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Saturday, September 3, 2011

RE-BUILDING THE AMERICAN DREAM

The time has come to use this BLOG to present something that is not of my making.  It is something I had a small part in.  I was one of the 25,000 people who came together in small groups throughout this country in early July to rank ten top priorities for action that could hopefully help to rebuild the American Dream.  My group met in a small city near my home.  It was a group of 15 persons dedicated to an endeavor that began under the aegis of about 80 progressive organizations.  We met for several hours to share our concerns and issues and then to rate the issues as we thought best.  I am happy to report that our group reflected most of the top ten choices that ended up as part of the Contract.

What follows is the Contract for the American Dream as it is found on the internet address included at the bottom of this entry.

“I HAVE A DREAM. IT IS A DREAM DEEPLY ROOTED IN THE AMERICAN DREAM.”
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963 March on Washington
 
“We, the American people, promise to defend and advance a simple ideal: liberty and justice... for all. Americans who are willing to work hard and play by the rules should be able to find a decent job, get a good home in a strong community, retire with dignity and give their kids a better life. Every one of us – rich, poor or in-between, regardless of skin color or birthplace, no matter their sexual orientation or gender – has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That is our covenant, our compact, our contract with one another. It is a promise we can fulfill – but only by working together.

Today, the American Dream is under threat. Our veterans are coming home to few jobs and little hope on the home front.  Our young people are graduating off a cliff, burdened by heavy debt, into the worst job market in half a century. The big banks that American taxpayers bailed out won’t cut homeowners a break. Our firefighters, nurses, cops and teachers – America’s everyday heroes – are being thrown out onto the street.

We believe: AMERICA IS NOT BROKE. America is rich – still the wealthiest nation ever. But too many at the top are grabbing the gains. No person or corporation should be allowed to take from America while giving little or nothing back. The superrich who got tax breaks and bailouts should now pay full taxes – and help create jobs here, not overseas. Those who do well in America should do well by America.

AMERICANS NEED JOBS, NOT CUTS. Many of our best workers are sitting idle, while the work of rebuilding America goes undone. Together, we must rebuild our country, reinvest in our people and jump-start the industries of the future. Millions of jobless Americans would love the opportunity to become working, tax-paying members of their communities again. We have a jobs crisis, not a deficit crisis.

To produce this Contract for the American Dream, 131,203 Americans came together online and in their communities. We wrote and rated 25,904 ideas. Together, we identified the 10 most critical steps to get our economy back on track and restore the American Dream:

1. INVEST IN AMERICA’S INFRASTRUCTURE.
Rebuild our crumbling bridges, dams, levees, ports, water and sewer lines, railways, roads and public transit. We must invest in high-speed Internet and a modern, energy-saving electric grid.  These investments will create good jobs and rebuild America. To help finance these projects, we need national and state infrastructure banks.

2. CREATE 21ST-CENTURY ENERGY JOBS.
We should invest in American businesses that can power our country with innovative technologies like wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal systems, hybrid and electric cars, and next-generation batteries. And we should put Americans to work making our homes and buildings energy efficient. We can create good, green jobs in America, address the climate crisis, and build
the clean energy economy.

3. INVEST IN PUBLIC EDUCATION. We should
provide universal access to early childhood education, make school funding equitable, invest in high-quality teachers, and build safe, well-equipped school buildings for our students. A high-quality education system, from universal preschool to vocational training and affordable higher education, is critical for our future and can create badly needed jobs now.

4. OFFER MEDICARE FOR ALL. We should expand
Medicare so it’s available to all Americans, and reform it to
provide even more cost-effective, quality care. The Affordable Care Act is a good start and we must implement it – but it’s not enough. We can save trillions of dollars by joining every other industrialized country – paying much less for health care while getting the same or better results.

5. MAKE WORK PAY. Americans have a right to fair
minimum and living wages, to organize and collectively bargain, to enjoy equal opportunity and to earn equal pay for equal work.  Corporate assaults on these rights bring down wages and benefits for all of us. They must be outlawed.

6. SECURE SOCIAL SECURITY. Keep Social Security
sound, and strengthen the retirement, disability, and survivors’ protections Americans earn through their hard work. Pay for it by removing the cap on the Social Security tax, so that upper income people pay into Social Security on all they make, just like the rest of us.

7. RETURN TO FAIRER TAX RATES. End, once and
for all, the Bush-era tax giveaways for the rich, which the rest of us – or our kids – must pay eventually. Also, we must outlaw corporate tax havens and tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas.  Lastly, with millionaires and billionaires taking a growing share of our country’s wealth, we should add new tax brackets for those
making more than $1 million each year.

8. END THE WARS AND INVEST AT HOME.
Our troops have done everything that’s been asked of them, and it’s time to bring them home to good jobs here. We’re sending $3 billion each week overseas that we should be investing to rebuild America.

9. TAX WALL STREET SPECULATION. A tiny fee of
1/20th of 1% on each Wall Street trade would raise tens of billions of dollars annually with little impact on actual
investment. This would reduce speculation, “flash trading,” and outrageous bankers’ bonuses – and we’d have a lot more money to spend on Main Street job creation.

10. STRENGTHEN DEMOCRACY. We need clean,
fair elections – where no one’s right to vote can be taken away, and where money doesn’t buy you your own member of Congress. We must ban anonymous political influence, slam shut the lobbyists’ revolving door in D.C. and publicly finance elections. Immigrants who want to join in our democracy deserve a clear path to citizenship. We must stop giving corporations the rights of people when it comes to our elections. And we must ensure our judiciary’s respect for the Constitution. Together, we
will reclaim our democracy to get our country back on track.”

Having read this Contract, it is my hope that you will go to the site address below and either sign your name, or commit yourself to work for its principles and actions.  Almost 296,000 have already signed.

HTTP://CONTRACT.REBUILDTHEDREAM.COM

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wake to Reality Now or Regret It Later!


In my last BLOG, I discussed the way things will be if the Republican Right-wing radicals take over all branches of the federal government, particularly in relation to our veterans.  A certain hypocrisy and perverseness will become the order of the day, as Republican right-wingers, in contrast to their anti-government stance, make use of the power and machinery of that very government they so oppose, to force upon others their own agenda and philosophy.

For all that they will do to diminish the role of government in certain areas -- entitlements and social welfare programs, in particular -- the Right Wing will counter that very concept by using the machinery of government to interfere and intervene in ordinary people’s lives: to influence the thinking and direction of social policy; to take from the poor and middle class to give to the rich, and to enhance their ascendancy and dominance over the affairs of this nation. 

Look at another brief example of right-wing hypocrisy and perverseness: the use of the power and mechanisms of national government to impose the religious outlook of a minority upon the majority.  Yes, I am talking about the bent of right-wingers toward the theology/philosophy of Christian Evangelicals.  Republicans hate government intervention in social issues -- like civil rights, affirmative action, equal pay for women, a broad safety net for the poor --that have roots in other religious traditions and tenets.  But, what do the radical Republicans want to impose upon the average citizen through legislation and regulation?

--prayer in schools;
--no choice on abortion;
--avowing homosexuality as a choice that is sinful, according to scripture, and that must be renounced or punished;
--declaring God on the side of the USA no matter what;
--a suspicion bordering on rejection of science, especially in terms of evolution and climate control;
--Creationism must be taught in schools;
--entire curricula will be re-written to reflect evangelical points of view;
--a secular government is an abomination; (evangelical) Christianity should pervade all aspects of government;
--a push toward dominionism: “that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions. Originating among some of America’s most radical theocrats, it’s long had an influence on religious-right education and political organizing… Think of it like political Islamism, which shapes the activism of a number of antagonistic fundamentalist movements, from Sunni Wahhabis in the Arab world to Shiite fundamentalists in Iran.”
(www.thedailybeast.org).  Bachmann and Perry both have ties to this fringe group.

If that doesn’t disturb you, then perhaps you need to understand that the radical Right will use government power and authority to diminish and minimize the role of government in your life.  In other words:

--no more Post Office; get your mail some other way;
--impotent labor unions; they will destroy them or reduce them to non-entities;
--no more protections for workers; no more bargaining rights
--minimal regulation of businesses, banks, corporations, mortgage lenders, wall street firms, etc..
--diminution or destruction of consumer protection programs and/or agencies like the E(nvironmental) P(rotection) A(gency), FEMA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency;
--the decrease of investment in science will result in less research for making life better for all.  The NASA budget has already been reduced, and reductions in the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, and the National Institutes of Health will all affect scientific inquiry, innovations, and new protections for the citizenry;
--reduction in first responder grants to FEMA raises the question as to whether that agency will be there in adequate force when natural disasters strike (which could be anywhere, just like Hurricane Irene!);
--job-training programs will be cut and consolidated across 12 agencies which means that they will inadequately train for special needs and requirements, so don’t count on job training programs being helpful in your search for a new job or career!
--Community Development Funds to rehab houses in low-income neighborhoods, the Public Housing Capital Fund depended on for repairs to public housing, and the HOPE IV program that aims to revamp severely distressed public housing, are all on the chopping block, so look out if you are one of millions who can’t afford other than public housing;
--add to this attack on low-income persons who live in public housing: cuts in the WIC program that provides food and formula for low-income families, cuts in the federal COPS program that helps local police develop crime-fighting strategies and technologies, or millions in cuts from programs that help juveniles avoid the criminal justice system, and you have a recipe for disaster, especially in low-income communities;
--and what do you think will happen to the high-speed rail under those cut-thirsty Republicans, or to the rest of our infrastructure?
--public education is going to be headed toward demolition with an emphasis on charter schools, billions of cuts to school districts with needy students, cuts in Title I grants, and inevitable cutting away of Head Start, as well as the destruction of the federal Department of Education;
--and then there’s health care:  destruction of Medicare and Medicaid, and repeal of the recent health care Act would be inevitable, but there’s more: diminishment of community health centers, cuts in grants to states to enroll more children in the CHIP program, and of course the phase-out of funding for Planned Parenthood.

Is this the kind of nation you really want?  If not, stop being bamboozled by the radical Right-wing, and wake up to reality.  There is existing legislation proposed, or already passed, in the House of Representatives that will force their particular views on the majority, implement draconian cuts to national government structure and many more of its programs, within a very short period of time.    

The Republican Master Plan is to move this country “Back(ward) to the Future” by imposing immediate austerity measures.  If voters put Republicans in control of all branches of  the federal government in 2012, we will quickly become a nation similar to what we were in the early 20th century (or even the late 19th century) because of their backward-trending (“regressive”) actions, described above.

That was a time when efforts by religious communities and other non-profit organizations were all that were available to take care of the poor, the homeless, the sick, orphans, widows and the elderly because government-sponsored programs were inadequate or non-existent.  Those past efforts by humanitarian agencies were commendable, but too many social needs and problems were not addressed, large numbers of people fell through the cracks, and many lives were adversely affected. While non-profits still have a vital role to play, their efforts will be entirely insufficient given the expanding needs in this century.

The negative stance of Republicans toward government aid programs will essentially shred the social safety net, forcing millions of fellow citizens into uncertain and inadequate situations.  That policy was not sufficient in by-gone days, and it definitely won’t work now!  National problems involving our most vulnerable citizens require strong federal solutions, not negative and inadequate responses! 

Don’t allow a minority of radical conservatives to force their distorted views on the rest of us!  Challenge their policies now or regret it later!