Why are we so divided?

Is it Trump? Yes.  But he’s simply voiced what many Americans have been feeling for decades.   

Is it Capitalism? Yes, but just the unregulated part. Without regulation, capitalism is the law of the jungle. And the lions are winning. Hedge funds are buying healthcare practices and squeezing them for cash, threatening the health of people across the country. Companies like Comcast, Google, Facebook, which operate like monopolies, are killing the fundamental of capitalism, competition. Bezos came up with a brilliant answer to malls, which had been a brilliant answer to town centers. Now malls are racing town centers to oblivion. For many, Amazon is now the only place to shop.  

Is it Politicians? Yes. But just the corrupt ones… OK, pretty much all of them. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is time-honored and painfully true today. Politicians focus on getting re-elected, not serving voters.  The Citizens United ruling gave corporations the political rights of individuals.  Their money now swamps our entire political system, wielding more power than their employees, shareholders, or customers combined.

Is it Education? Yes. But primarily in places where there aren’t enough teachers, classrooms, or facilities.  Democracy needs an educated public in order to function. Our schools are failing our students and our democracy.

Is it Financial? Yes. Between 1963 and 2013 the lowest 10% of the country actually lost spending power. In 2006 the top 0.01% averaged nearly 1000 times more income than the bottom 90%. Is Bezos really 1000 times better than his warehouse workers? Guess who wants change and who doesn’t.

Is it Racism? Yes, by almost any metric you choose, from poverty to incarceration to healthcare to education to wealth. And what else but racism explains the recent efforts of Republican legislatures to suppress the Black vote? 

Is that why we are so divided? Yes, all of the above. But they are just symptoms of the divide. The root cause is more fundamental. And it’s been around since before the country was founded. 

It’s our White Christian culture.

The US, as a Southern Evangelical recently opined, was founded by White Christians, people with shared ethnicity and values, who were fleeing European monarchies. They conquered and chased native people off their lands. They imported African slaves. Their progeny over-powered Mexicans and grabbed a huge chunk of Mexico (Texas) in the process, not to mention parts or all of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Kansas.

Since the early founding we have prided ourselves in being the “melting pot” of the world, a place where people of all races and religions could live together. In fact, though, the “melting pot” has primarily consisted of White Christians from Europe.  

When the Irish fled the potato famine of the 1800’s and the Italians fled poverty in the early 1900’s, they assimilated reasonably quickly, in no small part because they were White and Christian. When the Jews immigrated after WWII, they faced resistance and still do 75 years later. They may have been white, but they weren’t Christian.

In recent years, more immigrant groups, fleeing other calamities, have arrived. Just as previous immigrant groups have done, many are moving up the ladder of the American Dream and into places of influence and power traditionally held by White Christians. But their skin isn’t white, their eyes aren’t always round, and their religions aren’t always Christian. 

And they’ve met increasing resistance from White Christian traditionalists. You see them at Trump rallies, mostly big bellied, big bearded men, shaking their fists and MAGA hats in angry defiance. But you also see them in more sedate settings, less cartoonish than Trump Land.

What links the two groups? Fear. Sure, some is racial. But most is White Christian’s fear of loss of power – over education, capitalism, finance, politics, and more. In other words: fear of cultural change.

As earlier Americans discovered for themselves, each wave of immigrants brings new ideas, new inventions, new energy to the country. A few examples: Sergey Brin (Russia), Eric Yuan (China), Oscar de la Renta (Dominican Republic), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (India). Moreover, the country needs these new Americans at every level, from farm workers to doctors to entrepreneurs.  

Most of these people may look and sound different, but they are as good at their jobs, as ethical, family oriented, caring, and patriotic, as any Mayflower descendant.  Why? Because they come here, not by accident of birth, but by choice and often at high risk.

The country is actually becoming the melting pot it was supposed to be. 

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Why McConnell Is Fighting The Debt Limit Increase

It’s pretty simple, really. And it has nothing to do with money.

So, let’s take the money part first: the debt limit.

Suppose you owe $15,000. You want to pay it off and later buy a new car for $20,000. You ask the bank to increase your credit to $35,000. You’ve always paid on time and have a great job, so the bank says OK.

You’re in a much better position than the US.

If you’re the United States, even though the you’ve never failed to pay your debts, you can’t borrow to buy the car. According to The Treasury Department, the US can only borrow “to meet it’s existing obligations”, what it owes now, not future expenses.

Biden wants to raise the debt limit to pay off existing debt, not to pay for his Build Back Better plan. McConnell has conflated the two, making it seem that Biden wants to raise the debt limit to pay for his plan. That is horse puckey and the Senator from Lincoln’s birth state knows it. The problem is most voters – don’t know it. And McConnell isn’t telling them.

McConnell is no Honest Abe.

The political side is more nuanced, but equally underhanded.  It has nothing to do with borrowing money. It has a lot to do with spending money, specifically who spends it.

Republicans have always been the party of “fiscal responsibility” – not spending money unless really necessary. Then George H. W. Bush went to war in Iraq – without raising taxes to pay for it. That was the first time in the history of the country. The direct costs was $757 billion. Ten years, in 2001 later, his son did the same thing in Afghanistan. Direct costs of that war were $837 billion.  Together, 1.6 trillion.

It’s been OK though. After each war both parties in Congress raised the debt limit.

Then Donald (Who me? Pay back a loan?) Trump reduced taxes on the wealthy. With less tax income for four years, $7 trillion was added to the national debt, raising it to $28.4 trillion. 

Then came the pandemic, and another trillion in debt and growing. So Biden has asked Congress to raise the debt limit to pay off existing debt. 

And hit the McConnell wall. 

Not only will this torpedo everything from military salaries to basic services, it will turn the country into Trumpland, an international deadbeat. We’ll default on our debts for the first time in history. The outcome, even in December, will be catastrophic for us and the rest of the world. So much for the  Christmas spirit.

But that’s OK with McConnell. He’s blaming it all on Biden by presenting the debt limit increase as a combination of past debts and Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan. He thinks that will make Biden look like a spendthrift and persuade most of Congress to kill Biden’s plan.

He’s not telling the truth, though. Let me repeat: The current debt limit is for existing debts only. “Build Back Better” is not an existing debt and not part of the debt limit increase.

Why is McConnell doing this? Because his real worry is that “Build Back Better” will improve everything from healthcare to infrastructure to jobs to childcare. His real worry is that it will correct the economic imbalance in this country, especially in rural, traditionally Republican areas. And, when that happens, what will many of those Republican will do?  Change parties.

On the other hand, if he is successful in throttling the debt limit increase, the country, especially rural Republicans, will be in more distress than ever, which McConnell can then blame on Biden and the Democrats, thereby winning the next election. 

And after that, guess what? McConnell will do exactly what Biden wants to do: flow money into all those rural areas (although not as much – he’s a Republican, after all). Once he does that he and Republicans will be heroes and stay in power.  

For McConnell, it is not about the debt limit. It’s all about the power.

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PTSD, DINO’s, The Supreme Court, and 700,000.

In an earlier life, I was one of two members of the “Republican Committee” of Malvern, PA, a town of just under 3,000. Committee people choose candidates for public offices, from local to state to national.  

That was PT – Pre-Trump – when Republicans and Democrats respected each other and were respected by voters.  

Although the seeds were there. When County Republican Committee people met to vote, the outcome was pre-ordained. Most Committee people voted as they were instructed (most – hint hint). It was very disillusioning. 

One time a Democratic Committee friend snuck me into a County Democratic Committee meeting. It was one long night of bloviating. No decisions, just talk, talk, talk, talk… Also very disillusioning.

Sound familiar? The only difference now is PTSD – Post Trump Stress Disorder. The anger and hatred generated by PTSD-ers is now threatening democracy itself.

What we are witnessing from Republicans in Washington and around the country today, from McConnell to Abbot, is the sophisticated and ruthless accumulation and abuse of power.  What we are seeing from Democrats in DC and around the country, from Schumer to Wolf, is brain-numbing debates – like fleas arguing over who owns the dog, as a friend recently put it.

Republicans are all about accumulating power – to the detriment of the country; democrats are all about articulating the intellectually superior argument – to the detriment of the country. 

West Virginia’s Manchin and Arizona’s Sinema are DINO’s – Democrats In Name Only. They’re torpedoing Biden’s entire agenda because they don’t like parts of it; for Manchin, what it does his coal country and cost, for Sinema, cost. Now Progressives and Moderate Democrats in the House are torpedoing it by fighting amongst themselves – spoiled children leaving the playground because they didn’t score all the goals.

It’s sickening.

You know what else is sickening? Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s calling the Court’s recent decision to avoid ruling on the Texas anti-abortion gambit a philosophical choice. Six of the nine justices, including the last three McConnell jammed in, are Catholics, appointed by Republican Presidents. They subscribe to a religious philosophy that prohibits women from positions of power in the church, as well as the power to choose whether to have a baby or not. That’s bias, Judge, bald-faced, philosophical bias. 

Remember Separation of Church and State? Not any more. It’s the Merging of Church and State.

Alito also joined Barrett and Thomas in calling criticism an “unprecedented efforts to intimidate the court.”  Hmmm…Crying foul when criticized… where have I seen that before?…Oh yes, Trump, McConnell, Cruz, Jordan.… 

It’s sickening.

You know what else is sickening? Polls show 58% of Republicans refuse Covid vaccines vs. 15% of Democrats. Republicans have politicized something as apolitical as a vaccine. 

The country just set a new record: over 700,000 people dead from Covid. That’s more than died of the 1918 flu. It’s more than the population of Boston. Vaccines prevent or minimize Covid. That’s the reason for the mandates, whether they’re issued by governments, local restaurants, airlines, or hospitals. Yet these people are afraid of vaccines. They think vaccines don’t work. They think mask and vaccine mandates are unconstitutional. So they attack restaurant workers, flight attendants, health care workers – anyone who requires them to wear masks or prove they’ve had the vaccine.

How many of those 700,000 men, women, and children died because of these “patriots”, who don’t know the difference between freedom and selfishness, who wrap themselves in the Stars and Stripes and give Covid to others? 

I have an idea.  Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s keep them away from the rest of us, but let them refuse masks and shots.  If these people don’t care about giving Covid to others or the consequences of doing that, I don’t care if they give it to themselves or the consequences of doing that.

Think of how healthy that will be for the country.

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