; the people are often remote from the sources of truth even though they live in the city where the forces that would undermine society operate. The function of the press is to explore and investigate events, inform the people what is going on, and to expose the harmful as well as the good influences at work. There is no higher function performed under our constitutional regime. Its performance means that the press is often engaged in projects that bring anxiety or even fear to the bureaucracies, departments, or officials of government. The whole weight of government is therefore often brought to bear against a paper or a reporter.

As the years pass the power of government becomes more and more pervasive. It is a power to suffocate both people and causes. Those in power, whatever their politics, want only to perpetuate it. Now that the fences of the law and the tradition that has protected the press are broken down, the people are the victims. The First Amendment, as I read it, was designed precisely to prevent that tragedy.

The ruling applied in its specifics to the case of a reporter who chose not to share his knowledge with the courts on the basis of journalistic privilege.  The court ruled against journalists in general and left them with two choices–share their information or proceed to jail.  The ruling extends these days to most of public discourse.

The ongoing limitation of the First Amendment and its guarantees of free speech continue to this day.  Every person speaking out in the public realm is in danger these days of arrest or harassment by an administration bent on keeping power to itself.  “Free Speech” zones are arranged in a manner that keeps the President from seeing any measure of protest.  T-shirts and signs opposing the government are banned in may public places these days.

Our freedoms are being eroded day by day as out politicians fall prey to the temptations generated by power.  The people of this nation are awakening slowly to the facts.  Like the figure in the drawing, We the People are all powerful if we stand united in response to the ills visited upon us by our government.  Politicians hold their elected seats at our discretion.  They are merely seat warmers holding power at the discretion of the people.

Today we must work harder than ever to restore our nation and to take back our Constitutional rights.  Together, We the People, can stop the runaway train that is the Bush administration.  We will in the end win out if we stand for what is right.  The battle will not be easy nor will it be short but the importance of staying the course and fighting for a return to a nation of liberty and justice for all is too important to veer away.

Kucinich Excluded From ABC Debate. Free Speech Expelled From Elections



Constructing Public Opinion

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

America is faced with an interesting dilemma; whom might the citizens place in the Oval Office.  November 2008 will arrive quickly.  January 2009 cannot come soon enough.  Many qualified candidates vie for the attention of the people.  Among the Democrats, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, and Barack Obama cross the nation each day.  All wish to meet expectant constituents.  The aspirants ask for only one favor.  “Please give me an equal opportunity.” Presidential hopeful, Congressman Dennis Kucinich might make this request with more fervor and with reason.  Kucinich excluded from ABC debate.

Sadly, few in the States will have a chance to see the hopefuls up close and personal.  Three-hundred and one million Americans live in this nation.  Each has a concern.  All are affected by the decisions a President makes, no matter their age, class, race, color, creed, sex, gender preference, or religion.  Four years ago, 221,256,931 were of age and could vote.  More persons, eighteen or older call this country home now.

Of these adults, some see themselves as Democrats, others Republican.  In recent years, most Americans declared they have and are Moving On.  Numerous feel no need to be part of the two Party system.  They are Independent and proud of it.

Moving On

More Voters Are Steering Away From Party Labels

By Rhodes Cook?

Washington Post

Sunday, June 27, 2004; Page B01

Meet a friend of mine.  He is a successful lawyer who lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia, has two grown children, and has been a registered Republican for almost his entire adult life.

That is, until now.  Increasingly disenchanted with the GOP, but no fan of the Democrats, he is thinking about re-registering as an independent when he completes a move to a new suburban home and has to change his place of voting.

My friend has plenty of company.  In this starkly partisan era of Red and Blue America, we may need a third color to describe those who formally call themselves neither Republican nor Democrat.  When it comes to registering voters, the two major parties can only look in envy — and dismay — at the swelling ranks of unaffiliated voters.

Since the waning years of the Reagan administration, or basically since the last periodical cicada mating cycle, the number of “other” voters has proliferated.  In the 27 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have been registering voters by party since 1987, the Democratic share has plummeted 8 percentage points, declining from an aggregate total of 51 percent to 43 percent.  The Republican share has stayed steady at 33 percent.  But the proportion of voters who have not identified themselves with either of the major parties has jumped 8 percentage points, from 16 to 24 percent.

What’s impressive about these numbers (at least in the view of political analysts such as me) isn’t the phenomenon itself, but its staying power.  Myriad polls over the past two decades have shown that voters, when asked to identify themselves politically, divide about one-third Democratic, one-third Republican and one-third independent.  But in terms of registration, most have opted for one major party or the other — perhaps because, in some states, that was the only way they could vote in a party primary.  Only recently, have registration figures begun to reflect the poll numbers.

What’s so significant about the rise of the unaffiliated?  Well, it’s one thing to tell a pollster that you consider yourself “independent.”  No particular consequence arises from that self-identification.  But to register as unaffiliated is a stronger statement of preference (or lack of one).  Political parties talk about the “base,” and how to energize it.  These numbers suggest that the base is eroding, or at least is harder to identify and rely on.

Regardless of this reality, in the twenty-seven states that require a Party affiliation, eight [8] percent] of those once registered as Democrats now think themselves ruggedly Independent, researchers and the “objective” news media conclude, if they ask Democrats to discuss only Democrats then they have conducted a comprehensive survey.  Researchers believe a rational judgment is made when Republicans reply to an inquiry such as, what do you think of the candidates in your Party.  It seems only Independents and those outside the mainstream take the actual pulse of the public.  When they do, the results are startling, and quite different from conventional “norms.”

‘Long Shot’ Kucinich Buries Democratic Rivals in Nationwide Poll Among Independent Voters

December 21, 2007

Washington, — Democratic Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich, who has been the runaway winner in polls of the Party’s progressive, grassroots base in recent weeks, scored another huge win yesterday by capturing almost 77% of the vote in a nationwide poll sponsored by a coalition of Independent voting groups across the country.

Of the more than 80,000 votes cast for Democratic candidates at http://www.independentprimary.com by self-described independent voters, the Ohio Congressman received 61,477, burying second place finisher, former Senator John Edwards, who received only 7,614 votes, or 9.5 percent. . . .

This is the latest in a string of exceptionally strong finishes by Kucinich in national on-line polls.  Last month, he topped all other candidates in 47 of 50 states in a poll sponsored by Democracy for America (DFA), in which he received almost 32% of the 150,000-plus votes cast — more than Edwards and Senator Barack Obama combined.  In that poll, Kucinich won both Iowa and New Hampshire.

In a survey by the 90,000-member Progressive Democrats of America, Kucinich took 41% of the vote nationwide.  And, in a poll conducted by the progressive The Nation magazine, he won with 35% of the vote.  Obama came in second with 24%, and Edwards was third with 13%.

The creators of IndependentPrimary.com said their poll was designed to measure the impact of independent-minded voters on the Presidential election and was “part of a movement bringing together ordinary Americans who think that the good of the country is more important than the good of the political parties.”

Nonetheless, Party politics continues to thrive in the television arena.  After the Iowa caucus, the first election year “contest” in the United States, and before the first vote was cast in New Hampshire, ABC News hosted another debate.  The premise was people would have a chance to hear the candidates, in each Party prior to an actual primary election.  

Rather than present all the Presidential hopefuls to an eager public audience, the network decided to restrict the forum.  Regardless of the fact that secret ballots nation wide were not yet submitted, ABC declared, it was time to set standards.  Certainly, only the supposed “electables” could appear on stage.  Thus, the gauntlet was thrown down.

Candidates hoping to be included will need to accomplish any one of three tasks: (a) place in the top four positions in the Iowa caucuses, (b) obtain 5 percent or higher in recent national polls, or (c) obtain 5 percent or higher in recent state polls.

If, as the rules state, a Presidential hopeful must achieve one of these criterion, based on the Progressive polls, it seemed Dennis Kucinich would easily qualify to appear.  Yet, he did not.  Apparently, ABC News prefers to honor only specific surveys, those not fully representative of the nation as a whole.  In an era, when the populace craves change, conventional wisdom rules.

Many muse and malign Iowa as not reflective of the nation, which may or may not be true; yet, they are happy to embrace the polls that offer a far less accurate snapshot of what American voters think.  The results in Iowa call the researchers and the media into question.  Democrats did not come out in mass for Clinton.  The race was not as close as predicted.  Nor did Obama come in second.  Independents made all the difference in Iowa.  Perchance, these unaffiliated voters have loud voices.

Astute analysis reveals what most say is true, the elite, the acceptable thought police control the masses nationwide. People with little opportunity to meet and greet a candidate in person peruse the polls, see numerous advertisements, and possibly read what a few hundred canvassed persons say, and then decide what they will do.

White House 2008: Democratic Nomination

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Dec. 19-30, 2007. N=556 registered voters nationwide who are Democrats or lean Democratic. MoE ± 5

“I’m going to read you the names of some Democratic presidential candidates. Which one of the following Democratic candidates would be your first choice for president: [see below]?” If unsure: “Just as of today, would you say you lean toward [see below]?” Names rotated

Hillary Clinton  46 percent

Barack Obama  26 percent

John Edwards 14 percent

Dennis Kucinich  3 percent

Bill Richardson  3 percent

Joe Biden  2 percent

Chris Dodd  [The name appears with no percentage listed]

Mike Gravel  0 percent

None (vol.)  2 percent

Unsure  4 percent

Days before the main event, the Iowa Caucuses, according to this reputable Pew survey, the Clinton coronation was certain to occur. With Bill by her side, the public expected to hear an acceptance speech from Hillary Clinton on January 3, 2008.  ABC News certainly understood this momentum.  Before they decided who would appear on their stage they also polled the public.  Registered Democrats and those that lean Left, were interviewed, or at least a full thousand plus were asked of their possible vote.

ABC News/Facebook poll. Dec. 16-19, 2007. N=1,142 adults nationwide. Fieldwork by TNS. Results below are among leaned Democrats.

“If the 2008 Democratic presidential primary or caucus in your state were being held today, and the candidates were [see below], for whom would you vote?”

Hillary Clinton  44 percent

Barack Obama  27 percent

John Edwards  11 percent

Dennis Kucinich  3 percent

Joe Biden  2 percent

Bill Richardson  2 percent

Other/None (vol.) 4 percent

Unsure  7 percent

Again, only weeks before the Iowa caucuses, a study states Clinton is the candidate of choice. Yet, clearly she was not.  A third place showing is not the ceremonial introduction to her inauguration.  Perchance there is much to learn from the Iowa caucuses.

Iowa ‘Entrance Poll’ Offers N.H. Clues

By Jennifer Agiesta and Jon Cohen?

Washington Post

?Saturday, January 5, 2008; A08

Do the outcomes of the Iowa caucuses offer clues to what will happen in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary? A look at the “entrance poll” taken Thursday night in the Hawkeye State offered five things to watch for next week:

1.  Independents matter.

Independents were a small but powerful force in the caucuses of both parties, and an even higher percentage will vote in New Hampshire.

On the Democratic side, independents made up 20 percent of caucusgoers and contributed heavily to Sen. Barack Obama’s victory margin.  . . .

In 2000, the last time both parties held contested primaries in New Hampshire, about four in 10 voters called themselves independents. McCain won the GOP primary that year by prevailing among independents, while Republicans went for George W. Bush.

Unaffiliated voters in New Hampshire can choose to participate in either party’s primary, and the fortunes of Obama and McCain may hinge on which way independents break.  Washington Post-ABC News polling last month found that more than six in 10 of the state’s independents planned to vote in the Democratic primary.

America is in ruin.  The sub-prime disaster is daunting.  Once solid citizens seek relief; homes are in foreclosure. Credit crunches cause banks to bleed; they fear the red fluid may flow.  Soldiers die daily abroad.  More hemorrhaging.  Very few industrial jobs exist in the United States.  The dollar is devalued. American children are less well educated.  Forty-seven million plus are uninsured. Citizens grasp for straws, even for straw polls.  The State of the Union is fragile.

People are in a panic.  When we contemplate the future, according to a Harvard Report, the National Leadership Index, more than three quarters of Americans think we are in a leadership crisis.  Yet, often, our fellow citizens turn to corporate accounts for accurate information.  This may be most true among the Independents.

34% of Independents believe that the press is not politically biased.

Perhaps, that is part of the problem; people have faith in polls.  Millions trust flawed data.  Fallacies flaunted by the elites that favor the status quo have much influence.  We might ask own owns the media?  The answer is, it is not the average American.  Nevertheless, most Americans rely on the press for fair and accurate reporting.  Even those aware of what is, often forget.

In 2004, Bagdikian’s revised and expanded book,  The New Media Monopoly, shows that only 5 huge corporations — Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) — now control most of the media industry in the U.S. General Electric’s NBC is a close sixth.

Still, millions presume opinion polls are the perfect gauge, or at least as good as it gets.  However, ultimately, people are unpredictable.  Yet, every news organization declares they know what will be come election day.  The press maintains the people tell them what they think.  Might we ask, do the media, and the profiteers who own these broadcast organizations tell the people what to believe?

Prominent among the pollsters is the esteemed Wall Street Journal [now owned by billionaire Hillary Clinton backer Rupert Murdoch] and NBC News, a division of General Electric, and a network that energizes the people.  Noteworthy, and also a General Electric company, Newsweek Magazine coupled with prestigious Princeton researchers cannot be discounted.

NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by the polling organizations of Peter Hart (D) and Bill McInturff (R). Dec. 14-17, 2007. Asked of Democrats, and non-Democrats who said they would vote in a Democratic presidential primary (from a total sample of 1,008 adults nationwide).

“Let me mention some people who might seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. If the next Democratic primary for president were being held today, for which one of the following candidates would you vote . . . ?” If unsure: “Well, which way do you lean?”

Dennis Kucinich  4 percent

Unsure  7 percent

Newsweek Poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2007. N=433 registered Democrats and leaners nationwide. MoE ± 6.

Dennis Kucinich  4 percent

Unsure  7 percent

If the margin of error pendulum travels in either direction, we must ask, how many more Democrats might vote for Dennis Kucinich.  Granted there are those who wish to identify this Presidential hopeful as too extreme or not electable.  However, if we assess the assumption of those that claim to speak for the majority we understand the rationale is flawed.

Dennis Kucinich is not viewed favorably by likely voters — 24 percent have a favorable opinion of him, 31 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him, 12 percent are neutral, and 33 percent don’t know enough about him to say. Kucinich’s net favorability rating is -7 percent.

With much help from the media and the moguls who own these resources, many Americans have no idea who Dennis Kucinich is!  However, they are intimately familiar with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and even John Edwards.  

Edwards’ supporters say this is not so.  “John is being ignored by the media.”  Wife Elizabeth spoke of this on Hardball with Chris Matthews. The supportive spouse contends; although John placed second in the race, the focus was on Hillary and Barack.  Others picked up on the campaign cry.

Just after the Iowa caucuses, the periodicals were flooded with the premise, Edwards: ‘The People’s Candidate,’ does not receive the attention the other front-runners do. The theory now espoused is, former Senators Edwards’ proposals threaten the corporate tycoons who own the press.  If Edwards is elected, there will be true change.  Profits will dwindle.  Thus, to ensure that the people do not hear Edwards message the media does not cover the candidate.  

While the supposition seems apt, the fact is John Edwards appears prominently in ever poll.  He stands solidly on center stage during each debate.  Edwards receives equal time and is essentially invested in the status quo.  John Edwards does not challenge the conglomerates as Dennis Kucinich does.

John Edwards does not fully separate himself from those who support the standards of today. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup Incorporated, legal firms galore, and Fortress Investment Group all contribute bundles to his campaign.

Hedge-Fund Ties Help Edwards Campaign

Firms Increase Political Gifts

By John Solomon and Alec MacGillis?

Washington Post

Monday, April 23, 2007; A01

Two years ago, former senator John Edwards of North Carolina, gearing up for his second run at the Democratic presidential nomination, gave a speech decrying the “two different economies in this country: one for wealthy insiders and then one for everybody else.”

Four months later, he began working for the kind of firm that to many Wall Street critics embodies the economy of wealthy insiders — a hedge fund.

Edwards became a consultant for Fortress Investment Group, a New York-based firm known mainly for its hedge funds, just as the funds were gaining prominence in the financial world — and in the public consciousness, where awe over their outsize returns has mixed with misgivings about a rarefied industry that is, on the whole, run by and for extremely wealthy people and operates largely in secrecy.

Transparency, truthfulness, all the public clamors for is indeed hidden from view.  While John Edwards may wish to posture as the people’s candidate and a menace to mainstream media, he is not much of a danger to the elites.  Indeed, each poll includes his name.  Not all the surveys mention Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich.  

Former Senator and Vice Presidential aspirant John Edwards was invited to every public debate.  An organization never thought to question Edwards’ viability.  Edwards has forever been deemed electable.  He has more than equal access to the people.  Dennis Kucinich, the true candidate of the people does not.

While the Federal Communication Commission [FCC] rules, which govern radio and television licenses, states stations must operate in the public’s interest, we can see they do not.  ABC News is our most recent example.  This network limits our option to see and hear each of the Presidential hopefuls, even before the first secret ballot is cast.  Denying access to all the aspirants, to disallow a participant in a debate seems antithetical to the intent of the FCC regulations.  To produce polls to validate and justify obstruction is  not to inform the people.  Yet, here we are.  Inaccurate as these seem to be, the surveys solidify the message the media and magnates wish to express.

American Research Group poll. Dec. 9-12, 2007. N=600 likely Democratic primary and caucus voters nationwide. MoE ± 4.

“If the 2008 Democratic presidential preference primary/caucus were being held today between [see below], for whom would you vote?”

Dennis Kucinich  4 percent

Unsure  10 percent

Gallup Poll. Nov. 11-14, 2007. N=485 Democrats and Democratic leaners nationwide. MoE ± 5.

“Next, I’m going to read a list of people who may be running in the Democratic primary for president in the next election. After I read all the names, please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the Democratic nomination for president in the year 2008, or if you would support someone else. . . .” Names rotated.

Dennis Kucinich   4 percent

None (vol.)/Unsure  8 percent

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Oct. 17-23, 2007. N=837 registered voters nationwide who are Democrats or lean Democratic. MoE ± 4.

“I’m going to read you the names of some Democratic presidential candidates. Who would you most like to see nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate for president in 2008: [see below]?” If unsure: “Is there anyone you are leaning toward as of today?” Names rotated

Dennis Kucinich  4 percent

Unsure  7 percent

We can see again and again, among the Democrats, routinely Dennis Kucinich often ranks one percentage point below the arbitrary requirement.  The number of undecided voters is high.  Perchance these individuals seek further information.  However, with thanks to the restrictions imposed by ABC News, [and other organizations] a discussion panel meant to enlighten the electorate restricts  their exposure to a meaningful alternative.  

Some of the studies do not even mention the possible President, Dennis Kucinich.  Hence, when the results are released they are invalid; yet, offered as truth.  The American people are lead to believe as the media decides. The press makes the final pronouncement.  They will tell us who delivers the message, when, where, why, and how.  

CBS News Poll. Oct. 12-16, 2007. N=456 Democratic primary voters nationwide. MoE ± 5.

“Suppose the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008 comes down to a choice among Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. Who would you most like to see nominated: Clinton, Obama, Edwards — or would you rather see someone else nominated?” Names rotated

Clinton  51 percent

Obama  23 percent

Edwards  13 percent

Other/None  7 percent

Unsure  6 percent

Hillary Clinton is the clear winner . .  .or was, until the people of Iowa decided otherwise.  Since the caucus, all we thought we knew is topsy-turvy, turned on its head, and twisted in the wind, except for the fact that Independents decide.  In This Race, Independents Are the Prize.  If the Independent voter, which might be any of us, has little or no ability to hear from a candidate, we must ask ourselves, is this America, the land of the free.  

If  First Amendment rights are not granted to a celebrated Congressman, a Presidential candidate, can we, the people authentically choose who will represent us.  In a nation where the news is dictated, manufactured, and manipulated, do the citizens actually know who is or would have been electable?  Probably not.  None of us has yet had an opportunity to read the polls that address this issue.

Nevertheless, another canvass did appear, although it was well hidden from view.  This tally was not prominently presented as the other surveys were.  Although, ABC News and Facebook hosted the recent debate jointly, access to this account was concealed.  Yet, here it is.

Barack Obama  60.65 percent

Hillary Clinton  18.21 percent

John Edwards  9.74 percent

Dennis Kucinich  6.51 percent

Bill Richardson  2.61 percent

Mike Gravel  2.29 percent

The definitive Facebook figures show that the future President, Dennis Kucinich placed fourth in the tally used to determine what the voters think of the candidates.  The virtually invisible Presidential hopeful, Congressman Kucinich received a greater number of votes than Bill Richardson, a  contender deemed acceptable by those who supposedly educate the masses.  While Richardson did not receive the required 5 percent in this analysis, he did appear on stage.  John Edwards total was not much higher than Kucinich’s. Had this slate appeared, Americans might have known what we are supposed to. forget  Dennis Kucinich is viable, electable, and purposely excluded from many a national forum.

America, will we  continue to let conglomerates control the message and us, or will we finally decide to take our country back?

Sources, Surveys, and Secrets . . .

Congress and Bush Clash; Children’s Health and the Commonwealth

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

This article first appeared at Troubled Times.  I thank Steven Josselson for the opportunity to share what I believe is a vital message.

Today, I am reminded of our shared purpose.  We the people of the United States came together in order to form a more perfect Union.  We joined as one to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves, and our Posterity.  However, it seems we have forgotten.  Our children and our future suffer as,  Congress, Bush Clash Over Children’s Health Insurance.

A Bill thought certain to pass the House and the Senate easily, is now stalled.  Only days ago, it seemed the decade-old State Children’s Health Insurance Program would be expanded.

But the future of the $5 billion-a-year program, which serves 6.6 million children and has long enjoyed bipartisan support, has become mired in an ideological fight over the proper role of government in health care and in more mundane legislative arm-wrestling over how to fund the effort in a tight budget climate.

The values and beliefs in question are those discussed early on in our nation’s history.  What is the role of government and what defines overwhelming authority.  Mister Bush, in accordance with his presumed prerogative declares privatization of all programs is paramount.  Rather than use the people’s money to support us and ensure a healthy commonwealth, the bush Administration proposes programs that benefit those that already have.

President Bush has attacked the proposals as big-government attempts to enlarge the federal role in health care, saying they would siphon choice away from individuals and reduce private insurance coverage for some children.  He has proposed about $5 billion in new funding for children’s health insurance over five years, for a total of $30 billion – an amount that the Congressional Budget Office says would be too little to keep covering even just the number of children enrolled in the program now.

“The program is going beyond the initial intent of helping poor children,” Bush said at an appearance in Cleveland last week. “It’s now aiming at encouraging more people to get on government health care. . . . It’s a way to encourage people to transfer from the private sector to government health-care plans. . . . I think it’s wrong, and I think it’s a mistake.”

Apparently, we, as a nation no longer believe that we must provide for those most in need, particularly those unable to fend for themselves.  We have abandoned the notion that together, we must promote the common interests, in order to guarantee the quality of our future.  If we do not, if we choose to create a divide, a fissure between the rich and poor then certainly as a country, we will fall.

The autocrats of antiquity chose to impose their preferences on the common people.  Rulers forgot, and ultimately were reminded, governments serve society and not the wealthy few.  We must take care of those that cannot attend to their own needs. If for no other reason, if we do not, it will affect us all financially.

While it might be nice to think that we can and will pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, practically speaking, that is not always possible.  Thomas Paine perhaps presented an analogy more apt than any I might construct.  In the scholar’s desire to explain the intent of government, compare and contrast the rationale for such a system, while honoring the role of society Paine wrote.

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest; they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought.

A thousand motives will excite them thereto; the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same.

Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him to quit his work, and every different want would call him a different way.  Disease, nay even misfortune, would be death; for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.

While we as individuals might muse, “People must take care of themselves,” in truth we must realize if we are to truly respect life, ours and their, it is indeed, “All for one, and one for all,” that must guide us.

We are our brethren.  While I may be able to financially treat any ills my son, or daughter might incur, if I allow the offspring of my neighbor to suffer, than what might I say of myself.  Can I truly and admirably be satisfied with my own wealth if I am willing to watch the poor suffer and possibly perish. 

Many Americans acknowledge they could not live with themselves if they did not care for the young.  Citizens throughout the land think children must be our priority.  We as a nation must insure our progeny. Our civilization survives when our children thrive.  As a culture, we must make certain the young receive the best health care we can provide.

Congress was diligent working in the interest of the weakest among us.  While the logistics may be less than lovely, the intention is admirable.  Ensuring that  our youngest citizens  have health care is commendable.

Key members of the Senate Finance Committee announced a bipartisan deal late last week that would raise the federal excise tax on cigarettes by 61 cents, to $1 a pack, to expand the program by $35 billion over the next five years. That would create total program funding of $60 billion over the period – enough, lawmakers said, to cover 3.3 million additional kids while keeping the focus on children of the working poor. The committee is expected to vote on the plan as early as this week.

The program, which will expire on Sept. 30, “has helped millions upon millions of low-income, uninsured American kids see doctors when they’re sick,” Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said in a statement.  “This agreement will make sure that even more children get the health care they need.”

House Democrats, meanwhile, have sought an even bigger increase: $50 billion, for a total of $75 billion in funding over five years. It would be paid for, at least in part, by trimming payments to private Medicare plans for seniors.  Such an expansion would reach even more of the nation’s 8.3 million uninsured children and, more generally, provide a foundation for further efforts to cover more of the 45 million uninsured Americans, they argue.

However, it seems this well-established and necessary program may be eliminated.  If it survives, in another, poorly funded form, as the President proposes, again many of our progeny will be wounded.

A recent study revealed, 1 In 4 Kids Go Without Health Care.

Some uninsured children of the working poor don’t go to the doctor’s office; it comes to them.

They make too much for Medicaid but not enough to have their own insurance.

And 150,000 patients per year, nationwide, get free care from 21 mobile units provided by the Children’s Health Fund. But a new report out Thursday from this non-profit group says far too many kids are falling into a huge health care crevice, CBS News has learned exclusively.

The group’s report finds despite billions of dollars in government spending, more than one in four children still don’t have full-time health care a gap twice as big as anyone thought, CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

“It’s more than just insurance and lack of insurance, that are keeping children from getting medical care,” says Dr. Irwin Redlener, president of the Children’s Health Fund of Columbia University.

It’s estimated that 9 million children are completely uninsured. But the new study says 11.5 million more kids end up without medical care for part of the year. And another 3 million can’t get a ride to the doctor. That’s more than 23 million children.

Medical professionals disturbed by the finding and a reality that they are all too familiar with went to Capitol Hill to lobby for an ample increase in funding the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program.  However, it seems our compassionately conservative President rejects the prospect.

Rather than consider the needs of the young, Mister Bush postures, ‘Government is too big.’  Perhaps it is.  When Administrators make the rules, disregarding the principles our forefathers established than we, as a society no longer function.  I am forever baffled by how easily we forget, in a democracy, in a republic, the term government is meant to signify, “of, by, and for the people.”

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.  Society is produced by our wants and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.  The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.

Indeed, when we allow those entrusted to serve with extraordinary power, the people, particularly the littlest ones are left to languish.

In some local communities, citizens came together to provide services for the young.  States provided supplementary services.  In December 2005, some thought the numbers of children without health care was decreasing.

In the past year, 20 states have taken steps to increase access to health coverage for children and their parents and nine states have reversed actions they took during the 2001-03 economic downturn to limit benefits, according the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, part of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks health care trends.

As a result of these and other steps, there are 350,000 fewer uninsured children in the United States than there were in 2000, the foundation reported. Over the same period the overall number of uninsured rose by 6 million.

Ambitious steps like the child health bill just signed in Illinois and the “Dr. Dynasaur” children’s health program in Vermont have broadened coverage for children.

While elected officials cannot agree on how to provide or pay for health coverage for uninsured adults, there seems to be a consensus that covering children is both medically wise and politically smart.

However, the situation was never stable.  The States alone could not fill the demand.

Eleven states facing political and financial pressure, including Maryland, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, have made it more difficult for eligible children to retain coverage.

The movement to expand coverage for children dates to the mid-1990s, after the Clinton administration devised a complex plan to provide all Americans with health care coverage. That plan failed, and advocates of wider coverage began pursuing more incremental changes at the federal level and lobbying state legislatures to expand coverage.

Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, a nonpartisan research group, said children’s health was one area of state spending that had consistently risen, at a time when most other programs ? including health care for adults ? have suffered cuts. Weil said it was much easier for elected officials to approve spending “for the kids” than to expand welfare programs for adults, even in times of hardship.

“It goes back to the Elizabethan poor laws that drew a conceptual distinction between the deserving and the undeserving poor,” he said. “It’s very hard to call kids undeserving, even if you don’t like the parents’ behavior. It’s not the kids’ fault they are without health care.”

As of the beginning of this year, 16 percent of all Americans lacked health insurance, but only 12 percent of children under 18 went uncovered, although that still amounts to 9 million children, according to the Kaiser commission.  The gap between the two groups has been widening over the years as fewer and fewer employers offer health care coverage, federal spending on health care fails to keep pace with rising costs, and states are forced to limit eligibility to balance their budgets.

Again we are reminded that although archaic Elizabethan laws may have thought to differentiate between the deserving and those that some think are less so, the current Administration does not make this critical distinction when it comes to children’s well being.  In 2007, those in the White House, the individuals that represent the highest form of authority have lost their virtuousness.  They have become as Thomas Paine warned us against.

Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise.  For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other law-giver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least.

Might we remember that in our desire to lessen the forces of “government” we must not forego what makes us great, society.

As those in Congress and the White House debate ideology, lives are at stake.  The cost of medical care is on the rise; needs do not decline.  In a time when half the bankruptcies are due to medical expenses, America must pay attention.  Three quarters of those filing, had medical insurance.  Considering that close to two million Americans, debtors and their dependents are affected by medical bankruptcy, we must acknowledge that this program benefits us all.  When one person cannot pay their bills, we all absorb the debt.  Ethically, when an individual, a child passes because of neglect, we as a society are diminished.  Please ponder.

For people such as Beverly Chappell, 43, a Web site developer in Thornton, N.H., the debate is about health and family, not ideology.  Chappell and her husband, David, 49, a self-employed carpenter, earn a total of $43,000 a year and for years could not afford health insurance for their family. While the couple still have none, they had signed up their children for the program in 1998 – just before their son Nathan had his first severe asthma attack.

“If I had not had that insurance, I would not have taken him to the emergency room and he probably would have died,” Beverly Chappell said. “The program has value. Nobody should have to evaluate when it is an emergency and when it is not because they are afraid of getting a bill.”

Fear of big government cannot compromise our principles.  When those in authority corrupt a system that benefits society we must stand up and say, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union . . .”

The Miracle of Medical Care is Threatened . . .

  • Child Health Insurance Stalls in Congress, Plans to Renew Program Bog Down as Lawmakers Debate Funding, Philosophy. By Christopher Lee.  Washington Post. Sunday, July 15, 2007; Page A04
  • pdf Child Health Insurance Stalls in Congress, Plans to Renew Program Bog Down as Lawmakers Debate Funding, Philosophy. By Christopher Lee.  Washington Post. Sunday, July 15, 2007; Page A04
  • On the Origin and Design of Government in General,  With Concise Remarks on the English Constitution, By Thomas Paine.  The Founders Constitution. The University of Chicago.
  • Study: 1 In 4 Kids Go Without Health Care. CBS News Has Learned Researchers Found Bigger Health Care Gap Than Thought For Children.  CBS News. May 2, 2007
  • Number of children without health care in U.S. decreasing, Federal program, states filling gaps. By John M. Broder. The San Diego Union Tribune. December 4, 2005
  • Medical Problems Cause Half of Personal Bankruptcies, By Karen Pallarito. Forbes.
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  • Half of Bankruptcy Due to Medical Bills, By Maggie Fox. Reuters. OC Register. February 2, 2005
  • Medical Bills Leading Cause of Bankruptcy, Harvard Study Finds. Consumer Affairs. February 3, 2005
  • Elect Susie Flynn President.  The Children’s Defense Fund
  • The Constitution of the United States of America. Cornell University Law School.