Monday, September 22, 2014

Are We Truly Righteous?

Are we as a nation still a righteous one?  Are we the stalwart defender we purport ourselves to be? Do we continue to be a fair and just nation? I wish I had a better answer for you, but in all honesty...when I look out into the world, I look at the actions of my countrymen, I look at the policy of our government, of the population even, it's hard for me to say yes.  


Because, we are too eager to employ the gun and less eager to employ speech.  Often, in history, nations destroy themselves from perpetual war.  To enable the continuance of war, you must be at war with a principle, an ideal, or a concept.  Principles, ideals, and concepts have no flesh to rend, no body to destroy, and no way to snuff it from existence.  

The ideal of the USA, is that everyone is equal, everyone is treated fairly, and everyone has his or her day in court with a fair jury and a fair judge to prosecute or exonerate guilt or innocence.  In our fair and just nation, everyone who works never goes hungry, never is homeless, and never is without the necessities and maybe even a few fruits of life.  

What prompted this line of thinking?  Ender's Game.  The story is quite moving and disturbing at the same time.  On the one hand, we're fighting for survival.  On the other hand, we're fighting to end all wars, and on another hand we're willing to go to extremes to end the future conflicts we don't see.  

What was great about Ender’s Game?  It explores questions of instinct and survival.  While we may believe we’ve evolved to states where we don’t kill indiscriminately for our personal self-worth…we do.  We just do it in more organized manners.  Instead of a stone axe and wooden spear, we create armies of organized drones to destroy the life we’ve told them are our enemy.  If we as a species truly have evolved, then evolution is a sham.  True evolution is adapting to our growth as human beings, and integrating each other into each other’s systems of subsistence, culture, and learning to live together. 

The Middle East are cultures so alien to the western world as a whole, that we’re content to believe anything and anyone who has an opinion about their atrocities.  Well guess what…we’re no angels ourselves.  How many civilians have we killed?  How many did we hold for 10+ years without explanation or charges or trial just because the military says they saw them fighting?  How many mouths of our own people did we rob to go and kill someone?  How many secret agencies exist that consume resources strictly for the purposes of killing subvertly?  We don’t know, because we’ve allowed this madness to continue for far too long. 

Our nation is a disease right now.  We’re provocative, violent, bigoted, and self-righteous.  We’re a nation of hypocrites who say one thing and do another.  We have, as a nation, no interest in pursuing peaceful coexistence because we’re so blinded by ethnocentrism that we can’t seem to cooperate with anyone who isn’t like us, who doesn’t look like us, or who doesn’t behave like us.  We have allowed deeply destructive elements to dominate our society.  Greed, power, envy, domination, and control have taken root and corrupted our national fabric.  It is deeply disgusting to me, that we think we have the moral fiber to tell other nations how to behave.  The population, the government, and our religious leaders all have failed to highlight how hypocritical our country is in relation to the rest of the world.  We are NOT a righteous nation by any imagination.  People worship money like the Hebrews did with the Golden Calf.  People think they are so entitled to independence and liberty that they would sooner sacrifice their neighbor to a burning inferno just because they think they have the moral license to do so.  We invoke names like Jesus, Mohammed, The Buddha, and other great philosophical icons who truly were evolved individuals.  Individuals like these and many others who have emulated them have taught tolerance, peace, and justice to the world at large. 

What can we do to avert these continued atrocities and begin reforming our cultural identity?  We must STOP.  Stop shooting stop destroying, stop bombing, and stop imposing ourselves on the world.  War perpetuates more war.  It is a malignant disease which spreads across the world, permeating all borders, infecting all humans, and leaving nothing but death and waste in its wake.  It is the born son of fear and ignorance, the birther of loss and despair. It is akin to pestilence and disease.  It knows no end except to destroy all who engage in it while also collaterally killing any around it.   A famous line from a great movie “The only way to win the game is to not play.”  The film this line came from is called “War Games” from the early to mid-80s starring Matthew Broderick.  It’s a movie about the dangers of arms races, nuclear build up, the ethics and morals of engaging in mass global war and what it seeks to leave behind in its wake.  There are no winners in war, only losers, and only death as the game tries over and over to win Global Thermonuclear War by trying each round as a different player.  The result is the same…no winner.

Let us also consider the morals and ethics of war.  There are no winners in war, only victors, but even victors are losers just like the defeated enemy is.  The victors’ loss is the life, the equipment, and the resources spent to maintain the conflict.  The loss of life is not a win, but a tragedy for the world.  The defeated’s loss is the loss of life, the loss of resources, and the loss of equipment, not to mention the loss of influence, and potentially the loss of rights.  It’s not which side lost or won, it is which side lost more than the other.

Further the morals and ethics of war, what kind of war did we engage in?  Did we defend our homes from invasion?  Are we taking pre-emptive action against a potentially hostile state or entity?  Are we actively invading another nation to create a buffer zone?  Are we actively invading a nation for our own benefit?  Wars are judged on their moral and ethical justifications when looked in hindsight.  We should not judge past wars on their morality or immorality, because I believe all wars are immoral…but we should at least judge them based on the fruits that emerge from them and let that determine whether a war was at least just or not. 

Don’t misunderstand me, I understand that sometimes we must go to war.  I 100% believe that a war is just if you are defending your home from an invading force.  And wars that are conducted where we minimalize loss of life and follow rules that value human beings.   But what we fail to do is to consider all diplomacy before we go in guns blazing.  We fail to calculate the human cost to us and to them before we go in with rockets red glaring into supposed hostile targets.  Over and over again we fail to learn our lessons about history.  No nation should engage in war without giving honest and critical debate about the cost.  The human cost is the most important cost.  With each war in each generation, we create a new generation of veterans.  A new generation of those who must suffer the memory, trauma and loss every night, every waking moment, every quiet reflective thought that goes through their mind isn’t not on some aspect of their war experience.  There isn’t a soldier who I haven’t talked to that’s been to war that doesn’t have some horrific story about their injury, the memory of a fellow soldier, the death of one of their enemies, and finally the hardships they now are branded with for the rest of their lives to deal with.  That is so much more a cost than the money.  Money is replaceable.  Human life is not.  At what point do we end the violence, do we end the conflict, do we stop making weapons and start making science and art and literature? What point do we end this pointless and empty conflict over ideology and religion and culture.  Where does it end?  And that question’s answer to me, makes me cry…cause I feel currently, that answer is unattainable.  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Prosperity Doctrine Fuels Cultural Subjugation

The Prosperity Doctrine 

What is it?  It is the belief that by giving the church money that your material wealth will increase as a direct result.  But also, let me take it a step further.  The prosperity doctrine in several forms other than this form have been used to assert cultural superiority on the basis of cultural or societal success.  Let me give you a few examples:  Firstly let us examine the Native American Boarding Schools.  The boarding schools weren't just easy places to send Native children, but were a place where culture and language were driven out of children in the name of White-American superiority as late as the 1960s.  Children were seized from reservations and placed in these schools where their cultural identity was literally beaten out of them.  The justification for such measures stemmed from the belief that Native cultures were savage cultures and uncivilized.  That Anglo-white culture was superior because it was a "Christian" culture.  Further to how it relates to the Prosperity doctrine would be statements like "God has blessed the US, therefore our society should be Christian because of the blessings bestowed upon it."  Or other statements like "White people have proven to be God's chosen, look at the wealth and power we've amassed."  Or other assertions like the one's above.  The assertion of property does not give rise to the belief that it makes other cultures inferior, less deserving of respect and love and compassion, or even more so, that other religions are inferior to Christianity.  The false belief that Christianity is superior to any other religion is despicable in every way to me.  It's the same thing as saying that a White person or a Black person or an Asian-descended person are of any lesser value than any other skin-toned person (Race is not the appropriate term to describe skin color).

A variation of the Prosperity Doctrine was used to justify the subjugation of Black Slavery in the Americas.  The belief that our civilization was superior and that blacks would live better as slaves beneath us was often cited as justified reasoning to own a slave.  That blacks were poor living in hovels and dirt-floored huts in Africa means that they were not following God and should be saved from themselves.  The viewpoint that someone who is suffering economically must mean that they do not follow the teachings of Jesus is a deeply horrible falsehood.  The belief that someone is suffering financially simply means they are suffering financially and has no relation to their belief or non-belief in Jesus.  There is a difference between someone who say has a gambling problem and has thrust himself into insurmountable debt because of it, and someone who just got landed with three kids and no job through no fault of his or her own after a nasty divorce.  Blacks were also subjected to this cultural genocide that was observed in Native American boarding schools.  Many masters sought to raise God-fearing slaves, and prohibited expressions of their original culture...not that it really stopped it, but it actually ended up being something even better as the two cultures blended to form a unique culture in of itself.  And mind you, this also happened with Native Americans' contact with White civilization as well and numerous others that we came in contact with such as Hawa'ii, India, Africa, and the South and North American peoples.  Culture was adopted from the cultures we contacted and the best parts of it were incorporated into them.  The Cherokee culture so very much identified with the tenants of Christianity that much of the ideology was viewed as extremely compatible and even adopted...even though the aftermath of such contact were atrocities like "The Trail of Tears" and a despicable president (Andrew Jackson) that is personally responsible for the genocide of 4000 Cherokee personally.

In Europe, prosperity was used to justify the Serf system and to exalt kings and lords over the common folk.  The divine right of kings and the divine assertment of lordship over people is often justified by wealth.  "Wealth means God favors you" is often a fallacious and even dangerous doctrine for one to assert.  Even a rudimentary shows that Christ himself had a worrisome view of the wealthy and seldom had anything to say about them that could be mistaken as favorable.  "It is far easier for a rich man to fit through the eye of a needle than for him to get into Heaven" is often a good one to remember.  Jesus basically saying in a nutshell that the love of money is so strong that it either is the man's Lord, or The Lord is.  They can't serve both.  "Give all your money away to the poor and serve me" was also popular.  "The love of money is the root of all evil" is definitely anti-greed and anti-prosperity doctrine.  James' condemnation of favoritism to one person above another...though the subtext to me definitely reads like specifically referring to the wealthy and well-connected.

The Prosperity Doctrine in many ways and in it's various forms has been used to justify religious and cultural subjugation, and genocide for generations in our past.  I cannot comprehend how any person claiming to live by the principles set by the Christ-Jesus can engage in such despicable and inhuman treatment.  And I cannot believe for one second that God loves any one person less just because of their skin tone or sexuality or other religion.  If we are called to be servants of all mankind and we are called to be compassionate, loving, and generous, then I find no ethical, moral, or even legal justification for subjugating and killing off any culture or religion or ethnicity in the name of "religious superiority" asserting "We're prosperous, therefore we're the best of God's people."  If we are truly the best of God's people, then let us humble ourselves before others, and be the servants of those less fortunate.  The prosperity doctrine is poison, toxic, and not in line with Christ-like Values.  It should be discarded as a doctrine, and the fundamentals of Christian thinking and action should prevail.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bigotry Has no Place in a Christian's Heart

One of the most trying issues of our time is that of Homosexuality and Marriage and the Family.  Who decides what is what?  What rationale is justified in regulating these various facets of society?  And ultimately, how should a Christian feel about such things?

Let's talk about a few of the talking points in this debate.


Marriage is an institution that has persisted in one form or another for millennia.  That fact is not in question by anybody.  What is in how that institution has progressed through the years.  Is marriage truly and only between a man and a woman.  Well most conservative-minded folks believe yes.  Why?  Most of the time the answer stems from a response to the degree of "Because God/Nature/whatever created us that way.

Fallacy:  Marriage has been between a man and a woman for over 6,000 years.

Fact:  Marriage has been many things to many cultures over the last 6,000 years.  Even Judeo-Christian traditions going back that far question this viewpoint.  Marriage has been used to join households increasing the available resources usable to each, polygamy has been practiced for just as long, meaning that it was not only between man and woman, but man and women as well.  Marriage has been used in political alliances, such as the marriage of Louis XIV, King of France to Queen Maria Theresa of Spain for the purposes of securing peace between the two warring nations.

Fact: Native American cultures throughout North American celebrated unions of two men and women together.  They are called "Two-Spirits" people.  The term also has been studied by Anthropologists which led them to conclude that perhaps some Native American communities had up to four genders.  The unions of these individuals were widely celebrated among these tribes and likely predate 6,000 years as asserted by anti-equal marriage advocates.

Fact:  Same sex unions were celebrated in Rome, Greece, and in many parts of Mesopotamia until the Roman Catholic Church squashed such expressions and unions in the 300s A.C.E.

Conclusion: Marriage traditions vary per civilization, culture, and religion.  To assert it's that hetero-marriage is the only valid marriage is wrong and academically dishonest.  It's also ethnocentric to believe that one cultural tradition is superior to another on the merits that it's your tradition.


What constitutes family in our culture has often been motivated by the view of marriage.  Marriage between a man and woman, who then produce children is the idyllic marriage.  This viewpoint has been perpetuated by the political right who believe it is their sacred duty to protect what, in their eyes, is viewed as "God's Plan" for society.

Concession:  I will concede that children should always have two parents.  It is the most ideal circumstance for a child.  It provides a safe environment and the security of two adults in the household to attend to the every day tasks of the home and to provide varying types of nurturing and rearing to the children in the household.

Fallacy:  The the ideal home is one with One Mother and One Father.

Fact:  No scientific evidence of any kind has concluded that a home with One Father and One Mother is the most ideal one.  The latest study done by Boston University in 2013 which examined gay-parent households concluded that those households function JUST as well as hetero-households.  Other studies attempting to assert that hetero-only households are the best households have been soundly rejected by various academic associations across the country.

Fact: The ideal family image that has been part of our society since the 50s has long been perpetuated by government, business, and religious organizations.  The growth of the suburbs created this image of mom, dad, children, a dog, two cars, and white picket fence.  This image of the family was enshrined as the "American Family"...or as it's often referred to as The Nuclear Family.  By no means though is this family structure exclusive in Christianity or any other religion.  It is not upheld as the perfect "godly" family by any ounce of scripture.


Homosexuality as a societal structure has only been out int he main stream in US Culture for a short time by comparison.  Europe, Japan, Canada and Mexico have all embraced LGBT persons as fully functional members of their societies and go to great lengths to protect their legal rights.

Fallacy: Homosexuals are not natural in their impulses or feelings.

Fact:  Actually, that's not true.  Homosexuality CAN be observed in nature to an alarmingly huge degree.  If homosexuality is not natural, then why do we observe it in over 3000 species on Earth?

Fact:  Physiological and unique physically observable psychological differences have been seen in the human brain which differentiates homosexual from heterosexual, such as certain neuron configurations as observed in a study conducted by a Dr. Simon Levay discovered differences between heterosexual neurological configurations and homosexual configurations (Sex and the Brain, Discover Magazine, March 1994).

Fact: Sexual orientation develops during pregnancy.  According to a study published by the Best Practice and Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in Sept 2007, the process of the selection of gender identity (that is, the sex a person thinks he or she is psychologically) is developed in the womb concurrently but independently of the physical sex characteristics, such as the penis and testes or the vagina and the ovaries.  This occurs when physical characteristics do not align with the psychological characteristics.

Fact: Geneticists such as Simon Levay and several others who do research into genetic disposition of gay men and lesbian women found genetic markers and genes which contribute to the disposition of one's attractions to another of the same sex or both sexes.

In conclusion, marriage and family are subjects to be decided by culture ultimately.  It is not for religion or law or anything else to decide what is socially acceptable or not.  It is for society to decide that.  Our laws prevent harm from befalling people as a result of culture.  They protect the minority from the majority and the rights therein.  Whether you believe homosexuality is "morally" right or not only affects one person: you.  If you think it's wrong, then you're entitled to your opinion.  But when your opinion causes harm to others by violating their legal rights...then your opinion has moved into public policy matters.  And from here-on, LGBT citizens are going to fight for what is legally theirs by right of virtue, humanity, and law.  If you don't like it...that's kinda too bad.  Let's move on from this debate, accept each other as equals, and treat each other as though we are all of equal value and worth.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Voting Rights: A Case for Party-List Voting Instead of Candidates.

In many countries, elections are not conducted in the same manner as they are in the United States.  Actually when looking at other nations' electoral systems, The States are actually a black sheep.  Most nations have some form of parliamentary system.  Canada does, most of Europe does, Russia does, Australia does, New Zealand even does.  But what does this mean for the United States exactly?

There are several types of ways to elect candidates in parliamentary systems.  One is by direct election of representatives like we do here...and like many other electoral systems do.  Then, there are other ways like party voting.  Party voting basically means that you elect "the party" to govern.  The party then keeps a list of candidates to represent each "riding" or district.  

For example, say Washington decides it wants to do party-voting.  Washington would place all political parties meeting the criteria be placed on the ballot, on the ballot, your elections for the State's congressional delegation.  On your ballot, you would see something like this:

For Congress, do you prefer Republican or Democrat?

You would check either of those as your choice.  Your party then would have a list, a candidate for each district.  After tallying all the votes, the number of representatives sent to Washington would be proportional.  So if it's 70% to 30%, Democrats to Republicans, and Washington has 10 congressional districts (it has 11, but for math's sake)...then we would send 7 Democrats and 3 Republicans based on a State-wide vote.  Its a system that does away with the concept of gerrymandering because the drawn districts are no longer relevant to the electoral process other than to round up 700,000 people and declare "this is a district, drawn for logistical purposes and nothing more."

So now the next question...what about primary elections?  Instead of sending out a state-sponsored election ballot for election day, your party would send out ballots to vote for the list if people it believes best represents the party's views.  The first round of singling out candidates for consideration would be to have the party's convention affirm a list of about 20 potential candidates.  Then after receiving a majority from the party caucus, those candidates would move to a kind of General Primary election, where those voters decide which 10 of those 20 chosen will move on to the general election list.  A list might look like this:

Please number from 1 to 20 which candidates you would like to see represent you in the House of Representatives

Candidate A _____
Candidate B _____
Candidate C _____

and so forth til all 20 names are numbered 1-20.

Then at the general election, You vote Republican or Democrat, and the top names on those party's lists are sent to WA DC to serve as our representatives.  No gerrymandering, no disenfranchised voters, no voter fraud.  Every vote matters, every vote counts, and every voice has a voice.  

It's a system that would entirely do away with the idea of gerrymandering, and ensure that voices in Congress are representative of the will of the voters.  It's a completely non-partisan way.  It also gives potential for 3rd party candidates to gain office without the hassle of needing 5% of the vote to be put on the ballot, because every political party would be permitted to be represented on the ballot.  All they would be required to do is to attain enough votes in the general election to win a seat...which currently is about 700,000 votes.

Gabriel Givens
@gdgivens for Twitter

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A New Challenge Being Made to the Affordable Care Act

In a stunning, yet extremely technical loophole may have been found to completely derail the revenue portions of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  In December 2013, a complaint was filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a right-leaning legal foundation, that charges that the ACA originated in the wrong house of Congress...which, if justices agree with the argument, could render parts or even the entire law invalidated.

In their complaint, they assert (truthfully) that the ACA was passed first by the Senate, then by the House, which according to the strict reading of the Constitution is not permitted.  Article One, section 7 states "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills."  This means that Congress went in the wrong order when passing, at very least, the tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act including, the tax provision which requires citizens to pay a penalty tax for failing to buy health insurance as mandated by the law.

The Pacific Legal Foundation is one of the many front groups for Charles and David Koch and is funded by a great deal of corporate donations.  Exxon Mobile has coughed up $110,000 for the organization since 1998.  It is one of the many interconnected legal organizations that swing the right-wing club in the name of "freedom".  They litigate a large array of issues against government including environmental regulations, affirmative action mandates, tax policy, and so on and so forth.

This latest attack on the Affordable Care Act threatens to undo billions of dollars in public investment and threatens the very hope of affordable healthcare in this country.  We can only hope that the Supreme Court puts the people first as this law looks like it could be, once again, on the edge of a cliff.

The case is Sissel v. United States Department of Health and Human Services

By Gabriel Givens
The Center-Left Field

Monday, April 21, 2014

Evangelical Christianity's Idol: The Family

Billy Graham: If you turn away from your <insert random sin or whatever>, then God will love you. 

Excuse me Pastor, but according to the Bible, God's love is unconditional. Furthermore, what right do you have to blanket all of gay parents calling them unsuitable. Your views are based in large part due to your ignorance and close-mindedness. You worship "the family" like an idol and repeatedly try to elevate it above that of the person. "If it serves the family, who cares who else it hurts, they're not people, right? Evangelicals constantly uphold the family as a force that is greater than everything else in society. 

The so-called nuclear family is one that has been given it's own special status by virtue of it being someone's idea of what is ideal. On and on and on we see that evidence claiming to vindicate that point of view is not only wrong, but harmful, and disingenuous to all other family units in this country. The typical "mom, dad, 2.5 kids, 1 dog, 1 cat" stereotype is a product of the 50s and 60s, where marketing pushed the perfect family image as the urban sprawl created the suburbs. It was a way of marketing that living outside the city promised this perfect life. Hollywood perpetuated this image further with shows like Lassie, Leave it to Beaver, and other such shows which gave us the quintessential perfect family ideal to the extreme. 

There's no question in my mind that some of their facts are not in dispute. Two men and two women cannot "naturally" reproduce without a female sex cell to join with. That's a biological fact for our Genus/species, Homo Sapiens. But why is "natural" reproduction the only acceptable form of reproduction? If two lesbians want to get sperm from a is that any less valid as reproduction than a man and woman having sex? Or if two men want to have a child by surrogacy...again why or how is that less valid than natural reproduction? Because it's not any less valid. The family unit is most definitely important. It truly is the foundation of society upon which we stand. But what is not the foundation of society is the nuclear family. The idolized family. The artificially perfect family. ALL families, regardless of their form are valid families. 

The perfect marketed family does not exist. It's an idealized dream in a fantasy land. In real-land where we live, a family is what you decide a family is. If me and my (would be) boyfriend decide to get married, adopt, and raise children...then this is our family. He is my husband, and my children are my children. We are a cohesive unit under a roof. We support each other, protect each other, love each other, and enrich the lives of each other with our love and devotion. We are no less a family than the straight family across the street, or the single-parent family to the west of me, or the blended family from two different marriages to the right of me, or the mixed-race family to the left-corner of me. Or even the foster-family at the end of the block or the couple with no children at all. A family, is a family, is a family. To determine otherwise is passing judgment on others, to condemn them for the qualities that makes them them. It's unacceptable and it's intolerable to do. The sooner we embrace all families, the sooner our society can focus on what's actually important: the future.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Sharp, Windy, Wobbly Turn to the Left (revised)

I'm often asked by people who knew me before I became a bleeding-heart Liberal why I now, as my mother puts it, follow the dark side?  Well, there are many answers to that question.  But first, let me tell you about how I used to think before 2012.

I was a fledgling academic.  I studied, I worked, I passed my classes most of the time, and I debated fervently with Liberals who could engage me in an academic fight.  Once it started getting name-cally, that was the end of my discussion with people.  At that point, an argument has reached critical mass and only explodes after that point.  I was a firm believer, which also was motivated by my evangelical upbringing in-part, that you got what you deserved because you likely did something wrong in the past to bring about a poor future for yourself, and it wasn't the government's job to help you clean up your personal mess.  Now, to be clear, that doesn't necessarily mean I was against government assistance to people who "truly" needed it.  People like the disabled and the elderly who clearly are unable to work in any fashion or with very limited capacities did indeed deserve government assistance to maintain a reasonable standard of living.

There were, however, people I felt who were literally leeching off the public teet and felt that was immoral because as someone who does work for what he has everyone should work to have anything.  I argued against public institutions for everything.  Healthcare especially was one that I argued against for most of the years that I was Republican.  I believed that any attempt to socialize the system would result in it's collapse...especially after looking at Canada's health system and seeing the upward trend of health care spending.  I felt that while socialized health care was a noble idea, it was unattainable in our country because of how the current system was structured.  I also felt that if such a system were to be implemented, it would need to be radically altered from the current system to a controlled system, which I also didn't favor.  I felt that the more eggs we put into the government basket, the higher risk we are at severely damaging society if we ever collapsed as a nation.

In 2004, I worked with the Nez Perce County Republicans to help elect Nez Perce Republican candidates.  It was definitely a good experience for me in the day.  I did sign-waving, volunteered for a Fair booth, and all sorts of other civic activities during the summer run-up to the election.  I remember counting how many middle fingers I was given one day and it was about 15 or so.  I attached Bush/Cheney signs to as many as three other candidates signs.  It's a technique known as coat-tailing.  You use a popular national candidate to tie your local candidates name to someone a voter recognizes as popular.  It helps with voter turnout and encourages voters to vote along party lines.  in 2010, I also worked very briefly with Washington State Republicans for the "Elect Dino Rossi" campaign in Olympia.  I was less hard core Republican at this point, however, while doing cold calling to homes, I was greatly disturbed by remarks from Republican candidates across the state.  They were constantly telling us to not remind people to vote if they were not a Rossi Voter.  And while perhaps this make sense if you're looking to win...I was reasoning in my mind..."This is so wrong, not wanting people to vote."  It just bothered me to no end.  I mean, I'm all for winning, but I want to win fair. And if the will of the people does not swing my way, then so be it, I lost, and I can learn from my loss to maybe win when I challenge again.  

I also reasoned that if one's cause was truly just and right, then they would have no need to cheat in order to win.  If I have to cheat to win, then I'm not winning, I'm defrauding.  Does that sound naive?  Perhaps...though it's never naive to cling to good, old-fashioned morals when trying to attain to higher office.  I found out on that day that Republicans have on interest in everyone voting.  Just the people they want to win.  I reason it like this:  If you're working in a phone bank, and you are a party that supports the people's civil liberties, then you would want everyone to vote.  Every time I phoned a Democrat during my time in that office, I wanted to to tell them, "I apologize for the call, please vote November 4th (or whatever the date for that year was)."  I cared that they didn't want to vote for our candidate, but I still overwhelmingly wanted them to vote regardless.  Civil participation in the political process was, is, and will always be a paramount priority for me.  If someone doesn't want you to vote, it's because they fear your voice and will.  And a righteous candidate or party should never fear your voice if they have nothing to hide from you.

For economics, I believed, as many Republicans do, that wealth flows from the top down.  While I understand the reasoning and it seems to make sense in some respect that flow of wealth only depended on the benevolence of business.  At the time, this to me seemed reasonable.  You play by the rules, work hard, do your job, and do it well, and you earn rewards and promotions.  It also meant that you moved up the ladder, gained influence, and your word carried more weight.  The system is deeply dependent on powerful people being generous to those beneath them.  It was also a value that I connected with because I was taught, as a brought-up evangelical, that you reap what you sew, but that also people in power have an obligation to be just and generous and pay those who work what they're owed.

When regarding taxes, I was more moderate.  I hated greed, even as a Republican because I felt that greed was one of those things that ruined, what would be, a reasonably well-working economic system.  I defined greed as the unreasonable or irrational need to accumulate wealth at any cost, including risking injury to others or by way of immoral or unethical means of acquisition.  While I never agreed (and still don't even as a Democrat) agree with using the IRS as a wealth redistribution medium, I understood that tax policy can be used to motivate behavior such as preventing certain immoral practices.  As a Republican, I had written a tax structure which punished greed by taxing those gains.  Dissuading greed was a means for that wealth to flow down to those generating that wealth.  But for the greedy, it's never enough.  It's a disease like alcoholism or drug abuse or sexual addiction.  It's the thrill of seeing your influence and power increase exponentially or even geometrically without any end that is so exciting.  I understood that excitement.  But I reasoned that truly just and fair wealthy people would never pay unjust wages to employees, even when the market forces that press down on wages warrant it.

While I conceded that the wealthy worked for what they had, I also understood that many people start getting hurt when wages are stifled and ability for advancement is blocked.  Also as someone who did indeed work for a living, that wages should reflect more than just productivity, but should reflect loyalty and seniority as well.  I seldom saw these reflected in wage offers.  When for example I went to work as a delivery driver at a Pizza Hut in Moscow, ID.  I was appalled that I was to be paid $5.15/hr for delivering pizza and only $0.50 per delivery which didn't even pay for the gas being used.  I had at least two years experience, and knew every job in that Pizza Hut from my previous Pizza Huts that I had worked at.  And while it wasn't a glamorous job, I felt that my experience warranted more than $5.15/hr.  Or a Walmart I worked at where pay USED to reflect past experience, but doesn't any more.  Walmart used to take all your previous experience, total it up on a chart, and that is how much more per hour you would earn starting, then still you would get at least a small raise after 90 days.  For the most profitable company in the world, that's now gone away.  It's standardized based on what the company wants to pay and doesn't leave any room for wage growth at all.  For two generations, wages were based on four different factors: Unionization, demand, quality and seniority.  The wages today are not nearly as competitive because unionization has been squashed.  Too many times as a Republican did I defend the anti-labor policies believing genuinely that those that had much would help those who had little.  There was little evidence of such actual provision then, and there is certainly a lack of it now more so than before.  Faith in those who had an abundance, who were trusted with much...seldom give to those who have little.  Whether that's starting a plant in a small town to employ that town, or declining cheap labor abroad to provide a living for our citizens here.  The axiom that we've all heard constantly rings in my head and it was just as asinine as it is now..."It's just business."  That is a lazy and empty statement...which to me, demonstrates the lack of heart for others beneath you.  Again, a view that my evangelical principles taught me fervently: compassion and charity.

For personal issues, obviously I ignored a huge part of myself when it came to Marriage equality and gay rights.  I was in deep denial about it for a long time...and in many ways it injured me and others as a result.  Often, I think back to high school and ask myself..."should I have just been more bold and said "Yes, I'm gay, get over it." and just carry on like nothing's different?"  To me for a long time, gay marriage was a form of special right or privilege.  I endorsed the idea of "separate but equal", calling civil unions an institution that was entirely equal to marriage in every legal respect.  However, at the time, even as someone who is Gay himself, failed to recognize that there was indeed a social stigmata that came with being "civilly unioned" vs. "Married".  As I listened to arguments on both sides of this specific issue with great viewpoint steadily shifted towards the vi
ew that all the arguments against equal marriage were indeed religious based.  And that if I endorse the idea of Church and State being separate as institutions, then religious arguments are insufficient to deny such rights to LGBT couples.  While I was ready to concede that point, the peacemaker in me wanted to try to find middle ground which both sides might consent to.  But again, my interactions with conservatives on this issue always resulted in the same arguments against it.  Arguments like "It's against natural law" or "It's a perversion of God's plan" or the classic "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" and so on and so forth.  No argument could be presented to me that was scientific or justified which would warrant codifying a prohibition for two people to engage in a legal contract.  I remember during my time at Evergreen getting into a border-line shouting match about the position with another classmate of mine who was herself a lesbian.  We were both very passionate about our viewpoints and so finally we had to take a step back and relax.  I pondered more about the issue, and realized "wait, marriage is a religious term, and this wouldn't have happened had the government upheld properly the separation of Church and State's institutions.

Or how about abortion where my genuine concern was indeed for the unborn child.  I wasn't unsympathetic to mothers who had unwanted pregnancies...but I was also of the mind that you don't have a right to discard your responsibility by getting an abortion.  My opinions about this issue used to be particularly harsh and unsympathetic.  It was easy to blend my personal religious attitudes about abortion with my political views on the subject.  The easy way of reconciling the issue is to just dig your feet in the ground and go "A life is a life and it's not yours to end."  This "principled" stand is usually the one that I see in most pro-life contenders.  Even as a Republican though, my views started shifting towards a more libertarian viewpoint that...the moral issues aside, a mother has a right to end a pregnancy if she wants to because it's her body which is usually the standard for most Libertarian-minded people.  If there is a moral issue to be settled, let her settle it with her god, her doctor, her family, and herself.  The government has no right to legislate what grows in a person's body.  As I've articulated before in previous blog posts and comments, I personally wouldn't have an abortion if I could have a child, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to use the law to force women to have children they don't want or didn't intend to have.  I would not entertain the government imprisoning and forcing a woman to complete her pregnancy.  Such a practice would be inhuman and deeply demeaning to women everywhere.  Nothing in my moral compass allows me to endorse laws that force women to do anything, let alone reproduce.  Again before I was pro-choice, I reasoned that "God intends every child to exist, and therefore I find it immoral to interfere with that divine incarnation that is reproduction.
If that baby was conceived, that baby is meant to be...and to do anything else except in rape or incest is deeply morally objectionable."  The problem with this point of view is that it results in a status where women are being held hostage by the state in their own bodies, and subjected to unfair levels of legal scrutiny.  The abortion issue is one that many of us understand is NOT a black and white much as conservatives would prefer it to be.  After all, black and white issues are much easier to justify because they don't require deeper thinking and reasoning skills.  I would always hope, however, when I was a conservative that, that the pro-life groups would start housing and pregnancy centers that empowered women with tools and skills and assistance to carry healthy and wanted pregnancies.  However I seldom hear of such facilities being opened by pro-life groups.  Most of the propaganda from pro-life groups were that of broad condemnation of individual choice.  Some even going so far as to state that a woman's place is literally a barefooted, silent baby incubator.  As someone who was raised evangelical, I strongly objected to such rhetoric.  And I equally objected to rhetoric that tried to marginalize the responsibilities that men have to the abortion issue as well.  It takes two people to tango.  In an ideal world...women seeking abortions would consult with their partner and mutually decide what's best for them on an equal basis.  However, in our world...things are far from equal.  Usually it's women being pressured by their husbands to keep children or pro-lifers engaging in deeply deceptive and harmful pseudo-science to justify their erroneous positions about the procedure.  I'm all for life and life is indeed precious.  And I do agree with Vice President Joe Biden where he states:

"My religion defines who I am. And I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can't take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to abortion, I accept my church's position that life begins at conception. That's the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and--I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman. I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that women can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor, in my view. And the Supreme Court--I'm not going to interfere with that." ~Senator Joe Biden, Vice Presidential Debate 2012

In conclusion, I wish to rehash the basics of what you read above.  Most of my conservative positions I held before "turning to the darkside" were based on my Evangelical upbringing.  But as I learned more about the world around me, and read the scriptures and absorbed the words that Jesus spoke...I came to the conclusion that the beliefs that I had as an evangelical conservative did not honor the rights of the Jesus taught.  The right to participate in a faith must be one of personal decision.  A forced faith is not faith, but tyranny.  A coerced decision is not a decision, but manipulation.  The viewpoints of evangelicals and conservatives do not foster an economy or society of peaceful coexistence in any form.  It only seeks to promote divisiveness, discrimination, and dark-age conditions.  The positions that conservatives hold do not hold up to scrutiny or science.  They cannot be observed in the modern world as factual.  They worship the god of greed, the god of selfishness, and the god of male chauvinism.  The extol the virtues of ethnocentrism and personify the state as an entity to maintain cultural purity.  None of these values are compatible with American ideals.  

God does not judge this nation by stepping on a town or blowing over a city.  He does not splash the waves of the ocean into coastal communities or set ablaze towns because two men love each other, or because the unfortunate woman got pregnant from her rapist.  My decisions to turn to Left-Liberalism are based on the ideas that man is capable of great things...and that the New Testament gives us the freedom to explore those ideas.  The Jesus of the New Testament never coerced anyone to follow him.  He never forced, he never blackmailed, he never condemned anyone for believing different than him.  He didn't judge others for their alleged social wrongs or improprieties.  He loved...and he showed us examples of that love.  Every person in society has the right to choose his or her path.  He or she has the right to worship who they choose.  Every person has the right to culture, language, faith, and mostly to dignity.  Every person has the right to choose who and what they want to be, and others are born with an insatiable desire to love and be loved.  Every person has the right to the opportunity to advance, grow, and develop as they choose.  To work their passions and their jobs free from discrimination, threats, intimidation, and deserves to be rewarded for their hard work, loyalty, and moral character.  

I'm not a Christian, I'm just a human who loves Jesus, and what he taught everyone else one of many ways to make the world a better place for all.

Friday, April 4, 2014

All My Hopes, My Geeky-Nerdy Hopes

What does it mean to me to be a geek? A nerd? An intellectual? It means many things to me. It means that I love science. It means that I love what-ifs about existential things. I love imagination, discovery, diversity and unity. I love events of which expand the scope of human understanding. I love what such discovery brings to others: hope. Why do I call myself geeky...because I'm not afraid to broaden my horizons and explore new possibilities. To ask questions, get answers. I'm not afraid to make mistakes, though I do fear their consequences sometimes. It means I respect the cost of discovery.

But why being a Geek, Nerd, and Intellectual is even more important to because I dream of a unified world. A world where we set aside our petty differences, and unite under one set of values. Where integrity, progress, and tolerance are our most important global values. Where diplomacy reins and war is despised. Where the though of violence and destruction nauseate us all. Where our only limits for human discovery are our self-imposed limits.

I see a future where man is indeed a noble creature. Where our imagination drives our progress, invention, and benevolence. Where no human is condemned for who he or she is, where...dare I alien is condemned for who they are. I am proud to be a geek, nerd, and intellectual. I'm proud to share my hopes for the future with you all. As a geek, I have a special and unique view of the world around us, and it is by geeks' voices, actions, and innovations that our world turns, grows, develops, and eventually matures into the utopia I think we all hope it to become.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Rise of Corporate Fascism

I am very deeply concerned by the events of today in the Supreme Court. I am genuinely worried that corporations will be further anthropormorphized. I cannot see how within the depths of any form of rational level of reason that a person as educated as a court justice can justify the view that a corporation is a person, and endow it with human characteristics. While it is true a person can pour his heart and soul into a business and make it something great...I refuse and fundamentally believe it to be dangerous to state that a man-made institution of people who work as cogs constitutes a person. I am very genuinely concerned as well about what this means for everyone. Would a "christian" company object to laws protecting LGBT persons, or paying women a fair wage, or that women can even talk back to men. How about the right of persons to engage in fornicating activities and using that as justification for terminating their employment? Shall we allow businesses to install cameras in our homes to inspect them at all times. To ensure that their employees are living a "christian" life? While these remarks may sound inflammatory and perhaps even hyperbolic...I believe this could lead us down a very dangerous road for the future.

Corporations are not people, friends.  They are machines.  The people who work for them are people.  Their kids are people and their families are people...but a business is not a person.  A business cannot worship God.  A business cannot, without human actions perform acts of kindness.  A business cannot do unto others unless the person at the head of such a company does said kindness.  This fixation with worshiping corporations as something that is greater than a person disturbs me deeply. Steadily, big business is establishing frameworks that will elevate business above that of the human being.  Business welfare will rule the day, while human welfare will fall by the wayside, regarded as unproductive and irrelevant. We will be truly enslaved to the whims and emotions of people wielding vastly huge amounts of power...and that scares the crap out of me beyond any measure.  I can fire my congressmen or senator or president or governor and so forth...but I can't fire a big business corporation if it wields such vast amounts of influence that he becomes untouchable.  This is exactly what I fear is happening now.  That we as a nation have started down a path to corporate dominance in this country.  A dominance that will lead to corporate fascism of the most heinous degree.  Where my boss and his boss will dominate my behavior, my lifestyle, and with enough power could subjugate me and exclude me from society as an outcast or an "untouchable".  Where women are discarded as substandard, where minorities are regarded with disgust and disdain because they won't conform to a system that is thrust upon them.  

Call me paranoid if you want...but this scenario is far more likely to happen than the government swinging in on their Apaches to steal your guns or whatever nonsense you want to imagine.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

About Fred Phelps Death

Regarding the Fred Phelps issue.  I know that MANY who he hurt want to drag his corpse, lynch it from a tree and set it on fire.  But not me.  I want to approach his death with a sense of forgiveness.  Its true he hurt millions of people with his vitreous and toxic sludge of a mouth.  Me included as a gay man myself.  But I want to extend the olive branch and make the proposition that if his daughter did indeed kick him out for "softening his tone" towards the LGBT community, then...should we consider that perhaps his heart was starting to soften a tad?  Should we not use this opportunity to show that even the most hateful people can change their hearts?  Is it rational that I want to show the least bit of consideration to him and perhaps forgive him of his trespasses against me?  That if he is before God being judged or whatever, that I'd appear as an advocate for him saying "His heart was changing, consider that in favor of him?"  I don't know, I might be off my rocker, but I'd like to think that I could forgive such person.  That my grace is sufficient for even him.  The "good riddance" attitude towards him, I feel, is not constructive towards repairing the hateful divide between reactionaries that hate us with all their hearts, and us who probably despise such reactionaries just as much.

I don't know...

Am I off base?  Am I behaving irrationally?  Do you think I'm just plain wrong?  Tell me your view, and why.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dalai Lama Opens Senate Session With Prayer

Since the beginning of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the sessions of both houses have opened with a prayer.  Not your typical church prayer, but an varying degree of different denominations and faiths have opened the session with a non-specific religious prayer.  Today (3/6/2014), the Senate of the United States opened the session with his holiness, The Dalai Lama opened the senate with a prayer of his own.  Watch the prayer by clicking on this link.

Dalai Lama Opens Senate With Prayer

"With our thoughts, we make our world," said the Dalai Lama, dressed in gold and red robes. "Our mind is central and precedes our deeds. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you like a shadow that never leaves."
"as long as space remains and as long as sentient beings remain, until then may I, too, remain and help dispel the misery of the world."

The Dalai Lama is the leader of Tibetan Buddhists who fled China amid the Communist uprising in 1959 and has since resided in India in exile.  

Naturally many who are less tolerant of other religious took reservation with a non-christian leader opening the Senate with a prayer of goodwill.  But instead of focusing on the remarks of a few people on the outer fringe, let's talk about the prayer itself and why it's so moving a a spoken oration.  

There is no mention in New Testament Scripture about being intolerant to other faith's prayers of goodwill.  Often times, we as Christians will pray for anyone for whatever reason our heart leads us to do.  And as such, we should accept and be blessed by other faiths' prayers to us.  I can think of no finer forum for the Dalai Lama's words than the Seat of US Government.  

"With our thoughts we make our world."  This statement is nothing new in Christian belief.  It's by our actions that we shape the world around us, and we can use those actions to make our world better or worse.

"Our mind is central and precedes our deeds."  We always hope to think and consider counsel before we take actions.  Many scripture references in the Bible have often elevated careful consideration before taking action, such as Proverbs 15:22 "Plans fail for lack of counsel,    but with many advisers they succeed." or Proverbs 11:14 "For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers."  We are asked to consider what we do before we do it.  That careful planning will bring a positive outcome.  

"Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you like a shadow that never leaves."  People who walk in righteousness, who respect their fellow man as human beings, who do unto others as you would have them do unto you, who love their neighbors and execute their offices with reverence and the prominence of the first servant philosophy serve only to serve, and their service is the greatest satisfaction for true public servants.  (Matt 7:12, Mark 12:31, Matt 22:36-40)

"as long as space remains and as long as sentient beings remain, until then may I, too, remain and help dispel the misery of the world."  This statement by his Holiness is the most interesting to me.  As long as we have the capacity of free will, the ability to act and change the world around us, we are charged with bringing peace and love to the world.  I find no indifference with this statement, as this is the primary charge of being a Christian.  Going unto the world bringing the grace, forgiveness, compassion, charity, and generosity that encompasses being a Christian.  And it's not just Christianity that this is tied to.  Many world religions both minor and major mostly preach and teach a similar position.  Do unto others is not an exclusively Christian teaching  It just got the most press.  (See Matt 7:12, Mark 16:15, 1 Thess 4:7)

Conclusions: Christianity as a whole has no cause to condemn such a beautiful piece of oration.  There is nothing objectionable or controversial that was said by his Holiness, nor was there anything said that indicates praise of another deity.  (not that such a thing would matter to me.)  Our goal when we interact with other faiths should be to find our common grounds, and collude together how we can move the world to a better place using our shared beliefs and shared goals.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Models of Public Healthcare: An Overview

Are you working class but working a job without insurance?  Or perhaps you're barely getting by and have no real spare money for much these days.  Do you avoid the doctor cause of the cost of the office visit plus the cost of the lost pay from work?  There are simpler and more efficient solutions out there in the world about how we deliver healthcare services to our citizens.  So, how would a national single-payer system established in the United States look?

Let's examine a few models for single payer healthcare that we already see in this country.  Let's start with Medicare/Medicaid.  Both programs do the same thing but for different demographics.  If we created a system like Medicare...but for all, the system would create a single base policy that all states would adopt as their state-managed policy.  States then would choose whether to leave that policy intact or to add to it at their expense.  In Medicare, each state manages it's own program, uses it's own employees to enroll people in the program, pay the bills incurred by that state's program participants, and so forth.  It's mandated and paid by the Federal Government, managed by the State government.  Such a relationship would easily work for our nation, because the infrastructure is already in place.

Another model for care that the US could employ would be complete nationalization of all healthcare resources like that of the VA Healthcare System or the UK National Health Service.  These services are truly a pure socialist system.  In these systems, the primary care providers, ER doctors, surgeons, specialists, and other professionals are "state" employees (State meaning publicly paid federal employees).  In the UK, most hospitals and doctors are public employees which are paid salaries by the state and who centrally manage appointments, doctors, the master policy of the program...the works.  Private healthcare doesn't exist for the most part in these kinds of systems.  The VA system is modeled on the UK system, and for the most part works very well.  The quality of care is great and the attention to the patient's need is paramount.  The focus of the UK and VA healthcare systems is enabling access to all equally with a relatively strong amount of triage being taken into account as well.  Such a system is very effective in the UK and works very well.  The only complaint about such systems are they tend to be a tad backlogged for generic appointments and can result in long queue times.  However, for people who are ill, it's a nice benefit to be able to walk into a doctor's office and be seen when you're ill without any worry about cost to yourself.

Finally, another model which would likely be the model we use could be the Canadian Single Payer model.  This model is essentially each state having it's own healthcare program with a baseline program that the Federal Government creates to make it Universal.  In this arrangement, each state would be responsible for funding and managing it's own health program with transfer payments from the Federal Government to assist...likely based on a "per head" formula.  Some states can compete for which offers the best care by providing access to additional kinds of care like dental or vision services.  Such care would likely be paid for by either a consumption tax or a flat-rate percentage excise tax that all citizens pay equally. Each state would be responsible for determining what funding model to use to pay for their services whether income-based or consumption-based.

All these models are not out of reach for our nation.  Each has a strong history of success and the persistence to provide healthcare for all our citizens.  The Single Payer question has been one about human rights.  Is healthcare a profit-based service or an inalienable right as a member of a nation?  I, personally, believe it's a right for all citizens.  And that the quality of life is paramount to the right to offer for-profit service in this regard, but I also want to be clear...that I believe every person's labor is worth the effort and education and demand that is due, and that no person should be required to "give" their labor away for free.  Individuals who work in such systems get paid, and paid quite well.  Doctors in nations like Canada and England enjoy a posh salary, no worry about malpractice insurance, and the opportunity to help those in need without worrying about insurance companies.  Ultimately, the fabric of our society is what will determine the answer tot his question for the next two generations.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Democrats Are the People's Party, Republicans are the Corporatists Party

I agree with the premise that everyone has the inalienable right to be successful, to start a business, to earn money so long as it doesn't hurt others, to compete in a competitive market, and to strive for efficiency and advancement using economics as a means of doing so. Republicans have no interest in creating a legal framework which allows you as business or individual to challenge corporate power. We see this example where large corporations are now allowed to require you to sign away your rights to enter into a class-action lawsuit against a of the greatest mechanisms that consumers had to fight corporate abuse. Or the abuses by natural or publicly regulated monopolies or privatized public institutions like prisons. Then there's the free trade agreements with various poor nations which allow corporations to send jobs for substandard labor costs at the expense of our own labor force. The Trans Pacific Partnership which would give corporate giants enormous power to override local democracies decisions about food and product regulation. Too much power is being given to corporations at the expense of the citizen and the worker. If you want a competitive society and a world where everyone's opportunity to be successful is tallied by the amount of hard work they put into a goal, then you want to vote for Democrats. Democrats have been fighting for social justice, for policies that create a fair and competitive business environment, and a system of justice that is fair and equitable. A system where corporations don't buy politicians. Where we have a congress that cares that they have a 9% approval rating instead of ignoring it like this congress has. Where people are put first before profits, and where abusers of their power are brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law regardless of the cost. Vote for Democrats when you vote this next midterm election and embrace a political party that cares about the little guy as much as the big guy equally. Vote for Democrats if you want a party that puts pragmatism ahead of ideology, and Vote for Democrats if you want a government that doesn't try to shove narrow-minded values down your throat by the way of legislation. Vote Democrat.  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Income Taxes: The Hedge Against Extreme Poverty and Wealth

For many decades, the income tax has been used by many governments across the world to maintain a balance in the levels of income allocation among it's citizens.  After World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted what was regarded as a progressive income tax system which levied very high taxes on what the government considers high levels of income.  The idea of the income tax was to ensure that the government would have sufficient money to invest in society as a whole while also ensuring that individuals did not gain huge amounts of influence as to topple the system of government which is by and for the people.  In the 1950s, the top marginal tax rate peaked at 91%, but we also steady, continuous economic growth which persisted mostly above 3% for over 40 years.  It wasn't until the early 1980s that such growth started to wane and unstable levels of growth and contraction became the new norm.

Five Years After Crash, Doubts about U.S. Economic SystemWith the flattening of the income tax and the loopholes that have been injected into it, the wealthy now pay rates as low as zero, as high as only 35% at most.  Also consider, that with the redefinition of certain types of incomes making the tax rate for personal incomes significantly lower than the current 35% threshold which was created during the Bush Administration.  Capital Gains, investments, and interest are taxed at a meager 15% meaning that the wealthy don't pay what they otherwise would pay.  This income type is the exception rather than the rule.  Only the top 1% gain their income by this manner, meaning that no working class person will see tax rates this low ever.  And while the wealthy may pay more monetarily...proportionally they pay significantly less.  The results have caused a severe concentration of wealth at the top and for the first time in 50 years, the middle class is shrinking quickly.  Wages, disposable income, savings, and investments of the middle class have been wiped out entirely, leaving the next three generations in a position of having to figure out how they will retire when they hit 60 years old.  It also puts them in a position of trying to figure how to provide for a college education for their children, to buy a house, to start a family, and leaving an entire generation of citizens with no means of secure self-sufficiency for the foreseeable future.  A public opinion study done by the Pew Research Center shows that Americans are still very unsure about their job security and worry about whether they'll be employed the next month or not.  Such insecurity has weakened the bargaining power of the American Worker, and has also resulted in a down-ward pressure on wages across most unskilled to moderate-skill industries.  The downward pressure of incomes has also resulted in the middle class being dropped out of tax brackets that they would have been in had their incomes continued to grow at a steady rate.  The free trade agreements, deregulation, and overall decreases in wages have also all resulted in many American households no longer paying taxes.  During the Reagan Administration, the argument about broadening the tax base was made as a justification for lowering taxes.  That reduction resulted in the wealthy exerting an undue amount of influence in congress, touting proposals that work to undermine the political influence of the middle class and the poor.

So what's the solution to all this grim news?  The solution is to return us to policies and legal frameworks which protected the middle class of the Post-War era.  The pro-union, populist, and pro-worker agenda which brought about the greatest expansion in US History, and created a middle class that had never existed in the history of our nation.  The wealthy weren't super wealthy and the poor weren't super poor.  Everyone was pretty flat with minor differences in income levels.  That balance made sure that the populace was involved in politics.  The higher rates alongside with pro-wage tax deductions for businesses keep money circulating throughout the economy, maintaining a purchase-powerhouse of a middle class, and a friendly investment environment.

Fight the good fight.