More Interesting Times

I’ve been talking with several women friends over the last few weeks who I’ve found in nearly the same position as I am.  Financials are terrible, prospects dim – and none of us are blaming President Obama.  We’re smart enough to understand that the republicans in Congress had a mandate to make President Obama a one-term President, and I hope they’re wrong.  Mitt Romney would be a ghastly choice as President.  The republicans in Congress have consistently blocked legislation, have not worked on jobs, as they said they would, and this hell we’re currently in started a long time ago.  Who was the last President to balance the budget?  Bill Clinton.  The wars we’ve been in, and are still in, the tax cuts for the rich, regulation repeal, and Citizen’s United vs. The Federal Election Commission, along with an already dire need for campaign finance reform before that disastrous Citizen’s United decision sided with corporations and made political spending – made money – a form of ‘free speech’, have all contributed to the place we’re now in.

Republican leaders know that there is no way America would elect Mitt Romney, so they’ve changed voter laws in many states where republicans are in power.  Of course, the changed voter rules make it disproportionately harder for minorities and those with low-incomes to vote.  Voter suppression is far more dangerous to our democracy than voter fraud, of which there is little, even though it does happen.  It also happens with all parties and not with one political faction.

Democracy requires vigilance, but when you have campaign money flowing like never before from large companies who no longer have to disclose their donors, and from individuals like the Koch brothers who can lose a million dollars and not notice, the requirements of maintaining a healthy democracy are seriously impinged – which, of course, is the new republican strategy.  Those hate-filled extremists seek to re-institute ‘unfettered capitalism’, with an added dose of theocracy.  Because we all miss the days when there were no labor laws keeping our children out of factories and coal mines, etc., and back when companies could dump raw sewage and toxic chemicals wherever they wanted because no one was stopping them.  Ah, yes, those were the days…  Combining a free-for-all market with theocracy will be a powerful cocktail to help keep the lowly from rising up, at least until another revolution happens.  It’s a short step to say that GOD wants you where you are in life or you would have been born rich, or able to otherwise succeed.  And why wouldn’t those with power and money want that?  They’ll never have to pay the piper, and nor will their successive generations with their trust funds and iron grip on the nation.  It’s only the middle class and the poor who will suffer even more.

I wonder how many people know about the Mormon mandate to take over the United States Government?  It is the only religion with that express purpose.  Other religions try to inject their beliefs into legislation, and would like to make America a theocracy on principle, but Mormon leaders indoctrinate their followers to believe that Mormons will rule America.  I don’t care what people personally believe, but when they try to legislate their fanaticism, that’s when it gets ugly.

Are people paying attention to what’s been happening?  Birth control, abortion rights, equal pay for equal work – all on the line!  Stopping that crazy train is of utmost importance, and that requires participation in our democracy by voting, being politically educated, and actively supporting candidates who will fight to retain the rights that were already fought and died over.  We’re not going back to those dark times, not if I can help it.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

As The Pendulum Swings

A friend and I were debating about taxes and about living in a society rather than as outlaws and renegades.

She thinks everyone should pay the same tax, regardless of income and I disagree.  It’s not about merit that I agree or disagree.  Certainly there are those who are content to not work and subsist on what they are given or can steal, and there are those who work ceaselessly and still never make enough to even be called ‘middle class’.

I’m not debating about how we got into the mess we’re in, or the ridiculous tax code, although those are issues to deal with – and in fact, form the crux of the solution through true reform rather than lip service and reneging on deals, or perpetual amendments.

My conclusions are based on my personality, and what I’ve been through or witnessed in this world, so of course I’m biased.  Every last one of us is biased depending on our brain structure and/or our life filters.

Corporations should pay a higher tax rate than solitary citizens when they make higher profits, and especially when they are a type of business that uses resources directly, but also indirectly.  We all use our planet for sustenance, but those who use greater resources need to pay to play.  Industries who are reaping greater profits than at any other time in history, such as the oil and gas industries, should not be government ‘welfare recipients’ in the form of subsidies.

My friend argued that someone working harder than others shouldn’t be penalized by having to pay higher taxes, and while I heard her argument, I disagree.  I don’t think the taxes should be burdensome, and I think that higher rates should apply after a certain threshold, but I question what ‘working harder’ means.  If she works for a company that compensates her well, and she was lucky enough – because I do know that some people are in a better position than others through birth or by chance, as she was and is – then that is good for her, but there are others working just as hard, and actually harder than her at multiple jobs that won’t hire full-time workers so they don’t have to pay insurance, and those people are not making nearly the wages she is.  I know she doesn’t want to have to help lazy users as she envisions her tax dollars going, and those people shouldn’t be helped if that’s an honest assessment, but the majority of people are working hard and still not making ends meet.

Those tax dollars do a lot to ease the burden of those trying to better themselves by making education less expensive or having more dollars available to help pay for an education that will help those people get better jobs.  Those tax dollars help keep our food supply safer by having more food inspectors.  Those tax dollars help keep art and music programs available which enrich our lives and broaden our minds as surely as any core subject does, and perhaps even better as art and music stirs our creative selves helping us to bring more to our life as well as others’ lives.

Tax dollars help pave our roads, build bridges, and keep police, firefighters and other local, state and federal workers.  Those tax dollars also help the poor get health services, along with giving the elderly and infirm an income – however meager.

A majority chose this as our social standard when the economy went to hell over half a century ago, and it helped build a middle class in this country that was strong and relatively stable.  When the more cynical and greedy among us got power they instituted deregulation of polluting industries, of banking and securities, as well as giving corporations and the wealthy even more money and power by declaring money as a part of free speech in the horrid FEC v. Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision.

Now some in the Republican party are hell-bent on breaking up unions and trying to send us back as a nation to the robber-baron era of lawless rapaciousness in business and industry.

Democracy is only as strong as its safeguards, and I’ve been noticing a lot more foxes guarding our collective hen-house lately.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Leaving Colorado

When I was nineteen I moved to Boulder, Colorado, to live with one of my sisters who couldn’t find a roommate, so she asked if I would move out there, find work, and help her pay her rent until the lease was up and she could move back east.  I was only out there for six months, but it was quite the journey for me.  We lived near the Flatirons, on Baseline Road.  My sister worked for the University of Colorado at Boulder, and I found office work about a week after I arrived.

Boulder is a beautiful city and my sister and I had a lot of fun doing things like walking around the Pearl Street Mall, and frequenting The Dark Horse, a really cool bar and restaurant just down the road from where we lived.

Our apartment complex had a pool and I taught a few of the younger kids who lived there how to do flips off the diving board.  I remember one girl, Michelle, who was about ten, flipped too close to the board and slammed her head on it.  What an awful moment that was.  I think she got a concussion and came through it alright, but I stopped teaching anyone how to flip after that.  Michelle became one of my constant companions when I was home, and even though she was a kid, I was emotionally immature enough that we got along well.  I think of her now and then and wonder how her life has turned out.  I hope she has had (and is having) an amazing life.

My sister made plans to visit her best friend in Seattle, who was about to have a baby, and I told Michelle that she could come to the airport with us to see my sister off.  I had made friends with a few people from work and they were going to see Jimmy Buffet, at Red Rocks (a gorgeous natural amphitheater concert venue in Morrison, CO), and invited me to go.  I was so psyched for the concert but it fell on the same day as my sister’s departure.  My sister understood and was fine with me not seeing her off, and I decided to just blow off my promise to Michelle about taking her to the airport.  What I didn’t understand was how excited Michelle was about going.  I knew she’d be disappointed so I waited until that day to tell her (hey, I was nineteen and an idiot!).  She wasn’t just disappointed, she was devastated.  I didn’t go to the concert, but was sullen and resentful for most of the way to Denver Airport.  I finally got over myself and had a lot of fun with Michelle, and I’m glad I did the right thing.

The summer went by quickly, as it always does, and my sister mapped out our journey back east.  She wanted to go to Yellowstone Park, and see the Old Faithful geyser on our way back, so off we went.  The small U-Haul my sister rented with the car wasn’t enough to hold all our belongings, so the back seat and the roof of the car was also laden down with our belongings.  We probably should have rented one of the small U-Haul trucks, but it either didn’t fit our budget, or they didn’t have one available.

Our trek back home is memorable for some of the mishaps and not just getting to see the amazing landscape as we went.  Our journey was to take us up through Wyoming, into Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and finally Massachusetts (where I was going back to), and my sister would be driving on to Vermont (where her best friend had moved back to from Seattle).  It was a long, tedious drive from Boulder to Yellowstone Park, but my sister had booked our route to stay at specific motels along the way, so we had a schedule to maintain – which was good – but also added the stress of keeping to a time schedule.

After leaving Yellowstone we were anxious to make it to our motel for that night, and decided to take the advice of a local for a quicker route to our destination.  We were movin’ along, singing and enjoying our journey into Montana when we came upon a sign declaring: Welcome To Wyoming.  We both exclaimed ‘WELCOME TO WYOMING?!’ at the same time, stunned that our hours long drive had taken us back to the state we just left.  Trying to find our way to the right route with only a national map (GPS’s not having been invented for the general public yet, nor had cell phones, or the internet) took us through a small town on a winding road where my sister negotiated a sharp turn too fast and we lost some of the belongings that were tied to the roof.  We found what we could in the dark, secured the load on the roof, and finally made it back to the highway and on to that night’s destination.

The rest of the trip went more smoothly, but we did experience a harrowing ride in rush hour traffic on the outskirts of Chicago.  My sister lost a few more of her belongings on the highway, which we couldn’t stop for, but got the rest tightened up again after that.

While it was wonderful to see so much of the United States, and experience some of our national treasures, and other interesting features along the way, I was never so happy to get back home.  My sister felt much the same, but on her way to Vermont, the rental car broke down, or ran out of gas, I think.  She got some help, but when they got back to the vehicle, someone had stolen the rest of her belongings from the roof of the car.  It was a disappointing end for my sister, having already lost so much on the journey home.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.