Wall Street and Capitol Hill – Co-conspirators in the Death of Education

by David T. Bruce


student-loan-debt-1160848_1280More people than ever are going back to college, irrespective of age. While younger students are still the norm, students in their 20s and 30s as well as older students are headed back to campuses in record numbers.

The aspiration of many parents is that their children go to college, and these numbers suggest that students leaving high school, the military, and the like believe the message that a better education will equate to a better job with better pay. Older adults are doing likewise, seeking to improve their quality of life through education.

This is what our academic and government institutions have been selling us. 

The cost of obtaining this education, however, has created an economic burden for students and our society that will likely increase over time. Furthermore, the hope and the promise that a better future awaits for those who obtain a higher education is becoming nothing more than another disappointment for a working- and lower-middle-class society that wants to have a shot at economic success.

A report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests that the student loan debt in the United States currently exceeds $1 trillion, a number that eclipses America’s credit card balance.

calloutThe data further shows that middle-age students are “the fastest growing group of borrowers.”  This seems to parallel the increase in middle-age adults returning to school to either improve their level of education or to retrain due to job loss.

Whereas determination and a good work ethic were once enough for a person to succeed, a piece of paper purchased from an accredited academic institution is now the only way for a person to have a chance of realizing the American dream that many of our ancestors achieved through hard work and fortitude.

Once an education would almost guarantee success in the upper-middle or upper class of society; now an education is almost mandated to enter into the middle class of society.  The alternative path is the retail industry.

Academic institutions have joined hands with corporate America and the federal government to ensure that this alternative path is the choice of many, whether or not students complete their education.

An Associated Press report cites that 53.6 percent of graduates under the age of 25 with Bachelor’s degrees are without a job or are underemployed.

The majority of American citizens play by the rules in terms of meeting the requirements for employment in their career, but colleges and universities court prospective students, seeking those that fit their preferred demographic, satisfy federal student-body quotas, and most importantly, generate revenue.

Like any big business in America, colleges and universities are now most concerned with making money and staying in business.

Education, at least as far as academic and corporate executives are concerned, is of minimal consequence. As far as our federal government is concerned . . . well, it is an election year, after all. Better to have a student body indebted to you than a student body in debt.

Both President Obama and the expected Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney agree that doubling of student loan interest rates would only increase student debt, without addressing the issue of un- and under-employment.  Romney is quoted as saying that “what young Americans want and need is a new president who will champion lasting and permanent policy changes that both address the rising cost of a college education and get our economy really growing again.”

Neither the President nor Romney have no idea what we want or need.

We don’t need another “champion.” We don’t need a cheerleader who proposes to know what life is like as a lower- or middle-class citizen in America. We need to assemble a group of elected officials who truly care about the education of their citizens, recognizing that it is the working class that ultimately drives the economy and not the practice of massaging numbers on Wall Street.

Our government seems to care only about the corporations (which colleges and universities are quickly becoming a fundamental part of) who fund their campaigns and ensure their ongoing political victories. These corporations want to make money, and they want a working class that will help them make their money.

An education is not necessarily required to stock shelves, wait tables, or sell inventory.  Colleges and universities will take your money, though, building your hopes of a better future, while corporations simultaneously eliminate job possibilities.

The left hand does indeed know what the right hand is doing, and they are choking the life out of America.

American Healthcare Held Hostage

by David T. Bruce

insurance_claim_formNeither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party as a whole gives a damn about the healthcare needs of the citizenry of the United States.  Other nations are criticized for their socialized medical healthcare plans.  England’s National Health Service and Canadian Health Care are two forms of socialized medicine that provide healthcare to all citizens, not just to those that can afford care or afford coverage.  While the systems certainly have their share of flaws and frustrations, the mentality suggests that a government body should logically and morally care for its citizens.

In the United States, many of the elderly cannot afford the privatized healthcare coverage offered to them, let alone can they afford a new heart.  Likewise, American citizens who are born disabled or find themselves disabled are unlikely to have sufficient coverage.  Like the elderly, their income level in general is not enough to afford them access to the level of healthcare required to meet their needs.  Furthermore, the economic instability that still prevails in the United States (regardless of the Wall Street or political spin to the contrary) increases the ranks of the underinsured or uninsured.  Gallup polls point out the state of healthcare in the United States as of 2011, illustrating that over 17 percent of Americans over age 18 do not have health insurance.

The majority of Americans are not asking for handouts; the majority of Americans are not resting on their laurels or sitting on their behinds, avoiding work in order to obtain free medical care.  The majority of Americans are victims of the power struggle that is running rampant in this country between the two major opposing political parties, who use large business companies as their chess pieces of highest rank.  We are merely pawns – very weak and very disposable.  For fear of losing power, our elected officials use their own form of domestic terrorism to make each of us fearful of our neighbors, engendering within each of us the fear that something we have earned will be taken away.

Both the Obama Administration and the Republican Party are missing the point.  Both sides are wrong.  We should not have to force Americans to buy health insurance.  Health insurance should not be for-profit, benefiting health insurance companies more than those receiving benefits.  The relationship between these two entities – the federal government and the health insurance companies – is not difficult to perceive.

The insurance companies lobby on Capitol Hill to benefit from the election of an official who will support the continued financial success of insurance companies.  That is what “for profit” means, and they are indeed very profitable.  These elected officials then seek to mandate that insurance companies benefit from the support for which they have lobbied.  Here we have a conflict of interest.

What should be of interest to all Americans is this: we either care about our citizens or we do not.  England and Canada may not have the best insurance programs, but they do at least give the impression that the wealth of a human being is not attached to their age or ability.  Given the rhetoric spewed from all branches of our federal government and the health insurance companies, the message is that healthcare for all Americans is not a priority.  The message is that if you are too old, too disabled, too poor, or too sick, you are on your own.

Museum of Unnatural History

by David T. Bruce

Festival of art
Grants to patrons granted
Penalty paid with interest
Refuse to play?
Don’t look the other way

Keep a watchful eye for phonies
Facts are rarely represented faithfully
Homogenized canvas
The broadest stroke is used
Statues erected as visions crumble
Readings are rhetorical
Scripted spontaneity

National museum of relics
Carbon copies, misprints
Words of mass destruction
Mementos engraved with dreams of futures past
Symbols now our laurels
We live in yesterday

We preach a fierce morality
While we dance around the truth
The art of diplomacy carves a monument of hypocrisy
Watercolor dreams for our youth
Washed away by pious despots
A country cunningly annihilated

for more of David’s poetry, you can read RAGE, available exclusively on Kindle and free to borrow for Prime members.

If We Don’t Invest in Education, We Pay for Prisons

by David T. Bruce

Image courtesy of the NAACP; please click on the image to sign the NAACP petition to restore education funding
Image courtesy of the NAACP; please click on the image to sign the NAACP petition to restore education funding

Rick Santorum, as have many (if not most or all) Republican presidential candidates and elected officials, has strong opinions regarding the benefits of public education and higher education and the role of the federal government in the preservation and support of these institutions.  In particular, Santorum’s 2005 critique of the public schools in America continues to illustrate how the most economically and politically affluent citizens of this country are grossly ignorant of what it means to be a member of the lower- and middle-class in the United States.

Home schooling may certainly have benefits over a public school education, but a majority of Americans do not have the resources to effectively implement a home-school curriculum.  Public education services the majority, and indeed, public education needs an overhaul.  This does not mean, however, that our federal government should wash its hands of public education, leaving states to their own devices as they would like to do with medical programs.  If our states are truly united, then our education system should be united, a program implemented that provides uniform education to all students, not merely to those who live with families who can afford the very best education.

Santorum argues that the environment in which a uniform education is afforded provides an unrealistic image of “what life is like.”  I am unsure of what frame of reference Mr. Santorum has in regards to public education and “what life is like” for the majority of Americans, but many public schools are those in which various socioeconomic groups are represented, and few of them will ever realize “what life is like” for Santorum.

Over 1.2 million students drop out of school every year, according to research data provided by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.  Of those students, approximately half of them are African-American and Latino students.  This report illustrates what life is like for the 90% of American children who rely on public education, while their government leaders suggest that less intervention by the federal government is mandated.

Mr. Santorum speaks as poorly of higher education in America, citing the perceived rejection of religious faith by students who go into college.  Santorum and all of our state and federal representatives should be more concerned about the growing lack of faith in our leaders, our government, and in the promise that our nation will provide for the general welfare of its citizens.  Our federal government rarely wants to provide for anything or involve themselves in any program that involves spending money on its citizens, and our elected representatives endeavor to convince us that fending for ourselves is for our own good.

Our government seeks to cut federal spending on education, again placing the fiscal burden on individual states and citizens who are already strapped for cash.  The burden to our country can also be measured in collective dollars and cents, as research shows that among other detriments to society, “dropouts from the class of 2007 will cost our nations more than $300 billion dollars in lost wages, lost taxes and lost productivity.”  Money not spent on public schools and education will ultimately be spent on prisons and incarceration.

Our government can find certainly find the money (in excess of $700 billion) to bail out the banking and automobile industries for fear of how the foundation of our country and our economy would be affected by the collapse of those industries, but our government cannot find the money to bail out an industry that is shown to directly impact the success or failure of our nation today and for years to come?

Money does talk, and the actions (or inactions) or our government have demonstrated where our elected officials place their priorities.

Insurance Companies Should Cover Deoderant & Soap – Santorum’s Platform Stinks

by David T. Bruce

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Image source: Pride Source, the publisher of Between the Lines

The latest threat to our individual rights this election year is a Republican presidential candidate presenting itself in the guise of Rick Santorum.  All of the candidates proffered to date have been those that quickly and soundly condemn the Obama administration for promoting a socialist agenda that strips Americans of their right to live without the menace of government intervention in terms of how much money we can make, how heavily (or not) we are taxed, and how we may spend our money (in other words, companies are people too).  These same candidates then offer a legislative laundry list of prohibitions that systematically target every behavior and vice considered being immoral or unethical, making them illegal.

The platform of the Republican Party in general is one that encourages less government involvement in healthcare; Mr. Santorum, however, encourages more government involvement when it is fitting with his belief system, advocating legislation that prohibits the use of contraceptives, that prohibits adultery and sodomy, and that prohibits abortions, even in the event of a rape.  Either you want government to be involved in the health of your citizens or you do not.  If you are involved, you should be so for the greater good and not for a personal rationale.

Oral contraceptives are shown to protect the health of woman, as past and current studies indicate that oral contraceptives can prevent ovarian and breast cancer.  This seems to be a valid, life-saving, cost-cutting, preventive form of medicinal therapy that insurance companies might benefit from in terms of dollars saved in the long run.  Do you seriously believe comparisons can be made between such a medicine and toothpaste and soap?  That is your argument?   The only reason that you can offer to prevent insurance companies from covering contraceptives is because it offends your moral sensibilities.  It is none of your business.

We do not hear you raising your voice against the support of insurance companies that cover the cost of Viagra.  Kenneth J. Smith, MD is quoted as saying that “I see Viagra use more as a health issue and a quality-of-life issue than as a lifestyle issue.”  Is the quality of life issue applicable to men only?  Not only is quality of life a valid concern for men and women, the overall health of women and cancer prevention is of higher concern.  We cannot avoid the issue of unwanted pregnancy either, as this too affects quality of life.

Again, what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes is no one’s business – not mine, not yours.  Does this mean that we promote incest, bigamy, or adultery?  Of course not.  Grow up, please.  This is not a high-school debate.  As we reach adulthood, we tend to be intelligent, responsible, and savvy enough to separate the good from the bad, recognizing the murky area that exists in between.  State and federal laws already exist to deter such behavior, and we do not need a puritanical zealot to tell us right from wrong.  The majority of Americans know right from wrong, and we are not your sheep.

Do not impose your moral and religious standards on all Americans.  We share this country; we share this world.  You obviously do not see the world in the same way as others.   Nor do others see the world in the same way as you.  Do not dare to assume that you can command power over the majority simply because you believe that you and a truly small minority enjoy some pious sense of morality that gives you domain over our existence and our right to exist as we see fit.

You talk in jest about mandates for insurance companies.  You want a mandate?  I move that we have a mandate that every person that pretends that they have a gift for leadership in America must spend some time living as a part of the society they deem to represent, so they have a clue to what it is like to have someone that is fortunate to have power and money dictate how their constituents should live their lives within legal parameters.

Mr. Santorum, you are a part of the same elite (please refer to the definition of “elite”) that you condemn President Obama of being a part.  You cannot see beyond your sanctimonious, narrow-minded view of how you think the world should be.  You perceive that your position of power and wealth give you an edge and give you the authority to condemn those of us who do not measure up to your moral convictions.

Good grief.  Who would have thought that the Republican Party could have come up with a presidential candidate that makes Mitt Romney look good?

The Real State of the Union

by David T. Bruce

income_inequality_chart_erAs the presidential election year looms over the political horizon, President Obama finally has something to say during the most recent State of the Union Address about income disparity in our country, as if the debate about the income gap and tax liability were new.  Most of us have devastatingly realized that the thirty-year economic experiment in this country has proven that Reaganomics works only for those citizens and companies that enjoy wealth and the power to augment that wealth.  No one in this country who has lost a job, lost a home, and struggled to get by during this perpetual recession is oblivious to the fact that it takes money to make money, and for those who do not have money, striving to break even is a way of life.  This is the reality of the American Dream, and this reality is unlikely to change any time soon.  During the battle to remain in power or obtain power, our elected officials choose now to acknowledge a problem that has been inherent in our capitalist society for many decades.

Republicans and Democrats posture and politic as they draw lines in the sand and point fingers across the aisle, each blaming the other for dividing the country and building a national debt in excess of $15 trillion.  These are the same leaders who enjoy a lifestyle at the expense of their constituents, a truth made painfully clear to American citizens now aware of Mr. Romney’s wealth and associated tax burden.  This not only highlights the disparity in income and tax liability between “the haves” and “the have-nots” in this country, but it also highlights how brutally out of touch our elected leaders are with the majority of the American public.  How can leaders argue on the behalf of a demographic of which they have no understanding?  How can we believe that our leaders will lobby to balance the country’s tax burden in favor of the lower- and middle-class when doing so would obviously raise their tax burden?

Burden: “something that is carried, something oppressive or worrisome.”

We are told by President Obama that the country is on the mend; we are told that the economy is bouncing back.  Please do not insult our intelligence.  According to GasBuddy, the median price for gas in 2012 is forecast to reach $3.95.  The USDA has projected that food prices will increase overall 2.5% to 3.5%.  An “alternative economic forecast” released by researchers in the White House suggest “an unemployment rate of 9% in 2012. These are not realities that suggest the country is mending or is bouncing back.  Those that live and thrive on Capitol Hill, those that are voted into office by their constituents do not want for food, healthcare, education, or a future.  Those that live and thrive on Capitol Hill have no idea what “burden” is.  They have created an economic disparity by their ignorance, their indifference, and their arrogance.

This is indeed class warfare, a battle that has been waged for centuries between “the haves” and “the have-nots.”  The malicious intent of the 1% – the “Mitt Romney’s” and the corporate “Goliath’s” of America – , however, is to convince those who have a bit more than “the have-nots” that those who have the least in the United States are trying to take away what they have earned.  In truth, the argument is that the tax system is structured as such that the “Mitt Romney’s” can conceivably pay less tax by percentage than those that earn minimum wage.  Major industries can relocate to foreign lands to avoid paying United States taxes.  The wealthiest citizens and companies of the United States need to pay their fair share.  This has nothing to do with Republican, Democrat, or American values.  This has everything to do with human values, and the majority of our elected officials value the citizens of the United States as humans only once every two or four years.  Beyond that, we are as insignificant as the pointless posturing and “policy prescriptions” presented as a way to placate a populace that is sick to death of the endless pandering by leaders who could not care less about our burden.

SOPA – Drafted and Encouraged by the TRUE Pirates

by David T. Bruce

stopsopaeu-800pxFrom the federal establishment that preaches the necessity of less government intervention (or interference, depending on your point of view), American citizens are being asked to support legislation that is said to minimize online piracy.  Provisions are embedded within the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), however, that potentially infringe upon First Amendment rights and shift the responsibility for online piracy from the perpetrators onto Internet administrators.

While Internet Service Providers and web site administrators should (and do) discourage online piracy, holding providers to 100% compliance with anti-piracy laws is unrealistic.  As well, shutting down entire Internet sites in the effort to purge pirated material from specific web pages is akin to penalizing car manufacturers or dealers for allowing an unlicensed driver to operate a vehicle.  We do not need more legislation to combat an issue that can be minimized with the tools and laws already at our disposal.  SOPA, masked as an effort to eliminate online piracy, is one that panders more to the entertainment industry than an altruistic sense of justice.

Both the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) flaunt their lofty objective of protecting the First Amendment rights of artists and distributors, this from an organization that offers up a mere 13% of music sales to the recording artist, allowing the record label to keep 63% of the earnings.  The income for actors in general is not stellar either.  Both organizations, however, are headquartered in Washington D.C., spending time and money to gather support for SOPA and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) from the Obama and Bush administrations to the tune of over $400,000 this past year and $2 million in 2007, respectively, seeking additional revenue lost perhaps as a result of the shrinking economy and lackluster entertainment products.  As pointed out by Professors Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman, the measure of the loss to the entertainment industry is unsubstantiated.

Piracy will not vanish as a result of tight-fisted legislation that punishes honest Internet users.  Those people inclined to provide and obtain copyrighted materials illegally will continue to do so, driving the industry further underground.  Those of us who oppose SOPA do not support online piracy or copyright theft.  We can, however, oppose legislation that does not directly target the issue at hand, but instead uses a single issue (albeit an important one) as a façade to introduce additional insidious government oversights that bring us ever closer to a future envisioned by George Orwell.  Online pirates will continue to plunder the Internet, while the majority of us find ourselves victims of a government that takes its cues (and money) from the entertainment industry and other large business conglomerates.

From the federal establishment that preaches the necessity of less government intervention (or interference, depending on your point of view), American citizens are being asked to support legislation that is said to minimize online piracy.  Provisions are embedded within the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), however, that potentially infringe upon First Amendment rights and shift the responsibility for online piracy from the perpetrators onto Internet administrators.

While Internet Service Providers and web site administrators should (and do) discourage online piracy, holding providers to 100% compliance with anti-piracy laws is unrealistic.  As well, shutting down entire Internet sites in the effort to purge pirated material from specific web pages is akin to penalizing car manufacturers or dealers for allowing an unlicensed driver to operate a vehicle.  We do not need more legislation to combat an issue that can be minimized with the tools and laws already at our disposal.  SOPA, masked as an effort to eliminate online piracy, is one that panders more to the entertainment industry than an altruistic sense of justice.

Both the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) flaunt their lofty objective of protecting the First Amendment rights of artists and distributors, this from an organization that offers up a mere 13% of music sales to the recording artist, allowing the record label to keep 63% of the earnings.  The income for actors in general is not stellar either.  Both organizations, however, are headquartered in Washington D.C., spending time and money to gather support for SOPA and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) from the Obama and Bush administrations to the tune of over $400,000 this past year and $2 million in 2007, respectively, seeking additional revenue lost perhaps as a result of the shrinking economy and lackluster entertainment products.  As pointed out by Professors Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman, the measure of the loss to the entertainment industry is unsubstantiated.

Piracy will not vanish as a result of tight-fisted legislation that punishes honest Internet users. Those people inclined to provide and obtain copyrighted materials illegally will continue to do so, driving the industry further underground.  Those of us who oppose SOPA do not support online piracy or copyright theft.  We can, however, oppose legislation that does not directly target the issue at hand, but instead uses a single issue (albeit an important one) as a façade to introduce additional insidious government oversights that bring us ever closer to a future envisioned by George Orwell.  Online pirates will continue to plunder the Internet, while the majority of us find ourselves victims of a government that takes its cues (and money) from the entertainment industry and other large business conglomerates.

Why College Is a Waste of Time and Money

The Fleecing of American College Students

by Shadra Bruce

When I was in high school in the late 80s, it was just beginning to be expected that college was more of a norm than getting a job straight away. The promise was tangible – get your degree, and you’ll definitely get a high paying job and be able to jump right in to living the American Dream.

The college recruiters came into the high schools and pedaled their wares like snake oil salesman:

College graduates make 62% more than their uneducated counterparts.”

“No need to worry about how to pay for college. Our financial aid department can help you get all the money you need to pay for college.”

“You get a six month grace period while you find a job!”

“Our career center places 90% of our graduates after graduation.”

Sound familiar?

So we swallowed the bait; a lot of us did. And if we started having kids, we have probably been feeding them the same line of crap we heard, grooming our kids to be prepared for college, not for life.

Our oldest joined the Army (a story for another day), but our second child headed straight to college, first to a community college, and now to a state university. She is attending Buffalo State College. It’s part of the SUNY system, what we feel is representative of a typical college. For each semester she attends, she pays

Tuition $2635
Athletic Fee – $133
Activity – $75
College Fee – $12.50
Health Fee – $130
Technology Fee – $160
Transportation Fee – $31
Books, which average $500 a semester
Meal plan $1,510
Housing $3,369

Her total semester cost: $8555.50

Yes, that’s right: in order to get $2600 worth of education, she has to pay almost $9000.

You see, colleges figured out (and perhaps drove) the fabulous racket that is student loans:

  • Loans cover the cost of tuition, books and related expenses, as well as room and board.
  • Poor people (the 99% of us who can’t make $10,000 casual bets) have been conditioned to see a college education as a way up and out.
  • Colleges profit by requiring students to live on campus and eat in dining halls

Our daughter pays far more for room and board ($4879) than for tuition and books ($3135).

What does she get for it? Her housing cost of $3,369 pays for a walk-in closet-sized room that she is required to share with another human being, often a stranger, in such close quarters that their feet nearly touch when they’re stretched out on their beds, in pods that house six students who all must share a bathroom with little to no control over who or how many house guests they have, how late or loud they are, or how much drinking or drug use happens.

Her housing cost includes her being kicked out of the dorm for five days over Thanksgiving (no choice) and being required to vacate for the six weeks of Christmas break (within 24 hours of the last final).

She is on campus a total of 106 days for the semester, so her housing costs her $31.78 per day – which would be $950 a month in the real world. And her closet-sized $950 a month room doesn’t even include the cost of Internet or a gym, as most thousand-dollar-a-month apartments with three times the space would.

She is required to also pay (whether she uses them or not) an athletic fee of $133 and a technology fee of $160.

But the real kicker is the food plan, which all on-campus college students except seniors are required to have. She has to pay $1,510 per semester to eat. That averages out to $14 per day, or $98 per week, for one person.

It’s downright criminal.  For $98 a week, she could feed a family of four at the grocery store!!

You would think it would be enough to get her through the semester, but the food plan only works at the college-provided dining hall. The average meal costs around $10; a small cup of oatmeal costs $1. Choices are limited, prices are high, quality is low…and the dining hall knows the kids are going to run out of money before the semester is over, pushing Mom and Dad to spend even more by adding money to their spending cards.

The students are locked into these meal plans and housing arrangements because they are a huge boon to the profits of the college or university, whose contracts with the vendors include kickbacks to the school or restrict the student’s spending to college-sanctioned locations.

It is so profitable for the colleges that many of them have gone from requiring just freshmen to live on campus to requiring all underclassmen to live on campus, locked into their private-world profit centers.  And it’s all funded by student loans, which kids willingly take with the promise of a brighter future.

To add insult to injury, the Federal government will not let you file bankruptcy on student loans, no matter how bad things get, and when you cannot afford to pay your loans (even for reasons such as no income or receiving public assistance), the student loan lenders have their own capitalized interest profit center going.

And as the latest unemployment numbers indicate, there are few jobs for all these kids the universities are pushing out the doors, yet the snake oil salesman are still coming to the high schools from the college campuses, promising a brighter future, while dumbing down education standards and admitting anyone with a pulse in order to fatten their coffers.

So as our own kids move through the public school system (we can’t afford anything else), we counter the brainwashing the school and society provides them about how important it is to go to college with our own advice:

            don’t go to college, don’t borrow from the government, don’t do anything but
            make it on your own merit, and don’t get yourself trapped in a college-bound,
            corporate track pursuit of this non-existent American dream.


Instead, we encourage them to be individuals and critical thinkers who are politically active and aware.  They can build their own dreams.

Recycling Is Great for Plastic, Not Politicians

by David T. Bruce

1994 - 2011 What's changed? Nothing!
1994 – 2011 What’s changed? Nothing!

The collective consciousness that is the Republican Party is scrambling to select a viable candidate to run against President Obama in the 2012 elections.  With the relentless in-fighting that has laid bare the faults, idiosyncrasies, and past transgressions of each of the Republican presidential candidates, the new frontrunner for the GOP is former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Gingrich’s political resume has already been scrutinized by the general public, the Republican Party, and the global media.  Americans will be regularly reminded of his successes and his failures, as we are asked to recall how he demonstrated bipartisanship when balancing the nation’s budget and how he was ultimately compelled to resign for overt belligerence and infantile behavior.  Mr. Gingrich was fined for unethical behavior, a first for any Speaker of the House.  With the facts known, polls indicate that Mr. Gingrich is still potentially considered as the best choice for our new president.

At least some Republican leaders seem to remember why Mr. Gingrich was obliged to resign, and given the typical longevity of our elected officials, I suspect that many remember.  As voters, we tend to be fickle and forgetful (you can bet that Gingrich is counting on this).  Our representatives tend to be self-interested.  All of these qualities are human traits and are sometimes forgivable.  Such a combination, however, during an election year in which Party platforms promote cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans (as if they did not enjoy enough tax loopholes already) and cutting health care benefits for the poorest Americans, places our nation at rick of further stagnation on economic, academic, and environmental levels.

We talk of change, but all we see is regression.  When the Republican National Committee considers reclaiming a member of their party once shunned, we must question their motivation, if not their sanity.  If we are hoping to look forward as a nation, why are we looking backward?  Are there no fresh candidates that can speak their minds and not the stale rhetoric of the past few decades?  Are there no fresh ideas that offer some suggestion that we live in the 21st century and not the 19th century?  Is the 2012 Republican campaign about beating Obama or the Democratic Party in general, or is it about selecting a candidate that will unite and lead Americans?

Given President Obama’s lack of success in uniting both parties, and given his failure to employ a firmer hand when dealing with Congress, the desire to find new leadership is understandable.  The Democrats could indeed find another candidate, but they want to save face, thus becoming part of the problem as well.  Congress is part of the problem, and Newt Gingrich is representative of why Congress is part of the problem.  He has proven that much.

American voters must give up the mentality that we have to look to the past for answers.  We must give up the notion that our elected officials deserve to be reelected, including the President.  If these men and women are not doing their jobs effectively, we have the right to ask them to step down.  We have the right to elect new leaders.  The challenge for our elected officials is how to keep their jobs.  Our challenge as American voters is to unite ourselves in the endeavor to mold this country into what we want, not what career politicians want.

Recycling is great but the last thing we need to do is recycle old politicians. As a group, we need to get off our asses, educate ourselves, and begin recruiting people to hold office who are capable of putting the country ahead of their own personal agendas.

The Republicans Are After Your Money, Freedom, and Dignity

Especially if you are 50 or older, make less than $506,600 per year, or female.

by Shadra Bruce

2012-repugsThe Republican Party and Tea Party have declared an all-out war on Americans. In fact, it’s a bit ironic but most of their intended policies, legislation, and tax proposals would harm their own constituents as much as it would harm those who don’t swallow what they’re trying to peddle.

The three main attacks of their war are: Medicare, Taxes, and Healthcare, otherwise known as the war against the elderly, the poor, and women. Great way to protect their patriarchal, rich-man, corporations-are-people society, but bad for America.

The War Against Senior Citizens

As if it weren’t enough that Wisconsin is attempting to disenfranchise older voters and Missouri is trying to force the aged population to pay more taxes to provide additional cuts to corporations, but the Republican/Tea Party in general has targeted senior citizens – the same group who overwhelmingly voted them into power in 2010. First, Republicans voted down the $250 to adjust for no cost of living increase. Then, they started after Medicare – you know, that “entitlement” program that Republicans detest but that working Americans paid into for 20-30 years,  making false claims about the cost of the program and the savings provided under Obama’s healthcare plan. Their newest goal is to increase the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 and, in bed with for-profit insurance companies who would benefit from the plan, privatize the program.

The War Against the Poor

Cain, Perry, and other Republican hopefuls are all touting their flat tax plan. But according the Tax Policy Center, the biggest losers of a flat tax plan are the poor. Once again, the burden would be squarely placed on the backs of the poorest, hardest working Americans, while the rich would – you guessed it – get richer.

“Under the flat tax, low-income households would lose because they now pay no income tax and are eligible for a refundable EITC of up to $3,370. Although the flat tax is more progressive than a VAT, it is more regressive than the current system. A flat tax would provide huge gains for high-income households, both because their marginal tax rate would fall and because they consume relatively less of their income than do low-income households. As a result, if a flat tax were to raise as much revenue as the current one, the tax burden for the middle class would have to rise.”

The War Against Women

I’m not quite sure where to begin with this one. From attempting to defund Planned Parenthood to passing “personhood” laws that take away a woman’s choice by imposing a view that women are simply storage tanks for men’s babies to simply targeting women’s healthcare with outdated ideas and laws, the Republican Party and Tea Party have created a war against women that makes me wonder how any woman could choose to remain involved in the party.

While I’ve always been liberal, believing that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – not just the elite and corporations – I’ve never leaned so far left as I do today. I’m not a Democrat; I’m an uber liberal progressive (often referred to by those scared by their absorption of Fox News as the word of their God as a pinko commie insert expletives here). I lean further and further left by the desire to balance the pendulum that is trying so hard to swing so far to the right that the America I love will soon resemble countries we more closely associate with being targets of our special brand of democratic intervention.

If you are older than 50, make less than $506,600 per year, or female you should be thinking long and hard about who you want to represent you in Congress in 2012. Because the only “people” being represented by the Republican Party have the last name Inc.