Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “middle class”

Gordon Gekko Lives – Tom Rossi

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I’ve been wondering lately (okay, for many, many years) how people can still hold onto conservative ideas about the economy. Social issues are one thing – there is a legitimate debate about abortion, for example, but for some people, economics seems to be even more of a religious issue than that. People just hold onto their beliefs, despite a wealth (pun intended) of evidence to the contrary.

To track down some of the reasoning of the followers of the tired, old religion of conventional, “free-market” economics, I interviewed démodé economist Charles “Chipmunk” Griedesgud at the Gordon Gecko Center for Economic Satire in Slashington D.C.

Presented here are some highlights of the interview. The entirety of the interview will be published in book form by the same publishers that put out Bill O’Reilly’s weekly treasures. It will be called, Killing… something or other.

Me: Thank you for allowing me to interview you, Mr. Griedesgud.

Griedesgud: Please, call me “Chip”.

Me: Fifth generation at Yale?

Chip: Exactly.

Later…

Me: Ha ha! I’m sure your cat didn’t see THAT coming! Oh… Ahem. The main thing I’ve been wondering about, Chip, is how people can still believe that giving corporations big tax breaks leads to more jobs. The corporations don’t seem to create jobs anymore; they just build factories overseas or buy robots to do the work. Don’t people know these things?

Chip: If we cut taxes on corporations, they will build factories and make jobs… in China and Mexico.

Me: How does that help us?

Chip: But then, you see, the Chinese and Mexican workers will become more affluent.

Me: Uh huh.

Chip: Meanwhile, American workers will accept lower and lower paying jobs…

Me: Waiting for the good part.

Chip: …which will eventually allow them to make the commodities that are demanded by the newly affluent foreign workers.

Me: Yeah. Great.

Chip: So, it still trickles down; it just might go through a couple of extra steps.

Me: Wow. I can’t understand how I never thought of that.

Chip: I sense a little sarcasm in your voice.

Me: Me? Nooooooo.

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Chip: Would you, instead, have no job creation at all? I mean, if we balanced things more toward the mythical “middle class,” then there wouldn’t be the concentration of wealth at the top that it takes to start the projects and businesses that do just that.

Me: But isn’t that exactly what happened between the 1950’s and the 1970’s, America’s greatest period of economic growth and shared prosperity? The progressive tax structure taxed the super-wealthy and their corporations heavily, and they all kept right on growing anyway, along with the well-being of their workers and the workers’ families.

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Chip: That approximately three-decade period was essentially an illusion of economic bliss. In reality, the so-called “middle class” was stealing from the providers – the wealthiest Americans, who could have built a much LARGER economy, and created even more jobs. They did this through forming alliances known as “unions” and through other underhanded methods.

Me: Those bastards!

Later…

Me: So, what could we expect if we were to follow your prescription, which seems to be the way we’re headed, anyway?

Chip: Well, economic growth and prosperity, of course! Our economy could be growing like the Chinese! And why not?

Me: Do you mean the Chinese economy, or the Chinese population?

Chip: Take your pick.

Me: But won’t this scenario mean that those countries make the same “mistakes”, as you call them, that we made? And won’t they be hurting their economies?

Chip: Yes! That’s exactly what we want! There are two ways to look at winning a competition – you can perform better than the others, or they can perform worse than you!

Later…

Me: So, you say we could head into a period of fantastic economic growth and prosperity. But the “middle class” can’t share in that prosperity, lest they sabotage the whole process.

Chip: That’s exactly right. You asked me about the benefits before: the average income would rise beyond anything we’ve seen.

Me: But wouldn’t that just be a result of the outliers? Wouldn’t the income median and mode be dismally low?

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Chip: Well, thanks to years of effort, nobody knows what those even mean. We’ve trained people very effectively to think that averages are everything. We’ve kept telling them about the average income in America being so high and we even invented a term called “GDP per Person” that throws them way off. Complaining about your income just makes people feel ashamed now.

Me: Wow. Just… wow.

Later…

Me: Well, thank you, Mr. Griedesgud, for the interview. I suppose you’ll be going back to work for the rest of the day?

Chip: Work? What work? This story hasn’t changed since 1890! I’m going to dinner with some lobbyists at the “Oval Room”. I love a restaurant with a punny name!

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Stop and Frisk: Evidence of Class Warfare – Tom Rossi

It’s come down to this: the end of, “innocent until proven guilty.” That principle is not in the U.S. constitution. However, it’s been the policy that has guided law enforcement in this country for decades.

“Stop and frisk” is a practice whereby the police can stop someone in the street for no other reason than he or she “looks suspicious.” It doesn’t matter if a crime has been committed nearby. It doesn’t matter if the person matches the description of an alleged perpetrator. He or she can be stopped and given a body search simply due to his or her appearance.

Who will they stop? Will it be white men in suits, walking into bank’s corporate offices? Well, that hasn’t happened, so far. So far (and this is what the policy is designed for) the people who have been stopped have been people of very little means – people in poor neighborhoods wearing inexpensive clothing.

In 2011, the New York city police stopped people 685,724 times. Many of those were repeats, as some people got stopped multiple times. Of that number, 88 percent were innocent – in other words not carrying any weapons, drugs, nor rhinoceros tusks. Only 9 percent of the total were caucasians, even though causasians were almost twice as likely as other groups to be found carrying a weapon.

Stop and frisk is a policy that betrays the classism and racism of the security hawks, and it’s spreading. San Francisco is now considering making “stop and frisk” policy. Several other cities are either considering it or have implemented it at least to some degree.

Let me be clear. When I say it’s the end of “innocent until proven guilty,” I’m not talking about jail or prison. That goes on, too, but what I’m talking about is the violation of people’s rights to personal self and privacy.

I’m also talking about the “haves” and the “have-nots,” and the differences between the two groups’ experiences of “our” country and democracy. Stop and frisk seems another way to separate those who are valued in our society from those who are unwanted.

The danger, and what allows these policies to take hold, is that “normal,” middle-class, working people will think, “Oh, that won’t affect me. I don’t look suspicious and I don’t hang out in bad neighborhoods.” But in this, winner-take-all economy, so many lines are being blurred. The once-affluent wear out their clothes because they can’t afford new ones. They live in places they would not have considered before. They drive old cars.

But somehow the people who have managed to keep their jobs still have their attitude that, “That won’t happen to me.” As a result, they aren’t too concerned, and feel that the benefits of increased security outweigh the costs – whatever they may be.

I say the costs of an unjust society are much higher than the, “How does this affect me?” paradigm can measure. More and more of us lose power in this society every day. The Citizens United case in the Supreme Court has accelerated this phenomenon.

Take a stand against injustice, now. When the injustice comes into your house, it may be too late.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Microloans – Uniting The Religious Right and the Community-focused Left

As the Presidential debate heats up, we are faced with either depressing mudslinging or polarization. This is not the season to seek genuine debate or even compromising solutions. We must take sides, man the barricades and ensure our side wins.

It really is so depressing. Perhaps if anyone dared to suggest something original or engage in genuine dialogue that might facilitate a path to lift this ailing country, I might get excited. My sports-DNA will probably allow it to kick in sometime in October, but for now, as the fog swirls outside my office in “sunny” San Francisco, I feel only that we are indulging ourselves so that we can forget what is happening in reality. To do this at a Giants game, at the 49-ers or Warriors for an evening is fine. We all need a break.

But this electoral juggernaut, that is serving only the media and bumper sticker producers, is insulting to those who are suffering from the very incompetence of those who were paid, are paid, to ensure our welfare and civil society. And though the faces might change, the same ties and dress suits will be back.

There are no one silver-bullet solutions. I know this. But we should be seeking solutions that will kick-start our economy. A weak USA is not good for its people, for the free world, or for those who live in oppressed regimes. We have to get our house in order so that we can help others.

I read and failed to bookmark an article about why the creation of small businesses is a pre-requisite for an economy to grow. It was full of statistics and I failed to understand much of its content. But I want to accept that the premise is correct. Small businesses are an asset for the middle class who often serves as the entrepreneurs, the working class who bear the brunt of unemployment and the rich who can seek investment opportunities.

It sounds like a win:win, a no-brainer. In fact, we have models that allow small businesses to open in the poorest countries in the world.

I have written in the past about KIVA, a non-profit microfinance bank that raises money through small gifts to help people invest in family or community enterprises. These are essentially loans, though the donors often reinvest the money back into Kiva. Here is a quick overview of how it works. For example, investing just $25 can help a father of four in Tanzania set up a coffee shop, or a woman in India establish a juice bar. It is truly inspiring.

Why can we not use this model widely in the US? I met a business in New Orleans that had been financed in part by microloans and is now a flourishing restaurant. Why can we not create a wider framework wherein people can invest micro sums that will be repaid as the businesses establish themselves.

Wouldn’t this attract the left, who love grassroots community action – Occupy Microloans anyone? The religious right can gain a few spiritual points above by heeding to the words of our teachers. In my own faith, a learned Jewish medieval scholar, Maimonides, created a pyramid of different levels of giving. Providing someone with a skill and a means to support themselves and their family is considered the highest form of giving in Judaism.

The banks have failed us. It is difficult today to buy a house or attract capital for a business unless you are already a millionaire. Perhaps it is time for the people to turn off our campaign-driven TV’s and take matters into our own hands. Perhaps if we believe in each other enough to invest in each other, we will also stop believing in the meaningless promises of those seeking political office.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Genocide of the Middleclass – Roger Ingalls

James Carville has just released a new book (It’s the Middle Class, Stupid) and the President is now shaping his re-election rhetoric around helping the middleclass so I feel it is prudent to repost (with edits) one of my earlier articles about the subject.

It is mind-boggling that so many Americans have a god-like fascination with Ronald Reagan. This is the man who set in motion the financial destruction of the middleclass. Unbelievably, a significant portion of Middle America still loves the man. Why? Is it some sort of Battered Wife Syndrome  or is the conservative middleclass too embarrassed to admit that they were duped by the Republican Party?

But, here we are, repeating stupidity. Instead of trying to reverse Reaganomics, conservatives are still trying to enhance it; more tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, more union busting, deregulation and privatization of government programs.

To increase our understanding, let’s review history: today, many Americans believe that middleclass society magically appeared with the birth of our nation and grew over time. This is not true. With the market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression, the country fell into economic chaos and floundered under Republican President Herbert Hoover. Prior to that, there were a few rich people, a lot of poor folk and a handful of in-betweeners. Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in March of 1933, quickly launched new legislation and executive orders that would become known as the New Deal.

The New Deal increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans, increased corporate taxes, regulated banks and Wall Street, created government programs (social security, unemployment insurance and minimum wage), and created pro-union alliances. FDR’s policies pulled our Nation out of the depression and gave rise to Middle America. In less than a decade, the middleclass would grow to become the largest demographic in the country and the envy of the world—The Great American Middleclass.

From the late 30s through the late 70s America prospered, the Middleclass would live comfortably and we became the undisputed world power. In steps the B-movie cowboy with his traveling show of Reaganomites and the genocide begins. Middle America was forced to save less just to maintain living standards, eventually leading to the necessity of financing their way of life. Wealth transferred from the Middleclass to banks, corporations, the rich got richer and this trend continues today. Wealth disparity now sits at the largest level since the robber-baron days of the late 1800s through the 1920s.

Americans need to act by educating ourselves on what policies actually work based on historic proof. We must not listen to money-influenced mainstream media. We must not let ourselves get polarized (against each other) through agenda promoted by today’s corporate-financed politicians—it’s their tactic to divide and conquer.

Genocide of the Middleclass, begun by Ronald Reagan, must stop. Hopefully the influential power of James Carville will help bring attention to proper change. And maybe, just maybe, the President’s renewed commitment to the middleclass is more than the normal lip-service.

Is Justice Roberts a Friend to Health Care? – Tom Rossi

Writers, pundits, television reporters, everyone in any kind of media, even those thought of as “liberal,” have all taken Justice John Roberts’ apparent break from the conservative cabal on the Supreme Court at face value. I’m shocked at the lack of conspiracy theories on this and, frankly, I’m bored.

The term “conspiracy theory” is used to instantly discredit an idea by ridiculing it as crackpot-ish. America is in love with the image of the lone, crazed individual, just like it’s in love with rugged individualism.

Fiction, not reality!

And we would love to think that Justice Roberts somehow and suddenly saw the light of reason, that he realized the importance of health care availability or, as Robert Reich said, the importance of the court’s public image. But Citizens United and Justice Alito’s subsequent mouthed denial of any reversal of precedent (at President Obama’s State of the Union Address) make those explanations seem unlikely.

There has been plenty of evidence that Justice Roberts and the other, even more hard-line right-wing ideologues on the Supreme Court bench have taken their marching orders from conservative strategists. In the Citizens United decision, the conservative members of the court took the opportunity to form a new doctrine that far overreached the case that had been presented to it.

Let me be clear about Citizens United and the Supreme Court – the aggravating thing wasn’t so much that the court found for what I or “liberals” would consider the “wrong side.” It was that the conservative wing of the court took a very narrow case with specific issues, and generalized the ruling in an expansive and even illogical way. It was as if they were called upon to rule on whether a runner had beaten the throw to first base and was therefore safe, but they also ruled that umpires could fly kites during the game and that the fans could wear blue on Tuesdays but not Wednesdays.

There is really no explanation for this other than that these justices were granting an unpublished (but obvious) corporate “wish list.” And even though I’ve semi-conflated “conservatives” and corporations, this, along with the outrage of everyday, non-super-wealthy conservatives, showed exactly who or what was being served.

This leads me to wonder about this mysterious decision on so-called “Obamacare.” Could this have been a strategy by conservatives? Could this have been an attempt to tip the scales in favor of Mitt Romney and other conservatives (who all vow to eliminate Obamacare) running for congress in November, 2012?

The following method is somewhat teleological, but let’s try to figure out how such a strategy would best be implemented in this case. It wouldn’t be shrewd to have all the conservative justices side with the legitimacy of Obamacare, that would give it real credibility. Much better to have one wildcat, one rogue justice who split, leaving conservatives in their cherished victim role.

And, in fact, it was Justice Roberts who was to write the majority opinion for this case. How different might it have been if Justice Sotomayor had written it? Or Justice Breyer? Roberts allowed the central principle of Obamacare to stand, the individual mandate, by calling it that dirtiest of words… a tax. In fact, he implied that it was a tax used as a punishment.

Within minutes, the Republicans, Senators, Representatives, governors, and the rare Republican bathroom attendants were crying: “Tax!” “Tax on the middle class!” I can’t say if this was prepared before-hand, or if it was deliberately orchestrated, but it was like the freakin’ Mormon Tabernacle Choir – perfect unison.

I don’t know what really happened inside or outside Justice Roberts’ round little head, but given what he and his court have done so far – followed an astonishingly blatant, conservative activist agenda while decimating the rule of law, I’m suspicious.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Roger’s Random Rants

At the beginning of the year I promised to be less negative and focus on positive developments and ideas that benefit mankind and the environment. Well, I lasted two months…it’s time for some ranting.

The big debate this week is the corporate tax rate. Like clockwork, the Republicans want to reduce the rate for the big guys from 35% to 25% which I find utterly grotesque. But wait, we have President Obama who will apply some sanity in Washington, right? Oh yes, he is fighting really hard. He’s stepping up to the plate to take a swing for the American working-class with a big fat wet noodle. The President only wants to reduce the corporate tax rate to 28%. I’ve been an Obama supporter but people, we are getting screwed.

Check out these three charts. The first one shows corporate taxes as a percentage of income for companies that reported profits. As we can see, the effective rate has been cut in half starting with the Reagan years (1981). They’re only paying slightly more than five percent today.

The second chart shows the rapid increase in the national debt thanks to the change in corporate tax rates, again starting in 1981 (Reaganomics-Era).

This last chart shows the growing wealth disparity between Middle America and the wealthy. Can you guess when this disparity starts? You got it! It starts in 1981 with the lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy.

The Conservatives are puking the same old story, “lower taxes for the rich and corporations will create jobs”. After thirty years of failure, it’s surprising that half the population still believes this economic vomit. Big business continued job outsourcing and, adjusted for inflation, Americans make less today than they did thirty years ago.

Let’s try a novel approach; instead of giving gifts to big business before they create jobs why don’t we let them earn it. Increase the tax rate to 50% and then give tax breaks based on year-over-year analysis of job creation. If they create more jobs in the US than overseas (on a percentage basis) they get a tax break. The more they create the bigger the break.

I don’t understand why more people don’t get Mad as Hell with these crazy conservative tax breaks. History has proven that the middle class must pick up the tab for breaks given to Corporate America.

How much more of an economic whipping are you willing to take?

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Declaration of Change

Too many Americans are suffering. Our unalienable rights – the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – whether given by the God of Creation or by Natural Law, are being violated. The self-evident truth that all REAL people are created equal is not recognized by the forces now governing us.

Our representative form of democracy – government of, by and for real people – has been corrupted. An insidious and deceptive process has transformed a government from one that once placed importance on real people to one that now favors artificial persons (corporations). Consequently, legislative reforms and laws, over the past 30 years, have benefited big business and the wealthiest Americans while burdening the middle-class and poor.

When any form of government becomes destructive to the safety and happiness of its real people, it is the RIGHT of the people and it is their duty to change or abolish the current form and implement a new government that effects and guards their future security.

Americans are suffering…suffering from the financial burdens placed on them as a result of tax rate changes, trade agreements and uncontrolled multi-national globalization. Long-standing corporate responsibility has eroded. Campaign contribution from big business, their PACs and lobbyists influenced politicians to make favorable financial legislation for corporations. The government represents the tyrant-will of artificial persons and the wealthy. It is now unfit to govern free people.

The people have been abused to the point of action. The winds of change are blowing and it’s time to support it. Occupy Wall Street is just one of many battles to come. This blog posting, which borrows key words and phrases from the Declaration of Independence, is my initial show of support for the brave individuals that are sleeping and protesting in the parks and avenues of New York.

It’s time to act. It’s our right and our duty to cast off tyranny.

-Roger Ingalls

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

The American Left Part 2 – So What’s Important and What To Do?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a critique of the American Left. I think these criticisms are valid and I stand by them completely. However, my own negativity has sunk into my brain and made me realize that I have only said half of what needs to be said – and maybe the less important half.

Here’s the other half…. or at least a decent start.

I was not specific about what I meant by “teammates” and our failure to accept them – and the consequences. I also complained that we have no coach, and yet I offered hardly a word of direction or encouragement myself. So let me say a little more about why we need to work together, and then I’ll do my best to say how we might start to do it.

Right now, we have many groups striving to be treated like human beings, or like human beings of equal stature to the almost mythical “great white male”. Of course this really refers to a very special class of white male – a class to which I do not belong.

Some of these groups represent different races, religions, or even ages, body-types, or sexual preference/status/identity. And let’s not forget the other class that is being thrown under the bus these days – workers. Some workers are members of unions, others are not. All are being downgraded in our economy. The worth of the American worker is at its lowest point in decades. Teachers and police officers (among others) are being “asked” (forced) to make sacrifices in order to avoid raising taxes on the rich by 3% or taxing corporations at all.

Each of these groups fights for recognition as “real” Americans and “real” human beings – and rightly so. But their fragmented, uncoordinated attacks on the status quo have made moderate gains on a time-scale measured in decades. This is because of a simple and obvious fact: when group A fights for group A, and group B fights for group B, each group is small and almost powerless. They have even been played against each other at times.

Aren’t all of these groups really fighting for the same thing? Don’t we ALL want to be treated like human beings and not animals nor robots? Don’t we all want fairness? Don’t we all want to live in peace, without fear of prejudice? Don’t we all want not to be stepped on by the police, nor by corporations, nor by our government? Don’t we all have a reasonable expectation that we should be able to provide food and shelter for our families? Don’t we all want the security that comes from our own hard work? Don’t we all want some assurance that our children and our grandchildren will live in a decent world with drinkable water and breathable air?

Then let’s work together!

Let’s get started. Today, I want every one of you to go out of your way to shake hands with someone different from you, but who might be a potential teammate in the battle against the status quo. Smile. Ask a question about his or her job, family, opinion on catsup vs. mustard, the weather, whatever! These people are your teammates. None of them is perfect and none of them is exactly like you, nor do they have exactly the same goals or abilities. Great! We NEED lots of different kinds of people.

Next, we need to break free from the superficial games that our elections have become. We can no longer vote for or against someone because of the way he or she looks, because he or she smoked a joint a couple of times, nor even because he or she cheated on his or her spouse. These things are irrelevant. And we can’t be scared off by the anti-tax boo-birds. Nobody is talking about raising taxes on the middle class… NOBODY! We cannot be scared back into the status quo! We need to send a shockwave through our election system… We are here, and we won’t be screwed anymore!

I’m not nearly qualified to serve as this team’s coach. But maybe this team will have thousands of assistant coaches, and I’ll volunteer for one of those jobs. We all just need to keep it in our minds that, together, we can improve the situation of each and every one of the aforementioned groups – and each group will do BETTER FOR ITSELF as part of a larger team than it ever would on its own.

The mixed bucket of crises that we have all faced and are facing has bred a fair amount of fighting and blaming within our team. The opponent is not within. Let’s focus our efforts. Together, with some reasonable changes, we can have comfortable, secure lives in a sustainable world. It’s easy to see how a unifying set of principles could incorporate the goals of groups concerned with the issues of race and gender and such. It might prove more difficult to create a unified philosophy and calls-for-action which combine these types of issues with the imperative of managing our planet and its resources sustainably, but the potential is there and it must be done.

As it now stands, the resources of our country and of the world are being stolen from all of us and used up at a phenomenal rate in order to enrich those who are already very, very wealthy. The fight for the rights of minorities, or women, or whoever will be meaningless if most of us are living (and dying) in extreme poverty in the middle of a colossal toxic waste dump.

The process of taking our resources (unless we can slow it down) will further oppress those who are already oppressed. We’ve seen, recently, how crises are used to justify increased oppression of the lower and middle classes. We must re-prioritize PEOPLE OVER PROFITS. We must reject the lie that profits benefit everyone. It may have once been true in this country, but no longer.

If we can advance this simple set of principles, we will all benefit.

That black man, that white woman, that Chicano, or that Vietnamese woman standing behind you at the grocery store is probably your teammate. That “hippie,” that nerdy-looking scientist, or that artist sitting near you on the train might have some ideas you would be interested in – or might be interested in some of yours. Meet these people. Start talking. Start a movement.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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Sushi, Nargila and Social Justice in Israel

While this title looks more akin to a program that we offer at the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, it is actually an association that has been going around the Internet with regard to the Tent Revolution in Israel. 

The phrase came from controversial politician Avigdor Lieberman, who claimed the economy can’t be that bad because he couldn’t find a free table in a Tel Aviv restaurant. Carlo Strenger sums up the movement in an article in the Jerusalem Post.

 

Tel Aviv - camping with purpose

Unlike the uprisings in Israel’s neighbors, this is not about toppling an autocratic political system. Whatever your view of Israel and its politics (and there is a lot to criticize), Israel is a democracy. In fact, one of the biggest problems in the Israeli democracy system is the low threshold that allows many people/parties to get a a few seats in the Knesset (Parliament) and hold the bigger parties to political ransom.

Ironically, the tent cities that are appearing all over Israel reflect this problem. There is no central leadership, no specific demands. This is a plethora of single-causes and grievances expressing their frustration. This adds an awareness of social injustices inherent in Israeli society, but it is difficult to bring them together in one thread.

The sushi analogy reveals something that we should take note of here in the US. Both countries have a growing gap between the working class and the wealthy, but the new recession has hit the middle class hard.

Strenger explains the growing frustration of the middle class and the young professionals in his excellent article by highlighting on the exploitation of graduating psychologists who will work for many years just to bring themselves to a financial position where they can save for their future.

Tent City in Tel Aviv

While I don’t want to belittle their individual grievances, I can’t help feeling that the lack of strategic focus and leadership means that the Israeli tent movement will prove unsustainable. While there are many differences between Israel and the US economy and class structure, a middle class that cannot flourish means an economy that only allows for the rich to get richer at everyone else’s expense.

In this Israel and the US are very similar. Perhaps it is time to begin erecting tent cities over here.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

American Revolution 2.0 – A Blood Bath (Roger Ingalls)

The following iconic phrases are no longer valid.

“…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”, Declaration of Independence.

“…government of the people, by the people, for the people…”, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

It is painfully clear to half the American population that we are now governed by corporations.

Yes, we can still vote but our political choice ultimately goes to the one who can buy the most media sound bites via funds received from corporations, political action committees, and the rich. When the chosen ascend to their thrones, the big funders get their rewards and we, the people, are forgotten.

The American Middle-Class is becoming a thing of the past. Men, women and children are suffering. With all the hurt and pain inflicted on Main Street by the irresponsible actions of Wall Street and the Big Banks, conservative politicians are still accelerating the transfer of our remaining wealth to the rich and big corporations by providing them with unprecedented lower tax rates and loop-holes.

Options to stop Middle-Class genocide are limited. The law no longer sides with real people due to recent decision by the conservative members of the Supreme Court. Artificial persons (corporations) have been granted the same rights as real people. These recent decisions have, essentially, created a super artificial person with constitutional rights, big influential corporate wealth and the players behind these corporations have the added bonus of being protected against legal action.

Out of options and desperate, Americans may be forced into a second revolution.

Listening to the political sound bites of the day, I wondered what an American Revolution 2.0 would be like. Then it hit me, this would be a very bloody affair. This would be American against American. Upon further thought, I realize a new revolution would be unlike the original war against the British and more like the French and Russian revolutions where the desperate targeted the wealthy ruling class.

I’m inclined to believe that a real and bloody revolution is unlikely but the escalating chatter on social media is worrisome.

Big time CEOs, Wall Street executives and their political cronies may want to think long and hard before driving the stake further into the heart of Main Street America.

Who would be first in line to face the guillotine?

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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