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.

Fighting for Peace Will Win the War on Terror

by David and Shadra Bruce

As we approach the date that marks ten years since the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, we are frequently reminded of the events surrounding the attacks.  The images that were dispatched on news stations for days and weeks afterward are once again being reposted and replayed on news stations and across the Internet.  We are reminded once again of that which many of us in all likelihood have tried to forget or have at least tucked away safely in the recesses of our unconsciousness.  Yet if anything contributes to future attacks on our country, it is this casual ability to escape reality that dooms us to imminent tragedy.

We can help ourselves prevent another similar disaster by remembering that the world in which we live is one that is not just a single vision but a blend of many diverse opinions and visions of what life means. Embracing all of these visions may not be the answer, but making an attempt to accept them might be the only way to truly heal from – and prevent a recurrence of – the events of September 11, 2001.  This does not at all imply that we must forgive and forget, but in order to truly heal from within, we must let go of hate for the benefit of ourselves as individuals.  Remembering does not mean we must revenge.

We heal inside and benefit from the understanding that extremism – in the name of any faith – corrupts the foundation and the chief intent of a belief structure.  Instead of waging war against other cultures and other faiths, determining by force who is right and who is wrong, we can opt to wage a war of peace that allows for the possibility that all of us may be right, that each of our visions demonstrates a measure of truth.

We do not profess to personally know what the truth is, if indeed there is one truth. Nor can we begin to imagine the horror of the events portrayed on the television, when compared with the horror which was truly experienced by those that survived the attacks.  We have felt the fear and the anger that most (if not all) Americans felt at the time of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  We will not pretend to put ourselves in their shoes.  Few of us will realize or even imagine what they suffered through to survive.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have become a platform for others in their bid for political office. Yet the events of 9/11 and those victims and survivors of that tragedy are not the foundation for political gain. These events are not indicative of what any one official did or did not do to prevent the attacks or to facilitate recovery. The tragedy of 9/11 is symbolic of our perception of the world and our place in the global community.

While we mourn the dead, we must also take the time to cherish the living and to recognize the impact these events had on those who did not perish in the attacks.  So much time and energy is forfeited for those who are lost to us.  We as a people are not altruistic.  We do not grieve for their loss; we grieve for our own.  Some of us grieve because we were witness to the tragedy and must repeatedly relive the horrific events in our consciousness.

The story of Artie Van Why represents the tragedy that survivors endure as a result of the attacks of 9/11/2001.  Those who lost their lives are free; those that survived remain victims of terror.  Perhaps we can better serve the memory of those people who lost their lives by saving those who lived through the tragedy.  Perhaps we can help heal ourselves in this way, allowing the anger and sorrow to find expression in positive ways.

Rather than pay tribute to those who have lost their lives by seeking vengeance and taking yet more lives, we can pay tribute to those that lost their lives in the attacks of 9/11 by changing how we live today, by realizing the importance of living for today and for our future, as opposed to living in yesterday.

We tend to do that when we mourn: live in yesterday. Absolutely, we must remember those we have lost; we should not sacrifice today, however, in that remembrance, for sacrifice has already been made.

We cannot defeat terrorism with war and counter-terrorism, with anger and vengeance, with politics and gesturing. We must learn to look ahead with wisdom while cherishing the memories of the souls who have passed away and have moved on. We must seek peaceful coexistence and acceptance. Only in this way can we defeat terrorism.

For those that did not survive the attacks on 9/11, may they rest in peace;

for those that did survive, may we all find a way to live in peace.

Will the Real Rick Perry Please Stand Up?

by Shadra Bruce

Rick Perry announced he was dropping his hat into the large ring of Republican presidential candidates on August 11. Since then he has worked diligently to position himself as the perfect choice for the Republican extremists, currying the favor of the Tea Party at the expense of all other Americans. But then, this is the man who, as governor of Texas, vetoed a bill that would have prevented the execution of mentally retarded inmates.

If he doesn’t care for those most marginalized citizens of his own state (preferring instead to be the governor who has presided over the largest number of executions in Texas history), why would we ever believe he would care about the populace of the United States?

At one point, Rick Perry could have probably given many Democrats a run for their money. He was initially elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1984 as a Democrat. He supported Al Gore (not George Bush) in his 1988 presidential bid, serving as his Texas campaign chair. He pushed for increased healthy funding; he increased funding for education. He actually pretended, there for a minute, that he cared for the PEOPLE (you know, those he would lead, serve, and protect as President).

What happened?

As Billie Joe Armstrong sings in “Holiday,” he found out the money was on the other side.

In 1989 Rick Perry joined the Republican Party. Perry went from the champion of health care and education to cold-hearted, counterfeit authoritarian overnight because it made not sense, but CENTS.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Perry’s entire campaign has been backed by a small group of very wealthy individuals and couples who have bought Perry’s favor with more than $37 million in donations over the last ten years. In exchange, many these donors have been granted contracts, been given tax breaks, or have been appointed to positions in the Texas government.

Are a group of elites trying to buy their way into the oval office?

Combine this with the fundamental changes Perry wants to make to the constitution – changes that shift the balance of power considerably, attack equal rights, and further benefit corporations, big business, and big oil – it is clear in my mind that Perry has been bought and paid for.

The real Rick Perry (the son of a staunch democrat and laid-back partier who could barely eek a 2.5 GPA out of his animal science degree) is now a puppet on the string of the wealthy elite who care little for anything but themselves.

As citizens, we must carefully examine Perry’s job performance as governor of Texas and weigh the risks associated with giving this man power as Commander in Chief of the United States.  He will most certainly create a country in his own image.

Fiscal Responsibility – A Lost Art

by Shadra Bruce

debt-1376061_1280When Dave’s corporate job was lost through downsizing and reorganization in 2004, we decided together that corporate America wasn’t the right fit for him. When my “atrocious boss” (as our kids like to call him) threatened to fire me for using my own earned sick leave to care for our ill children in 2007, I joined my husband in corporate refugee status. We’ve never been happier.

We both went back to school, earned degrees, and made plans for a new future.  Dave was going to teach and I was going to start my own freelance writing business. Dave is now certified to teach and substitute teaches for the local school because there are no full-time teaching jobs. I am successfully building a small writing, editing, and social media consulting business, and our two incomes adequately support us.

We do, however, live frugally by choice and by circumstance. When there’s money to spare because I’ve had a good month, we first pay off a little more of our debt. If there’s still some left, we travel, spoil our kids, or sneak in a date night. When money is tight, we don’t get to write a new rule that says we can increase our debt limit, nor do we write bad checks that the bank has to cash. Like most American families, we simply tighten the belt and do without.

Our federal government could take a few lessons on survival in the real world, from this example and that of thousands of other Americans who have made similar strides and sacrifices. You see, when others talk about “tightening up the budget,” they suggest things like “only get your hair done every 8 weeks instead of every six and you’ll save $500 a year” or “Take a brown bag lunch to work twice a week instead of eating out and save $800 a year.”

We already live more frugally than that, as do many families. When someone needs a hair cut in our household, they climb up on a stool in the kitchen, and I take care of it. We don’t eat out even once a week, let alone daily, as is the custom for many elected officials. It is possible to live with one vehicle or no vehicle at all, and if we can walk to the store or post office instead of drive to it, we should.  Many Americans live without the perks that are afforded to those people we have elected to govern and enforce our laws.  Our government, of course, doesn’t run that way.   Now if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, who will be hurt? The aged and disabled people who will not get their Social Security checks, mostly.

But this isn’t about raising the debt ceiling; it’s about stopping the special interests and corporations that have transformed Congress into personal bankers.  In the short term, we’re going to have to raise the debt ceiling or face even worse economic trauma. But in the long-term, America (at the individual level and the national level) needs to learn not just to live within a budget but to prioritize things other than their own special interests.

America’s Uninsured May Be Healthier Behind Bars

by Shadra Bruce

jailDid you read about the guy who robbed a bank so he could go to jail and get the medical care he needed? The story was covered by Diane Turbyfill of the Gaston Gazette, and every time I read about James Richard Verone, I have a hard time not crying.

What really gets me is that somebody had to do this here, in America. If this guy lived in Canada (or nearly any other truly civilized country), his medical needs would be taken care of without him having to commit a crime and go to jail to see a doctor.

The robbery was planned carefully – the man only took a dollar; enough to get arrested, but not enough to make the act a felony. He didn’t hurt anyone or carry a weapon or do anything else that would cost him too much freedom.

No, this guy did a cost-benefit analysis and decided a bit of time in jail with free medical care was less expensive than trying to pay for the care he needed. And it worked – he is in jail, has been seen by a nurse already, and is scheduled to see a doctor.

I don’t necessarily condone what this man did, but there’s a little part of me that’s saying, “Right on!” because deep down inside, I’m mad as hell that we don’t all have the health insurance we need, that health insurance is still a for-profit endeavor in this country, and that health is a benefit for the wealthy – and the lucky – only.

I wonder how long our Congress would put up with the health care system the rest of us live with if we stripped them of their precious health plan?

You see, I’m one of those people who falls through the cracks. I actively contribute to the economy, working full time, paying my ridiculously high taxes and buying locally when I can afford to.  But I’m self-employed. At last check, the cost of insuring my family would be $700-950 per month. That’s more than I can afford, but getting a corporate job with benefits wouldn’t pay as much as I can earn from home, especially when you add in commuting, care for our disabled child, and other associated costs of working outside the home.

Every time I read about Verone, I think of my dad, who is ready to retire but scared to because he doesn’t think he can afford the medical care. My dad has worked almost 45 years, 39 of it for the same company. That’s almost twice as long as any military veteran has to work to receive full medical benefits and about 30 years longer than any Congressman has to work to be pampered for life.

Right now, people in jail have access to better healthcare than most. (Apparently, the doctors think it’s a pretty good deal too). How much longer must hard-working American’s be denied at least minimal healthcare at an affordable cost, before more of us become as creative as the gentleman from North Carolina?  Unless the healthcare playing field is leveled relatively soon, I’m thinking Verone’s health plan might just catch on.

Religion Does Not Equal Morality

I am troubled by that kind of willingness to pass judgment based solely on religious differences.

by Shadra Bruce

love-1221444_1280Our daughter is a college student and a part-time employee at a fast food restaurant. While at work the other day, she and a co-worker somehow got on the subject of religion. My daughter is an atheist. She does not believe in any god; she does not go to church. When one of her co-workers heard this, he confronted her and told her that her choice was wrong, that one had to be religious in order to be moral.

We have raised our children to have open minds and to be tolerant of others no matter what kind of belief system they have. We have taught them that they need to make good choices, be honest, and treat others kindly—not because their god demands it, but because that is what human beings do. While we have not raised them with a specific religion, we have encouraged them to explore all religions and to choose a path that is most meaningful to them, and we support whatever path they choose to follow as long as they are truthful to themselves and others and treat people with decency.

Kira may not always consider herself an atheist. She is only 19. She has a lot of life experience yet to gain. Luckily, her co-worker is also young. Hopefully he will learn that people are more than their faith.

The hypocrisy of this situation is that the message of Jesus was one of tolerance. My daughter is not immoral. She does not treat people badly or judge them for having a different set of beliefs than her own. She treats people with kindness, making friends easily and helping others in times of need.

I am troubled by that kind of willingness to pass judgment based solely on religious differences.  I believe that this willingness to judge those who are different from ourselves is what has brought us to the point of warring against each other instead of treating each other like global neighbors. Regardless of individual belief, we are all one society of human beings, sharing one small planet.