Friday, May 4, 2012

Notes - May 4

Photos this week are the Northern California Pacific Ocean coast

1.  Ah! it is a beautiful day in May - the native grasses are high, and many plants are sending their perfume into the air! It is nearing the peak of the growing season.  Eons of natural adaptation have prepared native vegetation to grow when there is winter rain and then when the rain stops to survive through the long dry summer hibernation with deep roots or seeds.  We humans who live here can either work with the natural system or fight it... We can seek out native plants or plants from elsewhere in the world with the same growth pattern and allow them to thrive in our garden... or we can try to grow things that are foreign to this habitat - things like green lawns, roses, and petunias... If you want those plants you should live in a location with lots of summer rain...
Temperature all year is mid 50 degrees F

2.  May Day happened this week!  There were many groups who marched in the Bay Area on Tuesday, and it is fascinating to see how various news sources covered the same event.  It is a reminder to me that public opinion is formed by the sources that we choose to read rather than events on the ground.  
Sea Anemone in low tide - when the water in high their tentacles are extended

Some news sources stressed the sincere frustration felt by many Americans toward the concentration of national wealth in the hands of a few wealthy people, inequalities in taxes leave the very wealthy paying disproportionally less than the working poor, there is a growing disregard for the public good that is being moved from concept to law, our congress that has been held hostage by Republican ideologues. What do you do when you are wild with frustration that just seems to be getting worse? If you listen to Fox news, you might think that the protesters were only a brainless body of vandals and troublemakers looking for excuse wrack havoc... Who is paying them to tell us that message?
Under the board walk - Santa Cruz

Here are eleven points from Robert Reich's book "Beyond Outrage" - that help me to understand our present situation.   I am a concerned American. There are times when I feel compelled to speak out...  You and I  have voices, and now is the time to speak up. Is it not being a good American to only say "We are the best" and " Don't you dare say anything critical about  my country"...  When the system is broken its up to us to speak the truth and do what we can to make it better...

1.  Government Size isn't the Real issue - It's for whom the Government is being used.  A recent Pew poll found that 77% of Americans questioned said that too much power is in the hands of a few rich people and cooperations.   Wall street can get bailed out - but 1 out of 3 homeowners with a mortgage in now underwater - they have not gotten helped.  Bankruptcy laws prohibit reorganization of personal mortgage loans... but cooperations can freely use the bankruptcy laws...Lobbyists at work!
Breaking surf -about 5 ft high

2.  Republicans love to talk about the budget deficit - but the biggest source of the deficit is big money's corruption of Washington.  One example:  Medicare's administrative costs are 3% - private companies average 10%. Health ad. costs. The insurers made sure that the "public option" died in its tracks - they would have stood to lose big money! (All they had to do was to cry 'socialist'!)

3.  America spends more on its military that do China, Russia, Britain, France, Japan, and Germany combined! Armament lobbies insist on buying outdated weapons that even the army doesn't recommend.  At least allow decisions to be made by practical people in the military and congress... not the lobbyists who are seeking to make big profits!
Wave swept beach sand and rocks

4.   Under Eisenhower the top income tax category in America paid 91% of their income.  (No body called him a socialist!)  As income and wealth have accumulated at the top so has the power of lobbyists to reduce taxes.  The Bush tax cuts capped the top rate at 35%, and reduced capital gains taxes to 15 %. Last year according to the IRS the 400 richest Americans paid an average of 17% of their income in taxes.  Mitt Romney paid 13.9%.   The only major tax increases in recent years have fallen on middle/lower income Americans. what is wrong with this picture?

5.  What happens to the money acquired by the wealthy from reduced taxes? - Some is used to buy US Treasure bills. Much of the money that major corporations spend to expand their companies is spent overseas - places with cheap labor - Central America, Asia, Eastern Europe... Research and development projects are increasingly being moved to China, India, and Europe because of the pool of well trained imaginative young minds available... so much for trickle down...It is a myth long since disproved.
Wave battered rocks - great place to search for organisms!

6. How are we going to compete at a nation if we don’t train our brightest and best?  The top 1% can afford to send their kids to good universities, but what about the rest of us - what about our bright kids that can not achieve their potential without access to quality education and affordable loans.  China is currently building 3 major universities equivalent to MIT to provide trained technical workers for their future in research and development.  - Our students are faced with fewer course offerings and higher priced college debts.

7.  So far this year 23 states have reduced education spending in addition to cuts in 2011 and 2010.  43 states are cutting back on funding for public colleges and universities.  UC Berkeley has increased tuition costs by 32 and reduced enrolled for incoming freshmen by 2300 students.  Currently the average 15 year old in America cannot answer as many test questions correctly as the average 15 year old in Shanghai
Deep water - rocks are exposures during low tide

8. The vast majority of new jobs inAmerica today are service jobs - not producing hard products that add to the economy - A worker who is making the minimum wage as a dog groomer is hardly making a living wage, is not contributing to the growth of the US economy, but is not considered unemployed.  The world economy today does not need traditional factory workers as much as it needs workers trained in technical skills - if we aren’t training them here - there are certainly other countries training them for the future.  - American corporations are increasingly seeking the talent they need from other countries. 

Sea Palm - a variety of large marine algae - also an indicator of low tide

9.  Henry Ford did a radical thing he paid his workers far higher than the prevailing wages of his day... other companies complained to him!  He said he was doing it so that his workers would be able to buy his cars... The idea grew else where... the result was the rise of the American middle class.  At the current time so much of the national money is concentrated in the hands of the top 1% that there isn't enough money in the hands of the shrinking middle class to spend the economy more rapidly out of its slump...

10.  What do we as individuals gain if collectively as a nation 50 million Americans are forced to give up their health insurance?  What do we gain if we get lower taxes but out infrastructure decays and increasingly can not function properly, What do we accomplish if we make government smaller but can no longer provide for the common good?  Instead it will serves to support a small group of industrial and financial giants.  And what do we gain if we permit the great corporations to receive still lower taxes... ?  We certainly wont be able to continue to call ourselves the "greatest country on earth" if we allow these changes to take place.
Breaking wave

11.  We should forget the terms 'liberal' and 'conservative' and replace them with 'progressive' - (planning for the future), or 'regressive' (attempting to return to the past - return to the social and labor practices of before the first world war and some want to regress back to the "gilded age" of 1880 when industry ran unobstructed. True 'conservatives' want to conserve an established tradition - these folks want to throw out our progress of the past decades and go back to an imagined time long ago...

Not a bad metaphor for our economy...
 There are those among us who pretend that none of this is true or important - they would prefer to be an  ostridge and bury their head in the sand... Educate yourself - communicate with your elected officials - vote intelligently - educate others- and dont be a pawn to the lobbyist financed press paid to engineer our opinion.

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