Nel's New Day

August 14, 2016

Fundamentalism: Christianity = Capitalism

Jimmy Carter was the choice of evangelicals 40 years ago. It was a natural fit: he was a Southern Baptist who taught Sunday School, and Christians hoped for a theocracy. Four years later, they switched their allegiance to Ronald Reagan because Carter had weakly supported abortion and women’s rights. Four presidents after Reagan, evangelicals are supporting a twice-divorced casino owner who displays a woeful ignorance of the Bible and differed with almost all the evangelical positions until a recent, unconvincing conversion.

The question is why all those white Christian evangelicals are supporting Donald Trump by 49 percentage points—down from 60 points less than a month ago. One theory is that evangelicals like Trump’s authoritarian approach. Trump has strong similarities to the fundamentalist god—driven by whim and demanding loyalty, punishing those who stray from the pack. An important piece of Trump’s far-right following is his seeming ability to accumulate wealth—the “spirit of capitalism.”

In the early 20th century, Max Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” explained how the Puritans’ promotion of self-flagellation through constant inward interrogation replaced the European rites of penance and forgiveness inculcated by the Catholic Church. From Puritanism came Calvin’s emphasis on business productivity—a “prosperity gospel.”

The end of state-established churches in 1820, vast resources in the New World,  and the rapid Westward expansion replaced the glumness of Calvinism with a “market revolution” supported by the rise of money-minded faiths such as the entrepreneurial Mormonism. The Pentecostal tent revival meetings of the early 20th century led to famous televangelists such as Jerry Falwell who went on to found what is now Liberty University almost 50 years ago and the wealth-worshipping of Norman Vincent Peale and megachurch pastor Joel Osteen. .

The early American work ethic, admiring purposeful work, disappeared as the new evangelicals worshipped the accumulation of wealth. Osteen preaches the value of capitalist heroes and calls Trump “an incredible communicator,” “a friend of our ministry,” and “a good man.”

Religious leaders didn’t develop their obsession with becoming rich on their own. Industrialists and business lobbies, distressed by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s determination to help the poor through regulations, recruited and funded fundamentalist pastors in the 1930s and 1940s to preach “faith, freedom and free enterprise,” as Kevin Kruse describes in One Nation under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. The corporate rationale for the religious leaders was that Christianity and capitalism are the same: if you’re good you succeed and if you’re bad you fail. Kruse said:

“The New Deal, [corporations] argue, violates this natural order. In fact, they argue that the New Deal and the regulatory state violate the Ten Commandments. It makes a false idol of the federal government and encourages Americans to worship it rather than the Almighty. It encourages Americans to covet what the wealthy have; it encourages them to steal from the wealthy in the forms of taxation; and, most importantly, it bears false witness against the wealthy by telling lies about them. So they argue that the New Deal is not a manifestation of God’s will, but rather, a form of pagan stateism and is inherently sinful.”

The corporate campaign to use religion for its own ends largely succeeded with the election of Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. He put a Christian god put on U.S. currency and into the once-secular Pledge of Allegiance. After the election of progressive Democrats in the 1960s, business knew it needed to more heavily involve fundamentalist churches in politics, and Ronald Reagan was their success story. Once elected, he incorporated the term “God bless America” into all his speeches—the first time that this had happened except for Richard Nixon using the phrase once after the Watergate scandal.

Although he voiced acceptance of all religions, George W. Bush extended the policy of bringing Christianity into the federal government. His presidency was a time when religious groups received tax money, and Bush focused on faith-based governance while increased the coffers of the wealthy by reducing their taxes. During President Obama’s terms, many states became increasingly conservative, pushing punitive laws on issues such as women’s and LGBT rights. Recently the courts have started controlling unconstitutional laws, but the next election will determine the direction of the United States, either toward more a secular or a more religious government, returning to Victorian times.

Trump Watch: Today may be Sunday, but Donald Trump never stops sending his outrageous tweets. He’s gone from blaming “rigged” elections for his drop in the polls to raging against what he calls the “disgusting” media after an article in The New York Times displeased him. The day after the RNC agreed to work with Trump’s campaign in Florida, he issued a number of tweets targeting the newspaper before expanding his vitriol to indicting media in general. Now he claims that the media is protecting Hillary Clinton:

“I am not only fighting Crooked Hillary, I am fighting the dishonest and corrupt media and her government protection process. People get it!”

The NYT article cites anonymous Republicans describing the presidential candidate as “exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process.” He also may “be beyond coaching,” according to some of his advisors. Trump tweeted that he won’t be changing: “I am who I am.” Instead of campaigning today, Trump and his team tried to get people to cancel their subscription to the NYT. 

The RNC may publicly support their presidential candidate, but top party officials are privately feeding donors and journalists the position that Trump and his campaign are to blame for his slide in the polls. For example, Sean Spicer, the RNC’s top strategist, spoke to 14 political reporters about the many RNC resources deployed to swing states and the great strength of the GOP infrastructure.  He also said that RNC chair Reince Priebus calls Trump “five or six times a day” to coach the candidate. Spicer said that the deadline for supporting Trump is mid-October, but it could happen before that because early voting starts in September for some states. The RNC is holding off because it wants Trump to do more fundraising, but the RNC message to donors is to give the money to the RNC and not Trump.

While Trump now claims to have been sarcastic in his comment about President Obama being “founder of ISIS,” his vice-presidential candidate hasn’t heard that message. On Fox New Sunday, Pence said that Trump was being “serious” about the statement and “getting people’s attention.” At least Pence was right about the attention. The VP candidate also denied that the “sarcastic excuse” is “getting a bit old,” when host Chris Wallace asked him, because Trump “made his way through a very competitive primary.” Wallace finished the question by asking, “Are you the cleanup crew?”

Hillary Clinton has a projection of how many jobs she would bring to each state and how many jobs Trump would lose. In my state of Oregon, Clinton plus 130,364 jobs; Trump minus 42, 619 jobs. The differences in other states is far more staggering.

Trump says that he has no connection with Russia, but investigators have found the name of his campaign chair, Paul Manafort, along a record of $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments to him from Ukraine’s former president, pro-Russian Viktor F. Yanukovych, in an illegal off-the-books system.

Tomorrow? Donald Trump lays out his plans for working with Muslim allies in the Middle East to defeat ISIS. Hmmm.

 

November 16, 2014

Pope Francis Flips the Church’s Attitude

Who knew when a mild-manner cardinal from Argentina became the leader 1.2 billion and renamed himself Francis that he would throw his followers—and the conservatives in the United States—into such a turmoil?! His attacks on climate-change deniers, unfettered capitalism, and bigotry against LGBT people have become legendary. While committee Senate leaders such as James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) will take the country back to the 19th century in environment, public works, commerce, science, and transportation, the pope continues his speeches about how science, rational thought, and data are important parts of present and future human goals.

Last month, the pope said to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that the Catholic Church evolution and the Big Bang theory of the universe fit with biblical teachings. “God was [not] a magician, complete with an all-powerful magic wand.” At the same time, Congress will be controlled by people who link Darwinism with eternal damnation. Inhofe, who wrote The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, said:

“God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is, to me, outrageous.”

During the times of the Founding Fathers, people revered intellectual achievement. It was the Age of Enlightenment that used the scientific method of independent inquiry and the study of objective data to reach conclusions after repeated experiments that were carefully analyzed. Even presidents in the 20th century sought advice from people in the opposing parties. Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Vannevar Bush, an opponent of the New Deal, to head up of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, and Democrat Jerome Wiesner sat on the Science Advisory Committee to Dwight D. Eisenhower. The pope moves ahead; the Congress has gone into reverse.

Last week, the pope officially demoted Cardinal Raymond Burke, the U.S. cardinal who attacked Francis on his progressive expressions. In 2004, Burke said that voting for a pro-choice candidate is a “serious sin” and said last year the Church “can never talk enough” about the “massacre of the unborn.” After Francis said about gay priests, “who am I to judge?” Burke told said that homosexual acts are “always and everywhere wrong, evil.”

Pope Benedict XVI elevated Burke to the head of the Apostolic Signatura—the Vatican’s highest court. Benedict resigned, and Francis sent Burke to a ceremonial role as the Patron of the Order of the Knights of Malta. The tipping point leading to the reassignment may have been Burke’s participation with conservative bishops who protested the pope’s discussion of “family issues” such as homosexuality. In his attack, Burke said that the pope did “a lot of harm” and compared his leadership to “a ship without a rudder.” Last month, Burke called homosexuality “profoundly disordered and harmful” and told people that they should keep their children away from LGBT people and cut ties with LGBT relatives. This is the pope’s second demotion of Burke: in 2013, Burke was removed from the Congregation for Bishops.

Francis had already irritated cardinals by elevating many bishops from countries outside the West to cardinal. Before removing Burke, the pope replaced Cardinal Francis George, the conservative who compared organizers of the Chicago Pride Parade to the Ku Klux Klan, with moderate Bishop Blasé Cupich, who condemns anti-LGBT bullying and asked priests and seminarians not to pray in front of Planned Parenthood clinics as a protest.

The pope also diverges from U.S. conservatives in the excesses of capitalism. Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have both called him a Marxist, and other pundits have called him a Communist and Socialist. At the World Meeting of Popular Movements, a three day conference attended by farmers, fishermen, miners, and Argentine “cartoneros,” who sift through garbage for recyclable goods, Francis said:

“Let’s say together with our heart: no family without a roof, no peasant farmer without land, no worker without rights, no person without dignified labour!”

He explained this statement:

“Land, housing and work are increasingly unavailable to the majority of the world’s population. If I talk about this, some will think that the Pope is communist. They don’t understand that love for the poor is at the center of the Gospel. Demanding this isn’t unusual, it’s the social doctrine of the church.”

Ken Ham, infamous for his religious museum that puts humans and dinosaurs in the same time period, said, “Pope Francis has compromised biblical authority in favor of man’s ideas in the area of origins.” Ham was offended by the pope’s statements that “God is not afraid of new things.” This declaration fails to defer to the bible, according to Ham, which was literally written by God. Ham protested:

“If God and His Word are open to change, then God’s Word is not an authority on anything—man becomes the authority because he gets to decide when and how God’s Word applies.”

Ham asked his followers to pray for the pope. “I encourage you to pray that church leaders like these will realize that they are placing man’s opinions above God’s Word and that they will repent and trust God’s Word, beginning in Genesis.” Unfortunately for Ham, his god failed to translate his words into other languages; therefore his bible is written by human beings.

Conservatives such as Catholic John Ransom are going so far as to say the pope claimed that “God is not a divine being.” It’s another problem of mistranslating because the pope did not speak in English. Ransom’s column about the pope is titled “Can the pope shut up too?” which lacks a sense of reverence for his Church’s leader.

Creationist Ray Comfort didn’t attack the pope but approached the him in a patronizing manner. Comfort said that any self-described Christian might “think that they are siding with science, [but] they don’t realize that the theory has no scientific basis—that it’s unproven, and that it has to be received on blind faith.” People who believe in evolution “don’t believe in Jesus.”

It is possible that The pope’s comments could lead to a schism in the Catholic Church. Australian Cardinal George Pell wrote that Pope Francis was the 266th pope “and history has seen 37 false or antipopes.” The insinuation is that Francis may be the 38th, possibly sent by the devil.

Conservative American journalist Ross Douthat wrote that “[Conservative Catholics] might want to consider the possibility that they have a role to play, and that this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him.” He also argued that the pope is “stacking the synod’s ranks with supporters of a sweeping change”—as if this were unusual.

U.S. bishops may have decided their approach to Pope Francis last week at the annual General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Part of the business was to pick four representatives to send to the October 2015 synod on marriage and the family. The first synod on the subject was last month when the Vatican riled up conservatives by seeming to recognize loving and committed same-sex partnerships. Cardinals Timothy Dolan and Donald Wuerl will also attend the synod because they are the highest-ranking Catholic clergy in the country.

The highly conservative website, Breitbart.com, describes the selection as a “conservative ‘dream team.’ “  Those chosen were Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and Archbishop Jose Gomez. Alternates are Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Archibishop-designate Blasé Cupich. Of the six, only Cupich is moderate; the rest are solidly right-wing.  For example, Chaput argued against giving communion to Catholic politicians who support pro-choice and condemned Notre Dame for giving President Obama an honorary degree. Gomez is his protégé.

Times are going to be rocky for the Catholic Church, and this will reflect on the Church’s influence in the United States.

December 22, 2013

Battles in Holidays, Capitalism, LGBT Rights

Sometimes, religious news goes far beyond hypocrisy into just plain crazy. Here’s my top tale for the week.

One of the four Texas’s GOP gubernatorial candidates to replace Rick Perry is Larry Secede Kilgore, who changed his middle name because he wants the state to be an independent country. He wants LGBT voters to help him get elected. If he wins, he promises to step down for a year and then run for office again. His platform at that time would be to kill all homosexuals, just as the Bible says. What a campaign slogan! “Vote for me so I can kill you.”

Next to Texas is Oklahoma with its handsome tablet of the Ten Commandments in front of the capitol. The state promised that it would allow representations from other religions but reversed its positions after applications rolled in. The Satanic Temple started the requests, followed by a Hindu group (a monkey god), an animal welfare group (world peace), and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission voted to ban new monuments on statehouse grounds until it settles its separation of church and state court battle with the ACLU.

Cuddly-Flying-Spaghetti-Monster-via-Wikimedia-Commons

The Flying Spaghetti Monster has already joined the traditional holiday display at the Wisconsin State Capitol next to a “Festivus” pole and a “Winter Solstice Nativity” scene featuring Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Mark Twain. Freedom from Religion has posted this sign:

“Think this is ridiculous? We agree! Religious ideas should not be promoted within the halls of government. Protect the separation of church and state, it protects us all.”

Up in South Jersey, the religious battle is between a billboard reading “Keep the Saturn in Saturnalia” and a “Keep Christ in Christmas” banner hanging over the main street of Pitman. The traditional Christians decided that the best way to oppose the celebration of Rome’s precursor to Christmas, a Winter Solstice festival, was to burn it down.  An off-duty police officer saw two men in a pickup truck who succeeded only in “charring the sign’s steel support beams.” Another protester wants Christmas instead of “Obamass.” Later police sent a family on their way after they tried to cover the sign with a picture of Jesus.

saturnalia

Phoenix (AZ) has another warrior to preserve Christmas. A woman ringing bells for the Salvation Army in front of a Wal-Mart told a shopper “Happy Holidays.” A shopper asked her if she believed in God and then told her, “You’re supposed to say Merry Christmas.” Then the shopper punched the bellringer in the arm.

Sen. Marco Rubio is caught between a rock and a hard place after he pulled his nomination of William Thomas, a gay black judge, for the federal bench because of Tea Party protests. Members of Miami’s 93rd Street Baptist Church are now protesting the withdrawl of Thomas’ name for a U.S. district position.

Not satisfied with current translations of the bible, Andy Schlafly, the founder of conservapedia.com and son of Phyllis Schlafly, is ridding the sacred book of liberal verses. In soliciting the “best of the public” in proposing new wording for offending terminology, Schlafly has listed words that can be used in these revised verses such as capitalism, death penalty, anticompetitive, elitism, productivity, privatize, pro-life—even “a.m.” which supports the work ethic.  According to Schlafly, “accuracy” is a conservative term because “liberals are masters of deceit.”

Thus far, Schlafly has finished the New Testament and several of the Old Testament books. Some of their “revisions”:

Eliminations:  “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone” (John 7:53-8:11) and “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Changes: “Blessed are the meek” switches to “Blessed are the God-fearing.” And “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:24) replaces “rich” with “fully fed and entertained” or “idle miser.” Schlafly translates “Peace be with you” (John 20, 26) into “Peace of mind be with you.” Environmentalism takes a hit as the word “world” changes to “mankind” in “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but to save it” (John 3, 17). Because hypocrite is often “misused politically against Christians,” the word is changed to “deceiver” when Jesus admonishes hypocrites to “Cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”

Humorous alternatives: One suggestion is the rewrite, “It is easier for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than a poor camel driver.” Christians might accept this because of their recent love for capitalism. Gone is the idea of helping the poor, as Ayn Rand’s unfettered capitalism is now an important part of evangelical policy:

Jesus was a capitalist:  Ramesh Ponnuru explains away Pope Francis’s recent positions on the excesses of capitalism by saying that he doesn’t understand “markets could instead enable a creative form of community.” Jonathan Moseley at WorldNetDaily redefines “capitalism” as an imaginary tax-free governmental system.

Labor unions are anti-Christian: Ralph Reed argues for the submission of workers to employers, and David Barton uses a Bible story about a vineyard owner hiring employees to show that God hates collective bargaining.

Jesus wanted poor people to starve: The far right ignores the Bible stories about Jesus’s generosity with its focus on this verse from 2 Thessalonians:  “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” They also ignore the fact that many people on food stamps do have jobs.

Religion freedom means employers control workers’ private lives: Hobby Lobby is going to the Supreme Court to keep female employees from using their own insurance plans for contraception, and other corporations want to follow suit.

God doesn’t believe in environmentalism: those believe climate change is real don’t have enough trust in God.

Catholic news of the week:

o-THE-ADVOCATE-570 The naming of Pope Francis as Time magazine’s “person of the year” didn’t raise eyebrows, but his next accolade was more surprising. The Advocate, America’s oldest LGBT rights magazine, chose the pope as the ‘single most influential person of 2013 on the lives of LGBT people.’ Not everyone agrees with The Advocate. Michelangelo Signorile published an op-ed on the serious flaws of the Catholic Church in relation to the LGBT community.

 

Cardinal Raymond Burke, former Archbishop of St. Louis, has lost his position. An avid opponent of abortion and marriage equality, he openly criticized the pope’s new direction of the church. He will stay as the head of the Vatican high court, the Apostolic Signatura.

detail=email  Administrative changes from Pope Francis also removed Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops, that oversees the selection of new bishops, along with Cardinal Justin Rigali. Both have been called “culture warriors” who blame the Church’s problems on others. Rigali “left Philadelphia a mess, a string of Grand Jury reports detailing malfeasance in dealing with clergy sex abuse that rivaled the pro-Dallas Charter days. Rigali left St. Louis a mess…,” according to Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter.  A new appointment to the Congregation is Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who said that married gay Catholics are “not a great problem.”

Archbishop John Nienstedt has temporarily stepped down from his post in Minneapolis and St. Paul after accusations that he inappropriately touched a minor boy in 2009. This followed a report describing his concealment of continued sexual abuses by priests. The list of 46 priests “credibly accused” of the abuse was finally made public earlier this month. 

Fifty 50 Catholic leaders sent a letter to the president of the Catholic University of America (CUA), criticizing him for accepting a $1 million donation from Charles Koch because his “trickle-down economics” ideology directly opposes that of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church. The letter also pointed out the problems with Koch’s opposition to unionizing and expansion of health care as well as “an abysmal environmental record” of its company.

To Catholics, the pope is infallible. But to Catholic Sean Hannity, the pope is wrong. Hannity explicitly said that the pope is wrong when he calls unfettered capitalism “a new kind of tyranny.” His guests helped him by explaining that “Free market capitalism does help the poor.” People rise up by lowering taxes which creates competition. And American was founded on “free market capitalism.”

Good News of the Week:

Rev. Frank Schaefer, the Pennsylvania United Methodist pastor who was stripped of his position because he officiated at his gay son’s wedding in 2007, has been offered a job by a California Methodist bishop. He would have most of the rights and responsibilities of ordained ministers. Hundreds of Methodist ministers reject the church’s official policy against marriage equality, some of them facing discipline for presiding at same-sex ceremonies.

July 25, 2013

U.S. Needs To Bring Back the Middle Class

“This growing inequality isn’t just morally wrong; it’s bad economics. When middle-class families have less to spend, businesses have fewer customers. When wealth concentrates at the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy. When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther apart, it undermines the very essence of this country.” –

President Obama made the above statement yesterday in an address about fixing the U.S. economy.  Capitalism is like playing Monopoly: when all the money is the hands of one person, the game is finished. That’s what’s happening in the United States.

Investments in growing the middle class include investment in education, infrastructure, energy, and innovation; closing loopholes for the wealthy and huge corporations; retirement and health care security; affordable housing; and a higher minimum wage.

  • Income inequality in the United States is higher than at any other time since the Great Depression.
  • Between 1979 and 2007, the income of the richest top 1% of American households almost tripled while middle class incomes remained largely stagnant.
  • The income of the average CEO rose nearly 40% since 2009, but the average person in the country earns less than he or she did in 1999. Last year the average CEO pay went up 16 percent; in the first quarter of 2013, hourly wages dropped 3.8 percent.
  • Both Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy; they saw slower economic growth and job growth during their presidencies than President Clinton, who raised taxes in 1993.
  • The years following the Bush tax cuts were the worst for job creation since the government began keeping records and the worst for business investment since World War II.
  • About 62% of the wealth recovered during this recovery has come in the form of higher stock prices, which overwhelmingly benefits the wealthiest Americans but does little for the middle class and almost nothing for those living in poverty.

Growing research indicates that the strength and size of the middle class has a strong effect on the all the key factors that propel an economy forward. Deregulation promoting home ownership loses its sustainability when the bubble burst, saddling millions of families with mortgages they could no longer afford. The trend for the last 40 years has been to build the wealth of the top while tearing down that of everyone else, a reversal of the previous 30 years.

The premise of Daron Acemoglu’s How Nations Fail is that politics and government determine economic institutions of a country and these economic institutions determine whether a country is poor or prosperous. Economic power is hampered if political power is concentrated in an economic elite with a policy that works to their advantage.

In the 1970s, the United States moved toward an exclusive institution when unions lost power, states limited voter rights, and the Supreme Court gave record-breaking campaign spending rights to corporations. Lost were the political support for public education and infrastructure, vital to economic growth. More and more, children’s opportunities are being limited by their parents’ incomes.

A common complaint is that businesses have a shortage of skilled workers. Decades of rapidly increasing higher education costs have reduced the pool of these workers. China is now making a $250 billion annual investment to create the next generation of skilled workers; the United States wants students to pay for Bush’s deficit. A narrow interest group that monopolizes political power is rapidly eliminating innovation and investment in this country.

Eighty-two percent of people in the U.S. support a raise to $10.10 an hour, including more than 90 percent of Democrats and even two-thirds of Republicans, as well as nearly 80 percent of those who make more than $100,000.  Voters also decided to raise the wage in three cities in November, and in fact when ballot initiatives include a raise, voters nearly always approve it by substantial majorities.

Fifty-six percent think that raising the minimum wage will help the economy. They know that a federal minimum wage worker who works a standard 40-hour week cannot afford fair market housing in any one of the 50 states. [See map below for the number of salaried hours necessary for a minimum-wage earner to rent a two-bedroom apartment.] Thirty million workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage to only $9 would give an additional $48 billion into the economy by next year and ease the income gap for 15 million low-wage workers.

healthmap-e1374240125936

The elite tells falsehoods in order to keep increasing their already obscene wealth. Charles Koch, worth $43 billion, said that the minimum wage is an obstacle to economic growth. Although he opposes government-run health care, he lists countries with this security as examples of leaders in economic freedom. Ironically, he refers to assistance for low-wage workers as a “culture of dependency” on the government while his own industries receive oil subsidies, government contracts, and bailouts.

False arguments against raising the minimum wage:

  • It will decrease jobs. No, studies show that this is not true. In fact, it will increase jobs because people have more money to spend, and they will spend it. The states with higher minimum wages than the federal minimum don’t have higher unemployment rates.
  • It will hurt small businesses and force increases in prices. No, two-thirds of businesses employing minimum-wage workers have more than 100 employees. Companies like Walmart and McDonald’s force wages down so their CEO’s can take the money. Modest increases in the minimum has little effect on total corporate costs.
  • Most minimum wage workers are kids, working in the summer or part-time while going to school. Definitely not. Ninety percent of minimum wage workers are adults; most of those are long-term employees who rely on their job to support themselves and families. Approximately two-thirds of those working minimum wage jobs are women.  “Kids” can also use a raise to pay for college and/or specialized training—or to help their families survive .

Today corporate profits are a record high, and workers wages are at a record low. If the minimum wage were equal to 1968 dollars, it would be $10.71 instead of the current $7.25. In the past 45 years, minimum wage has shrunk by one-third.

In the last 22 years since the tipped wage was set at $2.13 and gas cost $1.10 a gallon, Congress has raised its own salary 13 times. In the last two years of recession recovery, the top 1 percent of people in the United States gained 110 percent of income growth while the bottom 99 percent lost ground. Thirty million people in this nation would benefit from increasing the minimum wage to $10.10. If workers don’t get fair pay, they can’t buy. When they can’t buy, the economy can’t grow. And if they get more money, they pay more taxes.

Conservatives are wasting dozens of votes in the House to take health care security from millions of people in the nation. Conservatives constantly threaten to shut down the government if progressives refuse to vote for the failed, trickle-down, austerity policies. Conservatives want to cut even more from education, medical research and infrastructure in order to give even greater tax cuts to the rich and huge corporations.

The wealthy are not the job creators. The real job creators are the middle class consumers who buy what businesses sell.

The looting class believes that there is no threat of democracy breaking out when people are poor and focused on meeting their basic needs. In March, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour over the next three years. Once it reaches $10.10, the minimum wage would be raised automatically each year to account for inflation and ensure that it never loses its purchasing power. The bill also raises the wages of those who rely on tips, phasing in an increase until the “tipped minimum”–currently stuck at $2.13 an hour—reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.

Miller’s bill went to the House committee yesterday. We need to support it and bring back the middle class.

July 24, 2013

The U.S. Could Be Detroit Because of GOP Capitalism

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:31 PM
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Capitalism is the system that conservatives worship, so much so that any deviation from it—in their perception—is called socialism. According to the GOP, President Obama is a socialist leading the country to failure. One example of capitalism in the United States is the city of Detroit.

During its automobile-driven economic growth in the middle of the last century, Detroit was recognized as an achievement of capitalist renewal after the Great Depression and World War II. High-wage auto industry jobs with security and benefits proved capitalism’s ability to generate and system the highly-vaunted middle class that cut across ethnic groups. as a system ought to be judged by its failures as well as its successes. The city was an example of the American Dream.

Success came from unions that struggled to take these quality jobs from automobile capitalists, who then bragged that they “gave” good wages and working conditions to their workers. Whatever the cause, Detroit was a prosperous city in the 1950s and 1960s, shaping the world’s music as its capitalism shaped the world’s industries.

Detroit is now in the midst of the biggest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the nation.

Decision-makers for General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, etc. made bad decisions that caused them to fail in competition with European and Japanese automobile capitalists. U.S. auto makers failed to develop new fuel-saving technologies and then responded to their failures by moving production out of Detroit in order to pay lower wages.

These decisions led to two economic disasters: manufacturers undermined Detroit’s economic foundation, and they led to the downfall of the nation’s middle class. The history of the past 40 years have shown the capitalist system’s inability—or unwillingness—to reverse, let alone stop, them.

Wages stopped growing in the 1970s although workers’ rising productivity created increasing profits for employers. For a few years, rising debt and overwork postponed the impacts of the lack of greater wages on consumption, but the crisis came in 2007. The resulting unemployment allowed employers to lower wages and benefits even more, and the falling dominos cut down the middle class.

The stimulus bailed out General Motors and Chrysler, but Detroit didn’t get any of that. The wage reductions in the auto industry guaranteed that Detroit’s wage-based economy would not be able to recover when production and profits rose. Auto industry capitalists took the lead and Detroit exemplified the economic decline that resulted.

After weakening the successes of unions, auto industry leaders undid the hard-won victories of the 20th century. Gone were the middle class and the “capitalist success” city built on their wages. The top-down structure of capitalist enterprises gave auto industry the ability to remove the good conditions that unions can sometimes win for their workers.

Worker co-operatives could have helped Detroit evolve in a far more positive fashion. Production would have stayed in the region, keeping jobs, families, and communities. Instead, lack of jobs dropped Detroit’s population from 1.8 million in 1950 to 700,000 in 2013. With worker co-operatives, owner dividends and manager salaries would have been less. The resulting savings could have lowered automobile prices, enabling better competition with European and Japanese cars.

Workers would most likely have greater incentives to improve technology in co-operatives they owned than if they do as employees in capitalist enterprises. Another achievement from worker co-operatives might have been the production of mass-transit vehicles as an alternative to the automobile production that fails to give long-term security for the automobile industry.

A democratic society does not give power to a minuscule number of people as it excludes millions of people from participating in decision-making.

Meanwhile this tiny number of people, centered in ALEC and controlled by the Koch brothers, has caused at least 117 bills in 2013 to further shrink wages, benefits, and worker rights. Their goal is also to eradicate any worker family’s participation in political and legislative processes to ensure that the top 1 percent will acquire even more wealth. ALEC’s anti-worker agenda started in the late 1970s and gained speed beginning with President Reagan, rapidly accelerating in 2010.

A few weeks after he took office, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker turned his state into the poster child for the northern states by eliminating collective bargaining for 380,000 school teachers, snow plow drivers, prison guards, nurses, bus drivers, and more. His law also prohibits government employers from using payroll deduction of union dues, removing more of their power. As Walker said, his goal was “divide and conquer”: first attack public sector workers and then go after the private sector.

Walker showed massive failure in his job programs: Wisconsin is now dead last in the 50 states in job creation. Things are so bad that someone called North Carolina the Wisconsin of the South.

ALEC’s “right to work” legislation was designed to make all the states like the poverty-stricken ones in the South that suppresses wages and keeps out unions. In 2012, Gov. Mitch Daniels (IN) succeeded in his state before Michigan pushed the law through in a lame-duck session at the end of the year. As Fox News bluntly put it, “bust the unions, and it’s over” for the Democrats.

Gordon Lafer, a political economist at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center and a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), explained the strategy: “ALEC’s efforts against the minimum wage, prevailing and living wage, paid sick leave, etc. are an across the board attempt both to worsen any kind of labor standard and also to undermine any institutional or legal basis through which workers exercise some control over the workplace in the labor market.” The fate of union workers and non-union workers are inextricably linked because unions raise standards for non-union workers. An EPI study shows that ALEC’s “Right to Work” law alone depresses wages for both union and non-union workers by an average of $1,500 a year.

New York City has Wall Street, Washington D.C. has the federal government, and Silicon Valley has Google and Facebook.  The rest of the country is facing a decline that began 60 years ago. Gone are the good jobs for people willing to work.

Conservatives recognize that the United States is headed in the same direction as Detroit with its unemployment, smaller wages, and educated people on food stamps. Yet they refuse to acknowledge that the conservative fiscal approach is causing these problems by increasing the income inequity and paying manufacturers to take their businesses overseas. Republicans refuse to acknowledge that huge corporations and the tiny portion of people at the top of the pyramid get their wealth from the loopholes not available to 99 percent of the country’s population.

Conservatives set up systems so that Wall Street can steal from most of the people in the country and then refuse to change them. Conservatives create a failing circular economic system: people cannot be produce services and material things because other people cannot afford to purchase these services and items, and so forth. This is the conservative view of capitalism.

If the Republicans were totally in charge, the United States would be declaring bankruptcy and selling all its assets to Europe and China.

The solution to the approaching disaster is to raise wages and close the loopholes. But the sole goal of the GOP is to defeat the Democrats and gain the presidency in the next round. To make the country a success would defeat the GOP grand plan, so almost everyone in the nation is forced to suffer.

May 29, 2013

Fear Drives Conservative away from Rational Thought

Recently, my blog about the plight of women prisoners in Arizona received several comments connecting the horrible treatment of women imprisoned for white-color crimes and prostitution to the guilt of Jody Arias, who viciously killed her ex-boyfriend five years ago. Some of the messages seemed to follow the traditional faulty syllogism of (il)logic: Arias is a bad person, and Arias is a prisoner—therefore prisoners are bad people. People who think like this attribute the actions of a few to the whole.

Recently, studies about the difference between conservatives and liberals have proliferated. One essay, “Differences in Conservative and Liberal Brains,” cites 16 peer-review studies in describing thought-processing differences between self-identified conservatives and liberals.

Conservatives spend more time looking at unpleasant images, and liberals spend more time looking at pleasant images.

Reliance on quick, efficient, and “low effort” thought processes yields conservative ideologies, while effortful and deliberate reasoning yields liberal ideologies.

Conservatives react more strongly than liberals to disgusting images, such as a picture of someone eating worms.

Liberals have more tolerance to uncertainty (bigger anterior cingulate cortex), and conservatives have more sensitivity to fear (bigger right amygdala).

Conservatives have stronger motivations than liberals to preserve purity and cleanliness.

Conservatives and liberals react similarly to positive incentives, but conservatives have greater sensitivity to negative stimuli.

Conservatism is focused on preventing negative outcomes, while liberalism is focused on advancing positive outcomes. Thus conservatism seeks to regulate society via inhibition, and liberalism seeks to act in the interests of social justice.

Genetics influence political attitudes during early adulthood and beyond.

Compared to liberals, conservatives are less open to new experiences and learn better from negative stimuli than positive stimuli.

Conservatives tend to have a stronger reaction to threatening noises and images than liberals.

Liberals are more open-minded and creative whereas conservatives are more orderly and better organized.

When faced with a conflict, liberals are more likely than conservatives to alter their habitual response when cues indicate it is necessary. Liberals are more willing to accept risk with a tendency to seek out novelty and uncertainty. These characteristics come from the larger anterior cingulate cortex, the region of the brain that helps people cope with complexity. The difference in the liberals’ brains means that they are more likely to accept analytical data and scientific proof, and to reason problems out.

Conservatives are far more afraid than liberals, perhaps due to the conservatives’ larger right amygdale, active during times of fear and anxiety. Fear keeps people from change and learning while magnifying threats. conservatives have far more intense physical reactions to threatening stimuli. Conservatives want a huge system of national defense; in the United States, any threat is considered terrorism except for real threats like domestic violence and sexual assault.

Being fearful may enlarge the amygdale–the more fearful, the greater the increase.  The larger amygdale means the brain’s owner is more emotion-based and more resistant to change. The research about conservatives’ fear explains why there have strong anti-immigration and pro-segregation attitudes. Anyone outside their group cannot be accepted, according to their brain processing.

Conservatives’ fear of the world makes them pro-gun, mostly religious, more hostile to immigrants and all other ethnic minorities, fearful of attacks from other nations, anti-government involvement in their lives, pro-family, anti-welfare (because they see the poor as parasites on success), and pro-wealth. In addition, they hate complexity and compromise.

On the other side of the coin, liberals are more optimistic about the world, consider government as a vehicle for solving problems and improving well-being, want citizen protection left to police, less religious, more welcoming to immigrants, rely more on science and education to solve problems, favor negotiation and consensus-building over wars, willingly pay taxes to improve people’s lives, and are less interested in family ties for personal protection. They also support welfare programs for the poor to reduce social problems, crime, and child poverty; are suspicious of wealth that is inherited or obtained through unethical business practices; and feel that concentrating resources in the hands of the one percent impoverishes everyone else thereby undermining social trust.

One study successfully guessed the party affiliation of a large majority of the subjects. Determining the risk-taking behavior during a gambling experiment monitored by brain scans let the researchers guess those on the right and on the left for 83 percent of the participants. The risks were not necessarily different, but the brain activity varied.

Extreme conservatives, between 1 and 4 percent, have an even larger problem than the standard conservatives. Because their amygdalae are extremely small or inactive, they have absolutely no empathy. These people come under the classification of sociopaths or even psychopaths.

Sociopaths know exactly what they are doing and are very aware of how they are functioning socially. Their characteristics include glibness and superficial charm, narcissism, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative behaviors, lack of remorse or guilt, lack of empathy, pleasure in cruelty, need for stimulation, tendency to boredom, parasitic behavior, poor behavioral control, impulsivity, irresponsibility, sexual promiscuity, multiple marriages, and criminal versatility.

These people congregate in leadership roles in both the private and public sector, CEOs and politicians in particular. Sociopaths study people who possess emotions that they can best exploit, and fear is at the top of the list. The sociopathic leader knows how to push all the right buttons of the most fearful and then make false promises of reassurance to get their loyalty. Ayn Rand was a top example of a sociopath—an empowering figure for the frightened masses who leveraged their insecurities and fears to great personal advantage and aggrandizement.

While liberals try to lead with reason and collaboration, conservatives control the debate because they attack the person, not the problem. They deny reason in favor of emotion because they are controlled by the amygdale, the “white matter”  fight-or-flight center of the brain. Liberals try to process the problem through their “gray matter,” the anterior cingulate cortex.

Capitalism today is a prime example of sociopathy in its concept of “I’ve got mine so screw you.” More and more people suffer because of the concentration of wealth and power at the very top. Any attempt to move this to a greater sense of equity brings howls of class warfare, socialism, and government overreach from the conservatives. Any move toward taking away even one of the wealthy class advantages brings more howls of “unfair treatment.”

Homelessness, poverty, hunger, bad health—none of these is the responsibility of the conservatives.

The positive side of this research is that education may help conservatives  become more open and positive. Instruction in history, critical thinking, literature, and art can develop a person’s mind. A greater diversity of experiences in the world and exposure to different cultures can also lessen the fear. Brain change was proved more than ten years ago when brain scans showed the growth of London cab drivers’ hippocami as they spent more time driving and therefore learned more about the city.

The other side of the coin is that increased fear increases the size of the amydala, making people more and more conservative.  That’s the reason that conservative leaders operate on the hysteria of fear. Their mantra is “They’re coming after you!  Be afraid—be very afraid!” They also know that education changes people: that’s the reason that they try to control or block it.

These studies may upset conservatives. But they don’t believe in science so none of them will believe any of this information.

[Additional Note: A recent study shows that Republicans lie three times as much to the people of the United States as the Democrats do! More sociopathic behavior.]

December 1, 2012

U.S. Needs to Solve Disconnect between Money, Humanity

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 3:14 PM
Tags: , , ,

Thanks to reader Pat Brown for the following blog. If anyone is interested in writing a blog for Nel’s New Day, leave me a comment.

Capitalism and making money have always been the driving forces behind the creation of the United States of America. But when money becomes the only goal and there is no humanity involved, then there’s a terrible disconnect. When providing employees with a truly livable wage becomes anti-business or socialist, then I have to ask, where did the America of our forefathers go​?

Henry Ford is often considered the father of modern industry with his introduction of the assembly line. His success has been held up as an example of what America could do that no one else in the world had been able to accomplish. He paid his workers an above-average wage. Even if his motive was to give them the money to buy one of his cars, it still triggered the beginning of America’s middle class that built this country.

Now all the progress is being undermined by rapacious greed where the workers at the core of every business are driven into bankruptcy. We see the world’s largest retail company paying its employees less than they require to even maintain a simple life style, let alone be able to dream of a future. That same company teaches employees how to apply for food stamps, in essence, making the American taxpayer subsidize its unimaginable wealth and give but a minuscule amount back.

Is it financial genius to figure out how to use the American taxpayer to feed and take care of its employees, so the company doesn’t have to? This is, in effect, another government subsidy that no one ever talks about.

The question was raised during the campaign about who built what. Romney claimed it was only the entrepreneurs who risked their money to become successful. Did they, really? Travel back a hundred and fifty years. Between the 1850s and 1860s, the federal government granted a series of subsidies to express companies, stagecoach lines, telegraph corporations, and railroads. Federal money gave the country an economic bootstrap to promote the expansion of the vast territories west of the Mississippi and bring its wealth into the new federation.

Contracts were awarded for mail service to California. Before the Panama Canal, this meant mail was first carried to the Isthmus of Panama, lugged overland, and sailed to San Francisco. It was slow and very expensive. Pressure was levied on the government to fix this—no wealthy businessman or company fronted money to do it. There was no question of anyone being asked to. The people wanted, and expected, the federal government to build and pay for all the infrastructure that would allow them go forth and conquer.

In 1856 a petition, signed by 75,000 Californians, demanded a route to the South pass. This angered the South, which thought it gave the North an unfair advantage. The end result was a proposal to improve two roads, one from Ft. Kearney through the South pass to California and another from El Paso to Ft. Yuma.

Once trails had been picked, an annual subsidy of $600,000 was given to John Butterfield and William Fargo to devise a route that would offer a mail service on a weekly or semi-weekly basis.

Government subsidies and grants made this country what it is today. People were willing to take incredible chances to have a better life. When they did it, they worked with their neighbors. The essence of humanity is to work together to create a safe world. We’ve lost that in our relentless pursuit of wealth. Employees have become nothing but cogs in a machine, to be replaced by cheaper ones when they wear out.

At the height of America’s boom, unions were strong, and wages were good. A family knew they could buy a home, a car, raise kids and know they could take care of them. Now, there’s no sense of we’re all Americans and we’re all in this together.

Is destroying the country to amass more money really a good business decision? I would hate to think that we are so morally bankrupt to say yes.

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