Destruction Of The US. (Part Ten – Propaganga)

The Founders had such high regard for the role of the press that they included it in the Bill of Rights as one of the essentials of freedom. Nevertheless, the news media has had a checkered past. During the late 1800s, newspapers , led by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer published increasingly false and sensational stories in an effort to build circulation. Indeed, their focus on crime and fear, and their sensational reports of Spanish brutality combined with the explosion of the Maine in Havana harbor likely led to the Spanish-American War.

Yet following the war, Pulitzer led the industry to reform. By the time of his death, his newspaper had become highly-respected. And journalism became a highly-respected profession. The industry’s reputation continued to grow as the result of the efforts of war correspondents during World War I, World War II and the Korean War when Americans at home were hungry for news of the war efforts. The industry reached a pinnacle in the 1960s and 70s when reporting by CBS and Walter Cronkite led to the end the Vietnam War and reporting by the Washington Post exposed Watergate.

Additionally, thanks to the Fairness Doctrine, broadcast media were held accountable for “serving in the public interest.” That meant that radio and television stations were held to a standard of telling the truth and separating opinion from fact. (Imagine that!)

But when the Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987, everything began to change.

The end of the Fairness Doctrine opened the door for sensational radio shows hosted by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity. These devolved into political shows that railed against the government. They told you that your democratically-elected government was the enemy. And that liberals were only one step removed from communists who were determined to take your money.

Shortly afterward, Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch saw an opportunity to become wealthy by building Fox News in order to capture the same audience. Promoting Fox as “fair and balanced,” Ailes quickly divorced its viewers from the truth. In a few years, Fox had become little more than the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. Not the Republican Party of Eisenhower and Rockefeller – a previously moderate party that focused on the interests of business . Rather Fox News pandered to those in the Republican Party who sought to rebuild the government to serve their personal agenda – the extremely wealthy who, like the Koch brothers, believed that government should only provide for national defense and law and order. In other words, the government should protect them and their wealth.

Over the same time period, the so-called Mainstream Media began to change. Where broadcast newsrooms had long been treated as a service, the new corporate owners saw them as a potential revenue stream. They became focused on ratings and the bottom line. CBS News, once the premier news-gathering institution in the world, slashed its news bureaus and fired reporters. Others followed suit. And local news stations adopted the “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy that focused on crime and sensational stories to build ratings.

It’s as if the ghost of William Randolph Hearst has invaded the boardrooms of corporate media organizations.

The Sinclair Broadcast Group, Disney, Comcast and many other large media owners have also jumped on the money train placing profits ahead of truth. The same is true of the new media. Breitbart and others fan the flames of division and hatred by publishing highly biased stories un-tethered from the truth. Their fear-mongering has led to the explosion in gun ownership and the resulting shootings. Because of them, there has been a rise in hate crimes. Because of them, we are more divided than at any time since the Civil War. And, only because of all them could someone like Trump gain access to the White House. Trump likes to attack the media as “fake news.” But it is precisely because of fake news from Fox, Breitbart, Sinclair and others, that the leader of a crime family, someone who has been found to make factual statements just 5 percent of the time, can claim the title of president.

And, though Trump is a product of fake news media, it is the legitimate news media that will likely lead to his undoing. It is only because of the hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated reporters that we know of Trump’s many crimes. The reporters who spend months digging through files to uncover corruption and those who are willing to put their jobs, their reputations and, in some cases, their lives on the line to get at the truth.

If our nation survives this criminal administration, we will all owe them a great debt of gratitude.

Are Rural Americans Treated As Unfairly As They Believe?

Those living in rural America have long held a “woe is me” attitude. They claim that they are unfairly treated by “urban elites.” They believe our government favors those who live in the cities – that most of their taxes go towards the building of urban freeways and what they perceive as unwarranted welfare assistance for “inner city residents”, i.e. people of color.

Certainly, there are misunderstandings on both sides. Too often, movies and televisions shows have portrayed rural Americans as country bumpkins. And some of those living in coastal cities consider the rest of America “flyover” country. Yet the truth is that rural Americans have advantages that all but the wealthiest of urban Americans don’t. And, if they ever took the time to look at statistics, they’d be in for a rude awakening.

For example, it has long been documented that the cost per capita of building and maintaining roads in rural areas is far greater than in large cities. So, too, is the cost of building and maintaining electric lines and communications. The cost of living in rural areas is far lower than in cities. And, though many rural states contribute less federal revenue than others, they receive more in benefits. In descending order, MS, LA, TN, MT, KY, MO and SD are the states that rely most on federal aid. Most of these are rural. And, when it comes to politics, most of them are bright, bright red.

Those living in the least populous states also have disproportionate representation in the Senate and the electoral college. For the most part, the sea of red you saw on the electoral map following the 2016 election was more a representation of geography than voters. There were nearly 3 million more votes for the Democratic presidential candidate. And there were more than 6 million more votes for Democratic Senate candidates. Yet Republicans took control of both the White House and the Senate. That’s because of a growing disparity in the population of states. For example, people in Wyoming now have 4 times the representation in the electoral college as those living in California. And the votes of those living in Vermont and North Dakota count far more than the votes of those living in New York and Florida.

Instead of one person one vote, in rural states, one person has the equivalent of two, three or four votes!

Is it any wonder then that politicians pander to those in rural areas? Why Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have disproportionate sway in our electoral process? Why farmers have received subsidies during Trump’s trade war and others affected – particularly those in cities – have not? Of course, the farm subsidies are nothing new. And American farmers are not the only ones who benefit. A recent report states that, worldwide, farming subsidies add up to roughly $1 trillion or approximately $1 million per minute! Of those, US farmers receive about $50 billion a year, not including the $28 billion in subsidies that have resulted from Trump’s trade war with China.

Yet, despite the subsidies and electoral advantages, many rural Americans continue to struggle financially. That’s because half of the annual farm subsidies are received by farmers making $100,000 or more per year. And the top 10 per cent receive 77 percent of the subsidies. There is little real benefit for smaller farmers and small town merchants. More disturbing, the subsidies often result in the destruction of forests and wetlands. They exacerbate pollution of streams and oceans. And they often encourage over-production, which drives down the prices of crops, which, in turn, encourages even more production.

Moreover, there are no such subsidies to supplement the incomes of small retailers and other small businesses in urban areas. No subsidies to protect them from the effects of governmental decisions as there are for farmers and large corporations.

The truth is, many of those living in rural areas enjoy advantages their urban brothers and sisters do not. And while they complain that the “urban elites” don’t understand their problems. They have little understanding of the problems faced by the urban homeless and the millions who are working in expensive cities for minimum wage and struggling to make ends meet. For instance, it now takes two-and-a-half full time jobs at minimum wage to afford a one-bedroom apartment in most cities.

Instead of using their outsized voting clout to elect politicians who will actually improve their situation, rural Americans tend to believe those who blame their problems on immigrants, minorities and others. But, until they reject the politics of fear and hatred, their situation is unlikely to improve.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Eight – Corruption)

If we are ever going to rescue our nation from oligarchy and restore democracy, we must remove the obscene amounts of money from our politics and prevent government officials from using the treasury as their personal piggy bank.

At no time in our history has that need been more urgent than now!

If you don’t see the urgency, consider this: Two independent studies monitored how legislation was influenced by lobbyists and other moneyed interests versus the desires and interests of ordinary constituents. They found that legislators pandered to corporations, industries and lobbying groups while the interest of citizens were ignored. The inescapable conclusion of the studies was that the US is no longer a government of the people for the people and by the people. Instead, it has become an oligarchy – a government run for the benefit of the richest few.

Nowhere is this more obvious than Trump’s refusal to abide by the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Not only has he not released his income taxes as past presidents had done. He refused to relinquish control of his businesses by placing them in a blind trust. Moreover, he has quite obviously used his position to pump money into his resorts and hotels. Virtually every weekend is spent golfing at his resorts causing the Secret Service and other government employees to rent rooms and golf carts. That has already totaled millions.

While conducting business in Europe, he chose to travel out of his way to spend time and government money in his Scottish and Irish resorts. He “recommended” that vice-president Pence stay at his resort rather than in a Dublin hotel where his government meetings were to take place. And, recently, it was discovered that, during the Trump administration, our military signed a contract to refuel aircraft at the financially struggling Glasgow Prestwick airport near his Turnberry resort.

Additionally, in order to curry favor with Trump, foreign leaders and lobbyists have spent millions at the Trump hotel in Washington.

Of course, Trump also named his daughter and son-in-law (the son of a man convicted of illegal campaign contributions and filing false tax returns) as special advisors giving them access to classified information and influence among foreign leaders which will, no doubt, lead to more profits for their businesses.

Many other Trump appointments to the administration have used their positions for personal gain, including the Secretaries of Treasury, Labor, HUD and Interior, as well as the administrator of the EPA. We have also learned that Moscow Mitch and his wife, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, have invested money in offshore shell corporations. For what purpose other than to shield their fortunes from federal taxes? We can’t be certain. But there should be enough transparency for government officials that we don’t have to speculate.

All of this is in addition to Trump’s corrupt, illegal and treasonous attempts to use his office to threaten and encourage foreign governments to interfere in our elections and to damage his political opponents.

Never before in the history of our nation has an administration been so completely and obviously corrupt. But never before has the Oval Office been occupied by a wealthy conman. (And that’s the most polite term I can think of – mob boss may be a more accurate description.)

$15 Trillion Hidden In Offshore Shell Companies To Avoid Taxes.

A recent study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has found that corporations and the wealthy have hidden $15 trillion in offshore shell companies for the purpose of avoiding taxes. At the newly reduced US corporate tax rate of 21 percent, that represents a loss of $3.15 trillion in revenue. And at Germany’s 29.79 percent tax rate, it would create more than $4.46 in revenue – revenue that could be used to improve infrastructure, to help millions out of poverty or to reduce the tax burden of ordinary people.

To put this monumental sum into perspective, it is roughly equivalent to China’s 2019 GDP of $15.5 trillion – the world’s second-largest economy. It’s more than 70 percent of the US economy of $21.4 trillion. And, by most estimates, the number of hidden dollars has increased by at least 10 percent over the last decade.

Given the impact of this lost revenue, one has to ask: Why have governments done so little to recapture the revenue and to penalize the perpetrators? It’s not as if they don’t know where the money is hidden. The study notes that 10 nations host 85 percent of the money – countries that include Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands, Isle of Man, Jersey, Ireland, Mauritius, Bermuda, Monaco, Switzerland and the Bahamas.

What’s more, recent leaks have given governments the names of people and institutions that have engaged in such tax shelters. The leaks known as the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers have revealed millions of names and documents. Those named include numerous world leaders and celebrities. For example, the Trump name appears in the Panama Papers 3,540 times.

Maybe the answer for the inaction is the fact that most of the people who have the means and the opportunity to hide their money are those who control our government like Moscow Mitch; those who buy their way into office; those who use their money to lobby and influence office-holders. Or maybe it relates to the death of a journalist investigating the Panama Papers. Daphne Caruana Galizia, a reporter who was killed with a car bomb while following a lead in Malta. Her murder is not entirely surprising, since those hiding their assets include Vladimir Putin, Russian oligarchs and many individuals who are involved in organized crime. After all, these mobsters are likely using shell companies as a way to disguise their ill-begotten funds and to launder them.

Of course, that should give governments even more reason to halt the practice of hiding money. Doing so, would create obstacles for international crime syndicates and make it more difficult to finance operations such as drug trafficking and human trafficking. These and other heinous crimes annually cost governments and societies hundreds of millions of dollars to address.

If that’s not enough to motivate you to demand the action of your government, consider this: It almost certainly would cut your tax bill.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Seven – Income Disparity)

For several decades, we’ve heard about growing income inequality. I believe that is a poor description of the problem. It’s more about income disparity. Since there are differences in education, capabilities and cost of living, incomes cannot and should not ever be equal. As a nation, the US may occasionally struggle with recessions and unemployment which can be mitigated by government policies. But no one – NO ONE – who works a full-time job should be paid less than a living wage!

The current situation is unreasonable and unsustainable. And it is almost entirely the result of political decisions made to benefit corporations and the very wealthy – the people who really control our government through lobbying and campaign donations.

As productivity has continued to rise; as more highly-paid workers have been replaced by robots; as more workers toil in minimum wage jobs, corporate CEOs have seen their compensation dramatically rise. So, too, have stock traders on Wall Street. Indeed, the people at the top of every company have never done better. Never mind that they are profiting on the suffering of their employees and the largess of taxpayers. For example, Walmart is notorious for paying many of its employees minimum wage. To help compensate those employees, Walmart helps them apply for government welfare programs paid for by taxpayers. At the same time, Walmart accepts corporate welfare in the form of government infrastructure assistance and tax relief, again paid for by taxpayers.

It is because of this system that the owners of Walmart – the Waltons – have become one of the world’s richest families.

Another reason for the increasing disparity is the decades-long attack on labor unions and collective bargaining. Republican-led legislatures have routinely voted to make their states “right to work” states (i.e. non-union states). And they have passed laws making it increasingly difficult for workers to organize. As a result, they have effectively ended collective bargaining in those states. Wages for ordinary working people have stagnated. Benefits such as health insurance and dental plans have been weakened or eliminated altogether at the same time health care costs have exploded. A recent study found that the cost of family health insurance now exceeds $20,000. Those who are unable to afford quality health insurance are one medical emergency away from bankruptcy as documented in 2017 when there were more than 767,000 bankruptcies due to illness and medical bills.

The US is the only nation in the developed world where this happens!

Additionally, many US corporations and employers have reduced or eliminated retirement and savings plans for their employees. Consequently, the median savings for an American family in 2016 was just $7,000. And many households have no savings at all. Far too many Americans are forced to work multiple jobs to survive. Even then they often struggle from paycheck to paycheck.

Is it any wonder that the number of homeless in the US has grown?

Those in professional jobs are not immune to the growing disparity. Teachers with advanced degrees make so little money in some states that their families actually qualify for food assistance. Yet they’re still expected to pay back the student loans they accumulated while obtaining the required degrees – loans that can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It’s true that American workers will never realize financial equality with business managers and owners. But they shouldn’t have to watch those people buy mansions, vacation homes and yachts while they struggle to put food on their tables.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Four – Environment)

Not only has the Trump administration refused to acknowledge the looming threat of the climate crisis. (Trump and his minions have fired or silenced government scientists from even mentioning climate change. And they have removed any reference to climate change from government websites.) The administration has attacked the nation’s environment resulting in destruction we haven’t seen since the early 1970s.

Trump’s first Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, began his dirty work by paring down some of our national parks leaving Native American heritage sites and archeological treasures vulnerable to vandalism. He then opened federal lands for mining and fracking. Zinke was stopped only by his excesses. When the department’s Inspector General opened an investigation into his excessive use of flights and ethical lapses, he announced his resignation.

The second Trump appointee to fill the office is David Bernhardt, a former oil and agribusiness lobbyist who is already under investigation by the Inspector General for…wait for it…conflicts of interest. Like Zinke, he also believes that all of the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management should be sold so that corporations and private interests can exploit their resources, ignoring the fact that the only reason they are public lands is that they are ecologically sensitive. Indeed, Bernhardt and the administration are in a rush to circumvent Congress and public opinion to auction off leases for oil exploration on public lands before the 2020 election

Under Bernhardt, the department is currently considering permits for fracking in northern Arizona which will pollute millions of gallons of water – a commodity that is already scarce in the region. The department has made it clear that it is also open to permitting foreign-owned companies to, once again, mine for uranium in the Grand Canyon even though previous such mining attempts left much of the region’s water radioactive and unusable. And since the previous mines have not been sealed, they are still leaking radioactive waste.

Trump’s first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, had previously represented oil and gas companies in numerous suits against the agency. He almost immediately removed restrictions on the coal industry. And he removed regulations designed to protect streams from the coal mining practice of mountain-top removal. Indeed, he operated as if his role was to protect corporations rather than the environment. Only when he became the subject of more than a dozen ethics investigations did he resign.

The new EPA administrator has picked up where Pruitt left off. A former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler has dismissed the conclusions of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Astonishingly, he also dismisses the impact of air pollution on public health.

Under Wheeler, the EPA has permitted the use of a pesticide known to cause brain damage in children. It has also allowed the use bee-killing pesticides to resume. He removed regulations that were part of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. He proposed repealing an Obama-era rule restricting the emissions of mercury and other heavy metals. And he refused to adopt recommendations for contaminants in drinking water.

This anti-environment mentality spans the entire Trump administration. For example, the Department of Energy has repealed Obama-era efficiency standards for lightbulbs aimed at phasing out energy-wasting incandescent bulbs. And, despite the massive fires in other rainforests around the globe, the Department of Agriculture has proposed opening the 16.7 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to logging and other exploitation by corporations.

And it’s not just clean air, land and water that are under attack.

Species around the world are threatened by human activities as never before. Yet the administration has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act to reduce wildlife habitat and remove protections for vulnerable species. It has proposed drilling in the sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the last remaining preserves for arctic wildlife. It has proposed water policies for California farmers that will push California salmon to extinction and starve the Steelhead Trout and Killer Whales that feed on them. It has relaxed rules on the hunting of threatened species. It issued a kill order for endangered Mexican wolves along the southwestern border, ostensibly to protect cattle. It is in the process of building a wall through the National Butterfly Center, through the Tohono O’odham reservation, and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge deemed critical to the migration of numerous species. And the Trump administration is set to roll back regulations on the release of methane – the most damaging of all carbon gases – by oil and gas operations.

Scientists understand the threat to the ecosystem. Maintaining a healthy planet should not be partisan or even a national issue. Yet Trump and his followers seem to have the attitude that the worst will only happen after they are dead and buried. In the meantime, they plan to make as much money as possible at the expense of the future.

How Washington Became Gridlocked.

Many Americans decry our failed Congress, angry that the institution seems incapable of addressing their needs. Yet they have continued to vote for the same representatives election after election. It seems they believe other representatives are to blame. Not their own. And they hold both parties equally responsible.

But, as it turns out, Americans should rightfully blame only one party for the inaction of Congress – the GOP.

An episode of MSNBC’s American Swamp explained the problem in great detail. It seems the gridlock began in the early nineties when the newly-elected Rep. Newt Gingrich discovered that CSPAN would telecast speeches from the House floor regardless of the circumstances. Realizing that the network focused solely on the lectern and never showed the empty desks, he took the floor in late evenings to rail against Democrats; to challenge them to respond to his demands and to act. But, unbeknownst to the viewers, the Democrats couldn’t, because they were not there. For months, Newt continued his one-man show, calling Democrats a variety of names and asking his followers to hold them accountable for their inaction and lack of response. He published a list of one-word insults which he handed out to the GOP caucus, so they could all speak like Newt.

Not surprisingly, the farce worked. The audiences began calling their congressmen. They began harassing Democrats. And rightwing media took up the attacks. It only stopped when then-Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill asked CSPAN to have their cameras pan the chamber to expose the empty desks. But, by then, the damage had been done.

When the GOP won the House and Gingrich became Speaker, he took matters a step farther. An admirer and teacher of parliamentary-style politics in which party members vote as a unified block (something very contrary to the US system), Newt brought that mentality to the GOP. Under threat of being “primaried” with their opponents receiving millions in “dark” money, the members of the GOP caucus fell in line to vote as the Speaker wished, regardless of their own individual feelings or judgment.

Political tribalism was born. And succeeding GOP actions made it worse.

To ostensibly save money, the GOP majority in Congress cut the staffs of representatives. Without sufficient staff to research the effects of bills, congressional members were forced to rely on lobbyists, think tanks and Political Action Groups for information. And, if they failed to vote as these interest groups wished, the groups would spend millions to defeat them in the next election. As a result, the representatives learned that, if they valued their jobs, it was better to do nothing than to take a stand.

And, since the conservative-led Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech and corporations have the rights of individuals, congressional representatives have been forced to spend as much as 40 percent of their time dialing for dollars in order to raise enough money to fend off competitors in their next election campaign.

In addition, former GOP Speaker John Boehner banned earmarks – the tradition of adding provisions to a discretionary spending bill without floor debate. Though sometimes abused, earmarks were a form of congressional horse-trading to provide funding for projects in an individual representative’s home district. In most cases, it was how new bridges were funded; how new roads and road expansionss were funded; how a city got funding for programs and grants. But since the end of earmarks, the process has become more politicized than ever with the decisions on spending often being directed by the executive branch to reward supporters.

Any bills that do make it out of the House must go to the Senate for votes and be signed by the president before they can become law. The current House has sent more than 100 bills to the Senate. But even the most popular bills supported by a vast majority of citizens have been blocked by the self-proclaimed “grim reaper” of legislation – Moscow Mitch. He refuses to bring them to a vote unless they meet his very narrow agenda.

It’s all a recipe for gridlock.

To make matters worse, over many decades, Congress has yielded much of its constitutional authority to the executive branch rendering itself somewhat powerless. So much so, that congressional delegations have been turned away from immigration detention centers despite their role of oversight. Executive branch agencies have refused to turn over documents or respond to subpoenas issued by congressional judicial and oversight committees. And Trump has redirected money from agencies to build his wall despite congressional authority over the budget.

Despite Trump’s very public calls to drain the swamp, he ignores the fact that it was largely created by the GOP. Indeed, he has only made it worse by ignoring the emoluments clause; by using his office to promote his properties and to make money each time he visits one; by placing industry lobbyists in charge of the agencies responsible for regulating the industries they represent.

The interests of the American people be damned.

Free Stuff.

The GOP, its propaganda network, and the corporate-owned media are fond of accusing progressive Democrats of trying to buy votes by offering “free stuff” to voters. Disregarding the fact that nothing the government does is, in fact, free, this has been a popular accusation for longer than I can remember. The GOP used the same talking point when Social Security and Medicare were first proposed, claiming that the programs were unaffordable and that they would bankrupt the nation. Then, like now, the GOP also accused the Democrats who backed those programs of being socialists.

But it’s important to note that GOP candidates also regularly offer free stuff as a way of buying votes. And they also engage in a form of socialism. The difference is in the beneficiaries.

Social Security and Medicare are, in reality, retirement and medical insurance that directly benefit those who pay the premiums through payroll deductions – ordinary working Americans. And the current Democratic proposals, like universal health care and debt-free college education, would also directly benefit ordinary American workers.

The GOP proposals, on the other hand, pander to a different audience: Large multinational corporations, the military-industrial complex and the very, very wealthy.

Take the GOP-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Most working Americans saw little to no cuts in their income taxes while corporations and the wealthy realized dramatic cuts to their tax burden. The law also allowed multinationals to “repatriate” corporate profits held offshore to avoid paying US income taxes. The GOP promised that the bill would boost the economy and create jobs. It didn’t. Instead, most of the money was used to pay executive bonuses and to buy back stock. That had the effect of starving the companies of capital resulting in layoffs. The same thing happened in 2004 when the US last “repatriated” corporate dollars at reduced tax rates. That year, 58 giant corporations realized 70 percent of the benefit, saving an estimated $64 billion in taxes while, at the same time, slashing an estimated 600,000 jobs.

The real cost of the 2017 tax cut has yet to be tallied. But it has already resulted in record deficits and a record national debt. It was nothing less than a giant gift to corporations paid for by average working Americans!

And that’s but one example. There are many, many others.

The GOP has pushed cuts to inheritance taxes and cuts to capital gains taxes that benefit the wealthy. And, under the guise of its repeatedly debunked trickle-down economic theory, the GOP offers much more free stuff to corporations. Those gifts take the form of corporate incentives to expand or to relocate, long-term tax relief to corporations for expanding in their current locations and promising, but seldom delivering, new jobs, and Tax Increment Financing which exempts corporate facilities from property taxes whenever their owners build or purchase a building and promise to create jobs – a practice so pervasive that many cities have never collected property taxes on their most iconic buildings. Sadly, some “moderate” Democrats have voted for these things, too.

In addition, there are many less obvious free gifts to corporations. Governments pay the cost of building utilities and other infrastructure to reach corporate building sites. And governments are often forced to pick up the cost of food stamps and housing assistance for the employees of Walmart and other companies that fail to pay a living wage. (The cost of subsidizing Walmart’s underpaid workers was estimated at $6.2 billion in 2014.) Governments also pick up the cost of cleaning up mines and other sites despoiled by extraction industries after the corporations have walked away with the resources and profits.

Even more subtle are the allocations to defense contractors who have little oversight and few, if any, real penalties for cost over-runs and delays. In fact, a 2016 study found that the Pentagon can’t account for trillions of dollars in spending. Similarly, private prison corporations have been given sweetheart deals by their GOP sponsors. During the current border crisis, it has been reported that private prison corporations are being paid more than $700 per day to house the refugees and economic immigrants in horrific conditions. For that price, the detainees should be living in luxury hotels. Not suffering in conditions where they are denied access to sufficient food and water, denied basic hygiene, and forced to sleep on concrete with only a foil blanket.

The estimated cost of universal healthcare and free education is dwarfed by the gifts currently being passed along to corporations and the uber-wealthy. Moreover, the progressive Democratic candidates have done something the GOP hasn’t. They’ve explained how they will pay for their “gifts.”

So, the next time you hear someone deride progressive Democratic candidates by calling them socialists and attacking them for their offers of “free stuff,” keep in mind that what’s being “given away” is simply a matter of priorities. The question is: What’s more important to you? American workers? Or greedy corporations and the very wealthy?

No, Democrats Have Not Moved Left. The GOP Has Moved Right…Way, Way Right.

It’s popular for the media – even the so-called liberal media – to portray the “Squad” and many of the Democratic presidential candidates as far left. As if they are some aberration from the core party principles. Of course, that’s exactly what Republicans want you to believe. Indeed, even some Democratic leaders and “strategists” would have you buy into that claptrap.

It’s not only not true. It’s not even close to reality.

In the 1930s and 40s, the FDR administration and mainstream Democrats embraced social democracy as part of the New Deal. To rescue our economy FDR, the Democratic Party and even some Republicans incorporated ideas that were socialist in nature in order to move people out of the soup lines and back to work. For example, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built more than 620,000 miles of streets, more than 10,000 bridges, dozens of airports, hydroelectric dams, public buildings and large numbers of houses and apartments. Much of these are still in use today. Rural electric cooperatives (a form of socialism) brought telephones and electricity to hundreds of thousands of rural Americans who had been ignored by large utilities. In addition, the New Deal’s Social Security rescued the elderly from abject poverty. FDR had even proposed a Second New Deal which included single-payer health care, believing that access to quality health care was a human right.

When fascism and support for Nazi Germany threatened to take over the US, Democrats rejected it. And, when World War II broke out, Americans resorted to what some would now consider socialism by pulling together to produce necessary war materials and to ration consumer products in favor of supporting our troops. Indeed, most of our population temporarily abandoned free market capitalism in order to defeat the Axis powers.

Though many in the GOP opposed some of FDR’s initiatives, they supported others. In fact, the GOP was almost equally divided between conservatives and liberals. But things began to change as the result of Senator Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare in the 50s and the growing Cold War.

As post-war Europe followed the path pioneered by FDR, US politicians from both parties distanced themselves from anything that could remotely be misconstrued as communist. That included social democracy. Yet, even in the 70s, the GOP approved of some liberal ideas. For example, in response to Senator Ted Kennedy’s proposal for single-payer health care, Nixon proposed a health care mandate (Obamacare, anyone?). Nixon also supported the formation of the EPA and OSHA. And he aggressively desegregated public schools.

Only after the GOP saw an opportunity to solidify the Jim Crow South by implementing its southern strategy and creating division over abortion to bring evangelicals into the party, did it begin to lurch far to the right. Since then, it has used race and immigration to divide voters and pander to its rural base. And it has used Christian fundamentalist social issues to hold evangelicals – the so-called “values voters” – in line. Meanwhile, right-wing radio hosts and Roger Ailes’s right-wing propaganda network (aka Fox News) have pushed the party even further to the extreme right.

At the same time, Democrats, in trying to recapture the southern states it lost by pushing through the Civil Rights Acts, began to move to the center-right in order to occupy the space once held by mainstream Republicans. For president, they twice nominated the governors of southern states to win elections. And the party has continued to try to bring southerners back into the fold by moving past the center and trending further and further to the right, at the same time denying or ignoring the wishes of traditional Democratic voters in urban areas and in the rural areas of Rust Belt states.

Voters’ positions on abortion, once a non-political issue, now define them as Republicans or Democrats. And, as the Christian fundamentalists and right-wing media have fomented anger over immigration, gay marriage and transgender use of bathrooms (otherwise known as discrimination) Democrats have struggled to respond. They either had to join in the discrimination or be labeled as extreme leftists.

So here we are. We now have a center-right Democratic party that has struggled to adhere to the principles it once cherished, and an extreme far-right Republican party that uses racism and Christian fundamentalism to disguise its fascist, pro-billionaire agenda.

The GOP has long since abandoned its tradition of fiscal conservatism combined with social compassion. It is now the “everybody for themselves party” that is trying to dismantle every aspect of our government except for the military. It would have you ignore issues such as growing debt and deficits, failing infrastructure, income disparity, the lack of retirement pensions and increasingly unaffordable healthcare. Instead, it would have you blame immigrants, “uppity” people of color and the LGBTQ population for your problems. For those of you who refuse to support the party and its narrow-minded, hateful agenda, it attempts to gerrymander away your rights and make it increasingly difficult for you to vote.

And now that a growing number of Democrats are intent on implementing real, substantive change in order to give ordinary working Americans a fair shake, the GOP and its corporate-controlled media try to label them as leftists and socialists. They would have you believe that they are un-American and dangerous. But they are as American and as mainstream as FDR, JFK, Obama and even Ronald Reagan.

It’s Trump, Mitch McConnell, the NRA and the GOP who fail to live up to the ideals of our nation’s Founders