Wednesday, January 25, 2012

To Another Abyss

The state of the Union . . .  The state of our Union . . .  What exactly is the state of our Union?

I will say right off the bat that there were some points I actually agreed with in the President's speech.  I agree that the government should make it easier, in all ways, for business to function successfully in the United States.  Obama's statement about lowering taxes for stateside corporations is something I agree with.  But make no mistake, that is a fiscally conservative perspective.  Since I know that Obama is not a fiscal conservative I have to wonder what sort of strings would be attached to this plan.  In other words, what would corporations have to give up in order to receive a lower tax rate?  I suppose I should amend my statement from above.  This is probably the only part of Obama's speech that I agreed with.  OH!  My apologies.  I also agree that the government should not subsidize the wealthiest people in our country.  They should not receive farm subsidies for growing organic vegetables.  They should not receive favorable tax breaks that average-income Americans are not entitled to. 

I was alarmed at how many task forces the President intends on forming.  My first question was, "Where is the money going to come from to fund these task forces?"  And then at some point I heard the President tell Congress to spend the money they would have spent on the war in Iraq on some other program the President was selling.  It was then that I understood that Obama is one of the many in government who sees tax revenue as "their money".  Had he chosen to be more accurate he would have said, spend the American people's money on this new program I'm selling. 

If I'm not mistaken, one of these task forces had something to do with illegal immigrants going to college, and granting them citizenship because they were educated in our country.  Obama said something to the effect of it's a shame that foreign nationals are being educated in our country and then going back to their own country to make it better; and why aren't we trying to keep these people in our country?  So his solution is to form a task force to deal with this issue.  With all due respect Mr. President, there are many reasons why we don't need to recruit foreign nationals to live in our country.  We have yet to deal with the problem of illegal immigration in and of itself.  There are still not enough jobs in our country to support our own American born citizens.  (As I understand it, that's one of the issues of the Occupy protesters.  They have a college education and student loan debt but no job.)  I think I may have a much simpler and cost-effective solution to this issue.  How about we decide not to educate illegal immigrants/foreign nationals?  How about that?  What if the public university system in our country decided that they would no longer grant admission to illegals?  What if they also put a moratorium on educating foreign nationals who have every intention of returning to their country upon graduation?  And I'm talking about public universities that receive funding from the government.  Private universities can do whatever they want.  They don't get government money.  Wouldn't that solve the problem that the President is concerned about?  If you are an illegal immigrant living in the United States, and you have legal status somewhere else, go back there to get your education.  I don't care what the reason is for your illegal status.  I'm sorry that you weren't born here.  But in any other country on this Earth, correct me if I'm wrong, if I live there as an illegal immigrant, I won't be able to attend their universities.  In many cases I wouldn't be able to obtain legal employment.  We are the only country that I know of that has an open door policy to the rest of the world.  Come on in!  We'll take care of you!  We'll give you a place to live, we'll pay for it for you, we'll give you food to eat, we'll give you spending money, health care, a job, an education . . . anything else you want?  We are here to meet your needs!  Meanwhile there are citizens of this nation losing their homes, unable to find work, on welfare and food stamps for the first time in their lives.  They can't just go to another country to make a better life for themselves.  The government in our nation in general has just decided that the problem of illegal immigration either isn't really a problem, or it really isn't having a negative impact on our country.  Either way, they're wrong.  

The President presented a rather rosy outlook on the jobs situation.  He made a strong claim that the economy was bouncing back and things were looking up.  According to his own numbers 8 million jobs have been lost since 2008.  He boasted that there had been 3 million jobs added since he took office.  Mr. President, that is hardly bouncing back.  That means we have 5 million jobs to add until we reach 2008 levels.  In December of 2008 our national unemployment rate was 7.8%.  So in actuality we want to add probably 6 to 7 million jobs to get unemployment back to around 6%.  We have a long way to go yet.  We are not bouncing back.  If anything, it's getting worse.  The jobless numbers look better because so many people have run out of benefits.  They no longer have unemployment benefits, but they haven't worked so they can't file a new claim.  So basically they are just without an income - permanently unemployed.  So while it's true that the number of new jobless claims has declined, the reason is not because more people are back to work.  What does that mean for our economy?  While the number of people who have been surviving on unemployment benefits declines, these same people will probably lose their homes.  Foreclosures will go up.  With no new jobs being added, we are potentially facing something similar to the Great Depression.  What are all of these homeless, jobless families going to do?  Where are they going to go?  We will see soup lines, homeless camps, etc., and it will not be pretty. 

What is the state of our Nation?  Land of the free, home of the brave . . . is it?  Are we free?  Do you honestly feel free?  The state of our Nation is bleak.  The once brightly shining beacon of inspiration and resourcefulness and individuality and strength and freedom, has become a tarnished, flat, dull and forgotten trinket in the drawer of humanity and government. 

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Over the weekend I watched a program on Current TV called "The 99 Percent". Christof Putzel, a correspondent for Vanguard, went to live with the Occupy protesters who were living in Zuccotti Park and documented his experience. You may or may not know that Current TV is a network founded by Al Gore, so obviously it expresses extremely leftist points of view. Although I don't share a leftist mentality, I am fascinated by human beings, the way their brains function, and why they do the things they do. It is for this reason that occasionally I will watch programs on Current. I tuned in to this particular show in an effort to gain some perspective on what the Occupy protesters are trying to accomplish.

For the most part I didn't gain any new insights into the root issue of their protest. What I did see was thousands of people participating in GroupThink and GroupSpeak with no clear demands, ideas, desired changes; nothing tangible I could point to and say, "Ah! That's what you're protesting." I was most horrified at the way they made their messages known to the rest of the encampment. Every night at 7:00 pm they would have "Assembly" wherein anyone was allowed to say anything at all. Because they were not allowed to have amplified noise, they came up with "The People's Mic". One person talked and everyone else was supposed to repeat what was said. Additionally they had a series of arm gestures that indicated whether or not they agreed with what was said. It truly reminded me of something out of Soviet Russia or North Korea. Many of these people were clearly just talking for the ego satisfaction of hearing a large group of people repeat what they said. I wondered, as I was watching, what if someone were to disseminate an opposing opinion? Worse yet, what if someone were to tell these people they were wrong? Would there have been an uprising? This was clearly not a group of people who invited free thinking and free discussion. It was very obvious that you are either with them or against them.

Two other topics stood out very clearly in this show. Coincidentally, both had to do with unions. The first, briefly, was that various local unions joined the Occupy protesters. I thought that strange considering that the unions are a huge part of the problem of the ever widening gap between the poor and the un-poor. Not to mention that many union employees receive enormous benefits and pensions, in addition to a good salary, so they're clearly not part of the 1% as I understand it.

In one part of "The 99 Percent" Christof accompanied a gentleman to his hometown, somewhere in the south. Many of the business had shut their doors, including several large factory/corporate industries. The man stated that "the corporations are moving their jobs out of the country because they don't want to pay Americans a decent wage." What??

First let me say that I think it's awful when businesses have to close. It's bad for the local economy and it's bad for the business owners who have lost their livelihood. I am concerned about the fact that we are losing a middle class in America. I am concerned that people who, five years ago, were a part of the middle class are now living at or below the poverty line. I'm VERY concerned about what this means for our nation. But I DON'T think it's the government's responsibility or its' job to take care of me. Husband has not had a permanent job in going on four years. He's a skilled carpenter living in California. California hasn't had a construction industry in about four years. (As a side note or rant if you wish, the construction industry started having problems almost 10 years ago in California. Why? Because employers began laying off their skilled employees. One reason was that Worker Compensation Insurance was very expensive, and its' expense was crippling small construction companies. Another reason, the primary reason, was because employers realized they could save money by hiring illegal Mexican workers. So companies that used to employ citizens of the United States now had crews of almost entirely Mexican illegals. Good for the employer's pocket, not good for hard, American born workers like Husband. And it's not the illegals who should be blamed or punished. It's the companies that provide them with jobs who should suffer the consequences.) Once his meager unemployment ran out, that was it. There was no more free money for us. But we've been surviving without the help of the government since then. Husband has literally been doing anything and everything to keep money flowing. It's been difficult, but we've been making it work. And we are living below the poverty line, and it sucks. But I'd rather scrape by than be dependent on the government.

This leads me to the idea that ". . .corporations don't want to pay Americans a decent wage." Is it true that there are some corporations that are greedy and care more about profit than where they do business? Probably. But by and large this is not the reason that corporations are taking their business out of America. Even if they still had to deal with the ever-increasing regulations to do business here; even if they still had to pay for very expensive environmental impact studies; even if they still had to pay the outrageous taxes and fees for employing people, there would still not be the mass exodus to other countries. The reason corporations are moving is because they cannot afford the demands of the unions. Unions are one of the primary reasons our country is crumbling. I will note, however, that easing government restrictions, regulations and taxes would help woo businesses back home.

I don't want to go into the history of unions. Suffice it to say I do believe they once had a place in America. I believe their time and place is long gone. Unions no longer assist employees in working out safe working conditions and fair pay. It's not about being paid a decent salary. It's all of the other demands that unions have on employers. They feel that they deserve not only a "decent" salary, but a damn good one for even unskilled work. Not only that, they want benefits paid for themselves and their families. They want a pension that will last the rest of their lives. They want paid vacation that keeps accruing year after year. While I think it's a nice thing to do, to provide some health benefit options, retirement options, and some paid vacation for your employees, it is by no means a right of anyone. Just because you have a job does not entitle you to "extras". At some point people need to be responsible for some things on their own. If more employees had to pay for their own health care, for instance, they would probably make different decisions on their plan and how often they use it. They would take more care in their decisions. Unions are putting a stranglehold on our country. In the San Juan School District in Sacramento, the entire budget of all of the schools is gone every year before the new school year starts. Where is it going? It's going to pay for the retirement and health benefits of retired teachers. As a teacher I think this is so wrong! Why do you get health benefits for the rest of your life simply because you chose to teach?

It's all so backwards, and it's easy to feel hopeless and rather depressed about the state of our nation. But until there is a significant change in the attitude of our society, it will only continue to get worse. We must get over this idea that somebody else, the government, the union, our employer, is responsible for our lives. This has become, seemingly, the battle cry of the 99%. "Someone else take care of me! Give me a life free from financial hardship! Give me, give me, give me!" The only person who has the knowledge, the ability and the desire to take care of you in the best possible way, is YOU. Love YOURSELF enough to do that.