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.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Four – Military and Veterans)

In contrast to the many Emails and Tweets emanating from The Trump White House labeled “Promises Made. Promises Kept,” the Trump has broken far more promises than it has kept. Following are just those that relate to military families and veterans:

Respect For Military: Before the 2016 election, Trump said, “There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.” Yet he famously avoided service in Vietnam by paying a doctor to claim he had bone spurs. During the campaign he also insulted a Gold Star family who lost their son in Iraq. And he called Sen. John McCain a “loser” for being shot down over Vietnam.

Before the election, he said, “If they listen to the military people, we probably wouldn’t be having an ISIS right now.” Yet after taking office, he said he knows more about ISIS than the generals do.

Caring for Military Families: Trump promised that military service members and their families would have the best medical care, education and support – “both when they serve and when they return to civilian life.” And though he did increase the already bloated military budget, much of it going for weapons we don’t need, he also transferred $2.5 billion in military funds to build his wall on the southern border. Those particular funds were earmarked for military counterdrug programs and for the replacement of dilapidated buildings and schools for the children of military families. And Trump intends to divert yet another $7.2 billion in 2020.

Non-Citizen Soldiers: The US has had a long-standing policy of offering the opportunity to gain citizenship for immigrants who serve honorably in our military. There were 24,000 such service members in 2012 (the most current information available). But, following their service, the Trump administration has deported numerous such veterans. More recently, the administration stated that children born to non-citizen military and government personnel serving overseas will not automatically be considered US citizens.

VA Health Care: Trump promised to cut wait lists and scheduling backlogs at VA hospitals and clinics. But, instead of cutting wait lists, he cut VA funding. And he proposed cutting benefits for disabled vets once they reach the minimum age for Social Security benefits.

VA Hotline: Trump promised to set up a White House hotline to make sure no complaint about the VA would fall through the cracks. At this date, no such hotline exists.

Veterans’ Jobs: He promised to create jobs for veterans. Instead, he froze hiring for the federal workforce. That means federal agencies are unable to replace those who have retired from the federal workforce, eliminating job opportunities for more than 70,000 veterans per year. Many of these veterans are disabled making it difficult for them to find work elsewhere.

Wars: Trump promised to end the “endless wars” and bring our troops home. Yet, today, as a result of his failed diplomacy and ill-advised actions, we have more soldiers in the Middle East than when he took office.

Trump’s Act Of War.

There is an old saying that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Never has that been more true than in describing Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani. Though Soleimani was reviled by Israel and the US for orchestrating terrorist attacks, he was celebrated in Iran for protecting his nation.

Indeed, Soleimani had a complex history. He first came to prominence during Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invasion of Iran – a war that resulted in the deaths of a million Iranians – a war supported by the US under the theory that the enemy of our enemy is our friend. Soleimani is credited with creating and implementing the IED roadside bombs used against US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also credited with creating and supporting regional militias feared by Israel and others. Yet Soleimani led his militias to help bring an end to the War in Iraq. In addition, he fought against Iran’s and America’s common enemy: ISIS.

So, though Soleimani’s actions wounded and killed many US troops, one could reasonably argue that he also saved many. Moreover, he was a hero to many in Iran and arguably the second-ranking leader of the nation.

Was his assassination justified? Maybe. But it was most certainly foolhardy.

To put this into perspective, it should be noted that, not long ago, the US had begun the long process of normalizing relations with Iran. We had returned Iranian assets that were frozen in 1979 in exchange for an agreement that Iran would limit its nuclear program to peaceful uses. And, by all accounts, Iran was upholding its part of the bargain. That was hugely significant given the ugly history between our two nations.

In case you’re unaware, the ugliness began when, in 1953, the US helped Great Britain orchestrate a coup of the democratically-elected Prime Minister of Iran for daring to nationalize his nation’s oil industry. His overthrow led to a brutal dictatorship under the Shah who was considered a US ally. When the Shah escaped the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and was given safe haven by the US for medical treatment, the new Islamic Iranian government retaliated by invading our embassy and holding Americans captive.

Despite our history with Iran, there was an opportunity to negotiate a lasting peace. The government of Iran had moderated. Many of the people of Iran had demonstrated for more freedom. Many Iranians even looked to the US as friends.

Then Trump was installed as US president. Wanting to destroy his predecessor’s legacy, he quickly removed the US from the nuclear agreement. He increased economic sanctions on Iran. And though he relied on Iran and Soleimani to help defeat ISIS, when Soleimani no longer served a purpose to the US, and Trump was facing an impeachment trial in the Senate, Trump ordered Soleimani’s assassination.

The consequences may well be devastating. Soleimani was not a rogue actor like bin Laden or al-Baghdadi. Rather, he was a sovereign nation’s highest-ranking general and second in command. Killing him by drone was nothing less than an act of war.

Further, Trump has shown that he cannot be trusted. Soleimani’s assassination comes on the heels of Trump throwing our Kurdish allies to the curb to be killed or displaced by the Turks. By not consulting our allies and others in the region before the assassination, Trump has shown a lack of respect because they, too, may be targeted by an angry Iran. And we have started a conflict that is almost certain to last generations.

Moreover, instead of weakening Iran, Trump’s rash action has strengthened it. If the US accedes to Iraq’s demand that the US remove our troops from Iraq, we will have less influence in the region. We will be leaving a weak Iraqi government and army to fend off what is certain to be renewed efforts by ISIS. That may well lead the Shiite majority Iraq to request the help of the Shiite majority Iran. If successful, the two nations will comprise part of a Shiite crescent surrounding Sunni nations – many of them our Middle Eastern allies. A strengthened Iran may well pose a greater threat to Israel.

And though, unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran has never struck the US on US soil, it may well be motivated to do so. It knows it can’t win a war of confrontation with the US. So Iran’s only recourse is to fight an asymmetrical war through acts of terrorism and cyber attacks.

Worst of all, it appears that the Trump administration has no plan to deal with the consequences other than to threaten, bully and bluster, which is likely to escalate matters. So buckle up America. We’re in for a long, unnecessary fight.

Why Impeachment Is Necessary.

The Founding Fathers were so concerned about the very real possibility of their new nation being taken over by an authoritarian president, they crafted the Constitution to create three co-equal branches of government: Congress, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. The idea was that Congress and the courts would serve as a check on presidential abuse of power. The Founders also provided for a mechanism to remove the president from office. But rather than specify the actions which would justify the president’s removal, they vaguely referred to them as “high crimes and misdemeanors,” trusting that members of Congress would recognize abuse of power when they see it.

Given the following actions of Trump and his administration, it’s difficult to imagine that the Founders wouldn’t have expected such a president to be impeached and removed from office:

1 – Although Mueller could not find enough evidence to indict the president, his family and his campaign for criminal conspiracy, he documented dozens of instances of collusion and cooperation with Russia and Wikileaks to subvert the 2016 election. In fact, the president’s campaign manager is now in prison as a result of campaign violations and several others are awaiting sentencing. And Trump’s personal attorney is in prison for violating campaign laws at the direction of the president!
2 – Mueller cited at least 10 instances in which the president engaged in obstruction of justice during the Russia investigation, including the suborning of perjury by his associates. The only reason he was not indicted is because of a questionable DOJ opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted for crimes.
3 – Despite the Mueller investigation and the subsequent convictions of members of his 2016 campaign, Trump announced during an interview that he would again accept illegal help from a foreign nation in the 2020 election.
4 – Trump has admitted to illegally holding up congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine agreeing to open an investigation to obtain dirt on one of Trump’s political rivals.
5 – Trump and his administration have routinely and illegally obstructed congressional oversight by refusing to turn over documents and ordering anyone connected to the administration – even those who do not work for the government – to refuse to testify by claiming executive privilege.
6 – Trump has routinely violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause by encouraging foreign representatives to meet in his resorts and hotels at the expense of taxpayers.
6 – Trump encouraged the vice-president to stay at one of his resorts during his recent trip to Ireland even though the resort was more than 100 miles from his official meetings.
7 – The US military has engaged in a questionable contract with the Prestwick Airport near one of Trump’s resorts in Scotland. In addition, it has quartered military personnel in the resort to financially benefit the Trump organization.
8 – Trump has routinely spent weekends at his resorts along with his government entourage at great expense to US taxpayers. And great profit to his company.
9 – Virtually the entire Trump cabinet has engaged in corrupt activities for personal gain.
10 – Trump’s family and others in the administration have conducted business via personal emails and illegally failed to keep records of their communications – the very thing they accused Hillary of doing.
11 – It has been documented that the president and his administration routinely lie to the American people. According to the Washington Post and other fact-checkers, Trump has made more than 12,000 false or misleading claims since the inauguration.
12 – Trump and his administration have violated numerous federal and international laws in their handling of Central American refugees seeking asylum, including the separation of children from their parents.
13 – Trump has undermined our nation’s relationships with many allies while pandering to the planet’s worst dictators.

The House’s impeachment inquiry may find numerous additional abuses. But, regardless of the findings, the president and his supporters will do everything in their power to dismiss it as another Democrat-led “Witch Hunt.” As you listen to their spin, keep in mind that the “Mueller Witch Hunt” caught a lot of “witches” who were members of the Trump inner circle, some of whom are now in prison.

We do not know if the House will vote for impeachment. And we don’t know if the Senate will convict and remove the president from office. But we do know one thing for certain: If the roles were reversed and a Democratic president had committed even one of the crimes listed above, the GOP would have already impeached, convicted and likely executed that president.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Five – Immigration)

From the very beginning of colonial times, the US has been a nation of immigrants. Indeed, the only people who are native to the US descended from those who survived the Indian Wars and genocide.

The horrors we inflicted upon the original residents aside, immigration has always been our nation’s great strength. The US is a culmination of the talents, efforts and cultures of the original inhabitants and those who immigrated to our shores legally, illegally and, in the case of enslaved Africans, involuntarily. We have benefited from the influx of immigrants from Europe, Mexico, Scandinavia, Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand and more. It was enslaved Africans who built much of our Capitol and whose labor was responsible for our economic growth. And it was Chinese workers who built many of our railroads.

Many, if not most, of our innovations have come from immigrants. That’s why our ancestors proudly proclaimed America as the great melting pot. But, in a generation – indeed in a single four-year term of this president – that could change.

Trump ran on a platform of racism and hate against Mexicans claiming he would end illegal immigration across our southern border. Instead of welcoming and helping those seeking asylum from horrific political and economic conditions, he has ordered their entry blocked and placed many in detention in conditions that, in a declared war, would constitute war crimes. He has ordered children to be ripped from their parents’ arms placing them in cages and, in many cases, placing them in the foster system for adoption without their parents’ knowledge. When a few immigrant detainees from India went on hunger strikes to protest their incarceration and conditions, his appointees ordered them to be force-fed. (The only other recent example of that occurred at Gitmo when some of those being held as al-Qaeda terrorists went on a hunger strike.)

He unconstitutionally ordered travel bans from all Muslim countries. When that order was overturned by the courts, he ordered a work-around that essentially accomplished the same thing. He announced that he was ending DACA, the program that gave legal status to those undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children by their parents – people who have grown up in the US and have little, if any, knowledge of their country of origin. And Trump made it clear that he only wanted immigrants from predominantly white nations like Norway, and not from any “shithole” countries of black and brown people.

The Trump administration has deported veterans of our armed forces who were promised a path to citizenship if they served. It has refused entry to translators who risked their lives to help US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration even refused entry to a US Marine from Belize who was returning to the US for a scheduled citizenship test.

Trump has ordered ICE to round up undocumented workers regardless of how long they have lived and worked in the US, despite the fact that his own company has long hired undocumented workers, and despite the fact that his third wife worked in the US without proper documents. His administration gave notice to patients in the US legally for life-saving medical treatment and to their parents that they would have to get out within 30 days! That includes a 24-year-old with a rare condition who was recruited as a child to participate in a medical trial. If carried out, her deportation will be a death sentence.

And, if all of that isn’t bad enough, Trump says that he intends to end birthright citizenship in obvious contradiction of the 14th amendment. And the administration has taken the position that those born outside the US to American citizens, including military personnel, should not be considered US citizens.

In other words, if we continue to allow Trump to have his way, America will no longer be America.

Destruction Of The US. (Part One – The Climate Crisis)

There are those who say that the US can withstand the damage done by Trump; that the Constitution will prevail; that people will come to their senses. I wish I could be that certain. In the coming weeks, I will be examining the damage done to our nation and our planet by this rogue presidency beginning with what is arguably our greatest threat: The Climate Crisis.

You may remember some of the progress made during the Obama administration: It embraced the UN’s Agenda 21 – a non-binding plan that emerged from the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 that set goals for combating poverty, promoting human health, promoting sustainable development, protecting the atmosphere, combating deforestation, managing fragile ecosystems, conserving biological diversity and more. It created incentives for the manufacture and use of sustainable energy alternatives. It created more stringent standards for coal-fired generating plants. It protected sensitive lands and endangered species from oil exploration and mining interests. It pushed to end factory fishing and created a national monument to protect a sensitive coral reef.

Under the Obama administration, the Navy began to plan for the sea level rise predicted by most of the world’s climate scientists. And the military began to power some of its installations with sustainable energy.

Most importantly, the Obama administration not only signed the Paris Climate Accords. It helped to create the agreement. Indeed, President Obama called it “the best chance to save the planet.”

Then along came Trump.

The racist, anti-Obama chief executive quickly withdrew our nation from the Paris agreement making the US now the only nation on the planet that is not a signatory. (Even Syria signed the pact.) He ordered his administration to relax standards for carbon emissions, in addition to deregulating some of the worst polluters. He ordered government agencies such as the EPA, NASA, NOAA, and others to remove any mention of climate change and its effects. He appointed political hacks and climate change deniers to cabinet positions and numerous other positions of power. He eliminated many regulations on coal mining and oil drilling to encourage further development of climate-changing fossil fuels. And his Interior Department began selling mineral rights on federal lands to the highest bidders. His administration even cut the Bears Ears National Monument – a place of great spiritual significance to Native Americans and of archeological importance – in half in order to make its mineral rights available.

In addition, the Trump administration plans to open the Arctic – a region already suffering from the severe impact of the climate crisis – to more oil exploration.

Worst of all, Trump has cut incentives for the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines thereby ceding their manufacture to foreign companies. He has proposed rolling back emission standards for American-made vehicles. He has cut incentives for the purchase of solar panels and electric-powered cars. And he has abandoned virtually all government research into ways to mitigate the climate crisis.

Do Trump and his supporters not live on the same planet we do? Have they not read the mounting evidence of a true global catastrophe? Have they not heard the warnings of extreme temperatures and rising sea levels? Have they not read reports of dying coral reefs and the extinction of species? Have they not experienced the anguish of watching another community torn apart by an extraordinary storm fueled by extreme temperatures? Do they not understand that one reason for the immigration crisis at our border is climate change? And that mass migration from climate change will only grow?

The world’s climate scientists say that we only have a decade or less to act in order to head off the worst effects of the climate crisis. And every few months, they announce that the climate is spiraling out of control even more quickly than their worst-case scenarios. The climate crisis is not a hoax! In fact, it is all too real. Indeed, the only questions left are: Will we act in time? Will our actions be enough? Will Trump be re-elected.

If the latter happens, it will almost certainly be game over.

Is Ending Abortion More Important Than Preserving Democracy?

This is a serious question that I pose to my conservative friends. You have told me that you dislike Trump as an individual. Yet you have supported his presidency. Some of you have even embraced him as a messenger of God claiming he was sent to Earth to restore “godliness” in the United States.

Does such godliness now include marital infidelity? Extramarital affairs with porn stars? Illegal payoffs to buy their silence? An admission of sexual assaults as evidenced by the Access Hollywood tape? His pride in saying that he has walked into the dressing rooms of teenage women? Would a messenger from God tell thousands of lies and demand loyalty to himself over country? Would he appoint family and friends to his administration who would use their positions to corruptly line their bank accounts with taxpayer money?

Does godliness now include overt racism? The promotion of violence against people of color? Is it godly to tell women of color to go back to the “shithole” countries where they came from just because their ideas don’t agree with your own? Is it now godly to tear apart families? To pry babies and children from their mothers’ arms? Is it godly to place refugees in cages with no room to lie down? No soap and other toiletries? Limited food and water? Is it godly to embrace murderous dictators while turning your back on those they have tortured or killed?

Did you fall to your knees and pray that your Orange Jesus would deport military veterans who served in war zones despite having been given assurances that their service would result in the opportunity to become US citizens? Is it godly to ridicule a true military hero for allowing himself to be captured and tortured? To cruelly attack the parents of a US soldier who died in combat? Is it godly to deny constitutional rights to people because of their religion, race or choice of lovers? To mock a reporter with a physical disability?

Did your God command his messenger – your messiah – to spend millions of taxpayers’ money on golf at his own resorts while American citizens – many of them veterans – sleep on the streets because they are homeless? Did He order his messenger to deny food stamps to school children? Did He demand that the nation’s deficits be increased so that your messiah’s party might later justify taking retirement benefits and healthcare away from the elderly?

Jesus commanded his followers to turn the other cheek. Yet the “religious” followers of your new messiah now threaten violence against those who have political ideas different than your own. And in far too many instances – in Charlottesville, in Pittsburgh, in Miami and now El Paso – they have already acted.

You say that you are repulsed by the character of your new messiah. But you justify your support for him because he has packed the courts with judges and justices who promise to overturn Roe v. Wade. In the meantime, he has taken actions that will destroy our environment. Indeed the entire planet. He has broken treaties and norms and weakened our most critical institutions. He has committed crimes. He has dramatically increased spending for our war machine without any controls on that spending. At the same time, he has challenged the authority of our Constitution and caused harm to hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And by accepting help from a hostile foreign power in order to obtain his office, he has threatened democracy itself.

Is that really what you want? Is it worth all of this to protect zygotes and fetuses, many of which will ultimately be unable to survive a moment outside the womb?

What about the already living? What about our nation? What about democracy?

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?

The Rebranding Of The United States Of America.

The Revolutionary War was not only a response to tyranny. It was a reaction to Great Britain’s militarization of the colonies. That’s why the Founders were opposed to a standing army. Indeed, that was why the 2nd Amendment tied the right to bear arms to a “well-regulated militia.” But, over time, our population has embraced militarism to a degree that would almost certainly make the Founders shudder.

It is this militarization that has caused the US to be at war all but 13 years of our nation’s 243-year existence. Want to expand our territory? Take the lands from Native Americans. Want to control Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam and the Philippines? Race to a war with Spain over false pretenses. Want to annex the American Southwest? Gin up a war with Mexico. Want to open trade with China? Attack the weakened dynasty. Want to give our corporations access to an endless supply of bananas? Send our troops into Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Nicaragua. Want a shorter path from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast? Threaten war with Colombia which controlled Panama. Want to protect our corporations’ access to the natural resources of Southeast Asia? Send military “advisors” into the region. Want to control Middle Eastern oil and establish a military base in the region? Send our troops into Kuwait and Iraq.

Despite an already long, sad history of bullying, what may have launched the militarization of the US was the poetic tribute of Francis Scott Key to our battle flag during the attack on Fort McHenry. Since then, the “bombs bursting in air” imagery has been taken far too literally. And it really ramped up during the age of television following WWII. That’s when the networks discovered they could cheaply fill time with movies celebrating the military heroism of our soldiers in Europe and Asia along with cartoons that vilified Germans, Italians and Japanese.

Since then, militarism has often been confused for patriotism.

Indeed, it seems each year we celebrate militarism more than peace and freedom. Military flyovers begin each major sporting event. The National Anthem precedes every major event and many minor ones. And, more recently, the flag has been co-opted by those who seem to fail to understand and appreciate its true meaning. Witness Trump’s show of literally embracing the flag.

The effect has been devastating. The symbol of America has been rebranded. Once revered internationally as a symbol of freedom and good, more and more, the stars and stripes has come to represent a threat, racism, an inflexible and unforgiving form of religion, and a political party led by a bully.

Never has that been more apparent than during the July 4th Trumpalooza in Washington, DC. An event intended to celebrate our freedom from tyranny was turned into a political display of our military might. VIP tickets were given only to donors and supporters by the RNC. There were tanks and other military hardware on display and there were flyovers by our latest and greatest war machines.

The event cost millions. For what purpose? To appease the current occupant of the White House; to make him feel as powerful as the dictators and strong men he so admires; to jumpstart his re-election campaign. It wasn’t a celebration of our nation’s founding so much as an opportunity for Trump to use the military and our flag as a brand that he can sell to multinational corporations, military contractors, evangelicals and racists.

Instead of celebrating our Dear Leader and his favorite weapons of war, we would be better advised to consider the wise words of Benjamin Berell Ferencz, the last living prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials: “War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars. And all decent people.”