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.

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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 don’t need an agreement, we need solutions

Whose running the show?

That’s a question many Americans would like to know. It would be helpful to see the obvious ghosts that are in the room with President Obama and the others discussing the debt ceiling debacle.  If we knew exactly who these ghosts were, these shadowy “theys” who are impacting these discussions. If  the specific agenda was brought to light, than perhaps this whole process would make a lot more sense to the rest of us.

My question to our nation’s leaders is “How can you have a real discussion resulting in successful  solutions when you go into negotiations with both arms and one leg tied behind your back in the process?” Meaning, if you go into budget talks demanding  no tax revenue discussions, saying “Our prime job above all else  is to make the President a one-term president”, and we are only looking at numbers, not the human impact associated with those numbers. What kind of real discussion is that? The greatest concern and frustration is that the discussion is about what they can agree upon. It is not necessarily a viable discussion about the best remedy for the debt crisis for the American people.

The people sitting at the table are intelligent and they have made it up the ranks to get to where they are today. These legislators are not novices. So why are they not able to accomplish the task before them? Would it have helped if the President put together his own plan and said “This is it guys,” with a few minor modifications here and there? He hasn’t done that and no one is willing to actually do the work and stick their neck out because they don’t want it chopped off at the polls next Election cycle. Is it reasonable to think that elected officials can make these crucial decisions at all? If they can’t how can this vital work get done in the current system?

Another question comes to mind. Are the voters really as against taxes and reasonable solutions to our current financial situation as the media and Republicans in Washington would have us believe? How much does the Tea Party really represent the average American voter? Also, just because a voter wants something, if it is not grounded in reality should that point of view get to go to the front of the line merely because it is the loudest and frankly, most obnoxious?

Removing the referee adds risk to the game.

Now it is known to some degree that the corporate class would like to see a weak government. It would be their dream to see the Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Department, the Fed and the Security and Exchange Commission go away so they could have free dominion on the land. Insert mad scientist laugh here.  It behooves the corporate class to have an educated work force and the protection of the US military however they don’t really want to have to pay for that.

There was once a time when the government was the middle-man. The referee if you will,  between the corporate interests and those individuals who may have less clout and power. This system made sure that business could create profits without creating a toxic environment that was not conducive to life. Which was the case during the earlier years of the Industrial Revolution. Government was the referee which kept an even playing field and set reasonable parameters, rules to the free market capitalism game. With no referee there is chaos in which many people get hurt and that is not good for the nation. However, the referees must get paid. It takes money to do the important work these agencies and social programs do.

Too little too late?

It would have been better to have had these discussions about the debt over a decade ago before we got into it. It’s too late now America is in substantial debt to China and other countries up to our eyeballs but that is the past and we cannot take it back now. So what can be done? It’s difficult to understand why talks about closing loopholes are off the table.  It seems a reasonable start to a viable solution. In addition those who would be taxed more in this scenario have been experiencing record breaking profits. They are not looking for where their next meal is coming from.

I’m also tired of this notion that people who are struggling aren’t trying hard enough. That simply isn’t the case. If the cost of living continues to jump with fuel and food prices rising as well as other factors that no one seems to talk about such as how America pays so much in utility, insurance premiums and telecommunications costs. These costs jump sometimes 10% in one year while wages remain stagnant or decrease.

We may need to solve problems not by removing the cause but by designing the way forward even if the cause remains in place. ~Edward de Bono

At the same time people are being asked to take on increased costs relating to the responsibility of saving for college for their children, pay for their retirement, sometimes long term care for their parents and cover unexpected expenses in addition to everyday bills.  The profit margin is simply not there after basic bills are paid. Perhaps a part of the over all solution to this debt crisis is  to raise the base wage. More wages can mean more tax revenue to pay the bills both locally and nationally and be able to take on more financial responsibility for the costs associated with education and growing older.

The other aspect is the human element. Leaders choosing for people to be obligated to work another 10 years of their lives. Why do they get to choose that for people? To pay for their poor planning and leadership? Is this because corporations need to keep people working longer due to the aging work force? Can they not come up with a better incentive than creating an environment of financial obligation one shade away from slavery?

Holding them accountable.

The way these debt talks have gone is irresponsible .  What’s more disturbing is that this is an obvious trend. Should we the public accept this volatile behavior producing mediocre at best policy as the norm? Is there some way to set a higher standard to hold our elected officials to? A standard of statesmanship and decorum. Can we as a nation ever get back to the days of bringing results that are beneficial to the majority of the American people? As an Independent Moderate all I can say is… I sure hope so.

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.