This election is about core values – Uptown Neigh­bor­hood News Oct 2012

Commentary by Phyllis Stenerson in Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, MN October 2012 

Once every four years, the American people vote to elect a President to be their leader. Ideally this person will reflect, articulate and seek to advance the best values at the core of America’s experiment in democracy.

The founders were abundantly clear that democracy meant opportunity and justice for all – a revolutionary ideal never before written into a nation’s governing principles. Embedded in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are major declarations of this belief that are repeated in many ways throughout our history.

Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American…America is the only idealistic nation in the world.

Woodrow Wilson

We now have multiple crises so serious that democracy itself is genuinely threatened. The media is focusing on one of the major issues – jobs and the economy. Poverty is almost never mentioned. We have the biggest gap between the extremely rich and the rest of us since the Great Recession of the 1930’s. Some say its worse. Record numbers of poor are living in poverty while the rich get richer.

This mess didn’t just happen. Republicans made it happen, Democrats let it happen and we citizens watched it happen, or not.

When searching for causes, money tops the list. Corporations can now legally contribute an unlimited amount of money to influence elections. Although both of the major political parties are at the receiving end, there is no doubt that much more money goes to Republicans.

America’s corporate and political elites now form a regime of their own

and they’re privatizing democracy.

All the benefits – the tax cuts, policies, benefits – flow in one direction: up.

Bill Moyers

Continuing the quest for cause and effect, religion is high on the list. Freedom of, and freedom from, religion traditionally guided our experiment in democracy and was staunchly defended by both parties until recently.

I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers

to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.

Thomas Jefferson 

We establish no religion in this country.

We command no worship.

We mandate no belief, nor will we ever.

Church and state are and must remain separate.

Ronald Reagan

Now religion is being used selectively to sanctify or vilify public policies. The primary election process, including the party platform, for the Republican Party in 2012 was dominated by conservative extremists with a very narrow definition of religion. Presidential candidates adhered to this rigid ideology to survive the selection process. Republicans are traditionally associated with conservatism which has meant adhering to the tried and true and holding back radical change. That has been flipped on its head with party positions radically at odds with tradition, including thatAmericais a Christian nation and the wall of separation between church and state is wrong. However, this seems to apply more to social issues like women’s health and reproductive rights and marriage equality than it does to economic justice.

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor,

either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are,

or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love

the poor and serve the needy without condition and

then admit that we just don’t want to do it.

Stephen Colbert

You are either on the side of the oppressed or on the side of the oppressor.

You can’t be neutral.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

It has taken a long time to fully accept this sorry situation as reality and to express it publicly. I’m fervently hoping that Americans will reject this extremist conservatism in the November elections. It will most likely be difficult for many who have cherished recollections of moderate conservatism, and perhaps negative feelings about the other party. I also plead with voters to devote hearts, minds and energy to restoring balance in the coming years.

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.

Aldous Huxley

Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.

Albert Einstein 

Righteousness exalts a nation. Hate just makes people miserable.

Fannie Lou Hamer

 

Phyllis Stenerson is the previous Editor of the Uptown Neighborhood News. Information providing context can be found at www.ProgressiveValues.org. Comments can be sent to Phyllis@progressivevaluess.org.

‘Born on Third Base’: How the Wealthy Inherit the Earth by Common Dreams staff

Common Dreams, September 19, 2012 

The real story told by the Forbes 400 is about privilege and the growing inequality in both wealth and opportunity

Gushing over the wild financial wealth of individuals, The Forbes 400: The Richest People In America In 2012 — released today online and heading to newstands nationwide—pays homage to the clichéd platitude that America is the land of opportunity for hard-working, gutsy entrepreneurs and great wealth is merely evidence of great accomplishment.

Unfortunately, according to a new report by Massachusetts-based United for a Fair Economy, the Forbes 400 does not tell the whole story of wealth in America. In fact, the authors of the report argue, the list of the country’s richest people tells the story of a nation where being born into wealth or inheriting great sums from a departed spouse are by far the most common paths to financial fortune.

Taking a close look at last year’s list of wealthiest people, the UFE discovered that roughly 40% of the individuals who appeared on the 2011 Forbes list received a “significant economic advantage in their lives by inheriting a sizeable asset from a spouse or family member.” Strikingly, more than 20% received sufficient wealth to make the list from this inheritance alone.

Timed to coincide with this year’s list from Forbes, the UFE report, Born on Third Base: What the Forbes 400 Really Says About Economic Equality and Opportunity in America (pdf), seeks to show that the highly-touted list actually misleads about the sources of wealth and opportunity for many of those who appear on it.

“Each story calculatedly glamorizes the myth of the ‘self-made man’ while minimizing the many other factors that enable wealth, such as tax policies, other government policies that favor the wealthy, and the importance of being born to the right family, gender and race.”

Forbes claims that their list of the 400 richest people is ‘the definitive scorecard of wealth’ in the United States, but UFE rebuffs that assertion, saying that the narrative of wealth and achievement pushed by Forbes ignores the other side of the coin— namely, that the opportunity to build wealth is not equally or broadly shared in contempory society.

According to the report:

  • · The net worth of the Forbes 400 grew fifteen-fold between the launch of the list in 1982 and 2011, while wealth stagnated for the averageU.S. household.
  • · The racial wealth divide is starkly apparent from the overwhelming whiteness of the list. The 2011 Forbes 400 had only one African American member.
  • · Women accounted for just 10% of the 2011 list, and of the women on the list nearly 90% inherited their fortunes.

In addition, the report points out that (and the new 2012 list from Forbes shows continuation of this trend) the rich in 2011 got richer as the poor got poorer. The growing wealth inequality, the report says, is not due to any inherent brilliance or dynamism of the wealthy, but because of carefully crafted policy and legislative reforms enacted by government at the behest of the these same individuals.

Two examples cited by the report which directly impact the ability of the rich to retain and pass along their enormous assets:

  • · Tax rates on capital gains have been slashed, which especially benefits members of the Forbes list. The richest 0.1% receive half of all net increases in capital gains.
  • · Drastic cuts to the federal estate tax passed in the Bush tax cuts and the 2010 Obama tax deal allow the Forbes 400 to pass on more of their massive fortunes to their heirs, contributing to the growth of inequality and entrenching a class of super-wealthy heirs.

For its part, and despite the critical tone of the report, United for a Fair Economy says its efforts are not an attempt to “shame or belittle wealth or success.”

“Instead,” the authors maintain, “we aim to ask why certain representative individuals are on the list in order to reach a better understanding of wealth in theUS. Such questions should lead to an important conversation about economic mobility, as well as the rules and loopholes that allow people to create wealth in the first place.”

Check out the ‘Born on Third Base’ tumblr page, where some of the Forbes 400 make the All-Star Team. Read the full report here.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/09/19-7

 

Redistributing wealth upward by Harold Meyerson

Washington Post, September 25, 2012

excerpt

Which is the more redis­tri­b­u­tion­ist of our two par­ties? In recent decades, as Repub­li­cans have devoted them­selves with laser-like inten­sity to redis­trib­ut­ing America’s wealth and income upward, the evi­dence sug­gests the answer is the GOP.

The most obvi­ous way that Repub­li­cans have robbed from the mid­dle to give to the rich has been the changes they wrought in the tax code — reduc­ing income taxes for the wealthy in the Rea­gan and George W. Bush tax cuts, and cut­ting the tax rate on cap­i­tal gains to less than half the rate on the top income of upper-middle-class employees.

The less widely under­stood way that Repub­li­cans have helped redis­trib­ute wealth to the already wealthy is by chang­ing the rules. Mar­kets don’t func­tion with­out rules, and the rules that Repub­li­can pol­i­cy­mak­ers have made since Ronald Rea­gan became pres­i­dent have con­sis­tently depressed the share of the nation’s income that the mid­dle class can claim….

The only time in U.S. his­tory when work­ers sub­stan­tially ben­e­fited from pro­duc­tiv­ity gains was the three decades that fol­lowed World War II, when median house­hold income and pro­duc­tiv­ity gains both increased by 102 per­cent. Not coin­ci­den­tally, that was also the only period of gen­uine union power in U.S. his­tory, and the time when the tax code was at its most pro­gres­sive. Dur­ing the past quarter-century, as pro­gres­siv­ity was less­ened and unions dimin­ished, all pro­duc­tiv­ity gains have gone to the wealth­i­est 10 per­cent, accord­ing to research pub­lished by the National Bureau of Eco­nomic Research. In 1955, at the height of union strength, the wealth­i­est 10 per­cent received 33 per­cent of the nation’s per­sonal income. In 2007, they received 50 per­cent, Eco­nomic Pol­icy Insti­tute data show. If that’s not redis­tri­b­u­tion, I don’t know what is.

Indeed, the United State­s has expe­ri­enced an upward redis­tri­b­u­tion so pro­found that it affects far more than incomes. Whole sec­tors of the econ­omy and regions of the coun­try have been dec­i­mated by these eco­nomic changes. The descent in all man­ner of social indexes is most appar­ent among poorly edu­cated whites…over the past 30 years? Many Democ­rats have been com­plicit in this calamity by their indif­fer­ence to the con­se­quences of dereg­u­la­tion and trade. But the tro­phy for pro­mot­ing the poli­cies that have redis­trib­uted wealth, fam­ily sta­bil­ity and longevity upward goes to the Repub­li­cans, whose standard-bearers are cham­pi­oning even more rad­i­cal ver­sions of these poli­cies today…

Full text

Which is the more redistributionist of our two parties? In recent decades, as Republicans have devoted themselves with laser-like intensity to redistributing America’s wealth and income upward, the evidence suggests the answer is the GOP.

The most obvious way that Republicans have robbed from the middle to give to the rich has been the changes they wrought in the tax code — reducing income taxes for the wealthy in the Reagan and George W. Bush tax cuts, and cutting the tax rate on capital gains to less than half the rate on the top income of upper-middle-class employees.

The less widely understood way that Republicans have helped redistribute wealth to the already wealthy is by changing the rules. Markets don’t function without rules, and the rules that Republican policymakers have made since Ronald Reagan became president have consistently depressed the share of the nation’s income that the middle class can claim.

Part of the intellectual sleight-of-hand that Republicans employ in discussions of redistribution is to reserve that term solely for government intervention in the market that redistributes income downward. But markets redistribute wealth continuously. In recent decades, markets have redistributed wealth from manufacturing to finance, from Main Street to Wall Street, from workers to shareholders. Rules made by “pro-market” governments (including those of “pro-market” Democrats) have enabled these epochal shifts. Free trade with China helped hollow out manufacturing; the failure to regulate finance enabled Wall Street to swell; the opposition to labor’s efforts to reestablish an even playing field during organizing campaigns has all but eliminated collective bargaining in the private sector.

The conservative counter to such liberal cavils is to assert that the market increases wealth, which will eventually descend on everyone as the gentle rains from heaven. Decrying such Keynesian notions as unions or federally established minimum wages, hedge fund guru Andy Kessler recently argued in the Wall Street Journal that “it is workers’ productivity that drives long-term wage gains, not workers’ wages that drive growth.”

But Kessler assumes — and this is the very essence of the “trickle-down” argument — that workers reap the rewards of productivity gains. Believing and asserting that requires either ignorance or willful denial of economic history. The only time in U.S. history when workers substantially benefited from productivity gains was the three decades that followed World War II, when median household income and productivity gains both increased by 102 percent. Not coincidentally, that was also the only period of genuine union power in U.S. history, and the time when the tax code was at its most progressive. During the past quarter-century, as progressivity was lessened and unions diminished, all productivity gains have gone to the wealthiest 10 percent, according to research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. In 1955, at the height of union strength, the wealthiest 10 percent received 33 percent of the nation’s personal income. In 2007, they received 50 percent, Economic Policy Institute data show.

If that’s not redistribution, I don’t know what is.

The problem is not just that everyone but the wealthy is claiming a smaller share of the nation’s income; the absolute amount of income they’re getting is declining as well. Median household income has dropped to the levels of the mid-1990s, according to Pew analysis of census data, while the income of the 400 wealthiest Americans rose by a tidy $200 billion last year, according to data released this month by Forbes magazine.

If that’s not redistribution, I don’t know what is.

Indeed, the United Stateshas experienced an upward redistribution so profound that it affects far more than incomes. Whole sectors of the economy and regions of the country have been decimated by these economic changes. The descent in all manner of social indexes is most apparent among poorly educated whites. Conservative commentator Charles Murray has documented in his new book the decline in marriage rates and family stability within the white working class. And now, as the New York Times’ Sabrina Tavernise has reported, that decline includes longevity as well. While other Americans’ life expectancy has advanced, the life expectancy of whites without high school diplomas has declined since 1990 — by three years among men and five years among women.

The market is not just redistributing income in theUnited States, then. It is redistributing life.

So, which party can claim credit for this — the real redistribution this nation has experienced over the past 30 years? Many Democrats have been complicit in this calamity by their indifference to the consequences of deregulation and trade. But the trophy for promoting the policies that have redistributed wealth, family stability and longevity upward goes to the Republicans, whose standard-bearers are championing even more radical versions of these policies today.

A pro-life party? More like its opposite.

meyersonh@washpost.com  

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/harold-meyerson-the-party-that-truly-believes-in-redistribution/2012/09/25/c5877b7a-0740-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines

 

Mitt, Moochers, and Mormonism’s “Other” Legacy

By Mary Barker, Religion Dispatches, September 21, 2012

Growing up with Mormon narratives—a two-part memoir and reflection on the good, the very bad, and a dreamed-for future. -  Mary Barker is a professor of political science at Syracuse University’s campus in Madrid, Spain as well as at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas

There are many stories on which a Mormon is raised: narratives of the elect, America and the Constitution, the latter days, and free agency—all of which play a role in Mitt Romney’s “severe” conservatism. The bombshell release of video in which he trumpets his disdain for moochers, and reveals a remarkably casual approach to Middle East politics, all resonate with the Calvinist heritage of Mormon theology, as well as with principal Mormon narratives. But Mormonism also holds the seeds of a decidedly progressive politics—a possible Mormon liberation theology.

Does Romney’s religion matter? It’s a question that has been asked many times this election season. My answer, below, is in two parts, as I journey from End Times theology (the “latter days”) through Mormonism’s radical social and political past.

I.

I grew up at the end of the world. As a Latter-day Saint, I made my debut just before the final curtain. During my youth, rumors circulated about neighbors and boyfriends whose special “patriarchal blessings” prophesied that they would never taste of death. That fairly clearly set the limit on time. The rebellious Sixties just confirmed what the Cold War had already shown us—that we were in a final showdown with evil that would only get worse until the second coming of Jesus which is now.

Mormons have a smidgen of the survivalist in them. They expect total political and economic collapse, and are instructed to store what has come to be known as the “two-year supply”—a stock of water and imperishable food items to sustain them in the event of (the imminent) catastrophe. My dad used to tell us that he built our ranch to be able to house the extended family during the chaos to come; and possible treks on foot back to Nauvoo,Illinois, the site of the original Garden of Eden and the future New Jerusalem, punctuated normal conversation.

As an elementary school student, I used to draw crayon farms with imaginary fields that could provide for all our needs, and I am still plagued by an obsessive-compulsive ritual that must stem from these days. I harbor secret fears about being able to provide for my own children in the event of apocalypse, and play mental games in which I am magically granted all of the foods (“carrots, peas, beans, corn…”) or personal items (“soap, shampoo, toothpaste…”) that I can pronounce in my head before, let’s say, the subway door closes. (I’ve gotten good at it.)

End Times talk left me with an ingrained pessimism that took years to overcome.

The most sinister elements of the End Times narrative, however, involve the unconscious attitudes and orientations it engenders. These include a lack of social trust, militarism, and narcissism (a preoccupation with one’s own elect status and general safety and an interpretation of scripture in which ancient writings were really meant for us; the people to whom they were addressed being a sideshow in our drama).

Manichean and alarmist, it pits Light versus Dark—extreme dark. Those who belong to the Light “hear my voice” (i.e. recognize and believe the right doctrines—in this case, Mormon) and “follow my commandments,” which favor a “purity” understanding of religion. The Book of Mormon, for example, ranks fornication as “most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood” and Mormon leader Bruce R. McConkie wrote in his encyclopedic Mormon Doctrine that it is better to surrender your life than to allow someone to “steal your virtue,” leaving you “unclean.” It also encapsulates the class understandings of the Calvinist heritage.

Those of the Light should not be hard to identify, then. They are us. In these times, however, the wicked walk the earth disguised as the righteous, deceiving even the “very elect.” Despite a “veneer of piety,” McConkie warned, the Gentiles (non-Mormons) will be subject to “apostate darkness and… every form of evil.” “Any show of godliness is to be in form only,” he cautioned, “not in substance.” For the then-Apostle Ezra Taft Benson, this veneer was evident in the Sixties antiwar movement. He warned the faithful against wearing clothing or otherwise displaying “the broken cross, anti-Christ sign, that is the adversary’s symbol of the so-called ‘peace movement.’” The watchword, then, is beware.

In their nightmare scenarios, harsh punishments await the unbelieving and refractory. McConkie claimed that capital punishment was ordained of God and that sexual “perversions” were “worthy of death.” The fact that Western governments no longer applied such penalties simply attested to their “apostasy.” The God of Mormon scripture stands ready to damn the unbelieving, who are “ripe for destruction.” During the End Times, Jesus will lead God’s army with the “flame of devouring fire” to strike down the wicked, who will be “cast out,” “destroyed”—“the whole vineyard burned”—and become “as stubble.”

End Times talk fosters extremely conservative politics. Every change—in gender roles, in sexual mores, in the religious backdrop of national politics—represents a move toward Satan. This includes constitutional interpretations that allow for a living understanding of its principles. Shrouded in an aura of the Mormon divine, America’s founding documents must be preserved on stone tablets, not allowed to breathe and grow. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “We say that God is true; that the Constitution of the United States is true; that the Bible is true; [and] that the Book of Mormon is true.”

In its brashest manifestations, End Times thinking gives us Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories, with their convoluted reasoning and circuitous connections. What sounds outrageous in the unapologetic, forthright discourse of Beck, however, springs from the unacknowledged or semi-conscious visions of a much larger segment of the population.

I have never met Beck, but I knew him as a child. His name back then was Cleon Skousen, and we had his books. The two brains think alike. Skousen’s The Naked Communist (1958) presented a paranoid and simplistic case for the worldwide Soviet-Communist conspiracy, with pages of instruction urging parents, teachers, students, and ministers to be ever alert to the stealth communist penetration of society (“education was infiltrated by the Socialist-Communist contingent over thirty-five years ago” and they have “ambitions to eliminate all local control”). From exposing left-leaning bias in the media to taking one’s children to church; being active in the PTA (“If you are not, Communists and centralized planners will take over”); fighting against the separation of church and state in the public schools; and subscribing to U.S. News and World Report; we were all to be vigilant or our children and our nation would soon be lost.

The Naked Communist was written at the urging of the Prophet David O. McKay, who also offered financial support; found a publisher; and recommended it over the airwaves at the 1959 Mormon General Conference (or “Conference”), the most important meetings in the Mormon year.

In Skousen’s follow up, The Naked Capitalist (1970), communists had already infiltrated the government, schools, media, and even the churches. Everyone was in on the conspiracy—especially the Democratic Party, but also Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon. He backed his claims by citing the Bible as easily as he did presumed communist insiders, and defended Senator Joseph McCarthy, the “tough, frustrated, American ex-Marine” who was crucified by the “liberal press.”

Skousen casts a long shadow. His work has been praised and promoted not only by Beck, but also by Romney and Rick Perry. At his funeral, Apostle (and now prophet) Thomas S. Monson eulogized him, as did Senator Orrin Hatch from the Senate floor. On occasion, he overstepped even Mormon bounds, however, and the Church eventually withdrew its active support.

“When the Prophet Speaks, the Debate is Over”

Nothing is pounded into a Mormon’s head more firmly than that the Church cannot steer him wrong. From the Prophet Brigham Young in 1870 (“I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture”) to the Improvement Era magazine of 1945 (“When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan—it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe”), the message is clear. The Apostle N. Eldon Tanner put it succinctly in 1979, When the prophet speaks the debate is over.”

“Follow the Prophet” is the theme of children’s songs, refrigerator magnets, breakfast mugs, and board games. The then-Apostle Harold B. Lee added politics: “You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church,” he cautioned. “It may contradict your political views… But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself… the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.’”

No leader was considered more in tune with the Lord’s political counsel than the Apostle and Prophet Ezra Taft Benson, who continues to be read and re-read today. A tireless anti-Communist crusader and admirer of the John Birch Society, Benson’s packaging of the message parallels Skousen’s right down to the racial affronts (he claimed that the civil rights movement was a “tool of Communist deception”). And while the Church could distance itself from Skousen, it could not (and still cannot) from Benson. Moreover, Benson’s jeremiads resonated with that of the Church hierarchy generally. Any who disagreed (rumors abounded) failed to speak publicly.

In Benson’s view, the Book of Mormon (considered a record from the ancient Americas) prophesied the communist conspiracies of his day. God had made this record available to us for our instruction, to learn from them and their destruction. He summed it up best in a Conference talk of 1972 by stating, “There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon. It is a conspiracy fact.” Skousen-like, he saw communism as having already penetrated deep into American society.

That any central planning served demonic ends was as evident to Benson as the Soviet Antichrists who practiced it; and it was as easy for him to make the hop, skip, and jump from central planning to federal regulations and redistribution in democratic societies as it is for Beck to draw straight lines on a chalkboard today. Moreover, since we stood opposed to them, our system—capitalism (already ordained by the Calvinist heritage)—stood as God’s alternative to the socioeconomic designs of the devil. Finally it may be concluded that, as with all things godly, the purer the better. Libertarian economics thus intertwined with cosmic reality to animate policy debates. But even this is an older story of rightward bias.

The Church supported right-to-work legislation even before the dawn of the twentieth century. As early as 1886, the Deseret News opposed any binding union activities. The Apostle Joseph F. Merrill, speaking at the 1941 Conference, referred to closed shops as “Satan’s club,” and in 1965, the Prophet David O. McKay wrote to Mormon congressmen urging them to protect right-to-work legislation in the name of “free agency.”

“That’s Not Flip-Flopping”

A key principle of Mormon theology, “free agency” is foundational, with roots extending all the way back to the Mormon pre-earthly existence, which was also the scene of a momentous battle. God had centered his plan for our earthly salvation on freedom, and had to defeat the followers of Lucifer, who proposed to force us all to obey God and thus guarantee our eternal reward. Ironically, however, Mormon leaders don’t apply the concept where it seems to fit best (the freedom to “sin”) but instead to economic policy, where it is largely irrelevant. Lucifer would have forced us to obey God’s commandments, not tampered with tax schedules.

Nevertheless, “free agency” became the rallying cry of right-wing politics; one in which no distinction was made between totalitarianism and the American safety net. Benson argued that supporting the “weak, indolent, and profligate,” was “economic and social cannibalism,” and that we shouldn’t “deny the fruits of success to those who produce.” Cleverly drawing on John Locke (Thomas Jefferson is cited only as a proponent of private charity), he contended that welfare programs were the “legalized plunder” of “unscrupulous individuals” and that the minimum wage would inevitably end in “totalitarianism.” Even a little bit of socialism was bad, he argued, being akin to “a little bit of theft or a little bit of cancer.”

The choices were stark; no less than between “God and liberty” or “atheism and slavery” (Conference, 1965). Benson even urged Mormons to precipitate Church leadership in the struggle, thereby proving their “valiance.” The devil had succeeded in “neutralizing much of the priesthood” (Mormon men), he argued. “To have been on the wrong side of the freedom issue during the war in heaven meant eternal damnation,” and nothing less hangs in the balance today. The “choice spirits” take the lead, he cajoled; they don’t wait “to be commanded in all things.” After all, the prophecy did not say that the Church would save the Constitution, but rather that the “elders of Israel” would. “What are you waiting for?” he wondered.

In the style of Beck, he claimed that to remain on the sidelines was akin to collaboration with Hitler. “There has never been a greater time to stand up against entrenched evil.” What counted as evil? “No matter what you call it—communism, socialism, or the welfare state—our freedom is sacrificed,” He went on to mention both the minimum wage and foreign aid.

Individual welfare initiatives, he warned in 1966, though seemingly innocuous, nevertheless represented the small doses of Satan’s piecemeal advance. Once again the rallying cry goes out: “Are you prepared to see some of your loved ones murdered, your remaining liberties abridged… and your eternal reward jeopardized?”

If this all sounds eerily like Tea Party madness, then you’ll understand why Utah is awash in it, but End Times talk isn’t just about communism and its supposed cousin, the welfare state. Big Conspiracies are on the move. Any large, powerful organization of global reach (except the US military) is suspect.

LaVerkin, Utah, for example, passed an ordinance in 2001 making it a “United Nations-free zone” (the UN being a “sign of the times” and a horrendous mistake that Skousen thought we should rectify). The law banned the UN from La Verkin and required anyone collaborating with it to file an annual report and post a sign in the window stating, “United Nations Work Conducted Here.” It also protected native La Verkin soldiers against UN “involuntary servitude.”

The Cold War is over; both Benson and Skousen are dead; but End Times influence lives on. Even those who might squirm at the more brazen scenarios may nevertheless have absorbed some of the assumptions; namely that the good works of outsiders prove nothing about their intentions; we can only trust our own (if Eisenhower is suspect, how much more so a Muslim Kenyan); and we must turn back the tide of welfare encroachment.

End Times talk is all about division—it’s us versus them. Ironically, Mormons are so trusting of us that Utah has become the scam capital of America, and the them is so politically skewed that no amount of good works on the part of the political left frees it of suspicion, nor does any scandal or plunder detract from the right’s “elect” status.

Despite his profligate past (as the pro-choice governor of Massachusettsand author of Romneycare), Mitt is one of the Mormon us. My mom tells a Romney redemption story that illustrates this us-them divide. She did not vote for Senator Kerry in the 2004 presidential election because, as she explained it, he “flip-flopped.” So when the next election rolled around, I teased her about her support for Romney, pointing out that he, too, had “flip-flopped”—and on issues important to the faith. “That’s not called flip-flopping,” she replied, “That’s called repentance.”

II.

When I first cut my teeth on politics as a young adult, my dad and I had an argument in which he said (hyberbolically, and for effect) that he wished that he could resurrect FDR just in order to shoot him. So intertwined is Mormonism with the socioeconomic status quo that its Utah members often take the Republican Party to be God’s Party.

Mormon Utah is arguably the most conservative state in the Union, being the only one in which the third-party candidate for president in the 1992 election, Ross Perot, finished second, beating Bill Clinton. Mormon narratives borrowed from Calvinism favor the job-creating elite (heroes among the Mormon “elect”) and speak words of tough love to the unregenerate poor. Others borrowed from John Nelson Darby and the Dispensationalists place us at the end of the world in a Manichean showdown with evil. These narratives foster a “severely conservative” politics.

Yet neither exhausts the plethora of Mormon narratives, and the minority of Mormon Democrats finds plenty of sustenance in their religious tradition as well. Take my father, for instance. Despite his words and ballots cast, my Republican dad acted with the noblesse oblige of a Roosevelt. As the police commissioner for Salt Lake City, he donated a pay raise to buy sports equipment for the Central City Community Center, and when the Republicans tried to block the police from forming a union, my dad not only defended their right to it, but also helped them to set it up.

My mom was surprised one morning by a Native American gentleman at the doorstep who handed her an envelope full of cash. It turns out that, years before, my dad, a lawyer, had defended the tribe’s water rights and never sent a bill. Now that it had the money, the tribe wanted to pay.

The Democrats of Utah loved him. A professor of mine once congratulated me in the hallway—for my dad’s great work, he said. The last fifteen years of my dad’s career were spent in the consumer protection division at the Attorney General’s office, mostly fighting Utah Power & Light. So while my dad may have followed Calvinist and End Times political imperatives at the ballot box, he was a “King Benjamin” at heart.

The temporal and spiritual leader of Zarahemla (a Book of Mormon people), King Benjamin gave a long discourse that Mormons quote much like other Christians do the Sermon on the Mount. It includes plenty of hellfire and damnation, but also this: “I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” It goes on to warn against denying the petition of anyone for sustenance or aid by claiming, for instance, that the petitioner deserves his fate:

Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I… will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance… But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent… For behold, are we not all beggars?

If End Times talk is closed and divisive, King Benjamin talk is open and charitable, releasing some of the puffed up air of the “elect.” Kindness; compassion, service; they are so much the currency of religion that it’s sometimes easy to overlook them, but Mormons spend more of their time thinking about how to help the neighbors than they do worrying about communist teachers in the schools.Utah breathes volunteerism just as it does Tea Party platitudes, and the two are not unrelated; for the best of conservatism isn’t about astringent Calvinism, but rather the efficacy of private action.

Even critics of Mormonism attest to this spirit of King Benjamin in their characterization of them as “unceasingly kind.” Matt Stone, co-creator with Trey Parker of South Park, whose episode on the Joseph Smith story is punctuated with the musical refrain “dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb,” has stated that “[e]very Mormon we’ve met is a nice person. And even when they know who Trey and I are from our work—work that some Mormons don’t really like—they’re totally nice to us.”

Beyond individual charity, however, a central pillar of Mormon doctrine is unabashedly communitarian. The initial Mormon movement broke social norms in a way so shocking that they were forced to flee the United States to what was then the wilderness. These early Mormons practiced polygamy, of course, but equally shocking was their following of the United Order—a short-lived communal sharing arrangement that while not eliminating private property altogether nevertheless substantially redistributed land and output for the benefit of all. Considered God’s plan for his children, this moves Mormons beyond individualism and towards a Christian form of socialism. Largely relegated to the dusty past, its theological standing is nevertheless much firmer than any right-to-work politics that has dominated the tradition of late.

Perhaps the best contrast between the jealous End Times mentality and the open King Benjamin heart, however, may be seen in what is referred to now as the “clash of civilizations.” In my day, it didn’t involve Muslims so much as it did Catholics, who are condemned by Mormons much more severely than others in that they are considered responsible for the “great apostasy” of the Church. The Mormon restoration narrative requires, of course, a previous demonic apostasy, and in Mormon Manichean discourse the Catholic Church is scary.

Catholicism, Mormons claim, was founded by “the devil” (Apostle Orson Pratt). It has produced nothing but “famine for the word of God,” profound “intellectual stupor,” and dense “spiritual darkness” (B. H. Roberts, Mormon theologian). In Catholicism, “Satan’s own culture flourished” and its sacraments have “befouled” those originally given by the Lord. The pope is the “son of perdition” and it all reeks with the stench of blasphemy, idolatry, and lust which do nothing but “defile the earth” (Apostle James E. Talmage). It is surely the “Church of the Devil,” the “mother of harlots,” and the “whore of all the earth” (McConkie). My own grandfather contributed to this narrative with works like Apostasy from theDivineChurch.

Yet, a separate narrative softens, if not negates, such judgments. When the first Catholics and Jews trickled into Utah territory, for example, the Prophet Brigham Young opened Mormon churches for their use until they could build their own houses of worship. Knowing something about the Catholic Mass, the Mormon director of the Saint George Tabernacle Choir directed his group in the singing of the Catholic liturgy, in Latin, so that a high Mass could be sung for the newly arrived Father Scanlon in 1873.

Catholics have been extended free airtime on Mormon-owned radio stations and Mormon largesse has contributed to the renovation of the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City as well as to Catholic soup kitchens and other humanitarian efforts. Mormon and Catholic leaders have prayed in each others’ houses of worship and collaborated on a number of political initiatives. Speaking at the commemoration of the Cathedral’s one hundredth birthday, the Prophet Thomas S. Monson acknowledged the ecumenical spirit expressed in its tolling of the bells at the passing of each Mormon prophet since 1919.

Heavenly Mother

Mormonism’s Calvinist heritage is trumped—at least theologically, if not politically—by the United Order and King Benjamin sensitivities. Its Manichean elements have been softened through its coexistence with the flesh and blood faithful from outside the tradition. Other elements of Mormonism similarly cut in more than one way. Central to contemporary debates concerning gender and sexuality, for example, are Mormon narratives of the priesthood (it is only for men) and the family. While the former has been channeled into an attack on feminism (the Church campaigned vigorously against the ERA), it has not prevented the Church from empowering women.

In the nineteenth century, Romania Bunnell Pratt was the second woman doctor west of the Mississippi(1877) and one of many Mormon women of the time who were encouraged to attend universities in the East.Utah Territoryextended women the right to vote as early as 1869, earning it a visit by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Martha Hughes Cannon, a physician (University of Michigan, 1881), and polygamist Mormon wife, successfully ran against her own husband to become America’s first female state senator. This should not be surprising coming from a tradition that includes a goddess, Heavenly Mother.

(Other traditionally marginalized groups may not fare so well with Mormon doctrine. Homosexual unions, for example, run counter to Mormon narratives in a way that working women do not. They challenge not only traditional marriage on earth but the whole cosmic Mormon family plan which requires heterosexual partners that progress to godhood, beget spirit children, and raise families for eternity.)

A Mormon Liberation Theology?

One of the best kept secrets in the tradition is that early on Mormons were overwhelmingly Democrats, so much so that the Prophet Brigham Young assigned certain families to become Republican in order to create a bipartisan environment. Utah voted for FDR four times and Truman thereafter. It did not become solidly Republican until the 1950s, and was undoubtedly influenced by the Cold War and then the turmoil of the civil rights movement and rebellious youth culture. The deal was sealed by Roe v. Wade.

With the Cold War fading, however, apocalyptic narratives may abate, opening space for new “King Benjamin” political alignments. Mormons have not followed some of their Evangelical counterparts in their substitution of Islam for the Soviet menace, for example, and there are no Mormon gaffes on this score akin to those of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Franklin Graham—even though End Times prophesies place Mormons squarely behind Israel in all land disputes with its Muslim neighbors. Abortion remains a challenge, but with no doctrinal obstacles to birth control, Mormons could join hands with likeminded Democrats to forge a more robust policy of prevention.

Most importantly, there are seeds for a Mormon left-leaning politics in its cosmic tales, and perhaps even for a Mormon form of liberation theology. “Free agency,” the lynchpin of the Mormon Plan of Salvation, emphasizes the individual’s right to choose his or her own path (to follow God or to go one’s own way); the narrative of King Benjamin; the United Order; and the conception of a Heavenly Mother (co-equal with God), along with Mormonism’s previous empowerment of women all provide potential resources for a discourse that speaks to the liberation and well-being of all.

So steeped was my childhood in King Benjamin sympathies that I await the catalyst that gives rise to a waiting-in-the-unconscious wave of social justice politics across my beloved Mormon valley. In my own restoration daydreams, the pre-Tea Party Romney once played the role of Nixon opening China—the Mormon politician who flip-flops one last time to let his King Benjamin heart flood the Tea Party plains. While Mitt has since dashed the hopes of this particular fantasy, there are certainly others waiting in the wings.

 

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/atheologies/6412/mitt%2C_moochers%2C_and_mormonism%E2%80%99s_%E2%80%9Cother%E2%80%9D_legacy

 

 

The Real Values Voters Summit by Rev. Peter Morales, UUA

Rev. Peter Morales is President of the Unitarian Universalist Association

HuffingtonPost.com, 09/24/2012

Excerpt

…”Values Voter Summit” recently took place in Washington. I went to the web site and looked at the list of speakers. Of the 73 speakers listed, only 13 were women. Only a tiny handful could be described as people of color. Even more amazing in a political gathering in 2012, I found only one Hispanic surname. One. ¡Dios mío! Take a look for yourself: valuevotersummit.org.

White. Male. Politically ultra conservative. Religiously fundamentalist evangelical. This is a summit of angry white reactionary men. Is this what passes for “values” voting in America? Whose values are being advanced here? And whose values are being rejected?

These people attempt to portray themselves as representing values of religious people. The reality is that the opposite is true. Most religious people do not share the values of the extreme right. As a former parish minister and as the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, I have worked closely with religious leaders of many religious groups. I have worked with Christians who belong to evangelical movements, with Protestants of the mainline denominations and with Catholics. My work brings me into regular collaboration with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs.

We are all values voters. Our values come from the core teachings of our various religious traditions…Here is a list of beliefs and values taught by all the great religious traditions:

Compassion

Everyone matters

Acceptance

Generosity

Peace

Stewardship of the earth

As I decide which candidates to vote for (and to support financially), I want to take my religious values to heart. These are decisions to be made prayerfully. As you and I prepare to vote, let us take our deepest religious values seriously. Let us ask which candidates are committed to building a world that is more compassionate. Which candidate will work to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity? Which one will seek peace among all people? Which one is committed to protect our natural environment?…The real values voters summit takes place on Nov. 6.

Full text

I read that the “Values Voter Summit” recently took place in Washington. I went to the web site and looked at the list of speakers. Of the 73 speakers listed, only 13 were women. Only a tiny handful could be described as people of color. Even more amazing in a political gathering in 2012, I found only one Hispanic surname. One. ¡Dios mío! Take a look for yourself: valuevotersummit.org.

White. Male. Politically ultra conservative. Religiously fundamentalist evangelical. This is a summit of angry white reactionary men. Is this what passes for “values” voting inAmerica? Whose values are being advanced here? And whose values are being rejected?

These people attempt to portray themselves as representing values of religious people. The reality is that the opposite is true. Most religious people do not share the values of the extreme right. As a former parish minister and as the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, I have worked closely with religious leaders of many religious groups. I have worked with Christians who belong to evangelical movements, with Protestants of the mainline denominations and with Catholics. My work brings me into regular collaboration with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs.

We are all values voters. Our values come from the core teachings of our various religious traditions. We — Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs (and others, too) — share a core set of religious beliefs and values that should guide our votes in this election and in every election.

Here is a list of beliefs and values taught by all the great religious traditions:

Compassion — Every religion I know teaches that we should treat one another with compassion. Literally, we should feel one another’s pain and seek to ease that pain.

Everyone matters — I think of Jesus telling his followers that to help the most humble person (“the least of these”) is the moral equivalent of helping Jesus himself.

Acceptance — If we are to be compassionate and if every person matters, then it follows that we should accept one another. For me, that means I need to accept you as you are, whether gay or straight, white or brown, male or female, smart or simple, able bodied or handicapped, Arab or Chinese or African or Indian.

Generosity — All religions teach that we should share. They also teach that avarice is bad.

Peace — If we all matter, then we should live together in peace. And this peace is a lot more than the absence of war. We only have peace when we have some level of mutual respect, understanding and acceptance.

Stewardship of the earth — The great religions teach responsibility across the generations. I have long wondered why many people who believe that every unfertilized human egg is precious are so indifferent to the destruction of the natural environment that sustains all our lives.

As I decide which candidates to vote for (and to support financially), I want to take my religious values to heart. These are decisions to be made prayerfully. As you and I prepare to vote, let us take our deepest religious values seriously. Let us ask which candidates are committed to building a world that is more compassionate. Which candidate will work to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity? Which one will seek peace among all people? Which one is committed to protect our natural environment?

The real values voters summit takes place on Nov. 6. I plan to be there. I plan to vote my religious values. Join me.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-peter-morales/the-real-values-voters-summit_b_1904450.html?utm_hp_ref=elections-2012

America’s Ku Klux Klan Mentality By Lawrence Davidson

Consortium News, September 8, 2012

Excerpt

The Ku Klux Klan… declared mission was to “maintain the supremacy of the white race in theUnited States.” To this end it adopted tactics in the Southern states that would so terrify emancipated African-Americans and their white allies that they would not dare to vote, run for public office, or intermingle with whites except in “racially appropriate” ways…

It was very rare that those involved…were arrested for their actions much less convicted and adequately punished. This, in turn, was possible because of a number of factors:

– First and foremost, the belief that African-Americans, and subsequently all non-whites, were dangerous to “white civilization.” This belief was built into the cultural perceptions of the majority..The nation’s deep-seated history of racism has helped preserve an apparent permanent subset of Americans who grow up with prejudicial feelings against anyone they perceive as a threat to their version of the “American way of life.”

This background can help us understand the ongoing attacks against American Muslims. [5] Since 2010 there has been an increase in the number of attacks on American Muslims, their mosques and other property, as well as American minorities (such as Sikhs) who are regularly mistaken for Muslims…

An important factor in all of this is the role of a number of campaigning politicians [7] who go around proclaiming the threat that American Muslims supposedly represent to the country..

the United States, the nation spent…165 years, building up an “American way of life,” which legitimized discrimination against non-whites… there are still those groups of citizens who are deeply racist…when conditions allow, that racism emerges in a public way, often in hate speech but sometimes more brutally. These extremists are the modern day versions of yesterday’s Klansmen and, given a chance, they will happily commit mayhem in the name of their cherished traditions. American Muslims are now their chief target…

Full text

The Ku Klux Klan [3] (the name derives from the Greek word Kuklos meaning circle with a modification of the word clan added), an American terrorist organization, was founded in Pulaski,Tennessee, in 1865. It was organized by Southerners who refused to reconcile themselves to the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War, and its declared mission was to “maintain the supremacy of the white race in theUnited States.”

To this end it adopted tactics in the Southern states that would so terrify emancipated African-Americans and their white allies that they would not dare to vote, run for public office, or intermingle with whites except in “racially appropriate” ways.

Intimidation took many forms. Non-whites and their allies who sought to assert civil rights were threatened, assaulted and frequently murdered. If they were women, they were subjected to assault and rape. The property of these people was destroyed, their homes and meeting places attacked with bombs or burned. Finally, a favorite tactic was lynching.

Lynching [4] was/is murder carried out by a mob that collectively thinks it is protecting the community and/or its traditions. Between 1882 and 1930, the Klan and allied organizations lynched some 3,000 people, mostly black men. Often the accusation was that the black male victim had sought sexual relations with white women.

It was very rare that those involved in these murders, which were carried out quite openly with little effort to hide identities, were arrested for their actions much less convicted and adequately punished. This, in turn, was possible because of a number of factors:

– First and foremost, the belief that African-Americans, and subsequently all non-whites, were dangerous to “white civilization.” This belief was built into the cultural perceptions of the majority. With rare exceptions, a white person could not grow up in this environment without acquiring a knee-jerk prejudice against non-whites.

– As a result, local white populations, as well as local law enforcement, often sympathized with the Klan, sometimes feared it, or just did not care about what happened to the non-white population.

In the years following the Civil War, the activities of the Klan only subsided when the U.S.government allowed the Southern states to impose laws that prevented African-Americans from voting and acquiesced in a harsh regime of segregation. When the civil rights movement finally took place in the 1960s, the Klan reappeared and participated in the violent opposition to desegregation and racial equality. This abated only when the federal government started seriously enforcing its own civil rights laws.

Old Tactics and New Victims

While today the Ku Klux Klan as an organization is nearly (but not quite) gone, it would be a mistake to think that the Klan mentality is dead in the U.S. Quite the contrary. The nation’s deep-seated history of racism has helped preserve an apparent permanent subset of Americans who grow up with prejudicial feelings against anyone they perceive as a threat to their version of the “American way of life.”

This background can help us understand the ongoing attacks against American Muslims. [5] Since 2010 there has been an increase in the number of attacks on American Muslims, their mosques and other property, as well as American minorities (such as Sikhs) who are regularly mistaken for Muslims.

These attacks are not the work of a refurbished Ku Klux Klan but, nonetheless, have about them the same nature: fear of American Muslims as cultural subversives (for instance, the delusion that they seek to impose Sharia law in the United States); anonymous threats of violence (via telephone, Internet, and also in the form of abusive graffiti); bomb, arson, and gun-fire attacks on property; and finally assaults and murders.

The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department [6] has investigated over 800 such incidents in the last 11 years. Eight such attacks occurred in the first half of the present month of August 2012, including the murder of six Sikhs inMilwaukee on Aug. 5.

An important factor in all of this is the role of a number of campaigning politicians [7] who go around proclaiming the threat that American Muslims supposedly represent to the country. For instance, just prior to a spate of arson attacks in the Chicago area, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh held townhall meetings in the area where he proclaimed, “One thing I am sure of is that there are people in this country – there is a radical strain of Islam in this country – it’s not just over there – trying to kill Americans every week.”

His talk was filmed and posted on YouTube. Similar rhetoric has been heard from a dozen other politicians including Peter King, the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Michele Bachmann, who was among those running for GOP candidate for president.

What It Takes to Break a Bad Habit

This is what you get when you practice a culture that has evolved around racist views. And, you get it more or less in perpetuity. In the case of the United States, the nation spent from 1789 (counting from the establishment of the Constitution which legitimized slavery) to 1954 (the year the Supreme Court declared, in Brown v. Board of Education, mandatory segregation of public schools unconstitutional), or 165 years, building up an “American way of life,” which legitimized discrimination against non-whites.

Subsequently, it has spent from 1957 (counting from the year that Brown v. Board of Education actually began to be enforced) to the present, or 55 years trying to undo that legacy. If it takes about as long to undo a nationwide bad habit as it did to establish it, we have a long road ahead of us.

What the years since 1957 have done is to legally enforce non-racist public behavior. This is certainly a necessary step, which, if consistently applied, would eventually lead to an internalized change in the outlook and morality of most of the population. In this regard Barack Obama’s election as the first African-American president in 2008 was a sure sign of progress.

However, the virulent reaction to Obama by more than a few is another sign that, while 55 years is long enough to alter the public behavior of some people, it is not long enough to change the private attitudes of many. Thus, there are still those groups of citizens who are deeply racist.

Today, under normal circumstances, these racist groups keep their feeling to themselves and their like-minded circle. However, when conditions allow, that racism emerges in a public way, often in hate speech but sometimes more brutally. These extremists are the modern day versions of yesterday’s Klansmen and, given a chance, they will happily commit mayhem in the name of their cherished traditions. American Muslims are now their chief target.

Another Example, Our Ally Israel

If you want to see another example of a society that has historically cultivated discriminatory outlooks and practices, one that American Zionists consider quite similar to the U.S., take a look at Israel. By the way, if there is any truth to the belief that Israelis “just like us,” it can only refer to theUnited Statesprior to 1957 – prior to the introduction of civil rights laws.

Much like the American South of that pre-legal equality era, Israelis shaped by a culture of ethno/religious exclusiveness practiced amidst a larger out-group (in this case the Palestinian Arabs). This has led the Israeli Jews to teach successive generations that it is proper and necessary to discriminate against Palestinians.

And, sure enough, over the years Israe lhas produced its own terrorist organizations [8] that intimidate and attack Palestinian Arabs: the Irgun and Lehi during the years leading to the establishment of the state in 1948, Gush Emunim and Terror Against Terror in the 1970s and 1980s, and today’s “Price-Taggers” andWest Bank settler vigilantes.

Just like Klansmen in the American South, these terrorists are rarely prosecuted and almost never adequately punished for their crimes because much of the Jewish population as well as the organs of the state sympathize with them. And, just like the American South, they operate in an environment conducive to an Israeli version of lynching.

That brings us to the Israeli- style lynching  [9] that occurred on the night of Aug. 17 inJerusalem. Raised in an environment that purposely cultivates prejudice and hatred against Arabs, a mob of some 50 Israeli Jewish young people attacked four Palestinian male youths, almost killing one of them.

The attack was seemingly unprovoked and apparently random, though the attackers “claimed they wanted to prevent them [the Arab boys] from speaking to Jewish girls.” [10] “Hundreds” witnessed this event but did not interfere. The entire thing was predictable, and indeed inevitable. It is what you get when you practice a culture that has evolved around racist views.

There might be a human genetic inclination toward group solidarity, but its worst manifestations are not inevitable. You can feel solidarity with your family, your religious community, your ethnic group, your nation, etc. without hating others. The hating part is a learned attitude. And, as is often the case, fear will underlie the hatred.

Both American and Israeli bigots or terrorists have focused on Arabs and Muslims as a threatening out-group. Both the Americans and the Israelis who do so draw strength from a culture that has deep racist roots. In today’sU.S.A., many know that this is wrong and so there is a moral position from which to combat this behavior. Unfortunately, it is not possible to say the same thing aboutIsrael.

In theUnited Statesthe core need is consistent educational and legal pressure against racist behavior both in terms of individual and institutional behavior. When I say consistent I mean over multiple generations, for at least as many years as it took to create the nationwide bigotry in the first place.

If we do not succeed in this endeavor then American Zionists will be proven correct. We in theU.S.will be just like the Israelis.


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/americas-ku-klux-klan-mentality

Links:
[1] http://www.consortiumnews.com
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/lawrence-davidson
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching
[5] http://www.salon.com/2012/08/14/eight_attacks_11_days/
[6] http://www.tothepointanalyses.com/www.justice.gov/crt/legalinfo/discrimupdate.php
[7] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/08/201281711826930331.html
[8] http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/ht/display/ContentDetails/i/8605/pid/8601
[9] http://mondoweiss.net/2012/08/a-lynching-in-jerusalem-anatomy-of-jewish-racism.html
[10] http://972mag.com/the-holy-war-against-arab-jewish-relations-and-the-jerusalem-lynch/54198/
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/kkk
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/racism-0
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/america

 

60 Years of American Economic History, Told in 1 Graph

By Jordan Weissmann, The Atlantic Monthly, August 2012

In the 60 years after World War II, the United Statesbuilt the world’s greatest middle class economy, then unbuilt it. And if you want a single snapshot that captures the broad sweep of that transformation, you could do much worse than this graph from a new Pew report, which tracks how average family incomes have changed at each rung of the economic ladder from 1950 through 2010.

Here’s the arc it captures: In the immediate postwar period,America’s rapid growth favored the middle and lower classes. The poorest fifth of all households, in fact, fared best. Then, in the 1970s, amid two oil crises and awful inflation, things ground to a halt. The country backed off the postwar, center-left consensus — captured by Richard Nixon’s comment that “we’re all Keynesians now” — and tried Reaganism instead. We cut taxes. Technology and competition from abroad started whittling away at blue collar jobs and pay. The stock market took off. And so when growth returned, it favored the investment class — the top 20 percent, and especially the top 5 percent (and, though it’s not on this chart, the top 1 percent more than anybody).    

And then it all fell apart. The aughts were a lost decade for families, and it’s not clear how much better they’ll fare in the next.

None of this is new history. But it’s helpful to have a crisp layout of what’s changed.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/60-years-of-american-economic-history-told-in-1-graph/261503/

Copyright © 2012 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/60-years-of-american-economic-history-told-in-1-graph/261503/

Occupy Movement

Occupying a Cause by Bill Moyers   

The Occupy Movement and the Politics of Educated Hope  

New Rules for Rad­i­cals: 10 Ways To Spark Change in a Post-Occupy World By Sara Robin­son, Alter­Net, Feb­ru­ary 1, 2012  

How the Legal Sys­tem Was Deep-Sixed to Serve Elite Amer­ica and Occupy Wall Street Became Inevitable By Glenn Green­wald, Tomdispatch.com, Octo­ber 25, 2011, posted on AlterNet.org

A Shin­ing City: The Occupy Move­ment and the Amer­i­can Soul By Eliz­a­beth Drescher, religiondispatches.org Octo­ber 7, 2011

A movement to reclaim the American Dream

by Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Washington Post, September 27, 2011

The modern American dream has always been a simple promise of opportunity: Hard work can earn a good life, a good job with decent pay and security, a secure retirement, and an affordable education for the kids. The promise always exceeded the performance — especially with regard to racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants and women. But a broad middle class and a broadly shared prosperity at least provided the possibility of a way up.

Today, every element of the dream is imperiled. Twenty-five million Americans are in need of full-time work. One in six people lives in poverty, the highest level in 50 years. Wages for the 70 percent of Americans without a college education have declined dramatically over the past 40 years, even as CEO salaries and corporate profits soared. Corporations continue to ship good jobs abroad, while the few jobs created at home are disproportionately in the lowest wage sectors. Nearly one in four homes with a mortgage is “underwater,” devastating what has been the largest single asset for most middle-class families.

Meanwhile, the richest 1 percent of Americans capture nearly a quarter of the nation’s income and control about 40 percent of its wealth. They have pocketed almost all of the rewards of the past decade’s economic growth and have shouldered almost none of the burdens.

On Oct. 3, thousands will gather in Washingtonat the “Take Back the American Dream Conference” in the belief that only a citizens’ movement can reclaim and save the fading American dream.

Organizers confront an economy that is broken for all but the wealthy. Economists and politicians invoke globalization, technology and education as the causes of our extreme inequalities, but in fact, they result from specific policies that have weakened workers, liberated CEOs, starved social protections and savagedAmerica’s middle class.

Despite continued mass unemployment, the GOP has dominated the debate about who will pay to clean up the mess left by Wall Street’s excesses — and what kind of economy will emerge out of the ditch. While progressive thinkers, activists and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have worked to reset the economic narrative and organize demonstrations for jobs in the wake of the economic collapse, their efforts have received little media attention and generated little momentum.

With President Obama in the White House, most progressive resources and attention have been committed to helping pass his reform agenda rather than broadening the national conversation. But in the wake of the 2010 elections, the focus has begun to shift. Now, the GOP’s attempts to roll back not simply Obama’s reforms but the Great Society and the New Deal — indeed much of the progress made in the 20th century — have sparked a vigorous progressive response.

When teachers, students and firefighters joined with union members in Wisconsinthis year to defend workers’ rights and oppose the assault on public education, the mass demonstrations electrified progressives and captured national attention. When House Republicans passed a budget that would have ended Medicare as we know it while cutting taxes for the wealthy, angry citizens filled congressional town halls across the country. And in the aftermath of these battles, a collection of unions and progressive organizations have banded together to fight back in a coalition called the American Dream Movement.

The movement is taking its first, ambitious steps: hosting more than 1,500 house parties across the country and developing an online outreach that has drawn 2 million participants. Just as the Tea Party provided an umbrella for conservative groups with disparate agendas, so the American Dream Movement hopes to gather and mobilize widespread progressive organizing efforts that are virtually invisible nationally. But unlike the Tea Party, the American Dream Movement is championing concerns that have widespread popular support. Its organizers recognize, as Michael Kazin argued in the New York Times, that “when progressives achieved success in the past, whether organizing unions or fighting for equal rights, they seldom bet their future on politicians.”

The agenda is clear: It’s our job as citizens to preserve, protect and defend the American dream. But first we have to resurrect it. That calls for major initiatives for jobs and growth, and reinvestment in our decrepit infrastructure and support for green industries. It calls for repairing our basic social contract: making quality education available and affordable, providing Medicare for all, and protecting Social Security. It means making work pay a living wage and empowering unions to organize and protect workers’ rights. It means progressive tax reform and an end toAmerica’s wars abroad. And it demands urgent democratic reforms to curb the power of money in politics. More than anything, all of this demands an independent people’s movement willing to challenge the grip of private interests on the public good. A movement of ordinary citizen-heroes, people willing to disrupt their normal routines to save the American dream.

The national mobilization will face an early challenge in an Ohio referendum on workers’ rights in November. But the broader challenge for the movement is to link these struggles and help raise awareness and energy, and to give voice to the outrage — and aspirations — of Americans. For this to happen, the movement has to challenge not just the extremism of the right but the failed dogmas of the establishment. The central task of the American Dream Movement — like the populist movement of the late 19th century — will be to put forth an alternative vision of American society and the economy. No movement can grow unless citizens are convinced fundamental change is possible.

Americans are right to have a low opinion of their government, to feel that their leaders have often left them to fend for themselves, that their democratic institutions have failed them. They are right to see Washington as rigged, dominated by insiders and corrupted by corporate money. Yet it would be a grave mistake to give up on government; instead it’s time to clean up our politics and rebuild a fair economy.

Elements of a new direction already have the support of a vast majority of Americans. What’s needed now is to state clearly and passionately what a more just country would look like and what it will take to achieve it. It will take a movement that connects with people’s real-life experiences to convince the country that change, on the scale required, is still possible, and within reach. It will mean inspiring people, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said — and did — to “refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.”

That takes a movement. Now is the time to build one.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-movement-to-reclaim-the-american-dream/2011/09/26/gIQApFfz1K_story.html

The Big Picture: A 40-Year Scan of the Right-Wing Corporate Takeover of America

 By Don Hazen and Colin Greer, AlterNet, October 3, 2011

Excerpt

At this moment, there are growing protests on Wall Street in Manhattan, in Boston at the Bank of America, and in cities around the country. These embryonic and creative efforts are targeting the greed of the banks, the collusion of the corporate class with their corrupt elected officials, the high level of unemployment, the huge burden of student loans in a time of diminished opportunities, the increasing numbers of poor and hungry people, and much more. These protests, along with those earlier in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, are signs of revival of a long tradition of popular revolt against excesses of wealth and the corporate class.

The new protests come after a long dark period — specifically the last 11 years of George W. Bush and Barack Obama — during which time conservatives have gained more power and ability to control the national debate than they have in the past 75 years

Subsequently, the liberal/progressive side of the political equation has lost much of its influence from the period of the 1970s and early ’80s. How this has happened over time is little understood. In fact, the lack of protest and effective organizing against the right wing during the Tea Party ascension especially has been a mystery to many, and a source of great frustration.
Colin Greer [interview with Don Hazen]:…

But then there was a dramatic change in direction when the air traffic controllers went on strike. Reagan seized the moment, and fired the air traffic controllers, destroying PATCO, their union. That was the beginning of the end of the labor deal with capital… And that deal went through the beginning of the 1980s, until Reagan, responding to the conservative base, changed the ground rules. And with it, labor’s guaranteed negotiating strength ended…

progressive politics became more about winning elections, seeking legislative reform,  and building not-for-profit institutions that represented progressive vision and options. There no longer was a base beyond labor, which was itself shrinking…

with end of ’80s, and that was where the Democratic Leadership Council, that Clinton led, emerged strongly and represented the shift to a “new progressive politics” where they made progressive mean something else

In the electoral arena, in the media, and in the mainstream foundation world, moderate was called left or liberal, and leaders in pursuit of public office more and more have eschewed the liberal label by moving ever so profoundly to the right…

what we’re faced with now is that any system that has monopoly status moves toward tyranny. So we’re now seeing that 40 years of the rogue rise of the right has produced a tyrannical right…The four GOP debates so far are really interesting because they indicate something really seriously bad…

on the road to power, most people committed to power will use the “crowd” — they construct a crowd. You need the crowd, even if it’s only a tiny fraction of the population. If the crowd is visible through spectacle then you start conditioning the public’s readiness to act, and you encourage readiness of others not to act…

You have the growth of the crowd and the paralysis of public at large. When you look at poll data there is no way in which the public agrees with the Tea Party or with right-wing political figures, but it is paralyzed, and paralyzed serially over time…

the choice to fight or not is rarely a popularly held prerogative until the public bursts forth as perhaps in the Arab Spring. Until such moments, leadership is top down, especially in the electoral arena, where money and incumbency determine authority and good judgment…

The fact is, a society grows into tyranny over time as the most powerful cultivate extreme crowd behavior, which, unless resisted can have a contagion effect into the public at large, paralyzing resistance and recruiting frightened supporters…

What we are up against is the constant reduction of compassion as the highest priority in how you make public policy and deliver public goods. The right wants to take public space. They want to take public resources. In response, progressives get lost in the message of to trying to re-instill belief in government. With the government argument, I think we’re missing the point, both in terms of compassion but also that it’s not not about belief in government. It’s about who owns government and what it’s for. Despite the right’s anti-government rhetoric, their practice is pro government. But it is government for them. So we must challenge the principle of who owns government. We are saying they’ve diminished the belief in government, but why does Rick Perry want to become president of theUnited States and, in effect, CEO of the nation’s investment engine, that is, government.

 

It’s not because he doesn’t believe in government, it’s because he wants to control government. They want to control and privatize government resources. Capitalism is exhausted here. It needs more public money. It’s always needed public money, it needs more now. When you look at the growth of capitalism in America from railroads all the way to the computer, it’s publicly funded…So the reinvention of capitalism is the issue, and the reinvention of government is what is happening. So capitalism is directly claiming public investment now

Charter schools are a very good case study for the [privatization] impulse. Forget anti-unionism;  forget whether or not they work, because they don’t. But even if they did they are not cheaper. Charter schools are simply the transfer of public money to profit-making activity. That’s the system they are steadily building — prisons, schools, public parks, there’s a conversion of the whole system into an investment of capital which is a major extension of what’s always been true. ..

So middle-income workers and people in impoverished communities are all under serious attack by this realignment, and are not yet organized in an aggressive agenda of their own within a worldview they share….The real danger is now that the economy can’t produce the benefits it was producing, and the greed in capitalism has gone to such an extreme, that the Captains of capitalism seem not to be concerned about the social order dangers that the extreme inequalities create, which opens the gates to fascism…you’ve got this extreme hysteria that is not being challenged…

the Tea Party and right-wing movements. The external call for the latter has been heavy duty private money and a driving corporate agenda that is committed to reversing the deals it made since the 1930’s. 

But what’s observable is the right has established an ideology and a worldview, a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong that has captured enough of public to dominate news with visible activism, and to paralyze public at large….We are unable to buy back into the equation of what looked like we had won forever — that  is the public good. We’ve lost a major piece of the ideology that was built over 40 or 50 years — that we care about people in pain. If we don’t have the ideolology that we care about people in pain as your basic ethical compass, then you have the kill mentality. Because we’re always balancing between compassion and fear. If compassion doesn’t dominate and you don’t have resources to feel you can be compassionate without paying a high price yourself, then you’re going to turn to fear to protect what you’ve got, or reach your hand out for what you can get…

We have still to invest psychically, financially and organizationally in rebuilding a shared consciousness for a threshold number of Americans that is characterized in the idea that we want a compassionate society and that government is the best vehicle to deliver that…

the right will suffer the same hubris — they’re moving way beyond their ideological reach, beyond the ability to deliver it…

we have work to do, not least is to protect the moment. By that I mean, we should give serious thought about the impact of colluding in the electoral defeat of this president by undermining him publicly and reducing his viability as a candidate. The alternative is truly dangerous…

It’s time to name what is happening in our country without hysteria, but to be clear that the next elections are part of a struggle for a social and cultural threshold that will determine the quality of life and democracy in this country…

Full text 

At this moment, there are growing protests on Wall Street in Manhattan, in Boston at the Bank of America, and in cities around the country. These embryonic and creative efforts are targeting the greed of the banks, the collusion of the corporate class with their corrupt elected officials, the high level of unemployment, the huge burden of student loans in a time of diminished opportunities, the increasing numbers of poor and hungry people, and much more. These protests, along with those earlier in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, are signs of revival of a long tradition of popular revolt against excesses of wealth and the corporate class.

 

The new protests come after a long dark period — specifically the last 11 years of George W. Bush and Barack Obama — during which time conservatives have gained more power and ability to control the national debate than they have in the past 75 years. The current right-wing power presence, spiked by the corporate media’s obsession with Tea Party protests, came most immediately as a result of the Great Recession caused by the housing bubble and obscene corruption of the banks. This crisis was exacerbated by large-scale anger about the subsequent bank bailout, and corporate-backed attacks on the health care reform package passed by Congress. But that is just part of the latest political news.

The conservative ascendancy is hardly an overnight phenomenon. Rather, it represents a dynamic shift in American politics that has taken place over more than 40 years, beginning in the 1970s. During this time, conservative billionaire donors, corporations and the Chamber of Commerce, all invested in conservative think-tanks and communications infrastructure, while Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and a broad and deep media network of right-wing pundits have come to dominate the public discourse.

Subsequently, the liberal/progressive side of the political equation has lost much of its influence from the period of the 1970s and early ’80s. How this has happened over time is little understood. In fact, the lack of protest and effective organizing against the right wing during the Tea Party ascension especially has been a mystery to many, and a source of great frustration.

Colin Greer, a transplanted Brit, has observed and engaged in every phase of progressive politics. Greer is the author of a number of books (with his best-known being The Great School Legend), has been a professor at Brooklyn College of CUNY, and for many years has served as president of the New World Foundation, known in the philanthropic world for its commitment to supporting grassroots organizing and providing seed money for many of the most effective progressive political efforts over the last decades. Over this long period, Greer has had a cat-seat view of all the forces that have shaped our last 40-plus years. He has a big-picture take on the turmoil and politics of this period, as major shifts — globally, economically and culturally; the tectonic plates of change and reaction — have reshaped our world in ways we have yet to fully understand. AlterNet sat down with Colin Greer in his office in New York in late September.
Don Hazen: Why have conservatives succeeded so dramatically in this period, and liberals and progressives are arguably the weakest in decades?

 

Colin Greer: There is no single causal factor. The shaping of these two divergent paths begins in the 1980s when you had the last flourish of an expansive society. But the last three years of the ’70s were characterized by stagflation and disappointment and took a great toll, forfeiting a real sense that the constant growth of openness in American society and economy was endlessly sustainable. Fast-forward to the present and we have the twin dominance of austerity, i.e. eviscerating public spending as the solution to economic crises; and aristocracy, represented by the protected tax and profit oasis of the wealthiest 1 percent.

It’s instructive to note that events in the U.S. are not in isolation. Back in the ’60s and ’70s when progressive movements were in ascendency, the liberation themes of the time were part of a global anti-colonial uprising, and broad disgust at the war in Vietnam. Today, trade policies and globalization means that the other major economies of the world are also in the grips of a greed and hyper-profit which is in the process of discarding hard won values, rights and decent living conditions.

 

DH: That was Carter and also the hostage crisis too at the end of the ’70s, yes?

 

CG: Yeah, it’s about how social and economic consciousness changed. Carter’s inability to act effectively in the hostage crisis or to defeat stagflation reinforced a national feeling of malaise and weakness. That’s why Reagan campaigned on “hope in America” versus Carter’s kind of dismal, high-standing morality, an apparent inability to act from strength. It was the beginning of a long term of undermining the presumption of multi-dimensional social and economic expansion, which had flourished since World War II.

 

So in the 1980s you had Reagan, along with the last flourish of direct political action on the left and the last gasps of the global social change that characterized the 1960s and ’70s; i.e. the fight against apartheid, which succeeded in turning the Reagan administration around to support the anti-apartheid/ divestment movement, and you had the Nuclear Freeze movement.

 

DH: These were the last grassroots successes of the left?

 

CG: Yes. Although one can never do a one to one equation, the Freeze was a factor in Reagan’s shift in nuclear arms negotiations with the Russians and the anti-apartheid divestment strategies, fueled by a popular movement with strong student leadership, which created shantytowns on campuses throughout America, helped win that struggle.

 

But then there was a dramatic change in direction when the air traffic controllers went on strike. Reagan seized the moment, and fired the air traffic controllers, destroying PATCO, their union. That was the beginning of the end of the labor deal with capital; a deal that was carved out in the Cold War in which labor got negotiated settlements here at home for its support for the Cold War abroad. In a sense it was anti-red internationally and social democratic here in the United States. And that deal went through the beginning of the 1980s, until Reagan, responding to the conservative base, changed the ground rules. And with it, labor’s guaranteed negotiating strength ended.

 

We have seen a diminishing power of labor since. And we’ve also seen a shrinking power of popular movements on the left as well, so that by the time we got to the invasion of Iraq, a million people in the street could be ignored. How different that was from the last gasps of enduring popular protest against Reagan’s contra-aid and its illegal processes.

 

DH: Those demonstrations against the Iraq invasion seemed like a big deal at the time, a major accomplishment, and around the world as well.

 

CG: Yeah, but for only one day. What is required is the ability to constantly bring people out and not end it when there’s no popular response. You need to get the news story, and push the politicians to shift. We’re up against the kind of new politics in which they didn’t shift and we didn’t come out with continual resistance, and that inability to resist played out in the 1990s when you have a Democratic president who was disappointing over and over, with no popular mobilization against his deregulation of the finance industry or his welfare reform initiative.

 

DH: Is it possible to have a popular movement against a disappointing Democratic president?

 

CG: I think it was in 1992, but only theoretically; it didn’t happen. By the 1990s, because progressives in a sense had been disciplined by the reduced power of labor, by the new power of the right, the visceral fear that Republicans would be worse, and the fact that a certain amount of administration figures came from progressive organizations and might still influence policy, all contributed to a lack of action against Clinton policies  And there is another crucial point: by the time we get to late 1980s and 1990s, social movements on the left were essentially demobilized into NGOs and legislative agendas, so progressive politics became more about winning elections, seeking legislative reform,  and building not-for-profit institutions that represented progressive vision and options. There no longer was a base beyond labor, which was itself shrinking.

 

DH: How sudden was this shift from more popular movements to foundation-funded projects?

 

CG: It happened over time. The trends were growing in the early ’70s because progressives had control over a lot of federal spending, and a lot of activists had access to all the major agencies. There was a kind of flourish of success and even progress under Nixon. Legislative efforts were working. We especially got environmental legislation, and it looked like the courts were on our side. Meanwhile the right, in earnest, started building both its base and its options, with think tanks, organizations and communications capacity. But by 1990, the left so to speak, except for labor, had become almost entirely dependent on foundation support, which was based in the IRS 501 (c) (3) tax structure which required grant recipients to be non-partisan. But it was influential at the level of government and so it felt like it could deliver through the lobbying capacity of NGOs and by winning in the electoral, legislative and judicial spheres.

 

In the ’80s, when they saw the right-wing agenda through Reagan taking serious root, many groups worked on voter registration to expand the electorate, but were constrained again by the IRS rules. It took a Jesse Jackson presidential campaign as a reminder that you need a popular base to move an agenda and to build a popular base to undercut the climate of low taxes, high profits, and the growing transfer of public assets into private control. Jackson created a social movement—he went to organized farmworkers, he worked with gay activists, he really did see that campaign as a progressive, social movement campaign.

 

But after Jackson (‘84 and ‘88) that kind of campaign mobilization didn’t happen again until Obama. And Jackson did exactly what Obama did. He demobilized his campaign agency. He turned into a kind of not-for-profit organization, and Obama turned it into the Democratic Party. But they are two moments — and it’s interesting that both black figures produced the sense of a national movement. But the end of the Jackson campaign coincided with end of ’80s, and that was where the Democratic Leadership Council, that Clinton led, emerged strongly and represented the shift to a “new progressive politics” where they made progressive mean something else. Imagine if the Jackson campaign had remained mobilized in relation to the Clinton administration and/or if the Obama campaign had remained live going into the 2010 elections when victories on the right were won by small margins.

 

DH: I assume when you say progressive came to mean something else, it meant moderate?

 

CG: In a sense once you had Murdoch and Fox and a growing conservative infrastructure, it labeled the DLC—transfused Democratic party—as the left. Any real left was marginalized into virtual invisibility and anonymity, the center was moved significantly to the right, and progressives increasingly pushed into protecting eroding rights and benefits, without a political infrastructure or national leadership of its own. In the electoral arena, in the media, and in the mainstream foundation world, moderate was called left or liberal, and leaders in pursuit of public office more and more have eschewed the liberal label by moving ever so profoundly to the right.

 

DH: So the middle became the left, and the conservatives keep moving successfully to the right — a trend we have seen reach the present moment of the far, far right influencing the political process. And there has been no pendulum swinging back, that’s for sure.

 

CG: Yes, and one of the critical ingredients in this huge shift rightward over the last few decades, as I inferred earlier, was the end of the Cold War. The collapse of the Soviet Union had a profound effect on two things: 1) the idea that there was a left alternative, and that there was a path to reform that had the best interest of the public at large as its highest priority, and had the “state” involved directly in business and the interest of public; and 2) the shift of states in the Soviet orbit to capitalism basically made capitalism the world model. So then it was a question of what you did in the framework of capitalism, not challenging its framework. That’s been the umbrella for China, India, Brazil. All over, left groups moved into the electoral arena, and didn’t challenge the capitalist model. As a result, we now have a global context that advances austerity and aristocracy in support of a global capitalism that has declared war on the social contract.

 

In the Scandinavian model, they’re more responsive to public conditions, but not to challenging capitalism itself. I’m not arguing that we need a left to challenge capitalism because it isn’t clear that we do have that option. But what we’re faced with now is that any system that has monopoly status moves toward tyranny. So we’re now seeing that 40 years of the rogue rise of the right has produced a tyrannical right. All of the conditions, the improvements around tolerance and cultural openness and responsibility for the poorest of the poor, the perspective that a healthy society is one that has a priority to care for all its people — those standards have so diminished so that you have candidates now talking about the fact that people may have to starve. And that’s now a legitimate thing to say. Killing gets cheered by the GOP grassroots. The four GOP debates so far are really interesting because they indicate something really seriously bad.

 

DH: The rise of the Tea Party, aided by its intense promotion by the corporate media, has given the public the sense that there is a powerful angry grassroots movement underway. How does that play out?

 

CG: Tyranny grows first of all in the establishment of a legitimation of its point of view, even on the margins. You can see it in Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry, a war hero, and with Murdoch and Roger Ailes growing Fox. There is the constant testing of a model that is very similar in tone to the most successful moment of progressives in the 1960s. It reaches into high levels of rhetorical hysteria. When we were on the streets 40 years ago there was a kind of  hysteria — police were the enemy. There’s a similar level of hysteria now. What that means is basically that on the road to power, most people committed to power will use the “crowd” — they construct a crowd. You need the crowd, even if it’s only a tiny fraction of the population. If the crowd is visible through spectacle then you start conditioning the public’s readiness to act, and you encourage readiness of others not to act.

 

So in the present political reality, you have the convergence of the crowd’s mentality, with the readiness to be tyrannical in leadership, with leaders in Congress like Jim DeMint, Eric Cantor, and of course funding for it all from the Kochs. This tyrannical style of leadership has grown through the Bush years to a dramatic level, and has not been effectively challenged by Obama. You have the growth of the crowd and the paralysis of public at large. When you look at poll data there is no way in which the public agrees with the Tea Party or with right-wing political figures, but it is paralyzed, and paralyzed serially over time.

 

A million people on the street didn’t get listened to over the Iraq invasion, or the defeat of Kerry through usurping of the public stage by Swift Boat in 2000. Then the inability of Gore to fight for his election followed by the Supreme Court decision which gave us eight years of Bush. The choice to fight or not is rarely a popularly held prerogative until the public bursts forth as perhaps in the Arab Spring. Until such moments, leadership is top down, especially in the electoral arena, where money and incumbency determine authority and good judgment.

 

The Tea Party is the latest in a series of experiments — remember the Promise Keepers and the Christian Coalition back in the ’80s — to advance right-wing politics from the margins to a new center. We’ve been holding them off time and time again but not by producing anything for the future. Instead we have benefitted from the cultural victories of the ’70s and ’80s that have become enshrined in entertainment conventions and interpersonal lifestyles. In both realms we have taken great strides to persuade Americans that young people should have the vote at 18, that women are equal, that abortion is pretty much something you can argue rhetorically but hard to lose practically, but now we’re losing ground on everything. The death penalty for a while looked like we were humane, we don’t just kill people — we’re losing ground on that. We didn’t go to war casually — we’ve lost ground on that.

 

DH: Without tension of competing systems, is there an inevitable march to the extreme? Is there a theory that most extreme seems to always win out?

 

CG: The fact is, a society grows into tyranny over time as the most powerful cultivate extreme crowd behavior, which, unless resisted can have a contagion effect into the public at large, paralyzing resistance and recruiting frightened supporters. While clearly minority politics, the Tea Party zealots who cheered at death and execution much as Sarah Palin once called on us to “Drill, baby, drill!”ought to be a reminder and a warning. But I don’t know any mainstream media that treated the cheers for the death penalty and barbarous inhumanity to the sick as a story truly worth engaging. The crowd is the critical thing that tyranny requires eventually — the mobilization of the crowd. With recessions every 10 years, the circumstances periodically creates the possibility for angry people to be organized into a crowd. Progressives did that. The New Deal was about using the circumstance of the depression to organize a progressive crowd.

 

DH: Mostly organized by the Communist Party. But we have no capacity to do that now?

 

CG: and the Socialist party. But there was a plethora of organizations. And no, we have no apparent capacity do that now, although we desperately need it. New protests and organizing efforts are definitely sparks of hope. But that kind of action is primarily on the right.

 

DH: It’s a resource question, too?

 

CG: Yes, and it’s also a planning and leadership question. The Socialist party, Catholic Workers, Communists — they were planners, they had an agenda not limited by electoral and legislative politics, and not dependent on foundation resources for scale. Forty years ago a dozen small progressive foundations could help support strong action and analysis. The big checks now come from professionalized, very mainstream foundations that do not, as was the case with the earlier funders, institutionally identify with a progressive world view.

 

DH: The Kochs write the big checks for the right today. So is the weakness primarily an issue of class — resources staying in the educated class?

 

CG. No. It is that and it is something deeper, more psychological. When I was in England a bit ago, I was talking to a Syrian cab driver, this was in the middle of the Arab Spring. I said, why is it that you’ve got (this was before the riots) English kids protesting at Trafalgar Square against tuition increases? You’ve got women in Rome — a million people — protesting against Silvio Berlusconi. The next day they’ve all gone home, the kids have gone home. In America we had the resistance against the Iraq war, they went home. But in Egypt they came back every single day. In Yemen they come back every day. And he said, “Well, we in the West have freedom. They don’t have the freedom.”

 

So there is someway in which we have the consciousness here that we have something that could be lost that we don’t want to risk. In the Middle East, there is nothing left to be lost.

 

DH: So fast-forward to the present. How has the right-wing philosophy which has dramatically increased its influence, changed the nature of government?

 

CG: What we are up against is the constant reduction of compassion as the highest priority in how you make public policy and deliver public goods. The right wants to take public space. They want to take public resources. In response, progressives get lost in the message of to trying to re-instill belief in government. With the government argument, I think we’re missing the point, both in terms of compassion but also that it’s not not about belief in government. It’s about who owns government and what it’s for. Despite the right’s anti-government rhetoric, their practice is pro government. But it is government for them. So we must challenge the principle of who owns government. We are saying they’ve diminished the belief in government, but why does Rick Perry want to become president of the United States and, in effect, CEO of the nation’s investment engine, that is, government.

 

It’s not because he doesn’t believe in government, it’s because he wants to control government. They want to control and privatize government resources. Capitalism is exhausted here. It needs more public money. It’s always needed public money, it needs more now. When you look at the growth of capitalism in America from railroads all the way to the computer, it’s publicly funded. I say to people what do Velcro and GPS have in common? They were both created by the military. And who is making a profit from that? Does the public get any return for its investment?

 

But if we had a conception of government that was not only tax agent, service  deliverer, but also an investor  in the economy like a bank, and it was entitled to a return just the way a bank gets return, we’d have plenty money.  But we don’t treat ourselves as the investor. But every major technological growth has been publicly invested in. If we were a shareholder in Microsoft because we invented the computer, it would be a very different terrain. So the reinvention of capitalism is the issue, and the reinvention of government is what is happening. So capitalism is directly claiming public investment now.

 

DH: Can you provide a current example of the privatization impulse?

 

CG: Charter schools are a very good case study for the impulse. Forget anti-unionism;  forget whether or not they work, because they don’t. But even if they did they are not cheaper. Charter schools are simply the transfer of public money to profit-making activity. That’s the system they are steadily building — prisons, schools, public parks, there’s a conversion of the whole system into an investment of capital which is a major extension of what’s always been true. 

 

It’s a way of government supporting the expenditure of money, but it has been organized so that it stays in private control. And in private control it’s become increasingly privileged in how the decisions are made. So you’ve got hedge fund people now funding charter schools — they are the largest engine behind charter schools. And so they care about education. Some of them even believe public schools are so bad we need this alternative.

But there’s not a lot of thinking about about whether profit is compatible with learning. If profit is the major goal and keeping costs down is the major goal, then how do you have learning be the major goal? That’s exactly the contradiction. If you’re going to have learning be the major goal, you have to invest in it like you would a war. You don’t in a war say the major goal is how to make profit and we’ll only fight the war according to the profit.

 

DH: With the enormous investment in military arms, and more recently mercenaries, it seems like we are headed there.

 

CH: Well, that is one reason we have more war. But in the end you can’t sell to the public that the measure of our success here is profit. And in education, were saying basically you can trust profit. The market will give you better results. There’s no reason to believe that. The public hasn’t accepted it, although it’s getting pushed on them because of the power that’s established in the state houses. Also, what’s not well understood, is there are three kinds of charters. So the privatization has three identities and they’re being merged. One is public school experiments with the charter system. The second is not-for-profit charters run by not-for-profit organizations are closer to the base. The third is the for-profit charter.

 

The first two models are perfectly fine. We have private schools and parochial schools which have tax exemptions so they’re only quasi private. Those two forms are part of the American education fabric, so having another thing called charters wouldn’t be a problem. It’s nice to experiment with different forms of government organization and curriculum. But the for-profit charter is a very different entity and to allow it to be conflated with the other two is basically to let the Trojan horse in.

 

DH: As a longtime foundation executive, how has philanthropy exacerbated the progressive weakness?

 

CG: Foundations mostly gave money according to sociology or class, so people gave money to organizations led by people most like them, or slowly there was entry of people who were not like them but were being identified by people like them, and also very little money when you think about it. If you take the most successful community based organization in philanthropy at community based building level, it’s probably SCOPE in Los Angeles.

 

And they went from a $5,000 grant to its founder from New World Foundation to a $3 million, maybe a $4 million budget, which took 25 years to get to. We have a number of very strong local and state organizations that have built powerful bases to influence local politics, pioneering such inventions as “living wage,” and “community benefits.” But to date this is a record of policy reform and some electoral victories for local leaders, all of which is very important. It is, however, not yet a coherent, comprehensive and compelling base for challenging the structural realignment of capitalism in our time.

 

DH: What are the consequences of that lack of a base to challenge the excesses of capitalism?

 

CG: So middle-income workers and people in impoverished communities are all under serious attack by this realignment, and are not yet organized in an aggressive agenda of their own within a worldview they share. I think there’s a sense that we have more to lose than to gain in such action at this time, but time may be running out on that one. Most people do have a certain level of freedom, they have a lot of harassment — but they have a certain level of freedom. And for the average African American who is now 25 — they have family that experienced the change so they are freer than they were.

 

They don’t get off the street curb when they’re coming up to a white person. They can be on the street with a white date or partner. There have been significant changes, not necessarily lasting changes, but changes that make you feel you’ve got something. The real danger is now that the economy can’t produce the benefits it was producing, and the greed in capitalism has gone to such an extreme, that the Captains of capitalism seem not to be concerned about the social order dangers that the extreme inequalities create, which opens the gates to fascism. 

 

When you have the a tyrannical crowd, you have the tendency to tyranny, you have the crowd behaving the way they did in those four Republican debates. So while they’re only a minority, they’re setting a tone. In the first debate nobody was willing to say that a dying child, a very ill child, should get medical care. In the second debate you’ve got cheering for the death penalty. In the third debate you’ve got the call to kill, for a young man who’s on life support. And in the fourth debate the gay soldier is booed. So you’ve got this extreme hysteria that is not being challenged.

 

DH: So you can imagine serious political repression here in the USA? Where is the hope?

 

CG: I think we know what’s going to come down. I think people know. People are afraid. There’s an implicit fear. And also there are moments when spontaneity breaks out. Who knows, we may be lucky enough that spontaneity e.g. at Occupy Wall Street that will help produce a social movement. And all that’s been funded and developed will be ready to move. We don’t have that now. There was a kind of serial violence that you couldn’t have predicted, when Martin Luther King was assassinated. The Nuclear Freeze movement was not predictable when it suddenly flourished. You can’t predict them. But it’s obvious why after they happen.

 

So we don’t know that we don’t have the ground for something major to happen. In almost every state, strong organizations have been developed that might well be the basis for movement capacity when forces outside of their own terrain call them to new and unified action. If one looked at the black churches before the Civil Rights Movement flourishes of the 1960s, they probably would not have looked as strong one by one as they did when called to unified action. So too with their leaders.  Indeed, so too with the Tea Party and right-wing movements. The external call for the latter has been heavy duty private money and a driving corporate agenda that is committed to reversing the deals it made since the 1930’s. 

 

But what’s observable is the right has established an ideology and a worldview, a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong that has captured enough of public to dominate news with visible activism, and to paralyze public at large. That doesn’t mean they can hold onto it, but that’s the phenomenon were facing. The economy has no ability to buy the public back into the equation. This recent disaster relief controversy is an example. We are unable to buy back into the equation of what looked like we had won forever — that  is the public good. We’ve lost a major piece of the ideology that was built over 40 or 50 years — that we care about people in pain. If we don’t have the ideolology that we care about people in pain as your basic ethical compass, then you have the kill mentality. Because we’re always balancing between compassion and fear. If compassion doesn’t dominate and you don’t have resources to feel you can be compassionate without paying a high price yourself, then you’re going to turn to fear to protect what you’ve got, or reach your hand out for what you can get.

 

I think the health care debate is an interesting case to consider in all this. Obviously, the social benefit is intrinsic to a progressive perspective. The kind of health care reform we’ve received is, for a variety of reasons, insufficient and insecure. Foundation funding for advancing public education and lobbying ran to the millions of dollars but it was all silo policy oriented and for the most part, top down. If that kind of money could have been used to help build a comprehensive foundational commitment to social welfare and organizational capacity, a partial achievement might well have helped produce a powerful movement advance.

 

DH: Does that loss of the moral compass, along with the fear, have to translate into passivity? How do we combat that?

 

CG: Well, I don’t know that were not doing some of what is necessary. We have to reinvest in the ideology… lots of organizations have gotten lost in the idea that you have to invest in resurrecting belief in government. This is about messages. Elections may be fought on messages. Social movements are about consciousness. We have still to invest psychically, financially and organizationally in rebuilding a shared consciousness for a threshold number of Americans that is characterized in the idea that we want a compassionate society and that government is the best vehicle to deliver that.

 

One thing I didn’t mention about the ’80s that the assault on government that Reagan led, the left created earlier. We talked about problems of welfare system, about the ineffectiveness of the education system — that was us. Cloward and Piven, me, everybody. We undermined that system. We didn’t have a sense, probably because we were young, that you win a victory and then you evolve the maturity of that victory. We wanted it to be correct, and the right will suffer the same hubris — they’re moving way beyond their ideological reach, beyond the ability to deliver it.

 

DH: So, what happens in the interim? What about political repression?

 

CG: As Eric Cantor said, “People could starve.” He said, “If you haven’t saved for a rainy day yourself, that’s your responsibility.”

 

That’s the opposite of compassion; that generates fear. And if you have violence on the street, they will have their own excuse for political repression. If there is an excess of even the right-wing on the street you could have the excuse of police intervention that looks like it’s in public interest. But we have work to do, not least is to protect the moment. By that I mean, we should give serious thought about the impact of colluding in the electoral defeat of this president by undermining him publicly and reducing his viability as a candidate. The alternative is truly dangerous.

 

At the same time, we must think of ourselves in a political era that calls for breaking from the conventions of recent political discourse that has narrowed our social and political vision. It’s time to name what is happening in our country without hysteria, but to be clear that the next elections are part of a struggle for a social and cultural threshold that will determine the quality of life and democracy in this country.

 

And we need to keep in mind what’s always been true in the politics of social movements — they are the province of the young. Just look for example at how the brave young people in the Dream Act campaigns have actually won victories against inhumane ICE practices. They took and they take risks. Now, as other young people are stepping up to make powerful statements, take risks, try new tactics, they need our support and understanding.
Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.

Colin Greer is president of the New World Foundation in New York. Among his books is A Call to Character (HarperCollins, 1995).

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