Monday, December 26, 2011

Too Small to Fail

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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"

Every schoolchild in America knows these words. For those of us who have forgotten those halcyon days of elementary school, carefully reciting the words of our founders, they are to be found near the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.

With those words began a revolution. A revolution predicated on the idea that the individual had worth (we'll ignore the obvious double standards for the moment, of woman, blacks, and indigenous peoples who were not treated equally, for the sake of discussing the ideal). A revolution forged on the idea that the government belonged to the people, not the people to the government. With those words, we became citizens, rather than subjects, and our world changed.

The Constitution continued in that tradition. Read carefully the Bill of Rights, and you will find something not taught to many American schoolkids. The simple truth is, the Bill of Rights does not GIVE us a single right; but rather, they define rights the Founding Fathers felt were clearly God given and could not be taken by any government.

Enter 2011. When we have a generation of people who believe that big government is good when it grants money to Goldman Sachs, GE, and BP, but bad when it keeps its promises to social security recipients and to the next generation by providing an education to ensure that, while they may not be equal, they have equal opportunity. A generation that has villainized teachers and lauded opportunistic talking heads who speak for the corporations, for the wealthy, for a class that shaves gold into its food and turns its nose up at the poor despite building their wealth on the backs of those very poor.

When the first stimulus bill was passed, we were told that the banks needed bailouts because they were "too big to fail". The same banks that made questionable investments. The same banks that would exploit loopholes and robosigners to evict hardworking families from the homes they had once bought with a youthful glint in their eye and a promise of seeing grandchildren swing on the swing of that old oak tree.

Well, I am possessed of the opinion that the individual is too little to fail. We built this country on the idea that the individual was important, had value, had worth. We impressed upon our children's minds that they could become anything they wanted, even the President of the United States, and we fostered that ideal to such an extent that our country is now governed by a man who was born 3 years prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, at a time whan he couldn't have even voted in many states, much less held elected office.

What the Democrats have forgotten, what the Republicans have forgotten, what the Tea Party has forgotten, is that somewhere in this discussion we cannot forget the individual. In the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, we forged a social contract with these individuals. A social contract we have long forgotten.

It's time to talk to our representatives, not about giving more tax breaks to the wealthy, but about remembering those who are too little to fail. .

Friday, December 16, 2011

The New American Reality is the Old Dickensian Reality

I read one of the most disturbing articles I have seen in awhile. Yes, more disturbing than the news about the NDAA or SOPA.

It seems that corporations, in desperation to recover lost assets, have turned to a time honored Dickensian solution: jailing debtors.

The following article details this deplorable practice: Debtor's Prison Makes a Comeback.

. The article states that 1/3 of US states have laws which allow debtors to be jailed for their debt. Using Wikipedia for a source (I know, I know...but the article didn't list them, and I couldn't find a better source in short time to allow me to post up an article), I was able to find six: Arkansas, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, and Washington. The same article stated that Tennessee and Oklahoma outlaw the practice.

If anyone has a list of the states that allow it, please send it to me. I'd like to post it, as I can't find returns on my searches on this one.

These are the reasons we are outraged. At the same time corporations are jailing their debtors, their own debt is being forgiven or restructured. Corporations under recent ruling not only are considered persons, but have superior legal protection.

I don't think this nation will long survive as long as it continues to treat its working class like criminals, devalue wages, and increase prices. There has to be a breaking point, and the Occupy and Tea Party movements would suggest to me that we are near it. The question is, are we near enough to help the families who will undoubtedly be torn apart by the government to whom they so blindly pledged their allegiance, the government that they were taught functioned "of the people, by the people, and for the people" that now only works to serve the wealthy and powerful?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We Made the Wrong Argument Against McCarthyism

As the Occupy movement continues on despite media reports of its demise, there have been a few very revalatory incidents from the opponents of Occupy Wall Street. Not only do we have Ann Coulter, one of the most widely heralded voices of the right, advocating openly for a "Kent State" solution, but virtually every pundit, every forum discussion has focused on the movement, which many see as Socialist. If I were to count the times I have been called a "useful idiot" by these people in open discussion, I would need several extra fingers and toes.

This is, in a nutshell, the new McCarthyism. Even speaking out in support of the movement is considered radical, and I have no shortage of well meaning friends "helpfully" filling my inbox with commentaries on the "evil" Wall Street movement. Often, the commentaries focus on the vandalism and the now absolutely infamous (and similarly isolated) incident or a protestor using a police cruiser as a toilet. But more often than not, the charge of "communism" is rampant throughout the discussion.

Before I continue further in this discussion, let me be clear that I am not a communist, although I consider it sad that such a qualifier would be considered necessary by any rational individual claiming to even have a modicum of free thought.

I have long thought that in the McCarthy era, as now, the debate was focused on the wrong subject. Even if the accusations of McCarthy and his henchmen were true, why is it relevant? We pride ourselves on the free exchange of ideas in this country, yet nothing could be further from the truth when we deliberately suppress ideas, deliberately disqualify them from consideration in public civil discourse.

The truth is, in a free society where people are free to self determine their future, that freedom should allow as much freedom to exercise certain elements of socialist economic thought as it does to the warped version of economic feudalism that we've wrongly labelled "capitalism". It is, after all, not a free and open electoral process if certain candidates and certain ideologies are not allowed to even be debated in the public forum.

The truth is, casualties of "capitalism" are just as rampant as casualties of "communism". The difference is, we do a better job of hiding it. We don't count the deaths of people who die from preventable diseases because we attribute those to lifestyle decisions. We don't count the deaths of those who freeze to death or burn up in our inner city tenements because we ascribe those to carelessness on the part of slumlords, who we rarely prosecute for their negligence. We don't count the suicides of those who failed financially because we ascribe that to mental illness. Similarly, we don't count the abortions by parents in impoverished regions who choose abortion because they feel it is preferable to raising a child in the ghettoes. But most of all, we don't count the deaths of both citizens and soldiers in foreign nations where our nation building has crushed them under the wheels of our war machine. If you counted those casualties, the bloody nature of the system we currently have in place would easily meet, if not exceed, the statistics of those who suffered under Communist dictators.

This is not to say Communism is right. I personally abhor Communism just as I am beginning to abhor a laundry list of other "isms". But if we are to be honest, we should abandon the notion that our system is preferable simply on the government's word alone.

Until we truly embrace a free exchange of ideas, we can expect the same endless line of failed politicians, failed policies, and the same old cookie cutter lies coming forth. If we want to make real and meaningful change, we have to accept that several things need to drastically change as regards our current modus operandi.

And that cannot happen if we abandon ideas based not on reason but our own preconceived notions.