A Return on Investment

There's been a lot of talk of “Socialism” in America ever since our first African-American President took office in 2009.  And now, with the advent of Senator Bernie Sanders drawing tens of thousands of supporters, even in deep red states, the "S" word of American politics is being bandied about again. While Sanders himself may refer to himself as a socialist (which some reprehensible man at the National Review thought would be hilarious to turn into calling a Jewish man a “National Socialist” which is where we get the term “Nazi”), the ideas being talked about in his campaign don't sound like Socialism to me.

It sounds more like Capitalism.

Socialism has just become another word:like Nazi, Communism, Terrorism, and so on, that’s meant to sound different and foreign and scary, with little to no substance to back it up. If you don't like someone, you tar them with this dirty word as an argument-ender: you don't have a leg to stand on, as far as facts go, so you appeal to a visceral reaction to a scary sounding word. However, as I mentioned last week, the scare is starting to wear off. As people are becoming more informed via the internet and not the corporate-controlled media, they’re starting to think that voting for a Socialist wouldn’t be all that bad.

But is this really Socialism?

Look at it this way: From the years 1932 to roughly 1968, we had a string of fairly liberal Presidents. Even the Republican Eisenhower, courted by both parties, settled in as a moderate Republican who signed off on massive government spending projects and tax rates on the super-wealthy that would be unheard of today to stave off financial collapse as the wartime economic boom came to an end. Eisenhower, the famous general, knew that you couldn't support an economy by building tanks and bullets, specifically if you didn't have a war to use them in, and he was distrustful of those who went looking for war as a way to line their pockets. If you don’t believe me, guess who coined the favorite liberal term “military-industrial complex.” During this era of American Liberalism (under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson), backed by what would now be considered diabolically liberal senators and representatives (like Mondale, McCarthy, Humphrey) our economic growth exploded, the middle class did better than ever before, and the country was in that Golden Age people always like to talk about when they talk about the “good old days.”
But starting in the 1970s, things got a little rough. The economy contracted, due to foreign and domestic issues, and we found ourselves facing the first real challenge to the strongly liberal America. Through shady tactics, Presidents like Nixon and Reagan came to power, and through them America decided to try a conservative experiment. Reagan, both Bushes, and even Clinton and Obama, who supported deregulating the banks, bailing out the banks, NAFTA, and the TPP, are far from screaming liberals. We’ve had a conservative experiment in this country for longer than I’ve been alive, experimenting with the conservative hit parade of tax breaks, loopholes, and other supply side economic theory.

With production up, corporate profits sky high, CEO salaries increasing tenfold, and regular salaries being less and less despite record stock gains... I think it’s safe to say it hasn’t worked for the vast majority of Americans. And a situation like this, a situation where a man tells you to give him money so he can make you money, then bolts with the money you’ve given him, is not a workable system. In fact, it’s a Ponzi scheme.

We’re not asking for a socialist redistribution of wealth; we’re asking for our money back. For at least 30 years now we’ve let the money flow to the top because the belief has been they will spend it and jumpstart the economy. We've been investing in them, investing in the idea, and it's far past the time when any broker would tell us to get out. But, as we can see, rich people don’t get rich by spending money, they get rich by keeping money. They aren’t spending it, they aren’t stimulating the economy, so we want our money back. We are not seeing a return on investment, so we want a refund... and if that isn’t Capitalism, what is? The defenders for the way things are, the status quo, howl constantly about letting the "free market" decide, it's time for the market to take control. We are the investors. We are the market. And we're done throwing our money into this pit.

There's a lot of talk now about Donald Trump, and most of it comes from Donald Trump himself, about his success as a businessman. Yet, it seems like Bernie Sanders, the self-professed Socialist, understands how business works. Perhaps this is why Mr. Trump's companies have gone bankrupt several times, because he doesn't care about his company making money or helping others, he cares only about advancing his name and making as much personal income as possible.

It's time the American people got out of this bad business deal, and started demanding a return on investment. We want our money back. Surely, someone like Mr. Trump can understand that?

At Your Service,

Doremus Jessup

The Fire and the Spring

I'll just come out and say it: Jimmy Carter was right.

He tried to bring Christian values to what we are increasingly told by those on the far right is a Christian nation. He spoke of a confidence of crisis, and that if we all work together, we can lick this thing and become great again. And how did the opposition of this supposedly Christian nation respond? By spitting Carter's goodwill mission back into his face, with an extra dose of bile by way of their vote for the huckster Ronald Reagan. Brother Ron's Traveling Salvation Show rolled into town and called out "roll up, roll up! See what's wrong with America, and feel validated when we tell you it isn't you!"

So we've spent 30 years now in this selfish, nihilistic America, where everyone hates everything that isn't directly beneficial to them, cutting throats and stepping on necks to get ahead in an America that represents more the fantasy of Ayn Rand and the reality of Rockefeller than it does in any way resemble the teachings of Christ. How did America simultaneously take a hard turn into such cruelty and barely-concealed hatred while claiming the moral high ground and professing to defend the very values that their programs have helped destroy? The answer to that question is the defining rhetorical and political question of the last age, and it is time now for my generation, for our generation to finally give a definitive answer. The hypothesis has been promoted, the experiments have been done, the data has been collected, and conclusions must now be drawn by the next American generations on the experiment that has colored their entire lives.

It should not be surprising to many in the new generation that the conclusion is not a positive one: wages are stagnant, inequality is higher than ever, and America is poised on the cusp of establishing its own inherited aristocracy, resembling more and more the European feudal systems we originally fought the War of Independence against. Again, how did we get here? The answer involved two concepts that might not seem out of place in a children's television program, but which are fundamental concepts that should not be lost as maturity sets in. Often, the biggest problems have simple answers, and in this case it all comes down to the idea of kindness versus hate.

It starts in 1964. Fresh off a historic shellacking in a Presidential election, the Republican party finds itself struggling. They are finding themselves in danger of becoming a permanent minority and completely falling out of step with the times. What's worse, they are finding themselves split between Southern and Northern factions: the South, formerly a Democratic stronghold, has seen their number start to shift to Republican candidates because of Lyndon Johnson's support for desegregation and anti-racism legislation. To the north, the wealthy, pro-business Republicans of Coolidge, Harding and Hoover are seeing themselves taxed more than almost ever before. At its peak, under the moderate Republican Eisenhower, taxes on the wealthiest were 90%, and now that darn LBJ is going to continue soaking the rich to pay for his Great Society. What's a Republican party to do?

In 1968, they nominate a fairly surprising choice for President: Richard Milhous Nixon, last seen sulking off after losing a gubernatorial bid in California back in 1962. Nixon, as a man and as a President, is a nearly endless font of interest for historians: he's the tough on crime Republican who also founded the EPA, he's the historic China-goer who also increased bombing in the Vietnam War, and overall he's a good argument for stating that yes, America has had mentally troubled people in elected office, albeit undiagnosed. Paranoid, un-trusting, and thoroughly pessimistic, Nixon seemed ill-fit for the highest office in the land, so much so that President Eisenhower often undermined his own Vice President. However, Richard Nixon was an ambitious man (so much so that it would be his downfall at Watergate) and unlike his close loss to Kennedy in 1960, there wasn't going to be any limitations to what he would do to assume that office this time around.

And so the hate began. Formerly Democratic Southerners first started gravitating to the Republican ticket in '68, where Nixon's aforementioned "law and order" platform was clearly intended to have a racial bias. His intonation of the "silent majority" again played on the not-yet-healed, and still-not-yet-healed-today wound of racism and desegregation that stood as a black mark on American history, no pun intended. It was called the Southern Strategy, and with Nixon's '68 campaign, the message was clear: I will protect you, White America, from all of the frightening change that is being laid upon you. Your world is changing, but if you vote for me we can try as hard as possible to hold back the tide.

Now, over 40 years later, they are still trying to hold back the tide, but now the water is at their waist, when once it was at their ankles.

That's the tricky part of basing your entire party platform on hatred: hatred of the other, hatred of the not-like-you, the not-from-here, the not-as-fortunate. Hatred is like a gasoline fire: it burns hot, but quickly, and spends all of its fuel, needing to be replenished almost constantly. That is why you've seen the Republican line get hotter and hotter in its hate since Nixon's era. We went from Nixon's coded messages of "law and order" to Jesse Helm's "White Hands" television ad to Bush's "Axis of Evil," or the "Sanctity of Marriage," an institution that fails 50% of the time. Most distressingly, the present day features the bluntest hate yet, where the first African-American President is portrayed as an ape, castigated during the State of the Union, questioned on his ability to be a "real American" to the point of demanding to see a birth certificate, called a "boy" by other elected officials, told that he'll have to "shuck and jive" and "throw spears," and a milieu of other awful slurs. Most perplexingly, President Obama, the man who bailed out private auto companies and private banks, is held firmly in the minds of many Americans as a Communist. Such counter-factual thinking and blatant disregard for reality seems bizarre when looked at without the proper context. The fire of hate is burning out, and it constantly needs more to satisfy it. Much like drug addicts, modern far-right maniacs must constantly up their dosage to get the same feeling and satisfaction, to the point where we are now burning tires, plastic, whatever can be found close at hand to fuel the fire of hate that regrettably sustains our modern American Republican Party.

And what of kindness? It is mocked by the right-wing hate machine specifically because it seeks to disarm their dogma of ever-increasing hate and war and violence. It was kindness, not hate, that rebuilt Europe after World War II and kept it safe from a resurgence of fascism, and it is a lack of kindness in economic austerity that is opening the door for neo-fascist parties currently on the rise. It was kindness and forgiveness that rebuilt Japan and Korea into economic powerhouses, and it was even kindness that brought the Confederacy back into the Union following the American Civil War. Kindness does amazing things, and best of all it is self-replenishing. Like a pure spring of water, kindness is constantly refreshed because, well, it feels good to be kind. After the horrors of a World War or a Civil War, or even a shock like the Great Depression, the fire has burned itself out, but the water still flows eternally, sustaining America rather than consuming it.

An America governed by kindness can do great things. It was the kindness of Kennedy that created the Peace Corps and put a man on the moon. It was the kindness of FDR that saved people from starving and gave them purpose again. It was the kindness of Robert Kennedy and Walter Mondale and Lyndon Johnson who saw the horrors of poverty in our own nation and fought to rectify it. Kindness builds bridges; hate burns them down. Kindness is an America where people don't have to worry about getting sick, or worry about keeping their house or providing for their family. We can do such great things if we carry on the legacy of kindness put down by men like Roosevelt and Carter and Mondale and the Kennedys.

Living by the universal values of kindness put forth by President Carter is tough, but it is the right thing to do. Carter truly believed that if America rose up and defended those values, in deed as much as in word, that it would save the country. Unfortunately, he lost an election asking all of that of the American people, but History has borne him out as correct in the long run. It is a frightening proposition to trust others, to give to others and possibly not get anything in return or, worse, have it blow up in your face... but that is the risks we must take to make the world better. If you lock yourself in your house while your neighbor's is burning, you may be safe for now... but the fire of hatred always needs more fuel, and your house is right next door.

At Your Service,

Doremus Jessup

A More Perfect Union

We've all heard it before:

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union..."

It's the Preamble to the US Constitution. We had to learn it, some of us had to recite it, some of us had to sing it. Since the rise of the far-right-wing faction known as the Tea Party, there has been an awful lot of invoking of the Constitution: this amendment, that amendment, the original intent of the Founding Fathers, its legacy as a living document that can change with the times, and so on. But for all of this overheated rhetoric and pounding of tables about the Constitution, the actual words of the document often get lost. For all of the talk of what the Founding Fathers intended, there seems to be a fundamental disconnect between what those on the far right believe, and what is actually in the document. Let's take a look at it again, from the start:

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union..."

Contrast this with the far-right diatribe uttered by Fox News' Andrea Tantaros as a rebuke against a report on torture done by the American government:

The United States of America is awesome. We are awesome... The reason they want the discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we’re not awesome."

Someone needs to re-introduce the first sentence of the US Constitution to the maniacs over at Fox News. It doesn't say "We the People of the United States, are already awesome, so we don't have to improve ourselves." The Founding Fathers of America were brilliant enough to know that times change, and what is considered "more perfect" when the document was established in 1788 would not be considered "more perfect" in 2015. For example, in 1788:

-Slavery was legal
-African Americans counted at 3/5 of a white person in census taking
-Women could not vote
-The Vice President was the runner-up in the latest election, not a running mate
-US Senators were not actually elected by the people of their state, but elected by the state's own legislature
-Presidents did not have term limits, and
-Poll taxes were not illegal

Those are just a sample of the amendments passed to the Constitution following its ratification. In fact, the very idea that our Constitution can be amended speaks to the idea that we are not perfect at any given moment in time, and what can be seen as acceptable one century is barbaric in the next. The beauty in the way the Constitution is written is that is strives to be "more perfect" while admitting that America is always pursuing that ideal of one day becoming a more perfect union.

And is there any better ideal to pursue as a nation?

Do not let the maniacs on the far-right tell you that America does not need to change or adapt with the times or, even worse, needs to revert back to times of intolerance and ignorance. These people are standing in the way of progress, and without progress we cannot become that more perfect union and we are doomed to be eventually confined to the dusty, forgotten halls of history as another example of what might have been.

As America, we should always be striving to be More Perfect: for all of our citizens, for all who wish to come here, and for all who will come after us in the future.

At You Service,

Doremus Jessup