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.