Fox News Has Gone Full Goebbels.

During a recent Laura Ingraham show in which she questioned Mike Pompeo about his interview with the Jan 6 committee, a headline appeared at the bottom of the screen reading “Dems prop up phony democracies abroad, shred ours.” In other words, the radical conservatives are angry that we are supporting Ukraine and investigating the January 6th insurrection.

And the Ingraham show is not even the worst thing on Fox. Tucker Carlson, the multi-millionaire heir to the Swanson Foods fortune, takes partisanship to a new level in his show by blatantly promoting autocrats and white supremacists, by excusing Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and by fawning over our deposed president and crime boss, Donald J. Trump.

Despite Fox calling its content “news”, it has long been little more than a propaganda network for Republicans and Libertarians. Its schedule is packed full of hate, fearmongering, and falsehoods. So much so that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish it from the pre-World War II work of Joseph Goebbels. (Goebbels, of course, was famously known as the chief propagandist who helped Adolf Hitler rise to power.) In fact, it could seriously be argued that many of the Fox hosts, Newsmax, and other MAGA propagandists are more extreme.

This pattern of radical anti-Democratic (and anti-democratic) rhetoric has been going on since the end of the Fairness Doctrine in the late eighties. A number of TV, radio and podcast hosts (Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, Mark Levin, et al) are deeply involved in Trump’s seditious conspiracy. And their rhetoric is getting worse.

It is abundantly clear that such propaganda is the primary reason for our nation’s divisions. As Trump and his MAGA followers have labeled the legitimate press as “enemies of the people” for reporting the truth, Fox and the other propaganda outlets have promised to tell you the real story. And what a story it is – full of partisan distortions and lies which blame immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and people of color for many of our nation’s problems.

They portray immigrants as criminals and “illegals.” They raise fears that same-sex marriage will somehow undermine the marriages of heterosexuals. They portray people of color as “lazy thugs” who have destroyed the rule of law in our cities. Like Trump, they describe our nation as a democracy in decay with carnage in our streets.

Yet, in truth, it is the Trump supporters – the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, white supremacists, and violent militias – who have taken to the streets with guns and body armor. It is these MAGAts who tried to bully governors, legislators, and judges from instituting policies to mitigate the pandemic. It is the MAGATs who invaded our Capitol to threaten Congress with the apparent intent to murder individuals and overthrow an election. And it is their NRA’s greed that has made Americans feel unsafe in theaters, in shopping centers, in churches, at concerts, even at schools.

There are other striking similarities between the Republican MAGAts and Nazis. They both intended to seize power based on bullying and armed insurrection. And they both aimed their hatred at minorities.

And even though the insurrection of January 6th was stopped, the Republican Party’s attempts to destroy our democracy continue. The propagandists are unbowed, and their falsehoods are unabated. Moreover, recognizing that knowledge is a threat and a counter to propaganda, the GOP continues its attacks on education and the educated. For decades, the GOP has dismissed and ridiculed expertise. It has dismissed economists who proclaimed trickle-down economics an abject failure. It has ignored the negative impact of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. And it has ridiculed the vast majority of the world’s scientists who warned about the devastating impacts of climate change.

Republicans have undermined public schools by slashing their budgets and channeling tax dollars into private schools through vouchers. They have threatened teachers for schooling their students in our nation’s history of slavery and the genocide of natives. They have sought to marginalize LGBTQ students. And their push for private schools allows conservatives to prioritize Christianity in classrooms over science.

Republicans have also exposed the flaws of mainstream television networks. By trying to appear nonpartisan, the networks too often offer airtime to Republicans intent on spreading falsehoods and hatred. Moreover, by presenting news in soundbites without context, the networks offer a distorted and incomplete version of the truth which makes it more difficult to counter the Republican narrative.

Of course, social media plays a part in the conservatives’ attack on democracy by creating information (more accurately, disinformation) silos where many people go for their news. It is in those silos, hidden from the public eye, where extremists, seditionists, and insurrectionists can go to reinforce their twisted ideas and plot their attacks on civil society. And despite the claims of those who profit from social media, little has been done to enforce decorum on their sites and to block disinformation.

Unfortunately, there is little government can do to counter all of this. Certainly, it can prosecute crimes as they happen. And we can vote out those who would destroy public education. But given our constitutional rights to free speech and a free press, we can’t stop the propaganda. We can only make a real effort to inform ourselves and seek the truth. Let’s hope that’s enough.

The GOP’s Clown Car To Autocracy.

No, that’s not hyperbole. And, no, Donald Trump, the narcissistic and wannabe autocrat, is not on the ballot. But, across the nation, many equally seditious and treason-adjacent candidates are. They call themselves Republicans. And some of them make the conspiracy-loving Marjorie Taylor-Greene, the gun-toting Lauren Boebert, the insurrectionist Paul Gosar, and the alleged child sex trafficker Matt Gaetz seem almost moderate.

For example, in Arizona, Trump acolyte Mark Finchem will carry the Trump banner forward as the Republican nominee for Arizona Secretary of State. If he wins, he will be in control of the state’s elections. What makes this prospect frightening is that he is still a firm believer in the Big Lie – that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Not surprisingly, he was also in Washington, DC for the January 6th insurrection. If elected, he plans to ban electronic voting machines and ban early voting making it far more difficult for low-paid workers to cast their ballots. And, given his past, imagine what he might do if, once again, the vote totals were not in favor of his preferred candidate.

In the race for Arizona governor, the GOP will offer one of two horrific choices: the Trump-endorsed bat-crap crazy Kari Lake who says she would have overturned Biden’s victory in Arizona, or the Pence-endorsed theocratic Karrin Taylor Robson. Both are legitimate threats to democracy. And, in the race for US Senate, Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly will face off against Blake Masters, a libertarian, Big Lie-embracing, billionaire-funded venture capitalist. Masters believes that our history of slavery and racism should not be taught in schools. He blames gun violence on black people. He supports a national abortion ban and the privatization of Social Security. He also reportedly compared requirements that political candidates disclose financial donations to Nazi Germany’s Kristallnacht. And he supported some views of the Unabomber.

In Georgia, former NFL running back, Herschel Walker is the GOP nominee for the US Senate. Walker, who always refers to himself in third person, has a Trump-like aversion to the truth. Indeed, his own campaign staff has called him a pathological liar. To wit: he falsely claimed to be a former FBI agent and a valedictorian graduate of the University of Georgia (his only degree is in carrying a football). And though he claims to stand for Christian values, he has a history of domestic violence, and he seemingly can’t remember how many children he has fathered. Moreover, if forced to take the most simplistic sixth grade level civics test, he unquestionably would fail. Yet he hopes to win one of the most powerful seats in government.

In Missouri, Trump-loving Eric Schmitt is the favorite for Roy Blunt’s open Senate seat. A theocrat and 2020 election denier, Schmitt worked to help overturn Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He is also an enemy of women’s reproductive rights.

In Pennsylvania, Hillbilly Elegy author and wingnut, J.D. Vance is also running for the US Senate funded by billionaire Peter Thiel. Vance is running a campaign of fear based on all of the wacko hot button social issues, such as banning Critical Race Theory in public schools (it’s only taught in law schools). He also believes women should risk staying in abusive relationships “for the sake of the children.” And like most Republicans, he believes in regulating women’s uteruses. Not guns.

Yet, as dangerous as all those candidates seem, they pale in comparison to Republican incumbent and longtime wackadoodle, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Johnson, you may remember, was a participant in the attempt to decertify Biden’s electoral votes on January 6. Not only is he a supporter of the Big Lie, if Republicans gain control of Congress again, he wants to end mandatory funding of Social Security and Medicare. Instead, he proposes that the funding be made discretionary, which would mean Congress would have to vote to approve funding annually.

The list of such anti-government, anti-American, and anti-democracy candidates is long. And, if Republicans take control of Congress, they promise to impeach Biden (in retaliation for the twice impeached Trump), to investigate members of the January 6 select committee, and to ban all abortions. They will also do everything in their power to privatize education, to privatize or eliminate Social Security and Medicare, to eliminate affirmative action…their ugly, hateful list is long. But the even greater threat to the future of our nation is the departure of competent and trustworthy election officials.

In states and counties across this nation, election officials have resigned or been pushed out of office under threat of violence. They have been doxed – their personal information made public to Trump’s heavily armed insurgent militias who have harassed the officials by phone, staked out their homes, and threatened their lives along with the lives of their families. Many have been replaced by inexperienced and unqualified individuals who believe the 2020 election was rigged and who plan to make sure Trump and his allies never lose again.

If the MAGAts are able to take control of more statehouses, governorships, and secretary of state offices, future elections will be elections in name only. It will be officials who decide the “winners.” Not the voters.

Why You Should Take Tyrants At Their Word.

In the 1970s and 80s, after looking at the nation’s changing demographics, Republicans embraced southern racists still angry at having lost the Civil War and furious with forced integration of schools. Around the same time, they also crafted a deal with far-right evangelicals – people like Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Kenneth Copeland, Jim Baker, John Hagee, and Pat Richardson. The deal was that this so-called “Moral Majority” would deliver votes in exchange for the GOP embracing their cruel and hateful ideas, including a ban on abortion.

This unholy alliance resulted in the daily picketing of clinics, harassment of women seeking abortions, distribution of home addresses and license plates of clinic personnel, the bombing of clinics, and the murder of abortion providers.

Through it all, the GOP platform and most GOP candidates called for an end to abortion. They began stacking the courts with anti-abortion judges and they prayed for the deaths of liberal and moderate Supreme Court justices. They passed draconian laws in GOP-led states like Texass that would imprison women for having an abortion, even if they traveled to another state where abortion is legal or if they ordered abortion pills online.

Most of the GOP’s current or pending laws make no exception for victims of rape and incest. They have made it clear that they will not help feed the children of forced births. They will not provide them with healthcare. They will not even agree to pay for improvements to our already over-stretched and disastrous foster care system.

In reality, the GOP is pro-birth. Not pro-life.

And given the fact that a significant majority of Americans, including Republicans, favor reproductive freedom, this is truly tyranny by a minority. Yet many of you, much like the cancer stricken notorious RBG who refused to resign when a Democratic president could appoint her successor, failed to act. You simply assumed they couldn’t take away a woman’s reproductive freedom.

It took them 50 years but, through a combination of legislative tricks to steal a SCOTUS seat and to hypocritically fill another one, they have apparently succeeded. You didn’t need a crystal ball to see it coming. They told you what they would do if they gained control of the Court.

And if you take these same people at their word, they won’t stop there.

They have openly talked about banning contraception, gay marriage, inter-racial marriage, LBGTQ rights, and affirmative action. They have tried to take away public school funding, Social Security, and Medicare. Even the freedom to practice religions other than Christianity, the right to assemble, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the rights of certain minorities to vote are on the line.

It doesn’t matter that most Americans disagree with Republicans and evangelicals on these issues. They have a plan to seize permanent control of our government. They may have failed on January 6, 2021, but, if you listen to them, they haven’t given up. The only way to stop them is to vote while you still can – in the midterms and beyond. To end this pending nightmare and the collapse of our democracy, they must be convincingly and overwhelmingly repudiated.

The New Know Nothings.

In the mid-1850s, there was a political party referred to as the Know Nothings. Officially called the American Party, its followers feared that the influx of Roman Catholics from Ireland and Europe would push “real Americans” aside and take over the nation, giving control to the Vatican.

But with regard to racism, misogyny, and lack of knowledge, that movement pales in comparison to today’s Trump-led Republican Party fueled by the Gen X and Millennial generations (adults under the age of 56) – those who comprised the majority of the insurrectionists on January 6. Not surprisingly, they are also the largest group of Qanon believers.

Why?

Apparently, it’s tied to a lack of education, a reliance on online sites as their sources for “news,” and a fascination with conspiracy theories. For example, a nationwide survey released on Holocaust Remembrance Day found that 1 in 10 respondents under age 40 did not recall ever hearing the word “Holocaust.” Nearly half could not name a single one of the German death camps. And this alarming lack of knowledge extends far beyond the Holocaust.

Less than half of those surveyed identified Afghanistan as the country that provided al-Qaeda with safe haven prior to 9/11 despite the fact that the war in Afghanistan was our longest war. And only slightly more than half of those surveyed could identify Iraq on a map.

Though it wasn’t part of the survey, I’m sure the same would be true if you asked Americans to pick out Ukraine on a map.

And it’s not just world history and geography that seem to flummox Gen Xers and Millennials. In my own limited survey of people at a county fair in rural Minnesota, I found that almost no one could name the original 13 colonies, the year the Declaration of Independence was signed, or the 3 branches of our federal government.

Few knew that the Bill of Rights was comprised of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Yet almost every respondent could recite half of the 2nd Amendment. (But, frighteningly, only the second half.)

No one could name who wrote our Declaration of Independence or the reason why we went to war with the British. No one could name our primary ally in the Revolutionary War (the French). No one could name the primary British ally in the Revolutionary War (the Germans). No one could name our opponent in the War of 1812. No one could name more than two of our nation’s founders. And no one knew that the White House was built with slave labor.

And, if you consider that as depressing as I do, it gets worse. A recent survey found that an astounding 54 percent of Americans read below a sixth-grade level! And based on the posts I see on social media, I would venture to guess that most Americans’ writing skills, including grammar and spelling, rank below that.

As a result, they become the perfect targets for disinformation from pathological liars like Trump, and unscrupulous media like Newsmax and Fox “News”.

Since our Constitution has enshrined freedom of speech and freedom of the press, we can’t censor those who take advantage of the gullible, the misinformed, and the poorly educated. If we want to change politics and improve our nation’s future, it becomes obvious that our only really choices are to limit the insane amounts of money used to elect our leaders, and to rebuild our public education system.

The Ongoing Theft Of Generational Wealth From Black And Brown People.

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the massacre on Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, it’s important to understand how little has changed in the past century.

First, it should be noted that the Tulsa massacre was only one of at least 40 similar attacks on people of color, not including the genocide of Native Americans. We should also recognize that all of these acts were committed by the white majority population inflamed by sensationalized stories in a biased media. And, though smaller in scope, the attacks are still happening – by white supremacists, by the police, and by our flawed criminal justice system in which the poor, especially people of color, are pushed to accept plea bargains under threat of draconian sentences.

Further, as in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood, most people of color have been robbed of their ability to accumulate generational wealth.

For example, Native Americans have had their lands stolen and treaties broken. They have been robbed of mineral rights. They have been denied sufficient funds to build proper schools and infrastructure. The courts have continually denied them the ability to block the destruction of sacred lands, including burial sites. And, as the result of recent legislation, they have, once again, been robbed of the right to vote.

Similarly, Asians have been victimized by periods of violence, as well as legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the government-ordered Japanese Internment of World War II which resulted in stolen property and wealth. And, though we rely on Latin American immigrants to harvest and prepare most of our food, they are mistreated and denied reasonable compensation for their work under constant threat of deportation.

Yet many Americans, indoctrinated by rightwing media and unwilling to recognize such theft, would have you believe that the reason so many people of color live in poverty is that they lack the work ethic of Caucasians. That they’re all too willing to live off the taxes from “real” Americans. They simply can’t understand or admit that much of poverty is the result of a biased and unfair system in which the wealthy white majority makes the rules. For example, the current Mayor of Tulsa refuses to acknowledge that the victims of the attack on Black Wall Street are owed reparations. Yet his own ancestral family came to wealth and prominence off the backs of nearly 1,000 slaves!

If we are ever to achieve racial equality, it must include an acknowledgment of our historical misdeeds and their impact on the present. Our actions must go beyond embracing the 1619 Project designed to teach children the truth of our history of slavery and racism. We must go beyond affirmative action. Beyond criminal justice reform. We must stop the GOP attempts to restrict voting rights for people of color. And we must agree on some form of reparations. We must pay for our sins.

Why Racists Are The Real Losers.

Two recent discoveries turned my thoughts to the enduring consequences of racism. First, to my horror, I discovered that two of my colonial ancestors from Scotland thought it necessary to enrich themselves off the labor and disenfranchisement of others. One was able to accumulate large tracts of land that required a large number of people to work the land. To acquire the desired labor, and to his everlasting shame, he turned to the slave market.

Second, I learned of the mass shooting of Asian-Americans in Georgia.

The knowledge of these two events have made me more determined than ever to do my part to end racism and inequality in the relatively short time I have left on this planet. Moreover, I not only feel sad for the victims and their families. I feel for those who continue to discriminate against others, to deny them their full rights of citizenship, to deny them their right to live in peace, and, in some cases, to deny them their lives.

Although I was raised in the rural Midwest where racial and cultural diversity consisted entirely of Christian descendants of European and Scandinavian settlers, by attending a large university, I discovered exactly how much those of other faiths, colors and cultures enrich us all. That lesson continues to this day.

From my black friends, I not only learned the reality of my white privilege. I learned the true meaning of patience, determination and hope. From my Latino friends, I learned passion, as well as an appreciation for new foods, art, and family. From my Asian friends, I learned compassion and an appreciation for ancient wisdom, Through Asian martial arts, I learned the importance of connecting mind, body, and spirit. From Native Americans, I learned to better appreciate our interconnectedness and the need to care for our Mother Earth. I learned that to unnecessarily harm any other living being is to harm ourselves.

I believe that it is multiculturism that has allowed our nation to succeed beyond our Founders wildest dreams. New immigrants bring new ideas, new wisdom, new foods, new customs, and a determination to work hard to better the lives of their families – always willing to start at the bottom to do the kinds of jobs no other Americans are willing to do. Indeed, it is the most recent immigrants who work in blistering heat to plant and harvest most of our produce, who process most of our meat, who cook and serve us our food, who clean and maintain our office buildings and hotels.

Contrary to what far too many seem to think, people of other cultures, colors, faiths, and gender identities are not a threat, whether they cross our borders legally or illegally or whether their ancestors were brought here in chains. It is the willingness to accept and adapt…to provide opportunity to others…that has made America great. If we lose that, we will lose our future.

We’re All Complicit In George Floyd’s Death.

Let me begin by stating that Minneapolis is a great city. It has been home to world leaders in music, advertising, graphic design, theater, education, medicine and more. In addition, it has been home to principled and forward thinking political leaders such as senators Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Al Franken. The city has great dining and entertainment venues, as well as a full range of professional sports. Most of all, it has long been a clean and safe place to live. It has also been known as a place that is charitable and tolerant of others. For those reasons, it has accepted an amazing number of refugees – from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Liberia, Somalia, Eritrea, Tibet and more.

That has made Minneapolis a particularly vibrant place where the warmth of its citizens more than offsets the sometimes frigid weather.

Unfortunately, the city’s tolerance has extended to corruption and racism. That became clear for all to see with the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers. Though I’m not black, I have long been concerned about below-the-surface racism in the city after stumbling across corruption within the city council, the mayor’s office, and, in particular, the Minneapolis Police Department in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Police officers felt emboldened to stop people of color for any reason, at any time. They harassed the homeless. And some brutalized black people. From my office window, I personally witnessed six MPD officers cuff a black man, placing him face down in slush and snow. They then took turns kicking him before one finished the assault by emptying a can of mace in his face. I reported the incident, but since I was unable to get names and badge numbers, my report was ignored.

A series of police chiefs tried to clean up the mess that seems to have begun in the 1930s – one famous for his work in the South Bronx. But those chiefs were often blunted by the city’s police union. For example, when an off-duty officer brutally beat a college student in a downtown bar, he was fired. But the officer was returned to duty following arbitration and assigned to the role of department spokesman. Since then, many others have been fired for cause, but returned to duty following arbitration, even receiving back pay!

How on earth can any chief establish and maintain discipline under those circumstances? Though I support labor unions in general, the police union is most responsible for George Floyd’s death. But they are not alone.

The public has failed to demand better. Indeed, many are in denial that racism is a problem. Not here in Minnesota! They have decried racism at the same time they joined the white flight to the suburbs ostensibly in search of better schools, which explains why 65 percent of students in the city’s schools are children of color and 70 percent are living in poverty. Meanwhile, schools in some of the city’s suburbs have larger budgets and facilities that would shame many small colleges.

To be clear, Minneapolis is not an outlier. Racism exists in every city, in every state. Indeed, it has grown as result of President Trump’s actions and words.

Racism will only end when our governments – all of our governments – take it seriously and take steps to end segregation and inequality. More important, all of us need to confront racism whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head. We need to block the Websites which racists use to congregate and plan their hateful acts. We need to hold racist politicians accountable. And we need to make sure that law enforcement officers are charged for their crimes. The Minneapolis Police Department should take the advice of Mayor Frey and immediately arrest the officer who murdered George Floyd along with his three accomplices.

Now Available On Amazon:

Ironically, in the age of information, our nation has been compromised by lies and disinformation as never before.

Decades of consolidation, short-term thinking, corporate greed, extreme political ideologies, and poor leadership have left our nation’s economy, healthcare system and its citizens unnecessarily vulnerable.

Many of the decisions that led us to this point were made in good faith. Some were dictated by difficult situations. But others were made willfully and knowingly, their true purpose and their all-too predictable results hidden in a fog of falsehoods and lies. This book attempts to cut through the misinformation to examine the problems, explain how they happened and reveal the truth.

What The US Could Be.

Our nation has reached a crossroads. Will we continue to slide further down the path to autocracy and cruelty where the nation’s leader is unaccountable, where the rule of law only pertains to those the leader says it should, where the leader puts his thumb on the scales of justice, where elected officials cater to corporations and the wealthy, where discrimination is accepted, where millions continue to live in poverty with fewer and fewer safety nets, and where those seeking asylum are locked in cages?

Or will we choose to vote for those determined to reclaim our government and reshape it to live up to its promise?

Consider what a Uniter-in-Chief, instead of a Divider-in-Chief, could do. Consider what a Congress focused on solving problems and representing the people – all of the people – could accomplish.

Unity: Instead of being divided by political and racial tribalism, we could be united in solving the greatest issues of our time. By rejecting GOP candidates determined to divide us for political gains over social issues such as abortion, religion, discrimination and wealth.

Right now, there are nearly 400 House-passed bills that have been denied a hearing in the Senate. Many, if not most, of these bills address bipartisan issues such as protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, lowering pharmaceutical prices, improving gun safety through universal background checks. Reshaping the Senate by rejecting those who would rather play politics than address the nation’s needs would end gridlock and allow us to address the issues that affect all of us.

Equality: We could treat each other as true equals. Over the past few decades, the GOP has resorted to voter suppression tactics in order to choose their voters rather than allow voters to choose their candidates. They have relied on extreme Gerrymandering, restrictive voter IDs, purging of voter rolls, intimidation, reducing voting hours and closing polling places in poor and black areas, and taking voting rights away from those who have served prison time.

It’s time to end these repressive and undemocratic practices; to end discrimination of all kinds. We must reshape all of our governments – including city, county, state and federal – and commit to restoring democracy and civil rights for all.

Equal Representation: We could dismantle the archaic Electoral College that prioritizes geography over people – a system that gives a voter living in Wyoming nearly 4 times the representation of a voter living in California.

Climate Crisis: We could save our planet from the most severe impacts of climate change.

Though scientists have known about the dangers of our reliance on fossil fuels since the mid-1960s, the issue was mostly ignored until former Vice-President Gore released the documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. By the 2008 presidential election, it had finally become a political issue with both candidates promoting a policy of cap and trade to reduce carbon emissions. Since then, only one party has shown any interest in addressing climate change. The other, supported by the fossil fuel industry, refers to it as a hoax.

Let’s suppose for a moment that the GOP is correct and climate change is a hoax (it isn’t), what would be the consequences of addressing the issue and embracing clean, renewable energy? The consequences would be many high-paying jobs, cleaner air, cleaner water and an end to wars over reserves of oil. Oh, and Big Oil would no longer exert such control over our government.

Ecosystem: We could save the diversity and the beauty of the many species that share our planet.

Many parts of our ecosystem are collapsing. Bees, which pollinate our fruits, vegetables and grains, are dying as a result of the use of pesticides. There is a dead zone in the Gulf caused by the runoff of fertilizers from our farms. Glysophate, a known carcinogen used to control weeds permeates our drinking water and our foods. Fracking fluids have leaked into the aquifers many rely on for drinking water. Many of our coral reefs, home to most of our oceans’ fish, are bleaching and collapsing due to climate change. Our oceans are also showing the ill effects of decades of use as garbage dumps. Deforestation and trophy hunting has forced thousands of species to the brink of extinction. I could go on. Yet the GOP seems uniquely unmoved by the devastation.

Replacing GOP politicians with those who believe in science, who will fight for ecological understanding and justice, may be the only way to save thousands of species from extinction…including our own.

Military: We could use much of our gigantic $718 billion military budget to improve conditions for the citizens of our nation and elsewhere. And we could, for one of the very few times in our nation’s history, wage peace.

For those who think that reducing the military budget would leave us vulnerable, consider that our budget is equal to that of the next 8 countries’ combined. And 6 of those are allies. Moreover, we benefit from the more than $305 billion in military spending of the other 28 members of the NATO mutual defense organization. Finally, our military budget doesn’t include the more than $50 billion budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the nearly $220 billion for Veterans Affairs.

That means we’re currently spending nearly $1 trillion annually on defense and military-related issues. And we benefit from $305 billion more.

Healthcare: We could provide universal health care for all of our citizens and save thousands of lives.

Pharmaceuticals: By allowing the government, as the provider of universal health care, to negotiate with manufacturers and distributors, we could make necessary and life-saving pharmaceuticals affordable for all those who need them.

Religion: We could provide true religious freedom, including freedom from religion for non-believers. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.”

Immigration: We could, once and for all, solve the issue of immigration by providing a path to citizenship for those who were brought here as children and have spent most of their lives in the US. We could create a system of work permits for those who are needed to raise and harvest our crops and to fill the jobs most US citizens don’t want. We could improve our system for those seeking asylum from violence and starvation in their home countries.

Economy: We could transform our economy from a plutocracy to a democracy that will work for all Americans. Not just the powerful and the wealthy. By eliminating the need for corporations to pay for their employees’ healthcare, we could demand that their savings be used to pay all employees a living wage. And, by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, we could invest in many other things that could benefit our nation, such as low-cost college education while, at the same time, decreasing deficits.

Infrastructure: We could create high-paying jobs that cannot be off-shored by committing to rebuild our aging and decrepit infrastructure: Streets, roads, bridges, railroads, seaports, airports and the electric grid.

Violence: We could address gun violence by ending the sale of the weapons of war. We could implement universal background checks, waiting periods and red flag laws. And we could address the issues that lead to violence, such as poverty, discrimination, lack of opportunity and easy access to guns.

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?