Thoughts on poverty and homelessness in the U.S.A.

Posts tagged ‘Dennis Kucinich’

The rich have the means to get mean and meaner… “the Rich are Getting Mean” revisited

I’d written in the past about a poor, struggling man I’d met in a city building. Both of us were there to resolve tickets we’d received by law enforcement, essentially, for being poor. What I mean is, it’s a crime in the US to be poor. Poor people seem to acquire all sorts of legal problems. In Southern California, for example, jaywalking is a serious crime. Mostly only poor people walk over there, of course. And if you can’t afford to pay the jaywalking ticket…well, you can end up in the slammer. Yep, people go to jail for crossing the street in California. I kid you not! A person’s entire life can be ruined by a single act of crossing a street when the walk signal (light flashes an image of a little androgynous human) stops flashing.

http://www.thestreetspirit.org/Dec2006/criminal.htm

But I told myself this blog would be extremely short. So here goes: My little experiment in writing more frequently but shortening the size of each entry…

This poor unfortunate man I’d met had serious health problems and was collecting disability. He was suffering quite a bit and struggling to pay his medical bills. “The rich are getting mean,” he lamented as we’d gotten into a discussion about the social injustice of our needing to constantly defend ourselves legally. (It’s as though we have to defend our very existence. Do the rich want us dead? Why do they hate us so much?) There’s always some ticket to pay, some ordinance or law to be violated, when you’re poor.  My car was ticketed and I had to go to court to defend myself for driving such an old, beat up used car. So I dropped my car off to a junkyard and proceeded to watch my life fall apart, as it was nearly impossible to find a decent job without a car. When I went to court, I had to show proof that I’d given up my car. I wanted to say, “I’m sorry I’d been driving such a stinky car and that it was polluting your fine California air. But I’d drive a much nicer and less stinky car if I could afford it. Really, I would.” But instead, I showed them the proof that I was carless and then began risking getting mugged by taking Southern California’s wonderful and exciting (nearly was assaulted several times!) “public” transportation system. Once I no longer had a car, I found that opportunities diminished for me in so many ways. People looked down on me because they saw me–horror of horrors!–walking in LA.  Basically, a lot of people didn’t want to be my friend. I couldn’t socialize with them anymore as I had no way of getting to the places where they went. (Unless, of course, a friend offered to give me a ride, but that would mean giving, helping, assisting another human being. But, of course, that would involve socialism and most of my friends were against socialism, so they wouldn’t dare help me in any way. I’m very grateful for that, though, because it gave me a chance to see what kind of people they really were. You don’t always get that chance when you have a lot of money and your life is going well.) And, as I said, job opportunities were very limited for me once I had no transportation. Most available jobs these days are not on the bus line and as public transportation increasing gets cut, that problem is increasing. (Hmm… so I wonder how it benefits society to force poor people to give up their cars when their cars don’t meet the strict environmental inspection standards set up by wealthy bureaucrats? But then I’m always wondering how it benefits society to allow the government and big banks to take away people’s homes just because people can’t afford to pay their bills. Yes, people should pay their bills but…do we really want to take away people’s homes and create a new population of homeless people?)

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/fr/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice.html

(Okay, I’ve tried to embed the above video of Bryan Stevenson’s talk, but, for some strange reason, it won’t embed on this site. Every time I type in the code, it disappears once I save this blog. Yep, I type it in, hit “save” then open up the blog and everything I typed is gone.  This happened with my previous blog entry also. As you can see, though, the other videos embedded just fine.  Not sure what’s going on here.  A virus on my computer perhaps? A glitch on WordPress? Perhaps it’s the NSA virus? Anyhow, it’s odd. But I’ve got the URL typed up there, so if you’d like to view this wonderful video about poverty and crime, please click on that link.)

But this doesn’t affect the rich or even much of the middle class, so why do I even bring this up?  Yes, the rich are getting  mean, but so, oddly enough, are the middle class. They may not be the so-called “one percent” but they sure do think they’re better when they live in their gated communities far, far away from the riff raff, i.e., the poor.

And yet, perhaps ironically, the word “mean” as a noun refers to money, property or wealth. Yes, the rich have the means to be mean.

( Above video is from youtube.com/user/KafkaWinstonWorld )

So here it is–my first blog of the year!  And an attempt to make it a short blog entry.  Okay, I didn’t do as well on that as I’d hoped, but I’m getting there…  😉

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/149094/february-11-2008/philip-zimbardo

 

What part of freedom do you not understand?

What part of freedom do you not understand?

What part of freedom do you not understand?

So shouted Rush Limbaugh repeatedly into my ear one morning after I’d accidentally fallen asleep…leaving the radio on–a dangerous thing to do these days.

And it started me thinking.  Rush Limbaugh believes (or wants us to believe) that he’s advocating for freedom?  Whose freedom?  His own, I suppose.

Freedom is a concept I’ve always been attracted to.  Since childhood, I’ve always longed to be free, free from my highly dysfunctional family, the gangs of kids who attacked me on my way to and from school, my painful childhood, the poor city I grew up in, the working-class, blue collar prison that says, “You must be a working class hero.  Work shall set you free.  Just work.  Work, work, work.”

Then one day, you’ll wake up and realize that even though you’ve worked hard your entire life you still have nothing.  Nothing.  No matter how frugal you are, no matter how many necessities and desires you do without, no matter how hard you struggle and deprive yourself, you still can’t get any money saved up.  Any money you deposit in your bank account (if you can afford a bank account, that is) is just money you are keeping for withdrawal at the end of the month when you pay your bills.  There’s no vacation this year.  Nor the next.  Nor the next.  Not ever.  Until the day comes when you’re finally allowed to rest peacefully, and that will be a permanent vacation.  They say there’s no rest for the wicked.  But these days, I think that the opposite is true.  There is no rest for those of us who have good intentions, who want the world to be a better place, who are just trying to survive and live peaceably in this troubled world.  This is a world that supports and condones and rewards the wicked, the violent, and the mean-spirited, while it penalizes those of us who want things to be better.  Because, as we all know, making the world a better place means “socialism.”

And we can’t have that.

So let’s just get rid of those pesky public libraries, public schools, fire departments, police departments, hospitals, clinics, parks, and anything else we can think of that constitutes “socialism.”  I’m watching, sadly, libraries and public schools close down in my city.  Do you see this happening in your neighborhood?  I guess that would depend on whether you live in an affluent suburb or a poor, inner-city area.  You can guess which of the two would best describe my neighborhood.

We don’t need to pay taxes or to do anything collectively.  The heck with other people.  We’re all rugged individualists now.  So, everybody, just take a good look at yourself in the mirror and thank yourself.  Thank yourself for being you, and tell yourself you love you.  Feel good about yourself, take really good care of your health, and be the best you can be.  Because remember, in the USA, you are all you have.  If you lose your house, your car, your job, your mind, your spirit, your self esteem, (whatever!), you’d better just be ready to help yourself, pick yourself up by your bootstraps.  Don’t you dare ask anyone else for help.  Don’t even think about it.  We’re not all in this together.  We’re all in this alone, but together reluctantly.  The idea is to be alone, be very alone.  Suck it up and pick it up with those fraying bootstraps you inherited from your parents.  Since you won’t be able to collect social security when you grow older, I’m sure your parents will be ready and willing to provide for you in your old age too–unless they die by then.

Well, who needs a place to live and three meals a day anyway?  Did you know that eating is overrated?  There’s actually an obesity problem in this country.  People are just eating way too much.  So stop feeling sorry for yourself, and just be grateful that you won’t have an obesity problem because you can’t afford to eat enough to get fat.  Besides, if you read about Nazi Germany you’ll discover that many people went without eating, even suffered from malnutrition during Hitler’s reign.  Yet everything seems to be okay in Germany now.  So stop complaining.  Stop whining.  What’s a little poverty?  Builds character!

But I digress.

What I really wanted to post about on this blog was freedom.  The Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Republic-con, Tea Party versions–as well as some other notions of freedom–truly are intriguing.

For example,

Some people want to be free to speak their minds, even if what they have to say is in disagreement with those who possess great amounts of money and power.  They want to have the freedom to express ideas and opinions that other people just don’t like.

Other people want to have the freedom to oversee that speech, to prevent those people from saying things they think are offensive or harmful to others, or to themselves perhaps.  They want to control what is said or not said, to screen speech in all its forms–television, radio, film, poetry or novels.  To decide whose music is played on the radio, which actors will be cast on TV or film productions, which directors, producers, news anchors or writers will be allowed to participate in the process of disseminating information.  They see themselves as keeping the world in order and preventing chaos.  After all, allowing other people to be free to just say whatever they want can be dangerous, right?  Of course, these people who decide what speech is okay and what is not okay are human beings who can make mistakes or who can be corrupted by bribery or manipulation.  But what can you do?  Someone has to watch people and make sure they’re not saying things other people don’t want to hear, right?

Some people want to be free to walk down the street or drive their cars or hop on a bus or a plane or a train and travel.  They want the freedom to travel, to move around, to live or to visit anywhere they’d like.  (Of course, these same people will want to speak their minds anywhere they go too.   They just want it all, don’t they?)

Other people are concerned that strangers walking or driving down their streets might do them harm and would like to have the freedom to stop them.  They’d like the police to stop innocent, law-abiding citizens and just search them, search their cars, search their possessions, check their identity cards.  Are they US citizens?  What if they’re here illegally?  What if they intend to cause trouble in our neighborhood?  Who are these people?  I don’t recognize them.  Maybe they’re good people.  Maybe they’re not such good people.  I don’t know.  But if we stop them when we notice they seem different in some way, perhaps dressed differently, in possession of a different skin color from the type we normally see in this part of town, or maybe they speak funny, if we stop them and search through all their belongings we can determine whether they mean us any harm.  Or not.  (This is, of course, a violation of the 4th Amendment law that used to be in force here in the US.  The 4th Amendment was a law that stated that people could not be searched and that their belongings could not be searched or seized, unless it was known beyond a doubt that they were guilty of something.  A police officer would need to be ready to swear before a judge that he/she knew this person was guilty of something before the officer could search or seize the person or person’s property.  Of course, that law no longer exists in the US and for “good” reason.  We are in so much danger!  There are just so many people attempting to exercise freedoms.  These people need to be stopped, controlled, screened.  The authorities want to have the freedom to do exactly that.  But if they have the freedom to limit other people’s freedom…then other people lose some of their freedom… Oh dear, this does get confusing.

Corporations want to have the freedom to maximize their profits, even if that means laying off American workers and outsourcing labor to third-world countries, exploiting their employees and shortening their lifespans by practically working them to death, paying them tiny wages yet raising the prices of the goods produced and further cheating their customers by overcharging them for goods and services they’ve produced cheaply.  Corporations want to be able to dump toxic waste into our environment and to save money by not implementing safety measures that would protect our environment (as well as protect their workers) from harm.

Corporations want a free marketplace but only for themselves.  You as an individual are not free to stand on a public sidewalk and sell your handmade candles.  You’ll get a ticket, perhaps even arrested, for trying.  Yet a large corporation can dump toxins into our environment.  Are the CEOs arrested?  Jailed?  Do we see articles in the paper (or on the Internet) about CEOs going to prison for cheating consumers, their employees and the environment?

Yet we, the people, want to have the freedom to earn a decent livelihood, to provide for our families, heck, to have families of our own.  We’d like to live full lives and not have our lives cut short because our bosses overwork, underpay and uninsure us.  We’d like to pay the price that products are worth, no more (and certainly not ten times more.)  We’d like to buy products that last, not that are made to break.  We’d like the trees and the birds and, yes, the bees to still be around for our grandchildren.  We’d like for them to have the freedom to walk down a street, breathe fresh air and hear birds sing.  But what we want to be free to do impedes what large corporations want the freedom to do.  And, remember, they’re people too.  Under the law, at least.

Hmm… how do we resolve such conflict?  Seems that what some people want to be free to do conflicts with what others want the freedom to do…

I guess that’s the part of freedom that I don’t understand, Mr. Limbaugh.  Why am I not free to go on national radio and express my opinions about how I think things should be?  Why do you have that right and I do not?  Can you explain that, fat boy?  Because, believe me, I have a lot to say and I’m very articulate.  I may not be as fat as you, Limby, but my lungs haven’t been completely destroyed from breathing in the pollution, asbestos, lead and whatever else infests the poor buildings I’ve had to live in over the past few years, thanks to Republican policy.  I can speak.  And even if you and your cronies try to shut me up, I’ll always be here speaking–in the form and shape of someone else perhaps, but I’ll be here.  Ideas are bulletproof, Limbaugh.  Disenfranchise and discredit me, make it impossible for me to earn a living, or shoot me, if you will, but someone else will come along, someone louder and stronger than I am.  The more you try to shut us up and shut us down, the greater our numbers will grow, the stronger and louder we’ll sound.

You assassinated Kennedy, King, and I believe many other civil rights activists whose deaths were ruled as suicides.  But you can’t assassinate all of us.  And every time you kill one of our heroes, our anger silently grows.  And our mistrust of your system increases.  More and more of us are seeing the truth.  This is not a democracy.

Go ahead, destroy more of our heroes.  It only makes more of us wake up to see you for what you really are.   We’re starting to see your weaknesses too.  You’re bullies–like the kids in the schoolyard who tried to make the rest of us afraid of them except now we’ve grown. Now we realize that it is you who are afraid.  You want us to be fearful all the time because that is how you feel deep, down inside.  And the only way you can stop us from ganging up on you and stopping you is by convincing us that you are invincible and we should be afraid of you.  Well, guess what?  The emperor’s naked.  You are a tiny minority of wealthy, fat, spoiled, lethargic, white males.  We the people do most of the work, so we are strong.  We are powerful.  You need us to get the work done.  You need us to buy your poorly made products.   You need us to be afraid, so afraid of losing our jobs, of not having enough money, of not being able to survive in this world, that we’ll just go along with all your demands, that we’ll just do whatever you tell us to do.

Well, I for one am saying enough.  You can kill me, you can refuse to hire me, and I’ll become homeless and languish on the street or in some homeless shelter.  Maybe I’ll get raped and murdered in the street.  Maybe no one will remember me or want to know me.  Maybe I’ll be shunned and mocked by society, a “crazy” political activist, a “crazy” conspiracy theorist.  Maybe I’ll die painfully and very much alone.  But you still don’t have me.  I’ll never be one of you.  You’re not going to convince me to go along with your plans.

I refuse to work for the collections agencies or the homeland security offices.  I refuse to go along with corrupt corporate policy.  I’ll do my best to survive in spite of my refusal to go along with your wicked plans for this country.  But if I don’t survive, if I die of starvation or being beaten by your police officers for expressing an opinion you don’t like, then so be it.  I will speak to the Higher Power, the force of good which some people refer to as God.  I am accountable to my own conscience, to my own sense of self-respect.  I am not accountable to you.

Thanks really.  Thanks for destroying my country.  Thanks for destroying my life.  Because before I began suffering like this I didn’t know I had this strength within me.  I didn’t know my character was this strong.  As a child, I read a lot about the Holocaust.  The Nazi’s stranglehold over people’s minds really fascinated me.  I wondered, if I were a German alive during the Nazi occupation would I have gone along with Hitler?  Would I too have become a Nazi?  To have allowed myself to be filled with such murderous hate?

I am relieved to know that, as much as I struggle now, I have, at least, not become one of you.  I am not a courageous person.  I don’t think of myself as very strong.  But I am true to myself.  My inner spirit shall not be broken.  You can damage my mind, place me in solitary confinement, torture me at Guantanamo–God knows, you can do that!  You can beat my body and mind into submission.  But my spirit will remain alive.  You may not see it because you are not very intelligent in that way.  You lack a spiritual and moral compass.  You think that is your strength, but it is actually your weakness.  The money and power you wield (and that you value so much) will not last.  Hitler was defeated.  You will die too, one day.  But my spirit remains eternal because it doesn’t end with me.  The spirit of freedom, true freedom, love, kindness and respect for our fellow human beings; the spirit behind the desire for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” (as inalienable rights, not just for me or for you but for everyone, everywhere!) will never die in spite of your futile attempts to assassinate it by exterminating a mere human being who is only a channel, temporarily carrying that spirit until someone else’s turn comes along.

And I guess that’s why you’re fighting so hard now, to take away our civil liberties, to shut us up, to kill or imprison our heroes, because you know that you’re going to lose, eventually, to death–the master of us all.  Your attacks on “we the people,” are just attempts at postponing the inevitable.  And when you die, you’ll be replaced with new, young leaders who will not (if they want to survive) support your diabolical, malicious policies.  How do I know this?  Because your system is not sustainable.  Even evil-hearted men and women cannot support such an unsustainable system forever.  Eventually, you will destroy and demoralize this country completely and people will be unable to live in this society.  Their only choices will be to leave or to create substantial change.  Change will have to happen.  It is inevitable (sort of like death and taxes–the Tea Partiers not withstanding.)  You will die, as we all will, and you will be replaced.  And the new leaders who replace you, if they choose to continue your unsustainable policies, will destroy the entire world and then nothing will be left.  Either way, you and your corrupt policies will die.

But the force of good will continue to thrive somewhere else.  In another country, another land, or perhaps another spiritual realm, it will continue because the force of goodwill reigns eternal.  Opposing forces are just like waves in the ocean, sent to make the water move and grow.  But it’s the water, not the waves, that makes the ocean.

Petition to tax the rich…

A grassroots organization called MoveOn(dot)org asked people to write their own petitions they’d like to see sent to politicians.  Here is my own:

Petition:
We need to put a cap on extreme wealth in this country.  Extreme wealth leads to extreme poverty.  An analysis of the richest people in the world reveals that most come from wealthy families to begin with (they did not go from “rags to riches”) and most hail from countries that have a large division between the rich and the poor.  In fact, the richest man in the world (according to Forbes Magazine) hails from Mexico, a country that claims over a 50% poverty rate.  So we need to curtail the widening gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S. now!  With 1/8th of Americans collecting food stamps, we cannot afford to allow the poor to continue to grow poorer while the rich grow richer.  This rapid increase in poverty is causing too many problems in our society.

We keep hearing that there isn’t enough money to provide social security for the elderly (who already struggle financially with the few benefits they currently receive), health care for the uninsured, financial aid for needy students, unemployment benefits for the unemployed, etc., and we’re seeing libraries, schools, police and fire departments, etc., shutting down!  What’s worse is that we have hunger and homelessness and people who are dying prematurely because they can’t afford the health care they need.  We believe it is irresponsible of our current government to not provide health care for everyone as this can lead to the spread of disease.  This is not the Middle Ages.  We do not want a plague to result from millions of uninsured Americans unable to receive medical care.  This is unacceptable.

Despite the fact that the rich are getting richer–or perhaps because of that fact–we are unable to take care of our own people yet we are constantly called upon to help other people–the victims in Japan or in Haiti, for example, while we did not help our own people who suffered from Hurricane Katrina.  This is an outrage that we the American people refuse to allow to continue.

Therefore, we demand that the rich begin paying taxes at much higher levels, as they once were taxed back in the 1950s, a time when our country was much more prosperous and when even the poor and newly-arrived immigrants held some hope of achieving success someday.

We insist that the U.S.A. return to the wealthy, prosperous, democratic, land of opportunity that it once was.

We need to stop the attacks on the poor and the middle class, coinciding with the attacks on our freedom and democracy.  The way to do this is to limit extreme wealth.  Money is power, so when we allow a minority of people to accumulate extreme wealth, we allow them to buy our politicians, our media, our schools, the companies we work for, the land we live on, and, essentially, our entire lives.  In fact, the wealthy elite have taken over our entire country.

Therefore, given that:
most wealth in the U.S. is inherited wealth–not wealth that was earned through the hard work and diligence of one person–but wealth that was built upon the foundation of one’s parents’ wealth and prosperity, and

that back in 1950, when our middle class was more prosperous, those who earned over $200,000 per year paid 91% of their earnings in taxes, and

that Reaganomics (“trickle-down economics”) has led the U.S. to now have the greatest division between the rich and the poor of any other wealthy, industrialized nation in the world, and

that this has resulted in our loss of civil liberties and democracy and all of the early warning signs of fascism fulfilled, and

that this has led us to become the nation that now imprisons more of its own people than any other nation in the world (and most of those imprisoned are the poor), and

that the U.S. government has determined that $7.25 per hour (and 40 hours of work per week, adding up to $290 per week and a whopping $15,080 per year!) is all a single person needs to be living above the poverty line in the U.S.,

we need to tax the rich at the equivalent of 1950s tax rates.

Income levels were different back in 1950 when those who earned over $200,000 paid 91% in taxes.  $200,000 is a very different figure today in 2011, so we propose the following which we believe to be fair (keeping in mind that, again, according to the U.S. government’s own standards, a person earning over $16,000 per year is living  above the poverty line and, therefore, not poor).

And so, we, the non-wealthy majority of Americans, propose:

that those who earn $1 million or more be taxed at the rate of only 60% (leaving them an income of $400,000 per year.  This is much, much more than what the average American earns in a year and about 25 times over the poverty line.  This is also a lower tax rate than they paid back in 1950);

that those who earn $2 million per year begin paying 70% of their taxes (leaving them with $600,000);

those who earn $5 million begin paying 80% in taxes (leaving them an earnings of $1 million per year);

those who earn $15 million begin paying 85% (leaving them with $2.25 million per year);

those who earn $50 million or more begin paying 90% (leaving them with $5 million per year);

those who earn $100 million begin paying 91% (leaving them with $8.1 million);

those who earn $1 billion begin paying 95% (leaving them with with $50 million per year in earnings.)

Since it is the wealthy elite themselves who frequently insist that the U.S. is the land of opportunity where anyone can strike it rich and move up the ladder, we understand that the rich will find a way to continue moving up that ladder despite these higher taxes.  In fact, raising taxes on the rich will provide the rich with the incentive to work harder to work up that ladder!  We don’t want them to become lazy; we want them to understand the value of hard work.

The wealthy elite have made it clear over and over again that they are capable of picking themselves up by their bootstraps and can overcome any obstacle to obtain wealth.  This is their chance to prove that point.

The wealthy elite believe that those of us who are homeless or living in poverty are capable of working our way out of poverty and picking ourselves up by our bootstraps, but we need the wealthy elite to show us how it is done.  Here is their opportunity to work their way out of mere wealth and back up to the extreme, mega-wealth they achieved as a result of Reagan&Bushanomics.

This is a challenge to the wealthy in the U.S.!  We know you can do it!  You can pay 95% of your income in taxes and still pick yourselves up by those bootstraps and accumulate even more wealth.  We have faith in you.  We know you can still earn millions–even billions–of unneeded dollars each year in spite of our raising taxes on you.  We know you’re up for the challenge.

We also know how much you want to give back to society and to pull us out of this recession.  This tax increase is very modest compared to the levels of 1950.  It enables the very rich to remain very rich but limits the amount of wealth they can keep out of circulation.  When the wealthy hoard the wealth, they keep money in bank accounts or investments.  The money doesn’t circulate, doesn’t give back to our communities.  However, when the poor and middle class earn money, they tend to spend it on necessities, so their money circulates and feeds our economy.

I requested this petition be sent to Obama, Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders in Congress (don’t know if it was.)

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