A Brief Word About Socialism

Chris Matthews “has his own views” on Socialism, and, apparently, they end with an ascendant Left rounding up neo-liberals in Times Square. How he makes the jump from Medicare for All and affordable education to Animal Farm is only a mystery if you think he’s being honest.

Socialism calls for the nationalization of all major industry, for the means of production to be owned and operated by the state.

Bernie Sanders is not calling for that. Bernie Sanders is not calling for the state to be the arbiter of truth. He is calling for the apparatus of state to shift its priorities from corporate welfare, special interests, and profiteering toward life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Things we might call, domestically, “justice for all.”

Bernie Sanders’ vision isn’t particularly new, even in American politics. It is influenced by the tradition of Eugene Victor Debs, yes, but stands also in the tradition of the serially electable Franklin D. Roosevelt.

It Bears Repeating

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?”

-Dwight D. Eisenhower, “The Chance for Peace,” speech, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Apr. 16, 1953.

Fund the Future with Middle Class Tax Cuts and Higher Corporate Taxes

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is calling for a Green New Deal. Kamala Harris is calling for tax cuts that actually cut taxes for the middle class. Everyone wants to know how we’re going to pay for these things. I’ve been kicking some ideas around today in partial conversation with a friend.

A Green New Deal will probably require a graduated system. In general terms, Ocasio-Cortez suggests that some portion of the top wealth of the wealthiest people will be taxed at 60 or 70 percent. Maybe that seems unfair to you. What seems unfair to me is that the payroll taxes of middle class people provide more revenue to the federal government than do corporate taxes. Separately, the effective payroll tax rates of the wealthiest Americans are minuscule in comparison to most working Americans. The payroll tax is one of the most regressive taxes there is.

Higher rates at the very top, it seems to me, would help make everyone’s life better. Someone has to finance the saving of the planet, and unless the ultra-wealthy are banking on terraforming Mars in the next few decades, they have just as much of a vested interest a Green New Deal as the rest of us. And are we really supposed to believe that a high tax rate on the very top levels of the income of the wealthiest Americans is a burden?

And yet, people who oppose higher corporate taxes (which, honestly, shouldn’t be all that controversial given the true tax burden in this country) are going to frame this as Democrats coming after the paychecks of middle class people.

But an actual tax cut for the middle class? How about we eliminate the employee share of the payroll tax and replace it with an increase in corporate tax? Maybe reduce the payroll tax for small businesses under a certain threshold?

One of the biggest obstacles to any of these reforms will be the power of people who demand corporate profit has passive income. Sure, we need investors. But we lionize and exaggerate how brave their risks tend to be.

Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong – The Huffington Post

This is a really long read by Michael Hobbes, and there are many quotes I could pull in the hopes that you’ll read it.  I’m going with this one, because the issue with our food supply is, in my opinion, the biggest public health crisis we talk the least about:

“Since 1980, the obesity rate has doubled in 73 countries and increased in 113 others. And in all that time, no nation has reduced its obesity rate. Not one.The problem is that in America, like everywhere else, our institutions of public health have become so obsessed with body weight that they have overlooked what is really killing us: our food supply. Diet is the leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for more than five times the fatalities of gun violence and car accidents combined. But it’s not how much we’re eating—Americans actually consume fewer calories now than we did in 2003. It’s what we’re eating.”

Fructose is killing us, and, through subsidies to Big Ag, we’re actually paying it to.  Then, when we buy this shit, we’re doing it again.  If you’ve never seen “A Place at the Table,” watch it to see just how this works.  Meanwhile, foods that make us healthy (fresh produce) remain out of reach for so many, and institutions (the medical community, the political establishment) act like there’s a free market, efficient market with people simply making informed choices based on preference.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Source: Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong – The Huffington Post

Heroes and Villains: Brian Wilson, Donald Trump

I just watched the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors for Brian Wilson. For reasons that are easy to guess — his life story, his genius, his music — I am sobbing.  For other things, too: for him, for us; in gratitude, in fear.

A decade later, neither the country nor the world look anything like they did even in the nadir of the Bush administration. 

Honoring Brian, Art Garfunkel said: “I love rock and roll.  It’s just so joyous and life affirming.  And this is a great moment for me to honor my colleague, a fountainhead of that joy, Brian Wilson. To me, rock and roll is our great American invention.  And the fact that you, Brian, are one of its architects makes me proud of who we are as a country.”  Garfunkel talked about Brian’s “California roots, which to me, always represented the kindness and sweetness of America.”  He called Brian Wilson “rock music’s gentlest revolutionary.”

A few days ago, I read a brilliant piece by writer Gerald Weaver about Donald Trump and the failure of language.

Our innocence, our sweetness, the basic goodness of the premise for this country is the promise of a nation held together not by blood or iron but by consensus on revolutionary claims about the dignity of all people.

I’m not stupid.  I know we have never actually lived up to those ideals.  For centuries, we have systemically disenfranchised our own people.  For decades, we have instigated proxy wars.  For decades, we have have encouraged every kind of inequality.

But we’ve also held onto hope.  We’ve also given a damn about what America is supposed to be and mean. 

Condemning the tear gassing of assylum-seaking migrants at the southern border this week, Beto O’Rourke said, “It should tell us something about her home country that a mother is willing to travel 2,000 miles with her 4-month-old son to come here. It should tell us something about our country that we only respond to this desperate need once she is at our border. So far, in this administration, that response has included taking kids from their parents, locking them up in cages, and now tear gassing them at the border.”

Now the news that Donald Trump is authorizing lethal force.

I think I was four when Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vault.  He opened something else on Fox News’ The Five (I do not watch it). 

“This tear gas choked me. We treat these people — these economic refugees — as if they’re zombies from ‘The Walking Dead.’ We arrested 42 people; eight of them were women with children. We have to deal with this problem humanely and with compassion. These are not invaders. Stop using these military analogies. This is absolutely painful to watch…We are a nation of immigrants. These are desperate people. They walked 2,000 miles. Why? Because they want to rape your daughter or steal your lunch? No. Because they want a job! . . . We suspend our humanity when it comes to this issue. And I fear that it is because they look different than the mainstream.”

Of course Greg Gutfeld cut him off when he pointed out that economic refugees are in many cases fleeing situations our own policies have helped create.  Of course Jesse Waters, Fox’s Chief of Smarm, looked exasperated.

Of course, tonight, I’m crying over Art Garfunkel and Brian Wilson and America.