Friday, June 10, 2011

American Dream VS. FMC

The American Dream is a powerful ideology of the American culture, stretching back to our nations founding, igniting our sense of Manifest Destiny, and driving us as a people to be the leading innovative and technological power for generations. The idea of the American Dream is simple: Anyone can make it. If you've got an idea and enough passion and patience, you can be rich, successful, and free from the limitations of your birth and background. It is an intoxicating notion, one that encourages those of all classes to strive for greater purpose and greater prosperity. While their success is not assured, it is believed that everyone has the same chance, we're all flying on a dollar and a dream.

But there is another ideology in America, the ideology of Free Market Capitalism. And according to this philosophy, there are - there must be - losers. There is and there must continue to be inequality. We all not all born the same and thus are doomed to fail or succeed based on our station at birth. The FMC ideology discourages everyone from being successful because that would mean that everyone was the same. There would be no competition, no winners to trickle their prosperity down to the losers. There would be no competition because everyone would have already won. FMC does not encourage those of lower class to go after their dreams. Instead, it forces them into cycles of dependence on jobs, low-income  and low-quality standards of living, and massive corporations that can buy out competitors at whim. In short, FMC is the antithesis of the American Dream.

Ironically, these two ideologies, so diametrically opposed, have been intertwined in our minds. We have been told so many times that the Dream exists because of Capitalism that we have come to believe they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the Dream has been diminishing as FMC has ramped up and gotten bigger. We now live in a country where speculation on oil futures creates "false demand" and so drives up the prices. We live in a country where locally owned businesses are trampled by big box stores, family restaurants are run out of business by chains, and people are squeezed ever downward as money continually floods to the top 2% of the population. There are people living in tenements and storage sheds, starving day and night, while other members of society live in vast gated communities with body guards and security cameras. It's not about personal responsibility. Our lives and fates have become hopelessly entwined with our heritage. It is the very rare individual that can make it rich anymore, especially those in the lowest classes. Many with ideas and the means to make them work must then sell their ideas to large companies or go bankrupt trying to sell their products.

The American Dream, once so majestic and attainable, has been stolen away from the hands of the working and replaced with the idol of Free Market Capitalism. We are told they are the same thing, that one cannot exist without the other, but we don't question this assertion. We have lost the ability to better our lives, and instead have been taught to roll over and acquiesce to our station. That is not how the dream works. I believe in the American Dream. I believe that this country was founded so that every man and woman can have a good quality of life, can be financially secure, and can make a better world for their children that they might attain greater things. FMC is not how that dream comes true, and it never will be.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Debt ceiling vote

Stephen Colbert makes a good point about a recent debt ceiling vote. The Republicans produced a bill to raise the debt ceiling which they then voted against to show their Tea Party constituents that they were taking a hard stance on it. They also called Wall St. to reassure them that the bill wasn't a serious vote, it was just for show. So don't worry Wall St, the Right still has your back.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Decide for yourself

The major controversy of the moment is the Weiner affair, in which congressman Anthony Weiner of New York supposedly posted an obscene picture on his twitter account. At first, it seemed a cut-and-dry fiasco, but it appears that some people are suspecting a third party was involved. Can you say Andrew Breitbart?

Here's a good synopsis of the argument. Basically, it all comes back to Justice Thomas, the supreme court justice who recently got in trouble for failing to disclose his wife's income from organizations like Citizens United (which Thomas also received campaign funds from, and then went on to vote in favor of, breaking neutrality on the Supreme Court). The theory is that, because Weiner was such an outspoken opponent of Justice Thomas serving on the upcoming Health Care case, he was targeted by Breitbart and was actually hacked like he says.

Breitbart, of course, is the ultra-conservative activist who pulled off the scandals against ACORN, Shirley Sherrod, and NPR. Keep in mind that in each of these previous cases, Breitbart was found to have falsified documents, edited video in order to present false information, and generally been shown to lie blatantly.

Thomas, who has now released the financial records of his spouse, was initially reluctant to do so, which we now know is because it ties him financially to several major conservative organizations that have launched campaigns against Obama's health care plan. His wife in particular started her own lobbying firm after leaving her position as Liberty Central president and CEO, called Liberty Consulting, whose sole purpose is to work against Obama health care reform.

According to US Title 28, Section 455, a judge must be excused from proceedings in which they have a conflict of interest. Thomas clearly has one now. This is significant because Thomas represents a deciding vote that will certainly be cast against health care reform. Because conservatives have a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court, it's likely the HCR would be voted down. If the court follows their own rules, Thomas should not sit on the proceedings.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Using a toothpick to dig the grave

We've been hearing a lot about the massive amount of waste in Washington. But there haven't been a lot of answers to how to combat it that have gotten very far. Congress even voted down a proposal to end subsidies to massive oil companies.

But the House Appropriations Committee has voted to cut subsidies for agriculture and farmers instead. The bill would lower the threshold that farmers can make and still receive aid. The aid currently costs the federal government $5 billion a year.

To put this in perspective, the government pays billions a year to big oil, one of the most profitable businesses in the world. They give away tax dollars to massive corporations that rake in billions in profits all by themselves. But they won't touch that. Instead, they're going to tighten restrictions on farmers so that they have to be making less money in order to receive aid from the government. They have to be making less than $250,000 a year in order to get aid, compared to oil businesses that make billions and still get subsidies.

And it's not like farmers have it great. Living and growing up in rural farm communities, I know that farmers aren't rich. They're wealth is tied to land, and the money they make is constantly changing. Some years, like this one, there's too much rain and crops rot in the ground. Other times, there's not enough rain and nothing grows. The subsidies given to farmers are meant to keep them afloat through good years and bad.

It just goes to show that the HAC, and Congress as a whole, seems more interested in tearing pennies from the callused hands of American workers than in pulling back their continued funding of big business, taking tiny bits and pieces out of the budget of social programs instead of hacking away money that is given to special interests.