What does America value?

In our society money decides how resources are distributed. Those with the most money, have the most options. Sometimes I wonder is money the most efficient way to decide who gets what? In America specifically, status is determined by income. However, it can be argued that the most noble work is done by those paid the least, maybe even nothing–volunteers. At the same time there is a lot of money pooled with those who seem to be lacking a heart of service. They hoard money in off shore accounts. The work done by some of the highest income earners does not appear to be work that is life-giving. The work does not produce anything lasting. If that is the case, we are not doing our best to effectively manage resources to meet the needs of the people who our government represents. We have lost the sense of stewardship that human kind needs to live with peace of mind and in balance with the ecosystems that we occupy.

Life is about more than profits.

The first problem with having money decide who is able to access resources, is that there are many worthwhile endeavors that are not profitable. Adding the profit aspect to health care, education, and prisons creates a business model that breaks the systems they claim to serve. The fact that they are not profitable does not mean that they are not worthwhile endeavors. It simply means that society does not want to pay for them. Many of the social services are not “fun” ways to spend money. Yet, they are vital to the general well-being of the communities that we live in. There are many things worth doing for the greater good that does not make a profit.

Bringing back the balance.

How can things be brought back to balance?

Some say charity is how to solve society’s imbalances. Yet, I am not sure that charity as we know it is the answer. The first reason why that is true is because the work that needs to be done is not always the work that people want to pay for. Some of the work that is needed by society is not considered “sexy” by funders. The process to access grants is lengthy, complex, and limited. The process is cumbersome and does not always address what is needed but instead focuses on what the charity is willing to give.

There needs to be a review of the way America does business. Stockholders versus workers. Which should be the priority? When stockholders do not see the vision of the company and are looking for a one-way street to profits not seeing the long-term vision of community and the way that the organization lives in the community it can be problematic. What then should be done to keep the fiduciary promises to stockholders while still being able to invest back into the company and community.

Our society appears to be economically driven, however the economic cycle is not free-flowing and the stagnant lack of a strong economic flow worsened by the lack of disposable income, makes solving problems on a one-on-one or community level, virtually impossible. The way we think about resources and problem-solving must change and become more egalitarian so that our society begins to reflect the best of all of us manifesting real solutions. Instead of what has been happening which is the worst of all of us manifesting our fears. I still have faith that humanity is capable of amazing things. However, to get there the focus must be on working together. That gives value to all Americans and I believe that is truly what American values is all about.MiamiHeraldValues

Politicians everywhere can learn from the downfall of Russell Pearce

Russell K Pearce is a juggernaut of conservatism in Arizona politics. As a person, he has a charm and charisma that even the most liberal of Democrats could begrudgingly admire, and many do. Although media in it’s laziness only wants to focus on immigration,  so that  people think that this  recall is just about making it easier for people to reside in the nation illegally, couldn’t  be farther from the truth.  Differences about Immigration is  the easiest answer to the question about why Russell Pearce was recalled, but it is not the complete answer. The complete answer is important. Current and future leaders should study the real answer, poli-sci students should dissect it, it has happened before and it can happen again.

 For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery. ~Jonathan Swift

Bad things happen when politicians believe the power given by constituents is theirs personally. The fact is the job description demand those elected to office represent the people who sent them to office. Because of forgetting this important fact, politicians make bad decisions that are catastrophic to political careers. A politician must remember that it does not always matter what he/she personally thinks, what matters is how well the people who vote feel represented by the office the official was elected to uphold. The power the official holds is on loan from the people of his/her district and revocation of that power will occur in light of a forgotten agreement.

Enter the special interests. Smooth talking charismatic folks sent to stroke a politician’s ego. Many are friends and acquaintances from business dealings or social groups. They con the politician, who let’s face it, is open to being conned anyway, gets convinced that the power is theirs personally to use. That they hold the sword and it is theirs to do what they like with it. A special interest representative is like puffer fish they puff themselves up to look like they hold a great impact over the politician’s career. Like any pusher or dealer, they try to convince their prey that they need them, that they would be nothing without them. But they are full of hot air and hold only a small impact when their influence is deflated by the people of the community. The politician, distracted by the special interests, forgets the power belongs to the people. His/her job is only to be a responsible steward of the power on loan to him/her.

The reason why Arizona Legislative District 18 recalled Russell Pearce is that he thought the power was his personally to wield as he wished. He also underestimated the power given to him as Senate President. Being Senate President meant he represented the whole State, not just his district. The decisions he made influenced the State and the nation and required more than a hyperpartisan faction view to represent those who had loaned him the power to use for the good of the entire state ofArizona. He used the power as his own, and he did this regardless of what the rest of the City and State that he represented as Senate President wanted.

He lost touch with the people who gave him the power of State Senate President. He forgot about the consent of the governed. He began to believe that he knew better than everyone else did how things should be. Russell Pearce used intimidation to force special interest bills through the legislature. He dismissed the will of the people of the State ofArizonarepeatedly. He continued to shut them out of the Democratic process that is their right, because he felt the process of Democracy was too messy. It is too messy, but it still needs to happen.  Voters tried correspondence, protest, voter initiatives and various other tools at their disposal to get his attention and only as a last resort did they pull out the big guns of recall.

It is my hope that people like Russell Pearce who desire to hold public office will remember again how this system works. It works when the people offer their power to a representative they trust and that representative uses that power wisely and for the greater good of the people, they represent. When that ideal is lost, the people will pull that power back. It’s best to do what one can to avoid recall in this way as it is not a good situation for anyone.

we need leaders, not nannies

During my usual morning ritual of cyber surfing,  I saw a post from one of my friends about the Occupy Wall St. phenomenon. I commented on this thread, and so did a Harvard man, telling me I was a hypocrite if I supported the protest and had a 401K or an IRA. I assured the man– I was no hypocrite. He made a remark about America being a nanny state and the protest the equivalent of babies having bottles pulled from proverbial mouths of those who found themselves at the bottom 99% of the economic wealth scale in America. I found the hubris of this comment disturbing. As I moved from that exchange and continued surfing,  I saw a lady’s comment about being so happy to see a comment about Wall St. that wasn’t mentioning the Occupy Wall St. protest, “How are we supposed to take these kids seriously?” She writes over a link for the Zombie walk of  Occupy Wall St. where the marchers chanted “We are contagious!” She didn’t get it. I got it, the idea is contagious and it will spread and it did spread because now there are Occupy Wall St. events happening all over the country  during October, 2011 and maybe beyond.

Just because the elites don’t get it, doesn’t mean the statement has no value, just because they can’t wrap their minds around what it takes to raise a family of four on $1,000 a month doesn’t mean that reality doesn’t exist for a lot of people. Just because they don’t go hungry doesn’t mean that 1 in 4 children in America don’t go to bed at night wondering where their next meal is coming from.  As a matter of fact, I wonder how people who are supposedly so smart (so says their financial portfolio) appear so dumb. Why can’t they figure any of this out? People are tired of mega-bonuses at the top while those working on the front lines with the customers are kept in a constant state of economic uncertainty and stress about paying their basic bills. People can’t believe that after what I call the Wall Street Rape of 2008,  no justice was mitigated for crashing not only the domestic, but global economy, with the sub-prime mortgage scam and the shady derivative markets.

“That’s why they call it the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
― George Carlin

People are looking at the bleak prospects of their future, not only for themselves, but their children. Americans in their 40’s are looking at the very real possibility that they will be caring for their parents, themselves and their children, meanwhile not being able to plan for it,  because their 401K  is on some psychotic roller-coaster and the Congress couldn’t legislate itself out of a wet paper bag. It is all very disturbing and frustrating as the country gets held hostage over a financial cliff for seemingly mundane decisions. But the legislators themselves are in no risk, their healthcare and pension prospects are not in question, their salary not cut 60% as many of their constituents have experienced in the last two years.

Working American people are not looking for hand outs, we don’t need to be spoon fed by a nanny state. That is not the point, and it’s insulting to say, it is not about entitlement. What about the feeling of entitlement of the upper 1% to assume all the money is  theirs. You may create jobs, but our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers risk their lives at those jobs. You benefit from the security of the military, but who sends their children to the front line to die? You eat the food that the working class grew and put on your table, as the saying goes the wealthy would be eating money if someone didn’t grow and prepare the food for them. Not that one class is better than the other, everyone has a purpose that makes society work well,  but let’s put some things in perspective here.

If your company uses American labor, it behooves you to pay for world-class  education to have the best in an educated labor force.  You want that investment in employee training to have longevity, especially now that labor needs to work to a more mature age, make sure they have good health insurance so that individuals can work longer and be more productive.  You need military support, make sure they have the best resources, and are taken care of when they return home, thank them for the fact that you and your family didn’t have to be in harm’s way. Allow workers  access to nutritious food and kids great parks to play in and become strong citizens, body, mind and spirit. Allow people the ability to squeeze some living out of this life before they pass on, it makes for better workers.  These aren’t great mysteries. This isn’t asking too much. These are the types of ideas that Occupy Wall St. is about.

We’re Americans. Together we prosper, we all have to work together. It used to be understood that wealth and privilege came with a level of responsibility, of community and stewardship, that we all worked together to make capitalism work. But this bastardization is no longer capitalism, it’s corporatism and it’s killing Americans, it’s killing America, and that ‘s what Occupy Wall St. folks are standing up against. They want to restore the possibility of the American Dream, the American ideal. I support them 100%. This type of guts demands respect. This brand of courage makes me even more proud to be an American.

we need politicians, not puppets

Let’s have the members of  House and Senate dress like NASCAR drivers. Prominently place the logos of the companies and special interests that support them sewn to their suits so we know what team they’re on. Because it certainly isn’t ours. More and more it  seems less like a joke and more like a good idea.  “Show us who holds your strings!” the people demand. As those who would benefit from the death of the Department of Labor, EPA, SEC, Fed and other government agencies that protect the people from those in industry who place poor choices and stockholder profits over the general welfare of the people who are unfortunate to live within their corporate spheres of influence. We (middle-middle class working families making less than $250,000 a year) need protection. Hasn’t it been proven time and again that self-regulation doesn’t work?

Corporations don’t just have legislative representation on the payroll, it seems they’ve found a way to influence the government agencies that are supposed to be regulating them. We’ve seen it in the Energy industry and in Finance. The system can’t work if the systems employees aren’t working for we the people. Government agents must be held to higher standards  and accountability for ethical breeches, those holding important regulatory positions have to care about what they are doing, they can’t just be pencil-pushers because the stakes are too high. This is where our system has failed especially in the past decade and it’s not just Americans who are hurting, the citizens of the world have paid in terms of a crashed world economy and through natural disasters like the BP oil spill. The spill wasn’t so long ago and already we have politicians with amnesia wanting to repeat the same mistakes with no changes, no thinking things through, and I wonder how many huge spills can an ecosystem take? Luckily, things are getting better in the Gulf for now. It makes me wonder are we as a country capable of learning from past mistakes?  Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over?

We need politicians, critical thinking, analytic types; not just winners of a popularity contest, not an employee of a special interest group, but a person who is able to weigh all interests and come up with the best solutions possible. Above party affiliation,  above personal pride, in the best interest of those who live in their constituency and then the nation and the globe accordingly. It seems simple. Yet there is something about DC, possibly something in the water of the Potomac  that seems to make rational people crazy. But it’s not the water is it? It’s the political  sponsors. The Super PACS the special interest interference, lobbyists writing laws. So if DC legislators have sponsors, let’s make it transparent. Have the Congressmen and Senators wear the emblem of their owners on their suits, at least then we can know whose team they are really on.

If it were up to me I’d have more Main Street types voting for the Board of Directors of Lockheed Martin, Monsanto, DuPont, Citibank, Goldman-Sachs and others. If they are truly the ones running our country why don’t we get a vote? It’s supposed to be a representative Democracy is it not? People are so paranoid of a tyrannical government that they allow these tyrants of business to run rampant, it’s a tragedy for America. I don’t think the forefathers and mothers would approve, I don’t think this is the type of life they would have wished for us.

We need politicians not puppets. Is it too late? Time will tell.

we need statesmen, not politicans

As the debt ceiling debacle rolls on in the 11th and a half hour the American people look on with great frustration at the political games being played in Washington D.C. Okay we get it there is an Election coming soon. Yet this debt ceiling work if done responsibly would have been completed months ago. Would it have helped if there were more reasonable voices in the mix like Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)  for example, who all along has laid out the truth and consequences to all who would listen.

Will the  utter dysfunction displayed in Washington which becomes increasingly bizzaro to coin a phrase from Senator McCain, is at its worst in the last two years. The introduction of the Tea Party Freshman have become a liability to the Republican Party and the Congress as a whole with inadequate counter-balance to allow the body function in the House and to some extent the Senate.  Norman Ornstein  was on as Chuck Todd’s guest on MSBC’s Daily Rundown, July 25th,2011 to discuss this diabolical dysfunction. Orstein declaring the 112th Congress the “Worst.Congress.Ever.”

What becomes even more frustrating is the knowledge that this debt ceiling debacle is purely a political concoction.  It is difficult to  sit by as games are being played which apparently hold no consequence for the players. How are they able to be so irresponsible? How does such a small group in the House be able to hold the nation hostage twice? How many times will they be given the opportunity to do so in the future?  This awful twisting of the Democratic process is hard to take.

Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge. — Machiavelli from Chapter 3 of  The Prince 1513

Tell me. Is it really the worst thing for the Republican Party or the nation, if these hostile, no compromise Tea Party terrorists don’t get re-elected? In my opinion that’s a risk I’m willing to take for the good of the entire country. It is even more irritating to hear these debt terrorists say  “This is what the American people want,” when poll after poll shows they are out of touch with the majority of the American public.

Is it wise to bring Machiavellian principles into politics? I don’t think so. There has to be a time when all sides come together to govern and to make the best decisions possible with reality-based thinking. It is easy to dream up bumper-sticker slogans. Yet in practice, with numbers that represent great impacts on American’s lives, it is not a bandaid or bumper-sticker fix. It takes more sophisticated and complex policy crafting. It takes statesmen and stateswomen, not baser politicians to get the job done.

What has happened to the days of the statesman of Kennedy and Byrd? I miss them. We need them now.

Quote from: http://www.philosophyparadise.com/quotes/machiavelli.htm

we need a watchdog, not a lapdog

President Obama appointed former Jeopardy champion and former Attorney General for the State of Ohio (a swing state) Richard Cordray to head the top consumer watchdog agency the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at the White House on July 18, 2011. The Consumer Financial Protection Agency is set up much like what the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is for law enforcement. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB will be a centralized department for consumer protection which was previously spread out amongst government agencies.

A primary task of this agency will be to make sure that correspondence between financial institutions and the public are written in a way that the layman can understand. It is also charged with addressing practices which may be less transparent to the consumer so they can better understand what is a good product or not. They will be educated to protect themselves in the marketplace.

I resent the fact that this bureau needs to be in place. That basic best practices are not created and maintained within the industry. However, it has been shown time and time again that the financial industry is unwilling or unable to make these types of ethical standards on their own.

“Self-regulation is to regulation as self-importance is to importance.”
— Willem Buiter

The President side stepped the logical choice for the position Professor Elizabeth Warren the Bureau was her brain child and she was the driving force creating it. Yet, because Republicans and those in the industry that would be regulated did not like that she wanted to do the job and not be dissuaded to water it down and do the usual “make it look like we’re doing something without actually doing something” that is so prevalent in the cesspool of American politics.

See more at http://www.elizabethwarren.com

The concern with the current path is that it becomes a drain on the tax-payer with mediocre at best results. Without Elizabeth Warren at the helm I am concerned that the CFPB will be more of a lapdog than a watchdog.  With Congress holding the financial leash. If Congress is influenced by the 10’s of  millions of dollars of lobbying they can merely strip the Bureau of needed funding to do its work. Sure Obama says he’s fighting now for the agency, but what about Presidents to come? Will they have the same passion to protect the consumer in the future?

“Deregulation is a transfer of power from the trodden to the treading. It is unsurprising that all conservative parties claim to hate big government.”
— George Monbiot

I love the idea of the CFPB. I think it is important that the consumer be offered a fair playing field on which to participate in the game of capitalism. I am just not sure that this is the way to get it done. I  saw on an MSNBC interview with Andrea Mitchell this morning that Professor Warren felt understandably fatigued and ready to spend time at home with her grandchildren. I would hope that she would be willing to head a well-respected non-profit agency. A watchdog for the watchdogs or lap dogs as I suspect they have a high risk to become.

stop dragging us around–the debt ceiling

There once was  a time when  a person voted on Election Day, chose someone to represent them, and then went back to daily life.  There was a basic level of ethics in leadership, a trust and regard that was recognized for the well being of the nation.  Leaders were entrusted to make honorable and fair decisions. There once was  a time that voters could basically vote and forget it, without significant negative consequences to their daily lives. Those days are over.

In the current political environment of hyperpartisanship, perpetual election cycles and 24 hour cable news to constantly blast the public with political party propaganda the climate in Washington DC is not only hostile, it  has become dysfunctional, some could even say volatile. There is a growing concern amongst voters that their representatives are not truly representing them and as a result activism has become more prevalent. This populism comes reluctantly to some as voters feel a resentful need to babysit their elected representatives to preserve their very  survival against special interests especially if they happen to be from the working class.

“This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer,” -Will Rogers

The debt ceiling debate is an example of this irresponsible partisanship. It grows increasingly clear that those who are stuck in the beltway both physically and mentally do not understand that a hostage taking mentality as a first resort is something unacceptable to the public. Independent Moderate or Indy mod voters who were once merely weary of these antics have recently come to feel scorn,  resentment and contempt for those who are not working toward viable solutions for our nation’s future.

As the discussion becomes more heated a vital concern  recently developed which was highlighted on Salon.com in their July 14, 2011 issue which brings up an even more disturbing scenario. Eric Cantor (R-VA) being a vital player in debt ceiling talks while at the same time being invested in a hedge fund that takes profits if the talks fail. Politicians, directly involved in important policy making, standing to  gain monetarily or otherwise having persuasive incentive to allow, even fabricate outcomes which are detrimental to the American public is in no way a policy that should be able to continue. It may be somewhat explanatory of some behavior on the Hill that without that information seems…well…inexplicable.

As a result voters have been caught up in a dangerous game of chicken. Where leaders are driving our nation toward a financial cliff in order to gain street cred for the upcoming election and additional assets in their portfolio. Voters have been  hijacked and put in the proverbial back seat are having the same response as one would in such a situation. Panic and  a lot of shouting in fear at the possible outcome of this unnecessary risk to the well being of the nation.

Considering that we are all in this together. There has to be a better set of priorities and actions by the nations leaders. Not just Government leaders mind you, but also leaders in Business, Non-Profits and the Faith-based community must come together to find a practical cohesive vision that is solution oriented and reality based to take America through this difficult financial transition.