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Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

It appears that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are remotely familiar with basic economics, U.S. history, or the damage already wrought by Paul Krugman’s aptly named “Confidence Fairy.” If either party DID have a clue, they’d know that we can’t shrink our way to growth, we SPENT our way out of the Depression, and austerity is about as good for the present economy as the Iraq War was for American prestige.

Over the past few years the public sector has shed millions of jobs and state budgets have been repeatedly slashed — sparing corporate welfare and tax cuts for the top 1%, of course — and the economy continues to stall.

While the GOP persists in behaving like spoiled brats — incapable of reasoning, fair dealing, or considering the nation’s well being — Obama and the Dems continue to BEG for a “Bargain” that plunders Medicare and Medicaid while locking in the permanent contraction of our economy.

Has no one in D.C. read Naomi Klein’s essential “The Shock Doctrine?” If they had, they might realize that the deficit hawks are demanding precisely the measures that our international banks have classically used to break the spines of nations we wished to enslave: drastic cuts to social spending; downward pressure on wages; an all-out assault on organized labor; and privatization, privatization, privatization (with thrice the waste, fraud, and abuse of government — and none of the irksome transparency).

Solutions are obvious: invest heavily in our crumbling infrastructure (creating J-O-B-S), transition to sustainable energy (earning economic competitiveness, energy independence, and crucial environmental benefits), and embrace single-payer healthcare, saving over $400 billion per year and yielding far better health outcomes than under our present, horribly broken and cruel, system.

The problem is our elections are so corrupt that neither party is capable of proposing obvious remedies, even with America’s future on the line. We’re divided and nearly conquered, but there’s still time for the Tea Party to “Occupy” America with the rest of us. Last call, folks: Raise a ruckus or join the Third World. Don’t wait for Obama or Mitt to do it. They represent merely two brands of the same lousy product.

IT’S ABOUT ECONOMIC INJUSTICE: America was born fighting the kind of inequality and imperial government — secretive, tyrannical, and catering to the whims of an elite few — that today distinguishes the United States. Over the last 35 years, wages have fallen or stagnated for the vast majority of workers, while 90% of wealth has been gobbled up by the top 1%. Entire industries have relocated to lands with captive workforces, degrading labor conditions everywhere. The pensions of yesterday’s American workforce and the public institutions they built are being relentlessly sabotaged and pillaged.

IT’S ABOUT ECONOMIC VALUES: Farms, shops, foundries, universities, and factories have been replaced by usurious and reckless financial giants, extortionate insurance monopolies, mass surveillance and data mining, for-profit incarceration, government-corrupting lobbies, and war profiteering. The resulting wealth gap has yielded an unambiguous OLIGARCHY. Titanic economic powers now dictate policy to our government regardless of the wishes of THE PEOPLE, the majority of whom clearly want: the rich taxed; the crimes of the powerful to be punished; the wars and assault on our civil liberties ended; the trade pacts to be renegotiated (with worker and environmental protections, leveling the playing field); universal healthcare; strong schools; and our elections, especially our campaign finance system, reformed.

WHEN THE “MAINSTREAM” MEDIA ASKS WHY YOU IDENTIFY WITH THE 99%, HERE ARE SOME FACTS YOU MIGHT WANT TO SHARE WITH THEM:

1. According to the Government Accountability Office, the true cost of the bailout of Wall Street has topped $16 TRILLION; 

2. Per Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, the collapse of the global financial system due to Wall Street shenanigans has eliminated $40 TRILLION of wealth worldwide (and now they’re imposing austerity, which aside from the cruel injustice of it, ignores the primary economic lesson of the Great Depression: we SPENT our way out of a deeper hole than the one we’re in today);

3. “The wealthiest 1% of Americans already have a greater net worth than the bottom 90%, based on Federal Reserve data” (6/5/11, Nicholas Kristof, NYT);

4. Nine months after it was revealed that the big banks were ILLEGALLY “robo-signing” Americans out of their homes, the Obama administration had failed to open a single serious investigation into the practice (7/17/11, Paul Krugman, NYT);

5. The Securities and Exchange Commission ILLEGALLY destroyed “at least 9,000 files” related to 20 YEARS of investigations into wrongdoing on Wall Street, without taking any of those investigations past the initial inquiry (8/17/11, NYT);

6. According to Physicians for a National Health Program, a single-payer healthcare system would save America over $400 billion annually and erase our annual budget deficit – and Pres. Obama is too busy cutting backroom deals with AHIP to even consider such a program;

7. Per the Government Accountability Office, TWO-THIRDS of U.S. corporations paid ZERO taxes from 1998 to 2005 (8/12/08, CNN);

8. The Roberts Court in “Citizens United” has ruled that corporations can influence elections from the shadows, making our campaign finance system as opaque as any in the world;

9. The American Society of Civil Engineers says our infrastructure is crumbling (overall grade of D for our roads, dams, bridges, and waterworks), desperately in need of $2.2 TRILLION in investments – and all our politicians can propose is MORE TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH;

10. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, the price tag of the Iraq War will exceed over $3 TRILLION (in addition to recruiting thousands for al-Qaeda);

11. From 1979 to 2005, income growth for middle-income Americans rose just 21%, while income growth for the top 100th of 1% grew 480%, according to the CBO, thanks to a massive shift of taxation, sparing WEALTH and taxing WORK (9/22/11, Paul Krugman, NYT);

12. Barack Obama has cut (with the ACA) and proposed to cut a total of over $800 BILLION from Medicare & Medicaid (9/19/11, NYT), while extending the regressive Bush tax cuts (at a cost of $4 TRILLION over ten years unless Obama stops giving the GOP 98% of what they want).

13. Per Simon Johnson (1/9/11), former Chief Economist at the IMF and co-author of the acclaimed “13 Bankers,” SIX BANKS went from 17% of GDP in 1995 to 64% of GDP in 2010, thanks to the financialization of our economy;

14. Between 1980 and the early 2000s, CEO pay went from 42 to 531 times average worker pay, and 80% of income growth went to the top 1% (11/6/10, Nicholas Kristof, NYT);

15. The average cost of winning a seat in the U.S. House went from $56,500 in 1974 to $1,250,000 in 2006, as our elections have become auctions (“13 Bankers” by Johnson & Kwak);

16. The privatizing predators destroying public education with over-testing and charter schools have also set the U.S. Postal Service up for failure, getting a law passed in 2006 that forces the USPS to fill a 75-year pension fund over ten years (9/27/11, DemocracyNow).

17. Outsourcing to private contractors costs taxpayers more than twice as much as the government using its own resources, per the Project on Government Oversight (9/13/11, NYT);

18. According to Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett, federal taxes are at a 60-year low; and our current large deficits can largely be attributed to “trickle down” or “voodoo” economics (5/31/11, NYT);

19. Per CNN (4/16/10) General Electric made nearly $11 BILLION in profits in 2009 and paid ZERO in taxes (like many others on the Fortune 500, including Bank of America); and

20. According to billionaire Jimmy Buffet, he is taxed at a rate of 17% while the working-class people in his office are taxed at an average rate of 36%.

WE ARE THE 99%!

I’ve been reading comments across the Web today, reacting to the news of Moammar Qaddafi’s death, and I have to say that this generation of Americans deserves everything it has coming to it. Most of the comments I’ve seen articulate mere bloodlust and barbarism — and not a shred of concern for the Rule of Law.

Qaddafi, like Saddam Hussein before him, has been brutally lynched by a gang of thugs partnered with the U.S. They disarmed the 69 year old and paraded him through the streets on the hood of a truck, pulling at his hair, bashing him with their fists and rifle butts, and tearing at him like a pack of wild dogs as he begged for mercy. Per the initial forensic analysis, the killers administered the coup de grace with a few bullets into his brain at close range.

How could anyone confuse this outcome with civilized justice?

Worst of all, the circumstances of his death point ENTIRELY to successors of the same moral caliber (or worse) as the man they just deposed. After all, many of them were Qaddafi’s lieutenants just a few short months ago — and the bulk of the remaining “resistance fighters” are veterans of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, renowned for their extreme ruthlessness in mass killings of civilians in Iraq.

How “democratic” and “enlightened” are these allies of ours? Members of the Transitional National Council have openly admitted their responsibility for Qaddafi’s murder (an outcome the Obama administration repeatedly suggested it favored, which is grotesque in itself).

There was a time when Americans would’ve recognized this kind of conduct for what it is: bloody, ill-fated anarchy. Appalling.

But that time has passed. Today, the Constitution is just a bunch of pretty words our corporate masters use to wipe their backsides. Today’s pathetic Americans sit idly by while our pensions are looted and public services we built over decades are sabotaged, privatized, and dismantled. We cheer as the Bill of Rights is flushed down the toilet. America is failing and few seem to understand that it is our UNAMERICAN VALUES (our torturing, civilian-slaughtering, rights-quashing oligarchy) that are doing us in.

And that is why I can’t celebrate the gory murder of this bad man — because as we cheer his death, we’re also embracing his values and chasing our own demise.

Americans Cheer a Barbaric Murder

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/us/looking-after-the-soldier-back-home-and-damaged.html?hp

This article offers precious few facts or useful statistics.

It might be helpful for Times readers to know how many soldiers have been seriously injured in Iraq and Afghanistan: Per the DoD in early 2009, Traumatic Brain Injury alone affected as many as 360,000 soldiers, with 45,000 to 90,000 who “warrant specialized care” (USA Today, 3/4/09).

Times readers might also want to know that the Army broke its record for soldier suicides a few years ago and has continued to break that record in the years since (American Forces Press Service, 11/17/09).

In post-9/11 America, it’s become fashionable to sing the praises of “our heroes” while ignoring their actual plight. The effect is that we support the WARS but not the WARRIORS.

Meanwhile, our young men and women continue to kill and die, maim and be maimed, in wars that make no sense whatsoever from a strategic perspective (bin Laden’s strategy was to goad the U.S. into war, turning mainstream Muslims against us and creating the circumstances in which the U.S. would bankrupt itself — he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams thanks to the unthinking savagery of our leaders and the fecklessness of our institutions, including the MSM).

TEN YEARS after 9/11, private contractors continue to waste BILLIONS in fraud and abuse — between $30-60 billion wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan, per the Wartime Contracting Commission (PBS 8/31/11). I’ve watched this commission over the years, starting with SIGIR, and the number of reforms that have been implemented to stop this egregious waste is ZERO.

The situation is obscene. I would never have imagined that we were capable, as a nation, of ignoring such massive waste in lives and treasure as we have since 9/11. We’ve sacrificed our children, butchered hundreds of thousands of innocents, shredded the Bill of Rights, and nearly bankrupted America — just so a handful of war profiteers can get filthy rich.

And we’re not the least bit safer.

Sage Words from Chris Hedges... And My Hope for 2012

Sage Words from Chris Hedges... And My Hope for 2012Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author, and the 2002 recipient of Amnesty International’s Global Award for Human Rights Journalism.  A foreign correspondent for nearly two decades, reporting on many wars over his career, he has been employed by The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News, and The New York Times, in addition to writing for several other publications. (Source: Wikipedia)

In the last decade Mr. Hedges has emerged as one of the most uncompromising, consistent, and cogent anti-war voices in America.

Unquestionably, his writings have edified and even inspired me.  However, I must confess that I have avoided reading Mr. Hedges for some time.  Beyond the desire to adhere to a self-imposed modus operandi that says “read more articles and fewer opinion pieces (in order that I may form my own opinions, rather than merely regurgitate those of others),” I was concerned that Hedges’ voice was too strident, and that the more I read him, the more difficulty I would have communicating with mainstream Americans (which would be a personal disaster, as it has long been my aim to shape myself into an effective conduit of vital facts to my fellow citizens — who have been relentlessly propagandized from all sides, resulting in much confusion and despair, in my observation).

Having recently reacquainted myself with Mr. Hedges’ sage words, including his latest (excerpted above), I can now see the error of that craven decision.  Under my own auspices, relying almost exclusively on mainstream sources of news and information (where I have learned to harvest the wheatier facts amid the chaff of ubiquitous spin), it seems that I have come to share Mr. Hedges’ viewpoint… making my political views identical to those of a “political pariah,” to borrow Hedges’ phrase.

I have trod this path in good faith, and it has led me to this lonely place:  I believe that the words of the Constitution should mean something.  I believe that laws need to be enforced and applied evenhandedly (not just exploited to turn poor people, disproportionately brown people, into virtual slaves in America’s overcrowded, cruel, and dehumanizing prisons).

I believe that systemic fraud, wars of aggression, torture, assassination, and genocide are not just morally wrong but historically discredited (grotesquely short-sighted and ineffective), and that Benito Mussolini’s vision of a perfect synthesis between corporations and the state (his definition of “fascism”) is as destructive in the 21st century as it was in the 20th century… no matter what Chief Justice John Roberts and Antonin Scalia think.

Bizarrely (to me, at least), such views have fallen out of favor, making me somewhat unintelligible, I fear, to most of my fellow citizens.

The majority of my “conservative” friends and loved ones — and the majority of my “liberal” friends and loved ones — most likely find my views on this subject somewhat eccentric and quaint, or they think my interpretation of these “platitudes” overly literal.

(If I were not so well loved by these individuals, I would be very lonely indeed.)

As it is, with the nation’s nominal “conservatives” contemplating the likes of Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Michelle Bachmann in 2012 — and the nation’s alleged “liberals” rallying around Barack Obama (who has cemented the most radical and, frankly, totalitarian policies of his predecessor, while greatly enhancing the interests of an oppressive American oligarchy) — I fear I am finally running out of hope… not for myself (though, as an artist in an increasingly restrictive society, I doubt I’ll find many official patrons or sanctioned outlets for my work), but for OUR future, the future of ALL of the world’s citizens:  Americans, Chinese, Africans, Europeans, Australians, South Americans, Russians, Indonesians…

The vision of last century’s fascists, thanks to a meticulously shrewd refining of their methods, has been very nearly fulfilled.  The ethos is the same.  The results are the same (per the World Health Organization, nearly nine million children under the age of five die every year of wholly preventable causes; and 90% of the victims of our wars are civilians — 40% higher than in World War II).

It is only our willing acceptance of the fascists’ vision that has changed.  (Nietzsche, Orwell, and Huxley did their best to warn us — and, more recently, Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, John Perkins, and Naomi Klein tried to inform us — but, in the end, we failed to listen.)

Bigotry, soma, and surveillance turn out to be a pretty potent combination, especially when buttressed by nearly universal despair.  (Very few people, in my experience, hold out hope for a better world… and who can blame them, with our freedoms evaporating as swiftly as the planet’s life-sustaining systems?)

BUT I WILL NEVER GIVE UP.

The beauty and innocence of the human spirit — the fundamental decency of all of us (Muslim, Christian, atheist, Jew; black, white, yellow, red; conservative, liberal, etc.) — will ALWAYS give me some sliver of hope for the future.  Even in the face of massive ecological collapse, with the prospect of human suffering on a scale never before witnessed, I believe it is possible that humanity may yet see a better day.

I continue to hope that one day humanity will learn that the most revolutionary mind of the 20th Century was not that of Adolf Hitler (fuck you, TIME Magazine), who did something age-old and common as rain (albeit in particularly glaring and despicable fashion), but that of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who did something rare and glorious, providing a beacon to oppressed peoples everywhere, in demonstrating the practical application of Christ’s “turn the other cheek” philosophy.

Sure, Osama bin Laden didn’t see it.  But Martin Luther King, Jr. did.  And many others also understand the wisdom of refusing to answer violence with more violence (“an eye for an eye, leaving everyone blind”).

If President George W. Bush were an actual Christian, he would have seen it, too.  But both he and his successor are far more in the vein of Mussolini… which is why fascism is winning today.

Just as Osama bin Laden was a very poor exemplar of Islam, America’s leaders (political and institutional) have done very little to make America, in practice, a “Christian nation.”  Instead, we are the leading butchers of humanity in the modern world.

But we can change.  Whatever creed you follow, good values are good values.  We just need to remind ourselves of their practical implications… and stop following charlatans.

HERE’S A RECIPE FOR REAL CHANGE:

In 2012, if you fancy yourself a conservative, why not risk a vote for Ron Paul?  He’s that rarest of politicians in today’s America:  a non-fascist, unwilling to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people in the name of “Freedom.”

In 2012, if you fancy yourself a liberal, why not risk a primary challenge to Barack Obama, whose Nobel Peace Prize, as a matter of pure political calculation, has been carelessly saturated in blood?  Let’s see if Ralph Nader is willing to hold his nose and run as a Democrat; let’s try to draft him… before it’s too late.  (As matters stand, with Obama’s poll numbers cratering — with the entitlement-slashing waters he’s muddied and disastrous foreign policy, lauded by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — the Democratic Party is already showing signs it’s terrified that 2012 is going to be a banner year for conservatives…  Do we really want all three branches of government controlled by Republicans again?  That’s the outcome we’re really courting, with the status quo!)

Think about it:  Can you imagine how much real hope America might inspire if 2012’s presidential race involved a contest between Ron Paul and Ralph Nader?  My god, we might even have a real conversation in this country again, featuring two principled individuals dedicated to the Constitution and the Rule of Law, who actually mean it when they say “OUT OF IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN!”

If we Americans — Tea Partiers, Republicans, Democrats, and Liberals — really hold the values we profess, we will not hesitate to abandon the “safe” totalitarians currently “leading” the 2012 pack.  Because, once in office (as Barack Obama has demonstrated beyond all doubt), they will surely abandon us.

(And, for my friends on the left, worried about Nader’s chances against one of the “leading” Republicans, do you really think that the brilliant, articulate man of conviction, Ralph Nader, would have any problem whatsoever in defeating an establishment candidate:  Rick “Good Hair” Perry or Mitt “Flip-Flop” Romney?  Really, we have NOTHING to lose… unless we stick with Obama, which means we lose regardless.)

My friends, it’s time to ditch the corporatists (whatever their brand) and work to elect the folks the establishment keeps telling us are “unelectable.”  (That would be the very same establishment that’s been wrong about virtually everything over the last 30 years… from “compassionate conservative” George W. Bush to “socialist-leaning liberal” Barack Obama!)

RON PAUL vs. RALPH NADER in 2012!

It’s about the only chance we have for restoring real HOPE anytime soon, so my advice is to start agitating for real CHANGE — as soon as you finish reading these words.

Organize, lobby, register to vote (and enlist a friend on the other side of the ideological aisle to register with you) TODAY…