Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey
Aristocracy, plutocracy, elitism, and avarice

Ted Folkert

March 17, 2015

This conversation isn’t about the “Fifty Shades of Grey” – the book and movie that is the talk of the town now. It isn’t about hedonistic or narcissistic behavior, individual success, arrogance, or sexual fantasies. But there may be some egotistical overlap with the rich and powerful that we know so well.

This conversation is about aristocracy, plutocracy, elitism, and avarice – shades of grey, shades of gloom, shades of economic impoverishment for the proletariat, the hoi polloi – you know, me and you and all the rest of the working class.

Check out these quotes: “…. the caste, an elite who kept most of the gains from the boom years and left ordinary people to shoulder the cost of the crisis …”…. “Corruption is not just the scoundrels who put their hands in the till, it’s also the rich 1 Percent, who own as much as 70 percent of what the population owns, by binding them down with credit card debt, mortgages, and dead-end jobs in giant corporations….”

Does this conversation sound familiar? It seems that we have witnessed this, talked about it, written about it. Does it sound like the condition in the U.S.? It certainly does for many of us.

Well, these quotes, provided in a Bloomberg article by Estaban Duarte and Maria Tadeo – “A Fiery Leftist Galvanizes Spain”, are from Pablo Iglesias, candidate for prime minister in Spain. It seems we are not alone, not the only country in which the rich and powerful and behemoth corporations own the country, control all of the wealth, and garner a huge chunk of the income produced by the efforts of the entire populace.

Iglesias’s proposal to improve the condition of the economy would include a reduction of the value of some Spanish debt, more state control of companies, a guaranteed basic income for all, more controls on corporate lobbying and tax-avoidance, promotion of food production by small local farms, and withdrawal of certain free-trade agreements.

This is the same story of our economy in many ways and it requires some of the same remedies, the same anecdotes, the same changes in the way we are governed, the same prognosis and health regimen to withstand the onset of this disease that we have allowed to fester in our society.

The shades of grey that we are experiencing didn’t just happen in a book or a movie. They have been the way society has been controlled for most of human civilization. Which is the best, which is the worst, form of governmental or autocratic control over a population? Libraries around the world are filled with books on the subject. Every opinion one could hope for can be found there. No general consensus, no ultimate conclusion, just opinions. And the problem is that none of the forms of government work really well and most of them evolve from dictatorship, to monarchy, to oligarchy, to some sort of democratic society and then some revert to dictatorship. The effect that government should provide always seems to be deterred by aristocracy, by the many shades of grey, by the insidious condition that we are experiencing today that, if left untreated, could end up creating yet another failure in governing a civilization in a way that benefits all the people, not just the aristocracy.

If you want to know how some of our original wealth in this country was created, read what Noam Chomsky has to say on the subject. He will tell you that much of the early wealth that was created and still exists today was created on the backs of slaves who were tortured into productive cotton picking machines while producing enormous wealth for the plantation owners.

If you want to get more recent, read Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren as they explain to us how the financial gangsters raped and pillaged the hoi polloi while pocketing gazillions of dollars in their private bank accounts. Are we talking about many years ago? No. We are talking about a few years ago. We are talking about today, as these same financial gangsters continue to rape and pillage the proletariat, the hopeless and helpless working class, the portion of our population with little political power and little voice in, or choice of, leadership, or our enactment or enforcement of laws, rules and regulations to level the field of economic opportunities.

Now, as we read what the Republican controlled Congress has in store for us, the picture is becoming clear. No surprise for those of us who knew it was coming, but perhaps an awakening for those who were fooled by the messages we were fed during the election campaigns that were dominated by corporate and special interest funding, sanctioned by the Supreme Court decision to consider corporations people and the congressional decision to drastically increase prior limits on individual campaign contributions. Like Will and Ariel Durant told us many years in “The Lessons of History”, “animals eat one another without qualm; civilized men consume one another by due process of law.”

So, what does the proposed Republican budget entail?

Repeal the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare law which has enabled 16 million people to have healthcare coverage; Reduce spending on food stamps and other welfare programs; Reduce Medicaid spending; Privatize Medicare; Overhaul Social Security – so I guess we get the picture – the budget will be reduced on the backs of the poor, the elderly, the disadvantaged – and ………… the defense contractors, corporation tax consultants, and, of course, the rich and powerful, can rest at ease – all will be well on those fronts. We will keep the new taxes created by the Affordable Care Act and not ask the behemoth corporations, who hide their earnings in tax haven countries, to pay their fair share.

Go figure!

Déjà vu all over again!

Cloudy skies are forecast. Fifty shades of grey.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Welfare for the rich by a different name

Ted Folkert

March 11, 2015

Here we go again. Now in the Republican effort to “do it to us one more time”, some of their would-be saviors of mankind, their self-drafted candidates for president, are concerned about income inequality. Of course, they want to solve it like they want to solve everything they see wrong with government, by reducing taxes on the rich, the “job creators” as they call their donors, and reducing social programs which help to reduce the impact of income inequality on the poor and struggling members of the proletariat class of society.

Thomas Piketty, the French author of “Capital in the Twentieth Century”, is quite skeptical of the feigned and misleading attempt of Jeb Shrub to take the case of the disadvantaged. Piketty’s viewpoint: “If we want to have more growth in the future and more equitable growth in the future, we need to put more resources in the education available to the bottom 50 percent or bottom 80 percent of America. So it’s not enough to just say it, as Jeb Bush seems to be saying, but you need to act on it, and for this you need to invest resources.”

So, when do we get Jeb Shrub’s plan to cure this serious problem for our economy and those who are on the receiving end of the inequality? Will his plan call for more government resources for education for the lower 50% to 80% of the income earners? Will his plan call for promoting and staffing public schools or building more and better schools? Will his plan call for encouraging more of our bright young people to pursue degrees in education? Will it call for monetary advantage for those who would seek degrees in education? Will it call for taxing Wall Street’s humongous income and ostentatious wealth in order to finance better education for those who need and desire it? Will it call for diverting a chunk of our pathetically huge defense budget to preschool, elementary, middle, and higher education? Will it call for taxing all political contributions by 50% to be used to support education?

Will his answer include any of these possible benefits to support education, the most important and crucial need for the future success of our economy? Or will it just be the same old game of robbing Peter to pay Paul? Of course, accusing the Republicans of robbing Peter to pay Paul is actually being kind. That cliché merely refers to taking money from one to pay another. What the Republicans desire is worse. It is robbing the poor, who need their money, to pay the rich, who don’t need more money – a policy which certainly has been well used since civilization began and which still goes on unfettered and unresolved year after year. It not only goes on these days but continues to get worse at a geometric rate – not simple arithmetic, but geometric proportions.

Thomas Piketty made the essentials of a healthy and sustainable economy clear in his well-researched and documented book. He recommends taxing capital, (which one might define as that portion of the total wealth of the nation accumulated by virtue of the infrastructure of defense, education, transportation, and our legal system – or by advantage, or luck, or by whatever means it was created) – and paying the national debt. Once that is done it seems that our taxation will be able to provide substantial funds to support education of all classes of income and wealth for the benefit of all – for the common good.

Any candidate who does not support funding a substantial investment in educational opportunities should not be given serious consideration to lead our country. Our practice of allowing the rich and powerful and behemoth corporations to continue taking a bigger bite of the food we provide must end if we want to prosper in the future. Like Jim Hightower says: “money is like manure, it needs to be spread around if it is going to fertilize anything.”

Here is a perfect example of how much our behemoth corporations think of this country which provides a free society with the best military in the world and a huge market for their goods and services. Figures from Bloomberg Businessweek tell us that currently our big corporations owe us in taxes on their worldwide income, as follows: Microsoft – $30 billion, Apple – $23 billion, Oracle – $12 billion, Citigroup – $12 billion, Amgen – $11 billion, Qualcomm – $9 billion, JP Morgan Chase – $7 billion, Goldman Sachs – $5 billion, Bank of America – $5 billion. That totals to $114 billion. This money is just sitting in foreign countries because they must pay the taxes if they bring it home. That would surely build some schools and educate some new teachers. I’ll bet that if you read the “About Us” section of these corporations’ websites you won’t find any mention of this, only talk about how successful they are and how benevolent and dedicated they are for our success.

So much for the common good.

Think about it!

Money is Like Manure – Jim Hightower

Money is like manure – Jim Hightower

Ted Folkert

March 4, 2015

Jim Hightower reminded me of what Bill Moyers said about his dad, quoting his dad’s answer when Bill asked him why he liked Franklin Roosevelt. His answer: “Roosevelt is my friend.”

Well, Jim Hightower is my friend. He is my friend because he has the courage to call them like he sees them. He speaks the truth to power, he speaks out eloquently and intelligently for the common good, for the proletariat, against the plutocracy, against the authoritarians, against the aristocracy, against the inequality that is sure to continue to damage our economy.

Jim Hightower tells us that “Money is like manure”. “For wealth to help nourish a healthy society, it can’t be stored in a few big silos – it has to be spread all across the land. Today, however, the Powers That Be are doing the opposite, raking up all the money from the grassroots and loading it into the silos of the super-rich.”

His example of the magnitude of this: “There are 158,000 Kindergarten teachers in America. Their combined pay in 2013 was $8.3 billion.

“That same year, the four highest-paid hedge fund hucksters on Wall Street raked in a total of $10.4 billion.

“Yes, only four men, who do zilch for the Common Good, hauled off more in personal pay than the 158,000 people (mostly women) who provide the essential, start-up schooling of our nation’s children.

“Now, guess which group is required by law to remit a greater share of their incomes to Uncle Sam in taxes?”

You guessed it – the Kindergarten teachers.

If these four examples of avariciousness could donate $8.3 billion to these Kindergarten teachers, doubling their income to a level more commensurate with their education and importance to society, they would still have $500 million each in income. $500 million should still be enough to pay for the corporate jet, the palatial walled-estate in New York, the weekend home in the Hamptons, the palace in London, the seaside home in Paris and the chalet in Switzerland. (My comment, not Jim Hightower’s)

But, I suppose the thought never occurred to them. These guys are very busy, you know.

Go figure!

Read the article:

Think about it!


Do That to Me One More Time

Do That to Me One More Time

Republicans talking like Democrats

Ted Folkert

February 27, 2015

“Do that to me one more time” – Captain and Tennille – that is the song that I am reminded of while listening to all of the would-be Republican candidates for president. They are all spending time in that balmy state of Iowa this winter, trying to get a toe hold on a spot on the debate stage. They cherish the opportunity to tell us how much they are thinking of us so they can look good in the polls in order to support their electability in the presidential election. Yes, they want to do that to us one more time.

They are all telling us one more time that all they are now concerned with is the economic inequality of average Americans. They are all doing it to us one more time – one more yarn, one more falsehood, one more case of “tell them what they want to hear, not what we really believe.”

These lying lackeys for the rich and powerful, the helpless creatures who will be owned lock, stock, and barrel by the lobbyists for the behemoth corporations, are all lying through their teeth about how concerned they are with our welfare now that the message became clear a few months back. Their answer about income stagnation and inequality was denial – denial of the facts that were supported by the entire economic community. They denied that there was a problem, denied that it was caused by the lack of representative government, denied that it was their fault, that it was each individual’s own actions due to laziness, ineptitude, lack of ambition – all slackers, takers – you know, the forty-seven percenters.

Now they all got the message. Now they are all trying to “do it to us one more time.” They are telling us that income inequality is a serious problem which could generate the downfall of our economy and a return us to the dismal looking years that “Slick Willy’ and “W” led us into – 2007, 2008, 2009, until Obama led us out of the Great Recession with the cooperation of the Democratic controlled Congress in 2008 to 2010.

Now we hear the guy who invented the term “47 Percenters”, Much Robbery, telling us that income inequality is a problem. Now we hear John Boner tell us that income inequality and poverty is a problem. Now we hear Crush Crusty talking about how much he is concerned about us, the proletariat. And we have some recycled Republican presidential candidates harping the same tune in total contrast to their former stances on the subject – Rank Sanctimonius, Munch Huckleberry, and Pale Rhymen.

And guess who started this change of attitude, or we should say, change of message. Actually, the attitude hasn’t changed, only the message conveyed to us, the gullible electorate. Yes, the guy who started this sudden change of heart was Jeb Bush, brother of Shrub, favorite son of a great warrior and so-so president, GHW. Yes, another Bush to take the throne and keep things headed in the right direction, the direction started by his father, alongside Ronald Reagan, with their slogan of getting the government off the backs of the American people. We all remember the favorite slogan of Ronnie, spokesman for the famous off-shoring company, GE – “the most frightening nine words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”’ Unfortunately, he wasn’t here to help anyone except the behemoth corporations like GE who supported him for many years and fed him the message to sell to the proletariat.

So, the question now, is it a change of heart or another idle statement, more rhetoric without action, more false slogans, more misleading the voters into the abyss of wage stagnation and the burden of unserviceable debt. Obama’s perceived success at improving the economy has them scrambling for a new message. They fear that they could lose their chance for the cherished part-time jobs, for which they will be overpaid and under-worked day after day, with lifetime pensions and open doors at the lucrative lobbying firms. Their opportunity to have continuous campaign funds that end up as left over money to use for whatever they can hide or squeeze through the sifter.

So, do we let them do it to us one more time? Or do we pay attention and hold them to their historic message and actions. We must convince the young to take the lead in speaking the truth to power, in holding these would-be leaders, would-be recipients of the largess of public office to their previous message and not allow them our ear, to swindle us of government for the common good. The young have the most to lose. We need for them to take the lead, to get involved. The young have the energy, they have the stamina, they have the voice, and they have the social media to convey the message. The young must take an increased interest and concern for where their world is headed. They need to take charge of their future. They will not like the aristocracy or the oligarchy, which could be the alternative to government for the common good.

Think about it!

Maureen Dowd – Jeb Bush’s Brainless Trust

Some of us feel that the last leader we  need is another Bush or another Clinton.

Maureen Dowd gives us some support for that belief in her New York Times article –

Thanks to Adolfo Reyes for sending this article.

Jeb Bush’s Brainless Trust

Maureen Dowd – New York Times

February 21, 2015

“….. as Florida governor, he helped his brother snatch the 2000 election. And that led to two decade-long botched wars that cost tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. The nation will be dealing for a long time with struggling veterans and the loss of American prestige. Not to mention that W. let Wall Street gamble away the economy, which is only now finally creeping back.

“Like the Clintons, the Bushes drag the country through national traumas that spring from their convoluted family dynamic and then disingenuously wonder why we concern ourselves with their family dynamic.

“Without their last names, Hillary and Jeb would not be front-runners, buoyed by networks of donors grateful for appointments or favors bestowed by the family.

“In his speech, he blamed President Obama for the void that hatched ISIS, which he also noted didn’t exist in 2003 at the dawn of “the liberation of Iraq.” Actually, his brother’s invasion of Iraq is what spawned Al Qaeda in Iraq, which drew from an insurgency of Sunni soldiers angry about being thrown out of work by the amateurish and vainglorious viceroy, Paul Bremer.

“Jeb, too, wanted to bolster his negligible foreign policy cred, so the day of his speech, his aide released a list of 21 advisers, 19 of whom had worked in the administrations of his father and his brother. The list starts with the estimable James Baker. But then it shockingly veers into warmongers.

W. was a boy king, propped up by regents supplied by his father. Since he knew nothing about foreign affairs, his father surrounded him with his own advisers: Colin Powell, Condi Rice and Dick Cheney, who joined up with his pal Donald Rumsfeld and absconded with W.’s presidency.

Jeb is also getting advice from Condi Rice, queen of the apocalyptic mushroom cloud. And in his speech he twice praised a supporter, Henry Kissinger, who advised prolonging the Vietnam War, which the Nixon White House thought might help with the 1972 election.”

Think about it!

Read the article:

The Enemy Within

The Enemy Within

Ted Folkert

February 16, 2015

“The Enemy Within” – was a book written by Robert Kennedy many years ago about the crusade against Jimmy Hoffa and the corruption within the Teamsters Union. I always wondered if that may have shortened his life. I guess we will never know.

The name seems to define a condition that we are exposed to today, which invades our government’s ability to protect us from harm by conducting espionage believed necessary to determine who our enemies are and what they have planned for us. We seem to have another “Enemy Within” which can be more harmful than the enemy that Kennedy and the McClellan Committee were concerned about.

Now we have some would-be whistle blowers, would-be status seekers, would-be self-appointed heroes of democracy, who one could classify the “Enemy Within”. They act under the guise of saving mankind from itself while they illegally obtain and publicize government secrets which they decide are not in the best interest of the people. Never mind the fact that those who assume that some secret information should be kept secret have good reasons to classify it as such. Never mind the fact that we have elected the people who govern us and that they should be allowed to govern until such time as we decide they should be replaced. Never mind the fact that revelation of classified information can be very damaging to the country and to those individuals who may be damaged thereby.

Never mind the fact that we have an organization known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation whose members have secrets that they do not want revealed and whose charge is to enforce our laws and protect us from harm. Never mind that we have an organization known as the Central Intelligence Agency whose members have secrets that they do not wish to be revealed and are charged with collecting information useful to protecting our country and our citizens. Never mind the fact that we have military organizations known as the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Coast Guard, among others, whose members have secrets that they do not want revealed. The above organizations are all charged with protecting our nation and our people from harm. They operate under the assumption that their plans and practices are privileged information and that their methods of carrying out their duties are not invaded, analyzed, or disseminated to others.

And now we have Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and others, who take it upon themselves to perform espionage, pilfer government files, steal classified information to which they are not authorized access and of which they are not authorized and to disseminate it to others. They have appointed themselves to save mankind from itself and decide what information should be private and classified and what should be revealed to all of us and all of our adversaries. And they do so with total disregard to any damage they may incur to any of the people and governmental organizations charged with protecting us from harm.

Who gave these would-be heroes of democracy the right to make the decision to take these actions? Who assigned them the authority to decide what is best to be done with classified information? What right do they have to assume authority for dissemination of sensitive information just because they believe that it is necessary?

Who gave Julian Assange the right to receive government secrets and reveal them to others because he decided that all of us and all of our adversaries should see it?

Who gave Edward Snowden the right to disclose classified information which he was allowed access to and some that he was not allowed access to because he decided that everyone should see it?

We have an electoral process in this country. This process enables the people to elect those who will lead us. The people did that. So, what or who gives to Julian Assange or Edward Snowden the right to circumvent the authority of those that you and I elected and pass crucial, sensitive, classified information along for all to see?

And then, of course, they are able to entice the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras to join the party. It seems there is no end to self-interested, self-appointed, would-be saviors of mankind, who cherish the thought of seeing their names in lights, startling seekers of information harmful to leadership, journalistic opportunists – all lacking the most important trait of good citizenship – obeying our laws. They disobey our laws while pointing their fingers at others that they decided were doing so.

Some of us consider these law-breakers our “Enemy Within”, the perpetrators and their accomplices and co-conspirators. Some of us, including members of our executive branch of government, believe these perpetrators and their accomplices should be judged for their actions by our system of law enforcement – that they should be faced with charges of treason against the United States for stealing government secrets and exposing them to, not only our citizens, but to our adversaries, as well.

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden was employed by a contractor for the National Security Agency (“NSA”). He disclosed to several media outlets thousands of classified documents that he acquired while working in that role. Snowden’s leaked documents revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many of them run by the NSA and the Five Eyes. The Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States, which began in World War II. Snowden took it upon himself to expose these surveillance documents for all to see. He obviously breached his duties of secrecy of information, broke our laws and then became a fugitive. He is trapped in Russia because he fears facing our justice system. If he had not breached his duties and pledges, if he had not broken our laws, he would come here and explain his actions and face any possible charges against him. Instead, he is hiding in Russia like a sniveling coward. He knows what he did. He is a fugitive from justice. He should come here and explain why he is not a traitor and a spy and why he should not be incarcerated to protect us from more damage from his actions.

Julian Assange

Julian Assange, an Australian journalist, is a former programmer and hacker who co-founded Wikileaks, a website which apparently hacked privileged information or obtained it by other illegal means and published it for all to see. He is wanted in Sweden and under investigation by the United States. He faces extradition to Sweden and is hiding like a sniveling coward in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. If he is innocent of Swedish charges, why doesn’t he go there and clear it all up? If he did nothing wrong here, why doesn’t he come here and aid the investigation of his activities?

Chelsea Manning, better known as Bradley Manning

Chelsea Manning, aka Bradley Manning, was a US Army soldier who was convicted of violations of the Espionage Act after releasing classified documents to the public. The documents downloaded and released included 400,000 documents that became known as the Iraq War logs, 91,000 documents from the Afghanistan database, the Afghan War logs, and 251,287 State Department cables, written by 271 American embassies and consulates in 180 countries, known as Cablegate. These documents were all leaked to Wikileaks and published by Julian Assange. Manning was convicted of violating the Espionage Act, stealing government property, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and multiple counts of disobeying orders and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Glenn Greenwald, former columnist and author, and Laura Poitras, controversial documentary filmmaker, agreed to take Snowden’s story and publicize it internationally – aiding and abetting the disclosure of the stolen, private, secret information.

This Enemy Within needs to be curtailed. These criminals need to be brought to justice. We need to make it clear to all that such abuses will not be tolerated and forgotten, that they will carry severe penalties. A cost of these violations against the country cannot be determined. The perpetrators should be incarcerated for life without release. Like someone once said about people like this – “a leopard never changes its spots.” These people will never change either. They should never be trusted and should be prevented from any chance of repeating such devastating actions.

Think about it!

Defense of Brian Williams – Cenk Uyger

My Ironic Defense of Brian Williams

Cenk Uygur – Host, ‘The Young Turks’

Posted: 02/09/2015 11:01 am

First, let me say very clearly from the beginning that I am biased in this case because I know Brian Williams a tiny bit and he has always been fundamentally decent to me.

On the other hand, I’m the guy who wrote the piece Why Brian Williams is Irrelevant. The current controversy surrounding him ties in well with that article I wrote many years ago. People think that Brian Williams is the problem because he exaggerated a war story about Iraq? Are you kidding me? The whole war was based on a monstrous lie that almost the entire media enabled and perpetuated. That’s the real problem.

If the rest of the press scapegoat Williams and feign righteous indignation over his lie, as they are in the middle of doing now, it will be unbearable. Where were all of those people when we were being sold a bill of goods on Iraq? Oh I know, on air. They sold us those lies en masse. So, please don’t pretend you have integrity now. Please don’t pretend that the real problem is an exaggeration about a tiny story in the middle of the war.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for 9/11 when we invaded Iraq. That is the biggest failure of the media I have ever seen. Has anyone apologized for that yet? Has anyone been fired for that yet? If you want to fire all of the executives and editors who let that lie be sold to the American people through their media outlets, then I’m a 100% with you. Then we can also fire Brian Williams.

Don’t get me wrong, Williams was definitely part of that media machine. His much bigger issue is that he never told his audience that he had generals on the air who are being paid by defense contractors to push more war while they pretended to be objective analysts. That’s a firing offense! But then you’d have to fire almost everyone at NBC, wouldn’t you?

While we’re firing people, find me the MSNBC executives who got rid of Phil Donahue and Ashleigh Banfield for speaking out against the war. You fire those guys and Brian Williams at the same time and you’ve got a deal. But their offense was a thousand percent worse and there was never even a discussion about firing them.

The American people are allowed to be outraged at what Brian Williams said; the people who fought against the lies that got us into the Iraq War are allowed to be outraged; but the establishment press who are part and parcel of that system can go ahead and spare me their contrived, bullshit outrage.

This is how the system covers up for their gross failures. Every once in awhile we are offered a sacrificial lamb on a small issue that is a distraction rather than the heart of the matter. Then the media gets to walk away self-satisfied, with an unbearable smug look on their face — as if they have ethics. Your ethics amuse me. Your faux concern over this issue is vomitous.

If there is someone in the mainstream media that didn’t cheerlead for far more egregious lies that got us into the Iraq War, let them be the first to pick up a stone. The rest of you sitting in your giant glass house, either fire yourselves or shut the f*#@ up.

Read the article:

Watch The Young Turks Here


Just the Facts, Ma’am

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Our U.S. government at work

Ted Folkert

February 5, 2015

September, 2014 Washington Post/ABC News poll:

1% of Americans surveyed are enthusiastic about the performance of government.

23% say they are satisfied with the performance of government.

74% say they are dissatisfied the performance of government.

These are not encouraging numbers for those public servants engaged in the work of performing governmental functions. One should assume that the figures would be more favorable if we had an unbiased, publicly-owned, news media instead of the likes of Fox Noise – but like Jack Friday would have said on the Dragnet radio show, “just the facts, ma’am”. And, of course, the likes of Fox Noise don’t let facts get in the way of the point they are selling to the American people.

To counter this perceived opinion of our government at work, we should read Donald F. Kettl’s article in “Washington Monthly”, Ten Secret Truths about Government Incompetence:

His statement: “…… much of the government actually works pretty well, most of the time.”

The Social Security Administration makes monthly payments to 64 million Americans with an accuracy of more than 99% and administrative costs of .7%, a fraction of the cost of administering private pension plans.”

The government saved or bailed out General Motors, Chrysler, AIG, Citigroup – money lost and gained by the government turned out being on the gain side after saving millions of jobs and setting the economy on the path to recovery.

Eighty eight percent of government workers work outside of Washington DC and only about one-sixth of the budget goes to work performed by government employees. Cutting federal workers reduces government’s oversight over the vast network of private contracting firms that actually do the work.

One example of understaffing – The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services manage about $1 trillion in federal spending with 5,720 employees – each employee, on average, would be responsible for $175 million in government spending. They were charged with setting up the federal Obamacare website and creating the insurance marketplace. They didn’t have the staff with the expertise to do the job. Obviously, it didn’t work well at first – bad things happen when agencies are assigned work they lack the capacity to do.

John Diulio, political scientist, “… if you want better, smaller government, hire another million bureaucrats. – We have no hope of making government work if we don’t hire the government we need to run it – and to rein in the proxies who do so much of the work on its behalf.”

Congress gets in the way of much government progress. They demand that the Postal Service take steps to offset lost revenue, but when steps are suggested to do so, Congress refuses to allow any reduction in services.

Congested highways, transportation infrastructure, mass-transit systems are impossible to enact because Congress can’t pass a transportation bill.

The Department of Homeland Security has oversight by 108 committees. In 2012 and 2013, 391 officials from the department testified at 257 hearings, in addition to 4,000 briefings. Obviously, the department is troubled.

This story could go on and on – and it does in Kettl’s article. But just consider these facts:

The Executive branch of our government employees, an estimated, more than 4 million workers and oversees more than $1 trillion each year, including the departments of: Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health & Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing & Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veteran Affairs.

Which ones of these do you want to reduce or eliminate?

Some of our fearless leaders say that the government should run more like industry. Which industry or which company do they want it to run like – without the staff to do the job and constant interference and unnecessary constraints in managing the job.

Kettl says that the government can be made much better relatively quickly and can be made worse even more quickly and that presidents can win the game if they pay attention.

He may be right, but it would seem much more likely if he or she had a cooperative congress working alongside.

Think about it!

Please help us elect better leaders.

The Silence was Deafening

The Silence was Deafening

Ted Folkert

January 23, 2015

Sometimes silence is more deafening than loud noises. Sometimes it speaks louder than words, says more than words – you know, like your mom used to do when she just glared at you when you were out of line – you got the message, loud and clear, and you knew what was coming next – and it wasn’t a smile.

Watching the SOTUS by POTUS, the State of the Union Speech by the President of the United States, the other evening was inspiring as President Obama was proposing his plans to: promote child care benefits for working parents, reduce the costs of college education for graduating high school students, increase the minimum wage for the benefit of those who simply can’t earn enough to sustain a reasonable standard of living, assure equal pay for women, cut taxes for those in, or striving for, a middle class way of life, protecting the earth’s precious resources, deal with the effects of climate change, take a less aggressive approach to policing the world – and other goals that might benefit the entire population and help to assure a more sustainable future life for our kids and our kids, kids.

The “silence that was deafening” was the silence on the Republican side of the aisle, the smirks, and the looks of fear and disgust from those whose only fear is not continuing to be reelected to office through the generosity of the rich and powerful corporations and individuals. Every mention of a social program that might benefit the greater population was met with silence and disgust by the trickle-down theorists, those who carry water for the lobbyists for the behemoth banks and corporations who rule the world, defraud us all, hide their profits in foreign countries, and laugh all the way to the bank, while they poo-poo any mention of programs that strengthen the country for the future – programs designed to enhance educational opportunities, improve health care, lend a lifting hand to those struggling to survive, and, in general, strengthen our society of honest, hard-working families hoping for a decent future for their loved ones.

And then, to break the silence, they offered up Joni Ernst, who campaigned as “the hog castrator”, with her huge disingenuous, all-teeth smile and frightening glare, as she talked about her wearing bread-wrapper-covered shoes in the snow and having to serve customers at the donut shop – how terrible – kind of like John Boner having to sweep the floor in his dad’s bar. Makes you want to cry along with both of them. Hell, they probably had to walk through three feet of snow, barefooted, five miles, uphill both ways, to school and back. We are lucky they survived, so they can tell us the dreadful, hard luck, drenched-in-poverty, stories – poor creeps.

I hope everyone watched this show.

I hope everyone realized where our lack of attention to the election of good leaders has gotten us.

I hope everyone is as saddened as I am with the dysfunctional congress that we endure, the uncaring ignorance that congress reeks of, the impossibility of any reasonable plan for the sustainability of our planet, of the ignoring of our crumbling infrastructure – as they allow enormous wealth to be created each and every day without reasonable taxation, as they allow enormous wealth to pass from generation to generation to generation, tax free, while the workers, those who do the heavy lifting in this country, carry the load of taxation and pay for the infrastructure provided for the wealthy to gain more wealth.

It is time they paid their fair share.

It is time the wealthy pay tax on the capital they have captured by virtue of the infrastructure and markets we provide.

It is time they pay a larger share of their excessive corporate salaries to fund the benefits that they so willingly receive and enjoy, as they barricade themselves from the working class – in their little world behind walls and gates.

Think about it!

Help us elect better leaders, please!


John Lewis, Selma and Bloody Sunday By: Lonnie Shalton

Martin Luther King Jr. Day – 2015

John Lewis, Selma and Bloody Sunday

By: Lonnie Shalton

It all started so quietly – in 1940:

Construction was completed on the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River in Selma. The bridge was named in honor of a man who led Alabama’s Ku Klux Klan as its “Grand Dragon of the Realm” and served in the U.S. Senate from 1897 to 1907.

John Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama, about 90 miles from Selma.

Some 25 years later, John Lewis led a march across that bridge and added a new and tragic milestone to the Civil Rights Movement: “Bloody Sunday” (March 7, 1965). This year marks the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the 28th year that John Lewis is serving as a member of Congress.

In his autobiography Walking with the Wind, Lewis details his journey from the lunch counters of Nashville to the bridge at Selma to the halls of Congress. As a college student in Nashville, he embraced the teachings of nonviolent resistance and became a leader of the 1960 sit-ins. It was here that he proudly began his string of 40 arrests in six years. The success in Nashville received wide recognition and many of the students became leaders in the growing Civil Rights Movement, most notably as part of the newly formed Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1961, SNCC joined forces with CORE for the Freedom Rides designed to integrate public transportation in the South. Lewis was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders and was beaten unconscious in a Birmingham bus station in Bull Connor’s jurisdiction.

Lewis became chairman of SNCC in 1963 and that put him on the stage as one of the “Big 6” to address the March on Washington that concluded with the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King. Lewis was by far the youngest speaker and is the sole survivor. The march was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but as Lewis had warned, it did not offer any true help on the right to vote. And the Klan proved the point. From June to September of 1964, the SNCC voting registration campaign of Mississippi Freedom Summer counted over 1,000 arrests, 80 beatings, 35 shootings, 35 church burnings, 30 bombings and 3 murders.

In the aftermath of Mississippi, Selma took center stage. SNCC had been working with a local group in Selma where less than 1% of eligible blacks were registered. Martin Luther King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference joined in the effort in 1965 and planned a 54-mile march to the state capital in Montgomery. On Sunday, March 7, Lewis and Hosea Williams of King’s SCLC led 600 marchers to the Edmund Pettus Bridge where they were brutally attacked by state and local “lawmen” with tear gas, billy clubs and bullwhips. Mounted troopers trampled over many protestors. Lewis was among the many hospitalized marchers and suffered a fractured skull. An ABC news crew rushed film to the network which interrupted that night’s movie broadcast of Judgment at Nuremberg. The TV audience was huge and the parallel to the racist atrocities in the movie added to the impact.

Although King had participated in some prior Selma protests, including being jailed in February, he was not there on Bloody Sunday. He was in Atlanta preaching at his church and rushed back to Selma after he got word of the attacks. He invited ministers of all faiths to join him, and hundreds showed up overnight. He called upon President Lyndon Johnson for action. Johnson believed that voting rights progress was needed, but he and civil rights leaders had disagreed on how soon Congress could be pushed to act. Bloody Sunday removed all doubt and prompted Johnson to address Congress on March 15: “At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week at Selma.”

With a court order in hand and protection from Federal troops, King, Lewis and others were finally able to lead a march that left Selma on March 21 and arrived in Montgomery on March 25. The crowd grew from an original 3,200 to 25,000 as they reached Montgomery. King’s speech at the end of the march includes his well-known quote: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And the arc did bend. Less than five months later, President Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Lewis, a member of Congress since 1987, knows that the battles are not over. Last year on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, he remarked “If you ask me whether the election [of Obama]…is the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream, I say, ‘No, it’s just a down payment.’ There are still too many people 50 years later that are being left out and behind.” The arc of the moral universe still needs bending, and justice inequality continues to smolder as a divisive issue in current race relations.

But Lewis remains steadfast in his belief in a nonviolent approach. In the aftermath of Ferguson, his Twitter messages reminded all that “Nonviolence is the only path to justice. Violence solely serves to feed the hungry beast of oppression…Only love can overcome hate…It’s good to disturb the order of things, to show signs of discontent, but it must be peaceful, orderly and disciplined.” The man who sat at the lunch counters, rode the buses and marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge would know.

Please remember that the MLK holiday is not just recognition of the past, but also a hope for greater justice in the future. Congressman Lewis often delivers this message by quoting an old gospel refrain and asking others to join him to…