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 “wisconsin”

Fast Track to Hell: Paul Ryan – Roger Ingalls

I’m from the great state of Wisconsin and proud of it. It’s the home of the Green Bay Packers; the football team that’s won almost twice as many world championships than any other team. It’s a team owned by the community while all other teams are private hobby organizations for fat-cat Wall Street insiders. There’s something sweet about a community team that’s more successful than the bankers’ dream teams.

Wisconsin is also known as the home of Harley Davidson, historic development center for electrical power tools and machining, an original leader in electron-beam microscopy, super computers and, of course, organized labor. It is even rumored that a thousand years ago the Knights Templar buried the Holy Grail somewhere in the Dairy State between the Virgin apex of Green Bay and the Kensington Stone in Minnesota. This is why Wisconsin is often referred to as God’s Country.

Wisconsin does have its embarrassments: Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein and four out of the last twelve gun related mass murders (in the last twenty years) have been committed in the state. However, the biggest embarrassment was republican Senator Joe McCarthy who was responsible for massive civil rights violations during the 1950s. Current Governor Scott Walker is a rights violator too but is considered a pantywaist by comparison to McCarthy.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has selected Paul Ryan (republican representative for WI 1st congressional district) as his running mate for the 2012 election. Paul Ryan goes beyond embarrassment for the state; he is pure evil. He is an agent for Wall Street and is pushing an agenda that continues the transfer of middleclass wealth into the hands of the one-percenters. Here are a few of his ideas:

1)      Privatize Social Security – he wants to turn your social security money over to the same bankers and Wall Street companies that crashed the world-wide economy in 2008 and stole the common man’s wealth and gave it to the 1% fat-cats.

2)      Eliminate Medicare for those who earned it – he wants to give us a partial coupon and then make us buy healthcare plans from Wall Street backed insurance companies. For profit insurance companies don’t care about people’s health, they care about making money for their shareholders. The only competition Wall Street’s insurance companies have is Medicare. All insurance companies offer essentially the same coverage so there really isn’t a free market choice other than Medicare. Once Medicare is gone, the people will be powerless and under the thumb of for profit-only Wall Street. Under his plan, getting the medicine and treatment we need will be a bigger fight than we have now.

It’s my opinion that Paul Ryan is pure evil and is trying to fast track the American middleclass into a hellish existence for the benefit of his Wall Street backers. Why does he have to come from my state of Wisconsin? I guess in a Biblical sense, the Antichrist must originate from God’s Country.

Cultural Death by Capitalism

Unbridled capitalism has turned the abundance of choice into a lack of variety.  When Henry Ford held the monopoly on ‘horseless buggies’ and as he adopted the assembly line in its infancy, he was quoted famously as saying that “Any customer can have any car painted any colour they want, as long as that colour is black!”  Thus began the way of life we know today.

Despite this beginning of mass production taking shape, we were still a country of independence and unique subcultures.  When I was a kid, my family would drive across the country to Wisconsin and back to California in our black Ford Galaxy 500.  To my parents, three younger sisters and me, every gas station, food joint and motel was unique.  Each state was different from the next.  Soda pops were regional, as were toppings on national classics like burgers and hot dogs.  Service stations reflected their locations with souvenirs, such as the Jackalope – native to Wyoming.  We knew when we crossed a state line simply by looking around us.

 

“As a child, we frequently drove from the Bay Area north to Grass Valleyalong Hwy 49.  Auburn was a treat to stop in because of the rich gold-mining history displayed all throughout the town.  My grandparents took us to a local café and candy shop.  I was in my early twenties when I took my first solo trip along that drive.  In just a few short years, the local SPD grocery chain had grown and now resembled every other chain store in the strip malls that now populated the once desolate highway.  Ruby’s Gifts had moved and was no longer the charming store it once had been.  The same fast-foods were now as readily available on every corner here as back home in suburbia.  The lusciously quiet tree-lined drive was overrun with the very places I longed to escape from.” *

Thanks to the likes of Sam Walton and James Cash Penney, big box businesses have taken over the same routes, highways and countrysides that are laid out before my wife and I as we make the long trek on a cross-country roadtrip back home to Wisconsin.  Where I once saw sloppy diners, roadside motels that had us peeking out the windows for Norman Bates, and “last chance stops” – now on our drive we see the bright, familiar lights of Walmart, Best Buy, fast food chains, Shells and Chevrons.  In the entire state of Nebraska the only pizza we could find was the cardboard served at Pizza Hut. 

We hear it all the time from Libertarians and Republicans:  “No control or restrictions for the rich and big businesses!  The free market gives us abundance and choice!”  The problem with this is it gives advantages to people and entities that already have the edge.  Big money wipes out unique products with cookie-cutter economies on an epic scale.  Everything is a tired blur of a handful of logos from coast to coast.  Few sights to see – even the truck stops have all been taken over by McDonald’s and Subway – gone are the all-night greasy spoons with grizzled old haulers hunched over their bowl of chili with a cracked, worn coffee cup glued to their dirty hands. 

“If half the employed population spent $50 at local, independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion dollars nationwide.  For every $100 spent in locally owned stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures.  If you spend that same amount at a national chain, only $43 stays local.  Spend it online and none of it stays at home.” – The 3/50 Project.

While Americans have fought against socialism, we have in fact, through our capitalist greed, ended up with nothing more than the variety of a communist government store. 

 - Roger Ingalls

* featuring guest blogger Kymberlie Ingalls, www.WriterOfTheStorm.com

photes by jackalope.org and shadetreemechanic.com

A Serious Agenda – Education 2

I thought of adding this to the blog post yesterday but felt it might be conceived as frivolous. Just in case I am accused of getting too serious, I thought to share it as a separate post. How can I quote the New York Times and not The Daily Show?

Enjoy.

The Daily Show – Crisis in Dairyland – Apocalypse Cow

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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).

A Serious Economic Agenda – Education

This week I began a series of posts about the need to address what is the foundation needed for a 21st Century economy. While other components can have a relatively quick impact, the effects of a competitive and relevant education system is long-term and yet crucial. We can keep on blindly following any of the other areas in the hope that something else occurs – like ceasing to depend upon oil by the time we have exhausted our supplies – but education is an investment that we will not be able to measure so easily or quickly.

If the US wants to remain the world leader, it needs to boast the best education system in the world. Currently, the US ranks 18th among the 36 industrial nations. There are many aspects of the education system that need overhaul, but I want to focus on something very tangible: the status of teachers.

I am proud of the fact that my sons are in public schools. I know we are lucky to live in an area where education is prioritized and a local politician cannot survive without offering more than lip service. Before we moved to the US, my wife and I considered applying to a private school for scholarships because we had heard a lot of negativity regarding the US public education system.

Then two separate parents told me that their children had endured difficult years in their private schools. It all depends on the teacher, one told me, and this resonated for me. Between them, my children have spent 8 years in the public school system, and there is only one teacher that I feel was less than very good, with the majority being excellent. By this I mean that they inspired our children to love science, maths, reading and art. They have helped to imbue a sense of citizenship in our children, who know how to respect and play with children of all colors and religions, as well as those with physical challenges. I see this every day in the variety of friends they hang out with and bring home for play dates.

An inspirational story that happens every day in our classrooms.

Some thoughts on teachers:

1. The Nine Month Year: Teachers don’t just need to know how to teach, they need to show up every day and be inspiring. They need to show patience and compassion at all times in the face of sensitive young souls, who can learn the wrong lesson in one careless exchange with a teacher. For this reason, I do not resent their summer vacation. Following on from this, I do not consider their salary being a reflection of nine months, as they need to pay rent and other bills for 12 months of the year. Neither do I want them flipping burgers during the summer, as one insensitive critic suggested, but recharging their batteries for the next year.

One teacher asked me to add that some of this summer ‘vacation’ is spent learning new methods or updating their curriculum.

2. Salaries: If we are serious about respect for the profession, we need to measure it in terms of financial rewards. Teachers seem to earn between $28K – $70K, the higher end going to those with Masters and Doctoral degrees, or extensive experience. Are we surprised that people would rather screw up in the financial world and receive six or seven-figure bonuses than need to succeed in a classroom? I can’t find an article I was reading that says professional retention among teachers under 35-year-old is now less than five years, but I read it very recently. In other words, even the most idealistic gets burnt out before they acquire much experience in the field.

How are we to finance a serious salary increase across the board without raising taxes? I’m not sure that we can in the short-term. Sure fixing that everyone (including corporations) pays taxes (to be dealt with in the next few posts), whether we can afford three wars simultaneously, and other such ideas would help.

But ignorance is just as expensive. “It has been projected that over the next five years, the state’s budget for locking up people will rise by 9 percent annually, compared with its spending on higher education, which will rise only by 5 percent. By the 2012-2013 fiscal year, $15.4 billion will be spent on incarcerating Californians, as compared with $15.3 billion spent on educating them.” – source.

3. Respect – finally there is the issue of respect. It is inconceivable that politicians and pundits denigrate and insult our teachers as we have seen over the past few months in regard to the labor struggle in Wisconsin. It is not just about lowering their own self-esteem, but what message are we giving the children who are sitting in their classroom? Please take a moment to watch the Daily Show skit below and feel free to swear along

The Daily Show – Recap – Week of 02/28/11

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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).

Unions, a Necessary Evil

The public employee union situation in Wisconsin (and now Ohio and elsewhere) got me to thinking about the reasons that unions came into existence in the first place. Before the advent of labor unions in America, typical working conditions at factories, mills, and many agricultural operations were very harsh: twelve-hour work days, six- and sometimes seven-day work weeks, extremely dangerous workplaces with frequent serious injuries and even deaths, and all this for wages that kept most workers in or near poverty. The situation was the same for women and children, except that these groups received much lower wages.

Many large employers in remote locations were themselves the only providers of housing, food and supplies, and shower facilities – all priced such that workers would actually fall deeper and deeper in debt to the company even as they continued to work. This amounted to slavery, but the workers had no alternative as there have always been more workers than jobs.

So why are things different now? It’s because labor unions formed, battled with employers, their often brutal “henchmen”, and sometimes governments, went on strike, and demanded changes in employer policies and in the law. It’s because of labor unions that child labor is illegal. Because of unions, most people work 40 hours per week and get paid extra for overtime and work in conditions many times safer.

Of course, once any entity becomes powerful, it starts to make unreasonable demands on the system. Once gains were made, the unions had to justify their collection of dues from the workers. So, union organizers regularly fired up the members to demand higher and higher pensions and things like “job security”, which brought inefficiencies to the workplace and raised long-term operating costs for employers.

The working conditions of the past would probably never fly these days, but one thing would return without unions with no doubt – downward pressure on wages and salaries. And make no mistake, when union workers’ wages fall, non-union wages will fall as well.

-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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