Stop Calling Senator Joe Manchin A Centrist!

For more than 40 years, the Republican Party has moved further and further to the right until 2020 when it dived right off the political spectrum into a delusional abyss. What once was a political party that believed in free markets and fiscal restraint has, over time, become anti-government, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, white nationalist, pro-gun, pro-violence, and pro-fascist. And, since 2016, it has become a cult of Trump – the willing accomplices of a conman and crime boss.

By contrast, since the 1950’s, the Democratic Party has experienced relatively little change. It has long believed in the power of government to do good. To help people by providing safety nets, retirement funds, healthcare access, and social justice. Unlike the GQP, it believes in protecting working people from predatory corporations and the wealthy. It promotes worker safety, living wages, freedom, human rights, and democracy. And it holds fast to the principles of the Constitution. (The real Constitution. Not some 18th Century interpretation conflating the Constitution with the Articles of Confederation.)

As you can see, there really is no middle ground.

With such a gaping canyon between the two parties, what is there to negotiate? What is the compromise between fascism and democracy? Between discrimination and compassion? Between dying and living?

How then can anyone, like Manchin, claim to be a centrist? Clearly, what Manchin has become is a self-serving obstructionist. A pawn the GQP can use to stop any form of progress. By refusing to consider ending, or even modifying, the filibuster, Manchin and his sidekick, Kyrsten Sinema, stand in opposition to voting rights, racial justice, gender equality, a thriving economy, a healthy environment, and a healthy climate.

If you want a term that more accurately describes Manchin, I’d recommend “opportunist” because he’s relishing his newfound attention and power. Or, if you’d prefer a term that describes his political ideology, I’d suggest “conservative.” He more accurately fits in that category than the GQP politicians who long ago abandoned it.

Repairing A Broken Police System.

Though evidence of the breakdowns in policing have been constant (Daunte Wright, Caron Nazario, George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, etc., etc., etc.), change has been painstakingly slow. So, what can we do to prevent unnecessary deaths and provide equal justice under the law? To begin, let’s look at the reality of policing in the US:

1 – Only 6.7 percent of police calls involve a possible crime. The vast majority of 911 calls involve welfare checks, trespassing, homelessness, drug abuse, and mental health issues.

2 – It requires relatively little training to receive certification for law enforcement in the US. Although some police departments require a college degree in criminal justice, others simply require candidates to complete basic training. Much of that training consists of classroom work and military-style discipline (inspections, marching in file, and firearms training). There are no national standards.

3 – US police officers receive less training than many of their international counterparts. In Germany, for example, recruits are required to spend up to 4 years in basic training. By contrast, US recruits may receive as little as 20 weeks of basic training.

4 – The focus of policing is on solving crimes more than preventing them. The old-fashioned beat cop is increasingly rare. Further, many officers do not live in the community they serve. As a result, police departments often don’t reflect the racial, ethnic, and gender make-up of their communities.

5 – Despite what we see on TV and in movies, police solve relatively few violent crimes. According to Pew Research, in 2019, police solved just 45.5 percent of the violent crimes reported to them and only 17.2 percent of property crimes. Only one-third of reported rapes are solved.

6 – Law enforcement is less dangerous than many other professions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, logging, deep sea fishing, piloting aircraft, roofing, waste collection and recycling, truck driving, farming, construction, and even landscaping are more dangerous. Working as a law enforcement officer ranks 19th, yet most police officers are armed to the teeth.

Now let’s look at how we can change policing to become more effective and less costly:

1 – Create a separate department to respond to non-criminal, non-violent calls. There are several successful alternatives to police. In Eugene, Oregon, a program called CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) has operated successfully for nearly 30 years. 911 calls are triaged. If the call does not involve criminal behavior, the dispatcher sends a two-person team that consists of a medical professional and a mental health professional. The focus is on de-escalating situations and providing needed help rather than the threat of incarceration.

2 – Improve hiring and training of officers. Institute national standards for all law enforcement. Those standards should require the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. They should also include a battery of psychological tests plus training in de-escalation, and race relations. Additionally, they should include training for non-lethal responses to offenders who are armed with weapons other than guns.

3 – Improve training of dispatchers. Dispatchers should be skilled in triaging and clearly preparing first responders for what to expect. Poor communications can lead to poor results. For example, a 911 caller reported a young man pointing a gun at passersby but noted that it could be a toy, a detail not relayed to responding police officers. As a result, a young boy was shot and killed while playing with his airsoft gun.

4 – Reduce the number and lethality of weapons on the street. Thanks to the NRA and gun manufacturers, police must assume everyone they encounter represents a deadly threat. Fewer guns will result in fewer deaths of citizens and police. It would also help police to solve violent crimes by demanding registration of all guns and ammunition so they can be tracked to the perpetrators of crimes.

5 – Rely on technology for most traffic control. Using so-called redlight cameras to control speeds and most other traffic violations will prevent racial profiling and relieve police officers from many of the encounters that can turn deadly.

6 – Refocus prisons on rehabilitation of inmates. Prisons should not be mere warehouses for offenders or finishing schools for criminals. They should offer more programs to prepare prisoners for their return to polite society. It is well-known that such programs can reduce crime and recidivism.

7 – Expand mental health facilities and destigmatize mental health issues. Suffering a mental health crisis is not a crime. It should be treated like any other health problem.

8 – Eliminate or reduce poverty. Poverty is not a crime. But it, too often, leads to interactions with law enforcement, such as failure to pay traffic fines, failure to purchase licenses and required drivers insurance, as well as homelessness. In too many cases, it leads to drug abuse as a form of escapism resulting in encounters with law enforcement.

9 – Decriminalize the use of illicit drugs. Substance abuse is a medical issue and/or a mental health issue that cannot be solved by law enforcement.

We cannot know if implementing such measures will solve all the problems. But we do know what doesn’t work – the system we have now.

Political Party Turned Death Cult.

For many decades, the Republican Party portrayed itself as the right-to-life party in order to gain the support of conservative Christians. Indeed, the party even went so far as to prioritize the life of a fetus over the life of the woman carrying it and the lives of medical personnel willing to abort it.

Yet, as Republicans have continued to fight for the unborn, they have largely turned their backs on the living. They have seemed all too willing to let children go hungry or be consigned to a failing foster system in which children are too often abused and shuttled from home to home. As a result, a significant percentage of those who populate our prison system are products of our foster system.

Further evidence of Republicans’ disdain for the living could be seen as they cheered on the previous administration as it ripped apart families at our borders, caged children, and deported refugees to certain misery and death.

Within the past year, Republicans seem to have taken their distaste for the living to an entirely new level. Many refused to take the necessary steps to control the pandemic by wearing masks. Many attended so-called “super spreader” events against the best advice of scientists. Those actions directly contributed to the deaths of more than 525,000 Americans. They also strained our hospitals to the breaking point.

Now, with an end to the pandemic in sight, Republican governors are prematurely dropping mask mandates and opening up their states’ economies. And a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 28 percent of Republicans will refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The poll also found that another 18 percent will “wait and see” before getting a shot.

Wait and see? For what? For their orange messiah to tell them the pandemic is not a hoax? For him to admit, that without quick medical intervention, he might have died? To admit that, on his way out of office, he and his family were vaccinated in secret?

Have these Republicans not seen the videos of Americans dying in such numbers that their bodies are held in refrigerated trucks waiting for burial? Have they not seen interviews with medical personnel suffering from PTSD after caring for so many dead and dying? Have they not lost a friend or family member to Covid-19? Have they not encountered any of the long haulers who are still suffering from the disease months after being first diagnosed?

By refusing to be vaccinated, Republicans are revealing themselves as members of a death cult. A death cult that seems to value fetuses, guns, discrimination, the stock market, and tax cuts for the rich and powerful more than human lives. A death cult that prioritizes corporations over children, profits over people.

If millions of Republicans refuse to be vaccinated as claimed, they could prevent our population from reaching herd immunity potentially resulting in tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, more deaths. Worse, their obstinance could allow the virus to continue to spread and mutate, thus rendering the new vaccines useless and forcing all of us to endure another year or more of deaths and disruption.

Our Broken Criminal Justice System.

Trump’s acquittal for inciting an insurrection and his pardons of some of the most treacherous criminals in our nation’s history only serve to call more attention to the inequalities of our justice system. The contrast is particularly stark in comparison to the treatment of people of color over the past year.

The truth is, the US incarcerates more people than any other nation on Earth (2.1 million as of 2018) and a higher percentage of its citizens than any other nation (639 per 100,000). Moreover, our prison populations are disproportionately people of color. And people of color are disproportionately subjected to police violence.

Why?

As with most things, the answer is: It’s complicated. Certainly, the color of one’s skin does not make one more prone to commit crimes. It does not make one more violent. Similarly, not all white people and white cops are racist. But the answer is rooted in our history of slavery, Jim Crow, and our continuing systemic racism.

For example, numerous studies have found that students of color are disproportionately affected by suspensions and punishments in schools. And the inequity begins early. Though black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment, they represent 42 percent of students who are suspended once and 48 percent of those suspended more than once.

The impact of such bias is long-lasting. Suspended students are less likely to graduate on time. They are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, or become involved in the juvenile justice system. And, once in the system, it is difficult for them to escape. A 2018 study published in the Boston University Law Review found a profound racial disparity in the misdemeanor arrest rate” for drug possession, theft and simple assault. In addition, they are disproportionately subjected to police violence. This disparity was borne out by the Department of Justice investigation into the City of Ferguson, Missouri following the slaying of Michael Brown, an unarmed young black man.

That report revealed a pattern of unlawful conduct within the Ferguson Police Department that violated the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments. In short, the investigation found that the city’s administration, its police force, and its municipal court system viewed its largely black population less as residents than as sources of revenue. Residents were arrested for minor crimes and given fines they could not afford to pay. When they failed to pay the fines, the amounts were increased. Ultimately, they were jailed until they could come up with the money to obtain their release.

And Ferguson is not unique. You can find the same pattern in the poorest neighborhoods of almost every US city.

Further, as abundantly demonstrated by the George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, and untold others killed by police, there is significant racism within the police ranks. Young black males are killed by police at a rate 5 times greater than whites. And more than double the rate of Latinos.

Even if the police are not intentionally racist, many have preconceived, subconscious biases. Many assume people of color are guilty of something. They see expressions of free speech as unlawful disobedience. They see innocent movements as threats. And they too often resort to excessive force. Yet, although the number of documented cases of police abuse has grown as a result of the availability of cellphone video, the overwhelming majority of cases still go unreported for fear of retaliation.

There are many contributing factors for the problems: Police leadership – both at the top and within the ranks, flawed hiring practices, and inadequate or over aggressive training. Police are too often expected to deal with situations, such as mental health crises, for which they are unqualified and unprepared. And they are often the victims for poor communication from dispatchers. Police are also victims of our nation’s runaway gun culture. Any American can obtain a gun. And many have more firepower than the responding officers.

Other factors are the militarization of our police forces through the purchase of surplus military equipment. To keep these items, they must prove that they use it. That tends to escalate the violence. And we can’t overlook the police federations that make it difficult for Police Chiefs to enforce meaningful disciplinary actions against abusive officers.

Our court system is equally at fault.

The United Nations Sentencing Project found that US operates two distinct criminal justice systems: One for the wealthy. Another for the poor.

While people like Trump and his friends can afford high-powered attorneys to avoid or delay justice through complicated and expensive motions, the poor, especially people of color are treated very differently. Since the courts and public defenders are overwhelmed with caseloads, prosecutors are often able to intimidate defendants into accepting plea bargains. If they plead to a felony, they are often placed into a prison system focused on revenge rather than rehabilitation and education. Once they’re released, they’re still viewed as dangerous. In many states, they can’t vote. And they find it difficult to get jobs. All too often, that leads them to commit other crimes.

If their crimes involve mental illness, they may be even worse off. The US has all but eliminated mental health facilities. So, the mentally ill are relegated to jail cells. When they act up or become violent, they are placed in solitary confinement, which, in essence, becomes a life sentence.

We can’t make America great again. Because it never was. And it won’t be until we eliminate systemic racism and redesign the criminal justice system from top to bottom.

A Few Questions For Republicans.

1. You have witnessed the decay of the middle class and the growing inequality of wealth. Do you not understand that it’s the inevitable result of Reaganomics and the continuing tax cuts for the very wealthy?
2. You have seen Congress and state legislatures blatantly ignore the will of the people on numerous issues. Do you not see that it is the result of lobbyists for billionaire businessmen and multinational corporations? Do you not realize that GOP lobbyists and corporate-sponsored organizations such as the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) write many of the bills that reach the floor of Congress and legislatures for votes?
3. I am sure you are aware of widespread voter suppression tactics waged against Democrats and minorities. Do you not understand that such tactics are blatantly undemocratic? And that your party is alienating minority voters for generations?
4. You have heard reports from all of our intelligence agencies that document Russian meddling in our elections. In fact, the Mueller investigation offered a mountain of evidence of cooperation between Russians and the Trump campaign. Similarly, you have seen Trump impeached for withholding funds from Ukraine in exchange for opening a bogus investigation into Hunter and Joe Biden. You likely also witnessed him openly ask China to interfere in the upcoming election on his behalf. Do you not worry that, in addition to being blatantly unconstitutional, such interference permanently weakens our nation?
5. You have cheered Donald Trump’s attacks on many of our most important democratic institutions – the free press, the Department of Justice, federal prosecutors, the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, the courts, and inspector generals. Do you not see that such attacks are, in fact, attacks on the rule of law and our nation?
6. You have applauded the Trump administration’s cruelty toward immigrants and refugees, including its separation of children from their parents. How can you continue to celebrate our nation’s history of immigration – “Give me your tired, your poor, your wretched masses yearning to breathe free?” Do you not realize that without these immigrants – even the undocumented immigrants – we would not have nearly enough “essential” workers to pick our produce, to process our meats, to cook our food, to serve the infirm, and to clean our buildings?
7. You claim to be “pro-life.” Yet you ignore the homeless and the hungry. And you continue to dismiss the deaths of 168,000 Americans in your rush to get back to “normal.” Do you not hear your own hypocrisy?
8. You continue to brag about American exceptionalism and claim that our healthcare system is the best on Earth. Then how do you rationalize the fact that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted Americans? And that more than 900 of our healthcare professionals have died as a result of a lack of proper protective equipment? How can you justify Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act during the pandemic which will deny healthcare to millions more Americans?
9. You claim to admire our nation’s military. Do you not understand how little regard your president has for veterans? Did you not hear him deny that Sen. John McCain was a war hero? Did you not hear him say that avoiding STDs was his personal Vietnam? Did you not hear his vile insults aimed at a Gold Star family? Do you not realize that, in order to build his great wall on the border with Mexico, he redirected essential funding from military personnel and their families? Have you not heard him demean our nation’s military leaders by saying he knows more than our top military generals? Have you not seen that he delayed essential relief funding to the Navajo – the Native American nation that helped win WWII as “Code Talkers?”
10. You boast of America’s natural beauty “from sea to shining sea.” Do you not realize that the Trump administration has compromised that beauty by auctioning off mining and drilling leases on environmentally sensitive lands? Do you not know that the administration plans to reopen uranium mining in the Grand Canyon that will, once again, make the Colorado River radioactive? Do you not see that the administration’s actions are polluting our air, our soil, and our water? Do you have no concern for the hundreds of thousands of wildlife species that are made vulnerable as a result? Do you not worry that your party continues to deny climate change despite the multitude of evidence that it endangers the planet?
11. You now label many of your party’s former leaders – George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Jim Mattis, Michael Steele, Tom Ridge, Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, George Will, John Weaver, George Conway, the McCain family, Nicolle Wallace, Jennifer Horn, and many, many others as RINOs and Never Trumpers. Have you not considered why those leaders call for the defeat of Donald Trump? Do you seriously believe they have abandoned conservative ideals to become “libtards?” Or have they simply recognized that Trump is a real and present danger to our nation?
12. Many in the corrupt Trump administration and Trump’s GOP – Steve Mnuchin, Jeff Sessions, Ryan Zinke, Tom Price, Ben Carson, Wilbur Ross, Scott Pruitt, and Trump, himself – have been caught squandering taxpayer money to enrich themselves and their friends. Do you still believe that Trump will drain the swamp and hire “only the best people?” Or is Trump himself the real swamp monster?
13. You condemn a Democrat-controlled House for seeking testimony from cabinet officials and for attempting to conduct oversight of this administration. Will you have the same reaction when the roles are reversed? Or do you truly believe that a president – any president – is above the law? Do you want to tear up our Constitution and destroy our democracy so that we become an autocracy?
14. When you don’t like facts and truths based on irrefutable evidence as reported by news media, you call them “fake news” and refer to them as enemies of the people. You seek only those media that share your political ideology. Where does that end? Is the party’s longtime propaganda arm, Fox News, no longer believable because Chris Wallace dared to fact-check your Mango Mussolini?
15. You call yourself “patriots” for wrapping yourself in the flag with a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other. What kind of patriot supports a fascist regime that seems intent on destroying constitutional norms by refusing congressional oversight and claims the leader is above the law? What kind of patriot condones the funneling of taxpayer money to millionaires and billionaires? What kind of patriot denies people of color social justice, equal opportunity, and economic equity? What kind of patriot believes the most outlandish conspiracy theories and embraces foreign interference on their behalf while viewing a significant majority of Americans as the enemy?

Long-Term Consequences Of Trump’s Failed Coronavirus Response.

When China first reported the outbreak of a novel coronavirus, the Trump administration had an opportunity to prevent, or at least to minimize, its impact on the US as previous administrations had done several times before. Instead, Trump dismissed the threat, telling us that China had everything under control. Then, when it did arrive on our shores, Trump called it a “Democratic hoax.” Apparently, he did not want to anger Xi Jinping. In fact, as we recently learned, instead of worrying about the coronavirus, he was trying to enlist China’s help for his re-election campaign.

When Covid-19 evolved into a full pandemic, Trump told us that it was only because of failed Democratic governors. Instead of leadership, he offered us false promises. And, instead of utilizing his emergency powers to provide Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), he created a bidding war between states and the federal government, prioritizing the needs of Republican-controlled states.

When the stock markets crashed and the economy stalled, he delayed emergency funds for the unemployed in order to have his name printed on the checks. Further, though he signed a second congressional bill to provide loans and more emergency funds, his administration refused to reveal the recipients, which has led Congress to suspect that Trump’s family businesses have benefited. And, instead of worrying about public health, he was laser-focused on pushing states to reopen their economies in order to improve his chances of re-election.

The short-term consequences have been devastating with now more than 2.6 million cases despite limited testing and nearly 129,000 deaths. Still, he refuses to show any real leadership by ordering the manufacture of more PPE and by ordering all Americans to wear masks to limit the spread of Covid-19. In fact, contrary to scientific advice, he held two rallies that will likely further spread the virus.

The long-term consequences could be even more devastating.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has written that the administration’s response and GOP policies are all but certain to lead to a “lost generation” of workers. He points to the 14 percent of the US population that is on food stamps and the projected 30 percent unemployment rate. “The numbers turning to food banks are just enormous and beyond the capacity of them to supply. It is like a third world country. The public social safety net is not working,” says Stiglitz.

He goes on to state, “If you leave it to Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, we will have a Great Depression. If we had the right policy structure in place we could avoid it easily.”

The economy and staggering unemployment rate are only part of the problem. The trillions of dollars in additional debt will reduce our ability to fund other needs, such as infrastructure, safety nets, and national defense.

Trump’s failure to stem the pandemic has already led to a loss of US standing in the world, leaving those in other nations flabbergasted at our incompetence. That will have long-term impacts on tourism, trade, and alliances. The failure will also impact our already stressed and inadequate healthcare system. The pandemic has ended most elective surgeries and other procedures causing some clinics and hospitals to close. That will lead to even less access to healthcare, especially for the poor. And Trump’s defunding of the World Health Organization will only leave us more vulnerable to future viruses, some of which have already been identified in other parts of the world.

The Trump-ordered ban on work visas will create a brain drain for our research institutions and technology companies that can’t be fully replaced by our own residents. Americans are unlikely to quickly embrace sports, concerts and other large gatherings resulting in billions of losses annually. And since the Trump administration prioritized rescue funds for large corporations, we’re likely to see a further consolidation of brands and services.

The pandemic has already affected human rights in this country by leaving some of the poorest populations vulnerable as “essential workers” in nursing homes, groceries, and meat-packing plants. Worse, it has exposed those seeking refuge in this country who are being held in detention facilities. And it has caused others to be deported back to their countries of origin to be raped or murdered. Moreover, the GOP’s response to the pandemic will lead to further voter suppression which will most impact the poor and people of color, forcing them to risk infection in order to exercise their constitutional right.

Last, but certainly not least, the financial consequences of the pandemic, while temporarily stemming carbon emissions, will make it more difficult for the US to invest in renewable fuels to address the climate crisis.

The only conceivable answer to all of these crises can be summarized in one word: Biden. Or, if you prefer, two: Bye Don.

“Mississippi With Snow.”

During television coverage of the recent protests in Minneapolis, the head of the NAACP referred to Minnesota as “Mississippi with snow.” As a proud resident of Minnesota who has long tried to address the racism in our state, that was still difficult to hear. But it is an alarmingly accurate description. Despite the economic success of Minnesota (it’s home to numerous Fortune 500 headquarters) and our widely acclaimed creativity (in music, theater, advertising, graphic arts, culinary arts and more), the primary differences between the two states are that we have a harsher climate, fewer people of color and a different accent.

Once a bastion of Scandinavian-style liberalism and tolerance, Minnesota changed under the leadership of GOP governor Tim Pawlenty. It cut taxes and passed laws that rewarded the wealthiest Minnesotans while punishing the poorest. That punishment was felt most by Minnesotans of color.

In 2008, the population of Minnesota was just 4.6 percent black compared to 12.8 percent for the US as a whole. Similarly, the Latino population in Minnesota was just 4.1 percent versus 15.4 percent for the US. Yet, black people living in Minneapolis (there are precious few outside the Twin Cities) are nearly 6 times more likely to be poor than their white counterparts. A black college graduate in the state, on average, makes less than a white high school dropout.

In 2009, at the height of the Great Recession, the unemployment rate for black Minnesotans was 22.5 percent compared to 15.5 percent for Latinos and just 7.1 percent for whites. Again, in 2010, Minnesota ranked second in the nation for racial disparity in the jobless rate behind only Mississippi. Even in 2018, before the pandemic, when black unemployment was at a record low of 6.8 percent, black unemployment in Minnesota was nearly double the US average.

Nationally, for every $1.00 of income white households receive, Latino households receive 72 cents, and black households earn just 59 cents. For every $1.00 of wealth held by white families, Latino families have 12 cents, and black families have 10 cents! And one-third of black children live in poverty, compared to 12 percent of white children.

Police in Minnesota and elsewhere kill blacks at an alarming rate compared to whites. Each killing leads to mental health issues for most of the black population. And it’s not just police killing black people. Discrimination is literally killing blacks because they are less likely to be able to afford healthcare. (A fact that has been especially apparent with the impact of the pandemic on people of color.)

Moreover, people of color not only suffer from disparities in employment, income, wealth, healthcare, and opportunity. They suffer from disparities in education, policing, and voting.

In Minnesota schools are some of the most segregated in the US. Why? Because Minnesota was an early adopter of charter schools. And Minnesota law exempts charter schools from desegregation. Public schools are also highly segregated with many predominately black schools underfunded, which has resulted in a large achievement gap between blacks and whites.

Minnesota is not alone. The US spends $23 billion more on schools that serve predominately white students versus schools that serve predominately black and Latino students. Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are expelled from schools at a higher rate than whites for the same transgressions. Too often, that leads to participation in the “justice” system and eventually to incarceration. Once they’re in the system, they find it hard to escape.

Per capita, blacks are 2.8 times more likely to be killed by police than white people. And believe it or not, Native Americans fair even worse. They are 3.1 times more likely to be killed by police than whites. Native Americans make up 0.8 percent of the population. But they experience 1.9 percent of all police killings. Many Native Americans live in poverty with no access to clean water. And many of their children are sent to outdate, mold-infested schools. Moreover, in an age of technology, many Native Americans have none. They not only lack high-speed Internet (a growing requirement for education). Many lack phone service.

And, if you think people of color can create change by voting, think again. A recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that black voters stand in lines 45 percent longer than white people. Latinos wait 46 percent longer than whites. And many Native Americans are unable to vote at all because some states require a street address, which most reservations lack. As a result of GOP voter suppression tactics, the situation is getting worse as evidenced in Georgia. Is it any wonder then that there are only 3 US senators who are black?

Now, following the murder of George Floyd, Minnesota has a real opportunity to make systemic change. As it has in many other ways, it can lead the nation. It can create an environment of justice and equal treatment for people of all colors and backgrounds. It can make its immodest slogan “Minnesota Nice” truly mean something.

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.

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.