The Tao Of Politics.

I am not a Taoist. Nevertheless, I have learned that the philosophy of Taoism has much to offer. The Taoist concept of Yin and Yang holds that nothing is ever entirely black or white; hard or soft; good or bad. Taoism teaches that good people can do bad things. It also teaches that those we consider bad can, on occasion, do good things.

This is particularly true as it pertains to politics.

For example, I know many who are otherwise caring, loving people who would deny food, shelter, health care and other human necessities to the unfortunate simply because their Republican Party preaches personal responsibility. They have become convinced that the poor are merely taking advantage of those of us who have been successful. They want to believe that the majority of the poor are lazy. Such thinking allows them to look the other way when they see someone who is in desperate need of help.

They cannot conceive that someone can work hard and still struggle to feed their families because they are underpaid by large, greedy corporations. They falsely believe that minimum wage jobs are entry level jobs that are the first step up the economic ladder. In past times, that may have been true. But in today’s economy, with many of our high-paying jobs now shipped offshore, for many people, the economic ladder has been pushed aside by greedy corporate executives.

Many Republicans refuse to accept that the American Dream no longer exists for many people; that the US is not the land of opportunity it once was; that no amount of hard work can pull many of the unfortunate out of poverty; that the US now has less upward mobility than most of the rest of the industrialized world.

As a result, many good Republicans cheered when the federal government cut $5 billion from the annual budget of SNAP (food stamps) – an amount equal to all of the charitable organizations in the nation (501c4 “charities” such as American Crossroads and FreedomWorks, not included). The same people who would gladly give food and money to a family member or neighbor are still clamoring to cut another $4-40 billion from SNAP at a time when 1 in 6 Americans and 1 in 4 American children are dealing with hunger.

These grinches are not bad people. They are simply uninformed or misinformed.

These champions of personal responsibility and faith are convinced that social safety nets are not only unnecessary. They believe that social programs are creating a culture of dependence. They believe that the minimum wage, labor unions and government regulation are threats to our economy.

They believe that subsidies and giveaways to large corporations are good. But that subsidies and giveaways to people are bad. Why? If it’s true that corporations are people, shouldn’t they both be treated equally? If a half dozen banks are considered too big to fail, shouldn’t group consisting of millions of poor Americans also be considered too big to fail?

Taoism teaches that all things are part of a greater whole – the great Tao – and that if you harm another, in reality you harm yourself. Caring Republicans would be wise to keep that in mind.

Who Speaks For The Poor And The Hungry?

Not Republicans. They continue to vote to cut unemployment benefits, food stamps, Head Start, minimum wage, labor unions and public education. Indeed, last year’s standard bearer was caught on tape deriding the bottom 47 percent for paying “no taxes” and wanting “free stuff.” Certainly not the Tea Party parasites. They contemptuously refer to the working poor as “freeloaders.”

Even Democrats seem far more concerned with the middle class and labor unions than the poor.

Christian churches? Some actually care enough to try to help. But many of today’s mega-churches are mere social clubs, more interested in politics and social engineering than the poor and the hungry. They talk about “tough love” to “free” the poor from safety net programs that they claim create dependency.

As a result, many of the nation’s poor are left to survive any way they can in our cities’ ghettos and in small rural communities. One in six don’t know where their next meal will come from. Many of these people work, but are paid so little, they can’t afford to live. Many single parents make less at the available jobs than the cost of day care, so unless they have friends or family who can babysit, they can’t afford to work. Thousands of families are homeless despite working one or more jobs. (Imagine a family trying to make ends meet in a large city on $15,000-$20,000 a year.) And none have health insurance, so they can’t afford to seek help unless it’s an emergency.

Despite all of the stark, all too depressing evidence of poverty in the US, few in government are motivated to help. After all, the poor can’t afford to make campaign contributions. They have no lobbyists to finance political campaigns. They can’t afford to wine and dine elected officials on junkets to resorts and exotic places.

Even when the working poor do have a roof over their heads and a small budget for food (usually the result of food stamps), the food they can afford is loaded with more sugar and fat than nutrition. This not only affects their health. It contributes to our nation’s obesity problem and rising health care costs.

And for the children of the poor, good luck with school. It’s hard to concentrate on assignments with your stomach growling. Not surprisingly, most schools in impoverished areas are underfunded and overpopulated. With few resources and large class sizes, teachers do what they can before they pass the struggling children along to the next grade. Moreover, because of their work schedules, many parents have little time to help their children with homework…homework they, themselves, may have failed. This all but ensures that the family economic problems continue generation after generation.

How can we change things?

To begin, we can raise the minimum wage. (No one who works a full-time job should be paid a wage that leaves them below the poverty line.) We can fully fund programs such as food stamps, instead of cutting them as Teapublicans demand. We can fund Head Start, unemployment benefits and welfare (welfare for the poor, not corporations). We can create safe and affordable day care programs for low income families. We can make certain that all schools are adequately funded and we can create after-school programs for children who want to put in the extra work to succeed. We can make sure that every American has access to health care…especially preventative care. We can drop the farm subsidies for big corporations and redirect them to small independent growers who make fresh and healthy food available to poor neighborhoods.

If you think our nation can’t afford to fund such common-sense humane programs, think again. We need only take a fraction of the money from our bloated war industry (In a country that has spent all but a few years of its history engaged in war, calling it a defense department is a misnomer.).

It’s long past time that our nation invested in people not corporations…humanity not war.

Growth Of The “Moocher” Class.

During the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney was famously caught on camera talking about the 47 percent he claimed pay no taxes. That led to the conservative media referring to the 47 percent as the  “moocher” class; those people whose votes could be bought with promises of free “stuff,” such as food stamps, unemployment insurance and access to healthcare.

According to a new survey exclusive to The Associated Press, Romney had the numbers wrong. The survey shows that 80 percent of adults in the US face near-poverty and unemployment at some point in their lives. You read that correctly…80 percent!

In addition, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 22 percent of Americans have been significantly affected by the sequester budget cuts. And those who earn less than $30,000 per year have been hardest hit. Moreover, 1 in 6 (50 million) Americans face food insecurity, including 17 million children.

The vast majority of these people work full-time jobs; some work two jobs or more and still can’t make ends meet. Yet conservatives call these people “moochers” and “takers.” Fox News Channel and conservative radio hosts vilify and ridicule the working poor. Instead of placing the blame where it belongs…on greedy corporations and an economy that no longer offers the majority of Americans an opportunity to realize the American Dream…Congressional Teapublicans blame the problem on labor unions, pensions, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They have voted to cut food stamps and unemployment insurance benefits. They have voted 39 times to repeal Obamacare, denying access to healthcare for more than 50 million poor Americans. And, instead of voting to fund projects that would rebuild our infrastructure and create good-paying jobs, they vote to cut taxes for the wealthy.

In the two and a half years since regaining control of the House by promising to focus on jobs, Teapublicans continue to push for budget cuts and to place obstacles in the way of our economic recovery.

As a result of their indifference to the plight of ordinary Americans, our economy continues its slow recovery. We continue to see the loss of good-paying jobs to other countries. We continue to see the loss of pensions and income security for the elderly. And we continue to see a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Teapublicans are right to talk about the “givers” and “takers” in our society. But they have things backwards. The “givers” are the working people who pay a disproportionate share of their income to taxes, including payroll deductions and sales taxes. And the “takers” are the very wealthy and large corporations who benefit from corporate welfare and record profits.