Tag Archives: Democracy

Violence, culture won’t change unless we do

“We’re not doing enough. We will have to change.”

They were the words of Barack Obama, but they felt like the message from a nation mired in the despair of a helpless malaise. Understanding that each of us bears some responsibility, not just to ourselves but to our nation.

I watched President Obama speak to the families of Newtown, Connecticut and felt more connected to my president than at any time since the attacks of September 11.

While nothing will fully erase the memory of failed economic policies, a hegemonic health care bill, divisive hypocritical rhetoric about taxes and the deficit, or the foreign policy disasters of the last year, Barack Obama made me forget all of those for a brief moment.

If you didn’t forget (and many on Twitter perversely decided it was a good time to make political jokes), I feel sorry for you.

Showing for the first time what a true leader looks like, Obama was compassionate, but firm, genuinely heart-broken, yet steady.

But nothing changes if we don’t. Let’s not flail around looking for scapegoats was his message. This isn’t an issue of the media as Morgan Freeman will have you believe. Violent video games aren’t to blame, nor is aggressive music or movies.

The President had the culprit correct when he named it several times: “we.”

Us.

This is our fault.

We let the NRA prevent us from banning assault rifles which no civilian could possibly need. We didn’t pay close enough attention when the extended magazine restriction hit its sunset.

We haven’t placed a premium on the mental health of our children, demanding that parents everywhere have a place to get help if they have a child who is mentally ill.

As a culture of parents, we’ve lost our way. Gone is the discipline and regimentation of our former generations, replaced with pharmaceutics remedies and video game baby-sitters.

Our parental culture, as much as anything in this country, is broken. No legislation will fix that. We have to.

My mother, an inner-city school teacher, has had conferences with the parents of struggling students, only to watch the parents berate and beat their children just outside the classroom. She’s had to call the police more than once.

Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Barack Obama said vote for “Change we can all believe in.”

Until now, we haven’t gotten the change we’ve sought because we only listened to the second guy, not the first. Voting for Barack Obama never was going to solve the problems this country faced.

We had to make sure that happened, no matter who we voted for. Too often has our president used powerful words only to fall short with his actions. We’ve suffered from the same delusion.

If Barack Obama leads us, he has a chance to follow through on his own words and those of Ghandi’s. His words Saturday make me believe he knows and understands that.

I’ve said from the first day he was introduced as a candidate that I hoped Barack Obama was the man so many thought he was. Not because of his politics, most of which I detest, but because of his potential as a uniting force in leadership. Four years in, he hasn’t even been a shadow of that leader.

He has a chance to be and because we cannot afford to wait any longer, because we can’t afford to have another Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or Newtown, we need him to be.

Each of us must do the same and find out how we can help change the culture, change the laws, and yet all the while doubling down on the foundation of the United States of America.

That has never had to change. The foundation of America, a place where every person has a chance to flourish and follow his or her dreams, that hasn’t changed. What has changed is that more and more, we’re only worried about our own dreams and success, forgetting that our own success is inextricably linked to the ability that others around us have to likewise succeed. “A threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere” is what Dr. Martin Luther King said.

Somewhere along the line that idea was lost, perhaps perverted and altered. But that backbone is as sturdy as ever and we must lean on it, reminding ourselves that Democracy is freeing and empowering only when we demand it be so for everyone.

We’re not doing enough. We will have to change.

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Unions pledge allegiance to the left

The left loves “choices,” unless you don’t want to makes choices they like.

It’s a platform as old as the party itself and we see it born out in the Democratic bowing to union power.

For most of the last century, the union’s influence on politics has been mostly implicit to the mainstream population. We knew it was happening, but we didn’t really see it.

Lately, though, the veil of secrecy has been lifted the left has openly embraced their union masters. Unions across the country pumped money in the Wisconsin recall race when Scott Walker dismantled collective bargaining for public employees (saving the state billions).

Even avowed lefty Rahm Emmanuel, upon leaving the Obama administration and becoming mayor of Chicago, took aim at union power for one simple reason: the city couldn’t afford to pay for it.

Today, it comes out that the teachers will strike (it’s all about the kids right?), saying they’ve been bullied. The only problem is the district offered 16% raises over four years and an improved benefit package. You aren’t getting a big enough raise at a time when NO ONE is getting raises and you’re getting bullied? The gumption it takes to say that belies how incredibly out of touch such a statement is.

Unfortunately, it’s that kind of logic which has driven the political discussion in Washington, thanks to our president adopting similar policies from the White House.

Mitt Romney has, for his part, played the Chicago Public School scenario perfectly from a political standpoint. By backing Obama’s former Chief of Staff against the union, Romney has forced Obama to make an anti-union stand and risk alienating his donors, or back the unions and risk looking like a union servant, not to mention the guy who supports 400,000 not being in school. 

In fact, the New York Times even went so far as to frame the election as unions vs. corporations in terms of how each side is being financed.

(Apparently Bill Maher and the liberal media elitist making million dollar contributions to the Obama campaign isn’t as newsworthy or relevant)

Unions even had the audacity to complain (Mother Jones referred to them as “getting the shaft”) that they weren’t “consulted” regarding the Democratic National Convention, specifically that it would be in North Carolina, a “right to work” state.

A classic lefty hypocrisy: you get to choose, unless we don’t like your choices.

Pro-unionistas will tell you that a union is the most democratic way to fight “the establishment.”

That is if you want to have no choice as to whether you join it, no choice on how much it costs, no choice on where that money goes or what political candidates that money funds, or no choice as to whether or not your bargainers bankrupt the local government, school district, or business for whom the union works.

Unions worked really well when we had no government restrictions about the work week, working conditions, break times, and myriad other rights we now enjoy thanks to the organized labor movement.

Wisconsin, who dismantled collective bargaining for public employees, was a leader in creating those rights and ultimately it bankrupted the state.

States around the country are fighting similar battles.

When you have a union in Milwaukee for instance, more concerned with holding the line on salary and benefits than worried about hundreds of teachers being laid off, how can you argue that is a democratic system?

I bet if you let those teachers vote, they would choose overwhelmingly to take small cuts in order to protect the jobs of their friends and colleagues.

The so-called “democracy” practiced by unions is much closer to fascism, with the illusion of democracy. No wonder they’ve so closely aligned themselves with the left.

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Why the slow death of public employee unions is a win for democracy

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker successfully fended off his union-funded recall a week ago, but the reverberations (and over-reactions) will be felt across the country.

Rachel Maddow said Republicans will win every election for eternity because unions have lost so much power.

One Madison pro-recall man proclaimed Walker’s victory as the end of democracy.

The left has set up this caustic false analogy as part their war on success.

Us vs. them.

The rich vs. poor.

The working class against the ruling class.

It’s Marxist for the modern age.

It was interesting to watch the political discussions going on about Wisconsin. The left railed against Scott Walker and the Republicans as if “they” were out to get the people of Wisconsin.

Except for the fact that “they” balanced a $3 billion structural deficit without raising taxes and created an exponentially superior business climate through incentives for state reinvestment.

Walker won his recall election by a wider margin than his first election.

That should tell you something. The people who support him don’t view this fight as “us against them.”

They recognize that this is about all of us.

I had a union organizer once tell me that unions were the much more democratic system than going out. Presumably this is because unions vote on certain things.

There’s actually nothing democratic about union labor. Union dues are used to fund causes that the union population doesn’t get to pick.

Millions in national union dollars went to Wisconsin to fight a fight that has nothing to do with steel union workers in Pennsylvania or manufacturers in Missouri.

Unions are taking workers’ money and spending it without their consent with the idea that being in the union protects them from the big bad boss man.

In a non-union setting, money not paid to workers goes back into the business. It’s called re-investment, and businesses started during Obama’s reign of economic terror may not be familiar with this concept.

Re-investment creates new jobs, new tax-payers, new people who can support their families. Union bargaining just creates higher wages for union employees. It puts more food on the table for those already there, not allowing more mouths to be fed.

In a union, the workers decide their own value, even if the market place says they aren’t worth it.

In a public employee union, the government has no choice but to pay those workers out of the pockets of the taxpayers.

That’s not democratic, it’s authoritarian.

Oppressive.

When you go to the store, the price of that gallon of milk isn’t arbitrary, it’s set based on the cost to produce that milk and the price competing businesses are setting.

It’s not set by the consumer. If it were, the milk producers and the grocery stores would go out of business.

That’s exactly what has happened with public employee unions. The consumers have set the price and pushed government to bankrupcy.

In Milwaukee, the teacher unions failed to re-open bargaining for the concessions in Scott Walker’s budget and hundreds of teachers were laid off.

What’s Democratic about that?

If Democrats can’t win elections without unions, that’s a win for the United States, not because it cripples the left but because it spells the end of union election-buying which has taken place for decades.

Unions monopolized the market and are terrified that they’ve lost such a monopoly, no longer able to unilaterally decide where to spend millions in campaign contributions taken from employees and spent without their direct consent.

This is not the end of democracy as unions, particularly public employee unions, begin to wain. Rather, it is the re-birth of a truer, freer democracy, where every voice must be heard and we decide as a country what we are worth.

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Democracy worked in North Carolina, even if you don’t agree with the outcome

Being a liberal means accepting some truths that are somewhat unpleasant for us non-believers.

Plainly, they believe people should be free to make choices, unless they’re not making the right choices.

See the problem here?

Liberals believe the government ought to be the arbiter of how we live our lives. Presumably, this is the case because people tend to be bad at making their own decisions…at least that’s the way the left sees it.

On the other hand, the progressives and occupiers want more democracy, more freedom, more choice.

In true and direct democracy, the people decide nearly everything.

Representative democracy is about electing someone to represent you. It’s their job to convey the concerns of their constituents, but ultimately they make choices.

There are exceptions to this though in our representative democracy.

We call it a referendum. Not the rhetorical kind used in political posturing where a politician will say, “This election is a referendum on fiscal responsibility.”

That is a referendum in the loose sense.

In the official, government policy-forming sense, a referendum is a specific and direct piece of legislation to be voted on by the people.

Local governments use them mostly to approve tax increases for major projects like funding a baseball stadium or more teachers in a school district.

There’s something invigoratingly democratic about it.

Of course, there’s a danger as well. People can make dumb decisions, particularly in large groups.

But that’s how democracy works. We get to choose.

We chose Obama. He failed. That’s on us.

So when progressives demand more freedom, more democracy and a louder voice of the people, we assume they mean it.

Unless, of course, it produces an outcome they disagree with.

For instance, in North Carolina, the voters recently had a referendum on gay marriage. This was a vote, a true referendum to create a distinction of what “marriage,” means as it relates to state law.

In this case, it delineated the line as being between only a man and woman.

Basically, it was an anti-gay marriage referendum.

And guess what? The voters spoke.

Elections have consequences. You don’t have to agree with the outcome. That’s the beauty of democracy.

But the other beauty of democracy is majority rules. Democracy is so freeing, so fundamentally empowering because we get to pick the guidelines under which we are all to live.

It’s the very nature of the social contract: we give up certain rights to protect other rights. The rights we keep are just as important as those we give up.

For those who believe government has no business defining “marriage,” please consider that special protections, tax exemptions, and rights are granted to married couples. Very much on the contrary, government must define marriage otherwise they are left with non-specific laws.

Do I believe gay couples should have the same rights afforded to straight couples? Yes I do. But I only have one vote.

If I want to set policy, I have to be active in educating people, in advocating for a policy. I can’t just complain that a lot of people voted in a way I don’t like.

We all have to do our part to prevent the majority from making poor decisions. Our own vote is important. Helping others make an educated vote is just as important, if not more so to the fundamental nature of our democracy.

To our own freedoms.

But you can’t have it both ways like the left wants. You can’t say “Let us decide…unless the people who lose were really right.”

That’s not how democracy should work. Luckily, it’s not how our democracy does work.

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Obama’s latest attempt to pit classes against one another

Barack Obama thinks he’s found an issue he can win with.

The budget he released yesterday has nothing to do with balancing deficits (because it doesn’t), fixing entitlements (it doesn’t do that either) or controlling spending (not even close).

President Obama is once again Candidate Obama, assuming you believed he ever stopped being the latter.

This budget is about one thing: taxing the rich.

This is where Obama thinks the Republicans are weak. He knows he can’t win in the economy because it isn’t better now than it was three years ago.

He can’t win on foreign policy because no one truly believes he’s responsible for ending the Iraq War, particularly considering it was done on President Bush’s timeline.

Education reform is a non-issue in this election, although if I’m the GOP I attack him for undoing the accountability No Child Left Behind attempted to produce.

Obama has now given 20% of the country waivers on fulfilling the requirements. It’s like your father saying you don’t get an allowance if you don’t mow the lawn. Then, when you refuse to mow the lawn, your mom slips you a $5 anyway.

Obamacare is a disaster, an unpopular policy to any one between the ages of 26 and 60 a.k.a the people paying for it.

If there’s one thing Candidate Obama does better than anyone else, it’s campaigning on an idea rather than policy.

The idea that the Republicans are a party of the rich is hard to disprove when the party has long opposed higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Candidate Obama will use this budget to be his archetype example.

“See,” he’ll say, “I want to make sure everyone pays their fair share and the Republicans just want to protect their rich friends.”

Obama should know; no one protects their rich friends better than he does.

Republicans lost the public relations war on the debt ceiling because of their insistence on no new taxes. The problem with Democracy is the majority don’t always have their own best interest, they just think they do.

The resentment driven by the Occupy movement doesn’t permeate across age groups or socioeconomic groups. In fact, more people have a favorable view of rich people than an unfavorable one.

More the point, I’m not saying Obama actually should use this class warfare as a strategy, just that he’s going to.

If Mitt Romney is the candidate for the Republicans and an extremely strong conservative voice isn’t his running mate, Obama’s strategy looks somewhat better given Romney’s extensive fortune and lack of appeal among conservatives.

Against a candidate like Rick Santorum, a man who despite his limitations (Google problem, extreme social conservatism) is steeped in middle class, blue-collar values, Obama will not find it so easy going.

I’m still not convinced Santorum can unseat Romney, despite what the latest polls say, but in a class warfare battle, Obama can’t possibly beat him.

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Flat tax flack: changes to system would reflect spirit of democracy

Rick Perry became the latest Republican Presidential hopeful to bring it up. It’s a dirty word (phrase) among liberals and how it will be received by the American people is still “to be determined.”

The issue is a flat tax.

Herman Cain started the discussion, at least among Republican candidates, with his 9-9-9 plan which calls for a flat tax rate of 9% plus a corporate tax and a sales tax.

Yes, with 50% of the American people not paying income tax due to incentives, refunds, and lack of income, a flat tax would raise taxes on just about everyone.

In fact, according to a recent study, the 9-9-9 plan would raise taxes on 84% of households in the United States.

Aren’t the Republicans about cutting taxes?

I can only assume that by “taxes” this study includes the sales tax since even though half the country doesn’t pay taxes, everyone else who does pay, is taxed at a rate of at least 10%. Plus, there are myriad people and families who pay taxes at 10% , but qualify for incentives and rebates that bring their net tax burden to 0 (I wonder how that is factored into this analysis).

Without looking at the financial implications directly, I want to take a broader and perhaps deeper view on how we think about taxes.

First, one must understand the way a government is formed and why we even have taxes.

Dating back centuries, even to 17th century philosophy Thomas Hobbes, there has been an understanding that government’s role is to protect.

Hobbes uses the image of the state of nature where everyone must take care of himself and his family.

The state of nature is a horrible, violent place, where the only consequences for your actions are the reactions of your fellow man.

For Hobbes, and even more modern contract theorists like Rousseau, we give up certain freedoms to gain certain others. In the state of nature, we have to live in constant fear for our lives so we could kill another person and only have to worry about his brother or son retaliating.

In government, we have laws prohibiting killing, which means we are safe from the homicidal whims of our neighbors.

In Hobbes’ time, taxes were often used more like we think of the mafia using them. ‘You pay us, and we’ll make sure you’re protected.’ There was less moderation of resources and more a vehicle to accumulate wealth for the rulers while demonstrating the ruler’s power.

Society, and in turn government, has evolved since then, although authoritarian countries still run very much like this.

The rise of Democracy allowed taxes to become a way for the citizens to pay for the work the government does. Soldiers, and later police were to be paid.

The larger populations became and the more the monetary system was used, the more it became necessary to staff larger numbers of government workers to do work like cleaning or paving the streets, managing public resources.

Taxes are a person’s way of paying the government to be a part of the social contract. If we are to assume certain protections from the government and the moderation of public resources, we have to pay for them.

It is decidedly undemocratic, and arguably a violation of the social contract, that half the population of a country does not contribute to the very system on which it relies. If we are all truly equal in the eyes of the government, it is unjust to expect us to pay unequally for that government.

Asking everyone to contribute does not truly mean “everyone,” but rather everyone who is able. Children, the elderly, people who are physically or mentally ill and cannot work, these are the people who ought to be exempt from having to pay.

Furthermore, a flat tax does not necessarily remove rebates like the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers who would likely end up paying nothing under a flat tax system.

In fact, a single mother with two children who made $10,000 would have to pay $900 in Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, whereas now that mother would pay nothing. The EITC would be a credit of $4,716, literally a check for that amount. Essentially all that would do is lower the money she’s paid by the government $900.

A flat tax would literally do nothing to change the tax burden of that single mother, but rather only reduce the amount of government aid she could receive.

I don’t want to argue the economic benefits of a flat-tax. I don’t understand our multi-million word tax law (either do most people) well enough, nor do I have enough economic data to determine if the recent study showing 84% of people would see a tax increase under the 9-9-9 plan is based solely on the flat tax or if they’re including things like how much a family would pay in sales taxes as well.

Rather I simply point out that a progressive tax system in not in the spirit of democracy. Plenty of things about our democracy are hypocritical and a progressive tax is one of them.

In the social contract, everyone must give up certain rights. In doing so, we are all theoretically equal in the eyes of government (or at least we ought to be). As a result, we are allowed to be part of the state and receive the benefits contained therein.

Even if I grant that it is somehow just that certain people benefit from the government significantly more than others, I cannot simply grant that each person should also pay a disproportionate amount to receive even the same benefits (although we know that the people paying the highest rates receive no additional benefit for doing so).

A million still pays more in real dollars than someone who makes $20,000 a year. We’re not asking everyone to pay a flat amount, but rather a rate based on your income, proportionate and equal to everyone else since everyone else had to give up equal and proportionate rights to become a part of the system.

Herman Cain’s plan is flawed. Rick Perry’s will no doubt be flawed as well,  but the discussion about taxes is changing.

Finally, there’s hope we’ll have a tax system truly worthy of democracy.

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