Friday, August 29, 2014

Debt and the American Dream

Everyone knows that Americans believe in freedom of opportunity and the work ethic: Work hard enough, and you'll be successful.

The top symbols of success being, of course, cars, houses, clothing and travel.

Those who have only their labor to sell are not likely to gain a whole of the big symbols of the American Dream, so, obtain them on credit.

You, too, can have a fine car, live in a lovely home, wear stylish clothing and travel to romantic destinations ... come and see us, and we'll be more than happy to put the cash into your hands, for a slice of the American Dream.

Here's where the system gets clever - if such things are not readily available to those who have only their labor to sell, then the owners make loans through their banks. The owners of capital, while withholding decent wages, are more than willing to loan you their money through their credit devices, and, of course, if there's a failure to pay off the debt in a timely manner, the owners have the law at their disposal.

So, dear reader, the owners of capital profit all the more, if not by lowering wages directly, then by interest charged on workers' debt.

Meanwhile, Americans "charge" ahead with the American Dream, believing, against everything reality reveals, that a little more hard work, maybe a few breaks, or even winning the lottery, the Dream is theirs ... if not now, then someday. If not in large part, then, at least, in small ways. In America, everyone is a millionaire waiting to happen.

Ah, yes, the power of a dream!

Or might it be a nightmare?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Can We Tell the Truth About Taxes?

Let's start telling the truth, can we?

1) A society built upon low taxes will never be healthy - it may be good for a very few at the top, but children and schools, bridges and highways and just about everyone and everything else increasingly has a hard time of it.

2) A society built upon taxes, even high taxes, will be healthy - infrastructure will be maintained, education sustained, medical care available to every citizen, and then some. If we have to fight a war, it won't drain the economy.

3) Taxes, even high taxes, are a job-creator - when government is funding and supporting the economy, everyone prospers - from the aerospace industry to the medical worker to the school teacher and to the small business owner.

4) Taxes, even high taxes, narrow the gap between rich and poor, not only for individuals and families but for states and municipalities. Everyone benefits everywhere!

Can we start telling the truth about taxes?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What Destabilizes a Government?

Kindness and openness has never once destabilized any government anywhere in the world ... governments are destabilized by their failure to redistribute wealth, when the society grows top-heavy with wealth in the hands of a few. 
And since when are property rights such a "Christian" thing? Seems to me the early church figured that one out in a mutuality of ownership and use. 
And charity? I love charity, too, but let's get clear on its drastic limits and its self-serving qualities - charity doesn't change the system producing the problem, and it makes the giver feel inordinately self-righteous. And the same for volunteering. 
All of this is good, but not good enough if we refuse to see the real causes of social dislocation (in this case, American trade policies have shredded local agriculture, driven people into hopeless urban areas, along with America's insatiable appetite for drugs). 
As for Jesus giving to people, there was never a question what the person "might do with it." Goodness, where does that come from? 

What I finally hear is a lot of justification for keeping things the same - helping ease some suffering and feeling good about it, but ignoring the big picture and turning away from the suffering we've caused.

The above comment was in response to the following:
I understand the mentality of charity for all--in fact, we are commanded to be charitable. However, it's one thing to voluntarily give to others. It's another to destabilize the nation by forcibly redistributing wealth to others. We were not commanded to form governments that redistribute wealth. We were commanded to pay our taxes (and follow laws), but we were not commanded to support governments that do not recognize property rights. We need human-constructed borders, and we need to retain the resources within our borders unless there is such a surplus that individuals decide, of their own free will, to give to others who have not. Why should we not do on a national level what makes total sense to both the Left and Right on a personal level? We see a homeless man on the street--we do not give him the keys to our house. We may give him some food, or sometimes even a dollar or two (but we hesitate to do that, because we're not sure what he's going to do with it). Those who genuinely care may give annually or monthly to a homeless shelter or other organization that provides help to get homeless individuals back on their feet. Those who care even more may volunteer their time at a place like that. They may give that homeless man a card with an address as to where he can go to get help. We certainly don't demand that our neighbor, who has a nice car and is doing well for himself, give us his money so we can give it to the homeless. And, assuming he will turn us down, we don't break into his house and steal his money so we can give it to the homeless. It may be a noble cause, but going about it that way is just wrong! Most people on the left and right do not want a person to break into his house, say he'll be gone as soon as he gets up on his feet, but in the mean time, demand to be fed, clothed, housed, and given full use of all the utilities (water, gas, electric, etc). That would be ridiculous! So why don't we do on a national level what makes sense on a personal level?

Monday, July 14, 2014

How Big Money Won It All: Student Loans

From a piece I'm working on: How Big Money Won It All -

This, on student loans:

As for students, tell them from little on that college is needed for a good and productive life, and then make it impossibly expensive, yet provide a way: loans. Huge loans that can’t be appealed or terminated or negotiated, but only repaid, with failure to pay not an option. Saddled with huge debt, students can no longer consider non-lucrative jobs, but only those that will pay them enough to pay off the debt, the kind of jobs that fulfill the needs of Big Money, the kind of jobs that prevent creative thinking and eliminate the possibility of “the educated” (actually, the technically trained) to challenge the system. The technically trained, by definition of the term, are well-trained, and likely to plod on; it’s the educated, by definition of the term, who are likely to challenge the status quo, ask embarrassing questions, think through the morality of corporate philosophy and economic principles. The last thing a dominant social entity needs is thinkers. Whether it be the Church, or State or now with the Owners of Capital and Labor, thinkers pose a threat; what a singularity needs is servants, the well-trained, who, with the promise of rewards (rarely realized) will stay the course favorable to Big Money - like the proverbial mule walking toward a carrot dangling from a stick tied to its head, just beyond its reach.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

SCOTUS - A World of Confusion

SCOTUS, by its all-too "normal" 5-4 split, has opened a door to a world of confusion ... by siding with one form of religious expression, the Five Justices have violated, I believe, the establishment clause of the Constitution, First Amendment - "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

When companies provide health care to their employees, this is a coast of being in business - after all, as a Union (defended by Lincoln), we're all in this together.

While some have suggested that workers, if they don't like it, should quit and find another job.

How about this: If the Boss doesn't like it, sell out and quit! Take the money and run. Go on a mission somewhere and make the world a better place.



Truly put your Christian Faith into action for good - and when it comes to priorities, save the lives of children already in our world, rather than going bonkers over the viability of a zygote on the so-called morning after.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hobby Lobby - "If You Don't Like Working There, Get Another Job"

A Facebook friend recently wrote:

If you dont like your bosses beliefs and what they provide, a person is more than welcome to work anywhere else they want instead of being provided with things. It is not the governments job to run a business especially a small business and now the Supreme Court has ruled just exactly that. Especially a tightly held corporation. You may choose any employer you wish or even be unemployed and let the govt choose what you do and do not get for choices.

My reply follows:

First of all, millions of workers around the nation are just glad to have a job, and cannot bounce around as someone with your skill-level and ability can do. I know of so many workers here in LA who swallow daily doses of humiliation and poor working conditions - they cannot afford to quit and find another job; their skills are limited compared to your skills. They live from paycheck to paycheck and have few if any family resources. Mark, because of all kinds of factors, you have the ability to quit a job and would likely find another quickly; but such is not the case for millions.

Second, it's not about jobs, or finding another one, but protecting the American Worker from PREDATION - whether it be sexual or religious, and this is nothing less than religious predation. We now have the 51st State, Hobby Lobby - doing as it pleases with its citizens - this isn't democracy, this is cruelty.

Nor is this about Christianity in general, but Christianity in particular - a very narrow kind of fundamentalist Christianity that differs in name only from Sharia Law in conservative Muslim nations. Hobby Lobby hates birth control, and would deny health care rights to every woman in America. Is this the kind of land in which I'd like to live? Where women are treated as baby factories, and if they wish birth control, are accused of being irresponsible or a push-over for pleasure? No thank you Mark. And I don't think you would either.

We have rights in this nation that transcend state boundaries, and rights that transcend the property line of our employer's place of business. SCOTUS has now declared a 51st State, essentially, and given it exemptions that a lot of Southern States would love to have - all for religious reasons, of course.

This is insanity Mark, the Nullification idea at work, the dream child of the South, the balkanization of the American Corporation - "closely held" companies doing as they please, thumbing their nose at the Constitution and mistreating their workers by denying them their basic freedoms from religious coercion and the right to choose health care.

Sadly, SCOTUS has revived a 16th Century practice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuius_regio,_eius_religio - "whose realm, his religion."

On so many counts, Mark, it's wrong - terribly wrong! My heart breaks for the folks who work there, and I grieve for the likes of the owners, too, who are locked into a prison house of irrational beliefs and monied power, thinking they're closer to god than the rest of us, and thinking the rest of us quite wrong. What a hard world to live in for them - but with their millions, they fly away to peace and plenty whenever they want, and thank Jesus for all of it. They remind me of the Rich Fool who loved his barns more than the people who filled them with grain. He thought he was godly, but he was only a fool.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Consumer Society?

Consumer Society.

That pretty well covers it for America and those places of the world where our influence has triumphed ... from the status we desire to the economic engines of the world, consumptions is the fuel that drives all of it.

Yet, I wonder.

Are there other words to describe us?

Or does "consumer" thoroughly trump everything else?

I think it does.

For example, "generous" society. Well, yes, for some, I'm sure, but if consumption is the trump card, so to speak, in the game of life, then I'm going to be concerned about hanging on to what I've got even as I might be threatened by other "consumers" who are taking more of the pie than I want for them, or, heaven forbid, taking a piece of the pie "they don't deserve."

I think a lot of folks feel this toward the poor, when, in fact, it might be more accurate to have these feelings toward the uber-rich who seem to be taking the whole hog right now.

What about "kindly" society?

It's hard to be kind when feeling threatened, and a consumer mentality is always a heartbeat away from fear.

Without wasting any more of your time, I suspect "consumer" pretty well trumps all other words; in fact, it consumes them, chews them up, and spits them out like a farmer spits depleted chewing tobacco.

I think we have to do some serious thinking ... especially people of faith who generally agree that greed and materialism are destructive of both a person's character and that of a society.