Wall Street executives want to privatize Medicare and Social Security so that they can finally get a piece of the action. Currently, they do not make money off of Medicare and Social Security and they would like this to change. Privatization would mean billions of dollars in new insurance premiums and retirement investments flowing into Wall Street. The thought of accessing the public’s investment in these programs makes hedge fund managers and Wall Street executives very excited. This is why they are demanding that Republicans deliver on privatization in exchange for millions of dollars in campaign contributions. Though most seniors would suffer from decreased benefits and quality of care, the greed on Wall Street has no end. Republicans are being paid off to trick Americans into handing over the well-being of our elderly to wealthy speculators on Wall Street.
The most incredible part of advocating for letting Wall Street look out for our seniors is misleading people into thinking it’s a jobs plan. The proponents’ twisted logic is that seniors should sacrifice because Wall Street needs more money to create jobs. This is not only morally bankrupt, it is also bad economics. Americans understand that giving more money to Wall Street will not create a successful Main Street. Only a couple years after the Bush tax cuts gave Wall Street billions more to play with, the economy collapsed. The infusion of money into Wall Street failed to create jobs and actually set the stage for the crash. Privatizing Social Security and Medicare would also fail to create jobs and would directly cause hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of layoffs. Nearly everyone working to administer Social Security and Medicare would lose their jobs. Privatization of Medicare and Social Security is not only immoral, it will also increase unemployment.
Contrary to what Republicans have told you, Social Security and Medicare are not bankrupt. The Social Security Trust Fund currently has a $2.6 Trillion surplus and that surplus is expected to continue to grow through 2025. The Medicare Trust fund is projected to grow another $526 Billion over the next ten years and with no changes will last until 2029. The Social Security Trust Fund is projected to last until around 2042. What Conservatives are grasping on to is that with no changes, Social Security benefits would be reduced around 30% in 2080. Calling a projected 20-30 year surplus an imminent bankruptcy is quite a stretch, even for politicians. That said, it is worth looking at ways to extend those surpluses beyond 20-30 years without cutting our seniors’ health care or retirement benefits.
Consider these two facts. If you are wealthy enough to live off of your investments, the tax code says you do not owe ANY taxes for Medicare or Social Security – not a single penny. For those not quite wealthy enough to quit working, taxes to pay for these programs are only assessed on your first $102,000 for Medicare and $106,800 for Social Security. For those making $1 million a year, they get around 90% of their income entitlement tax free. Compare that to everyone making under $102,000 a year who pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on every penny earned. Simply put, many wealthy people do not pay into Social Security and Medicare at all and the rest pay a much lower rate than the middle class. Requiring wealthy people to pay the same rate as the middle class on all of their income would fully fund Social Security and Medicare for generations to come.
Social Security was created to guarantee that seniors would not be forced into homelessness. Medicare was created to guarantee that all seniors can access a basic level of health care. Privatizing Social Security and Medicare would end these guaranteed benefits for seniors. Privatization would tie our seniors’ benefits to the market and if Wall Street loses everything in another stock market crash, seniors would be forced to do without. For many seniors, these benefits literally mean the difference between life and death. Even if you believe that pouring more money into Wall Street investment firms will create jobs, are you willing to risk our seniors’ health and welfare to do it?
You may have recently read about our Honorable Superior Court Judges publicly defying demands made by our County Commissioners over budgetary issues. What has not been properly reported are the reasons our Commissioners better listen to them. Our Superior Court Judges are following the demands of our Constitution, public safety, and the interests of Grays Harbor County taxpayers.
It is hard to find a more important governmental function than enforcing justice. Our legal system is a central pillar of our democracy. Its effective and efficient administration is not simply a value that all Americans should hold near and dear, it’s demanded by our Constitution. When our Constitution demands “due process” under the law, it is demanding adequate funding of our judiciary to enable it to carry out the law in a reasonably quick and fair manner. Things like the right to a speedy trial will be tough to ensure if the courts face more cuts. The clerks are already overwhelmed with endless work, much of which has statutorily mandated deadlines to meet. It is tough to imagine how the court could layoff a handful of people without denying a number of our citizens their due process. Our judges are simply saying that, before we decide on the size of any cuts, we need to make sure we can cut without violating our Constitution. The Commissioners seem to be failing to understand the importance of looking before you leap. Doing this wrong and systematically violating due process would have enormous legal and financial ramifications.
Failing to properly fund our judiciary would cost the county much more in lawsuits than it would save from cuts. If the County fails to adequately fund its judiciary, I am confident that some Grays Harbor citizens will not be given adequate “due process”. This would cause people and their attorneys to bring lawsuits against the county for denying their due process. Saving a few thousand dollars in cuts is not worth opening the county to millions of dollars in potential legal liability.
Underfunding our judiciary directly threatens public safety in Grays Harbor County. As a means to ensure against governmental overreach, the Constitution demands certain protections for defendants before they can be found guilty of a crime. Many of these protections lie within the due process clause. For this reason, failure to provide criminal defendants with due process is often grounds to let them free, even when we know they are guilty of a violent crime. The last thing we need is to be letting violent criminals walk out of our courthouse on technicalities because we chose not to properly fund our courts.
In defense of our County Commissioners, they are trying to enact budget cuts in a fair manner. Our Commissioners have already had to make big cuts over the last three years due to declining tax revenues. Now they are forced to make yet another round of cuts. They are not trying to pick on our courts or judges. They are asking for a 4% across-the-board (all departments evenly) cut with the thinking that it is unfair to play favorites. Although there is some logic to that thinking, fear of playing favorites should not dominate the decisions on how we fund our county. Some things really are more important than others and likewise deserve more funding. And that is the case with our judiciary.
I hope the County Commissioners begin listening to the better judgment of our experts on the bench. All three of our Superior Court Judges are proven legal experts and dutiful servants of our county. Each could make substantially more money in private practice but are instead serving for the betterment of our county. The reason our judges have been so aggressive on this issue is that they do not want to see Grays Harbor County become the victim of a self-inflicted wound. Our Honorable Judges understand these bedrock legal principles better than our county’s politicians. Our Commissioners should listen to our Superior Court Judges and find another place to cut. Grays Harbor County cannot afford to shoot from the hip on this one.
Republicans are promoting the false notion that a near-majority of Americans pay no taxes and are responsible for the bad economy. Despite being a near-majority of us, they are portrayed by Republicans as vastly different than most Americans. On any given day, multiple Republican leaders will call poor people lazy and willing to lie, cheat, and steal if that’s what it takes to get out of working. What they are doing is creating a new group to blame for the downturn so that people will stop blaming them. Republicans do not want to blame their failed deregulation policies under Bush that let Wall Street write the rules and run the show. Instead, they are creating a new narrative for the cause of the downturn. Republicans are making poor people the new scapegoat. Don’t hate bankers, hate poor people, they say.
Blaming the poor for the downturn is dishonest. The massive growth in unemployment was caused by the downturn, not the other way around. Wall Street executives were allowed to build a deck of cards by inventing and marketing a new commodity from bundling thousands of bad loans together and fraudulently claiming to rating agencies that they were actually good loans. Once rated well, they were easily resold for substantially higher prices and given enough credibility that others began selling insurance on them. When the bad loans defaulted (as they were bad), this deck of cards collapsed. The people caught holding portions of the nearly worthless bad loans (or selling insurance on them) included everything from public pensions to big banks like Lehman Brothers, Freddie, and Fannie. This ignited a wave of banking collapses that drove the American economy into a spiral of layoffs and business bankruptcies. Current unemployment rates are a result of these layoffs. Many previously employed people are now so poor due to the bankers’ gambling, fraud, and greed that they do not pay income taxes.
All of the recent anti-poor demagoguery is fueling hatred towards poor people. At the recent CNN/Tea Party Debate, Ron Paul was asked if society should let a young healthy man die if he chose not to get health insurance and fell into a coma? Before Paul could compose his answer, multiple people in the audience screamed “let him die!” This was not libertarian philosophy at work. It was an intense outburst of anger and hatred directed at the least fortunate in our society.
Ginning up hatred of a minority before an election is a textbook Republican strategy that goes back to the days of Jim Crow. As being openly racist towards Black people is no longer a winning tactic, in 2008 and 2010, they told you to hate and fear Arabic and Islamic people claiming they supported terrorism. In 2004 and 2006, they told you to hate Gay people for trying to destroy your marriage. Republicans use these threats to distract us from the real economic problems facing Americans. In the past, distracting people with fear and hate has worked well to attract poor white voters and rally their base to the polls. Although the strategy did alienate some groups, they were traditionally voting for Democrats anyway. This time, Wall Street executives may have driven the Republicans too far by funding an immoral and dishonest distraction campaign blaming the millions of people who are most suffering from Wall Street’s dishonesty and greed.
Republicans typically gin up hate and fear of minority groups in order to trick poor and middle class white people into voting for the interests of Wall Street. The Republican strategists who targeted the poor must not have understood this or noticed that low-income people are now a near-majority of voters. In an age when nearly everyone has a friend or family member who is unemployed or experiencing poverty, the Republicans’ demonization of the poor creates an amazing opportunity for Democrats to reach out to low-income voters of all political stripes. Democrats should outspokenly oppose the dishonesty and hatred being directed at the victims of the downturn. 2012 will not be close if Democrats can expose that Republicans are willing to do anything to protect Wall Street, including dishonestly blaming laid-off workers for the economic downturn that Wall Street created.
Italy’s well known fascist leader in World War II, Benito Mussolini, is famously quoted as saying, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Fascists believe in rule by the wealthy and seek to undercut democracy by disenfranchising the poor and middle class who oppose their corporate agenda. Fascists believe that the government should ONLY represent the interests of corporations and their wealthy owners. This means that they are ALWAYS for tax cuts for the rich even when paying for those cuts will require ending social programs for the poor and the elderly. Fascist ideology rejects the notion of taxing corporations or the wealthy even if this means millions of poor people will die. Fascists are also profoundly against workers’ rights. They believe workers organizing into unions should be illegal. This is why the Nazis rounded up and killed thousands of union leaders and members long before they targeted Jews and Gypsies. This ugly history helps explain why only a handful of smaller fascist parties now exist in European countries.
The rise of the “Tea Party” movement in America has disturbing parallels with many past fascist movements including Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. Leaders of the Tea Party movement openly call for the dismantling of many of the pillars of American Greatness in exchange for increased corporate profits. They proudly call for a privatization of Medicare and Social Security so that Corporate America can profit at our seniors expense. They support ending the right to unionize so that corporations can pay their workers less. They call for cutting support for schools for our children and pay cuts for firefighters, road crews, teachers, and police. They trick the gullible into thinking that their anti-middle class agenda is about debt and deficits. The next thing you know, Tea Party Republicans say it’s against their ideology to even consider closing tax loopholes for wealthy hedge fund managers, billionaires, and corporate CEOs. Their current push to massively increase the deficit with more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy really confirms that closing the deficit is not their agenda. They are pushing for a massive transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class, to Corporate America and the super rich. In Europe they have a term for this kind of movement; fascism.
Please understand, there is no suggestion that the Tea Party is somehow in favor of genocide or mass slaughter of millions of innocent people. Most Tea Party supporters agree that the Holocaust was a stain on our planet’s history. I also believe that most Tea Party supporters are good people who have been tricked into supporting a corporatist movement that is against their own interests.
The Tea Party movement has significant influence over the Republican Party. When looking at the field of Republican presidential candidates, it is clear that one has to openly advocate for the Tea Party and their fascist principles in order to have a chance of winning the primary election. The Tea Party is heavily supported by a wealthy corporatist named Rupert Murdoch, owner of hundreds of media outlets including Fox News. Murdoch and other wealthy corporatists use Fox News to promote their “facts” about how the poor and middle class must sacrifice so that corporations can enjoy massive subsidies and the super-rich can further profit from endless tax cuts. Corporatists also use Fox News to highly discipline their candidates by destroying the hopes of anyone that challenges any major part of the Tea Party’s fascist agenda. Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich recently came out against the Republican plan to privatize and cut Medicare and called it radical “right-wing social engineering.” Over the next two days he was so heavily attacked on Fox News that his presidential campaign is likely over.
The rise of the Tea Party has been nothing less than a thinly-veiled attempt at a fascist takeover by Corporate America. Through recent corporatist Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, wealthy and powerful corporations and their owners are now able to funnel untraceable and limitless political contributions into a “movement” that pushes for their selfish interests. Together, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox “News” and wealthy tea-party contributors have successfully created a new American Fascism that has taken over the Republican Party and threatens to unravel the fabric of our great nation. Americans need to see what the Tea Party really stands for: trading away the Great American Middle Class for increased corporate profits.
For most of my youth I was an outspoken Conservative Republican. I stayed up many late nights watching Rush Limbaugh’s since cancelled television show and proudly led my high school’s conservative politics club. I believed that social programs were a drain on society and that if we cut those programs to let the job-creators (the rich) have more freedom from regulations and relief from taxes that America would have a much stronger economy and many more good jobs.
In 1994 I travelled to Indonesia and lived there for a year as an exchange student. Poverty and hunger amongst children and seniors was rampant and many people were forced to work in dangerous conditions 7 days a week, 12-16 hours a day, for around $1.50 a day. Seeing disabled, hungry, and even dead people on the sides of the roads was not uncommon. Every single day scores of disabled young girls would sit outside of the local shoe factory (a Nike subcontractor) in Jakarta who had became disabled from unsafe conditions including breathing toxic glues without masks. They were waiting for the 14 hour shift to end to be taken care of by members of their family who were inside the plant working in those same dangerous conditions. I was forced to seriously question the cause of all of this tragedy.
As a Rotary Club exchange student, I lived with the families of wealthy businessmen that enjoyed conversation. I remember asking if the poor should get paid more. To my horror, I heard the same argument I would use against raising the minimum wage back home: if they were paid more it would hurt business and therefore be bad for the economy. I also asked about regulations that required safer working conditions, paying overtime, or funding social programs for the poor and seniors. I was met with another familiar argument: if we taxed or regulated the job-creators to pay for social programs, they would not be able to afford to employ these people at all. It was quite an eye-opener. I was forced to come to terms with how our common conservative ideology was being used to justify keeping workers poor, desperate, and vulnerable. I came to learn the relationship between all the dead and extremely poor people and a society where business regulations do not exist, the “job-creators” do not pay taxes, and no social programs exist for the elderly and the poor. These conversations led me to study American history to learn why we are so much better off.
In America, before the rise of organized labor, workers faced the same plight as Indonesians do today. American workers were once expected to work 12-16 hours a day under dangerous conditions and for very little pay. The middle class did not exist in this time. Starvation, lack of basic health care, and unsafe working conditions were significant causes of death. The historical difference was that here in America our “Greatest Generation” organized into Unions and fought against the rich and their Conservative cheerleaders for better pay, benefits, reasonable schedules, and safer working conditions. Since then, Republicans have worked tirelessly trying to convince Americans that Unions are bad because they cost employers more money with their demands for good pay and safe working conditions.
The Republican Party is out to destroy the power of organized labor and to attack the very things our “Greatest Generation” fought for. This is no secret. You can see this attempt to “bust” unions unfolding in Wisconsin and many other states across the country. We need to remember that Unions brought America the Weekend, workplace safety laws, child labor laws, the minimum wage (which holds all wages up), workers compensation, and a host of other workplace protections that most working people take for granted. Republicans have slowly chipped away at the 40-hour week and have their eyes set on reducing workers incomes, ending overtime pay, and rolling back safety regulations that they refer to as “bureaucratic red-tape”. Without strong Unions, we will lose the Weekend and slowly be expected to work longer and longer hours until we go back to working 12-16 hour day, under dangerous conditions and for very little pay. All of the gains made by organized labor ultimately cost business owners money. For this reason, they will be done away with by Republicans without Unions to protect them. Without Unions, the middle class will become a footnote in American history.
America is now facing a budget shortfall because we just had the biggest economic downturn of most of our lives. The shortfall is not due to workers being paid too much or because we protect our children, poor, and elderly with social programs. In fact, there would be no deficit if we taxed the wealthy in our nation the way we did when the “Greatest Generation” organized together to bring us the middle class. We paid for the creation of the middle class by taxing the super-rich at 91% and this resulted in the most profound economic growth in the history of our great nation. Now taxes on the rich are around one-third of that. To finance these massive tax breaks for Billionaires, Republicans are now advocating that poor children, pregnant women, and low income seniors should have their health care, food stamps, and early childhood education cut. All of these cuts combined will only reduce the $2 Trillion deficit by around $50 billion. To put that in perspective, the last tax cut for the rich put us $700 billion more in debt over the next ten years. Inequality in our great nation has gotten so bad that currently 400 Billionaires have more wealth than 155 Million Americans combined (that is half of our population). How many kids, pregnant women, and seniors will not get enough food or basic health care this year so that these absurdly rich 400 Billionaires can have more? How can Republicans prioritize these 400 Billionaires over the basic needs of our families, friends, and neighbors?
Tax cuts for the rich are causing most teachers, firefighters, and police to be paid less and many others to lose their jobs all together. And now Republicans are taking aim at the most vulnerable in our nation in their push for cuts in WIC (Women Infants and Children), food stamps, and unemployment. To balance the budget, Republicans demand that the poor and middle class shoulder the entire burden while simultaneously calling for more tax cuts for Billionaires. Why not ask the absurdly rich to help out in our nation’s time of need?
To be clear, workers organizing together and demanding that the rich sacrifice is what brought America the middle class. It did not exist before workers fought for better pay, safety protections, social programs, and all the other things that separate our labor market from that of the developing world. Indonesia has never had strong unions as workers there are in constant fear of employers, just like conservatives businessmen there want it. It was when I realized this that I became a Democrat.
Today’s Conservative Movement has become so extreme that it is hard to recognize it from the party I supported as a younger man, only 20 years ago. In a typical Republican or “Tea Party” speech, it is claimed that Conservatives are for upholding the Constitution and that they are the “Pro-Constitution” Candidates. Ironically, this will often be followed by a long list of the reasons that Today’s Republican Party does not like the Constitution nearly as much as they profess. In fact, the Republican Party and the “Tea Party” consistently criticize many of the most fundamental principles of the constitution and regularly raise the prospect of formally changing the Constitution altogether.
These criticisms often include establishing prayer in public schools, teaching Christians’ version of Creationism in public school science classes, prohibiting Muslims from making a place of worship near ground zero, attacking Islam as being hateful or pro-terrorism, and supporting racial profiling against Hispanics in Arizona and People of Middle Eastern Descent everywhere. In fact, it is not just some criticism, Conservatives have pushed for a massive overhaul of the Constitution including changing the 14th Amendment to exclude citizenship from children of noncitizens born here, changing the constitution to make Gay Marriage illegal, changing the 1st amendment with the school prayer amendment, the broader religious freedom amendment, the term limits amendment, changing the 1st amendment to prohibit flag-burning, the parents rights amendment, and the victims’ rights amendment. As each of these issues are difficult to discuss within the size limits of an editorial, I will only focus on one pillar of the Constitution; Freedom of Religion through the Separation of Church and State.
As pilgrims migrated to the New World and settled, many were running from the English Government’s persecution of religious minorities. The English Government denied its citizens the right to openly practice any religion anywhere in the country, except for those who believed in the dominant version of Christianity at that time. This is why the very first sentence of the Bill of Rights is “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof“. Yet, how many times have you heard Conservatives say that “we are a Christian Nation” and that we are “built on Christian Values” while pushing to establish prayer in public schools or teaching Christianities’ version of creationism in public schools? How can you believe that the government should not establish a certain religion, yet force the teaching of one religions’ version of the origins of life in government run schools? Cleary, Conservative ideology directly contradicts the Constitution’s Separation of Church and State.
In fact, the current issue Conservatives and Fox News are trying to frighten us with is that a Muslim Organization wants to buy the abandoned Burlington Coat Factory building two or three blocks away from Ground Zero and turn it into a place of Islamic worship. Unfortunately, Conservatives are falling over each other to say how much they oppose allowing Muslims to freely worship near ground zero because the perpetrators of 9/11 claimed to be believers in Islam. The area around the building is currently home to a large Muslim Community that dates back long before 9/11. Deny this established community a right to make a religious institution near their homes is textbook unconstitutional religious discrimination. This is exactly what the founders of our great nation tried to ensure that we would never be seriously considering; denying a religious minority the right to build a place of worship.
Our Founding Fathers knew that religious intolerance breeds hatred and violence in a society. This is why they took such pains to make their views clear on Religious Intolerance. The issue of the Islamic Center at Ground Zero is a perfect example. Conservatives don’t argue that some of the people attending the Islamic Center were somehow connected to the 9/11 bombers. Rather, Conservatives blame all Muslims for 9/11. It’s that simple. The only connection is their faith. Rather than blame the extremists that committed the acts of terrorism specifically, Conservatives want to paint a broad brush and deny all Muslim people religious freedoms. It would be like blaming all Christians for the Unabomber’s attacks because he was a Christian and then not letting any Christians build a church within a certain distance of those attacks. Claiming that we should discriminate against all of Islam is just as absurd and hateful while ultimately serving only to divide Americans for political gain.
America is an Open Society that draws strength from its tolerance and religious diversity. This is what our Founding Fathers fought the British to establish. This is one of the reasons we are the envy of the world. Today’s Republicans and “Tea Party” supporters need to take a lesson from our Founding Fathers and support the opening sentence of our great nation’s Bill of Rights instead of coming up with dozens of ways they want to change it.
Fishing in the Pacific Northwest is a multi-billion dollar industry supporting around 36,000 full-time, family-wage jobs catching, canning, processing, and selling some of the highest quality fish in the world. Jobs are also created by spending on boats, related fishing gear, and travel expenses in and around river and coastal communities. Many of these jobs are at risk if we fail to adopt the Wild Olympics proposal. The proposal has two main goals. First, it protects our Salmon and Fishing Industry and the thousands of associated jobs. Second, it protects the recreation and tourism industry by ensuring our right to camp, hunt, fish, raft, hike, and ride horses in some of the most scenic parts of the Olympic Peninsula.
Currently, the Fishing and Tourism Industries are under assault from those wishing to destroy protected Salmon Spawning grounds (the lifeblood of our local Fishing Industry) to build more dams and to begin logging vulnerable upstream areas. Logging these areas would destroy the natural nurseries where most of our Northwest Salmon are born. Many of our most majestic and pristine recreational areas would also be forever destroyed, causing thousands of hard working people in our community to lose their jobs. Currently, no dams are being built and logging is not allowed in these critical lands along the rivers. Some misled individuals are working to change the protected status. Opposition to the Wild Olympics proposal is being driven by widespread misinformation being circulated on this issue.
Certain opponents of the Wild Olympics proposal have been terribly dishonest. Some have called it a “$900 Million Land Grab” that raises taxes and forces landowners to sell their land. In reality, the plan does not raise taxes, only involves people who are trying to sell their land (no forced sales), and would only spend a few million dollars (none of which comes from taxpayers). All of the money for the proposal comes from the Federal Land and Water Conservation fund which is entirely funded by royalties from the Oil and Gas Industry (the plan does not change the royalty rates either).
The plan gives some upstream rivers, many that are home to the best salmon spawning grounds on the planet, a Wild and Scenic River designation. The designation would block future attempts to build dams. It also ensures federal protection of recreational access to these rivers. This will ultimately block future attempts by anti-recreation people in the State or Industry to restrict our access. Camping, Boating, rafting, fishing, and hunting in and along these rivers would be permanently protected under the Wild Olympics proposal. With this plan, we can feel confident that our children will be able to bring their children and grandchildren out to these areas to enjoy their pristine beauty and abundant fish and wildlife.
The plan also converts some national forest, mainly along these salmon spawning rivers, into designated Wilderness Areas. Contrary to what opponents have argued, the National Forest lands in question are not open to logging under existing policy. The designation will not reduce current logging. Rather, the Wild Olympics proposal would make the current protections permanent. Under current law, a future President could open these small yet critically sensitive areas along the upstream rivers to logging. This would destroy our Salmon Industry, Tourism Industry, and the many recreational uses for this land. These uses are essential to our way of life. The designation as a Wilderness Area makes permanent the protection of our right to camp, hike, hunt, and ride horseback with our friends and families. This is why some of the strongest supporters of the proposal are outdoor recreational groups like The Mountaineers and American Whitewater.
We should not risk the long-term viability of Washington States’ Salmon Industry, the thousands of associated jobs, and the wide ranging recreational uses of these breathtaking lands for future generations. One season of limited timber jobs, at some unknown time in the future, does not outweigh the risk. The rivers running through the Olympic Peninsula are a national treasure and an economic godsend that we are lucky to have in our backyard. Even though the timber industry is hungry, one good meal is not worth killing the Golden Goose.
Most people that I know are worried about losing their jobs, having their pay cut, or are unemployed. Meanwhile, the rich are doing better than ever. Last year alone (2010), the average CEO’s pay rose 27%. This disparity has gotten to the point that the richest 400 Americans now have more money between them than half of the people in our country combined (that’s 155 million Americans). This has a lot to do with a tax code that overwhelmingly favors the rich. Between all of the exemptions and loopholes designed for the rich, many of the biggest corporations and wealthiest people in our state pay no taxes. The results are not terribly surprising; we have big deficits, the rich are getting insanely rich, and we are now facing immoral budget cuts that will drive Washington businesses into bankruptcy.
Washington State faces a serious dilemma. The downturn in the economy has left our state with a big deficit. We are left with two options: raise taxes or cut spending. Despite Microsoft Founder Bill Gates being very rich himself, he says we need to tax the rich. As he puts it, the rich are the ones who can afford it. This is the best way to balance the budget without damaging the economy with spending cuts.
After World War II, our grandparents’ generation significantly improved the lives of nearly all Americans through very high taxes on the rich. From 1944 through 1963, income tax rates on the richest Americans varied between 91% and 94%. During this time of our highest upper income tax rates, our economy grew faster and with more stability than any time since. High tax rates on the rich funded government infrastructure projects that paved the way for our golden age as a nation. We created the Interstate Highway System that made doing business in America more profitable, we hired thousands of teachers and led the world in math and science standards, we invested in research and development that sparked inventions like lasers and medical breakthroughs like cures for many of the world’s worst diseases. The average American saw their education, health, and wealth grow faster than any time since. It became easier to start a business because there was a new and growing class of workers that could now afford to be good customers. As a result, the middle class was born. During this period, our nation changed from being one of the great nations into the Leader of the Free World. Taxing the rich has had pretty amazing results for our country. The alternative is now being advocated by our state Republicans; financing low taxes on the rich by cutting programs primarily aimed at protecting children, those in poverty, and the elderly.
Spending cuts being championed by our State Republicans are terribly immoral and put Washington’s economic recovery at risk. The Republican’s plan is to balance the budget almost entirely on the backs of the poor and most vulnerable. They are blocking any tax increases on the wealthy with full knowledge of the suffering to be unleashed by the cuts that they propose instead. Why can’t the wealthy sacrifice with the rest of us? Frankly, their priorities seem twisted and wrong. If you are a Christian, please ask yourself what Jesus would do. Would he tell the poor, disabled, and elderly that they must sacrifice? Or would he ask the rich to sacrifice and give to the poor and most vulnerable?
The Republican-led spending cuts are not only immoral; they will drive Washington businesses into bankruptcy. By spending less on education, the disabled, and the mentally ill, we will be laying off thousands of teachers, psychologists, nurses, and social workers throughout the state. Those people’s families will be spending far less at their local Washington businesses. This means fewer customers for our already struggling businesses. The direct effect will be some businesses laying off workers and others going bankrupt. Simply put, destroying a large portion of our state’s customer base through significant government layoffs and pay cuts will be a disaster for Washington businesses.
Our State Legislators need to remember how our grandparents’ generation made America into the land of the prosperous; we taxed the rich.
Republicans want you to believe that tax cuts for the rich will create jobs. Every few years they tell us that if the majority supports more tax cuts for the rich, than we will have more jobs. This makes no sense and is really about tricking regular people into sacrificing so that the rich can have more.
Imagine owning a restaurant. Because the economy is down, fewer customers are coming in. You often have servers standing around with no tables to wait on, so you decide to lay off a server. If you were given a new tax break the way Republicans advocate, are you going to hire back that server to stand around while the restaurant is still really slow? Of course not! You already have more staff than you need and paying less in taxes would not change that. Additionally, to pay for those tax cuts we are reducing the wages of government workers and laying off teachers and firefighters to name a few. Those families taking pay cuts or lay-offs will be eating out less. This means fewer customers, not more. Rather than consider rehiring anyone, you may have to lay off another server, In other words, tax cut for the rich do not cause businesses to hire people. It is the exact opposite. Paying for tax cuts for the rich undercuts the customer-base and causes job losses. Once we understand this, it becomes much clearer why the Republican assault on unions and government workers is so damaging to the economic recovery; it is destroying our customer-base and causing lay-offs. Democrats advocate giving to the poor and middle class because that creates jobs.
America is now facing a budget shortfall because we just had the biggest economic downturn of most of our lives. The shortfall is not due to workers being paid too much. In fact, there would be no deficit if we taxed the wealthy in our nation the way we did when the Greatest Generation organized together after the Great Depression to bring us the middle class. We paid for the creation of middle class government jobs by taxing the super-rich at 91% and this resulted in the most profound economic growth in the history of our great nation. Unions’ success in getting lower income people higher wages created a whole new class of strong customers that became known as the “middle class”. Today, taxes on billionaires are around one-third of what they were and that is still not low enough for Republicans. To finance another round of tax breaks for the rich, Republicans are advocating wage cuts, layoffs, and reductions in benefits for seniors. When people lose their jobs or suffer from cuts in pay or benefits, they will not be good customers — this hurts the recovery. Tax cuts for the rich take money from the poor and middle class who would otherwise spend that money. This decreases demand — the real driver of job growth.
Before the rise of Unions, the middle class did not exist. Workers were expected to work 12-16 hours a day under dangerous conditions and for very little pay. Here in the Harbor, workers mainly organized around people losing fingers, hands, arms, and even their lives in unsafe mill conditions. What changed all this was that our Greatest Generation organized into Unions and fought against the rich and their Conservative cheerleaders for better pay, benefits, and safer working conditions. For the following two generations, good paying and relatively safe work at the local mills drove our booming economy. Since then, Republicans have worked tirelessly to convince Americans to dislike unions and to forgo wage increases for “economic reasons” — and now we are lacking consumers with good enough paying jobs to sustain a vibrant economy.
The Republicans are trying to destroy Unions and the very things our Greatest Generation fought for. This is no secret. They are busting Unions, reducing wages, and laying off government workers all across the nation. We need to remember that Unions brought America the Weekend (Saturday used to be a working day), workplace safety laws, child labor laws, the minimum wage, workers compensation, and a host of other workplace protections that we take for granted. Republicans are actively reducing workers incomes and rolling back safety regulations that they refer to as “bureaucratic red-tape”. Without strong Unions, we will soon lose the Weekend and slowly be expected to work longer and longer hours until we go back to working 12-16 hour day, under dangerous conditions and for very little pay. All of the gains made by organized labor ultimately cost business owners money. For this reason, they will be done away with by Republicans without Unions to protect them. Without Unions, the middle class and our strong economy will become footnotes in American history.
In a powerful attack on Communism, President Ronald Reagan famously declared in a speech directed at the leader of the USSR, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”. It was only a couple years later that the Berlin Wall was torn down as an iconic end to the threat posed by communism. The end of the Cold War shortly followed along with the transformation of most of the former Soviet Republics into democratic free market economies of one sort or another.
A little less than two years ago, on June 4th, 2009, President Barack Obama went to Egypt and history will likely show that this was where he gave the most important speech of his career. He went to the heart of Intellectual Islam, Cairo University, and made his case for around an hour that the people of Islam must support peaceful non-violent resistance instead of terrorism. He attacked violent extremism as “a dead end” and cited multiple examples of how violence would fail to achieve the desired ends that Islamic people demand. He then pledged that America would support the rights of people “to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed”. And then he took direct aim at most of the leaders of Islamic countries that claim to be Democratic (including Egypt’s own President Mubarak) saying that:
“Government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.”
For a US President to go to this region of the world and openly criticize the legitimacy of many of the regimes in the region, while simultaneously pledging support to peaceful resisters of these regimes, was unprecedented. For generations, all US Presidents of both political parties have consistently praised the leaders of these countries as good allies despite their ruthless rule over their people. Obama’s inspirational speech, invoking the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi, planted the seeds of peaceful revolution.
Now, only a couple years later, massive democratic non-violent protest movements have emerged in nearly every Islamic nation. More specifically, the nation where Obama gave his speech (Egypt) has already had its tyrannical “President”, Hosni Mubarak, overthrown. Only a month earlier the Tunisian “President”, Ben Ali, also had his dictatorial rule ended through a massive non-violent uprising of Islamic people demanding democracy. Currently, we see similar protest movements growing in nearly every Islamic nation in the world as each nation’s population has begun to see what they can have if they organize together non-violently the way Obama explained.
If you can remember back to when Obama gave his speech in Cairo, he was widely criticized by everyone on Fox “News” as somehow betraying America and going on an “apology tour” that somehow made us look “arrogant” or “weak” to our enemies. Other conservatives tried to use the speech as evidence of some widespread conspiracy that Obama is secretly a Muslim and some said his speech was a “waste of time”. Looking back, the conservative pundits couldn’t have been farther from the truth. The power of the spoken word to change the world cannot be denied. In fact, all of the major democratic revolutions in the world were won with powerful speeches that rallied the support of their people, including here in America. MLK’s speeches certainly had a lot to do with inspiring people to successfully push for civil rights and the famously quoted “no taxation without representation” within Reverend Mayhew’s sermon likely kicked off the American Revolution with the Boston Tea Party. A similar story of democratic revolution is now unfolding all across the Islamic World. What we are witnessing is a revolution in thought. Islamic people everywhere are beginning to realize that if they give up violence and extremism and embrace nonviolent resistance, than they can get what they want: to be able to speak their minds and have a say in how they are governed.
After decades of violent terrorism in the name of this or that, it took only a few weeks for non-violent Islamic resisters to topple the Mubarak and Ali regimes. As can be witnessed by the wave of similar protests throughout the region, the Islamic World has taken notice of the tremendous power that non-violent resistance holds for their future. What Bush and Cheney tried and failed to do with massive wars, the killing of countless people, and trillions of dollars in spending, Obama may have done with a single speech.
History will show that Obama’s speech in Cairo served to show the Islamic World that non-violence works better than terrorism. Much like how Reagan’s speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate helped bring down Global Communism, Obama’s speech at Cairo University will be remembered as the Iconic moment that sparked the end of tyranny throughout the Islamic world and the resultant extremism it has fueled. It was the day that Obama defeated the terrorists.