How We Think Of “Work” Doesn’t Work Anymore

Back when I was a pup, way, way back in the ancient 1960’s, the “work” paradigm went something like this (assuming you made it to high school): “High School – College – Job At IBM Or Xerox Or Ford Motors For Life – Retirement At 65 – Death Not Too Long After If You’re Male, Not Too, Too Long After If You’re Female”. The work you did was more or less generic. Your whole career, such as it was, was all about taking one for the team because you expected the team would be there for you when you needed it. Your employer (for life) would take care of your salary (of course) and your health insurance. They’d also take care of your retirement — tying their future fate together with your later years. Of course, they’d be there come the day — it’s America, FFS! But, something else was happening meanwhile — something below the surface of it all. While America was working, corporate America — monied America — was working against us all.

Though profits and productivity increased, wages did not. That wasn’t an accident or a coincidence. Back in the 1950’s, when America’s economy boomed, the retail-retail top tax rate for people earning mega-bucks was 91%. No one paid that; when all was done and said, the effective tax rate for the more-money-than-God set was 42%. That’s not too far from today. In other words — the wealthy (having gotten far wealthier since then) could easily pay that difference without even missing it.

Now, let’s be real where the super wealthy are concerned. Nothing any one person does, will do or has ever done could possibly justify anyone having the kind of wealth the super wealthy now possess. Even a great idea born of one person’s verifiable genius demands that countless others get involved in order to shuttle that great idea from the abstract into reality. Contrary to Donald Trump’s thinking, NO ONE alone can fix ANYthing. It’s not just child-rearing that takes a village. Here in the real world, it takes a village to do literally ANYTHING.

The problem is, rich people immediately assume they deserve their wealth (regardless of whether they do or don’t). Whether a trust fund or good fortune have smiled upon them, the rich tend to think their being rich is part of some divine plan. That’s how we ended up with kings and queens insisting (all evidence to the contrary) that their blood was superior to everyone else’s. It’s how we ended up with the idea that an ordinary (fallible) priest takes on the papal robes and immediately becomes INfallible. Um, no, actually — the infallible thing does not in fact happen. The robes only add layers of clothing. Nothing else.

I have spent my entire adult life in the gig economy. It’s not a new thing. What’s new is that more and more people realize they’re living in it, too, now. They realize they’ve been living in it for a while. And they won’t be getting out of it. The gig economy is now THE economy.

America is not prepared for it.

That’s because we keep thinking of “work” in the old fashioned way. We need to stop doing that right bloody now.

Is All Work Created Equal?

Hell, no. But it’s kind of the wrong answer to the wrong question. It should really be framed as “Is all work equal to the worker doing it?” We’d normally ask it in the reverse: “Is the worker equal to the work?” That’s why we insist on resumes and job interviews and character references. We want to make sure we’re hiring someone up to the task. Even better — someone who’ll excel at the task and make us look like geniuses for hiring them. An unemployed rocket scientist or brain surgeon would find their skill sets wasted doing shifts at McDonald’s. But, by the logic of unemployment compensation, you better have a good excuse for not taking the first job offered you.

The brain surgeon doing a shift at the takeout window will walk away with $120 worth of bounce in her step — not much bounce when her monthly nut costs thousands. Yes, she’ll no longer be “unemployed” but her job will both take up her time and fail to pay for her existence. Not exactly the point of the exercise. Let’s say that by hook or by crook the clever Brain Surgeon finds a way to make ends meet on $2400/month (that’s $600/week X four). That wouldn’t be the case, of course — taxes, unemployment, Social Security and Medicare have to be taken out BEFORE any money got to the Brain Surgeon. Take away 25% — what it will likely cost the Brain Surgeon. Working full time, she’s got to make everything in her life fit inside $1800/month.

The simple fact is that no one living in most urban environments in America can thrive on $1800/month. A couple making $3,600/month has a fraction more wriggle room but bigger expenses. Throw in a kid and it would have to be a miracle that this family isn’t living on the street somewhere. Yet, this happens all the time in America. People work their asses off like hamsters in a wheel — getting nowhere, having zero to show for it.

We got here because we love money more than work. We love money more than any work product especially when t’s not ours. We assume the higher one gets paid, the more valuable the work. Spoiler Alert: that’s bullshit. The most valuable work is that which builds, nurtures and sustains us AS a culture. Teachers are incredibly valuable as are any people who chose to work in day care and early childhood development. If we paid people what they were worth in the broadest possible sense to the culture they call home, the distribution of money would be very different from how our society hands out its financial rewards.

The biggest cost in most businesses is labor. The people who “do it all”. That’s also where most businesses try to keep their expenses down. Of course, one must have a budget in order to successfully run a business. But, we’ve loaded businesses up with obligations that maybe they shouldn’t be obligated to — like their employees health insurance. For the record, this anomaly began in America during World War Two. To keep as much money as possible directed toward the war effort, big companies were prohibited by law from giving anyone raises or by luring new hires with promises of more money. The workaround a number of big companies found was offering new hires and valued employees “Hospital Insurance” policies that would help in the event that they or their family encountered a health emergency that put them in the hospital.

After the war ended, these workarounds should have ceased. But a lot of very big companies were now doing it — and, as America had no real health care infrastructure at the time — no system that valued health CARE (not the insurance that covers part of the cost of the care) — health insurance offered by one’s employer became a “thing” in America that Americans expected as part of their employment. That may sound good on the surface, but it’s been nothing short of a disaster for the bulk of Americans and American families who either can’t afford the insurance or aren’t capable of navigating a system that — profit driven as it is — wants to make money, not pay for benefits.

The big companies quickly realized that running a health insurance business for your employees is expensive and unrewarding. The health insurance business was invented to “solve” that problem. It’s utter rubbish that “Americans love their health insurance”. No, they don’t. No one loves their insurance. Insurance companies are GATE KEEPERS standing between an American and the health care of health care provider they want or need. They add nothing except cost. And, while government can indeed be terribly inefficient and subject to graft, so can the corporate world. At least with a government, we can (eventually) vote the bastards out. When a corporation has control of you, of your life, there’s little recourse — except governmental intervention.

The Covid-19 pandemic exposed America’s many flaws in terrible ways. The first question our health INSURANCE (versus CARE) system asks when anyone walks in its door isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?” That’s a problem if people can’t pay. They won’t go to get fixed. If they’re sick, they’ll continue to BE sick. They could easily make more people sick. As the delta variant has made clear, viruses untamed begin to mutate making the problem of solving them that much harder. When even the vaccinated can still get sick, we’re in a bad, bad place.

The reason Universal Basic Income has worked everywhere it’s ever been tried — the reason it’s working for us now (despite so many states already reasserting their more Dickensian way of doing things) — is because the money we pay people almost always goes directly into the economy. People use the UBI to pay their bills and buy things. Rather than taking the first job offered them, people receiving UBI (without having to worry about justifying it) tend to wait for jobs best suited to their skill sets and financial needs. When they do accept work, it’s invariably at a higher salary which means they’ll pay more taxes back into the system — helping to keep the whole thing going.

It works. it’s working. And it understands that we can make work and workers and working far more productive by giving work and worker more time to find each other. As more factory and retail work gets robotized, more people will have to find different jobs — maybe even whole different careers. The nature of a gig economy makes that more easily do-able. But that gets both do-able and productive when we stop thinking of work as punishment for not being rich and, rather, as a means to an end.

The rest of the world works to live while most Americans still live to work. That’s another unexpected benefit of the gig economy — it will force Americans to re-think why they work, what they do when they work and how to reap the most possible rewards from their work.

Things Both Sides Don’t Do

The fundamental flaw of “both sides do it” journalism is that it’s inherently untrue. Democrats and Republicans both seek public office and both want to run he country “their way”, but aside from that? The two sides — conservative and progressive (let’s stick a pin in “Democrat” & “Republican”) — have almost nothing in common. They see the world in diametrically opposite terms. Conservatives value the past as much as they fear the future and any prospect for change. The past isn’t an abstraction for conservatives, it’s their goal; they want to take America back into a time in its past (the 1850’s) where everyone knew their place — men, women, Black people… . The problem with democracy and everyone voting — from the Republican point of view — is that when more Americans exercise their right to vote, they vote against Republicans. Who can blame them? No one wants to return to an era when only white, wealthy, land-owning, Christian men held power — except white Christian men.

Both sides did not condone slavery. The Republican Party that Lincoln joined is not the Republican Party that worships Donald Trump. Hell, it’s not even the same political party that, until Trump, revered Saint Ronnie Reagan. In her terrific history of the Republican Party “To Make Men Free”, historian Heather Cox Richardson describes a party that, if you only read its founding principles, you’d swear was the modern Democrats. When Teddy Roosevelt felt his progressivism shining brightly inside of him, he quit the GOP and formed a third party (the Bull Moose Party) because the Republicans had already strayed far beyond their principles. When the Republican Party formed itself, it WAS the “progressive” party.

Eisenhower was probably the last Republican with a conscience. The next Republican to take the White House was Nixon. Until Reagan, Nixon was the Republican rallying point. On the day he resigned from office — because of Watergate — Nixon’s approval rating sat at 29%. That same psychotic faction now sits above 30%. They’re nowhere near half of us however nor will they ever be. That will be our saving grace. When Eisenhower warned us about the “military-industrial complex”, it wasn’t progressives that Republican president was worried about, it was fellow Republicans.

Eisenhower was a decent man. But, decency aside, it still took him years to finally condemn Joe McCarthy in public. Both sides do not declare war on other Americans’ patriotism the way Republicans — excuse me, the way CONSERVATIVES do. Only one side does that — and, ironically, Republicans aren’t shy about questioning each others’ patriotism either.

Both sides don’t live in the past. Both sides don’t emulate the past. Both sides don’t revere the past. Both sides don’t harbor a secret desire to return to slavery days again. Both sides don’t see diversity as terrifying. Both sides don’t preach Christianity from one side of their heads while hypocritically contradicting every last bit of it. Both sides don’t stand with racists.

By the same token, both sides don’t stand with RAPISTS either. Only the GOP does that. Only the GOP.

Both sides don’t favor profits over people.

By the same token — both sides don’t back a living minimum wage. Only the Democrats back that. Only one side favors free public education all the way up through college or trade school. Only one side prefers to see as many Americans as possible saddled with massive student debt. Only one wide believes health CARE (not insurance, CARE) is a human right. It ain’t the Republicans. One side believes every single eligible American should get to vote — and that their votes should be counted. Again — NOT the Republicans.

One side believes that the best possible America will arise when the most Americans possible benefit from our freedoms. One side believes in altering how America thinks of “Infrastructure” to include what it always should have — the human infrastructure that keeps our whole society running. Only one side believes in fairness across the board, believes that rich people should pay their FAIR share in taxes.

Only one side believes in a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive future. Only one side believes that racism and bigotry and misogyny are evils.

Only one side declared Cultural Holy War against the other (a war Newt Gingrich declared on the left — a war the right is still waging).

Only one side saw demographic oblivion in a diversifying America — and made the CHOICE to undermine our democracy as a result. Only one side cynically hitched its wagon to Donald Trump even though they KNEW for a fact that Russia owned him.

Only one side — having chosen to commit treason alongside Trump — has done everything in its power to obstruct every facet of oversight or investigation into what Trump and the Republican Party did. Only one side has perjured itself and lied on a regular basis.

Only one side took part in the January 6 Insurrection. Only one side now calls what happened a “non event” or just “regular tourism”. Only one side is doing everything in its power to restrict voting rights in the face of the most secure election ever — where more Americans voted than ever.

Only one side refuses to vaccinate itself or its children. Only one side doesn’t care if it infects you or me or everyone they know — including their children.

I could go on.

Both sides do not behave like thugs, bullies and pirates. Only Republicans are good at marching in lock step like the wannabe Nazis they are. Democrats are still every bit the group of whom Will Rogers famously said “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”.

When our run-in with history finally begins to slow down a little (which won’t be until we’re well into the punishment phase a few years from now), we’ll need to turn our focus on the news media and the myriad ways they failed America. They confused skepticism with cynicism — the most visible evidence of “both sides do it” and painted every American with the exact same brush. They see a bully trying to take away another American’s right to vote the same way they see the American who’s being bullied of their vote. They’re both just being “political” from our press’s point of view.

We The People deserve far, far better from our news media. They’re not going to fix themselves; hell, most of them can’t even see how deeply complicity they were in creating Trump. It’s going to be incumbent on all of us — the progressives — to “help” our news media become all they’re capable of becoming. They’ll kick and scream every bit of the way, like the recalcitrant children they are.

Dear RW-ers: No, Freedom Is NOT Free; It Comes With Responsibilities

Listening to most RW-ers defend their ideals is starting to sound like a ten year old bully defending himself. “You’re not the boss of me” is what “freedom” sounds like in his ears. That might work as freedom if you live alone on an island. Put one other person there and “you’re not the boss of me” will cause problems almost immediately. Politics begins the instant two people have to negotiate with each other just so they can get through the day. Even two people trying to decide what to have for dinner are engaged in a political conversation. If both those people have “you’re not the boss of me” in their heads? They’ll never make good decisions together. They’ll never be happy. The fact is, they’ll never be free.

Freedom is imaginary to begin with. So is democracy. So are rights.

Each and every one is a human invention. No deity has bestowed any of this upon us. Trust me, if there IS a deity and that deity (with a whole freakin’ cosmos to worry about!) is worrying about piddly stuff like this? This universe needs a new deity with more deity-like priorities. Geez, whose mediocre idea of a god is this anyway? While we’re at it, unless anyone can demonstrably prove otherwise, God or gods are all human creations, too. The proof? That we think a deity with a whole freakin’ cosmos to worry about would worry about whether or a bunch of little, tiny humans “believe” in him. That’s not a deity, that’s a male in need of psychotherapy.

We have rights because we finally realized that we could give them to ourselves — that we didn’t need a god-appointed king to grant them. Like maintaining a republic (as Franklin said “If we can keep it”), maintaining our rights will demand vigilance, grit and resolve. There were forces then that sought to shut down what had just been created. The slavers always hated democracy because democracy and slavery are mutually exclusive propositions. Slavery cannot exist in a democracy. It can’t. That it did wasn’t a reflection on democracy, it’s a reflection on us — and our continuing willingness to compromise with evil.

America is still fighting about slavery. That’s a stone cold fact. Cotton and sugar cane were labor intensive businesses. They were all the south had to run their economy. The most expensive component? Labor — but only if you’re forced to pay for it.

Hey, what if you could get all that expensive labor “for free”? Okay, so the labor costs you nothing, but you’ll have to feed and clothe and house your free labor. Considering as you can feed them garbage, clothe them in rags and house them in squalor, the costs will be negligible compared to the profits. And that’s why slavery exists. Free labor. All the rest — the inhumanity, the families and lives destroyed, the murder and mayhem — those are all ripple effects. Stuff that “happens”.

The slaver sits on his verandah, believing he is living the “dream of democracy”, a free man making money. He’s confused. No, he’s wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. Being a pig or a bully isn’t freedom. It’s being a pig or a bully. Being a slave owner is the opposite of freedom — because everything the slave owner does contradicts other peoples’ freedom. That’s the problem — right there.

We have rights because we gave them to ourselves (well, white men, at first, gave them to other white men. Fortunately, we’ve begun to wise up to the scam the white men have been running. The genius of America is the thing that makes it unique among nations. Aside from Native Americans, America was not formed by tribes that lived here for a thousand years like the countries of Europe were. We are the product of all those European tribes — plus tribes from EVERYWHERE ELSE on the planet. THAT’S what makes America exceptional — we’re the only country that was formed from all the other countries. It is unfortunate (but fixable) that white people commandeered this country for its first 240+ years. White people are very clever — but they’re not the only clever people on earth. Pretty much every other tribe? They’re clever, too. And when you put all that multi-cultural, approach-problems-from-every-conceivable-angle kind of thinking to work — as we have, here in America? The results are like nothing else humans have created. As experiments in human self-government go? We’re worth preserving — but, adjustments are needed, urgently.

Already the idea of “civic education” is finding purchase. Good. America needs that. We need to stop thinking that flag-waving is patriotism. No, knowing and understanding how the Constitution works — THAT’S patriotism. Under Trump, we could have turned into a fascist shithole just like that — without changing our flag. The Constitution would have ceased to be despite the stars n stripes’ endurance. See how that works? The piece of colored cloth is actually quite meaningless whereas the Constitution…

Among the first things we’ll need to teach the generations of Americans to follow is how valuable their rights are — how special. But, we’ll also need to teach them that those rights do NOT come without caveats. Everything costs something. Nothing is truly “free”. Just as rank has its privileges and obligations, so do rights.

The right to vote demands that you exercise it. Voting is every American’s OBLIGATION, not just their right. I kinda like Australia’s approach. You cannot be made to actually vote and Australians don’t have to vote come election day. BUT, Australians do have to show up. Regardless of whether or not they actually vote, Australians are obligated by law to at least go to their polling place.

Americans are equally responsible for paying for our democracy and freedoms. These things do cost money. Living costs money. Unless we all revert to being hunter-gatherers, feeding ourselves costs money. Our problem in America is that we see taxes as a black hole of inefficiency and corruption. It’s money out and virtually nothing back. Of course Americans see the tax man as the enemy!

What if Americans received a yearly statement though — an accurate accounting of exactly how the govt spends every single dollar it collects? What if Americans could see, every year, what their money bought them (bought the country), what it should have bought them and what it could never buy them? What if Americans — instead of seeing their taxes as money lost forever — saw them as a fair, accurate accounting of what their tax dollars are buying for them?

If Americans got something they could point — like guaranteed health CARE (as opposed to health INSURANCE — which is the focus of our debate) that could never bankrupt them or their families, they might look at those tax dollars (plus the out-of-pocket savings) a little differently. If Americans could point at the good public university or skills training education their children could have — again just because they pay taxes here — they might look at those tax dollars a little more open-mindedly. If Americans viewed their government as theirs, as their elected intermediary tasked with getting their collective problems solved, they might not see government as “the enemy”.

Again, this is framing — how we think of things (and how we don’t). This is entirely up to us.

If everyone in a family insisted they had to do things their way, the family would collapse in less than a heartbeat. Even relatively happy families have their issues. Welcome to being human and living at cross purposes with each other. Successful families learn to negotiate with each other. If they want something, they’ll probably have to give something to get it. Hello, politics.

A country like ours is just a giant family with a giant closet filled with giant skeletons. Families that don’t acknowledge their skeletons devolve into chaos. Families that at least try? They can’t do worse than chaos. Just like surviving a family takes work, so, too, does surviving a country. Balancing conflicting needs isn’t easy but the alternative is authoritarianism. For what it’s worth, living in an authoritarian state — provided you follow the rules — is a hell of a lot easier than living in a democracy.

That’s part of fascism’s appeal — you don’t have to think. The state does that for you. All you have to do is march neatly in lock step.

In November 1947, Winston Churchill put it this way: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. Democracy is hard, bloody work. The alternatives may be “easier” but only on the surface.

That is, if your idea of freedom isn’t a ten year old’s.

Above All, The Whole Point Of Slavery Is Stolen Labor

At its bottom line, slavery steals labor. That is, it refuses to PAY FOR labor, choosing to TAKE IT from the laborer instead. Yeah, sure — the slaver may have to feed, clothe and house his slaves, but these are all just the “costs of doing business”. At the end of the (working) day, the slaver’s savings on labor will far, far outweigh any hard costs of keeping his slaves. The proof? Slavery proliferated in America.

Two crops grew in the American south that made slavery especially “attractive” to cost-conscious Southern farmers: sugar cane and cotton. Prior to mechanization, both were unusually labor-intensive. If cotton plantations had had to pay a living wage to its workers — instead of stealing their slaves’ labor — they would, in theory, never have become successful. Or, economic success would have been harder to achieve and maintain. That’s from a white, monied perspective.

From the perspective of the person taken from their home and homeland and shipped halfway across the globe to forcibly pick a stranger’s cotton for twelve hours a day for literally no money? This is monstrous. It’s criminal. It’s deeply, irredeemably immoral.

Though formal slavery ended, we’ve always allowed an informal kind of slavery to exist here in America. Every time we give money more credence than human beings, we keep slavery alive. Same token? Every time we, as consumers, go hunting for a cheap pair of socks? We’re doing the exact same thing.

The whole point of moving production from, say, America to, say, Bangladesh is because the laws in Bangladesh allow companies to treat and pay their employees even more poorly than here in America. In some places, literal slave or prison labor makes the goods we buy. Why doesn’t that disturb America to its core? Because America still empowers slavery. We still give slavery a political voice via the Electoral College. The EC is literally slavery voting.

To be fair, America was a commercial enterprise first, an experiment in human self-government second. While the Pilgrims may be emigrated to these shores in search of “religious freedom, once here, they behaved as exploitatively as everyone else. They just justified their exploitation a little differently.

The fact that Mitch McConnell and the GOP don’t want to put money directly into Americans’ pockets — even as we all struggle under the crushing weight the pandemic has placed on our economy — is just the latest iteration of Republicans being slavery-minded. In Marxist thinking, “surplus value” is the value of work minus what it costs the worker to produce it. The question: who gets to profit from a worker’s “surplus value”? The worker or the the worker’s boss?

Of course, the fairest answer would be something both feel respects their input. It’s just a fact — conservatives value money way more than the human beings who actually did the work to create that money. Conservative thinking believes in the right (and might) of kings. If you’re rich, it’s because God wants you to BE rich. It’s just a fact: an awful lot of those theists actually believe THEY personally are God so, of course “God” wants them to “be rich”.

Conservative money despises the whole idea of Universal Basic Income because it would completely destroy slavery. If no one has to work for crap money — if UBI allows them to wait for work more suited to their temperament, skill set and future — as hard data already demonstrates, those people end up getting better jobs that pay better wages, give them greater financial security and — bonus points — causes them to PAY MORE IN TAXES BACK TO THE SYSTEM. Whereas trickle down hands money to rich people — in the hopes that they’ll buy things or pay people (how the trickle would eventually “get down”), UBI cash flows the economy from the bottom up.

What do people receiving UBI do with their money? Do they hoard it like banks do (or did after the 2008 bailout)? No — THEY SPEND IT: on their rent, on food, on clothing, on their education. On their children and families. The cash FLOWS INTO the economy at a local level which then floods the whole system with cash.

But, if — like a republican — down deep, you secretly long for the return of literal slavery — the idea of workers doing what they want (even if it makes everyone and everything more productive)? Apparently, that’s a bridge too far. It’s not head-scratchingly hard to figure out.

Look at the past. Listen to everything Republicans insist they want. Look at how hard Republicans have fought to enslave as many Americans as they can via economic hardship.

It’s not a coincidence. To every Republican, slavery isn’t just a blast from the past, it’s what Republicans want to have for breakfast every day. More to the point, slavery is what Republicans want every American to have for breakfast — every damned day.

Since “Republican” Now Equals “Trump”, Non-Trumpist Republicans Need To Re-Brand; I’m Here To Help

As much as they suck at governing, Republicans excel at marketing. Remember “Mission Accomplished”? The only thing “accomplished” was hanging that banner. While Americans vote with their hopes and dreams, Republicans only ever deliver smoke and mirrors. Missions UNaccomplished. Skies NOT blue. Plenty of children left behind. The words promise plenty. Too bad they’re all as hollow as Donald Trump’s heart. Hollow because corrupt — and corruption is what binds Trump to each and every Republican.

The fact is, Trump epitomizes Republicanism, its every cynical, greedy, power-mad excess cranked up to eleven. That’s why Republicans — and the republic — are now hurtling toward the mission Republicans have ALWAYS wanted to accomplish: a state of permanent minority rule. Republicans are about to learn a harsh, harsh lesson. The criminal mojo that worked for Trump his whole life is about to stop working.

For four years, every Republican benefited from the fact that Trump gets away with everything by themselves getting away with almost everything. The thing is, those around Trump did NOT get away with everything like Trump does because they’re NOT Trump. Republicans have forgotten: what worked for him would never work for anyone else. Without Trump — and his corrupt, befuddling sorcery — the backstop Republicans have grown accustomed to is gone. They just don’t realize it yet.

But Trump does. He’s even said it in private, back stage. He’s worried about going to jail and he bloody well should be. Because he IS going to jail. One way or another. And the process that puts him in jail will be as highly entertaining as it is revelatory.

We’ve forgotten ourselves how the world works when we have even a semi-functional Department of Justice — that’s how perverted our view of justice has become with Bill Barr at the DoJ’s helm. In addition to attacking the pandemic head on as they hit the ground, Team Biden also must attack corruption head on because corruption threatens the effort to attack the pandemic.

Even with some in the American news media still determined that “both sides do it”, most Americans — the majority of us — see clearly that, really, only ONE SIDE “does it”. Only one side made Donald Trump their candidate and thus their standard-bearer. Only one side made a Devil’s bargain with Russia — and Russian money — in order to win the 2016 election. Only one side has resisted oversight with religious zeal — as if they had something to hide. Only one side refuses still to acknowledge the decision We The People just made about our future leadership.

To call oneself a “Republican” now is to call oneself a “Trumpist”. That won’t change tomorrow. In fact, the fact that Republicans made themselves the Party Of Trump is going to be the brush all future political campaigns paint all future Republicans with. If they WANT to be “The Party Of Trump”, they’re good to go! Voters will understand their choice. But if a Republican wants voters to see them as something other than a Trumpist?

You can’t “call yourself” a Trumpist and not expect people to think you’re a Trumpist. Regardless of whatever nuances YOU apply to the word, the rest of us see zero nuance. We only see Trump. Ask the Coca Cola company what happens when you try to nuance “Coke” with “New”. However the Coca Cola company perceived themselves or wanted their customers to perceive them — they got the opposite. They got confusion — and then anger, resentment and customers turning to Pepsi or RC.

The “Republican” brand is about to be as dead as the “Whig” brand. The problem: we still need those people we used to call “Republicans”. Not the Trumpists, of course, the normal people. We still need their voices of moderation to counter balance ours — which are about to send the country heading hard to the left. Rest assured, whatever resistance Mitch McConnell thinks he’s going to present will be undermined by Mitch’s legal problems. He’s not going to be worried about blocking anything Joe Biden’s doing; he is going to be worried about saving his own bony, white, Treason Turtle ass.

Also — I believe we’re going to learn that all the Republican-manufactured voting machines (the voting machine manufacturers are all Republicans, Republican donors and their boards are all loaded with Republican politicians) have been padding Republican vote totals for YEARS. When a fully functioning Department of Justice begins pulling the thread of Republican Corruption, that garment will unravel faster than a Trumpian lie. We will see Trump, the Republican Party, the Republican leadership and Republicanism bare-assed naked.

Every revelation about greed, corruption, cynicism — and especially treason — will sledgehammer the Republican Brand further. By the time we get to the 2022 mid-terms, Team Biden will have 1) mitigated the worst of the pandemic, 2) eased the economic hurt most Americans are now feeling, 3) restored order and rational thinking to our political process and 4) begun to uncover whole mountains of criminal behavior. To call oneself a “Republican” while running for office would be like saying “Hey, never mind that I may be a criminal myself — since I run with criminals — vote for ME!”

In an environment where integrity and caring about the Commonweal are the norm, good people will want to be perceived as having integrity and caring.

All those good, former-Republicans are going to need a new brand to describe themselves to the American voter. I have a helpful suggestion. A real one.

The problem with calling yourselves “conservative” is that the word gives away too much. As a Progressive, my politics are all geared toward progress — toward meeting the future’s challenges head on with new, outside-the-box solutions. Conservatives are no different. Their politics are all geared toward “conserving” — just like their name says.

The question is “WHAT do conservatives want to conserve?” Obviously it can’t be the future. You can’t conserve what isn’t. Conservatives want to conserve what IS. How we are now — because it still holds on to the bits of how we WERE that conservatives REALLY want to conserve. Ask any conservative what they want to conserve and, ultimately, they’ll reveal that the thing they want to keep alive is the past.

Tradition’s important and all but — in a rapidly changing world, tradition can be dangerous because it’s based on old knowledge that new knowledge might contradict. If they try to bleed you in a hospital emergency room? Say no! Their medical text books are out of date.

And, really, these moderate Republicans aren’t conservatives anyway. Most of them are social Progressives with a Methodist’s view of money. Circumstances — a dissolving economy — are going to force Progressive solutions on us. The cash Team Biden will use to flood the economy is very much a form of Universal Basic Income. We’ll witness ourselves how cash flowing America from the bottom up works far, FAR better than trickling money down from the top ever could work. Even after we’ve wrestled the pandemic to the ground, more pandemics are coming; we have no idea what pathogens a thawing permafrost will release. In a world where we’re as healthy as the least healthy among us — it only takes one person to start a pandemic raging (hello, COVID19!), socialized medicine can’t be a pipe dream. It needs to be a fact of life.

Yes, yes, yes — what Progressives like me want to do will be expensive. Americans will pay more in taxes at the end of the day. But they’ll get something valuable for the money. And the wealthy will pay far more than they do now because they can afford to but — more importantly — because it is their obligation as citizens of this country. Don’t like the responsibility? You don’t have to be a citizen. You can take your chances with your money elsewhere.

Hey, though Trump paid virtually no taxes to America, he obligingly paid hefty taxes to China — because he feared what would happen if he DIDN’T pay his taxes to China.

See? How does the other side counter “corruption” arguments? “Be more conservative” won’t sell. How about “Let’s be more moderate”?

Moderation may not be progress’s diametric opposite (regress), but it is the perfect alternative to “Let’s Do This Now!” Moderation says “Let’s take a deep breath and make sure we’re making the right decision for the most people”. There’s nothing wrong with making Progressives bring their receipts with them. By all means — please check our work. Hell, I bet that while checking our work, these new “moderate former-Republicans” will innovate solutions that Progressives didn’t think of. Those solutions may not get Progressives everything they want but then welcome to democracy.

America is best when it’s moderates are most dynamic — when they’re taking the best ideas and knitting them together into workable solutions. And think how sensible “moderation” will sound going forward. Calling oneself “Moderate” — or “The Moderation Party” would be a bold, direct announcement of who these former Republicans are. With its mission statement baked into its name, a “Moderation Party” would be incredibly attractive to a lot of Americans.

Maybe there’s a better, sexier word than “moderate”. It won’t cut to the end of the chase like “moderate” does. Conservatives won’t go away any time soon though their numbers will dwindle as conservatism takes residual damage from Republicanism’s fall. Ironically, their voice will sound increasingly extreme, making moderation — or a “Moderation Party” that much more sane-sounding.

Please, at least take my suggestion under consideration, moderates. Call yourselves something other than “Republican”. Most of you already do call yourselves something different — “Former Republican”. Let’s find you something you can be proud to call yourselves not as a reaction but as a statement of faith and purpose.

This Progressive is happy to say out loud: We need YOU.

America’s Tax Problem Isn’t That Taxes Are Too High, It’s That We Don’t Think We GET Anything For Them…

Americans have always hated paying taxes. “No taxation without representation” was one of our first great marketing triumphs as a young nation. Wanna know who WE are? We’re the “We ain’t paying no stinking taxes” guys.

The colonists saw their tax dollars going out and nothing coming back in return.

What made it worse — the things they could point to that their tax dollars were funding included the British soldiers who, the Americans increasingly believed, were oppressing them. Americans, it turns out, HATE paying to be oppressed.

We resisted any sort of federal income tax for 140 years (caveat — the federal govt briefly imposed an income tax during the Civil War) until the 16th amendment was ratified in 1913 — that’s the one that made a federal income tax legal. Just for information’s sake, the first federally imposed tax was an inheritance tax. We knew even back then that the rich were hoarding cash.

When someone holds out their hand to you — expecting YOU to put cash in it — you kinda want to know what you’re getting for it. Even if all you’re responding to a threat with a bribe or a payoff, you KNOW what you’re getting — a few moments of relative peace until the next time they come with their hand out. You may not like what you’re getting, but at least you can identify it. Most Americans couldn’t tell you what they get for their tax dollars — other than the military and “the federal government” in all its polymorphous splendor. The problem is, aside from the military (which is mostly other people doing what they do far, far away), Americans see their tax dollars as paying for nothing.

Taxes are a black hole that mocks us relentlessly. Only a sucker pays taxes. Isn’t that what we’re taught?

We laugh at Europeans because they pay such high taxes — Just above 60% in Denmark, for instance. The sub headline from this article (from US News & World Report, 2016) says it all: “People in the European country see taxes as an investment in their quality of life”. They’re laughing at us a lot harder than we ever laughed at them. By virtually every metric — other than self-delusion — Northern Europeans like the Danes (the ones paying the highest taxes) are far, far, FAR happier than we are.

They’re far healthier than we are. As is said — they work to live. Americans, OTOH, live to work. Yeah — the ones paying the higher taxes are far happier than the ones begrudging every tax dollar spent.

But then, Europeans like the Danes can point to things they GET for their tax dollars. They GET health CARE from cradle to grave.

That’s especially foreign to Americans because we think in terms of health INSURANCE, not health CARE. That’s because our system evolved out of an historical anomaly that arose during WW II. The first employersponsored hospitalization plan was created by teachers in Dallas, Texas in 1929. These were small, very localized health plans that were meant to deal with catastrophic situations. Hospitalization. In the absence of any sort of “national health system”, every locality did what it did in its own way.

During WW II, the federal government directed every possible tax dollar its way. It was illegal, during the war, to give employees raises (or to raise a salary so as to attract talent to a job). But fringe benefits like, say, “health insurance” didn’t count as salary. Big companies (they could afford to) offered “health plans” instead.

Then the war ended — and these health plans should have ended right along with it. From Wikipedia: In his November 19, 1945 address to the nation, President Harry Truman proposed “…a national system that would be open to all Americans, but would remain optional. Participants would pay monthly fees into the plan, which would cover the cost of any and all medical expenses that arose in a time of need. The government would pay for the cost of services rendered by any doctor who chose to join the program. In addition, the insurance plan would give cash to the policy holder to replace wages lost because of illness or injury.”

Americans liked the idea — a lot. But the AMA hated it. So did the Chamber of Commerce and The American Hospital Association. They denounced it as “socialism”.

And that is where America’s shot at Universal Single Payer Health CARE died.

The people who opposed it did not oppose it on medical grounds, they opposed it for monetary reasons. Greed mattered more than medicine. FACT.

If Truman had done what Obama did — muscled his way past the greed as best he could — we wouldn’t be laughing AT the Danes and the Swedes and the British and the Germans and the French and the Canadians. We’d be laughing with them.

These systems aren’t perfect. Not by a long shot. Nothing is — can we please accept that fact? But — the data’s pretty conclusive — if you want to measure a health care system by its successful health care outcomes? We’ve got it all wrong. We pay far more and get far less.

Ah, but — what if we payed less (our individual piles of money are the same pile whether we pay taxes with it or out-of-pocket health care costs like deductibles & co-pays) and got a whole lot more for those very same dollars? What if — in addition to cradle to grave health CARE — we got the knowledge that we could NEVER go broke or lose our houses because we or someone we love got sick?

What if Americans — instead of merely seeing a deduction already taken from their paycheck or a check written to the US Treasury in blood — got an itemized bill that showed 1) what they themselves owed but (more importantly), 2) also gave them a detailed breakdown of where every single penny went. And what if some of those things their every tax dollar funded was good health care with the doctors they like?

Caveat — it’s not just the tax system that needs overhauling. It’s the whole nature of the health CARE system. In a universal single-payer system, every physician who wants to have a license to practice medicine will have to take part. Part of our “you know what you’re paying for system” would now include your education. Want to be a doctor? We’ll pay for it — you’ll pay for it (via your taxes). But then you won’t leave college/university hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. You will have to spend your early years as a doctor inside the National Health CARE System. You’ll learn a ton. You’ll be well compensated — but you won’t be overly compensated.

Health care cannot be a wild, wild west of greed. It simply can’t be run that way — otherwise you get what WE have where people get billed $3200 cos they caught coronavirus. That should be a joke that we all laugh at because it’s so incomprehensible.

That’s our reality. It’s why people like the Danes laugh their asses off at us.

There’s no such thing as a “rugged individual”. That’s a bullshit myth “rugged individuals” (men — almost exclusively men) tell themselves to justify their greed.

They’re the ones benefiting from our tax system.