Apathy, denial, ignorance

“It must be laid down as a primary position and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government owes not only a proportion of his property, but even his personal service to the defense of it.” George Washington

America’s War for Reality by Robert Parry,  January 15, 2013 by Consortium News – The real struggle confronting the United States… is testing whether fact-based people have the same determination to fight for their real-world view as those who operate in a fact-free space do in defending their illusions…..Simply put, the Right fights harder for its fantasyland than the rest of America does for the real world. 

The spoiled-brat American electorate by Eugene Robinson Washington Post, September 3, 2010 Voters appear to be so fed up with the Democrats that they’re ready to toss them out in favor of the Republicans — for whom, according to those same polls, the nation has even greater contempt. This isn’t an “electoral wave,” it’s a temper tantrum… there’s no mistaking the public mood, and the truth is that it makes no sense…the refusal of Americans to look seriously at the nation’s situation — and its prospects — is an equal-opportunity scourge…

Americans Are Dangerously Politically Ignorant — The Numbers Are Shocking By CJ Werleman, AlterNet, June 17, 2014  

8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back By Bruce Levine on June 8, 2014 …Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination. Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it…How exactly has American society subdued young Americans? 1. Student-Loan Debt. 2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance. 3. Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy. 4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” 5. Shaming Young People Who Take Education—But Not Their Schooling—Seriously. 6. The Normalization of Surveillance. 8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism.

 

Right wing scandals

Movies on Netflix

GOP Operatives, dirty tricks and scandals

Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story2008NR87 minutes Examine the life and career of the late Lee Atwater, notorious for his no-holds-barred strategies that powered the campaign of George H.W. Bush.Cast: Ed Rollins, Michael Dukakis, Tucker Eskew

Casino Jack 2010R108 minutes No stranger to wealth and power, slick lobbyist Jack Abramoff lands deep in a political corruption scandal after bilking millions from Indian tribes. Cast:Kevin Spacey, Barry Pepper, Kelly PrestonGenre:Dramas

Casino Jack and the United States of Money 2010R118 minutes Documentarian Alex Gibney reproaches convicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and other legislators for their negative impact on U.S. politics.Cast:Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, William Branner Genre:Documentaries

The Big Buy: How Tom DeLay Stole Congress2006NR76 minutes A hard-hitting examination of one man’s dangerous agenda, this film probes the Texas congressman’s unscrupulous efforts to bend democracy to his will.Cast:Tom Delay, Martin Frost, Chris Bell

Right wing

Jesus Camp 2006PG-1384 minutes This documentary follows three kids at a controversial summer camp that grooms the next generation of conservative Christian political activists. Cast: Lou Engle, Becky Fischer, Ted Haggard

Constantine’s Sword 2007NR95 minutes This intriguing documentary examines anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church and the link between the U.S. military and the Christian right. Cast:Liev Schreiber, Eli Wallach, Natasha Richardson

The Revisionaries 2012NR83 minutes This documentary looks at a pitched cultural conflict over school textbook standards in Texas, as determined by the state’s Board of Education. Cast:Don McLeroy

Outfoxed: Murdoch’s War on Journalism 2004NR77 minutes This documentary explores Rupert Murdoch’s ever-expanding media empire, offering a look at the dangers of corporations controlling television news.Cast:Jeff Cohen, Bob McChesney, David Brock

Ayn Rand & the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged 2012NR83 minutes This documentary examines the roots of novelist and social philosopher Ayn Rand’s ideas and how they’re manifesting in contemporary America society.

Patriocracy 2011NR86 minutes This incisive and timely documentary examines the extreme polarization of the U.S. political landscape and seeks to identify the underlying causes.Cast: Pat Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, Ken Rudin

Articles and excerpts July 4 to July 12, 2014

Overview

The World We’ve Constructed Is Far Beyond George Orwell’s Worst Nightmare By John Pilger, AlterNet, July 11, 2014 

Worldview

When Beliefs and Facts Collide by Brendan Nyhan, New York Times, JULY 5, 2014

Brain

The Trouble With Brain Science By GARY MARCUS, New York Times, JULY 11, 2014

Science Reveals How the Brains of Social Justice Activists Are Different From Everyone Else’s By Erin Brodwin  June 26, 2014… People who are more sensitive to the ideas of fairness and equity are driven by reason, not just passion, according to a recent University of Chicago study published in the Journal of Neuroscience….when people who are more responsive to injustice see things happen that they find morally wrong, such as abuse or race-based inequality, their minds respond by accessing the sections of the brain responsible for logic and reasoning. When they view examples of people acting morally just, such as giving equal rights to a marginalized group or protecting animals from harm, their brains respond in the same way…

Generational justice

Ted Cruz Proposes Selling Massive Portions of National Parks by Salvatore Aversa, I Acknowledge, July 10, 2014

Culture war

A New Generation Confronts the Culture War and Shrugs by Daniel Cox, Research Director, Public Religion Research Institute, Huffington Post, 7/10/2014

Biblical economics

Paul Krugman: Here’s a New One—Faith-Based Economic Denialism  By Janet Allon, AlterNet, July 7, 2014 

Poverty and inequality

Oligarchy Blues By Michael Ventura. Originally published at the Austin Chronicle, July 2014  – summary of how inequality evolved

Luxury Rolls-Royce car sales soar worldwide, economictimes.indiatimes.com,  July 8, 2014,

Labor

As You Celebrate the 4th, Remember Why America’s Working Families Need Unions to Stay Strong By Brigid O’Farrell, AlterNet July 2, 2014 

Communications – right wing

Surprise! Fact-Checkers Find That Fox News Tells The Truth Just 18 Percent Of The Time By Dan Simpson, Firebrand Progressives, July 10, 2014

Democrats

At Some Point, Progressives Need to Break Up With the Democratic Party By Ted Rall, AlterNet, July 4, 2014

Economic Populism at Heart of Emerging Debate Among Democrats by Robert Borosage, Campaign for America’s Future, BillMoyers.com, July 10, 2014

Corporate welfare’s quiet enablers: How democrats pander to big business by David Sirota, Salon.com, Jul 10, 2014

Right wing ideology

Freedom, Power, and the Conservative Mind by Robert Reich, CommonDreams.org, July 2, 2014…… The so-called “free market” is not expanding options and opportunities for most people. It’s extending them for the few who are wealthy enough to influence how the market is organized. But this is a very parched view of freedom. Conservatives who claim to be on the side of freedom while ignoring the growing imbalance of economic and political power in America are not in fact on the side of freedom. They are on the side of those with the power.

Progressive movement

It’s time for progressives to reclaim the Constitution by E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, July 6, 2014

Crowdsourcing Our Way Out of the Crisis of Democracy By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , AlterNet, July 12, 2014 

An Informed and Educated Electorate

By Thom HartmannTruthout.org, December 6, 2010

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.…Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right. —Thomas Jefferson

Talk Radio News Service, based in Washington, D.C., is owned and run by my dear friend Ellen Ratner. Ellen is an experienced and accomplished journalist, and a large number of interns and young journalism school graduates get their feet wet in reporting by working for and with her.

In March 2010 I was in Washington for a meeting with a group of senators, and I needed a studio from which to do my radio and TV show. Ellen was gracious enough to offer me hers. I arrived as three of her interns were producing a panel-discussion type of TV show for Web distribution at www.talkradionews.com, in which they were discussing for their viewing audience their recent experiences on Capitol Hill.

One intern panelist related that a White House correspondent for one of the Big Three TV networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) had told her that the network registered a huge amount of interest 66 Rebooting the American Dream in the “hot story” that week of a congressman’s sexual indiscretions. Far less popular were stories about the debates on health care, the conflicts in the Middle East, and even the Americans who had died recently in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“So that’s the story they have to run with on the news,” the intern said, relating the substance of the network correspondent’s thoughts, “because that’s what the American people want to see. If the network doesn’t give people what they want to see, viewers will tune away and the network won’t have any viewers, ratings, or revenues.”

The two other interns commiserated with the first about what a shame it was that Americans wanted the titillating stories instead of the substantive ones, but they accepted without question that the network was therefore obliged to “give people what they want.”

When they finished their panel discussion, I asked these college students if they knew that there was a time in America when radio and TV stations and networks broadcast the actual news— instead of infotainment—because the law required them to do so. None of them had any idea what I was talking about. They were mystified: why would a station or network broadcast programs that were not popular or not what people wanted?

The Devolution of Broadcast News

But the reality is that from the 1920s, when radio really started to go big in the United States, until Reagan rolled it back in 1987, federal communications law required a certain amount of “public service” programming from radio and television stations as a condition of retaining their broadcast licenses.

The agreement was basic and simple: in exchange for the media owners’ being granted a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use the airwaves—owned by the public—they had to serve the public interest first, and only then could they go about the business of making money. If they didn’t do so, when it came time to renew their license, public groups and individuals could show up at public hearings on the license renewal and argue for the license’s being denied.

One small way that stations lived up to their public-service mandate was by airing public-service announcements (PSAs) for local nonprofit groups, community calendars, and other charitable causes. They also had to abide by something called the Fairness Doctrine, which required them to air diverse viewpoints on controversial issues. Separately, during election campaigns, broadcasters had to abide by the Equal Time Rule, which required them to provide equal airtime to rival candidates in an election.

But the biggest way they proved they were providing a public service and meeting the requirements of the Fairness Doctrine was by broadcasting the news. Real news. Actual news. Local, national, and international news produced by professional, oldschool journalists.

Because the news didn’t draw huge ratings like entertainment shows—although tens of millions of Americans did watch it every night on TV and listened to it at the top of every hour on radio from coast to coast—and because real news was expensive to produce, with bureaus and correspondents all over the world, news was a money-loser for all of the Big Three TV networks and for most local radio and TV stations.

But it was such a sacred thing—this was, aft er all, the keystone that held together the station’s license to broadcast and thus to do business—it didn’t matter if it lost money. It made all the other money-making things possible.

Through much of the early 1970s, I worked in the newsroom of a radio station in Lansing, Michigan. It had been started and was then run by three local guys: an engineer, a salesman, and a radio broadcaster. They split up the responsibilities like you’d expect, and all were around the building most days and would hang out from time to time with the on-air crew—all except the sales guy. I was forbidden from talking with him because I worked in news. Th ere could be no hint—ever, anywhere—that our radio station had violated the FCC’s programming-in-the-public-interest mandate by, for example, my going easy on an advertiser in a news story or promoting another advertiser in a different story. News had to be news, separate from profits and revenue—and if it wasn’t, I’d be fired on the spot.

News, in other words, wasn’t part of the “free market.” It was part of our nation’s intellectual commons and thus the price of the station’s license.

After Reagan blew up the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, two very interesting things happened. The first was the rise of rightwing hate-speech talk radio, starting with Rush Limbaugh that very year. The second, which really stepped up fast after President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which further deregulated the broadcast industry, was that the moneylosing news divisions of the Big Three TV networks were taken under the wings of their entertainment divisions—and wrung dry. Foreign bureaus were closed. Reporters were fired. Stories that promoted the wonders of advertisers or other companies (like movie production houses) owned by the same mega-corporations that owned the networks began to appear. And investigative journalism that cast a bright light on corporate malfeasance vanished.

And because newscasts had ads, and those ads were sold based on viewership, the overall arc and content of the news began to be dictated by what the public wanted to know rather than by what they needed to know to function in a democratic society.

The interns were aghast. “Reagan did that?!” one said, incredulous. I said yes and that Bill Clinton then helped the process along to its current sorry state by signing the Telecommunications Act, leading to the creation of the Fox “News” Channel in October 1996 and its now-legal ability to call itself a news operation while baldly promoting what it knows to be falsehoods or distortions.

Now here we are in 2010, and the news media is an abject failure when it comes to reporting the real news—news that citizens in a democracy need to know. Even Ted Koppel, no flaming liberal by any means, said in an April 2010 interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that he thought the state of the news industry was “a disaster.”[1] He went on:

I think we are living through the final stages of what I would call the Age of Entitlement. We fight two wars without raising a single nickel to support them. We feel entitled to mortgages whether we have jobs or not. We feel entitled to make $10 million, $50 million, or $100 million even though the enterprise we headed up is a total failure. And we now feel entitled not to have the news that we need but the news that we want. We want to listen to news that comes from those who already sympathize with our particular point of view. We don’t want the facts anymore.

Koppel was also well aware of the influence of profit-making on the news organizations, which he believed was driving the degradation of news so that it appealed to our baser instincts:

I think it’s the producer [of the particular news show] who is at fault, who desperately needs the consumer…In the good old days, when you only had three networks—ABC, NBC, and CBS—there was competition, but the competition still permitted us to do what was in the public interest. These days all the networks have to fi ght with the dozens of cable outlets that are out there, the Internet that is out there, and they are all competing for the almighty dollar, and the way to get there is to head down to the lowest common denominator.

When we talk about news that people “need,” we are really talking about the intellectual and informational nutrition that is essential for the health and the well-being of our democracy. We need an educated and informed citizenry to participate in our democratic institutions and elections, and we’re not going to get that if we keep dumbing down the news and giving people what they want and not what they and society need.

Breaking Up the Media Monopolies

The Studio System

Back in the 1930s and 1940s, the eight biggest movie studios owned the majority of movie theaters in America. A Paramount theater, for example, would show only movies produced by Paramount’s movie studios, which featured only people under contract to Paramount. The result was that the studios could make (or break) any movie star and control what people could see in their local community. It was very profitable to the studios, but it was stifling to competition and creativity and therefore a disservice to the moviegoing audience.

So through that era, in a series of actions that lasted almost a decade and which were capped by the big studios’ signing a major consent decree with the feds, the federal government tried to force the big theaters to open up the business to competition. The big theaters said that they would, even agreeing to the 1940 Paramount Decree, but they continued with business as usual.

The issue came to a head when it was argued in an antitrust case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948. Th e Court, in a 7-to-1 decision, ruled against the movie giants, saying that they could no longer have total control of the vertically integrated system—from contracting with actors to making movies to showing them in their own theaters across the country. They had to choose: operate in either the movie making business or the movie showing business. They couldn’t do both.

The result was the beginning of the end of the “kingmaker” movie studio monopoly and a boon for independent filmmakers. It also led to a proliferation of new theaters, from ones in urban areas (many retrofitting old opera or burlesque houses) to the new fad of drive-in movie theaters. Th e industry today is infinitely more diverse and creative as a result of that breakup.

Television and the Prime Time Access Rule

In the late 1960s, television was going through a similar vertical integration, with the Big Three TV networks dominating the content of local television stations they either owned or had as affiliates. In response the FCC promulgated the Prime Time Access Rule in 1970, which dictated that at least one hour out of the four “prime time” hours on every local TV station in the nation would have to come from some source other than the network.

This opened the door to independent TV production companies, like MTM Enterprises, which produced several sitcoms derived from the work of Mary Tyler Moore, and competition from the new television divisions of old-line movie houses, such as Twentieth Century Fox’s producing a TV version of M*A*S*H and Paramount’s producing Happy Days.[2]

Although the rules against vertical theater integration are no longer enforced, and the Prime Time Access Rule was blown up in 1996, both the movie and TV industries are broadly more diverse in their programming than they would have been without these “market interventions” that increased competition and decreased monopoly. Which brings us to radio.

The Vicious Circle of Conservative Talk Radio

Many people wonder why the big 50,000-watt AM stations (and even many of the big 25,000- and 10,000-watt stations) across the country carry exclusively conservative programming, particularly programs featuring Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. In most cases, it’s a simple matter of the economics of monopoly.

One of the largest owners of the biggest (full-power) radio stations in the country is a mega-corporation that also owns the largest talk-radio syndication service in the nation. When the corporation’s stations carry shows that its syndication service owns, it makes money both from the local station ownership and from the ownership of the syndication service. When the stations carry shows from other syndicators or independent shows, the corporation loses the syndication revenue and the local station (which it also owns) loses typically five minutes of advertising inventory per hour that it must barter with the syndicated show for in exchange for the right to air the show.

Thus, so long as the radio industry is allowed to run like the movie studio system in the 1940s, the “studio”—in this case the giant corporation that owns radio stations as well as the nation’s largest talk-radio syndication service—will have an outsized influence on what shows up on the very biggest stations in the largest markets across the country. Because of the huge, booming voice of those stations, those shows will have a significant edge in “finding” listeners (and vice versa), making those shows “successful” and thus creating demand for them from the independent stations. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Some progressives have suggested that radio needs a “fairness doctrine” where a government panel will determine how much “liberal” or “conservative” programming each station carries and then force the stations to “balance” out any disequilibrium. But who decides what is “liberal” or “conservative”? Is there a checklist of political positions that a government watchdog would have to go through—immigration, taxes, protecting the commons, gay rights, abortion, gun control, foreign policy? It would be a mess, particularly since many of those issues don’t lend themselves to easy pigeonholing.

A much easier way to balance the playing field is simply to bring into the marketplace real competition by separating syndication companies from local radio stations so that the stations will no longer have an incentive to carry programming because “it’s in the family” and instead will look for shows that can attract and hold an audience.

Programming in the Public Interest

We need to return to the notion of “programming in the public interest,” making news back into news. We also need to start enforcing the Sherman Antitrust Act and use it to break up the large media monopolies that have re-formed since the Reagan and Clinton eras, thus effectively rolling back media deregulation.

And this isn’t limited to radio and TV. Consumer-friendly regulation almost always has a similar effect in breaking up monopolies when it’s designed to help people get around the monopoly.

For example, the company that owns the copper wires, cable, G3 or G4 wireless, or fiber-optic cabling going into your house also owns the exclusive right to carry the content that goes over that infrastructure. If you have a cable company supplying your home, it’s probably competing only with the local phone company for your business. Because those two companies (and maybe a mobile provider) are the only ones “competing” for your business, they can easily keep prices—and profits—very high.

In most other developed countries, however, regardless of who owns and maintains the wires, cable, or fiber, anybody can off er content over it. Th e rationale for this is that infrastructure of physical wires and the wireless frequencies constitutes a “natural monopoly” that heavily uses public spaces (cables and phone lines go through and along public streets and rights-of-way); and so while a company can make a small profit on that part of its business, the wires and the wireless frequencies are really a part of the commons that can be regulated.

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On the other hand, these developed countries believe that the content delivery should be competitive. After all, this is where most of the innovation comes from: it’s not a matter of the newest, coolest copper wires; it’s the content that draws customers.

The result of this is that the average citizen in France, for example, pays about $33 per month for what the New York Times described as “Internet service twice as fast as what you get from Verizon or Comcast, bundled with digital high-definition television, unlimited long distance and international calling to 70 countries and wireless Internet connectivity for your laptop or smartphone throughout most of the country.”[3]

And that’s all from private companies, with no government subsidies. Why? Because small and new companies are allowed to compete by the government’s requiring whichever company carries the signal (wire, cable, fiber, wireless) to make that signal path available to any company that wants to off er content to consumers.

Competition—mandated by the French government—has driven the price down and innovation up. Th e average French citizen is not only paying one-fifth of what the average American pays for such services but is also getting better quality, more variety, and much faster Internet access.

Breaking up the media monopolies and fostering more competition, innovation, and creativity in the media world clearly has public benefits, especially in ensuring that people have access to information they need to participate in our democracy. An informed and educated electorate would be one major result of such government regulation.

The same result can also be helped by making higher education more accessible to the average American.

Access to Higher Education

Jefferson’s Tombstone

Thomas Jefferson’s tombstone contains an epitaph that he wrote before his death with a directive that not a single word be changed. He had been the president of the United States for two terms and the vice president for one, was a member of the Virginia legislature, and was a famous inventor and architect as well as the author of nearly a million words in various letters, diaries, notebooks, books, pamphlets, and rants. But he chose not to mention any of that on his gravestone.

Besides the dates of his birth and death, he chose to be remembered for three things that he did in his 83 years of life on earth:

Here Was Buried Thomas Jefferson

Author of the Declaration of American Independence

of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom

and Father of the University of Virginia

Writing the Declaration of Independence was an obvious choice, and declaring forever his opposition to integrating church and state also made sense (although it got him demoted in 2010 in schoolbooks in the state of Texas). But “Father of the University of Virginia” being more important than “President of the United States of America”?

Jefferson, it turns out, had this wacky idea. He actually believed that young people should be able to go to college regardless of their ability to pay, their station in life, and how rich or poor their parents were. He thought that an educated populace was the best defense of liberty and democracy in the new nation he’d helped birth.

So the University of Virginia that he started was free.

Reagan’s Legacy

Ronald Reagan certainly thought that that was a wacky idea, and he was diametrically opposed to the Jeffersonian ideal. When he took office as governor of California in 1967, he quickly called for an end to free tuition at the University of California and an across-the- board 20 percent cut in state funding for higher education.[4] He then argued for a cut in spending on construction for higher education in the state and set up the fi ring of the popular president of the university, Clark Kerr, whom he deemed “too liberal.”

When asked why he was doing away with free college in California, Reagan said that the role of the state “should not be to subsidize intellectual curiosity.”

Reagan further referred to college students who nationwide were protesting the Vietnam War as “brats,” “cowardly fascists,” and “freaks.” Adding that if the only way to “restore order” on the nation’s campuses was violence, that was fine with him. Just a few days before the Kent State shootings, he famously said, “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement!”[5]

The trend that Reagan began with the UC system continues to this day. During Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tenure, state funding for education saw drastic cuts and tuition for undergraduate students rose by more than 90 percent.[6]

Reagan set a tone as governor of California that metastasized across the nation through the 1970s and became federal policy when he was elected president in 1980. By the time he left offi ce in 1988, federal funding for education in the United States had declined from 12 percent of total national educational spending in 1980 to just 6 percent.[7]

Interestingly, to find most of this information you have to dive into recent biographies of the former president or read old newspaper archives that are usually not available online. Not a word of Reagan’s role in slashing the UC funding exists, for example, on the Wikipedia pages for either the University of California or Reagan himself. Conservative foundations have poured millions of dollars into campaigns to scrub the Internet clean when it comes to Reagan’s past (and that of most other right-wingers).

Yet the reality is that before the Reagan presidency, it was possible for any American student with academic competence to attend college and graduate without debt.

Even in Michigan in the late 1960s, where education was not free but was highly subsidized by the state, my wife paid her way through college by working part-time as a waitress at a Howard Johnson’s. To the extent that I went to college (I completed less than a year altogether), I paid my own way by working as a DJ for $2.35 per hour, running my own TV repair business, pumping gas, and working as a cook at a Big Boy restaurant on weekends.

Such a scenario is unthinkable today. Instead public higher education has become a big business and is oft en totally corporate; costs are through the roof; and if you’re not from a very wealthy family, odds are you’ll graduate college with a debt that can take decades to repay. As a result, the United States is slipping in virtually every measurement of innovation, income, and competitiveness. A highly educated workforce is good for innovation and entrepreneurialism: every one of the top 20 innovative countries in the world—except the USA—offers free or very inexpensive college to qualified students.

Ireland took a cue from the pre-Reagan University of California and began offering free college tuition to all Irish citizens and a fl at-rate registration fee of 900 euros per year for all European Union citizens. Th e result, decades later, is that Ireland has gone from having a backwater economy that was largely based on agriculture and tourism to becoming one of the high-tech and innovation capitals of the world.

Ironically, Ireland’s vision—and California’s pre-Reagan vision—of education was at the core of Thomas Jefferson’s hopes for the country he helped found.

Jefferson’s Vision

On June 14, 1898, more than 70 years aft er Jefferson’s death, a new building (then called the Academic Building, now called Cabell Hall) was inaugurated at the University of Virginia. One of the nation’s most prominent attorneys at the time, James C. Carter of New York City, gave the dedication speech.[8] Carter noted that when Jefferson retired from public office, he was only 66 years old and still energetic and enthusiastic to do something for his country. That something was founding the University of Virginia. Carter said:

He had cherished through life a passion for the acquisition of knowledge, and was one of the best educated men, if not the best educated man, of his country and time…

He had in early manhood formed a scheme of public education, which, from time to time, had pressed itself on his attention throughout even the busiest years of his public life. It was part of his political philosophy.

Lover of liberty as he was, firmly as he believed that popular government was the only form of public authority consistent with the highest happiness of men, he yet did not believe that any nation or community could permanently retain this blessing without the benefit of the lessons of truth, and the discipline of virtue to be derived only from the intellectual and moral education of the whole people.

Carter noted that Jefferson had laid out, in numerous letters and discussions throughout his life, a broad overview of how education should be conducted in the United States. Jefferson envisioned the division of states into districts and wards with primary schools and the establishment of colleges and universities where deserving students “might acquire, gratis, a further and higher education.”

Jefferson envisioned the goal of free public education—from childhood through university—to be straightforward. In a report he prepared for a state commission in Virginia, Jefferson laid out the six purposes of education:[9]

1. To give to every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business.

2. To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts and accounts in writing.

3. To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties.

4. To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either.

5. To know his rights; to exercise with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor and judgment.

6. And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness, all the social relations under which he shall be placed.

In other words, a well-educated citizenry can “choose with discretion” the elected representatives who are the holders of our government that protects our rights, and hold those politicians accountable “with diligence, with candor and judgment.”

Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, promised during his election campaign of 1980 to “eliminate the Department of Education” from the federal government; and he appointed his friend William Bennett, who had campaigned and written extensively about destroying the federal Department of Education, as secretary of education —akin to asking the fox to guard the chicken coop. Between Reagan’s ax hacking at the roots of our educational systems and his tax cuts to “starve the beast” of government, we are now left with the highest illiteracy rate in the developed world and an electorate that is spectacularly vulnerable to demagoguery and cynical political manipulation.

The experiment of Reaganomics and Reagan’s anti-intellectual worldview are demonstrably disordered and dead; we must put them behind us and build anew our country on the solid Jeffersonian foundation of good and free education for all.

Combine that with breaking up the media monopolies in this country and fostering competition and its attendant innovation through intelligent regulation of the “natural monopolies” in our nation, and we would have a more informed citizenry with better and faster access to real news and information—including information about our body politic.

These “radical” concepts of free public education all the way up to graduate degrees, breaking up companies that vertically integrate entire markets (particularly in the media), and requiring infrastructure-owning companies to off er their infrastructure to a wide variety of competitors work quite well in dozens of countries around the world. They can here too.

NOTES

1. “Ted Koppel Assesses the Media Landscape,” BBC World News, April 12, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/world _news_america/8616838.stm.

2. “Studio,” Museum of Broadcast Communications, http://www .museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=studio.

3. Yochai Benler, “Ending the Internet’s Trench Warfare,” New York Times, March 20, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/ opinion/21Benkler.html.

4. Wallace Turner, “Gov. Reagan Proposes Cutback in U. of California Appropriation; Would Impose Tuition Charge on Students from State; Kerr Weighs New Post,” New York Times, January 7, 1967, cited in Gary K. Clabaugh, “Th e Educational Legacy of Ronald Reagan,” NewFoundations.com, January 24, 2009, http://www.newfounda tions.com/Clabaugh/CuttingEdge/Reagan.html#_edn3.

5. Steven V. Roberts, “Ronald Reagan Is Giving ‘Em Heck, New York Times, October 25, 1970, cited in Clabaugh, “Educational Legacy.”

6. Richard C. Paddock, “Less to Bank on at State Universities,” Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2007, http://articles.latimes.com/2007/ oct/07/local/me-newcompact7.

7. Gary K. Clabaugh, “Th e Educational Legacy of Ronald Reagan,” NewFoundations.com, January 24, 2009, http://www.newfounda tions.com/Clabaugh/CuttingEdge/Reagan.html#_edn3.

8. James C. Carter, The University of Virginia: Jeff erson Its Father, and His Political Philosophy: An Address Delivered upon the Occasion of the Dedication of the New Buildings of the University, June 14, 1898 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Library, 1898).

9. Albert Ellery Berch, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 2 (Washington, DC: Th omas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1905), http://www.constitution.org/tj/jeff 02.txt.

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a nationally syndicated progressive radio talk show. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at his website and find out what stations broadcast his program. He is also now has a daily television program at RT Network. You can also listen to Thom over the Internet.

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When the Republicans Really Were the Party of Lincoln

by John Nichols, The Nation, posted on BillMoyers.com, July 2, 2014

Mini-excerpt

The Republican Party was, for a vital century, the American political party most closely aligned with the cause of civil rights…Well into the 20th century, Republicans took seriously their history and their responsibility that went with it…The change came quickly. Two weeks after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, the Republican National Convention in San Francisco nominated for the presidency Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, one of the handful of Republican senators who had opposed the measure…That philosophy was replaced by a more rigid and divisive politics. “The Republican Party that had been ceased to be sometime in the 1980s, and the modern party — the radical conservative party — not only has little or no interest in honoring its history, it is actively hostile to it,” Geoffrey Kabaservice, the author of the brilliant 2012 bookRule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party from Eisenhower to the Tea Party

Excerpt

The Republican Party was, for a vital century, the American political party most closely aligned with the cause of civil rights…Well into the 20th century, Republicans took seriously their history and their responsibility that went with it…declaring in the party’s 1960 platform that:… racial discrimination has no place. It can hardly be reconciled with a Constitution that guarantees equal protection under law to all persons. In a deeper sense, too, it is immoral and unjust. As to those matters within reach of political action and leadership, we pledge ourselves unreservedly to its eradication…True to their word, top Republicans in Congress provided advice, counsel and support that was essential to the development and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964...When the key votes in the House and the Senate came 50 years ago, Republicans were significantly more supportive of the Civil Rights Act than were Democrats….When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964, he is said to have told an aide, “We (Democrats) have lost the South for a generation.”

But that statement did not just apply to the Democrats. Republicans were, necessarily, part of the change equation. The change came quickly. Two weeks after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, the Republican National Convention in San Francisco nominated for the presidency Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, one of the handful of Republican senators who had opposed the measure…

Two months later, a key Democratic foe of civil rights, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, switched his party affiliation and began working to remake the Republican Party so that it could appeal to Southern white voters. Thurmond was an essential backer of the campaigns of Goldwater in 1964, Richard Nixon in 1968 and Ronald Reagan in 1980. His influence on Nixon, who developed a so-called “Southern strategy” to help realize Thurmond’s vision of a transformed political map…

At the same time, civil rights advocates within the Republican Party either left or were defeated…Two weeks after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, the Republican National Convention in San Francisco nominated for the presidency Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, one of the handful of Republican senators who had opposed the measure.

The senators who were rejected did not lose merely because of their civil rights advocacy but because of their Lincolnesque vision of a progressive Republican Party that, in Kuchel’s words, “brought to politics the philosophy of governing for the many.”

That philosophy was replaced by a more rigid and divisive politics. “The Republican Party that had been ceased to be sometime in the 1980s, and the modern party — the radical conservative party — not only has little or no interest in honoring its history, it is actively hostile to it,” Geoffrey Kabaservice, the author of the brilliant 2012 bookRule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party from Eisenhower to the Tea Party…For a time in the 1950s and 1960s, enlightened Democrats and Republicans competed to be the party of civil rights. And the Republicans were in the lead through much of the period.…The tragedy of the Democratic Party through much of its history was an unwillingness to stand strong against its Southern wing and to clearly align itself with the cause of social and economic justice. The tragedy of the Republican Party is that, when Democrats began to do the right thing, key figures in the GOP welcomed Thurmond into its fold and began to craft not just a “Southern strategy” but a politics of reaction…But as one of the great Republican advocates of civil rights, John Lindsay, noted when he left the GOP in 1971, “Today the Republican Party has moved so far from what I perceive as necessary policies… that I can no longer try to work within it.”…

Full text

The Republican Party was, for a vital century, the American political party most closely aligned with the cause of civil rights. The invariably realistic Frederick Douglass explained that, “I knew that however bad the Republican Party was, the Democratic Party was much worse. The elements of which the Republican party was composed gave better ground for the ultimate hope of the success of the colored man’s cause than those of the Democratic Party.”

Well into the 20th century, Republicans took seriously their history and their responsibility that went with it. They worked to earn the votes of African-Americans and all supporters of equal justice under law, declaring in the party’s 1960 platform that:

This nation was created to give expression, validity and purpose to our spiritual heritage — the supreme worth of the individual. In such a nation — a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal — racial discrimination has no place. It can hardly be reconciled with a Constitution that guarantees equal protection under law to all persons. In a deeper sense, too, it is immoral and unjust. As to those matters within reach of political action and leadership, we pledge ourselves unreservedly to its eradication.

True to their word, top Republicans in Congress provided advice, counsel and support that was essential to the development and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

While Democrats struggled with their party’s internal contradictions on the issue – deferring far too frequently to the demands of Southern segregationists who held powerful committee chairs in the House and Senate, and who commanded machines that delivered needed electoral votes – Republicans demanded action. “When President John F. Kennedy failed to submit a promised civil rights bill, three Republicans (Representatives William McCulloch of Ohio, John Lindsay of New York and Charles Mathias of Maryland) introduced one of their own,” noted The New York Times in recalling the great struggles of the era. “This inspired Mr. Kennedy to deliver on his promise, and it built Republican support for what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

When the key votes in the House and the Senate came 50 years ago, Republicans were significantly more supportive of the Civil Rights Act than were Democrats. The measure passed the House on a 290-130 vote, with support from 61 percent of House Democrats (152 in favor, 96 opposed). But Republican lawmakers gave it 80 percent backing (138 in support, just 34 against).

When the key votes in the House and the Senate came 50 years ago, Republicans were significantly more supportive of the Civil Rights Act than were Democrats.

The critical test came in the Senate in June, 1964. Republicans aligned with northern Democrats to break the segregationist filibuster. Then, 82 percent of Republican senators backed final passage of the measure, as opposed to two-thirds of Senate Democrats.

When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964, he is said to have told an aide, “We (Democrats) have lost the South for a generation.”

But that statement did not just apply to the Democrats. Republicans were, necessarily, part of the change equation.

The change came quickly. Two weeks after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, the Republican National Convention in San Francisco nominated for the presidency Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, one of the handful of Republican senators who had opposed the measure.

Two months later, a key Democratic foe of civil rights, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, switched his party affiliation and began working to remake the Republican Party so that it could appeal to Southern white voters. Thurmond was an essential backer of the campaigns of Goldwater in 1964, Richard Nixon in 1968 and Ronald Reagan in 1980. His influence on Nixon, who developed a so-called “Southern strategy” to help realize Thurmond’s vision of a transformed political map, was immense. It extended deep into the decision-making process for the selections of a vice president and Supreme Court nominees.

At the same time, civil rights advocates within the Republican Party either left or were defeated. House Minority Leader Charles Halleck, the Indiana Republican who worked closely with the Johnson administration to pass muscular civil rights protections was deposed the following January by his own caucus. John Lindsay, was rejected in his own party’s 1969 New York City mayoral primary (winning instead on the Liberal Party line), became a Democrat in 1971. His ally in the 1963 civil rights push, “Mac” Mathias, was so unsettled by the GOP’s move to the right that he threatened to run for the presidency in 1976 as a progressive independent. Other champions of civil rights, such as California Senator Thomas Kuchel (the Republican floor manager in the fights to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965), New Jersey Senator Clifford Case and New York Senator Jacob Javits, would eventually lose primaries to conservative challengers.

Two weeks after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, the Republican National Convention in San Francisco nominated for the presidency Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, one of the handful of Republican senators who had opposed the measure.

The senators who were rejected did not lose merely because of their civil rights advocacy but because of their Lincolnesque vision of a progressive Republican Party that, in Kuchel’s words, “brought to politics the philosophy of governing for the many.”

That philosophy was replaced by a more rigid and divisive politics. “The Republican Party that had been ceased to be sometime in the 1980s, and the modern party — the radical conservative party — not only has little or no interest in honoring its history, it is actively hostile to it,”Geoffrey Kabaservice, the author of the brilliant 2012 book Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party from Eisenhower to the Tea Party explained to Todd Purdum.

Purdum, who has written his own fine book on the battle to pass the Civil Rights Act, An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964marked the anniversary of the signing of the act with an article headlined, “Why the Civil Rights Act Couldn’t Pass Today.”

Purdum is appropriately critical of both major parties, but his most damning statement is an observation that “the Party of Lincoln became the party of white backlash, especially in the South.”

Thurmond was certainly not the only Southern Democrat to switch his party affiliation in the period following the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act – Jesse Helms made the change in 1970; Trent Lott, an aide to a segregationist Democratic congressman, ran for the House as a Republican in 1972; Virginian Mills Goodwn Jr., who The New York Times described as “a pillar of his state’s policy of ‘massive resistance’ to the racial integration of schools” during his years as a Democratic state legislator, was elected governor as a Republican in 1973. But Thurmond was the most prominent and the most influential of the party switchers. Over time, he evolved his rhetoric away from the crude language of his 1948 States Rights Democratic Party presidential run and his Senate filibusters to a more politically palatable critique of “Big Government.” The senator would eventually say that, “If I had been elected president in 1948, history would be vastly different. I believe we would have stemmed the growth of Big Government, which had begun with the New Deal and culminated with the Great Society.”

For a time in the 1950s and 1960s, enlightened Democrats and Republicans competed to be the party of civil rights. And the Republicans were in the lead through much of the period.

That statement conveniently neglected the fact that Thurmond and his allies in 1948 did not just talk about the size of the federal government. The same States Rights Democratic Party platform that declared its opposition to “the totalitarian, centralized bureaucratic government and the police nation called for by the platforms adopted by the Democratic and Republican Conventions” also announced that, “We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race…”

Thurmond left the Democratic Party the first time, in 1948, because the Democrats were becoming more like the Republicans on the issue of civil rights – as both parties moved, slowly but surely, toward a recognition that Hubert Humphrey was right when he told the 1948 Democratic National Convention it was time “to get out of the shadow of state’s rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”

For a time in the 1950s and 1960s, enlightened Democrats and Republicans competed to be the party of civil rights. And the Republicans were in the lead through much of the period – encouraging Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke, the first African-American elected to the Senate in the modern era, to observe that, “[The Republican Party] was, I believe, much more progressive than the Democratic Party.”

Republicans were not the party of Thurmond, they were explicitly and proudly the party of Lincoln. That 1960 GOP platform read:

Equality under law promises more than the equal right to vote and transcends mere relief from discrimination by government. It becomes a reality only when all persons have equal opportunity, without distinction of race, religion, color or national origin, to acquire the essentials of life — housing, education and employment. The Republican Party — the party of Abraham Lincoln — from its very beginning has striven to make this promise a reality. It is today, as it was then, unequivocally dedicated to making the greatest amount of progress toward the objective.

The tragedy of the Democratic Party through much of its history was an unwillingness to stand strong against its Southern wing and to clearly align itself with the cause of social and economic justice. The tragedy of the Republican Party is that, when Democrats began to do the right thing, key figures in the GOP welcomed Thurmond into its fold and began to craft not just a “Southern strategy” but a politics of reaction. There were plenty of Republicans who resisted the trend at the time, and there have been plenty of Republicans since (notably former Congressman Jack Kemp and former Secretary of State Colin Powell) who have sought to broaden the party’s focus and appeal.

But as one of the great Republican advocates of civil rights, John Lindsay, noted when he left the GOP in 1971, “Today the Republican Party has moved so far from what I perceive as necessary policies… that I can no longer try to work within it.”

One of the great Republican advocates of civil rights, John Lindsay, noted when he left the GOP in 1971, “Today the Republican Party has moved so far from what I perceive as necessary policies… that I can no longer try to work within it.”

John Avalon, the longtime speechwriter for New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who has since become a prominent advocate for centrist projects such as the “No Labels” movement wrote several years ago: “The Republican Party was right on civil rights for the first one-hundred years of its existence. It was right when the Democratic Party was wrong. Its future strength and survival will depend on rediscovering that legacy of individual freedom amid America’s essential diversity,” wrote Avalon several years ago. “To win in the 21st century, the Party of Lincoln needs to start looking like the Party of Lincoln again.”

This is true.

It is also true that Republicans have a right to reflect proudly on the role the GOP played in securing approval of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This anniversary belongs to both parties – to Democrats who recall Johnson’s leadership, to Republicans who recall the role played by congressional Republicans.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party that has spent much of its energy in recent years promoting restrictive Voter ID laws and that is currently entertaining a telling debate about Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran’s outreach to African-American voters in last month’s runoff election fight, often finds itself at odds with the legacies of Lincoln and the Republicans who championed civil rights in the mid-1960s.

“There’s also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party,” Powell said on NBC’s Meet the Press last year. “What do I mean by that?  What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities.”

Powell recommended that his party “take a very hard look at itself.” In particular, the Republican Party should take a very hard look at its past – and it should embrace that past.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone, and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers.

 

John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. His most recent book is The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy.

http://billmoyers.com/2014/07/02/when-the-republicans-really-were-the-party-of-lincoln/

Checks & Imbalances – Memo: From Nick Hanauer To: My Fellow Zillionaires

Checks & Imbalances – Memo: From Nick Hanauer
To: My Fellow Zillionaires, www.politico.com, June 2014

You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist….people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast….If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us.…It’s not if, it’s when…Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly…. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us…Capitalism,…can be managed either to benefit the few in the near term or the many in the long term. The work of democracies is to bend it to the latter….We should never forget that…the United States of America and its middle class made us, rather than the other way around. Or we could sit back, do nothing, enjoy our yachts. And wait for the pitchforks.

Excerpt

You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist…. I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine…seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success…Jeff—Bezos—called me…So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller….Now I own a very large yacht. But let’s speak frankly to each other…At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent. But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day….If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when…Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly…. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us…

Because here’s an odd thing. During the past three decades, compensation for CEOs grew 127 times faster than it did for workers. Since 1950, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio has increased 1,000 percent, and that is not a typo. CEOs used to earn 30 times the median wage; now they rake in 500 times…

One thing we can agree on—I’m sure of this—is that the change isn’t going to start in Washington…Dear 1%ers, many of our fellow citizens are starting to believe that capitalism itself is the problem. I disagree, and I’m sure you do too. Capitalism, when well managed, is the greatest social technology ever invented to create prosperity in human societies. But capitalism left unchecked tends toward concentration and collapse. It can be managed either to benefit the few in the near term or the many in the long term. The work of democracies is to bend it to the latter….We should never forget that…the United States of America and its middle class made us, rather than the other way around. Or we could sit back, do nothing, enjoy our yachts. And wait for the pitchforks.

 Full text

You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough—and that time wasn’t far off—people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene’s. And Borders. And on and on.

Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

 

Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I’ve had many of you tell me to my face I’m completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.

Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us.

***

The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.

The model for us rich guys here should be Henry Ford, who realized that all his autoworkers in Michigan weren’t only cheap labor to be exploited; they were consumers, too. Ford figured that if he raised their wages, to a then-exorbitant $5 a day, they’d be able to afford his Model Ts.

What a great idea. My suggestion to you is: Let’s do it all over again. We’ve got to try something. These idiotic trickle-down policies are destroying my customer base. And yours too.

It’s when I realized this that I decided I had to leave my insulated world of the super-rich and get involved in politics. Not directly, by running for office or becoming one of the big-money billionaires who back candidates in an election. Instead, I wanted to try to change the conversation with ideas—by advancing what my co-author, Eric Liu, and I call “middle-out” economics. It’s the long-overdue rebuttal to the trickle-down economics worldview that has become economic orthodoxy across party lines—and has so screwed the American middle class and our economy generally. Middle-out economics rejects the old misconception that an economy is a perfectly efficient, mechanistic system and embraces the much more accurate idea of an economy as a complex ecosystem made up of real people who are dependent on one another.

Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators. Which means a thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it. The middle class creates us rich people, not the other way around.

On June 19, 2013, Bloomberg published an article I wrote called “The Capitalist’s Case for a $15 Minimum Wage.” Forbes labeled it “Nick Hanauer’s near insane” proposal. And yet, just weeks after it was published, my friend David Rolf, a Service Employees International Union organizer, roused fast-food workers to go on strike around the country for a $15 living wage. Nearly a year later, the city of Seattle passed a $15 minimum wage. And just 350 days after my article was published, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed that ordinance into law. How could this happen, you ask?

It happened because we reminded the masses that they are the source of growth and prosperity, not us rich guys. We reminded them that when workers have more money, businesses have more customers—and need more employees. We reminded them that if businesses paid workers a living wage rather than poverty wages, taxpayers wouldn’t have to make up the difference. And when we got done, 74 percent of likely Seattle voters in a recent poll agreed that a $15 minimum wage was a swell idea.

The standard response in the minimum-wage debate, made by Republicans and their business backers and plenty of Democrats as well, is that raising the minimum wage costs jobs. Businesses will have to lay off workers. This argument reflects the orthodox economics that most people had in college. If you took Econ 101, then you literally were taught that if wages go up, employment must go down. The law of supply and demand and all that. That’s why you’ve got John Boehner and other Republicans in Congress insisting that if you price employment higher, you get less of it. Really?

The thing about us businesspeople is that we love our customers rich and our employees poor.

Because here’s an odd thing. During the past three decades, compensation for CEOs grew 127 times faster than it did for workers. Since 1950, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio has increased 1,000 percent, and that is not a typo. CEOs used to earn 30 times the median wage; now they rake in 500 times. Yet no company I know of has eliminated its senior managers, or outsourced them to China or automated their jobs. Instead, we now have more CEOs and senior executives than ever before. So, too, for financial services workers and technology workers. These folks earn multiples of the median wage, yet we somehow have more and more of them.

The thing about us businesspeople is that we love our customers rich and our employees poor. So for as long as there has been capitalism, capitalists have said the same thing about any effort to raise wages. We’ve had 75 years of complaints from big business—when the minimum wage was instituted, when women had to be paid equitable amounts, when child labor laws were created. Every time the capitalists said exactly the same thing in the same way: We’re all going to go bankrupt. I’ll have to close. I’ll have to lay everyone off. It hasn’t happened. In fact, the data show that when workers are better treated, business gets better. The naysayers are just wrong.

Most of you probably think that the $15 minimum wage in Seattle is an insane departure from rational policy that puts our economy at great risk. But in Seattle, our current minimum wage of $9.32 is already nearly 30 percent higher than the federal minimum wage. And has it ruined our economy yet? Well, trickle-downers, look at the data here: The two cities in the nation with the highest rate of job growth by small businesses are San Francisco and Seattle. Guess which cities have the highest minimum wage? San Francisco and Seattle. The fastest-growing big city in America? Seattle. Fifteen dollars isn’t a risky untried policy for us. It’s doubling down on the strategy that’s already allowing our city to kick your city’s ass.

It makes perfect sense if you think about it: If a worker earns $7.25 an hour, which is now the national minimum wage, what proportion of that person’s income do you think ends up in the cash registers of local small businesses? Hardly any. That person is paying rent, ideally going out to get subsistence groceries at Safeway, and, if really lucky, has a bus pass. But she’s not going out to eat at restaurants. Not browsing for new clothes. Not buying flowers on Mother’s Day.

Is this issue more complicated than I’m making out? Of course. Are there many factors at play determining the dynamics of employment? Yup. But please, please stop insisting that if we pay low-wage workers more, unemployment will skyrocket and it will destroy the economy. It’s utter nonsense. The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics isn’t believing that if the rich get richer, it’s good for the economy. It’s believing that if the poor get richer, it’s bad for the economy.

I know that virtually all of you feel that compelling our businesses to pay workers more is somehow unfair, or is too much government interference. Most of you think that we should just let good examples like Costco or Gap lead the way. Or let the market set the price. But here’s the thing. When those who set bad examples, like the owners of Wal-Mart or McDonald’s, pay their workers close to the minimum wage, what they’re really saying is that they’d pay even less if it weren’t illegal. (Thankfully both companies have recently said they would not oppose a hike in the minimum wage.) In any large group, some people absolutely will not do the right thing. That’s why our economy can only be safe and effective if it is governed by the same kinds of rules as, say, the transportation system, with its speed limits and stop signs.

Wal-Mart is our nation’s largest employer with some 1.4 million employees in the United States and more than $25 billion in pre-tax profit. So why are Wal-Mart employees the largest group of Medicaid recipients in many states? Wal-Mart could, say, pay each of its 1 million lowest-paid workers an extra $10,000 per year, raise them all out of poverty and enable them to, of all things, afford to shop at Wal-Mart. Not only would this also save us all the expense of the food stamps, Medicaid and rent assistance that they currently require, but Wal-Mart would still earn more than $15 billion pre-tax per year. Wal-Mart won’t (and shouldn’t) volunteer to pay its workers more than their competitors. In order for us to have an economy that works for everyone, we should compel all retailers to pay living wages—not just ask politely.

We rich people have been falsely persuaded by our schooling and the affirmation of society, and have convinced ourselves, that we are the main job creators. It’s simply not true. There can never be enough super-rich Americans to power a great economy. I earn about 1,000 times the median American annually, but I don’t buy thousands of times more stuff. My family purchased three cars over the past few years, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. I bought two pairs of the fancy wool pants I am wearing as I write, what my partner Mike calls my “manager pants.” I guess I could have bought 1,000 pairs. But why would I? Instead, I sock my extra money away in savings, where it doesn’t do the country much good.

So forget all that rhetoric about how America is great because of people like you and me and Steve Jobs. You know the truth even if you won’t admit it: If any of us had been born in Somalia or the Congo, all we’d be is some guy standing barefoot next to a dirt road selling fruit. It’s not that Somalia and Congo don’t have good entrepreneurs. It’s just that the best ones are selling their wares off crates by the side of the road because that’s all their customers can afford.

So why not talk about a different kind of New Deal for the American people, one that could appeal to the right as well as left—to libertarians as well as liberals? First, I’d ask my Republican friends to get real about reducing the size of government. Yes, yes and yes, you guys are all correct: The federal government is too big in some ways. But no way can you cut government substantially, not the way things are now. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush each had eight years to do it, and they failed miserably.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress can’t shrink government with wishful thinking. The only way to slash government for real is to go back to basic economic principles: You have to reduce the demand for government. If people are getting $15 an hour or more, they don’t need food stamps. They don’t need rent assistance. They don’t need you and me to pay for their medical care. If the consumer middle class is back, buying and shopping, then it stands to reason you won’t need as large a welfare state. And at the same time, revenues from payroll and sales taxes would rise, reducing the deficit.

This is, in other words, an economic approach that can unite left and right. Perhaps that’s one reason the right is beginning, inexorably, to wake up to this reality as well. Even Republicans as diverse as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum recently came out in favor of raising the minimum wage, in defiance of the Republicans in Congress.

***

One thing we can agree on—I’m sure of this—is that the change isn’t going to start in Washington. Thinking is stale, arguments even more so. On both sides.

But the way I see it, that’s all right. Most major social movements have seen their earliest victories at the state and municipal levels. The fight over the eight-hour workday, which ended in Washington, D.C., in 1938, began in places like Illinois and Massachusetts in the late 1800s. The movement for social security began in California in the 1930s. Even the Affordable Health Care Act—Obamacare—would have been hard to imagine without Mitt Romney’s model in Massachusetts to lead the way.

Sadly, no Republicans and few Democrats get this. President Obama doesn’t seem to either, though his heart is in the right place. In his State of the Union speech this year, he mentioned the need for a higher minimum wage but failed to make the case that less inequality and a renewed middle class would promote faster economic growth. Instead, the arguments we hear from most Democrats are the same old social-justice claims. The only reason to help workers is because we feel sorry for them. These fairness arguments feed right into every stereotype of Obama and the Democrats as bleeding hearts. Republicans say growth. Democrats say fairness—and lose every time.

But just because the two parties in Washington haven’t figured it out yet doesn’t mean we rich folks can just keep going. The conversation is already changing, even if the billionaires aren’t onto it. I know what you think: You think that Occupy Wall Street and all the other capitalism-is-the-problem protesters disappeared without a trace. But that’s not true. Of course, it’s hard to get people to sleep in a park in the cause of social justice. But the protests we had in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis really did help to change the debate in this country from death panels and debt ceilings to inequality.

It’s just that so many of you plutocrats didn’t get the message.

Dear 1%ers, many of our fellow citizens are starting to believe that capitalism itself is the problem. I disagree, and I’m sure you do too. Capitalism, when well managed, is the greatest social technology ever invented to create prosperity in human societies. But capitalism left unchecked tends toward concentration and collapse. It can be managed either to benefit the few in the near term or the many in the long term. The work of democracies is to bend it to the latter. That is why investments in the middle class work. And tax breaks for rich people like us don’t. Balancing the power of workers and billionaires by raising the minimum wage isn’t bad for capitalism. It’s an indispensable tool smart capitalists use to make capitalism stable and sustainable. And no one has a bigger stake in that than zillionaires like us.

The oldest and most important conflict in human societies is the battle over the concentration of wealth and power. The folks like us at the top have always told those at the bottom that our respective positions are righteous and good for all. Historically, we called that divine right. Today we have trickle-down economics.

What nonsense this is. Am I really such a superior person? Do I belong at the center of the moral as well as economic universe? Do you?

My family, the Hanauers, started in Germany selling feathers and pillows. They got chased out of Germany by Hitler and ended up in Seattle owning another pillow company. Three generations later, I benefited from that. Then I got as lucky as a person could possibly get in the Internet age by having a buddy in Seattle named Bezos. I look at the average Joe on the street, and I say, “There but for the grace of Jeff go I.” Even the best of us, in the worst of circumstances, are barefoot, standing by a dirt road, selling fruit. We should never forget that, or forget that the United States of America and its middle class made us, rather than the other way around.

Or we could sit back, do nothing, enjoy our yachts. And wait for the pitchforks.

Nick Hanauer is a Seattle-based entrepreneur. 
Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/06/the-pitchforks-are-coming-for-us-plutocrats-108014.html#ixzz35wisc7Lo

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Articles and excerpts June 26 to July 3, 2014

As You Celebrate the 4th, Remember Why America’s Working Families Need Unions to Stay Strong By Brigid O’Farrell, AlterNet July 2, 2014 

Lone Star Crazy: How Right-Wing Extremists Took Over Texas by Mark Binelli, Rolling Stone magazine, JULY 01, 2014

How Republicans Made Congress Stupid By Paul Glastris and Haley Sweetland Edwards, Washington Monthly

Whose Security? How Washington Protects Itself and the Corporate Sector By Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch, July 1, 2014

Karl Rove and the Modern Money Machine By KENNETH P. VOGEL, www.politico.com, July/August 2014

The Myth of America’s Golden Age  By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ, www.politico.com, July/August 2014

The First Iraq War Was Also Sold to the Public Based on a Pack of Lies by Joshua Holland,  billmoyers.com, June 27, 2014

The Chairman of the Largest Private Company in America Just Told the 1 Percent to Worry About Climate Change by  Robert S. Eshelman, The Nation, June 2014

Inequality Is Not Inevitable By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ, New York Times, June 27, 2014

Gun Nuts Are Terrorizing America: The Watershed Moment Everyone Missed By Rick Perlstein, Salon, posted on Alternet.org, June 26, 2014 

FCC Internet Proposal: The Contemporary Pillage of the Commons By Rivera Sun, Truthout, June 29, 2014 – The contemporary battle for net neutrality must be understood as the front line of a 10,000-year battle between avaricious elites and the average citizens’ struggle for equality. The efforts of the corporations to control the internet reflect ancient patterns of conquest and control.

10 Big Fat Lies and the Liars Who Told Them, interview by Bill Moyers with Chuck Lewis, author of 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity billmoyers.com, June 27, 2014 The title of the book refers to the number of times President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top administration officials made false statements in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But the book has a far greater scope, looking at how lies have shaped American policy over several decades. 

The Leading Edge of Peace: Our Evolutionary Path Forward by Matthew Albracht, Common Dreams, July 1, 2014   

Democrats have an enthusiasm problem. Big time.  The Obama coalition is so over this whole voting thing. by Aaron Blake, The Washington Post, June 26, 2014

Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the most useless of them all? Obama rated WORST president since WW2 in embarrassing poll By Francesca Chambers, July 2, 2014 |

Don’t Put Much Stock in That Poll Calling Obama the Worst President Bush was the “worst,” too by Danny Vinick, newrepublic.com, July 2, 2014

Checks & Imbalances — Memo: From Nick Hanauer To: My Fellow Zillionaires, www.politico.com, June 2014 – You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist.…people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast.…If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us.…It’s not if, it’s when…Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly.… If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us…Capitalism,…can be managed either to benefit the few in the near term or the many in the long term. The work of democracies is to bend it to the latter.…We should never forget that…the United States of America and its middle class made us, rather than the other way around. Or we could sit back, do nothing, enjoy our yachts. And wait for the pitchforks.

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When the Republicans Really Were the Party of Lincoln by John Nichols, The Nation, posted on BillMoyers.com, July 2, 2014 The Republican Party was, for a vital century, the American political party most closely aligned with the cause of civil rights…Well into the 20th century, Republicans took seriously their history and their responsibility that went with it…declaring in the party’s 1960 platform that:… racial discrimination has no place. It can hardly be reconciled with a Constitution that guarantees equal protection under law to all persons. In a deeper sense, too, it is immoral and unjust. As to those matters within reach of political action and leadership, we pledge ourselves unreservedly to its eradication…True to their word, top Republicans in Congress provided advice, counsel and support that was essential to the development and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964...When the key votes in the House and the Senate came 50 years ago, Republicans were significantly more supportive of the Civil Rights Act than were Democrats….When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964, he is said to have told an aide, “We (Democrats) have lost the South for a generation.” But that statement did not just apply to the Democrats. Republicans were, necessarily, part of the change equation. The change came quickly. Two weeks after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, the Republican National Convention in San Francisco nominated for the presidency Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, one of the handful of Republican senators who had opposed the measure…Two months later, a key Democratic foe of civil rights, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, switched his party affiliation and began working to remake the Republican Party so that it could appeal to Southern white voters. Thurmond was an essential backer of the campaigns of Goldwater in 1964, Richard Nixon in 1968 and Ronald Reagan in 1980. His influence on Nixon, who developed a so-called “Southern strategy” to help realize Thurmond’s vision of a transformed political map…At the same time, civil rights advocates within the Republican Party either left or were defeated…Two weeks after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, the Republican National Convention in San Francisco nominated for the presidency Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, one of the handful of Republican senators who had opposed the measure. The senators who were rejected did not lose merely because of their civil rights advocacy but because of their Lincolnesque vision of a progressive Republican Party that, in Kuchel’s words, “brought to politics the philosophy of governing for the many.” That philosophy was replaced by a more rigid and divisive politics. “The Republican Party that had been ceased to be sometime in the 1980s, and the modern party — the radical conservative party — not only has little or no interest in honoring its history, it is actively hostile to it,”Geoffrey Kabaservice, the author of the brilliant 2012 book…For a time in the 1950s and 1960s, enlightened Democrats and Republicans competed to be the party of civil rights. And the Republicans were in the lead through much of the period.…The tragedy of the Democratic Party through much of its history was an unwillingness to stand strong against its Southern wing and to clearly align itself with the cause of social and economic justice. The tragedy of the Republican Party is that, when Democrats began to do the right thing, key figures in the GOP welcomed Thurmond into its fold and began to craft not just a “Southern strategy” but a politics of reaction…But as one of the great Republican advocates of civil rights, John Lindsay, noted when he left the GOP in 1971, “Today the Republican Party has moved so far from what I perceive as necessary policies… that I can no longer try to work within it.”…