The Self-Destructive Folly of Trump’s Hatreds

Trump campaigned on a policy of hate, and nearly every picture we see of him shows a contorted face of hatred. He hates virtually every human group that is not white, male, and rich.

He said that all Mexicans are rapists and criminals. All Muslims are terrorists. All blacks are lazy. Women should stay home and raise children. And so on. All the standard prejudices of our times, none of which is true.

The tragedy is that poorly educated whites, those already convinced that they are naturally superior, accepted what he said in spite of its obviously self-contradictory nature, as Trump lied and lied and lied. Even now, some 70% of what he says consists of lies. Lies and contradictions.

He made hatred acceptable. Shortly after his inauguration there were dozens of acts of violence against individual persons and groups he has as much as said it was OK to kill. And some did kill.

Hatred is not a good foundation on which to build a country. Germany can vouch for that.

But the lesson is lost on Republicans. If it weren’t, Trump and his billionaire toadies bent on destroying the promise of our country would have been tossed out by now. Instead, Congress passes one bill after another designed to punish people, always the poor, people of color, immigrants and refugees, Muslims, and women. The very people who should be protected the same way everyone else is. And Trump, in the absence of understanding what he is supposed to be doing, has signed endless executive orders designed only to hurt people.

Republicans are always against the poor because they believe poverty is always the result of “bad choices”. But here’s something: Five million manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2000. Lost to the changing nature of work, and shipped offshore to very poor countries with very low wages. Many of the US Americans who lost their jobs have not been able to find another, and are in great financial difficulty, with very little income. Now, Republicans, since these people worked faithfully and well for decades, who is it who made these “bad choices”? The unemployed workers who can find no work at any pay? More likely it’s the Republicans in Congress who have acted in favor of wealthy capitalists, while the fortunes of the faithful employees who came to work every day went down and down.

There are many things that Congress could have done to improve conditions for workers. The work week could have been shortened, which would have provided work for more people. The minimum wage could have been raised to the point where no one working full time would need three jobs. A minimum income law could have been passed, so the people who could find no work at least had food and shelter, and we wouldn’t find them living under the bridge in tents. National health care could have been established, health care like every modern nation has except ours. Ways could have been found to assist companies that make goods here. Laws could have been passed to prevent corporations from hiding their profit.

All these possibilities were ignored, and many laws were passed to boost the income of the very wealthy, so that the very wealthy could become yet more wealthy at the expense of the poor. Income that cannot even be spent, it is so great.

What we have ended up with is a bunch of very rich people dictating what the rest of us are supposed to feel and believe about our lack of equality. And they think only rich white males are worth bothering with. All the rest—the poor, the people of color, the Jews, the Muslims, the ill and infirm, the aged, the children, the women—they are expected to fend for themselves, because we all know they are lazy and will not work. That’s why minimum wage doesn’t matter, why we don’t need medical care, why only schools for the rich are important, why immigration must be ended, why Muslims and Mexicans must be deported, on and on.

The Republican agenda is to create the limits that support these beliefs, to keep the poor so poor that they cannot rise. The tragedy is that Trump convinced so many poor whites that they were superior, and should therefore vote for him. They did vote for him, and immediately launched acts of hatred against his approved villains. What they didn’t understand, though, was that Trump and the Republicans thought that they were no more worthy than the official list of villains. They soon began to feel the sting of his betrayal.

This is not the way to run a country in which equality is the benchmark by which we will be judged. Equality of opportunity, no matter who your parents are, what color or religion you are, no matter what you do for a living. Our foundational principles are falling away at an alarming rate. Obviously, Trump and the Republicans think this is what should happen.

Justice in America

The entire purpose of government is justice. That’s what I think. Government falls under numerous headings, of course, but in every case, an action that does not lead toward justice leads toward injustice.

The level of economic equality, as measured by the Gini Index, provides an approximation of justice.

We are the richest country the world has ever known, yet ours is among the least equal of the 34 OECD countries, which means we are also among the OECD countries with the least justice. Our Gini score has been steadily worsening for half a century. The reason is that the people with the most money and power are trying to make it that way.

A government action
that does not lead toward justice
leads toward injustice.

We’d like it if racism was something in the past. It ain’t so.

Every two or three days violent, racist white cops murder another unarmed black person. Every day, people, especially black and Latino men, begin long prison sentences for something that is treated very differently in the civilized countries. Criminal justice in the US is a growth industry. For-profit prisons that several states set up because they had too many prisoners have sued because the state wasn’t sending them enough prisoners to be profitable.

We spend more on prisons than on education. Sentences long ago passed the point where their duration could be justified. Most of us know that our percentage of imprisoned people is greater than the number imprisoned by the Soviets or by South Africa at the height of their abusive reigns. Many young people are imprisoned for life without parole for relatively minor property crimes, or for being addicted, which should be treated as an illness. A fourth or more of the imprisoned are mentally ill, and many of them get no treatment at all, thus virtually guaranteeing that they will return to prison not long after they are released. Most of us know that an unacceptably large percentage of black males will be jailed at some time in their lives, often unjustly. Even more will find themselves trapped into dealing with the criminal system in some way, often for something inconsequential such as a traffic stop.

Criminal justice in the US is a growth industry.

African-Americans have been telling us all along that racism has never gone away, that it remains rampant, only slightly improved from the violent days of Jim Crow in the Old South. Recent events, especially in the South, have proven their point. The system is very, very sick. White racists are everywhere, including Congress.

Obviously, major changes must be made to the legal system. Fortunately, President Obama is pressing for some of them, but much more than a few changes to the criminal justice system are needed. Major changes in social justice and equality are also needed.

Changes in criminal justice
are secondary to social justice.

For a long time I have believed that changes in criminal justice, while important, are secondary to social justice. Property crimes are without question more common where lack of opportunity kills hope for a better life. Improvements in the criminal justice system cannot make up for the economic inequality that has grown like a societal cancer for half a century. The minimum wage, which millions are forced to endure, has created rising poverty, with no way to escape, even by working two jobs.

Obviously, all these things need immediate attention and reform. Nobody should lose their life because a white cop gets a hair up his ass over skin color. Nobody working full time should be trapped in deep poverty.

The Worker Ownership Mandate

The US is in big trouble. Not just because of the recent financial debacle, but because we have promoted a plutocracy to replace our democracy. The rich have never been richer since the 1920s, and inequality has never been higher. With each increase of wealth at the top, there is a corresponding loss of basic democracy.

If we are to restore equality, which is nearly equivalent to restoring democracy, the government must do something new. The government must find ways to promote equality, to end the ability of the mega-rich to make rules that enrich themselves. Another is to foster new businesses that are owned by their workers. Worker-owned businesses are by definition bastions of equality, and your standard capitalist corporation is the virtual opposite.

To restore democracy and equality,
the government could foster new worker-owned
businesses at no cost to the taxpayer.

The Bay Area is swarming with financial speculators willing to put up millions to get an IT company under way, in hopes for quick profit with the Next Big Thing. When they are successful, a new corporation is born, maybe making some people rich, but carrying all the baggage of capitalism with it. For the most part, this does nothing for democracy or equality.

But suppose there were a way for the government to get the same company cranked up, with not only the present small flock of sleep-deprived code-writing entrepreneurs, but all future workers as owners as well? And at no cost to taxpayers. Government should not be in the business of business, but fostering businesses is a legitimate goal.

Worker-owned companies
avoid the worst traits of capitalism.
Profit goes to all of the worker-owners,
not some distant millionaire.

As I have frequently mentioned here, worker ownership does away with most of the inherent dangers of capitalism. Specifically, the worker-owners are the ones who get whatever profit there is, not some distant millionaire. They also usually earn better wages. This creates equality and provides strong motives for outstanding work. And the company’s success improves tax revenue.

I propose a federal plan that would provide capital from taxes to get worker-owned companies started, perhaps in the form of a supplementary loan in addition to the worker-owners’ initial investment. The entire amount of government seed money would be paid back from company profit, thus would cost the taxpayer nothing in the long run.

A federal plan to seed worker-owned companies
could function at no cost to taxpayers.

Many new businesses fail without ever becoming self-sustaining. Our government program must therefore be particularly stringent about vetting a potential new company, and giving expert advice to nurture it along. The company has going for it that worker-owners are universally highly motivated for success, because not only are wages in such companies generally higher than in capitalist companies, but the long-term wellbeing of worker-owners themselves can be assured by good profits.

Worker ownership is best built without government help, but it’s difficult to find the right mix of conditions, and there are cases that the end product becomes yet another capitalist corporation, with all its faults. Government assistance with starting up would improve equality and, eventually, tax revenue. The program could easily be constructed to repay a loan from profits, with some extra to cover the cost of failures. Every new worker-owned company makes the country stronger.

How Will We Know We’re OK?

It won’t be because taxes are reduced. It won’t be because the national debt goes down. It won’t be because the rich got richer.

It will be because everyone who works is able to live reasonably well on what they earn. It will be because there are few reasons for our children to go to one school versus another. It will be because everyplace is reasonably safe from criminal activity. It will be because when you are sick, you can get treatment, no matter how little you earn.

It won’t be because taxes are reduced,
the debt goes down, or the rich got richer.

All these important things are of particular concern to the large cluster of people at the lower end of the pay scale, which is where we should put our attention. Instead, we pay a lot of attention to interest rates, Gross Domestic Product, deficits, and tax breaks for the rich and for multi-billion-dollar corporations. Oxfam tells us that the wealthiest 100 on the planet could end abject poverty among the remaining 7-billion several times over. Seven billion. That tells us how extremely unbalanced wealth has become. Extreme wealth for a few diminishes crucial basic wealth for everyone else, which is why our inequality has risen in tandem with super-wealth, both worldwide and here at home.

GDP means nothing. It’s just how much money is spent, with no values assigned to what it is spent on. The grinding of our mega-war machine improves the GDP, but diminishes the quality of life for everyone not directly profiting from it.

The only way to measure our wellbeing is to consider the people, especially the low income earners. The money in our pocket is only part of it. Everyone needs a certain minimum income if they are not to be miserable, but beyond that, money doesn’t play a major role in life satisfactions. This is why our inequality is inexcusable. There are other things. Things like family and community, like sharing the great variety that life has to offer, such as good food, love, art and entertainment, and the opportunity to experience new and interesting things. These are the things that are missing for the poor, not expensive cars and designer clothing. Instead, their lives are characterized by endless stress, continual setbacks, and few enjoyments.

Beyond a certain minimum,
money doesn’t play a major role in life satisfactions.

Access to routine health care, opportunity for education and work, and enough income to save a bit for retirement are not luxuries. They should be part of everyone’s life, and if we question whether we’re OK and find that they aren’t available to everyone, then the answer is no. And the answer is no.

Life should not be excessively stressful. We shouldn’t be constantly worried that we’ll be fired from our low-wage job, with little chance of finding another. That we’ll lose our home. We shouldn’t be worried that there won’t be enough to eat before the next paycheck. We shouldn’t be constantly worried that we will be mugged or shot. If we are OK, we’ll have only the normal stresses of family life, school, and work, and those are quite enough.

Published in: on 2013/02/02 at 12:49 pm  Comments (1)  
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Stuff We Know and Do Nothing About

Seven ways we could improve our world.

1. Equality solves many problems, many of them pleasant surprises. For example, diabetes and other diseases are less frequent. Yet we have record inequality and are doing virtually nothing specific about it. The reason for our record inequality is the ongoing trend of gifting the very rich with large amounts of money. We do this because of the false belief that it will make everyone better off. It’s not true, which ought to be obvious by now, but apparently is not.

Here are some more results of equality: Teen pregnancies are lower, obesity is reduced. Scholastic achievement is higher, crime is reduced. In short, equality has benefits well beyond the fact of financial improvement for the poor and middle class. Everyone benefits from equality.

2. Giving money to the rich does not help anyone else. In fact, it increases inequality and reduces the income of most others. There are many studies to support this assertion. Equality benefits everyone, and inequality makes everyone less well off.

The problem here is that it is one of the canons of the High Holy Republican Church that gifts to the rich will help us all, an item of faith on a par with the saintliness of Ronald Reagan, and they don’t care that it’s been proven false many times.

3. Ridding the country of ambient lead would reduce crime, boost IQs and scholastic achievement, improve national economic health, and diminish a list of social ills. Crusaders who understood what this meant have campaigned tirelessly to get something done, with some success. We need a much greater national effort.

Up until just recently, researchers in several fields knew how dangerous lead was. We now have conclusive information from neurology, criminology, demography, and environment that all fit together as a very convincing whole. The central fact is that lead is far more dangerous than we thought, especially to young children. Young children poisoned by the smallest amounts of lead will suffer loss of IQ. They will reach adulthood with far more behavioral problems, and are far more likely to commit crimes and be imprisoned.

An all-out national effort to rid ourselves of ambient lead would pay off our investment many thousands of times over, far more than any other single thing we might use government money for. Instead, we argue over how much we can reduce government spending.

4. Living Wage would greatly improve the national budget by markedly increasing tax revenue and allowing all employed families to rise out of poverty. Low income wages are utterly inadequate to support the smallest family with full time work, and the poorest need continual assistance just to survive.

Congress now and then talks about increasing our current minimum wage of $7.25 by a dollar or so. Half a dozen states did that, but not one comes even close to Living Wage. The fact is, nobody earning such poor wages can even afford rent anyplace in the country. Nor is there any chance for such people to work themselves out of poverty. In addition, the rest of the country must pay for the inevitable assistance needed to prevent a human catastrophe because of this low pay.

5. The 40-hour work week has been obsolete for a long time. We have come to think of the 40-hour week as sacrosanct, established by the deities, but it’s really only a political construct that’s been around since WWII. Meantime, the world has moved on. Technological advance has made it possible for us to put in far fewer hours a week to achieve the same amount of work, but no one will be able to do this until the government takes the lead and makes a shorter work week official. I suggest 32 hours, and 24 in ten years.

Changing the work week will be disruptive for a while, but the end result will be a much lower rate of unemployment. And of course workers will have more leisure time.

6. Climate change is not an issue, it is THE issue. In not much more time, nothing else will matter. It’s much worse than we think, and it’s far too late to stop it. Climate change was caused by human activity. The single most significant such activity is the ongoing dumping of millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the thin protective layer of atmosphere year after year, but there are many others.

Take just one of literally thousands of observations: the oceans are becoming more acidic, which happens when our burgeoning discharge of CO2 dissolves in water to become carbonic acid, seltzer water, essentially. Most fish do not do well in higher acidity. Shellfish have more difficulty forming shells, and fin fish skeletons. Acidity causes metabolic problems for them. It also causes unusual behavior. A number of fish populations important for people food are losing numbers rapidly because of this, which is exacerbated by overfishing.

Most people seem to think that recycling and maybe a hybrid car will solve everything. Simple things like that do a teeny percentage of what is needed. A complete redesign of lifestyle worldwide is needed to reduce pollution by a huge amount, particularly in the US, China, and India, the three biggest polluters. It must be a fundamental change, from the ground up, and so far we have shown no interest in the whole topic of catastrophic climate change, let alone in addressing it. Energy companies, in fact, want to make it worse. If the 2,100 mile Keystone Pipeline is built, it will result in an additional 13-million tons of CO2 in the atmosphere yearly.

Our stupidity is astonishing.

7. Our health care system is grossly inefficient, fails to cover millions of Americans, and wastes billions of dollars unnecessarily on profit and paperwork. Good national plans cost half what we spend, and cover everybody.

Congress persons, the rich, and those among us who are lucky enough to have satisfactory health care insurance often fail to see the problem. And the problem is most starkly seen with the 100 or so Americans who die every day from the lack of health care coverage. And no, several Republican politicians need to be informed that the millions of Americans who can’t afford health care cannot get it at the ER. The Emergency Room does not provide health care, it treats emergencies. We need national universal health care.

Is It True If You Believe It?

Republicans are basing their plans for the US on things they believe are true. Unfortunately, believing something is true does not mean it is actually true. A large part of what a lot of Republicans profess to believe, and what the present candidates propose, does not pass the most elementary tests of truth. In fact, we are bombarded almost every day with new statements by Republicans that are obviously false, often astonishingly so. This doesn’t seem to bother many of them.

A large part of what Republicans believe
does not pass the most elementary tests of truth

Candidate Todd Akin has been roundly criticized both within and without the GOP for statements demonstrating his gross ignorance about—well, practically everything, it appears. Akin’s belief that rape cannot result in pregnancy isn’t even remotely true. But his opinion about rape, stupid as it is, is representative of a broad swath of conservative Republicans, who appear to be willing to kill a living woman with children if she wants to abort a rapist’s fetus. There are no extenuating circumstances, such as rape, preeclampsia, or other danger. A fertilized egg is fully human, by their belief, but a living mother with children to care for apparently is not. And that’s only the latest example of Republican disdain for  women.

Republicans believe that having the teeniest government possible with the fewest laws and regulations (except, of course, for a grossly bloated military) will somehow result in the best society. But they ignore the evidence of their own eyes, as if the decades-long crippling of laws and regulations that control wrongdoing in business and finance had nothing to do with the current economic crisis and burgeoning inequality. As if circumventing the intent of laws designed to prevent corporate abuse were a mere annoyance, something that irritatingly diminishes profit.

The candidates say they will save money,
but they are unable to say how.
Many say all the unemployed are moochers,
but can cite no evidence.

The Republican presidential and vice presidential candidates are running on a platform of unsupportable beliefs. They want to increase the wealth of the mega-wealthy, while at the same time increasing the tax burden of the poor and middle class, claiming that this will lead to true affluence for all people. But there is nothing in the historical record to suggest that this will happen. In fact, history suggests the opposite. In the past three or four decades, the wealth of the mega-rich has tripled while that of low income people has remained the same or actually fallen. It would fall further under their proposals.

They also claim that they will reduce government expenditures, but they refuse to say how. In fact, the reason they refuse is that they cannot say. What they believe is not possible. There is no magic formula, now matter how much they believe there is. There is no evidence that favoring the rich at the expense of everyone else will do anything other than increase inequality. It will not result in widespread affluence or more jobs.

They believe that large numbers of Americans are moochers, but can cite no evidence that this is true. It is a catch-22. They don’t want full-time workers in low-wage jobs to earn a living wage, which they believe because they are convinced that such people are poor because they are lazy, which is what many of them have said. This is especially true if the poor are African-American. They don’t even recognize the impossibility of their demand that all Americans pay for their own health care and retirement while earning a wage inadequate to do so.

In fact, a large percentage of Republicans believe that all unemployed workers are nothing more than lazy moochers who must be punished. Some made exactly that claim at the height to the economic crises, when there were at least five workers for every job available. (Unemployed Republicans in that position were strangely silent.) They said it of people who had worked responsibly for decades, whose fortunes and families were utterly destroyed by Wall Street criminality. They expressed hate for recent college grads who can’t find work to pay off the average $25,000 debt they graduated with. They expressed hatred for military persons who returned from overseas duty in their name. It never seems to occur to them that their hateful beliefs are devoid of any semblance of logic, reason, or truth, let alone the compassion that is central to the Christian faith they profess to follow.