Jul 20, 2010

Those Lazy Bastards Want More Free Government Money...

It seems that economists agree on the need to extend the unemployment benefits not only to help millions of Americans who can't find a job but also stimulate the economy by putting money into the hands of people who are going to spend it on necessities. Of course, there are some who abuse the availability of this government assistance as it happens everywhere when people can exploit loopholes. The greater benefit has to taken into account.

Also, it's easier to see the abuse of the people who play the system. Yet, the larger abuse or the sweet deals that are struck behind closed doors are hidden from public view. The image of a lazy drunkard who's on public assistance alienates and creates a personal experience that makes the public skeptical about the need for certain social programs. But, who knows that just 2% of the taxpayers (yeah, those super rich) got a tax break under president Bush that cost the US Treasury $678 billion? That's OK, while $33 billion to extend unemployment benefits is not? Who needs what?!

I'm fed up with the deficit peacocks--who are supposedly concerned about the national deficit--and they keep arguing for more tax cuts and services. There is no way the deficit can be eliminated by cutting services, unless we become like Somalia. [see the video on this blog's sidebar].  Revenue comes from taxes, either from the taxpayer or from taxing goods and services.  On the national stage at least, it's been the Republicans who have created huge deficits by giving the store away to the wealthy & powerful.

One more thing about cutting services. Yes, there's waste and inefficiency, and corruption in the government & its various functions. The important question here is, who needs those services? Who needs the government of, by, for the people?  And, guess what... It's the big players that go to the government to cap their liabilities, weaken consumer protection, kill competition, maintain low wages, privatize profits  and socialize the risks of doing business.

No country can be strong if it has poor financial practices, but the sane thing is to be prudent. While the times are good, it should save and invest, but when there's a need, then it should spend. When I'm healthy and productive, I save and I invest, but when I'm sick or out of a job, I run a deficit. It's this simple.

Jul 5, 2010

Stay the Course? The Continuation of the Afghanistan War Is Obama's Choosing

The ridiculous Republican chair, Michael Steele, has put his foot in his mouth when he said that the Afghanistan War is something the current president initiated. However, it is the sitting president that makes the decision to keep or disengage the US from this conflict. Obama seems to want to pursue a very costly war with no end in sight, and no real chance for turning Afghanistan into a stable country.

Fareed Zakaria raises some very important questions in this video. I agree with the basis of his argument, that this expensive US war involvement should end, sooner than later. 


Jul 3, 2010

Patriotism for the Benefit of the Commonwealth

As we celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and lots of displays of our national flag, patriotism, obviously, is emphasized. Besides the emotions of love and pride, patriotism should include other rational and practical aspects. 

"Love it or leave it" is a moronic statement uttered too often by the "ultra-patriots"... who are usually not progressive beings. Summarily stated, no change would have ever occurred if people lived by that motto. The Pew Center's recent poll on patriotism shows some interesting views among Americans.

We have to remember that patriotism is not blind devotion whereas reasonable criticism, evaluation, and corrective action are absent. The flag represents certain values, above all the rights and privileges we enjoy in this country. But, we didn't arrive here by divine ordinance--we got here after a long trek filled with trials & tribulations, and because many people fought for those rights.  Of course, the journey continues as there are still strong forces for regression, prejudice, and willful ignorance. 

For all the advancements and great achievements the US has managed, we are not the freest country, the most educated, the healthiest, the richest (per capita), nor do our people report one of the highest happiness levels. We're stressed, have too much poverty, too much suffering (health care included), too much militaristic, too wide income disparity, and too much violence.

So, clearly there's much to be done. This country was built on rugged individualism but also on the strength of our secular institutions embedded in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights included. During times of crisis, the national makeup of a country is revealed. The choices the people make are paramount. 
Ancient Athens became too powerful, too rich, and too arrogant. As Athenians believed they were invincible, they overextended themselves. The defeats came, and crises ensued. This, in turn, challenged the confidence of the citizens and their democracy. As things worsened, Athenians gave up all those values and practices that had made their city-state great.

The US must avoid the same path. American exceptionalism must be checked, and the neo-cons who exaggerate it must be defeated. The Tea Parties [as we now know are basically groups of conservative Republicans and other extremists] lack the characteristics of the protest movements of the 1960s & 70s. The former are for a minimal government that's impotent to help the less powerful in our society, while the "radical" movements of the past were more altruistic--about civil rights, gender and racial equality, and an end to imperialism.

Enjoy the holiday weekend and enjoy life in general. Just remember, we can't be tourists in our own country. We have to help progress continue.