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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 22,309

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The Young WILL Inherit The World - Wiil They Also Decide What It Looks Like When They Do? Ask Iowans

There is no demographic of Americans who accept the dire warnings of scientists about the potentially catastrophic effects of Climate Change more than do the young - the very same people who may have to watch their own grandchildren born into a starkly different harsher world if the course that our planet is currently set on isn't changed now. It is one of many cruel life ironies that the ones who will be making most of the decisions that will determine the future of our climate though are far older, and unlikely to personally experience the most devastating effects of runaway climate change in their own lifetimes. On a less cosmic scale, much the same can be said about the future of America's economy, and even of our Democracy. No small matters either.

Millennials have not been silent about the choices that must be made now, even if most of them are not yet in position to make many of those decisions directly themselves. Millennials have also been extraordinarily clear about who they most trust to make those critical choices before the mantle of world leadership ultimately passes on to them. By a very strong margin they choose Bernie Sanders.

Future and present are aligned now in a brief unique window of opportunity. The scales are closely balanced, and the young have the power to swing the tide one way or another in the contest for the Presidency, by either staying home or by voting in large numbers. Iowa is the beginning, and all observers seem to agree - a youth vote turnout anywhere commiserate with their overall numerical strength in the electorate will tip those scales to Bernie.

Their future NOW is in their hands, starting on February first. I wish them all the luck in the world, and will keep doing all I can to not curse them with a desolate future. Call me a Senior for Sanders, but we look to the young now to set the course.

President Sanders and a Republican Congress

Republicans haven't had to deal with anyone remotely like Bernie Sanders on a national level in a long, long time. Now, from out of virtually nowhere it must seem to them, he could well be their opponent in the upcoming Presidential election, and possibly the POTUS they must welcome into Congress to deliver the next State of the Union Address. Conventional wisdom dictates that any agenda President Sanders may propose, should that scenario come to pass, will be Dead On Arrival in any chamber controlled by the GOP. Unless, that is, Sanders sees the pragmatic light, converts, and bows down to establishment sanctioned incrementalism. Conventional wisdom has been having a tough slog of it this year though, and is beginning to show its age. Some say insanity is repeating the exact same thing and expecting a different result. What is it called though to keep advancing the exact same game plan expecting favorable results ad infinitum? Foolish comes to mind, and that in a nut shell is the Republican blind spot, mirrored by most of the media. The shifting sands of the American electorate are undermining a conventional wisdom built on the edifice of a prior generation's political reality. Blinded by the past, few can see what now is coming.

At the height of the Reagan years, most Democrats turned tail and ran away from ideological tags any further to the left than “moderate”, thereby relegating “liberal” to a status not so dissimilar from “pinko” in the American political lexicon. Actually liberal soon became more of a slur than pinko had ever been since the fifties. There were several reasons for that, some more obvious than others. For one thing pinko was dated – the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies cast the McCarthy era in a distinctly negative retro light – despite the ongoing efforts of the John Birch Society and their fellow travelers. Then there was the Vietnam War which the America public ultimately turned staunchly against. Turns out all those young pinko protesters were right bout that all along.

Actually many of those who the Right sought to tar as pinkos elicited genuine sympathy and support from broad segments of the public that the Republican Party needed to court. Pinkos fought to “Ban the Bomb”, but they weren't exactly out of step in being terrified at the prospect of a nuclear war. The Cuban Missile Crisis proved that point. Pinkos also worked hard for Labor rights at a time when Unions were still strong and respected by many blue collar workers, back when there were a lot of blue collar workers benefiting from Unions. Slandering the American Democratic Left as “pinkos” failed to adequately further the revised Class War narrative that the Republican Party began drafting as it moved to secure their eagerly anticipated “New Republican Majority”. “Liberals” turned out to be a better foil for that purpose. Unlike steel workers, liberals were said to work in ivory towers. They didn't wear hard hats, how could they? Liberal intellectuals were pointy headed. They weren't real Americans.

Soon the Right began railing against Latte Liberals and Limousine Liberals and all the rest of the so called Liberal Elites – living in their own detached reality. Liberals, to hear Republicans describe them, were the true architects of class warfare, engineering a massive redistribution of wealth – from the Middle Class to the Poor. Tax and Spend Liberals were handing over the hard earned wages of America's Middle Class to shiftless lazy poor folks so the latter could live like Welfare Queens on other people's dimes. And why would liberals steel from hard working Americans like that? Because ordinary bleeding heart liberal voters were conned by unscrupulous limousine liberal politicians into letting them buy the votes they needed to entrench themselves in office by giving away “free stuff” - paid for by struggling tax payers to people who refuse to lift a finger to help themselves.

And so “Liberal” became a toxic word. Democrats offered very little resistance. In time some began trying to dodge that bullet by re-branding themselves as progressives instead. And while political scientists can draw some honest distinctions between those terms – for many of those who started calling themselves progressive it was more of a tacit acknowledgment that they didn't want to politically risk being labeled as a liberal. Recently though the tide began to turn as all tides are want to do, and in a time honored youth contrarian dance – buttressed by critical thinking, millennial voters began shedding the negative connotations assigned to the word “liberal”. And then along comes 74 year old Bernie Sanders, self identified as a Democratic Socialist, running to become President.

“Socialist” had for decades been reserved by the Republican Party as their EXTRA STRENTH version of “Liberal”. They long suggested that behind any good liberal, somewhere, that is who you will find; pulling strings, undermining our precious freedoms. Problem was they were hard pressed to ever produce any actual socialists in American national electoral politics, aside from one obscure congressman from the small state of Vermont who even the rabid right understood failed miserably to fit their casting call for a plausible left wing boogyman. So finally, out of an abundance of caustic exuberance, they took to calling the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, a “Socialist”.

Here is where the plot begins to thicken, and the past begins to come back to bite the Republicans in the ass. For starters it turns out that Barack Obama is a fairly popular president who was handily elected to a second term in office. When our financial system cratered he didn't nationalize the banks, and the stock market rebounded fully from the pit it was mired in when Obama first took office. Is that how an American socialist acts when one finally comes into power? How scary is that? And if Obama isn't really a socialist then who the hell is, and what is it exactly that he or she stands for? And then along comes Bernie, 74 year old Democratic Socialist running for President, answering the question and redefining American politics in the process.

One thing's clear, Bernie doesn't come across as a limousine liberal, and he's absolutely no one's idea of an elitist. Equally significant, he doesn't flinch at being called liberal. Instead of running he digs in, breaking through the labels and going for the substance. After decades of Democrats twisting themselves into knots avoiding being called leftist, Bernie Sanders lays out his “leftist agenda” and says, “What's wrong with that?” And then he turns the tables on right wing propaganda and exposes real class warfare in America, except that it isn't the poor stealing from the middle class, it's the super rich stealing from virtually all of us. What Bernie says rings true to folks because, unlike Reagan’s 1980's fantasy, it's not Morning in America, and this time everybody knows it.

The vaulted supposedly impregnable Republican line of defense spanning decades now could be called 100 shades of red baiting. It is their hardened battle ready position, it is their Maginot Line; so formidable, so unyielding, so entrenched - and so built on lessons learned during previous eras of combat. Like concrete embedded cannons, it is obsolete. It's been trending that way for years, obscured by conventional wisdom, until somebody finally called the question; Whose side are you on?

Bernie Sanders may literally be a Democratic Socialist but his appeal is to economic populism. Populists by nature occupy an opposite pole from establishment privileged elites. Populism ferments at the base of a society and is often a potent force against those seen as opposing the interests of the vast majority. Not all populism is economic at root: some is religious, some is cultural, some is xenophobic. During the Great Depression under FDR, the Democratic Party aligned firmly with economic populism. During the late 1960's, under Richard Nixon, Republicans began to channel populism's darker sides. By the 1980's our Middle Class began to ebb and ramped up cultural wars were needed to eclipse any attention paid to an ongoing class war that consolidated the wealth of our nation into the hands of a concentrated oligarchy.

In the process the Democratic Party was defanged by the perceived need of it's political class to court political and personal sustenance directly from the hands of the wealthy donor class. It is difficult to expose thievery while your hands are outstretched to the robbers for your stipend. The political rules were tacitly set: Cultural warfare and debates over social issues were allowable, challenging an economic system rigged to enhance an oligarchy was not. Over time the strain of economic populism was slowly bred out of National Democrats through the process of financial selection. Then along came Bernie Sanders.

What the Right has been slow to wake up to is that populism is a double edged sword, it's been so long since it has effectively been wielded against them they've almost forgotten what that looks like when it happens. In the face of an economic populist tide, red baiting labels tossed at a populist land with the impact of confetti. They all once were thrown at FDR, but with America then caught in the teeth of the Great Depression they did not hold any bite. Not when it was obvious to average Americans who was on their side.

It's been a long time since the Democratic Party offered a full throated defense of progressive taxation, but there once was a time when a clear majority of Americans understood the concept well and adamantly supported it, and Democrats proudly embraced it. That support slowly eroded as generations of Democratic leaders, increasingly beholden to large monied interests, obediently held their tongues while right wing activists like Grover Norquist pushed their goal “to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.”

It is a myth that Americans only care about lowering their taxes: We just don't want to pay more than our fair share, and we want our taxes spent in sensible ways that produce tangible benefits to society. When a bridge is in danger of collapsing most folks are willing to raise money to replace it. The right created the strawman of “tax and spend liberals who don't really care about people like you”. Using that for cover, at the behest of an emboldened oligarchy, Republicans have systematical rolled back progressive taxation and expanded tax loopholes for the super wealthy in the largest government engineered transfer of wealth in American history. The rich are still getting richer and the America Dream is dead. It should be no surprise then that more Americans are getting angry, and anger is the fuel that allows populism to grow,

Yes, there are few so blind as those who refuse to see. All summer long the voices who dictate conventional wisdom couldn't see Bernie Sanders coming, not even when tens of thousands of Americans repeatedly came out for rallies to see him speak in person. The media only had eyes for Trump, viewing him mostly as entertainment, a passing summer fad. Well Donald Trump wasn't just a fad, and Bernie Sanders wasn't just a fringe candidate, but conventional wisdom had its script. Precisely because Sanders represents the greater threat to the establishment, they have been slowest to recognize him for who he is, because even the act of recognizing Bernie Sanders increases the threat he poses them.

Despite the best efforts of those who cynically try to channel it, social populism can't be inoculated against incursions by economic strains. The Middle Class is shrinking, and most Americans feel insecure about their futures. Bernie Sanders is an unvarnished truth teller, not a slick spin doctor, and that has broad populist appeal. The establishment keeps underestimating Sanders, and no doubt they'll start out doing the same if he is elected as our next President. But there are reasons why some of Bernie's biggest fans are in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, the poorest and most conservative part of the state. There are reasons why Bernie Sanders polls so strongly among Independents now nationally. There are reasons why he has the highest favorability ratings of anyone running for President on either side of the partisan divide, and why so many Trump supporter admit that they “kind of like Bernie too.”

It doesn't surprise me that some Republican strategists think that Hillary Clinton would be much harder to defeat than Bernie Sanders. That, again, represents the thinking of conventional wisdom, in a year when conventional wisdom has been spectacularly wrong. And should a President Sanders next year stand before a Congress partially controlled by Republicans, to deliver his agenda for America, I suspect conventional wisdom will still be in denial of what would happen next. Today's Republican Party has lost control of its populist base, and it keeps scrambling to keep up with them. When President Bernie Sanders addresses the assembled Republican leaders in Congress, he will be talking over their heads directly to the American people, including that Republican populist base. Like no Democrat before him in recent history, many of those in that Republican base will know exactly whose side President Sanders is on. It won't be with the super rich. It won't be with the Wall Street Banks and hedge fund managers. It won't be with the multinational corporations who are outsourcing our childcare’s future.

The shifting sands of the American electorate are undermining conventional wisdom. Blinded by the past, few can see what now is coming.

Why I am All in for Sanders

The word authentic gets thrown around a lot as a type of short hand for what ever it is about Bernie Sanders that so many Americans find appealing. And to be fair it may scratch the surface of a phenomena that denizens of the status quo find so difficult to grasp; Americans in massive numbers are responding very favorably to the message of a 74 year old, previously little known gruff Senator from the small state of Vermont – who call himself a Democratic Socialist. All else being equal, most folks prefer real to fake in just about everything, and there simply is nothing fake about Bernie Sanders. No one wonders what they will actually find if you manage to scratch his veneer. There is no veneer to scratch, there is just Bernie Sanders. What you see is what you get. So yes the word authentic fits Bernie Sanders well. It resonates like the truth.

The fact that there's a public yearning for authenticity from politicians says a lot about politics in America today, with none of it positive. It is a damning indictment of politics as usual when people fully expect to hear candidates voice mostly empty platitudes identified through focus group testing as likely to appeal to “voters like them”. For politicians who spend a lifetime perfecting the art of polish, who gravitate like moths to fire to power player circles while accumulating an inventory of refined social trappings, there must be something intrinsically unnerving about watching a man like Bernie Sanders, who has never owned a tuxedo in his life, ascending toward the pinnacle of American Power, the presidency itself.

Authenticity matters, but it seldom seals the deal. Bernie is more than just authentic, he passionately stands for something tangible, social and economic justice, and has for all his life. Donald Trump said recently that the reason he obsessively talks about polls is because they say he's winning - if they didn't he wouldn't mention them. That type talk rings true to folks, it too comes across as authentic. So does Trump's admission that he doles out bucks across the political spectrum to curry favors when he wants them. Given a choice between someone who can openly admit to a self serving motif and someone who seems somehow swarmy while trying to con you, most people prefer an “honest” rascal to a deceitful one. But when it comes to electing a leader, what people really want is someone willing to stand up and fight effectively for them.

Unless they are fully embedded on the shrinking side of the divide and conquer culture wars that the American oligarchy ferments to recruit shock troops to work their will; unless they literally belong to that oligarchy or are economically closely dependent on it, Americans understand intuitively that Bernie Sanders stands ready to fight hard for us, that vast majority of us who aren't a part of the one percent. We can see past the clutter of political labels directly to his substance. People recognize a good man and political ally when they see one, and we know Bernie is someone willing to tirelessly go the distance for us. So the last real question then is, can he fight effectively for us? More effectively for our interests than, for instance, Hillary Clinton?

Some say not, his message is too radical. Some say that Bernie Sanders is outside of the mainstream of American politics, but I think that's true of most Americans. It's not so much that we travel in tributaries left or right of center, it's more like we are all up a creek without a paddle, or even worse, stranded high and dry and simply left behind. At some point it starts to sink in that a lesser evil choice, viewed in the broadest sense, still enables evil. 1968 was the last year when at least 60% of Americans of voting age cast ballots in a Presidential election. In 2012 that number was below 55%.

Now though, in some part due to Bernie Sanders - to his strong words and his clear vision, Americans are getting the big picture, and responding. They see corporate mergers and consolidation, factories moving overseas and the loss of good paying jobs. They see the pay of CEO's skyrocket while the wages of typical workers shrink and worker productivity rises. They see climate change they know is real downplayed as a security threat. And they see virtually all of the fruits from a hard fought taxpayer subsidized economic recovery funneled into the hands of a small group of mega wealthy individuals who in many cases were responsible for our economic collapse in the first place. All of that is the result of business as usual, politics as usual, business and politics as usual – the two terms became and are now interchangeable. That is the status quo that Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton, runs so fiercely against. His is a clarion call to action. Hers is steady as you go.

Time is not our friend, we fast are running out of it. Democrats have long pursued incremental changes and those results are already in. It's led to a slow motion catastrophic erosion of the foundation that the Democratic Party once proudly stood on. For most of the last 30 years the Democratic Party has been playing a prevent defense, like a boxer bending over backwards to to avoid being tagged by a powerful right hook – in this case the socialist label. Ever since Ronald Reagan won elections by declaring government the problem Democrats have countered with an asterisk, quietly demurring that actually sometimes it isn't. Republicans so thoroughly succeeded in moving our political landscape to the right that it no longer took an accusation of harboring communist sympathies to make a Democratic politician quiver, simply being called a liberal was enough to make them sweat.

In recent years more Democratic leaders have become both loud and proud in regards to social issues, issues that Bernie Sanders has fought for all his life. Social issues don't directly challenge the economic elite. Democratic Socialism, or whatever else you choose to call it, however does. When FDR became president he called his political vision for America “The New Deal”. LBJ later called his “The Great Society”. But gone were the days, until now, when Democrats seeking the presidency spoke with clarity and urgency about economic justice, about confronting and overturning the prevailing status quo. Their ability to do so has sharply been curtailed by an economic order that makes the very practice of politics itself dependent on the largess of a donor class, with typical Americans rarely represented by them. None of this is breaking news. It's a deteriorating situation we have lived with a long while. It's the preset course we've been sailing on for years but only Bernie Sanders, among those who seek our nation's highest office, is prepared to rock the boat.

Looking back now it's easy to overlook that when Barack Obama first ran for the presidency he pointedly did not do so as a progressive. Though positioned to the left of John McCain, it would have been difficult for any national Democrat to flunk that ideological test. Barack Obama was the man who once saluted purple state America, who sought to blur our ideological distinctions rather than campaign directly on them. Given my choices I had no problem supporting Obama/Biden over McCain/Palin. But I wasn't surprised either when President Obama later singled an openness to “Third Way” thinking during deficit reduction negotiations with Republicans.

In the face of the greatest economic crisis the world has faced since the Great Depression Obama exhibited far greater common sense than his opposition. He fought for bailing out the Auto Industry along with bailing out Wall Street. He fought for extending unemployment benefits along with extending Bush tax cuts. But there was no sweeping “New Deal” agenda in response to the Great Recession. Clearly our economy needed an economic infusion and President Obama responded with a large stimulus package. Seeking bi-partisan support, the one he ultimately backed included roughly equal parts new spending and tax cuts, though most leading economists agreed that money directly spent on job creation gave a far more potent stimulus effect on the overall economy than broad tax breaks.

In response to a long festering crisis, to his credit Obama tackled the health care issue during his first term, passing landmark legislation in the Affordable Care Act . It was openly modeled on the pro private insurance approach pioneered in Massachusetts by then Republican Governor Mitt Romney, which itself was built on concepts backed by Republican Senate leader Bob Dole in opposition to a plan being advocated for by then First Lady Hillary Clinton. Millions of Americans gained new coverage under Obamacare, millions more remain uncovered. After paying for premiums, high deductibles and co-pays, further millions can't afford to use the coverage that they have.

All that occurred during our most recent Democratic Presidency. The one before that deregulated Wall Street, instituted strict welfare reforms, and pushed for mandatory sentencing. By now the pattern should be clear to Democrats. After ceding the Republicans a permanent home field advantage, whenever contemporary (previously called “new”) Democrats get to reoccupy the White House they work for incremental advances over the preceding Republican benchmark. Whenever Republicans retake the presidency we suffer massive setbacks. Even putting aside the Tea Party for a moment, one can simply compare official Republican and Democratic party agendas for America and that dynamic becomes obvious. Republicans representing the billionaire class are seldom timid about going for the throat. One step forward, five steps back is not a winning formula for positive social change, but that is the dance that the band keeps playing. Incrementalisn won't deliver us from this crisis, it's just a slow set up for an inevitable crash.

One sixth of all Americans living in poverty, the greatest disparity in incomes since the eve of the Great Depression, I like so many others felt impotent as an individual to alter the course our nation is on. The insiders are all in on it. The outsiders have no seats at the table nor the means to have their voices heard. At best we get offered crumbs by the wealthy; a job retraining program here, lower interest student loans there, a bump up in earned income credits or penalty free IRA withdrawals. And then the wheel will spin again until Republicans manage to get their hands on all the levers for one year, and there goes Social Security and the arctic wilderness, and that is just for starts.

We've all seen this movie and we don't like how it ends, but nothing will change if we don't throw out the current script and fundamentally rewrite it. None of us can do that alone, not even a feisty old Democratic Socialist like Bernie Sanders. But if enough of us rally around him, support him and defend him; working together with him we can get this done – if we possess the courage of our convictions. I look to the past and I see a time when African Americans were slaves – and huge wealth depended on them remaining so. I look to the past again and see a time when women didn't have the right to vote, when governments run by men could legally exclude women from that “privilege”. I look to the past, but that past has changed.

When I look to the future I see younger generations of Americans taking over the reigns of leadership at every level of our society. I am sixty six years old but I can look at them and recognize their fight for a future that they will inhabit for better or for worse. And I know we can not morally impede their finest aspirations, nor assume that what seems impossible today will not be possible soon, in the America that they will inherit and guide forward. Who are we to tell them what can't be done? I see them supporting Bernie Sanders for President this year. I think they understand where our nation needs to head toward a more just and secure future, and how we must work to get there, if only the rest of us will just join with them and not stand in their way.

Sanders has more Foreign Policy experience than 5 of the last 6 first term Presidents. Just Sayin...

Going back to 1976 - that's 40 years - the only person to have moved into the White House with more foreign policy experience than Bernie Sanders has now was George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988. And Bernie Sanders actively took part in the Congressional debate about going to war with Iraq, probably the biggest foreign policy blunder in any of our lifetimes. Unlike many leading Democrats, Sanders got it right,

I don't deny that Hilary Clinton has more foreign policy experience that Bernie Sanders does. And it isn't news to anyone how both of them voted on the Iraq War Resolution. But I think most people have lost sight of the fact that America traditionally elects Presidents who enter office with precious little foreign policy experience to speak of, and this world has been a dangerous place for as long as I can remember. Bernie Sanders has far more personal experience than most new presidents have regarding national security PLUS his judgement has already been tested - when it mattered most.

The Establishment Alarm: "First they came for Hillary..."

They can no longer afford to say nothing after Bernie Sanders zeroed in on the large sums of money establishment politicians routinely solicit and receive from Wall Street and the Billionaire class as an issue in the 2016 campaign. It was one thing for Bernie to shout "Enough is enough, the rich can't have it all". There is nothing that makes a Democratic politician uncomfortable in agreeing with that sentiment. It wasn't much more threatening when Bernie condemned a campaign finance system that allows the super wealthy to invest unlimited amounts of money to purchase the political results they want - in the abstract almost all of them agree and many want that changed. But with the last Democratic Debate Bernie turned a page. He began naming names, starting of course with Hillary Clinton and the huge speaking fees she received from Goldman Saches. That made it personal.

The truth is that in our current political environment almost all politicians running for high state or national offices have to either be immensely wealthy themselves, or on very close terms with a number of people who are. Money is the life blood of politics. Election campaigns bleed cash and politicians need frequent transfusions. That's not even talking about the truly corrupt ones who are essentially in this foremost to become quite wealthy themselves. Most of today's politicians are unable to live off the land the way Sanders can. They don't have a clue how to build a real people powered campaign funded by hundred of thousands of small donors. Instead they do what bank robbers have always done - they go to where the money is. In this case banks look forward to these "transactions", they are strategic investments rather that robberies - unless you count the effect on our Democracy.

I think it is making a lot of Democratic politicos of all sorts quite uncomfortable to watch Hillary Clinton get called out before a nation wide audience over the large sums of money she's received and continues to receive from special moneyed interests It starts cutting a little too close to home. Who will the pitch fork mob come after next? That's one reason I think the red baiting has begun, and why it is now a chorus of voices yelling, "Don't you know that he's a SOCIALIST?"

On Health Care: It's not about a legislative agenda, it's about a clear vision forward

Hillary Clinton fundamentally misreads how a debate over American Health Care now plays out with the public. It's the Republicans who call for repeal and replace (in that order) of Obamacare, not Bernie Sanders. Yes, Sanders extols the virtues of a rational health care system for America, one that would truly cover all of us while rolling back and containing the costs that are bleeding so many of us dry. He makes the case for Medicare for All because he actually believes in it and knows that when we eventually implement such a system our nation will be the better for it. That in a word is called leadership.

But Bernie Sanders never talks about rolling back any of the hard fought health care gains that we have already won. Neither has he ever claimed that in his first, second, or even fourth year in office that his administration would sign legislation into law that will replace the Affordable Care Act with Medicare for All. Bernie simply refuses to take his eye off the eventual goal, because it is a highly worthwhile one, whether it comes to fruition in 2017, 2019, 2025 or later. Bernie Sanders is behaving like a true Democrat in that regard.

But not just that, Sanders is exhibiting the type of political courage in defense of most Americans that has so set him apart in this election year from what we have all long come to expect from our mainstream political class. He will not shy away from what he knows is right simply because it temporarily is not politically viable. Hillary Clinton believes that points to a weakness in Bernie Sanders because he likely will be unable to soon deliver on this core economic premise of his platform for America when he is inaugurated as our president. Bernie Sanders has never said that he could. That is not a weakness.

Bernie Sanders combines clear eyed realism with an uplifting vision for America, he is that political rarity - the pragmatic visionary. Martin Luther King Jr. once so famously said "I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you...". That wasn't an admission of defeat, it was clear headed idealism, what America at its best has always been about. If you can not articulate a goal you are unlikely to ever achieve it. The party of FDR was never timid about fighting for transformative social change. Is that still our Democratic Party?

Trump Brags About Buying Politicians - Because It's Good for His Business

Given that few major political figures in American, aside from Bernie Sanders, seem willing to define themselves as anything other than being Pro-Capitalist, wouldn't they agree that CEO's of large successful corporations probably recognize a good investment opportunity when they see one? No one argues that political contributions are a form of charity, they are openly made in the hope of achieving political objectives. When those contributions come from business entities, they are made to further their business interests.

There are all kinds of initiatives that any given business may make, different ways of investing resources in the hopes of a favorable outcome. Granted there are some investments that might look promising initially but simply don't pan out over time. There are seldom guarantees either in business or in life, nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. But every competent business leader evaluates the investments they make, to see if they are getting a good return on their dollars. If something fails to pan out the way they wanted it to, it is discontinued.

Wall Street is many things, but one thing it is not is a refuge for the intellectually challenged. Wall Street insiders do not repeatedly invest large sums in the same politicians if they don't think those investments buy something of real value to them. If they didn't, those funds would be redirected elsewhere. These are shrewd business people after all, at the top of their game. At the top of the game. And they want to stay there.

Some politicians they out right own. Others they merely get unfettered "access" to. There is a difference between being essentially on the payroll of major contributors, or only being in some way indebted to them. Typically, when we are lucky, that is the difference between the Republican and Democratic candidate - they aren't both totally beholden to Billionaires and corporate financiers.

It is such a pleasure this year though to have one Presidential candidate who literally is beholden only to small donors, average Americans averaging $27 per contribution. Could that be why issues of wealth inequity are being featured in this presidential election race in a way they never have been before?

The Frog in Boiling Water Has Started Feeling The Bern.

OK, the actual science relating to the metaphor, of a frog allowing itself to be boiled to death if the temperature of the water in the pot in which it sits is raised slowly enough, debunks it as a myth. Frogs, it turns out, are not dumb enough to sit still for that type of treatment. Establishment politics though has long operated on the premise that America's general public may be more susceptible to that practice. That belief may be bolstered by stories like this one published by the NY Times in 2009: ”The Dangers of Taking a Dip in the Hot Tub”, where it was reported:

“The annual number of emergency room visits has been steadily rising. In 2007, 6,646 people went to emergency rooms after a hot tub injury, compared with 2,549 in 1990.

About half the injuries were caused by slipping or falling, but heat overexposure was the problem in 10 percent of the accidents...

... The study did not include fatal accidents, but the Consumer Products Safety Commission reported more than 800 deaths associated with hot tubs since 1990”.

An alternate theory for our establishment’s stubborn determination to forge ahead with politics as usual, regardless of the increasing pain being felt by a majority of Americans, might instead be premised on the same observation that Thomas Paine once made in his pamphlet “Common Sense”, written at the dawn of the American Revolution
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”

Two hundred and forty year after the penning of those words there's a chorus of those voices raised today, inveighing against the fundamental premise of Bernie Sander's 2016 presidential campaign, that our current political system works against the interests of average Americans. They shout from all points on the long recognized spectrum of “respectable” political opinion in America, which is to say from the slightly left of center to the hard core right. Opinions like those held by Bernie Sanders until now have routinely been dismissed as “fringe” and “well outside the mainstream” by long reigning “conventional wisdom”.

Conventional wisdom has also long held that the only way to keep Social Security solvent is to reduce adjustments made for inflation in payments made to beneficiaries, and to force seniors to wait longer to become eligible for benefits, while workers in their 50's and 60's get culled from management positions and are forced to compete to become door greeters at Walmart. Conventional wisdom, at least according to Congress and most leading presidential candidates, also considers an income of a quarter million a year to be middle class.

At a time when one out of six Americans, and over a fifth of children under 18, live in poverty (officially defined as an annual income of less than $18,500 for a family of three) our political class places a higher priority on shielding the earnings of those making hundreds of thousands a year from any additional “tax hit” than it does on eliminating the suffering of children in families earning below twenty grand a year.

All of the mania surrounding recent Powerball drawings pegs that Lottery as our current “go to” portal for get rich instantly fantasies, but it wasn't always America's most coveted jackpot. For a generation that distinction was held by the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, the folks who showed up on your doorstep with a banner and a check. Back when the Bush tax cuts were about to expire in 2012, President Obama sought to let them for all above the middle class. A hue and cry subsequently arose over how to define Middle Class income. Obama proposed that couples with incomes less than $250,000 should not be subject to higher taxes. Ultimately, after battles in Congress, that line got drawn at $450,000 for a married couple ($400,000 for an individual), below which they could keep all of their Bush tax cuts. So here's where the Publisher's Clearinghouse comes in.

Simultaneous with that high profile national debate over protecting the tax cut for middle class families, the Publisher's Clearinghouse came up with a brand new giveaway gimmick to excite and entice the masses into subscribing to their magazines. Instead of just giving away ten million dollars like they had been doing, they announced a five thousand dollars a week for life grand prize that some lucky person already held the winning number for. Five thousand dollars a week for life, that's the stuff that dream are made of for hundreds of millions of Americans. That happens to equal an income of $260,000 a year.

The Publisher's Clearinghouse is still selling magazines off of their fabulous $260,000 a year for your life (and your heir's now also) grand prize, while Hillary Clinton is making new vows to shield middle class incomes up to $250,000 a year from any increase in taxes. What's wrong with this picture? Maybe it's the people who are not in it, the ones who have no say when it comes to establishing conventional wisdom – or defining the middle class: the ones trying to get by on something closer to the median national income of $50,000 a year. The ones for whom $250,000 is a fortune.

Tens of millions of American voices have long been ignored by the gate keepers of establishment politics. They were the trees not heard falling off in some distant forest, far removed from the corridors of power. Those not listened to are seldom represented. The status quo depends upon estrangement, and long has grown accustomed to elections where most potential voters stay home instead. That's what happens when people tire of voting for the lesser evil, and winning even less than that. That's what happens when the establishment's “long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right”. Tens of millions of Americans live in poverty while America’s 185 wealthiest clans are collectively worth $1.2 trillion. The system that enabled this is called politics as usual.

Bernie Sanders though is not politics as usual, and the response he has gotten on the campaign trail since he announced his bid for the presidency has been anything but politics as usual. If Sander's views are seen as falling outside the mainstream of American politics that's only because the stream bed is engineered and runs through concrete culverts, narrowly defined and carefully controlled by banks that direct it.

It took Bernie Sanders a slow tenacious life time of hard political work directly pitted against prevailing establishment interests to rise to the rank of Senator from the small state of Vermont, where it was possible for many of his constituents got to know and respect him personally. It took a global financial melt down in 2008 to provide Sanders with a platform dramatic enough for his message to break through nationally. It's a message that resonates easily though when people finally hear it, because they already know it in their bones. It is a call to action, and the frog is feeling the Bern.

Hillary Clinton is now campaining against Single Payer health insurance

Gone are the days when establishment and center left Democrats hid behind the argument that although Single Payer has a lot going for it, it is simply not possible to get such a system established here because the American public and political system are too resistant to it. That is the line that Barack Obama took when he worked on his Affordable Care Act proposals. He essentially said that Single Payer is a political non starter but he did not argue against its merits and advantages.

When Clinton says something like the following she is intentionally framing Single Payer in a negative light, by belittling what it has to offer the American people and by stressing Republican talking points against it - conveniently leaving out the financial windfall that our families and the economy itself will benefit from by no longer having to pay premiums to the private sector in order to have health insurance. She also omits any acknowledgement of the cost cutting efficiency that a Single Payer system offers America.

"I think one can only draw the conclusion that the Sanders campaign does not want to outline what would amount to a massive across the board tax increase," said Jake Sullivan, senior policy adviser for Hillary for America. "They want to essentially create a circumstance in which they try to lead voters to believe they can implement single-payer health care at no burden to anyone and everyone would be better off."

That is the type of statement I expect to read from someone like Ted Cruz, not from someone who bills herself as "a progressive Democrat".

There is No National Leader Other than Sanders Ready to Directly Confront the Uber Rich's Power

It really boils down to that. Greed is this nation's cardinal sin; the lust for power and possessions, the addiction to conspicuous consumption, the hoarding of precious resources for the egotistical pride of ownership. Greed has become so ubiquitous that it is no longer recognized as unethical, let alone immoral, to embrace it. Most of the super rich believe that they deserve everything that they have, that they have in some way earned it all. And that they are fully entitled to acquire even more regardless of how much human suffering caused by basic deprivation multiplies around them. The standard by which their actions are now judged isn't ethics, it isn't morality, the standard is legislatively defined legality, and even that standard is applied loosely. Loopholes in the law are rarely simple errors, they are almost always intentional evasions of the professed intent of the actual law, ordered by and paid for by those who profit from evading it, made legal through the magic of campaign donations and the boutique hand crafted statures that the uber rich hire lobbyists and lawyers to write for them.

Working people can no longer afford to pay the tab for the limitless sense of entitlement that the ultra wealthy in America are infected with. When we say enough is enough they fundamentally can't grasp that cry because the word "enough" literally has no meaning to them. There is no such thing as enough in their world view, more is always better when it comes to them. And it all seems so very normal to our elites: the way divine rights once seemed normal to royalty, the way slavery once seemed normal to slave owners, and child labor once seemed normal to mill owners.

No doubt many, but by no means all, of the super wealthy work hard in pursuit of their extravagances. No doubt many, but by no means all, of the super wealthy are subject to significant stress in pursuit of their fortunes. But most of the poor work hard in pursuit of basic survival, and are subject to significant stress in a desperate struggle to keep food on their tables and a roof over their heads. What high powered CEO working 60 hour work weeks in the throes of fierce competition faces more stress than a parent who can't assure their child of food or a place to live? And when the wealthy get ill, when life itself lies in the balance, though there may or may not be a cure for what ails them means always exist to pursue any shred of hope in finding one. With the poor though, even when an established treatment holds promise for a cure the means to avail themselves of it frequently is denied. Greed fundamentally dictates the variables in the equation of life and death. It is that simple and that profound.

The last refuge of those who defend the sense of extreme entitlement that the super wealthy take for granted is the concept of some special talents, some special abilities, that make their unique contributions to society worthy of virtually unlimited levels of compensation, even in times of wide spread economic scarcity. How much is the ability to accurately forecast a market trend worth in a year: One hundred thousand, five hundred thousand, five million, five hundred million? Or to repeatedly close complex development deals; ten million, five hundred million, more? How much is a biochemist worth who doggedly pursues a brilliant insight and pioneers a new approach to a cancer treatment? Is it anywhere in the same ball park? Or what about the psychotherapist with the insights and ability to penetrate and sooth a troubled mind before it hardens into that of the next mass murderer? How about those fire fighters who rushed up the second twin tower with their highly disciplined skill set after the first tower had fallen? Are the efforts of one downtown land developer really worth more than the collective contribution of an entire major city fire department?

An oligarchy is blind to questions of basic justice that impedes its sense of privilege. The more powerful it becomes the more power it exerts and the more new power it seeks to accumulate. The difference in the compensation for an average corporate worker and an average CEO continues to grow exponentially while earnings shrink for most Americans, along with the middle class itself. There is nothing about politics as usual that will fundamentally alter this trajectory. This is the status quo of deterioration, the one we have lived with for 40 years - worsening by the decade, that left unchecked ultimately leads to an implosion, an explosion, or both. If and when that occurs it won't really threaten the super wealthy, they have the option of shifting their personal operations to Singapore or wherever else their wealth can buy them all of the perks that they are addicted to. Patriotism in the final analysis means little to a global class of billionaires free to cross most ant border.

Bernie Sanders is alone in the national spotlight right now in speaking unvarnished truth to an increasingly consolidated seat of economic power. Greed is a cancer hollowing out the fiber of our nation and Bernie Sanders has the vision, fortitude, and courage to openly acknowledge and confront it. Our nation needs an attitude adjustment, big time, and not just for the rich; all of us need to examine our consciences. What do we find morally unacceptable, and what will we do politically about it? A day of reckoning is coming, the longer it is put off the more tens of millions will suffer. Explosive change is dangerous and never guarantees a positive outcome. That can be averted, we can still prevail through a peaceful struggle to restore our democracy to one that, in the words of Lincoln,“is of the people, by the people and for the people.” That effort though is far less likely to succeed with leaders who paper over the great economic divide among us, either with platitudes like vows to make America great again or with yet another round of window dressing proposals.

We need a president unafraid to tell it like it really is, in the daily lives of most of our citizens; one willing to take on the full force and fury head on of those who have presided over the virtually complete transformation of our once vibrant democracy into an oligarchy. If not Bernie Sanders now, who then, and when?
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