The continuing unrest in Europe demands answers to fundamental questions.

  • Why must the people shoulder the immense pain of austerity when they neither caused the financial collapse nor did they profit from it?
  • What difference is there between Europe’s austerity measures and Paul Ryan’s draconian budget?
  • Isn’t it time that the fat cats who run the world’s financial system heard a very loud and clear message from the people that goes something like this: NO MORE!

Instead of the people eating trickle-down cake it’s time for fat cats and banksters to feel the people’s’ trickle-up pain.

While subbing at a local high school recently I found myself engaged with students in a discussion of free-trade agreements. Given my position as a teacher proxy I had an academic responsibility to be a facilitator rather than an advocate.

The students, all of them quite bright and surprisingly well informed, were pretty evenly split between  free-trade opposition and advocacy with the advocates arguing that globalism is a realty and to get used to it, and the opponents taking up the cause of American workers whose jobs got off-shored. The debate went back and forth until I suggested that instead of focusing on the offshoring of jobs (the effect of free trade agreements) they should consider the cause.  What role, I asked, does capitalism play in the loss of jobs and the decline in wages? I then had the pleasure of watching and listening to these young people wrestle with fundamental questions about the structure of our economy, the class stratification of our society and even the survival of our country.

My belief, which I did not share with the students, is that we are teetering on the edge of a political and economic abyss. We need to take a dispassionate look the basic nature of capitalism, which posits that labor is a cost to be minimized, while profit is to be maximized…often at the expense of labor. Through that lens there is absolutely nothing wrong with offshoring jobs despite what it means to workers, families, and the middle class. Through that lens corporations and big money rule; the rich get insanely rich, and everyone else eats their trickled-down cake. If anyone says this isn’t happening right now they just aren’t paying attention. And these economic problems didn’t just happen in the wake of the financial meltdown; they would have happened anyway, just not as fast nor as dramatically as they did.

In fact, this is an economic horror story that has been playing out since the 1970s when the trend lines of productivity and personal employment income crossed; workers produced more while earning less. The trend was exacerbated by women entering the labor force in greater numbers, increased migration from the south and, most recently, by the offshoring of good jobs in huge numbers. The result has been the gutting of the middle class, the dashing of dreams, high unemployment and destructive underemployment.

So, as the classroom debate unfolded and the bell about to ring, I asked one final question: If the problem that we were examining is structural rather than cyclical do you believe that the American people will be best served by an active and engaged government or should the government disengage and allow capitalism, as it is currently expressing itself in the United States dictate the fate of the people?

I haven’t seen the students in the class since that day. I can only hope that they challenge those who are far too content to accept the status quo, a condition that, all too often, serves the pocketbooks of those who advocate it.

Moderate Republicans in Washington no longer exist.

In today’s Republican Party the Tea Party and big money rule, while the middle class loses, women lose, seniors lose, education loses, the environment loses, cities lose, health care loses, Latinos lose, unions lose and, most importantly, America loses.

Make no mistake about it, this election is about power and the Republicans will do anything they can, including Jim-Crow style voter suppression, to win it all: the White House, the House and even the Senate. If that happens corporations will decide what’s best for you and me, and a packed Supreme Court will doom America to generations of ultra-right-wing policies.

Personally, I will fight that with everything I have and I implore you do to the same. Talk to your friends. Tell them how you feel and why their vote for all Democratic candidates is so very, very important. And reach out to moderate Republicans. The party that they once knew has been hijacked by extremists with whom they have nothing in common.

This is not just another election. Thank you for caring about all Americans. Thank you for fighting back!

I don’t get it. I don’t understand how pre-tea-party Republicans can stand what happening in their party. Let’s just imagine for a moment that Mitt Romney is rational, more like he was as governor of Massachusetts. Of course it’s impossible to know precisely what he believes any more since he changes his tune faster than a teenager can hit the buttons on a car radio. But, put that aside. Everyone knows that the tea-party rules the Republican Party. Do you think that Mitt Romney can swim against that tide? Do you think that he will even try to when even a suggestion of compromise unleashes a tidal wave of push back from right-wing zealots? No way. That’s why I don’t get it. Certainly, rational Republicans know what’s happened over the past 4 years:

  • Before President Obama even took office plans were under way by the Republican leadership…including Paul Ryan…to limit Obama to one term by making him look bad.
  • Obstructionism started on Obama’s first day in office because he was politically vulnerable: his name is Barack Hussein Obama, he is and uppity black man and his wife is an angry black woman who does terrorist fist bumps.  In other words, he symbolized the demographic changes sweeping the nation. He had to be stopped.
  • Everything Obama tried to do…even things that had been recommended in the past by Republicans…was obstructed. Super majorities became the rule of the day.
  • The right-wing communication machine hammered him unmercifully as being not one of us, and as someone who didn’t understand America. It didn’t help that people throughout the world perceived him as a change agent, a fact that fed right into the right-wing’s xenophobic view that he didn’t like America.
  • Political differences were stoked to the level of political hatred. Listen to how Romney supporters talk about the president. He’s the enemy, not a political option.

Why doesn’t this stuff matter? Have the “crazies,” as Chris Christie calls them, taken over the party as well as the minds of reasonable Republicans? How could Obama possibly be a worse choice than a tea-party controlled puppet in the White House?

Frankly, I could be a lot happier than I am with the President, but I will vote for him and work as best I can to support his campaign. On the other side I desperately fear that America will descend into fascism and theocracy if Romney wins. For the majority of Americans, and for the planet we live on, that will be tragic.

…we should realize that our FREEDOM IS NOT SECURE when inequality reigns and corporations rule. Workers have been reduced to economic servitude fighting for subsistence wages with no benefits and even less security. Labor Day celebrates an illusion, a memory of the 50s when labor unions gave birth to a nascent middle class. But now, we are told by people who would turn the clock back to the ’20s, that labor unions are part of the problem.

So, for the sake of workers everywhere, we must fight for a rebirth of trade unionism as a means of resurrecting the American dream and assuring that tomorrow will be a better day.

Governor of New Jersey at a town hall in Hills...Today, I spoke to a labor leader here in NJ. After chatting briefly about Chris Christie’s speech at the RNC, he launched into an attack on the president saying, among other things, that business can’t take another four years of Obama, and that we need Romney to fix the deficit. This was from a labor leader!

Why the hell has Democratic leadership failed so miserably in selling what the president has accomplished in the face of endless obstruction? Why was the tea party allowed to control the stimulus narrative?  Why do so few people understand what’s in the Affordable Care Act? Why don’t Democrats go to the mat to defend Dodd Frank every time some Wall Street huckster bemoans the evils of regulation? And the Keystone Pipeline? You’re kidding, right? Whoever the hell is running the communications show in Washington is doing a piss-poor job.

Frankly, the President deserves much of the blame. He should have taken his case directly to the American people as soon as he saw that the Republicans wanted only to throw him under a bus, the people’s interests be damned. Now he has to go hat in hand to the voters and plead for another chance. Do I think he deserves it? Yes, I do. But if he gets it he needs to kick ass and take names. Enough of this crap.

A labor leader voting Republican? Amazing.

Imagine being very, very sick. Your chest hurts, you can’t catch your breath and every step feels like your last. With shaking hands, you dial 911 and, before long, you’re doing the emergency room thing.

Too bad, because the hospital you’re in has a dispute going on. Two groups of doctors, each having its own approach to patient treatment, are locked in a bitter struggle for prominence. No matter what one group does to provide patient care, the other group steps in to stop. The way the obstructionists see it, better patients should die than allow the caring group to look good. Outrageous, isn’t it. Except the very same strategy guides today’s Republican politics. The people don’t matter. The country doesn’t matter. Only beating Obama and gaining control of the government matters.

The poor don’t matter, either; nor does the middle class, or hungry children, education, pollution, financial regulation, women’s reproductive rights or even voting rights. Nothing matters but winning. That is why I wake up every day anxious to talk to anyone who will listen about the perils our nation faces from people who wrap themselves in the flag, carry a cross and who don’t give a damn about anything but themselves.

The people of America deserve better and unless we get better our democracy will be on life support.

It’s been a few months since I posted my last blog entry. It’s not like there’s nothing to write about. There’s toomuch to write about.

Take voter suppression. After the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004, the Republicans are still attacking the foundation of democracy. In 2000 and 2004 it was the sanctity of the vote. Now it’s the right to vote using unneeded voter ID laws to protect against the red herring of all red herrings, individual voter fraud. Shame on them, shame on the courts, and shame Attorney General Eric Holder for not pushing back with the full force of his office. What will happen if the outcome of the 2012 election hinges on a single state, which it could well do, and Romney wins because of a suppressed vote?

If voter suppression is a solid punch to the gut, then Citizens United is an upper-cut to the chin. Historians could well look back on this Supreme Court ruling as the tipping point in America’s decent into fascism. The effect of this ruling will likely be to further consolidate political power in the hands of corporations and the wealthy at the expense of the people. Somehow the strict constructionists on the court found this to be consistent with the intentions of our founding fathers.

What’s really troubling is that rolling back Citizen’s United will probably require a constitutional amendment, an unlikely possibility since the very problem that Citizen’s United created…unfettered political spending…will be used to turn back any attempt to correct it. Short of a general strike and millions of American citizens taking to the streets in protest, how can a democratic America survive?

The stuff in this post is not meant to be an inclusive collection of things that challenge our democracy; that list would be far too long. Rather, it’s the stuff that keeps bubbling up, day after freaking day. Stuff like hate mongering. As soon as President Obama was elected it started. He’s not one of us; he channels his Kenyan father’s anti-colonial beliefs; he hates America and doesn’t understand how it works; he hates success, preaches socialism, and practices a different theology than real Americans. The Becks, Savages and Limbaughs serve up endless piles of this crap to their mindless, numb-nutted, lemming-like listeners who define themselves by what conservative talk radio hosts tell them to believe. Not incidentally, this is the legacy of Ronald Reagan.

When Reagan launched the culture wars he appealed to a large block of easily manipulated people who could be convinced to vote against their own interests providing the appeal was wrapped in a Christian/patriotic package. Return America to its Christian roots, they were told, by driving the elitist, baby-killing, welfare loving, gun-controlling, capitalism-questioning liberals and socialists out of government. Little by little, their patience was rewarded and in 2010 it blossomed into a full-blown crisis of governability.

Some would argue that we could do a lot worse than deeply religious people voting as a block and having a major influence on government. Well, the Taliban are deeply religious. How’s that working out for Afghani women? Religious zealots in Israel, who represent a sizable and very influential minority, attack women and girls who aren’t Jewish enough. And in the United States evangelical Christians conduct a never-ending campaign to revise history and biology curricula in order to conform the their intellectually bankrupt and toxically ignorant views of the world. Hearing these people claim some kind of moral high ground when they would have pregnant rape and incest victims carry fetuses to term is beyond crazy. This is not what the founding fathers had in mind. It’s what their forbears escaped from.

A few days ago I had a spirited conversation with a young man who shares few of my gripes. After going back and forth a bit, he hit me with a tried and true debate stopper. Regardless of the problems, he said, “America is still the greatest nation on earth.” What does that mean? I asked. Ducking the question he parried: “I take it you don’t think so.”

Our little exchange quickly devolved into a WTF moment. After all, how do you fix the greatest nation on earth?

I am a REALTOR. As part of the licensing procedure in New Jersey, licensees are required to participate in an ongoing education program. That’s a good thing. What isn’t so good is that sometimes instructors feel obliged to spread their political views to their captive audiences. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often…at least in my experience…but it did recently which prompted the following response. Unfortunately, when these things do happen leverage is on their side since one voice can reach many. That is why those of us who are serious about change must remain vigilant and spread the truth as often we can to as many people as we can.

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Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Board o...

Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Board of Governors, The Federal Reserve Board, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to respond to a couple of points you made during your presentation that had more to do with politics than with housing or with the state of the housing market. The first point was your allegation that the mortgage/financial meltdown was the result of social engineering. Since “social engineering” is often linked to Democratic or left-wing politics, the political implications of the linkage are clear. What is less clear is any factual support for the allegation.

Since the 1970s individual employment income dropped in the United States while, over the same period, worker productivity increased. In addition, vast numbers of women entered the work force, a large worker migration arrived from the south, and the offshoring of jobs all conspired to exert powerful downward pressures on wages.

In order for middle-class lifestyles to be maintained in this environment, which was essential in order to sustain America’s consumer-driven economy, easy-money policies of the Fed fostered a dependence on credit and encouraged home equity cash outs.

Then, along came Alan Greenspan, the arguably libertarian Fed Chairman who set the stage for economic disaster. He knew that as housing went so went the economy so, he reasoned, why not make home ownership possible for a far broader population? All it took was low interest rates, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and the easing of mortgage credit requirements.

The housing industry boomed, business boomed, Wall Street and the banks swam in money and strutted their bullet-proof, too-big-to-fail power for all to see. It was crony capitalism at its worst. But the only connection to social engineering was how it was sold to potential home buyers…the people who did not yet own a home. We know who they are; those evil people who should have known better than to take loans that they couldn’t pay for despite the fact that from America’s top banker all the way down to the Wall Street scum bags who securitized the toxic paper and then took the government’s bailout money all said it was the right thing to do.

No, it wasn’t social engineering that caused the problem. It was economic mischief of the highest order, the results of which are the financially engineered destruction of the middle class, and a staggering and unsustainable level of income inequality.

And the second point…

You gushed over Governor Chris Christie’s private sector job creation numbers. That, too, is not supported by the facts. In terms of the percentage increases in total jobs and private-sector jobs as of April 2012, New Jersey’s growth since the beginning of Christie’s tenure has been less than the growth in New York, Connecticut and the nation as a whole, according to seasonally-adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (more)

While I enjoyed hearing from the Democratic candidates in NJ-10…Ron Rice, Jr., Wayne Smith, Nia Gill, and Donald Payne…they didn’t have much to say. Oh, they spoke about how qualified they are, their legislative experience, the depth of their political connections and the strength of their endorsements as though those things are going to solve the intractable problems that beset the district. Rather, here is what I wanted to hear.

NJ-10 is an urban district with a weak economic base and high unemployment. At best, our labor force is undertrained and undereducated so the prospect of finding a decent job for many of our citizens is bleak. Crime, even if the numbers are heading in the right direction, looms as a problem in many neighborhoods. Our schools fall far short of giving most of our kids even a reasonable shot at the American Dream.

This is reality in NJ-10. It is a place where local politicians manage situations rather than lead the way to something better.

I want to go to Congress not to curry favor with the political elite and pick up a few crumbs, but to put a face on a level of despair that causes many of our citizens to wake up in the morning with no reasonable expectation that the day will be any better than yesterday. I want to make my colleagues in Washington uncomfortable with the knowledge that, for many people, the system doesn’t work. And to solve our problems we need to cast aside sacred ideological cows and unchallenged assumptions so that we can reinvent cities that can meet the needs of their residents.

Send me to Washington and I will take each one of you with me.