Monthly Archives: August 2010

Fooling “All of the People….”

It’s quite an achievement:  Today’s Republicans – members of the Party of Abraham Lincoln, after all — are steadily disproving one of Lincoln’s most quoted lines:  You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

The current version of the GOP is doing a good job at trying to fool all of the people, all of the time.  And, with the help of many Democrats, who give new meaning to the term, “fellow travelers.”

Case in point: The issue of the soon-to-expire tax cuts for the rich.  The Bush tax cut legislation of 2001 included a provision that they would expire at the end of 2010, and tax rates would then revert to 2000 levels.  The Obama administration wants to keep the tax cuts in place for the middle class, who would benefit from them during this continued economic near-depression; but let them revert back to previous levels for those with very high incomes, when they expire at the end of this year.

But guess what?  The Republicans, together with a number of Democrats, are fighting vigorously to preserve the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.  Republicans and their Democratic allies argue that it’s more beneficial to the economy to preserve the tax cuts for the wealthy – those making over $2 million a year —  because that would help “small business.”

Tell me, how many small business owners make that kind of income? And how would we make up for the loss of revenue?  By taking away benefits for the middle and lower classes, in the form of food stamps and other benefits or services.

This is where trying to “fool all of the people all of the time” comes in:  The entire argument is disguised in Orwellian terms, as necessary and good way to benefit everyone.  Writing in the New York Times, Paul Krugman exposes this with a good analysis of the deception and corruption behind it all.

For example, he points out that continuing the tax cuts for the rich would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that’s the least of it:  …estimates are the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent.  (and) the average tax break for those lucky few — the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year — would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.

Krugman is right on target when he points out that

…it’s hard to think of a less cost-effective way to help the economy than giving money to people who already have plenty, and aren’t likely to spend a windfall.  No, this has nothing to do with sound economic policy.

He also points out that this reflects our corrupt political culture,

… in which Congress won’t take action to revive the economy, pleads poverty when it comes to protecting the jobs of schoolteachers and firefighters, but declares cost no object when it comes to sparing the already wealthy even the slightest financial inconvenience.

So, what will prevail:  The corruption, deception increasingly rampant in our culture – disguised in Orwellian terms, as “helping” you, the average American?  Or Lincoln’s observation?

Stay tuned….

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The Unspoken Source of Opposition to the Proposed Islamic Center

There’s one glaring omission in the stated opposition to the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero.  It’s the unspoken implication that Islam is, by definition, a fanatical, terrorist religion.

As I read and hear about the reasons offered by those opposing the Center, they usually conclude with such descriptions as  ”insensitive,” “inappropriate,” or “insulting” to the memory of those whose lives were lost in the 9-11 attacks.  And yet, I haven’t heard any real explanation of what, exactly, would be  ”insensitive,” and so forth, about the proposed presence of an Islamic Center in the vicinity of Ground Zero?  The most they say or imply is that its presence would be wrong, by definition, because of its location.  But those opposed don’t really say what that connection is, in their minds, that makes its location wrong or “unwise.”

To put this in a broader context, look at the recent speech by New York Mayor Bloomberg.  He presented both a passionate and reasoned, principled explanation why it should be allowed; and why doing so is fully consistent with American values and history.  Following that, President Obama affirmed much of the same set of principles in support of the Center — until he backtracked the next day, under the not-unexpected Republican and right-wing opposition.

Here’s what I believe is the unspoken source of the opposition: Equating fanatical, extremist Muslims with Muslims, per se.  That’s why some have used the analogy of erecting a Nazi center next to a concentration camp.  Or a monument to the KKK next to a civil rights memorial.  The analogies are bizarre, and reveal the bigotry and ignorance behind them.  That is, the heart of the argument against the presence of the Islamic Center is that it would be “insensitive” because  the perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks were Muslims.  Now take that link to it’s conclusion.  Aside from the fact that Muslims were among those killed in the attack, the opponents seem reluctant to state that they are arguing that Islam, as a faith, is embodied in the terrorist attacks.  This would be like saying that because some Christians are fanatics, and some of those support killing of doctors who perform abortions, that therefore Christianity, per se, is a fanatical religion.

The triumph of emotional reactiveness and sentiment over our professed American values is very troubling.  If the opponents to the Center acknowledged outright that they’re equating fanatical Muslims and the Muslim faith in general, at least they would demonstrate logical integrity — along, of course, with outright bigotry.  But we would see what their true position is, rather than hearing them evade explaining just why they believe the presence of the Center would be “insensitive.”  This closet prejudice reminds me of Colin Powell’s retort to those claiming that Obama was  a secret Muslim, during the 2008 campaign. Powell asked what if  Obama was, in fact, a Muslim? So what?  What’s the point?   The same questions should be asked today of those who couch their opposition in words that don’t make explicit their implied conclusion.

Mayor Bloomberg was right on target when he explained the higher principles and context of this issue.  It’s worth reading.  Click here for the full speech.  Here’s a small portion of what he said.

Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.

For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right.

On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, ‘What God do you pray to?’  ’What beliefs do you hold?’

The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.

Well said, Mayor Bloomberg.

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Reversing the “Death Spiral” During So-Called Midlife

You may ask yourself: well… how did I get here?
You may say to yourself?My God!… what have I done?
Letting the days go by/into the silent water
Talking Heads

A woman in her late 30s was telling me about her work-life conflicts. She has a busy career, three children, and a husband who travels a great deal for his own job. She suddenly paused, recalling a recent, terrifying dream: She’s on one of those moving sidewalks, and can’t get off. Passing by on either side are scenes of herself, but living different lives with different people. Suddenly she recognizes the Grim Reaper standing at the end of the sidewalk, arms outstretched, awaiting her.

She wakes up, screaming.

You might think her dream sounds more typical of someone in the throes of “midlife.” In fact, I think it reveals the need for new thinking about what we’ve called “midlife.” That is, changes in our culture and in how people live require tossing out old notions of “midlife” and the “midlife crisis.” With people living longer, healthier, productive lives, what used to be a narrower “middle” period of adulthood has greatly expanded.

Instead, think of a broad period of true adulthood that starts somewhere in the 30s. From that period onward men and women face a range of truly adult challenges of living and working in today’s world. This new, longer adulthood extends for several decades — recent surveys find that about 80% think “old age” begins at around 85 — so the term “midlife” is no longer accurate.

No surprise, then, that 30-somethings are reporting symptoms associated with a “midlife crisis” – marriage boredom, careers flatlining, work-life juggling, trying to keep it all together, trying to maintain sanity…and, wondering what the point of it all is, like in that Talking Heads song.

To better explain all this and how to reverse that “death spiral,” let’s look at recent contradictory Continue reading

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