Being A Democrat

I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.”, Will Rogers used to say.

And that’s the beauty of it, the Democrats have a wide diversity of groups, ideas and philosophies that come together under the big tent that is the Democratic party. We don’t goosestep in unison to the clarion call of a totalitarian personality cult. We don’t believe that the “one” is greater than the all. We don’t accept that the “other” is the reason we don’t have it as well as we think we should. Most of us have come to the realization that the “other” could just as easily be us.

Democrats talk about things, we discuss things, we debate things, we chew over things, and eventually we consider things. In that consideration we consider other’s opinions and question our own. We feel it is our obligation to hear and consider every voice. Sometimes giving voice to the one tenth of one percent has the consequence of allowing the other party to make us look weak. I would argue it is our strength.

I didn’t come to being a Democrat easily. All of my people are Republicans, on both sides. I’ve even got kin who held office and ran for office as Republicans. I was a Teenage Republican myself. In my defense I will point out that there was a girl involved, and I was a teenager, when science has proven that the brain has not completely formed.

I began to see the light in my late teens and early twenties. Losing Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King made me question why the idea of equality was so threatening that it had to be silenced forever. If my schooling was right, there was a line in the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal”. Why did the outspoken proponents of equality and opportunity have to be expunged from our society? Was it just a black/white thing or was there something more?

The great columnist and author Molly Ivins once wrote, “I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point–race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.” It’s true; once you personally figure out that people of color just have a different skin color, that all of their hopes and dreams and aspirations are the same as yours, you question why there is a political party hell bent on denying them the rights afforded to them in the Constitution.

I think we can take a cue from the Watergate days, “Follow the money.” As I have explored in depth, the rich keep on getting richer. It is their raison d’etre to climb the ladder of success and pull it up behind them. Under funding public schools and social programs designed to lift up the disadvantaged allow the rich to maintain their stranglehold on opportunity for generations. Does anyone honestly think that the building gifted to Harvard by Jared Kushner’s dad didn’t effect the admission’s board decision to allow Jared to matriculate?

Opportunity for our children should be fair and equal. We should not be sending children to school hungry. We should not be sending children to schools that are underfunded and poor performing. We should not be sending children to bed at night without the opportunity to do the online studying necessary to compete. Our children deserve the right to adequate health care. They deserve the opportunity to attend safe after school programs. They deserve the opportunity to attend an Ivy League school if they are the most qualified candidate and that includes legacies.

We need to foster the idea in this country of having one hand on a rung of the ladder of success while reaching back with the other to help someone else in their climb. “I got mine” and pulling up the ladder behind you should be a thing of the past.

The challenge is Herculean. What some of you have read here translates to “tax and spend liberal”. Guilty. We should tax the rich and spend the money to benefit all of society, not just the one percent. Lest you worry needlessly, the rich will still get their share, any benefit to the economy will benefit them the most.

I’ll finish this by quoting Molly Ivins again, “Personally, I think government is a tool, like a hammer. You can use a hammer to build or you can use a hammer to destroy; there is nothing intrinsically good or evil about the hammer itself. It is the purposes to which it is put and the skill with which it is used that determine whether the hammer’s work is good or bad.”

I believe the Democrats are the more competent party to wield the hammer of government.

I Have A Dream Too

The saying goes that if you live long enough you’ll have seen it all. Well, I guess I’ve lived long enough to see many surprising things. I don’t proclaim to have “seen it all”, but I’ve been witness to some events that one would have never predicted.

On October 14, 1964 it was announced that Dr. Martin Luther King would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in the civil rights movement. Almost sixty years ago, in December of 1964 Dr. Martin Luther King traveled to Oslo, Sweden to take possession of the highest award a civilian can achieve. At age thirty-five he was the youngest ever recipient of the prize and the first ever from the state of Georgia.

If you were not aware during the sixties and seventies, it was a time of great turmoil. Thousands were marching in the streets demanding equality and an end to the war in Viet Nam. Riots were taking place in the cities and the police were enforcing “law and order” very vigorously.

In retrospect, it’s odd to think about two major movements, anti-war and civil rights, occurring at the same time. There was plenty of dissatisfaction for the way things were going from a lot of people. It’s a miracle some moron didn’t suggest storming the Capitol. Some 250,000 protesters did come to the Capitol in the “March To Washington”. Peacefully, I might add. Hmmmm.

In the midst of this turmoil, Dr. Martin Luther King was rallying his followers and pushing forward with the civil rights movement. His philosophy was one of non-violence. How one could rally people to march peacefully unarmed into police lines of truncheons and dogs and fire hoses is beyond me, but Dr. King did it. His efforts to demand equality without creating a blood bath did not go unnoticed by the world community. Unlike Ghandi, who King based his teachings on, King was honored by the Nobel committee. Dr. King was held up to the world as the example for how to achieve a goal without resorting to violence.

The excellent documentary, “Eyes On The Prize”, details the civil rights movement from 1954 through the mid 1980’s. I highly recommend watching it. There is nothing like actual footage taken from the time and place to give one a sense of what the black community was put through. Watching children bravely walking through throngs of hate-filled racists to attend school is something that should be part of every school’s curriculum. Those that have their panties in a bundle about the possibility of Critical Race Theory being taught in schools should be exposed to the footage non-stop like Malcolm McDowell in “A Clockwork Orange” until they get it. It might take some people a long time to get it, but it will be worth the effort if we can get some of these white supremacists to see the light, or at least admit that there is one at the end of the tunnel.

Speaking of the people unaffected by Dr. King’s message, I’m still amazed at how bold and upfront these people are. I guess generations of prosecutorial immunity have emboldened this generation of haters to move beyond their forebears. Where Dr. King and his 200,000 followers could have easily taken the Capitol on that day in August of 1963, they didn’t. Didn’t even try. They were there to make their grievances known peacefully. As a bit of serendipity, they got to listen to the greatest speech Dr. King ever gave, his “I Have A Dream” speech. Contrast that with the January 6th insurrection and you get a sense of the quality of the men running both movements. One leader would not use violence in the pursuit of his goals. The other would use his minions to attack the police and anyone else who stood in the way of his attempted coup.

Speaking of the attempted coup, please watch “Four Hours At The Capitol”. Contrast the actions of the crowds trying to overturn the election and think about what a difference a responsible leader makes to the actions of his crowd. Dr. Martin Luther King was a true leader. He talked the talk and he walked the walk. He led by example and the world is a better place because he walked among us. He was taken far too soon.

The Season of Giving

According to Forbes magazine, the 400 richest families in America have now accumulated $4.5 trillion in wealth, a 40% rise over last year, and growing. Sadly their charitable contributions are not keeping up with their windfalls. “The number of Forbes 400 members who gave away more than 20% of their net worth since last year’s list dropped from ten to eight, while those who gave away less than 1% of their wealth rose from 127 to 156.

Business Insider reports that “the wealthiest 10% of Americans hold more than 89% of all available equity in corporations and mutual fund shares (with just the top 1% controlling more than twice as much equity as the bottom 50% of all Americans combined)”

Forbes also reports that “the top one percent alone holds more wealth than the middle class. They owned 30.4 percent—or over $34.2 trillion—of household wealth in 2021 while the bottom half of the population owned just $2.1 trillion.”

An observation can be made that investments made by the 400 families have created thousands of jobs, it’s just that those jobs are located in China, India and Malaysia. Where would China be without the Walton family (WalMart)? Even Warren Buffet, who admits that he has a lower tax-effective rate than his secretary, has invested heavily in the next generation of autos being produced in China, not the U.S.

The economies of China, India, South Korea and Singapore have all benefited from investment from American firms such as Apple, Cisco, HP, Google and Microsoft. Sadly foreign investment has created a double edged problem. In addition to the loss of American jobs to foreign workers, the multi-national companies take advantage of lower tax rates in foreign countries to avoid paying taxes in the U.S. Taxes that the U.S. desperately needs.

Microsoft had 138.5 billion dollars in profits in foreign banks in 2017, second only to Apple. The dilemma for Microsoft and others is how to get the money into U.S. banks without paying the 35% tax rate owed on the earnings. Ironically, Bill Gates Sr., father of Bill Gates, is on record as saying that he thinks the rich don’t pay enough taxes. Honor your daddy’s memory, Bill.

It is estimated that U.S. based multi-nationals have at least 2.6 trillion in profits sitting in foreign banks. The 664.9 billion brought home in 2018 through a reduced rate of tax percentage is a good start. Sadly, 15% is not the 35% that these multinational corporations should be paying. 

The taxes due to the U.S. government could fund a lot of education, re-training and investment opportunities for U.S. citizens. For those who are not proponents of reinvesting in America, the repatriated profits could be used to pay down the national debt. This flight of capital to other countries, plus the unwillingness to pay taxes due on the profits, strikes me as the height of arrogance and extraordinarily unpatriotic.

The “tax holiday” being offered to these corporations to bring home their profits at a tax rate of 15.5% clearly is a huge benefit to the “400”.

Who are these fortunate few? Are these 400 families, the “job creators” we keep hearing about? The sad truth is that many of the 400 are not actively involved in the businesses that brought them wealth. According to the Business News Daily, “over 1/3 of the 50 wealthiest billionaire families grew up in substantial privilege.” The rich get richer, we used to say.

Many of the 50 wealthiest are 5th and 6th generations of inheritance. The concept of working for a living is alien to them; they were born wealthy. They don’t build new businesses, invest in factories or develop creative new ideas. Instead, they invest in money managers, lawyers, and lobbyists. They invest in people who influence our representatives to give them a bigger share of the American dream. They invest in PR firms to re-label the inheritance tax as the “death tax”, they invest in spinmeisters that lead us all to believe that some day when we hit the lottery, we’ll want their rules in place for ourselves.

Everyone talks about “the good old days”. I grew up in the 1950s. Back in the “good old days”, the highest marginal tax rate for individuals peaked at 92% in 1952 and 1953. The Golden Era of American Capitalism occurred during the time when America taxed the rich at the highest rate.

A “good old days” phrase I remember is, “A peacock who sits on his tail is just another turkey.” Maybe high tax rates for the wealthy are what’s needed to get the peacocks off their tails.

Ignorance Is Not A Virtue

I’ve been reflecting on a couple of comments made to my Facebook page regarding a post I did on the Kyle Rittenhouse affair and the Good Samaratin’s intentions. You remember the young fellow who crossed state lines while illegally possessing a military weapon to “render aid”. One commenter writes, “You’re a sick individual. And so is the person who laughed in the comments.Hmmmmm.

As a writer one expects to sometimes tickle the emotions of a reader, but I take exception to the notion that suggesting that Kyle should have just stayed home as a determiner of my sanity. Doing a deep dive into my psyche I tried to ascertain why two “nice people” could come to such divergent conclusions based off of the same body of evidence. For some reason President Obama’s phrase, “Ignorance is not a virtue” popped into my head. I think it was the most “true” statement I’ve ever heard.

President Obama was delivering the commencement speech at Rutgers University when he informed the audience that, “Ignorance is not a virtue”. It was delivered in the perfect context, in the perfect setting. As for the setting, the President was in the heart of Trump country. As to the context, the President went on to explain that not knowing what you were talking about was not an excuse for raising your voice and presenting your point again and again and again.

The President told the twelve thousand newly minted graduates, “In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue,”  “It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about. And yet we’ve become confused about this.”

I can certainly see where a lot of folks would consider having the phrase tattooed on their body in their favorite font. I might do it myself. It would be more relevant in our day to day lives than a quote from Khalil Gibran. Just have “Ignorance Is Not A Virtue” tattooed on the inside of your left arm, if the space is still available. That way you can look down at your arm when you feel like you’re about to comment on something that you have no knowledge of, like global warming, or what the Federal Reserve does.

Of course, if you have been imbued by your Creator with infinite knowledge, like The MAGAts, it probably won’t make much difference. The phrase assumes a certain self awareness that megalomaniacs like the Donald and his minions don’t possess. “Seldom right but never in doubt”, is how we refer to folks whose super egos were never developed. To that end, I’d like to offer up the Donald’s brain for scientific study to see if part of his issues are organic, or if they all stem from his upbringing. I realize the challenge will be getting to the brain through the impenetrable helmet of orange “hair” that surrounds the cranium, but science needs to be served. We need to develop a vaccine if the cause of the Donald’s wrongheadedness is organic. Billions of lives hang in the balance.

Ok, I’m having a little fun with the disgraced, former, twice-impeached ex-President’s ability to appeal to the lowest, basest emotions in his followers and have them ignore all evidence contrary to his words. I am awestruck that his minions can promote an idea as far-fetched as “Jewish Space Lasers” starting the wildfires out west, or that millions of fake ballots shipped in from China changed the results of the election. The fact that he can continue to spew his drivel and have millions suck it up like it was Gospel confounds me.

I’m reminded of the old joke about a fellow that was caught cheating by his wife in their own bed. The husband repeatedly tells the wife that she is dreaming while the paramour gathers up her things and hustles out of the room. The wife will not be dissuaded. Finally the husbands yells in outrageous indignation, “Who are you going to believe, me, or your lying eyes?”

I feel like the people that watched the Rittenhouse trial and ignored his assertions that he was an “EMT”, that watched him lone wolf his way into a potentially hostile environment away from the area he was supposedly securing and secure in, his ignoring one of the rules of self-defense, “avoidance” and then chose to kill rather than run are allowing the likes of Tucker Carlson to do their thinking for them. So who are you going to believe, Tucker or you’re lying eyes?

My dear granny Waller used to say, “Ignorance is its own reward”, which is kind of a corollary of “Ignorance is bliss”. She used to say it about people who purposefully stayed ignorant of situations that it benefited them to be ignorant about. Situations like cheating spouses, or a work practice that was harming their employees. I prefer President Obama’s phrase. It encourages me to learn and to not accept ignorance as an excuse. Most importantly, it encourages me to not spread my ignorance to others.