This Does Not Feel Like America

There are plenty of days when America just does not feel like America any more. Maybe the America I imagined was never real at all. But I keep seeing tidbits reported in the news feeds on my devices that trigger old fears that any freedom we may have had, real or imagined, is about to be taken away and even the illusion of freedom may not remain.

False Accusations against Demonstrators

This meme about black football and basketball players disrespecting America and our soldiers is very disconcerting. If anything my love of American Democracy, however naïve, tells me that our President should tune in to the plight of Americans who are being singled out because we have not learned that skin color is probably the way the creator responded to climate.  If we keep destroying ozone and warming the planet we may all become quite grateful for a little extra pigmentation.

Anyway, I have strayed a bit from my main point, which is that we have always had a problem in America about people with black and brown skin and that this has challenged the very most basic principles of America’s claim to the belief that all men (and women) are created equal and that they all have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is a crucial moment, a true test of our democracy/republic. Can we treat our black and brown neighbors as they should be treated? Can we stop locking them away, isolating them in segregated neighborhoods, killing them for broken tail lights and real or imagined petty thefts?

And we couldn’t have chosen a worse time for this test. When our own President thinks people who deplore fascism, and are willing to put their persons at risk to defend against it, are the same as the people who wish to rid our nation of people of color with threats and even violence; when he invites white nationalists, white supremacists into the White House to sit on his councils and advise him, then my ideal of America seems to be in great danger of disappearing forever.

I felt that it showed great restraint when a man, trained to be physically stronger than most men, gently took a knee in front of his flag to ask America to notice the injustices that continue to this day to plague our culture and disappoint its aspirations. I am shocked at the way America and our President have reacted to his pleas for someone to take away the constant fears that people of color live with in this supposedly free nation where people are said to be innocent until proven guilty. If we are to survive as the nation we are supposed to be we must get a grip on this racism that divides us.

Making People Register Private Information at Government Request

Then I heard my government say, supposedly at the behest of our President, that all immigrants and green card holders must provide the government with a list of all of the names they use on the internet. First of all we have been taught to be vigilant about whether there are clues in our culture that a Hitler-style regime could make a repeat performance anywhere on the world stage. So my hackles are raised whenever our government tries to register people that it wants to target in some negative fashion. Until now this has not happened often in this nation, although it has happened (Japanese internment camps, recent attempts to collect private voter registration data, and more). Sign up so that we have a list of people to deport? Do you think that immigrants here without proper visas are likely to comply? This is how I felt when Dreamers were told that they would not be able to stay in this country. The government already has paperwork on Dreamers, collected for the purposes of fulfilling kinder promises. That our America wants to betray people who gave personal data in this fashion makes me question whether this will ever feel like our America again.

Attempting to Pass Legislation Without Examination

Once our Congress was willing to work across the aisle and come to the kinds of compromises that kept Americans feeling like we had a functional government that at least was trying to be fair. The 115th Congress can only do its business in partisan fashion apparently, hiding away in secret meetings, refusing to publish bills in time for citizens to read them and carefully consider them, not allowing unbiased analysis by nonpartisan agencies. They tried to pass several health care bills this way. They want to pass the 2018 FY budget by next week, even though we, the American people have not had a chance to see and react to the actual budget proposal. And why do they want to do this? So they get the cuts they want and so they can use reconciliation (only 51 votes) to pass tax reforms.

Do they act like leaders who think that Americans will be pleased with either their budget or their tax reforms? No they do not. They act like they are trying to fool the American people and they are doing that because they know that those of us who have looked at the preliminary budget and tax reform information released in the press are not at all happy with the cuts Republicans want to make. All of the cuts will help those who are already wealthy and hurt the poorest Americans. Whatever hurts the poorest Americans will eventually come back to affect the entire nation negatively. They are telling us that their tax reforms will bring steady growth and will entice manufacturers to return to the US but they already know that “trickle-down” economics is a lie. Tricks and lies have always been part of American politics, but the tricks and lies are so prevalent this time that America may never recover in any form we the people will recognize.

This Does Not Feel Like America

These behaviors are just the most recent challenges to a democratic nation from people intent on overturning any law ever passed by their opponents and completing what has seemed to me to be a bloodless coup. And although the coup got “trumped” they simply keep trying to use the biggest elephant in the room to distract from what all of the other elephants are up to. And it just does not feel so much like America these days. Puerto Rico picked a very bad time to be in the path of a hurricane. America is broken.

We Don’t Want No Stinky Block Grants

If you think that this Congress or the Republican Party is done trying to repeal and replace the ACA then you are wrong. If you think they will study health care in America the way it deserves to be studied then you are also wrong. These folks want budget cuts and tax cuts and they want to find the money to get those things by cutting health care, especially by cutting Medicaid. Block grants are a way to make cuts to programs without having to publish them in a budget. So block grants will come up again and in arenas other than the health care arena.

We must keep insisting that Congress fix the ACA or give us some version of Single Payer. We don’t want no stinky block grants (chant to the tune of We don’t want no Education).

Why We Don’t Want No Stinky Block Grants

Block grants will not give us stable, reliable support for our health care costs. Block grants have been used more times in America than you might think. They were first proposed in 1949 by the Hoover Commission although the first block grant was not enacted until 1966. Nixon used Block Grants and Reagan wanted to see grants consolidated, and in the Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act of 1981 Congress obliged, turning 75 grants into 9 new or revised block grants. Overall funding was reduced by 12%.

“In 1996, the open-ended entitlement categorical grant, Aid to Families With Dependent Children was converted into the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996”

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40486.pdf

Jocelyn Guyer from the Center for Children and Families published an article in 2012 which looks at how effectively that particular TANF block grant performed after the recession in 2008 and compares it to how the federally funded programs for food stamps and Medicaid functioned. She says,

“Poverty increased substantially during the recession from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 15.1 percent in 2010.TANF’s purpose is to help those falling into poverty, but according to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, it came up short in fulfilling its intended purpose. In 2010, over 7 million families with children were living in poverty but less than 2 million of them received welfare assistance. CBPP estimates that TANF serves only 27 families for every 100 families in poverty, down from 68 families for every 100 families in poverty before welfare reform.”

“SNAP and Medicaid faced the same economic pressures during the recession as TANF, however, they were far more successful in fulfilling their missions according to research by CCF and CBPP. As more people found themselves in poverty and the poor became poorer during the recession, SNAP responded effectively and kept any families out of poverty and lessened the severity of poverty for millions of others.

Medicaid also performed very well under pressure,” she says “with only two states reducing coverage and 29 states actually taking steps to improve coverage last year” (Remember, this is before the ACA) “As childhood poverty increased by 14% during the recession, the rate of uninsured children fell to record lows, with Medicaid (and CHIP) stepping in to fill the gap left by declining employer-sponsored insurance.”

“There was one other important factor in the success of Medicaid and SNAP in serving their intended purpose during the recession. Both Medicaid and SNAP are cost-effective programs with federal standards in place to ensure funds are used to help low-income families and individuals. On the other hand, the ‘flexibility’ of the block-granted TANF program has allowed states to divert as much as 44% of block grant funds from helping the poor to such unrelated purposes as road repairs or closing state budget holes.”

She ends with a question – “So you be the judge – does block granting important public programs work?”

https://ccf.georgetown.edu/2012/04/19/block-grants-success-failure

Pros and Cons of Block Grants

Most of the reasons the Republicans favor block grants have to do with the fact that it is a “backdoor” way to cut the federal budget (it’s about money), and it meets their goals of giving responsibilities that they say should belong to the states, back to the states.

In an excellent paper entitled Block Grants: Perspectives and Controversies by Robert Jay Dilger and Eugene Boyd for the Congressional Research Service published on July 15, 2014 (see link above) you can find some in-depth information about block grants with lists of both pros and cons. The lists are too lengthy for this article and are not different, essentially, from those that are discussed here. I found this interesting –

“Representative Paul Ryan, chair of the House Committee on the Budget, has recommended that the federal share of Medicaid be converted into a block grant as a means to ‘improve the health care safety net for low-income Americans’ and to save $732 billion over 10 years.”

Perhaps this was new information in 2014 but we have heard far more about it than we ever wanted to.

“The House’s FY 2015 Concurrent Budget Resolution also would convert the Supplemental Assistance Program (food stamps) into a block grant, estimating the savings as $125 billion over ten years.

So here is an article from 2014 predicting what Republicans are trying to legislate in 2017. They have been trying to get to block grants for much longer than that. In fact, except for the block grants in 1966, most block grants have been passed in Republican administrations.

In a few limited projects, especially in terms of specific programs for community development, block grants have worked. However, this is about the health care of every American citizen and block grants just will not do. Nor will they do for any other safety net program. Past experience with block grants suggests:

  1. Block grant funds get cut as time goes on.
  2. Block grants do not work well long term.
  3. Block grants allow the federal government to keep strings attached to programs through oversight so the illusion of state independence is just that, an illusion.
  4. Funds from block grants often get syphoned off for emergency local needs and never replaced.
  5. Sometimes money is mismanaged when states and localities must spend down leftover funds at the end of the fiscal year to keep the amount of the block grant the same for the next year. When the new fiscal year begins people seem to get amnesia about where the funds originally came from.

Nonsensical Logistics

If the funds for block grants will be sent to the Federal government and then will be given back to the states in block grants, why don’t the states just collect those tax dollars directly? Why send our dollars to the “feds” so they can send them back to the states and perhaps redistribute the tax dollars to states they favor as they threatened to do in the run up to trying to force a vote on the Graham-Cassidy Health Care bill, a bill that offered up the least helpful health care to come out of the 115th Congress so far.

If this is truly a “states’ rights” issue then perhaps the Federal government should play no role in it at all and should simply cut the portion of our taxes which helps contribute to national health care. Most likely Congress still wants to hold on to the purse strings for these block grants to use them in power plays, such as the recent attempt to extort votes on legislation, or so that they can dip their fingers in the pot when times get tight. Block grants are not real Federalism; they are Federalism in name only.

What Do We Want?

Here are the things the majority of the people want and the things we don’t want.

We don’t want block grants for health care, or Medicaid, or SNAP, or Medicare, or Social Security, or any program that affects the lives of large numbers of Americans.

We want the ACA restored to its original parameters. We need you to restore the individual mandates, the tax penalties and supports, the Medicaid expansion and the exchanges. We need you to reverse all the things you have done to sabotage this health plan. After all of the pieces you have removed from the ACA are back and functioning see if the plan still needs to be fixed and then fix it.

That’s what we want and this would not be difficult to implement.

Or, do as John McCain insists you should and use regular order to come up with a new bipartisan plan that does all the things the ACA does but does them more efficiently, and then let the plan get rated by the CBO. We would not be happy at all if the plan was another secret plan, hammered out in a back room without input from experts.

We must keep reminding our lawmakers that there are only two options that will cover the majority of Americans and that the majority of Americans are likely to support. Either restore the ACA to its original form, with all its facets back and functioning –

Or we will insist on a Single Payer plan and we won’t stop annoying you until we get it.

And one more point – the optics of forcibly arresting disabled protestors are terrible and just make us more determined than ever to oust the Republican Party, along with 45, from public office.

 

This is a view from the cheap seats.

House of Spies by Daniel Silva – Book

The book, House of Spies by Daniel Silva contains a classic spy story with a plot as twisted as the highways through the south of France and the narrow ways in the souks of Morocco. Gabriel Allon is the lead spy in House of Spies, and he has been featured in a previous Silva novel, The English Spy. Allon is a genius at putting together successful operations when ordinary security methods have failed.

He calls in a team of very effective, if reluctant, operators who are not full-time spies. They are tied to him for reasons that are personal (he saved them from a previous, possibly life-ending fate.) Allon knows the heads of government spy networks all over Europe – in this case, England, America, and France. He is also unusual because he heads Israeli security operations.

Saladin is a terrorist/drug supplier (an unusual combination for a Muslim if he is one) who has been very successful at hiding any details which might allow authorities to track his location. Engaging in very few face-to-face contacts by conducting most of his business through intermediaries, and changing his appearance if he feels exposed have sufficed to keep him out of the shared national security data banks.

Gabriel calls on Christopher Keller, who has worked with him before and who is a very talented assassin. Keller has found a way to live a private and satisfying life on the island of Corsica which is controlled by a mafia-style “don” who is fond of and loyal to “family” and who considers Keller a family member. Keller is someone who once led an underground operation in Ireland against the IRA where he connected with Gabriel Allon.

Choosing to listen to this book rather than read it was a big mistake for me. The plot is almost byzantine and I am not, apparently, a good listener. I’m not as used to processing words aurally as visually, but I still managed not to miss much (only caught myself napping twice). The careful, but lengthy preparations lead to a messy and almost disastrous end to this operation.

If you are a fan of nonstop action, and I believe I have made this point before, Silva is possibly not your man. Once again he has written a spy tale that is more brainy than adrenaline-filled. However it is memorable.

The Economy is Still Broken

Bad Policy

Sometimes these days when you hear the news it feels like we the people are playing a macabre game of tennis where it truly matters if the ball goes where our racquets point; where whether the ball is in our court or not could make a huge difference in our everyday lives. Each piece of news seems more hostile and vicious than the one before it and we must get in our best position to try to hit that ball right off the court so that the server does not get a point and then get ready for the next bad policy to get served up.

Throw millions off of health care – slam. Send DACA young folks to countries they do not remember ever having lived in – backhand slam. Keep your eyes on the regulations on capitalism and the cuts in environmental protections that are being served up every day and be ready to call the game when harmful effects begin to crop up in our lives.

The game seems long and exhausting and yet the lobs keep coming and if we don’t return them there will be repercussions (we could lose the game). This is, to me, what the Trump/Republican government feels like so far.

One Conservative Writer

But David Brooks, a Conservative writer of commentary with the New York Times, and a very erudite man, writes indefatigably from a place of optimism and the point of view of a problem solver. He is not on the fringes of the right wing. He is most likely that almost extinct being, a moderate Conservative. He offers solutions from his Conservative soul and they are not mean, although perhaps a touch unrealistic and moralistic. He argues that the roles the church and the family once had in American culture are sadly eroded and that restoring religious participation and family values would set the world right once again. He reads the leading literature by Conservative thinkers (not political thinkers, thinkers about society) and shares what he reads with us.

I often feel that wishing backwards, though, is a waste of good intellect. Nostalgia for institutions that once worked does not mean that they will be revived or that they are the keys to our future. Still, I admire his writing and often read his opinion pieces.

“The Economy isn’t Broken”

However in the NYT on Friday, September 15, 2017 he got a bit too optimistic even for me. This is one time when I think his arguments hold no merit and are simply meant to cheerlead for trickle-down economics. It turns out that a new study shows that the mean income for the middle class has risen to 59K+, after being stalled in the 30K area for many years. He concludes from this that “the economy isn’t broken” (in fact that is the name of his article).

If our economy has ticked up a bit since 2008 it is probably not due to anything the Republicans have done. And Mr. Brooks does give some credit to the Obama administration. But he also uses this as an argument to suggest that income inequality is exaggerated and the economy doesn’t need fixing.

“On both left and right,” he says, “movements have arisen to fix capitalism’s supposed structural flaws, either by radically interfering in the marketplace (Bernie) or by clamping down on global competition (Trump).

But what if there are no structural flaws? What if the market is working more or less as it’s supposed to?”

He gives data for how much family incomes have risen but he says that productivity has not kept pace. He recommends “more dynamic capitalism – more trade, more immigration, more free competition, fewer regulatory burdens, more growth.” I imagine that he means the first four recommendations will produce more growth since more growth is not something you can legislate.

Wealth Inequality in America

But I don’t think the middle class should start celebrating its great good fortune yet. The difference between 86 billion dollars (Bill Gates, #1 on Forbes 2017 list)  and 59K+ is pretty much the same as the inequality between 30K+ and 86 billion dollars. And in fact people on the bottom have not necessarily shared in rising incomes. Also, a point to remember is that Democrats insisted on a rise in the minimum wage and they have been somewhat successful in making this happen, which may be partially responsible for a rise in wages.

On September 11, 2017 a source called dqydj.com published an article with a title that begins “Net Worth in the United States…” and in that article is a table summarizing net worth for varying percentile points. While a source called “don’t quit your day job” may not have quite the cachet you would wish in a source, the table seems to be from a valid source.

 

Clearly vast inequalities still exist between those who have 30 million in disposable wealth and those who do not even have enough to allow them to own any meaningful share of this economy or in fact to live a viable lifestyle from week to week. I certainly would not look to David Brooks (who is not an economist) to show the way to more growth especially economic growth that is shared equally across all classes. Obviously what you can buy with 30 million in net worth gives those at the top an extremely comfortable life with plenty left over to insure financial security in the future. Most of us realize that even a net worth in the 100K+ levels does not absolutely insure long term financial security. And these are net worth figures, not indicative of how much the actual worth would be in some of these categories.

I am certainly not ready to say that we ought to agree to any tax or budget plan that gives more money to those in the top centiles. I am not ready to give up a plan like Obamacare for a plan that relies on block grants to states. Republicans love to argue that the federal government has taken on all kinds of responsibilities (rights) that our forefathers gave to the states. I think that a fundamentalist interpretation of the Constitution is unlikely to work given that population in America has risen from about 350,000 in 1789 to 350,000,000+ in 2017. I do not think that the states can offer equal services to all Americans if they are loaded down with economic responsibilities that are unrealistic. In fact it is entirely possible that we have reached the right time for single payer health care and it will be the only way we will not be fighting these “state’s rights” battles over and over again for many years to come (a terrible waste of precious time).

Another article I saw today was in The Post Standard, Syracuse, NY. It says “Syracuse’s alarming poverty rate keeps rising in 2016:” 13th worst in U.S.” (up from 29th a year ago). I find it difficult to give countenance to two articles in one day that suggest opposite conclusions. On the one hand we have David Brooks saying that the economy is not broken and on the other hand we have my hometown where it is. (Although that could be partially due to a lingering reliance on the “lock them up’ approach to social change in Syracuse.)

The economy of America is not good until it is good for everyone. We are not there yet. We do not owe one cent in tax cuts to anyone at the top of the wealth tables. We have passed more and more money up the chain and none of it makes our personal financial resources grow or allows us to enjoy the financial security enjoyed by those at the top. Those at the top of the economic heap think 59K is generous but, at the same time, they are still stockpiling the majority of the nation’s wealth.

How are you feeling about your financial security? Do you think we should trade in Obamacare for block grants to states?  Do you think we should reform taxes on corporations? Will that bring more job growth or just line the pockets of those who head the corporations? Do you agree that owners and heads of businesses give workers a fair share of the wealth that workers help generate? Should we give tax cuts to those in top income brackets? The way you answer these questions should determine what you have to say to those who represent you in Congress as the 115th Congress lumbers on. This is a view from the cheap seats.

Unite the Democrats with a Message from Progressives

The Democrats are split in a way that could hurt their goals to turn the majority in, at least the House, from red to blue. We have the Bernie Sanders Progressives suggesting we “go big or go home”. And we have the Obama wing that does not necessarily want to blow up Capitalism; that wants to stay with the current array of power brokers and money people. These folks back the social safety net but they like to straddle the extremes and they like to back public/private partnerships. They do not like the smack of “socialism” that Bernie’s peeps seem comfortable with. There are even two Democratic leaders, the official, duly elected Tom Perez of the DNC, and Keith Ellison, the ersatz leader of the Progressives (sort of like when Europe had two popes). Of course there is also the point that Sanders is registered as an Independent, not a Democrat.

Republicans have chosen to make their stand on health care and so that is where we find ourselves in pitched battle. Bernie has decided to heat up his single payer campaign. The moderates have been offering to take the poorest and sickest people off the hands of the for-profit private insurance industry with their public option (Medicaid). The Republicans are trying to shrink the role the federal government plays in the lives of less affluent Americans, because, they argue, we are robbing them of the incentive to thrive, and incidentally they are not real Americans or they would not sink so low, and because it hurts business and lowers profits. (The Republicans seem a bit preoccupied with money and the image America presents to the world and yet they are the party that gave us 45.)

So recently I have found myself, mostly out of disgust at the tendency on the right to abandon even the appearance of principled politics, tuning in to the message of the Progressives. Speaking of unprincipled politics, there is the rumored back room strategy to get reluctant House members to vote for the newest version of the Republican Health Care Plan by taking block grant money away from blue states and giving it to red states. Is this still business as usual or is this kind of partisan bargaining more underhanded (and possibly less legal) than anywhere politicking has been willing to go before. Someone will dredge up a precedent for this behavior from their deep knowledge of all things political, but I will still find this shocking.

When faced with bad ideology, and refusal to come to the negotiating table, and dirty dealing why would the Dems not go nuclear and adopt a Progressive platform focused on “we the people”. Moderate Dems are unwilling to give up the middle ground because they feel that they may lose important supporters, and perhaps they feel that giving Progressives free rein will change the very nature of our Democracy.

I don’t think it takes much imagination to guess what the private health insurers are saying about Single Payer.

If it ends up that it is not the right time to be extreme, will it be a mine field to retreat back to the public/private arena? Risks are risky and all could be lost. But it looks like we will be stuck in this place where Republicans keep bringing up their terrible health insurance plan until it finally passes and we must live with it. Perhaps it is best to ask for more than we think we can ever get so that a least some boons will be granted to citizens, who seem to be in control of America “in name only”.

Unite the Democrats on a Progressive message and at least we will not split our votes.

The Late Show by Michael Connelly – Book

Detective Renée Ballard is a cop on the night shift aka the late show in Michael Connelly’s book, The Late Show. She works in an LA precinct. Ballard was a promising detective on the day shift until the Lieutenant leading her team began to stalk her sexually, refusing to believe that no meant no. When she lost her case against him she became a pariah and the late show, to which she was demoted, gave her some less judgmental space in which to do what she loved, bring bad people to justice.

But the night shift did not run at the same intense pace that animated the precinct in the daytime. She had a brilliant partner on the day side, but he betrayed her and took the side of her lieutenant.

Now, seemingly buried in the minor crimes of a precinct that no longer buzzed with activity, with a partner, Jenkins, who has a wife with cancer and is doing his job as if it is always an eight hour shift, Ballard gets sucked back into a case that is being led by the man who was her harasser. At the same time she is pursuing a serial abuser who likes to tie up, beat up, and torture women; a case that hooks in to all her current demons. There is also a case, more typical of the late show, of a report of theft of credit cards from an upscale home.

This book moves fast and falls squarely in the area of people who like their recreational reading to include a bit of social commentary. It’s The Late Show by Michael Connelly.

September, 2017 Book List

Another month, another book list. So many books, so little time. However having too many books on our book list is never a bad thing, sort of like a buffet can never have too many offerings. Amazon, this month, listed all the new fall books with publication dates, so some of the titles on the Amazon list are not yet available. Just a reminder that books make great gifts.

Aug. 11

A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

A Doll for the Throwing by Mary Jo Bang (book length sequence of prose poems)

The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes (A Stewart Hoag Mystery) by David Handler

Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen

Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption by Benjamin Rachlin

The House of Government: A Saga of Russian Revolution by Yuri Slezkine

Fog by Miguel de Unamuno, trans. from the Spanish by Elena Barcia

Aug 18th

Stay With Me: A Novel by Ayobami Adebayo

Shooting Ghosts: A US Marine, a Combat Photographer, and their Journey Back from War by Thomas J. Brennan and Finbarr O’Reilly (NF)

Eastman Was Here: A Novel by Alex Gilvary

Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard (1st of a projected quartet of autobiographical volumes) (NF) *

Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

The Room of White Fire: A Novel by T. Jefferson Parker

Aug. 25

The New Voices of Fantasy, edited by Peter S Beagle (NF)

Snap Judgement: a Sam Brinkman Legal Thriller by Marcia Clark

The Burning Girl: A Novel by Claire Messud

Sundays in August by Patrick Modiano, trans. from the French by Damion Searls

The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa, edited by Jeronimo Pizzero, trans. from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa

The Big Indie Books of Fall 2017

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

The Stone Building and Other Places by Asli Erdogan

The People are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage by Jared Yates Sexton (NF)*

Mean by Myriam Grerba

A Year in the Wilderness: Bearing Witness in the Boundary Waters by Amy and Dave Freeman (NF)

The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits by Tiya Miles

Gilded Suffragist by Johanna Neuman (NF)

Democracy and its Crisis by A.C. Grayling (NF) *

Marita: The Spy Who loved Castro by Marita Lorenz (NF)

Solar Bones: A Novel by Mike McCormack

The Glass Eye by Jeannie Vanasco

They Can’t Kill us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib (Essays)

A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore (NF)

Sept. 1

Jumping at Shadows: The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream by Sasha Abramsky (NF)*

Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova (NF)

A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carré (George Smiley)

The World of Tomorrow: A Novel by Brendan Mathews

Black Rock White City by A.S. Patric

The Golden House by Salmon Rushdie *

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

Gorbachev: His Life and Times by William Taubman

Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

Sept. 8th

Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar

The Devouring: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery by James R. Benn

Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime by Ben Blum

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt

Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz

Warcross by Marie Lu

Voice in the Dark by Ulli Lust and Marcel Beyer, trans. from the German by Nika Knight

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Katalin Street by Magda Szabó, trans. from the Hungarian by Len Rix

 

Aug. 11

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

The Chalk Artist by Allegra Goodman

Moving Days by Joshua Cohen

Broken River by Robert Lennon

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Tornado Weather by Deborah E. Kennedy

A House Among the Trees by Julia Grass

Bed-Stuy Is Burning by Brian Platzer

Crime Fiction

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Philips

Arrowood by Mick Finlay

Need You Dead by Peter James

Nonfiction

Chief Engineer by Erica Wagner

Devil’s Bargain by Joshua Green *

The World Broke in Two by Bill Goldstein

Aug. 18th

Nonfiction

Freud by Frederick Crews

The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine

The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

The Once and Future Liberal by Mark Lilla

To Siri with Love by Judith Newman

Life in Code by Ellen Ullman

Surfing with Sartre: Does Riding a Wave Help Solve Existential Mysteries? by Aaron James

Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean (econ. James McGill Buchanan)

Wrestling with His Angel by Sidney Blumenthal (2nd volume of Lincoln biography)

North Korea

Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty by Bradley Martin

The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-hwan and Pierre Rigoulot

Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies by Victor Cha and David Kang

Fiction

The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen

The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet

The Little French Bistro by Nina George

A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe

Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives

Crime Fiction

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton

The Driver by Hart Hanson

The Rat Catcher’s Olympics by Colin Cotterill

Crime Scene by Jonathan Kellerman and his son Jason Kellerman

Aug. 25th

A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert

The Locals by Jonathan Dee

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Motherest by Kristen Iskendrian

Nonfiction

Wild Things by Bruce Handy

Into the Grey Zone by Adrian Owen

No Apparent Distress by Rachel Pearson

Chester B. Himes by Lawrence P. Jackson

You Can Do Anything by George Anders

A Practical Education by Randall Stross

Campus Confidential by Jacques Berlinerblau

The New Education by Cathy N. Davidson

Little Soldiers by Lenora Chu

Sept. 1

Nonfiction

Notes on a Foreign Country by Suzy Hansen

Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas by Donna M. Lucey

‘Good Booty’: The Sexual Power of Music by Ann Powers

‘Warner Bros’: A History of the Studio and the Family by David Thomson’s

“I’ll Have What She’s Having” by Erin Carlson (Nora Ephron)

Life and Adventures of Jack Engle: An Autobiography by Walt Whitman

Manly Health and Training: To Teach the Science of a Sound Mind and a Beautiful Body by Walt Whitman

Fiction

The Woman Who Had Two Navels by Nick Joaquin

Tales of the Tropical Gothic by Nick Joaquin

Crime Novels

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Séance Infernale by Jonathan Skariton

The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer

Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave

When the English Fall by David Williams

Grace by Paul Lynch

Out in the Open by Jesus Carrasco

Made for Love by Alissa Nutting

Pages for You by Sylvia Browning

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Final Demand by Deborah Moggach

My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood

You’ll Never Know Dear by Hallie Ephron

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Sept. 8th

Nonfiction

Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen

Collecting the World by James Delbourgo

Black Detroit by Herb Boyd

Gorbachev by William Taubman

Enraged by Emily Katz Anhalt

A Disappearance in Damascus by Deborah Campbell

Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller

David Litt, an Obama Speech-writer Who Wants No Credit by David Litt

Fiction

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud

The Body in the Clouds by Ashley Hayes

The Party by Elizabeth Day

A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Careers for Women by Joanna Scott

The Lighthouse by Alison Moore

Dirt Road by James Kelman

The Followers by Rebecca Wait

Best Fall Books (Some of these books can only be pre-ordered. They are not yet available from the publisher.)

A Legacy of Spies: A Novel by John Le Carré

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Hardcore Twenty Four by Janet Evanovich

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine by Joe Hagan

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Unqualified by Chris Pratt

My Absolute Darling: A Novel by Gabriel Tallent

Origin by Dan Brown

The Girls Who Takes an Eye for an Eye: A Lisbeth Salander Novel by David Lagercrantz

To Be Where You Are (A Mitford Novel) by Jan Karon

Two Kinds of Truth (A Harry Bosch Novel) by Michael Connelly

The Sun and Her Powers by Rupi Kaur

The Midnight Line: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child

Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

End Game (Will Robie Series) by David Baldacci

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Artemis: A Novel by Andy Weir

Sourdough: A Novel by Robin Sloan

The Rules of Magic: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand

It Devours: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror (John Dies at the End) by David Wong

Without Merit: A Novel by Colleen Hoover

Paris in the Present Tense: A Novel by Mark Helprin

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Future Home of the Living God: A Novel by Louise Erdrich

The Twelve Mile Straight: A Novel by Eleanor Henderson

Autonomous: A Novel by Annalee Newitz

The Quantum Spy: A Thriller by David Ignatius

Snap Judgment by Marcia Clark

Fever by Deon Meyer and K.L. Seefers

Five Carat Soul by James Mc Bride

Hanna Who Fell From the Sky: A Novel by Christopher Meades

Nonfiction

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance by Tom Brady

Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur

Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team by Simon Sinek and David Mead

Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process by John McPhee

Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook by Alice Watersi

Grant by Ron Chernow

It Takes Two: Our Story by Jonathan Scott and Drew Scott

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Unstoppable: My Life So Far by Maria Sharpova

Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live By from WTF Podcast

Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles

David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones

Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone by Satya Nadella and Greg Shaw

My Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History by Josh Dean

T is for Transformation: Unleash the 7 Superpowers to Help You Dig Deeper, Feel Stronger, and Live Your Best Life by Shaun T

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast*

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly Weinersmith and Zack Weinersmith*

Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life by Robert Dallek

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry

What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A by Danielle S. Allen

Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir by Amy Tan

Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime by Ben Blum

Blood Lines: The True Story of a Drug Cartel, the FBI, and the Battle for a Horse-Racing Dynasty by Melissa del Bosque

WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us

The River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe

Chuck D Presents This Day in Rap and Hip Hop History by  Chuck D and foreword by Shepard Fairey

The Bloody Patriots: How I Took Down an Anti-government Militia with Beer, Bounty Hunting and Badassery by Bill Fulton and Jeanne Devon

The Art of Stopping Time: Practical Mindfulness for Busy People by Pedram Shojai

We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter by Celeste Headlee

Lou Reed: A Life by Anthony DeCurtis

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy

Member of My Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness that Ended the Sixties by Dianne Lake and Deborah Herman

Inside Camp David: The Private World of the Presidential Retreat by Michael Giorgione

Real American: A Memoir by Julie Lythcott-Haims

The Ghosts of Langley: Into the CIA’s Heart of Darkness by John Prados

A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa by Alexis Okeowo

A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions by Muhammed Yunus

The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown

Supernormal: The Untold Story of Adversity and Resilience by Meg Jay

The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America by Rebecca Fraser

American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent by Tamer Elnoury with Kevin Maurer

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google by Scott Galloway

Visit my site: http://notabene718.com

to see my published books and my book reviews

 

A Cult of Ignorance

Why does it matter whether this administration believes in climate change or not you might ask? As long as they earmark funds to clean up and rebuild after each disaster we should still be fine, right? Ninety-seven percent of scientists do not think so. I do not think so. Ignorance is never an answer. It is ignorant to pretend that there is no trend to more severe weather and other disastrous events. It is ignorant to pretend that the ice caps are not melting, and even if they are it has little to do with us. It is ignorant to put economic greed above human survival.

It is ignorant to overturn laws that could have helped hold climate change at bay. Even if you don’t believe that humans can effect nature (which is also ignorant) it is foolish not to try. Americans used to love a challenge, a good problem to be solved. If the fossil fuel age is about to end you would think that we would be all gung ho to come up with new options.

America did not used to be a country whose answer to a possible scientific inevitability would be to simply double down on the old technologies suspected of causing those new and sobering truths. If we could usher in an Industrial Age as muscular and productive as what gave America its brash confidence in the last two centuries, we should be just as excited and energetic about creating a new “Age” in the 21st century which will be cleaner and kinder to our planet and our health, a new tech that does not rely on the remains of the Age of Dinosaurs.

I just spent my week the same way many of you probably did, watching that slow and blowsy storm called Irma from the time she left the western coastal waters of Africa. I watched as Irma assaulted the islands of the Caribbean leaving destruction in her wake. I watched the tragic loss of the entire island of Barbuda which may not be rebuilt for some time. Some of the ritziest names in island destinations were in the cross hairs and did not escape unscathed. Irma lingered so long over Cuba I was afraid there would be massive devastation of another nation with few resources for restoration.

But I have family and friends in Florida and as the weather news became direr with each passing day my anxieties were focused with people rather than places. My friends in Miami left first. They were in the bull’s eye for a while. Miami streets experience minor flooding in a rainstorm. I was relieved. They left Florida altogether with the cat and the dog. Then one of my sisters told us that she and her husband had gone with other relatives to stay with her son and daughter-in-law. My sister and her husband recently down-sized to a manufactured home. Her son lives in a home that is rated to last through a Category 4.

So that left us with one couple sheltering in place in, of all places, Cape Coral, the new target of Irma’s ferocious energies. The prediction for a 10-15 foot storm surge in Cape Carol gave me nightmares. These guys live on a canal right near the Gulf of Mexico. On the news broadcasters spoke with contempt for people who stayed when they should have evacuated. But these family members went to two shelters and were turned away at both. The mayor of Cape Coral made it sound like the town’s preparations were extensive but no one seemed to realize that people were being turned away from shelters. My family members had just arrived home from a summer up north and landed right in the path of Irma. It has been a very tense week, only resolved when the surge threat was lowered to 5 ft. There is a sea wall that rises to 4’ and then, still, an upward incline to the house.

Do I know for sure if the phenomenon we call climate change is responsible for that storm? I do not. Do I know that the sea levels are rising and the ice caps are melting? I do. Do I see how people love to live near beaches and coast lines? I feel this pull myself. Do I see how populated the hurricane-prone state of Florida has become, with people still arriving every day, many of them aging and experiencing the challenges that come with aging? Florida is a state that has risen on fairly shaky ground, as I understand it, and it took drastic engineering feats to turn it into the goddess of the good life that it is today.

We just saw 7 million people all try to evacuate a state with one or two main highways. It’s lucky they started early and I bet it was frustrating to sit in those long lines of traffic crawling along. Can we count on evacuating almost an entire state if monster storms become the norm? Doesn’t it make more sense to try some of the solutions scientists offer? Perhaps it is not too late to at least stabilize earth’s environmental situation.

Conservatives, for reasons I cannot understand, are arguing against knowledge, against experimentation, against reasoned thought and innovation. I have no problems with training programs for people who are interested. I think we need people trained to do all kinds of things. I do have a problem with an ideology that feels that the answer to our inner cities is more police, more prison, rather than more computers, more broadband. Some of these people went to Harvard for heaven’s sake; some to the best college in America, Wharton, as we are told. College is still good for people. It is good for brains. It helps them tick and think. Einstein didn’t go to a training program. He went to a university.

Conservatives don’t like colleges because they believe they turn out rubber stamp liberals. I think colleges don’t like Conservatives because they are backward thinkers who have nothing valuable to offer students, although once they would have been examples of civility and the importance of having moral standards. The war on our college campuses was not caused by liberals. Liberals are defending our centers of learning against a reactionary wave, a huge reactionary wave.

We seem to be headed towards an age of ignorance, caught in a cult of ignorance that will rob America of a leading role in a world that will have to streamline and find efficient ways to deal with our exploding populations, and that will have to look outward to space for new planets to colonize, or face desperate wars and diseases and disasters to trim our numbers back to levels that make human life feasible on this planet. Ignorance is our enemy. We don’t have time to while away a century or two in the new Dark Ages.

Budget 2: Overviews of Trump/House Budgets

Trump’s Budget and the House (or Ryan) Budget have only minor differences. In terms of defense spending both budgets add money that has to be taken away from other parts of the budget. These budgets generally break down into Mandatory Spending, Defense Spending, Defense Discretionary Spending, and Non-Defense Discretionary Spending (NDD).

Mandatory spending includes Medicare and Social Security. Trump’s budget does not make cuts to these programs as he promised in his campaign. The House budget does make cuts to mandatory spending.

Both budgets increase military spending by quite a lot. And, as we saw in my article Budget 1, both budgets cut non-defense discretionary spending by cutting programs as listed in my post. Trump’s budget makes more cuts in NDD spending than the House budget makes.

Both of these budgets relied on repealing and replacing the ACA and putting the dollars saved back in the budget. This loss will have a rather large effect on the budget, especially if it must be deficit neutral. Trump’s budget does not rely on being deficit neutral but this condition is something the House budget is supposed to comply with.

Amounts vary between the two budgets but the types of cuts and additions are very similar. There should not be much disagreement between the WH and the House, but there are a few areas of contention.

I am hoping that the cuts in mandatory spending will go away because that is one area of disagreement. Will we go with the NDD cuts generated by Trump or by Ryan or will the opposition save many of these agencies and programs? Will the number of cuts, if any, be closer to the Ryan cuts or to the Trump cuts? How will either budget find a way to be deficit neutral without the repeal and replacement of the ACA? The fact that the health care plan still stands puts a big hole in these budget plans and that makes it harder to produce a balanced budget in 2027, which both budgets claim that they can accomplish.

The “wall” is included in Trump’s budget under defense and national security spending. It is not included in the House budget, but that probably will not fly. Although, if Florida is devastated in similar ways to Houston the entire budget may have to be reworked by both the WH and the House.

Moderate Republicans, well, relatively moderate Republicans, probably will like both of these budgets but the Freedom Caucus is unlikely to like either. They would cut everything except possibly defense spending.

Both of these budgets rely on  growth rates for GDP which economists say are too optimistic. This means that they are unlikely to be deficit neutral or to produce a balanced budget in ten years.

It would have been nice if the Dems had produced a “model” budget so that people could compare the two parties, but perhaps that is just not done when your party is out of power. I suppose we could consider the current budget (2017) to be a Democrat budget. We have made it through years without a new budget before and we could do it again. I really don’t want America’s budget to be reconfigured according to the Republican ideology, but time is not on my side.

President Trump’s 2018 Budget from an article published on May 24, 2017

*3.6 trillion in deficit reduction

*1.5 trillion from unspecified discretionary cuts

*2.8 trillion cuts to mandatory items (not Medicare or SS)

*   1 trillion from repeal of ACA

*300 billion in interest savings

*reduce debt from 77% of GDP or 14.8 trillion today to 60% or 18.6 trillion by 2027 (OMB)

*budget balanced by 2027 from deficit of 3.1% of GDP or 603 billion in 2017

*budget projected spending shrinks from 21.2% of GDP or 4.1 trillion today to 18.4% of GDP or 5.7 trillion by 2027 (OMB)

(CBO objects – this is overly optimistic – debt would likely remain stable and deficits remain 2% of GDP)

Proposals in Trump’s Budget

*3.6 trillion net spending reduction and reforms

*4.5 trillion less in spending

*   1 trillion less in revenue

*697 billion to promote new initiatives

-defense discretionary spending

-veteran’s health program

-paid family leave

-infrastructure investment

*200 billion placeholder infrastructure grants to state and local governments (hopes to leverage 1 trillion of total public/private investment)

*Reduce non-defense discretionary spending (NDD) by 10% (- 555 billion) reduced by 54 billion in 2018 and do this 10 times over ten years (cuts programs listed in my article Budget 1

*Apply “2 penny plan” (2 pennies in cuts for every 1 penny spent) to future NDD spending

*850 billion future unspecified cuts

*Reform Healthcare (- 903 billion)

*Restructure Safety Net Program (-272 billion

*reduce SNAP by 193 billion

*reduce Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) (welfare) grants by 10%

*eliminate Social Security Block Grants – 38 billion saved

*40 billion saved by requiring Social Security Number for Child Tax Credit or EITC

*eliminating supplemental benefits for federal employees retired before age 62

*increase number of salary years used to calculate retirement benefits

*increase federal employee retirement contribution

*Other savings

*farm subsidies

*enacting financial regulation reform

*Restructuring Consumer Finance Protection Bureau

*Postal reform

*Higher Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation premiums and other

*Comprehensive Tax Reform see articles on Trump’s tax plan (no amount given

*Economic growth and War Draw-down saves 2.7 trillion

*All assuming a (very rosy) 3% GDP growth per year by 2020

 

Sources

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/23/us/politics/document-Donald-Trump-2018-Budget.html?mcubz=0

http://www.crfb.org/papers/president-trumps-full-fy-2018-budget

 

 

House Budget “Building a Better America”, Chairman Diane Black’s Summary

*Balance Budget – balance within 10 years by:

*cutting spending

*reforming government

*grow the economy

*projects a $9 billion surplus in 2027 with 6.5 trillion in deficit reduction

*2018 Overall Budget

*$1,132 trillion in discretionary spending

* $621.5 trillion in defense discretionary spending

* $511 billion non-defense discretionary spending

*Promote Job Creation

*tax reform” (reconciliation instructions?)

*lower rates

*simplify code

*incentivize employers to hire and grow (major reform of regulations that hold back job creation and innovation

*Secure National Defense

*funding to secure the border and protect the homeland

*increase account at Department of Veteran’s Affairs

*Strengthening Health Care

*AHCA – American Health Care Act (did not pass)

*saves and strengthens Medicare with a premium support system that gives seniors more control (?)

*Reforms Medicaid by giving states the power to tailor Medicaid programs (block grants, vouchers?)

*Cutting spending and reforming government which will cut $203 billion through savings and reform (reconciliation instructions) (?)

*Reduce government-wide improper payments (?) by $700 billion

*Calls on 11 committees to cut $203 billion altogether over 10 years (NDD as per Budget 1)

*Assumes optimistic economic growth rate

* WH assumed 3% growth

*House budget assumes 2.6% growth

*”economists say that both of these growth rates are optimistic”

*Slashed safety net programs – imposes work requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare) and SNAP (food stamps)

*Proposes deficit neutral tax changes – Trump’s budget does not do this

*House GOP budget cuts Medicare and Social Security (“likely to receive pushback from Republicans wary of cutting into popular entitlement programs”)

NPR Article says this about House Budget

*Cuts $54 trillion over 10 years

*$4 trillion in cuts to mandatory spending (Medicaid, Medicare)

*Ramps up defense spending

*”budgets are more statements of priority than exact plans

*”Budget could allow Republicans to pass tax overhaul by reconciliation” (only 51 votes instead of 60)

*Ramp up defense spending by $929 billion

*Cut NDD spending by 1.3 trillion (WH and House similar in this regard)

Sources

https://budget.house.gov/budgets/fiscal-year-2016-budget/summary-key-facts/

http://www.npr.org/2017/07/19/537959833/heres-whats-in-the-house-republican-budget-and-why-it-matters

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/14/republicans-cuts-programs-food-stamps-welfare-veterans-238314

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/18/house-budget-committee-proposes-boosting-defense-spending-reshaping-welfare-programs.html

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/house-gop-budget-plan-puts-medicare-and-social-security-on-the-line/533991/

 

Pay Your Dues: Reprise from Labor Day 2015

 

This is how the map looks on Labor Day 2017 (only one addition)

I first published this article in my blog on Labor Day in 2015. Not only is this information still relevant but the need to fight for worker’s rights is more important than ever. The words Republicans use for this particular plan to dismantle unions sound so innocent. They ask unions to conform to “right to work” laws which prey on the angers of workers who like the benefits unions provide but who don’t want to pay dues or belong to a union. In some states you must pay into the union whether you are a member or not. This may sound un-American but unions could not fight for workers with out having powers equal to the moneyed people they are fighting against. Workers have been led to believe by Republican “talk” that unions are to blame for causing manufacturers to leave the United States for other markets. But once manufacturers became aware of the huge untapped markets in the “third world” and the cheap and plentiful laborers, it was inevitable that we would see the “Great Factory Migration.

Here is what I said in 2015:

It is another Labor Day, a day when we celebrate American workers. America is a country that believes in work. Hard work will pay off. Hard work will win you a better life. People who don’t work hard are lazy and un-American. Even Labor Unions are suspect to some, as we know. They are organizations that target employers and try to milk concessions from them that slurp up profits and kill businesses. They are sops for lazy workers who can’t suck it up and do their jobs. They are the mommy that kisses boo boos and tucks possible sources of worker injuries away, ‘nickel and dime-ing’ employers until they have to keep building new bookcases to house the books of regulations and hire new lawyers to protect the wealth of business owners. Many say that Unions drove business out of America by making it too expensive to do business here. It is the fault of the Unions, they say, that Americans now languish in sloth, making impossible demands on the Federal Government and still managing to reduce the profits of serious men of business (who have obviously earned their rich and luxurious lifestyles).

We, the workers of America and the former workers of America, recognize that this is a ridiculously one-sided view of Unions and/or the American worker. The very reason Unions exist is to protect workers from employers whose only interest is their bottom line (which, most likely, is not all employers). We learned about corporate greed the hard way and if we keep an eye on Southeast Asia and on China and other newly industrialized nations we see that they are learning those tough lessons that we learned decades ago. Workers must have a way to protect themselves from businessmen who practice a ruthless form of Capitalism. These new workers are in a far worse state than American workers were. There was pushback against unionizing; it was sometimes a bloody and brutal war, but we lived in a Democratic nation where people who believed in the ideals of the American nation offered support to unionizing and a counterpoint to stubborn business owners. How difficult will it be for people living in dictatorships to ever do anything to protect workers?

People are trying to bust our unions in these divisive days when our economy looks somewhat bleak. They are having some success by using ‘right to work’ laws which say that unions cannot charge dues to non-members. It seems logical that someone who is not a union member should not have to pay a fee to the union, but it robs the union of the power to bargain, and when a union bargains with an employer and succeeds the benefits accrue for all workers, not only union workers. We also have seen how employers can use non-Union employees against Union employees.  ‘Right to Work’ laws only ‘seem’ to benefit workers. The laws are a tool of the owner class used to break up unions.

There is another aspect of Union busting which should concern us. Union busting is being used by Republicans and their wealthy corporate donors to suppress the vote and to rob Democrats of the very powerful support they have received from Labor Unions. With our factories gone we may not need our Unions right now as desperately as we once did, but we should not let them be disemboweled by Big Business and their minions in Congress. Whatever your connection to your union, continue to pay your union dues if you can. We at least need our unions to offset the huge injections of cash into elections by the donor class. We need unions to insure that American workers still have a say in elections.

Here are more of my Labor Day articles:

http://thearmchairobserver.com/a-blue-labor-day/

http://thearmchairobserver.com/labor-day-2013-reflections-on-american/

http://thearmchairobserver.com/labor/