Cracks in the Union

(Loose response to an article here: http://www.slate.com/id/2304416/ )

Can violent unrest occur in America?  The better question in response to that question is: “Do I even have to ask this question?”  Not only is it likely, I imagine if the current trends in American politics and the reductionist/eliminationist speak continue, there will be a far larger response from the 95% residing below what I like to affectionately refer to as the “affluence line”.  To me, if you make more than a quarter-million dollars a year, not only should you try to give back more, you should actively work to bring those around you up to your level or better.  Succinctly: “paying it forward”.  There is no further reason to believe that “trickle-down economics” or “the tide that lifts all boats” works, especially not after Fmr. President Bush Sr., Fmr. President Clinton (parts 1 and 2), Fmr. President G.W. Bush Jr. (parts 1 and 2), and President Obama have pushed effectively the same policies term-after-term with no visible improvement.

Here’s a run-down of what I see that’s wrong with our country currently:

Economy

Let’s face it: our economy is in the tank, and there’s no way in hell to get it out without bursting all of our bubbles, setting ourselves back to a base-line, and telling corporate America to sit on it and rotate.  We can’t even get a budget bill passed through Congress without a Tea Party Republican foaming at the mouth and trying to tell everyone else what the role of government should be.  The perceived “better era” of the industrial past (circa 1900) no longer exists, and will never exist again; at least, not unless we roll-back everything from the Civil Rights Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal (though everyone forgets there was a stipulation in that executive order that was ignored: Don’t Pursue), Medicare, Social Security, child labor laws, regulatory laws, food and drug safety laws… you could write an entire book filled with nothing but laws that the Tea Party Republicans would repeal (if of course they even let you live).

To be fair, not all Republicans are as demented as their Tea Party counterparts make them seem.  Some are downright personable if (and only if) you get the opportunity to sit down with them and have a drink without the presence of the media.  And to be equally fair, there are even fewer Democrats and Independents who have stood on their principles and have stood their ground even when they are in a losing battle.  Democrats have cleaved to the center ever since they had their spines removed during the 80s and have not since re-grown them, which is plainly evident in the economic policies that they have “worked hard” on to appease “centrist” Republicans.  The problem with that methodology is simple: Republicans have pulled the “center” so far to the right that centrist arguments from just a decade ago seem fairly progressive by comparison to today’s standards.  Within the last decade, Republicans have introduced bills to create a single-payer healthcare system, mandate insurance coverage, regulate carbon emissions, protect our natural resources and environment, create “green jobs”, and even increase the minimum wage… yet, all of these are bills and topics that are now dead-on-arrival with the current Republican- and Tea Party-controlled Congress.

To be blunt: No single candidate and neither party has done their job in terms of getting our economy back on-track.  Politicians are not proposing the kinds of measures that would save our failing economy, nor do they have any interest in doing so: their feet aren’t over the flames, nor will they ever be.  These people are bought-and-sold because progressive candidates haven’t done their jobs and haven’t reformed campaign finance laws, haven’t rescinded corporate personhood clauses through legislation, and have actively worked against working-class Americans at every turn.

A few things that could be legislated right now and pushed through the current Congress with pressure from the public:

  • Tax reform (flat income tax, transaction tax, fair tax, etc.)
  • Minimum wage increase
  • Public works bills (jobs)
  • Infrastructure upgrades (jobs)
  • Investment and entrepreneurial incentives (tax breaks, additional funding, etc… again, jobs)
How are any of these things detrimental to our society?  How are any of these things “socialist” or “communist” (in the language of the Tea Party)?  20 years ago, Republicans might have supported these measures, and Democrats might have worked with them; those days have long-since passed.
Foreign Policy
Are there really any real reasons why we need bases in Japan, Germany, South Korea, Iraq, Guam, Panama, and other sovereign nations in this day and age?  Is there a reason at all why we need a standing or active military that can easily populate a city the size of San Diego to-capacity when we have no immediate military threats to our sovereignty?  These are just two of the over-arching questions that are not being asked of our elected representatives that command our military, all-the-while the paid pundits and proponents of the military-industrial complex continue to cheer-lead intervention-style actions in areas we have no business being in.  Here’s a few things that we could do to immediately reduce the amount of negativity surrounding our standing in the world (or perhaps even positively affect it):
  • End military and economic support for Israel
  • Begin peace negotiations in the Middle East between Israel, Pakistan, Palestine, Iran and Saudi Arabia
  • Pull completely out of Iraq and Pakistan
  • Begin a formal investigation into Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks (15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabian)
  • Pull all military forces from all bases not currently engaged in full wartime activities (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan)
  • Populate military OPs (Observation Points) along the Mexico border and as much of the shore-line as possible to maintain a defensive posture
  • Negotiate with the UN to allow nuclear reprocessing for peaceful power generation requirements
You might ask: “Why end support for Israel?  Aren’t they keeping the tenuous peace in the Middle East?”, and I would answer: “Only just.”  Israel has perpetrated just as much violence and caused just as much destabilization to the Palestinian populations in and around the occupied territories as the Palestinians have done to the Israelis.  It’s long-past time that Israel cease military operations in Gaza, cease its blockade, and negotiate with the Palestinians to allow them to form their own nation out of what’s left of the territories.  Blood is being shed on both sides, perpetrated by people with perspectives that are too narrow to see the bigger picture: If the region does not stabilize in the next 10-20 years, there will be no end to the violence and hatred.  Israel is justified in telling the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) that they must divest and disavow themselves of the entirety of Hamas, while at the same time the Palestinians are justified in calling for the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) to cease operations in the occupied territories and allow restoration of vital supply lines that are causing massive humanitarian suffering through resource and service deprivation (including food, water, medical, and construction supplies).  Ending US material and expertise support to Israel would be a good first step in establishing rapport with the Palestinian people as well as a good-faith gesture that speaks toward the United States’ commitment to peace in the region.  To quote Einstein:
“You cannot simultaneously hope for peace and prepare for war.”
It’s too bad that most of America is either too blind or too heavily-influenced by war-hawks and their parrots in the media (I’m talking about you, NewsCorp & CNN).
Iraq and Afghanistan are two distinct messes: One we need to be in, and one we shouldn’t have been involved with in the first place.  Iraq, as we all know by now had none of the following:
  • Weapons of mass destruction
  • Intent to harm the United States (either economically or militarily)
  • Intent to invade another neighboring country
  • Intent to manufacture weapons of mass destruction
One could go further in stating that Iraq hasn’t been a serious threat to the United States at any point in history, but most of the military and especially the paranoid schizophrenics in the intelligence community would have you believe otherwise.  It bears repeating that without solid and independently-verified intelligence, the United States military bites off more than they can chew and usually has more body-bags to bring home than victory stories.  Almost 10 years after the second invasion of Iraq (the first being to prevent Kuwait from being rightfully crushed by Iraq for having violated Iraq’s oil rights), we have spent a lot of blood and treasure on something worse than a wild goose chase: a complete and utter lie perpetrated by an intelligence community that has its hands in the pockets of the military-industrial complex.  One might make the argument in favor of the Iraq war insofar as making available one of the world’s last large-scale oil fields available to Western powers, but for me, that just doesn’t fly.
Afghanistan on the other hand, is almost completely justified… almost.  The CIA doesn’t call it “blowback” for nothing, as we were witness to during the 9/11 attacks, however most of the American population seems to forget that we armed and trained the Mujaheddin during the Afghan-Russian War in the late 80’s.  Combined with the less-than-favorable view of the “West” that is still held with a rather sizable portion of the rest of the world still holds for the nations that still behave as if there are competing empires to dominate, and you have an explosive mixture of anti-Western sentiment that meshes well with the cherry-picked messages of fundamentalism that prevail in sizable swaths of the Muslim world.
As far as foreign policy goes, we have a long way ahead of us if we want to really live-up to our tough-talk about liberty, the sanctity of life, the sovereignty of nations and borders, and the primacy of peace.
Domestic Policy
To say the least, Democrats have certainly gotten a fair bit farther than Republicans have as far as social measures are concerned BUT… Democrats have failed miserably at moving the direction of the country any further toward equality.
  • Gay marriage is still not an option in many cities (and in fact, gay men and women still face discrimination in job selection, housing, and schools)
  • Social security, medicare, and many other programs are in danger of being cut
  • Unemployment is at the highest point since the Great Depression, and Republicans seem to want nothing to do with any solutions that would add jobs to the economy immediately
  • Income inequality and corporate malfeasance are wreaking absolute havoc on the ability of middle- and working-class Americans to resolve their debt problems and go to college
  • Education funding is being slashed even as test scores drop, teachers are fighting for better working conditions, and alternative schooling programs are working to find private funding
  • Campaign finance reform is at a stand-still
  • Income tax is not collected fairly between different income levels (not to mention the fact that tax code reform still hasn’t left committee)
  • Environmental regulation is stalled on the floors of Congress by Republican filibuster
Is it any wonder hard-working Americans are simultaneously apathetic and upset?  Our food is unfit to eat, our air is unfit to breathe, the water is unfit to drink, our cities are overrun with the lost and forgotten, our jails overflow with many whose only crime is choosing to partake of illicit substances of their own volition or committing small crime to score or survive and thus continue the endless cycle of suffering and incarceration.  Without jobs, without opportunity, and without hope, many turn to crime or other means with which to survive.
Which brings me to a difficult position in my political discourse: Which direction do we go?  How do we work to solve these problems?  That, I think, is something I will address in another post to follow this one.  If you made it this far, thank you for reading.  Cheers.

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