We Still Live in A Democracy, Despite What DT Would Have Us Believe

It is wrong to say this nation is now a dictatorship, an oligarchy, fascist state or a monarchy. I myself have pretty much said these things at one point or another or said we are no longer a democracy. But the US is still a democracy, despite the way DT tramples the landscape of democratic institutions⎼ the separation of powers, the rule of law, and the oath requiring him to protect the constitution. Since he came to power, he has done everything he could to undermine our nation and political system, even suspend constitutional protections.

 

DT is not a dictator or monarch. He is a “would-be” dictator or “would be” monarch. He is a wannabee. And we can’t crown him with our language. We can’t give him, and must resist giving him, what he wants.

 

To say the US is no longer a democracy is to say DT has won. He hasn’t. He is losing every day. He has never received the support of a majority of citizens. The fact that we hear and can talk about his abuses of power, lies, negligence, corruption, and incompetence shows this. The fact that nurses (wearing masks and social distancing) could protest outside the White House against his failures in responding to the pandemic shows this. The fact he and the GOP have been trying for years to end the right to protest (depending on who is doing the protest) and haven’t succeeded shows this.

 

According to DT, white nationalists, and other armed groups protesting against orders by Democratic Governors that protect people from the coronavirus, are “good people,” ⎼ while African-Americans, protesting the murder by police of someone in their community, are “thugs.”

 

The fact that he signed an executive order intended to exercise control over social media, after Twitter announced it would fact-check DT’s tweets, shows this. The fact that he is trying right now to make sure there are no more whistleblowers and Inspector Generals shows this. The fact that he acts to stop any criticism of him, and will attack or threaten those who do so, especially the media, female Democrats, or any democrat of color, shows how insecure he is. No one, certainly no political figure, is safe from him.

 

A strong person does not treat an opponent as an evil with no right to exist. But this is exactly what DT does. He is a weak person, yet he unfortunately has tremendous institutional power. He has been unraveling before our eyes, as illustrated by his comments about ingesting disinfectants or taking a drug not proven either safe or effective against the coronavirus, but somehow is still in office….

 

To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

Is It Arrogance, Ignorance, An Impeachment Wish, Or All Three?

Hiding Investigations Crucial For the Rule of Law Behind Ones That Undermine that Rule

 

Last week was dramatic and this week more of the same has been occurring. We have heard clear evidence, once again, of possible criminal acts by T, lies and distortions topped with extortion. We’ve seen the President and his minions try to cover up, obfuscate, or distract our attention from what T did and attack those who reveal what occurred.

 

But this latest series of revelations regarding the Ukrainian affair is so obvious a violation of what any President should do and so obviously screams for impeachment, I wondered, once again how much of T’s behavior is from pure narcissistic arrogance and the craving for absolute power, how much from ignorance, and how much is it an impeachment-wish?

 

The most obvious evidence that the phone call between T and President Zelensky of Ukraine is impeachable (aside from the transcript of the call itself) comes from State Department official David Holmes who testified last Friday behind closed doors and will testify before a public hearing this Thursday. If you haven’t heard about his testimony, he overheard a phone call from the Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland to T on July 26th, the day after the infamous phone call that is at the heart of the impeachment proceedings. This second phone call took place on Sondland’s non-secure cell phone in a restaurant in Kiev. Holmes could hear Mr. T clearly, as the Ambassador held the phone at a distance from his ear because the President was speaking very loudly.

 

In the July 26th call, T asked Sondland if the Ukrainians were “going to do the investigations?” Sondland replied that they were ready to do anything T asked of them. Later on, Sondland told Holmes that T only cared about “the big stuff.” When asked if the war in Ukraine was “big stuff” Sondland clarified that “big stuff” referred to anything that personally “benefits the President, like the quote, unquote, ‘Biden investigation’ that Mr. Giulani was pushing.” Saving Ukraine from Russia or supporting democracy were not “the big stuff.”

 

Earlier last Friday afternoon (11/15), I also felt a mixture of outrage and disbelief when I heard about the President’s tweet attacking Ambassador Yovanovitch during her testimony to Congress.  This tweet destroyed any pretense that the President cared about the law. It was not only a clear and very public example of witness intimidation, but it was done on the day it was announced that T’s adviser, Roger Stone, was found guilty of witness intimidation and other crimes.

 

The main point of the phone call between T and President Zelensky, as David Holmes and others made clear, was to force the Ukrainians to do T’s bidding. If they wanted a public meeting with the U. S. President and the military aid passed by Congress, they would have to announce they were undertaking two investigations, one into the Bidens and one to create evidence supporting the Russia backed claim that it was Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia.

 

This is a strategy often utilized by the T administration and other Republicans in the past. Remember months of investigation into Benghazi and the eventual revelation that Mrs. Clinton followed procedure and that responsibility for the deaths at our embassy lay elsewhere? Remember “Lock her up” and T’s continual attacks and calls for investigations not only of Hillary Clinton but President Obama?

 

In the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, possibly to detract from Russia working to help him win the election as well as to counter the fact that he lost the popular vote, T claimed that millions of people voted illegally, despite there being no evidence to back up that claim. David Becker, from the Center for Election Innovation & Research, and others have examined Trump’s claim. They found no evidence of any massive illegal voting or fraud.

 

Despite the lack of evidence, T went on to appoint a White House Commission into voter fraud. The commission, despite being conducted by T supporters, also found that no state in the union uncovered any significant evidence of voter fraud and the commission was disbanded in 2018.

 

This strategy has been used to smear Democrats and undermine the rule of law. It is being used to attempt to make any investigation of T meaningless by creating counter and unwarranted investigations of their own. It is part of his larger tactic of attacking anyone who disagrees with him and creating fear in his political or economic opponents.

 

All through the Mueller Investigation, T claimed, without any evidence, that the investigation was a “Witch-hunt”, that it was based on shoddy intelligence or illegal wiretaps or a bias against him. When the Mueller Investigation was coming to an end, T and his GOP sycophants pushed to “investigate the investigators.”

 

The Trump DOJ has started several investigations to advance their agenda to hide the facts of T’s abuse of power and utilizing Russian interference to win an election. Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz has been examining how the FBI obtained a warrant to wiretap Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

 

The DOJ has now opened a criminal investigation into the origins of the Mueller probe into the Russian Interference in the 2016 election. This investigation is being overseen by the Attorney General himself, William Barr, although it is being officially run by John Durham, the U. S. attorney in Connecticut. The targets of the investigation include FBI officials like James Comey, or anyone that was part of the Mueller team that could be accused of anti-Trump bias. Durham has been asking witnesses if the CIA somehow tricked the FBI into opening the Russia probe. Mr. Barr has personally participated in the investigation. According to the New York Times, he has flown to Italy to speak to their Prime Minister, and also contacted officials in Australia and Britain, and possibly Ukraine.

 

A recent blog by Mark Sumner for Daily Kos speaks about this and Barr’s efforts to protect T with a report on the Russia investigations. The report is due to come out before Thanksgiving and aims to re-write history and distract from the impeachment proceedings. It will repeat Russia’s claim that it never interfered in the 2016 election and attempt to discredit the evidence of 16 U. S. intelligence agencies to the contrary. And it will claim that T has been unfairly attacked ever since he was called the winner of the 2016 election.

 

Barr has often attacked the Democrats and the courts for working against the President’s agenda and, according to NPR and in his own words, working to “cripple the T administration from the beginning.” His position is that there are almost no legal restraints on T’s presidential power. He accused Democrats of the “systematic shredding of norms and undermining the rule of law.” According to Neil Kinkopf, a law professor who testified at Barr’s confirmation hearing, Barr believes that any dissent or opposition to the president is contrary to democracy. This is in line with T calling for Democrats to be arrested for treason for opposing him or calling for his impeachment.

 

So, this is what we face. I don’t know if T has a secret wish to be removed from office or not.  But I do know that if I had had any doubts about why T must be impeached or legally removed from office, ASAP, this evidence would convince me. The fight here is to preserve the rule of law, preserve our rights, freedoms, and the principle that political power resides in the people of this nation as a whole, not one person, party, class, race or gender, and not Russian or other foreign agents. And we must be prepared to defend those rights.

 

 

This blog was also published by The Good Men Project.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Are You?

Who are you, Mr., Miss or Mrs. T supporter? How can those of us who detest your leader understand you? And, in terms of the next election, how much effort should we spend in trying to talk with you about the problems that face us all?

 

Are you someone who has lost not only your job but your trade or profession, or afraid of your job and your respect being lost? Or of losing your home, social security, schools for you or your children? Are you someone who thinks this country is controlled by elites, by billionaires, who want to replace you with people from other countries?

 

Billionaire CEOs have certainly been sending businesses overseas or replacing people with machines. And a few billionaires have more wealth than all of you non-millionaire (or billionaire) T supporters combined. But this distrust of billionaires is something you share with the liberals you say you distrust or hate. Liberals are, in this regard, your natural allies. And if you truly distrust “elites” and billionaires, why did you support giving them even more power and money in the form of huge tax cuts that you are paying for? Why support a system that pays CEOs 287 times more than their workers?

 

If you distrust billionaires and the elite, why do you support T, who claims to be a billionaire and who bows to certain elites? Did you buy his line that, since he is so rich, he couldn’t be bought? Or that, because he was a successful businessman, he could run this country like a successful business?

 

No President has been bought off as much as T has, or so blatantly treated the office of the President as a business venture to earn profits not for you or for this nation, but for himself. Every time he takes a vacation at one of his golf resorts or stays at his own hotel, you the taxpayer directly pays him. Many foreign politicians also pay him. You have to wonder how much our foreign policy is motivated by personal profit for him. And look at how he runs his businesses. He certainly does not do so to benefit his workers or the customers he supposedly serves, as in the example of Trump University. He runs the country as if you werehisservants who he could use and discard without proper compensation whenever he wished. Many have characterized T’s style of running the business of the US government as a criminal enterprise.

 

You might reply, “But Democrats are the same, or worse, and at least T does it openly.” Sure, there are immoral or unethical Democrats. But this is a tired old line. No Democrat comes close to T. The only politicians in recent US history who exceed or come close in terms of criminality, hiring billionaires to their cabinet and committing criminal acts are Republicans, like Reagan, Nixon, and Bush II. …

To read the whole piece, go to The Good Men Project.

The Real-Life Drama We Are Living Through

Mark Twain (amongst others) said, “Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction.”

 

The political drama we are living through right now, especially this past week, or maybe ever since T was elected, exceeds any fictional portrayals we have seen in any novel, TV program or movie for dramatic action and psychological tension. Maybe the actors we are seeing in the White House or Congress do not equal the imaginative portrayal of the perfidy of villains or the courage of heroes we have seen in fiction, but that is arguable. What Trump and the GOP lack in imagination, for example, they exceed in the daring and reality of the evil they do and the pain they cause.

 

Unlike many fictional dramas, this one began at a point of high tension and expectation. It began last Sunday, when Attorney General Barr released his own summary of the Mueller Report announcing the end of the investigation. He did not turn the Mueller Report over to Congress or to the American people, as was the case when President Clinton was investigated. He instead chose to tell us his version, to give us the Barr Report instead.

 

There were two main conclusions in the Barr Report. One, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” (Although it did establish that Russia did work to interfere in the election.) Two, regarding obstruction of justice, or whether the President acted in a criminal manner to interfere in the Mueller investigation, the Barr Report announced that the Mueller Report supposedly did not draw a conclusion, but said that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Therefore, according to Barr, there was no obstruction of justice.

 

A tremendous hush rose over the land, especially amongst the majority of Americans. My heart dropped through the floor. We all knew Barr was a Trump loyalist. So why hadn’t the Democrats better prepared for this? I felt the political world was falling apart.

 

After two years of almost daily revelations of Russian contacts and of acting in Russia’s interest, of lies, threats of violence and assaults on the character of anyone who opposed him, on Mueller, FBI agents, reporters, Senators, Congresspeople, Judges, immigrants, women, children, people of color, even some members of his own cabinet and his own hatchet man, of financial crimes and of using the Presidency to advance his own financial interests ⎼ it felt like all the cries for justice were suddenly silenced. All the expectations that the Mueller Investigation would finally expel the evil that had infested our nation were shattered.

 

Even before the report was released, the GOP were priming the news media and much of the media bought in to the GOP messaging. CNN reported that one person at the White House said, before Barr released his summary, “’We won’ and the campaign has been absolved because there weren’t any charges related to conspiracy or obstruction.” A Trump campaign adviser told CNN: “It’s a great day for America…”

 

But once Sunday afternoon rolled around and Barr released his summary report, the GOP and their propaganda outlets went wild, shouting so loudly and repeatedly it was difficult, at first, to hear anything else but the silence in between the shouts. “There would be no further indictments to come,” said Barr. “Complete exoneration,” said the GOP. “A tremendous relief. ” GOP Rep. Mark Meadows, a Trump loyalist, claimed: “After 22 months of a special counsel and 2 years of congressional investigations, it’s over. The clock has finally struck midnight on the ‘Russian collusion’ fantasy. No collusion.”

 

This is how the week began. This is Act One. The exposition and conflicts were largely spelled out.

 

And then Act Two. First, the cries for vengeance. The GOP claimed the real criminals were the press and the Democrats. T said, “There are a lot of people out there who have done some very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country.” There would be new investigations, but this time, it would be into all those who dared to accuse the President of any crimes or misdeeds.

 

I felt my level of tension rising and was worried about who the GOP would try to indict.

 

Democrats, after at first trying to shift the focus from the reports and investigations to other issues, important economic issues, finally began to fight back. The level of conflict rose. As Rachel Maddow pointed out, the press and the Democrats began to realize that they really hadn’t heard from Mueller at all. Barr was clearly not a neutral party. They asked about what was being hidden by Barr. Why is the report being kept secret not only from the American people but from Congress?

 

Many examples of collusion with Russia were enacted right in our face, in public, a fact Democrats, including Congresspeople Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi, made clear. The way this report was being handled or mishandled was not what was needed to restore any faith in the rule of law by the people of this nation. It wasn’t Barr’s place to summarize anything or hide the evidence but instead to turn it over to Congress and the people.

 

On Thursday, the nine Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee signed a letter calling for Adam Schiff to resign as chairman of the committee. At the congressional hearing on Russian interference in the election, Republican Congressman Mike Conaway stopped the hearing to read the GOP letter, which said: “Your actions both past and present are incompatible with your duty as chairman.” T also called for Schiff to resign.

 

But then Schiff had his chance to be a hero and he played his part with courage and insight. You can see it all on MSNBC.  In the hearing he responded to Conaway and the other Republicans by spelling out, clearly, passionately, even poetically a list of examples of collusion and possible criminal behavior by the President and his supporters over the last two plus years. His response to the GOP attack had all the power of the best dramatic fiction. He said,   “You [The GOP] think it’s ok” that members of T’s campaign were willing to accept dirt from the Russians. “I don’t think it’s OK. I think it’s immoral, I think it’s unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic, and yes, I think it’s corrupt and evidence of collusion.”

 

What will be the climax? On Friday, Barr said he will give a redacted version of the Mueller Report to Congress and later the public. Democrats said they plan to subpoena the report and possibly Mueller and Barr. Will the subpoenas be successful? What will the report actually say? Or what might Mueller say? Is this the beginning of Act III?

 

Rep. Schiff spoke out again, saying the Attorney General was not, as he had claimed, compelled by the law to redact the report and hide it from Congress. Barr’s actions, and even his original appointment and confirmation, create the precedent for Presidents under investigation in the future to nominate and fire Attorney Generals to protect themselves, not the American people.

 

If Barr succeeds in placing himself between the Mueller Report and the American people, as the arbiter of truth and law, he could position the President above the law and turn the Presidency into an autocracy.

 

Will there be a catharsis, a cleansing of the nation by going through this drama? Will this struggle yield a stronger democracy or destroy what is left of democracy? And what will our place in the drama be? When and how will we, the people, act? The tension is still rising. The consequences couldn’t be much higher.

 

This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

Facing the Nightmare: The Threat that is Trump

On Wednesday, February 27, to conclude his testimony to Congress, Michael Cohen said: “Given my experience working for Mr. Trump I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power…” Cohen’s revelations of Trump as possibly threatening the government, the constitution and rule of law with violence, affirms what many of us have suspected ever since he was elected, but it is frightening to see our fears stated so bluntly by someone who knows Trump so well.

 

Cohen is not the first to speak of this threat. Roger Stone warned America in 2017 of “insurrection” if Trump is impeached. Politico reported that Stone said, “Try to impeach him. Just try it. You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen.” This is probably another example of Stone’s political theatre. But, in case anyone still holds the illusion that Trump and most of his supporters value democracy or our constitution, think again. They will do anything they can to intimidate and confuse us.

 

This is, of course, part of the nightmare that is Trump. In 2018, he warned of violence if the GOP lost the midterm elections. When he said this, there was no proof of any planned violence by anyone. So, was he just stressing the stakes for his supporters, saying his opponents will “overturn everything” if the GOP lose Congress? Or was this an attempt to intimidate or to warn Democrats of what he was capable of doing?

 

Was he, as an article by Jonathan Chait in the Intelligencer wrote in November 2018, “tantalizing his supporters with the prospect of bloodshed”? He has often threatened and tried to dehumanize or encourage violence against those who oppose him, labeling them, us, as the “resistance mob” or the “radical resistance.”  …

 

If we want any chance of a future with a substantive choice at the ballot box, or elections without threats of violence, our first priority must not be to support whomever will promise our most dreamed of policies. We must support the candidate who is most likely to defeat Trump and what he stands for.

 

To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

Ridding Ourselves of Mental and Political Malware

Last night, I had a dream that Trumpf had planted malware in my mind. I don’t remember how, only the result. I couldn’t feel good about anything, couldn’t experience any happiness unless I did his bidding.

 

Like many dreams that synthesize multiple levels of meanings, this one revealed a twisted truth. T is trying to plant malware in our minds as well as into our political, economic, and social systems. He is doing this through actions, tweets and the statements he uses to manipulate headlines and capture attention. Even though so much of what T says and does is despicable—taking young children from their parents, starting to end the ban on asbestos and allowing its import from Russia, attacking anyone who speaks out against him, not protecting our voting systems, education and health care, etc., etc.—I think he prefers any headline over none.

 

And it’s not just the news media; it’s talk shows and social media. He is good at grabbing attention. So much of the news and entertainment media can’t or won’t resist him.

 

And it’s easy to get tired from all this. The bad news comes fast and furious. It is difficult to feel good about the future when his policies threaten that future. It’s hard to feel good about our lives when the lives of so many people are being undermined or destroyed. But doing his bidding by getting caught by his “information wars” only makes us more powerless, unhappy, and angry.

 

How do we remove the malware? Unfortunately, we can’t just download malware bytes. We can only find ways to resist. We resist by learning to be more aware and mindful of our own patterns of thinking and feeling. We can take care of ourselves and learn how to recognize the signs of anxiety and depression so we can let them go more readily.  We can strengthen our minds, our bodies, and our relationships so we can enjoy life despite him. It’s not just what he says and does that is so dangerous. It’s the values and ways of looking at the world that generates what he says and does that is dangerous.

 

And as odious as this may seem to some of us, and liberating to others, we can make political work a normal part of our lives. The midterm elections are about 3 months away. We have much to do.

 

When someone is pointing a gun at us, we can’t get caught up in debating the caliber or model. We take it away or get away. A gun is pointed now at each of us and we can’t run away.

 

We can’t lose sight of the goal or be fooled by distorted facts and statements meant to confuse and divide. Divide and conquer wasn’t just a strategy of ancient Rome. The GOP and T would like nothing more than to set progressives against liberals or moderates, debating whether health care for all is socialist or not or which candidate is more progressive.

 

In the past the GOP twisted the national discussion by turning ‘compromise’ and ‘liberal’ into dirty words. They made taxes and social support programs seem sinful, and accused the Democrats of class warfare when they pointed out how the GOP tax cuts were, yes, an example of class warfare—of the rich robbing from the poor and middle class. We need to resist their manipulation of imagery, language, and values. (Please read George Lakoff’s The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.)

 

In the last election, some of us were led to believe Hillary couldn’t lose, so we voted for Jill Stein. Others were taken in by arguments (and possibly bots) saying Hillary was as bad (or worse) than T. They would like us to bad mouth and treat should-be allies as enemies.

 

A democracy can only function when its people (including politicians) clearly consider and use a diversity of viewpoints to create new, broader understandings of issues and events. In order to hear and respect different viewpoints, a democracy must be a bit slow moving and require compromise. When anyone with different views is considered an enemy, meaningful discussion and debate is destroyed. Democracy is destroyed.

 

A recent article in the Guardian, written by Adam King and Emma Rees, explained how the Labour Party in Britain came back from a bad loss in 2015 to win in 2017. It created optimism with a bold agenda built on policies that excited people because they spoke to people’s real needs. The article recommended that Progressives in the US apply these same ideas, to work from within the Democratic Party and work with the DNC to win elections and create change.

 

King and Rees recommended that Democrats, and all those who oppose what T’s GOP is doing to our nation and our world, need to work together to support candidates who actually represent our views and interests, and will put those interests above even their own desire for office.

 

The candidates we support need to be able to work with others in congress to not only oppose T but advance democracy, at the ballot box and in the economy. When such candidates actually win, we have a better chance of unseating T and destroying his malware. (We need to research and hopefully support our local Democratic candidates. If you live in the 23rd Congressional District of Central New York, Tracy Mitrano is a candidate for Congress whose values I support. I also firmly support Michael Lausell for the N. Y. State Assembly 58th district.)

 

And as many in the centrist and progressive media have pointed out, this is already happening. Not only are more progressive candidates running as Democrats, but a report by the Center for American Progress shows there’s broad support among college educated and working class voters of all races in favor of a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, and more spending on health care and retirement. And more people are taking part in the political process. According to the Pew Research Center, the turnout in this years primary contests for House Democrats is 84% higher than in 2014. For Republicans, it is 24% higher.

 

There certainly have been more political protests than any time since the 1960s. According to Vox, 20% of Americans have participated in political protests over the first 16 months of the T regime. It has only gone up since then.

 

Many of us can’t stand to hear T or his Congressional GOP sycophants lie so openly and rip us off so brazenly. We are angry and afraid. There clearly is much to be angry about. T is the “King of sleaze,” a would-be dictator and probably a traitor, etc. And the DNC, the should-be leader for people’s rights and economic justice, has often acted contrary to those goals. However, I hope our anger and fear can be used as energy to wake us up to what we need to do, not turn us away from hearing or seeing what frightens and disgusts us.

 

I hope I now know, and we know, to think two, three, or four times before believing or sharing on social media or elsewhere anything that divides the opposition to T and his quest for dictatorship. That we know not to get arrogant or tricked into thinking a battle is won until it actually is won. And we take care of others and ourselves while we vote T’s GOP out of office and work to create a political system more responsive to the rights, freedom, actual needs and well-being of the great majority of people.

 

 

 

The Impoverishment of Main Street Tax Plan

The destructive Republican denial of health care bills have temporarily been defeated, so now the administration and many Republican congressional leaders are calling for tax cuts and a revised tax code. Once again, they are dangling in front of Americans something many of us desire, in this case more money and a simpler tax code, but the reality is something far different.

 

Remember, these are the same people who proposed health care legislation supported, at one point, by only 12% of Americans. It would have denied health insurance to up to 32 million people now covered by the ACA and undermined it for millions more. In this tax bill, they are taking aim once again at the economic life and health care of most Americans in order to give tax cuts to the wealthy. If it’s a new day, and these Republicans are in power, it’s a new assault on what so many of us hold dear.

 

First of all, the legislation was conceived behind closed doors by only a small group of Republicans, who are also planning how to prevent a Democratic filibuster. Secondly, the bill would flatten the number of tax brackets from seven to three and give tax cuts mainly to the rich and corporations. The poorest of us would actually face a 2% rate hike (somewhat mitigated by an increase in the standard deduction and a larger child tax credit), while the rich get a 4% cut. It would cut the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax. Mr. T says he would not benefit from this tax cut, but depending on what his actual income is, he could be saving millions.

 

Possibly to get the support of Senator Lisa Murkowski and other Republicans, the bill includes a provision opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling.

 

The tax plan would cost possibly $2.4 trillion over ten years. How would it be paid for? Supporters say the decrease in taxes would lead to an increase in the economy and thus in government income. But this is highly questionable. The trickle down theory, which states that giving more money to the rich would lead to more jobs and income for the poor and middle class, did not work in the Reagan or Bush years or any other time. President Bush greatly increased the deficit (by 2019, his cuts would be responsible for 40% of the national debt) and his economic policies led to the great recession of 2007, a great increase in unemployment and income inequality. President Reagan did cut taxes in his first year in office. But tax revenues dropped precipitously, the debt increased to almost $3 trillion, unemployment and income inequality soared⏤but he had enough sense to actually eliminate many of his tax cuts when he realized his tax plan was causing dire consequences.

 

This new tax proposal would lead to an increase in the disparity between rich and poor and would raise the deficit considerably just when the government is calling for increases in defense spending, and infrastructure in the US badly needs an overhaul.

 

Democrats say Republicans plan to pay for the tax cuts by cutting the programs the poor and middle class depend on: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc. ⏤just as, back in May, they planned to do with the budget. As Bernie Sanders put it, the plan would be Robin Hood in reverse: taking from the poor and middle class to give to the rich. The tax cut would be the vehicle for the few to undermine the rights, power, and freedom of the many. It must be opposed.

The Central Importance of A United Resistance and Decreasing the Concentration of Wealth and Inequity

Opposing the Republican minority-elected President cannot be simply a Democratic version of “the party of No.” It cannot be concerned just with revealing lies and resisting racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and all sorts of phobias like homophobia, Islamaphobia or xenophobia, etc. To fight racism, etc., we must first unite to resist the destruction of what’s left of democracy, free speech and the freedom of the press. We need more political equity. But to accomplish that, we must also work to improve economic equity and a sense of shared humanity. In a functioning democracy, these three work together.

 

Last week, the Republican administration took things to a new level. The President spoke to Congress about “a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.” He spoke about Black History Month and ending threats to Jewish Community Centers. He spoke as if he cared about supporting “the torch of truth, liberty, and justice.” This was scary because even I wanted to hear such words from his mouth, words calling for real unity and caring. He is seemingly getting coached on how to sound reasonable while his choices and history scream otherwise. This is the same person who appointed Jeff Sessions to be his Attorney General, and Steve Bannon, former head of the alt-right Breitbart News, to be his general adviser. According to an NPR program during the campaign:

 

“The views of the alt-right are widely seen as anti-Semitic and white supremacist…. They see political correctness really as the greatest threat to their liberty,” Nicole Hemmer, University of Virginia professor and author of a forthcoming book Messengers of the Right, explained on Morning Edition. “So, they believe saying racist or anti-Semitic things — it’s not an act of hate, but an act of freedom.”

 

This is a President who called the media “the enemy of the people.” Who said protestors were not in genuine disagreement with his policies but were being paid to disrupt town hall meetings. Republican governors and legislators have followed this lead by calling for severe punishments for protestors. This administration is not about protecting America or securing jobs for people. It is about ending democracy and increasing their personal wealth. The DNC, as well as those who hate the DNC and are still fighting the Hillary vs Bernie fight, need to remember this or risk being irrelevant or worse. If we don’t unite, our very right to disagree without dire consequences will be taken from us. In fact, the very air that sustains our life might be taken from us.

 

Yet, to resist this administration successfully will mean insisting on increasing economic equity. This is the second concern. We must learn from the Occupy Wall Street and Bernie Sanders movements, as well as others of the more distant past, which spoke to a great majority of Americans, even to some of those who supported Mr. T. (Listen to Bernie Sander’s response to Mr. T’s address to Congress.) Most Americans desire an economy that works for all and provides jobs for the unemployed and the not satisfactorily employed. Mr. T did speak of jobs. But he did not address working conditions, guaranteed health care, and a pension, as part of a good job. He did not acknowledge the crucial role public schools can play in “leveling the playing field” and in preparing children not only for work but for all of life. All these issues are related. It is not just a job people want, but to be treated as a valuable being, with a right to meaningful work. This I think speaks to most everyone. And we need to add the right to give our children a habitable planet with a climate that readily sustains life, human, animal and insect.

 

The US, according to a report cited in Fortune Magazine in 2015, is the richest nation in the world but the most inequitable of the 55 nations studied (including European nations, China, Japan, South Korea, Columbia and Russia, etc.). If you didn’t know this, read on. If you look at the US economy, the richest 1% own 40% of the wealth. (I will be using many figures from Mathieu Ricard’s book, Altruism, published in 2015. Ricard is a Ph.d. in genetics and Buddhist teacher. His figures are well documented and seem in line with other reliable sources.) Twenty-five years ago, the top 1% owned 13% of the nation’s wealth. In 2015, Oxfam said that by the following year, 1% of the richest people worldwide will control over 50% of the world’s wealth.

 

Ricard points out that in 1880-90, J. P. Morgan said “he would never agree to invest in a company where the directors were paid over 6 times the average wage.” In 2011, the bosses were paid 253 times more. Over the last 30 years, 90% of Americans saw their incomes increase by only 15%. For the wealthiest 1%, the increase was 150%. Between 2002 and 2007, the top 1% scored over “65% of national income gains.”

 

What are the consequences of such inequality and concentration of wealth? According to Ricard and the International Monetary Fund, income inequality “slows growth and triggers financial crises.” Quoting directly from the IMF summary report (See IMF, 2015): “We find that increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth while a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth—that is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down…” as opposed to what many Republicans claim. Instead, concentrating wealth undermines the economy. For example, one million people with a decent income will buy more products and stimulate the economy more than one person with a billion dollars—unless he or she gives it all away to public schools or spends it on improving mass transit or such, or starts a worker managed business, for example, where the workers get a fair share of the income created and the climate isn’t undermined by its products.

 

The Citizens United decision, the worsening political situation in the US, as illustrated by 8 years of Republican Congressional refusal to compromise during the Obama administration, and the election by less than 26% of eligible voters of this Republican President (only 52% voted and Mr. T. received less than half of those), are all direct results of increasing the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands. Mr. T is trying even now to reduce even further the input of Democrats and any who oppose him. When was the last moment in American history that the vast majority of citizens were so excluded from the formal political process? Was it before the 19th amendment was passed granting women’s suffrage? Or was it before the civil war, before the 13th amendment was passed ending slavery? Or was it before the revolution, when the colonies were ruled by a monarch? Is this the time of greatness the Republicans say they yearn for?

 

The price the US pays for this inequality is immense. Ricard provides data from scientific research and several international organizations, including the UN, which show that “for each health care or social indicator (physical health, mental health, school success rates, …obesity, drug addiction…infant mortality, and the well-being of children in general) the results are significantly worse in countries where inequality is highest.”

 

Is it any wonder that there can’t be a democracy if 1% of the people own so much of the wealth? The rich can buy power, occupy the media, and intervene in the judiciary. Just look at Betsy DeVos, who contributed thousands to the coffers of Republican Senators—but did those Senators who were paid by DeVos recuse themselves, or were even asked by fellow Senators to recuse themselves, from voting for her nomination to Education Secretary? Conservatives argue that the rich have the freedom to use their wealth. But what happens when one person’s freedom prohibits that of another, or of many, many others?

 

For too many people, the acquisition of wealth is fast becoming the primary value of life. Other people are no longer thought of as fellow breathing, feeling beings; other species and the world itself⏤all are thusly reduced to being valued only in terms of the wealth they can be used to produce. Compassion, respect—these just interfere with what’s “truly important.” Long term or big picture issues—not important except to the degree they guarantee increased wealth. This is the third area of concern, our sense of a shared humanity and a judiciary that could preserve equity and justice in the law.

 

It is mainly for this reason people feel threatened, Democrat or Republican, Leftist or Conservative. So many of us value family, love, companionship, compassion, fairness, the beauty of the earth, a sense of meaning in life, maybe a sense of a spiritual or religious dimension. The importance of all these values is now threatened. The acquisition of immense wealth is becoming the religion of the rich, turning the rich into a great threat to the lives of the vast majority of Americans, and to the overwhelming majority of people worldwide.

 

**Photo by Kathy Morris.