Welcome to Our Reality: no Future and No Rights

December 16, 2011

If anyone outside of Michigan wonders what the current set of proposals to lessen the national debt by “reducing the size of government” mean to their town, Detroit is a preview, and the coming attractions are not pretty. Now the State wants to take over Detroit, voiding our own right to determine our future.

Detroit has borne the brunt of deficit reduction plans from both the State and National levels. In an era of unprecedented national growth during the Clinton Administration, Michigan’s State government (dominated by conservative Republicans) created a budget deficit, primarily by lowering Corporate and property taxes. At the same time, the State reduced the “size of government” by reducing or eliminating State-run public health services, such as mental health institutions. Once the Clinton budget surplus (achieved with a combination of reducing expenditures and raising taxes) were wasted by Bush and conservative republicans in the US Congress, local governments were hit with a second round of revenue reductions.

The result of deliberate efforts to reduce the size of government by starving it of government revenue is that, in Michigan, on the local level, government is much smaller – and the quality of life is much worse. Schools are not only much less effective in teaching students, the buildings are literally falling apart. Roads, water and sewage lines and other forms of infrastructure are, in places, worse than third world countries. Whole Fire and Police Departments have been defunded and disappeared, although crime has not lessened significantly. The lack of State mental Health structures has caused the streets and local jails to become flooded with the homeless, costing local governments far more than government-funded hospitals. Oh, and all those tax breaks for Corporations and the so-called “job creators” has resulted in an unemployment rate among the highest in the Country.

Conservatives complain that Michigan is the victim of a terrible National economy because the Federal Government spends too much. The reality is that when the National economy was booming in the 80s, Michigan created its own deficit by giving away tax breaks and eliminating investments in infrastructure, R&D, etc.

I distrust government when it comes to regulating my personal liberties, but government has a real and important function when it comes to matters of public safety, infrastructure and education. I guess there is my difference with the Tea Party Conservatives: they want to take the government out of building the country and into regulating the bedroom; I think government should stay out of my lifestyle and repair a few bridges and roads (at least). Rachel Maddow has a commercial that makes the point: there was no compelling profit motive for a private company to build the Hoover Dam and, none would build one today. However, the Hoover Dam has resulted in an economic boom and health service that has benefits all of us greatly.  That is the proper role of government.  

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Senator Carl Levin: Resign

December 12, 2011

Senator Carl Levin has crafted a bill that will void the Constitutional rights of every American citizen who the military deems to be a “terrorist” is wrong.

Senate bill S.1867, called the National Defense Authorization Act, allows the military to arrest and indefinitely detain any American citizen without a warrant or trial.  It allows the military intelligence community to designate any place in the United States as a “combat zone” and would allow them to virtually patrol our streets, spy on us in our homes and arrest anyone they designate as a “terrorist suspect”. There will be no warrant, no trial – not even a hearing. Citizens can be transported to Guantanamo Bay and held indefinitely, if the military so desires. This is an outrageous attempt to void the Constitution. It’s embarrassing and humiliating to realize that our own Senator Levin co-authored the Bill, and Senator Stabenow voted for it. Even the FBI opposes the Bill!

There is no justification for this Bill. The current law enforcement structures have been very successful in countering terrorist threats. As Benjamin Franklin once said, those who would forfeit liberty for security deserve neither. I encourage all of you to contact Senators Levin and Stabenow and ask them to resign immediately.

 

Senator Levin:    http://levin.senate.gov/

Senator Stabenow:         http://stabenow.senate.gov/


Support the Occupy Movement

December 6, 2011

Occupy Wall St. – Detroit is moving out of Grand Circus Park after an occupation of about 6 weeks after successfully raising awareness and avoided the violent assaults from police that has characterized other occupations. What now? A recent survey indicated that the vast majority of Americans agree with the premise of the Movement that our democratic process has been totally corrupted by corporate money and no longer represents the needs of the People. We all know this to be true, but I guess the first step to recovery is admitting the truth. So what can we do?

One message that has become increasingly more consistent among Occupiers is support of a Constitutional Amendment banning all corporate money from government: from elections and from lobbying. It would mandate publicly funded elections limited to individual citizens and distributed equally among candidates. Candidates would be forced to run on the strengths of their policies and character alone and on an even playing field. It would ban any gifts, contributions or economic incentives (such as a promise for employment after government service) from lobbyists. Anyone or any group could lobby Congress, but the only influence they could have would be based on persuasion.

The chances of such an Amendment to be put before the People seem to be very slim, but then again the only other revolution in our history wasn’t given much of a chance either, until we beat the British and won our freedom. You may not agree with the tactics of the Occupy Wall St. Movement, but you can’t rationally refuse to support their goal. Support the Occupy Movement with whatever actions you feel comfortable taking, but certainly you can encourage everyone you know to write your Congressperson and demand that a vote be put to the amendment known as the “Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections.”


Occupiers Have it Right – Just Ask the Police

December 5, 2011

I can’t help but notice the distinctly different reactions of the Police to demonstrations of the Tea Party compared to those of the Occupy Wall St. Movement. You remember when Tea Baggers would show up in demonstrations around the Country threatening violence against the President and the Federal Government in general? Recall the racist and threatening signs? In some demonstrations, Tea baggers openly brandished guns. Yet, there were very few arrests, let alone any police violence directed at them. Contrast their hands off approach to that now being directed at the Occupy Wall St. Movement, which has been virtually non-violent. Massive police arrests and brutality have been witnessed in New York, Oakland, Portland, Phoenix and Berkeley. They are scenes very reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement with Occupiers, who are not resisting, being beaten with batons and sprayed with chemical agents. Journalists reporting on the police brutality have also been targeted for arrests and beatings.

Why were the threats of the Tea Party dismissed while the non-violence of the Occupiers is met with brutal violence? You might speculate that the virtually all-white and predominantly middle-aged to elder Tea baggers reflected the composition and politics of the police, while the much more diverse Occupier Movement does not, but I don’t think that accurately reflects the front-line officers (many of whom have expressed sympathy for the message of the Movement). The violent suppression of the Occupiers is function of the fact that the movement has grown and now constitutes a real threat to the power behind the curtains. The Tea Party, for all of its revolutionary rhetoric, is actually a tool of Corporate America, funded by billionaires to focus on making government more amenable to their corporate agendas. The Occupiers actually do pose a threat against the real power in this Country. Economic justice is the real revolutionary cause of our lifetimes, and the 1% are not going to give up their wealth and power without a fight.