Monday, April 4, 2011


Whether it is Majority Leader Boehner saying that struggling American families "don't see government tightening its belt," while arguing for budget cuts or spending freezes, or GOP state legislators saying government must be like families who live within their means, my hackles go up.  I agree as one of my wise friends says, “I don’t want the government to be like a family, I want it to be a government.” But accepting this rejoinder as true has not been enough to assuage the irritation I feel, or calm the nagging sense that there is something very wrong with this analogy as a rationale for the GOP positions on budget cuts.

Thinking about it, the first thing that strikes me is that the analogy is most used when the GOP is rationalizing cuts to education, environmental preservation and protection, healthcare, programs for elderly, disabled, and those living in poverty. Funny how it is never applied to proposals to cut subsidies for industries and businesses turning record profits, like oil companies or the financial services firms, or the wealthiest who got tax cuts under the banner of job creation.  Funny too how most of those espousing the cuts are among the loudest in proclaiming their “Christian values”. Guess they just skip over the part from Mathew 25, “What you do to the Least, you do unto me,” or the part in Acts about selling goods and distributing proceeds according to each persons need.  Hewing to the interests of the well-to-do, and thoughts about un-Christian behavior aside, it is precisely in thinking about us as a big family that the logic of the analogy is totally shattered.

If we look at the U.S. population as a family, there are family members who have means that are vast, many who more than enough or enough to keep the family comfortable, some who are struggling, some on the edge and some with neither shelter nor regular sustenance.  Now if we sat down at our collective kitchen table to tackle our current budget problems, surely we would expect those members of the family with millions or billions to contribute more to the solution than the members struggling or those who have next to nothing. For sure we would also look to cut expenses, but I do not believe any healthy family would leave the poorest or most vulnerable members of the family at the mercy of fate, and we should not do it as the American family.  I believe that in most families there is caring, loving and concern for one another and that the wealthiest in the family would give up their Ferraris, third home or another luxury rather than see another member go without basic needs. I know it is true in my family which has some members doing okay, some with more than enough and some struggling—we share as needed to ensure each other’s well-being and security.

I know it is tempting to be drawn in by this analogy and believe that spending cuts will mean fewer struggles for the middle income earners. But, like the GOP tax cuts which have meant more only for those with income above $1,000,000 and increases on middle income earners, the spending cuts they propose will only spare those making well above $100,000 a year.  It is tempting to believe that cutting the cost of care and caring for the least able members will make it better for the family as a whole, but beyond being morally bankrupt it is simply not so. So come on people now the next time you hear a Republican using this analogy, call their office and challenge them to ask the most well to do in our national family to contribute more. It is the morally, AND the economically sound thing to do.

Monday, March 28, 2011


What if, a wave of honesty was to sweep the land and all of us, but especially the reactionary right had to fess up? In my heart of hearts I believe many would have to fess up to their biases and bigotry, their fear that people who are other than white male are gaining in dominance, let alone running the country, and to their own quest for power and status for the sake of power and status alone. For sure the right would have to stop being for and then in short order against whatever it is moderates or liberals propose.

What if, we challenged the persistent position that we should pay ever less in taxes, and did an honest assessment of whether or not we are better off because of lower taxes? The top tax rates our highest earning grandparents and parents paid from 1935-1970 varied between 70-90% of income, and in doing so they fueled the development of the infrastructure, educational, health care and social systems that were the foundation of the most incredible economic, technological and social advancement ever seen in the world and fought WWII, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. The top tax rates now are between 30-35%, while the rates on middle income earners have actually gone up, which explains why we keep putting those folks who talk about cutting taxes into office. We just keep hoping they will help the middle class and keep overlooking that they just mean cuts for the highest earners.  This graph ( is worth a thousand words.

According to Tax Analysts, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization (, individual income taxes per capita are down 36% since just 2000, and corporate tax declined 34% per capita in the same period while profits grew by 60%. Meanwhile gas lines explode, roads and bridges crumble, our debt grows and...

What if, we could get every country in the world to dedicate just one day’s military spending to a fund for peaceful purposes? According to Worldometers (, one day’s spending stands at $327,271,000. Charlotte Bunch noted in 1980 that one day’s spending put into a fund at that time would house, feed and clothe all the women and children of the world for one year! Given inflation and population growth we are maybe down to 6 months for all the women and children, so let’s just give it to those who have nothing and we have taken care of them for the year.

What if, we could agree it is in our best interest to make changes that result in less air, water and ground pollution and that increase our energy independence? Instead of legislation to preserve incandescent light bulbs (this is for you Mrs. Bachmann) which is after all 19th century technology, let’s think about legislation to give tax credits for the full cost of every LED bulb purchased for commercial or residential use. Replacing just half the lighting with LED lights would save us $405 million and 3.4 billion kWh annually. $405 million in savings and that is just light bulbs. Imagine the savings if we went about designing and installing neighborhood size wind and solar arrays, to say nothing about the number of JOBS this would create.

What if, the GOP would accept the analysis of independent groups and organizations rather than stubbornly insisting on the sets of facts they make up to justify their ideologically driven policies. For starters, nationally, and in my state of Minnesota it would mean that budgets with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases would be developed and passed in short order. After that we could get back to disagreeing without being disagreeable; that’s for you Mr. McConnell and Mr. Cantor.

What if, we put a real focus on coming together, and a real focus on each of us doing our part within our means, skills and capacity to take on the many challenges that have us so unsettled?  Maybe, just maybe we would return to a path of peace and prosperity rather than the path of increasing violence, war and debt. Maybe, just maybe the calm that would settle on us would spread to our elected representatives and they would be more kind, thoughtful and productive. Just maybe….  

Saturday, March 19, 2011


I needed a lift this week and I got one, but first why I need the lift. Beyond the heart wrenching stories out of Japan, the tension of possible nuclear disaster and ongoing turmoil in the Mideast, three articles in Wednesday's Minneapolis Star Tribune gave me more upset than a serious case of stomach flu. The first was a story on the increase in child poverty in Minnesota; it has grown 14% since 2009. The second article that caught my eye was a report from Bloomberg news that the number of U.S. millionaires grew by 600,000 in 2010. The third was a report on the initial results of the angel investor tax credit program started last summer in Minnesota. Wealthy investors who put money into to start ups got $7 million in tax credits but only 47 jobs were created as a result. Yup $7 million in tax credits for the creation of 47 jobs.  For anyone who is counting, that’s a tax credit of $148,396.17 per job created.  It is also nearly 4 times the median U.S. family income in 2010.

The contrast of these stories highlights which citizens are really "sharing the pain" of the great recession, puts the lie to the GOP line that tax cuts create jobs, and blunts their criticism of Democratic policies for not creating enough jobs. Growing 600,000 millionaires in one year, while the unemployment rate declined by the slightest fraction, and more children fell into extreme poverty is clear evidence that we need to enact public policies that indeed spread the wealth, not policies that let people (read the wealthy) keep more of what they earn in their pockets as the GOP is fond of saying.  Obviously the wealthy are doing just that—keeping it in their pockets or taking it out only when they can reap immoral profit. All this on top of the continuing war on women in the Congress and in our state legislature, the vote to defund PBS and NPR and, and, and…it was enough to make a body weary and this woman’s heart heavy.

The lift came in an unlikely place and from a simple exchange. I did my "big" monthly Costco shop Friday so my cart was quite full and the lines long.  Immediately behind me was an older couple with just a few items and behind them a gentleman with just three items.  I gestured for both the couple and the gentleman to go ahead of me.  The couple said thank you, the gentleman said, "Are you sure?"  I said yes and proceeded to say that with the state of the world I had committed myself to do at least one random act of kindness each day. He said he was shopping for a church pot luck, and that we would all be better off if more people showed kindness. "Yes," I said, "we would and I just think of it as 'paying it forward' and being a small part of making a better tomorrow." 

Now, Costco is collecting contributions to send to Japan, with 100% of every contribution going to the Red Cross relief effort in Japan. The gentleman looked at the flyer, asked the clerk if he could contribute if he was putting his purchase on a card, the clerk said yes, he said he wanted to give $10, turned back to me and said, "Well I paid it forward."  I don't know the gentleman's name, where he worships, or who he votes for, but I do give thanks to the spirits for putting him behind me in the line at Costco, for nudging me to speak about kindness and for the gift of seeing it paid forward right then and there. My belief that kindness does beget kindness was reaffirmed, and I was reminded that amidst all the angst, a simple act can bare unexpected fruit. Now if we can just get the 600,000 new millionaires, the millions of already millionaires, the billionaires and the mean-spirited GOP to buy into some random acts of kindness.

Monday, March 14, 2011


First a prayer for those who have perished in Japan-

You are journeying across the dividing water that
Lies between this world and the next, carried away
by ferryman on your way.
Look ahead of you, do not look behind.
Look ahead of you, where your destiny lies.
Do you see them? They are there, ahead of you on the other shore.
Slowly, they become visible to you; the shining ones
Appear out of the concealing mists.
Clearly they appear to you, though hidden from our eyes.
Go to them, they welcome you.
Go to them, not stopping for farewells.
Holy Ones in the world beyond,
Open wide your arms to receive these who are journeying to you,
Make them a home, bring them to rest.
Farewell, those who have loved you wish you a good journey.
Celtic prayer for the recently passed

For all those who remain I hope the care, prayers and aid of people around the world will help carry you through this, bring you some small comfort, and smooth the path forward just a bit.

The discipline, stoicism and caring for one another  of the Japanese people has been as remarked upon as has the devastation, and the ongoing emergency at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Although I have restricted the amount of news I watch on this, I have been struck over and over by the reports that limited provisions (food and water) in the hardest hit areas are being rationed to the very young, the very old and the disabled first.

It has struck me because here in the United States where our crisis is like a gnat by comparison to what is faced by Japan, the GOP, where they have majorities in state legislatures, hold governorships and in the US Congress have targeted the provisions for the young, old, the disabled, and the poor for deep cuts while giving heaping rations to the rich.  Just look at what the top earning groups got in return for a bit more than crumbs for 90% of us in the tax cut extension. There is an excellent interactive graphic at that illustrates who got what out of the tax cut extensions.

Bill Cosby once said; “Hurt people, hurt people.” I truly wonder who, or what hurt the members of today’s GOP so much that they are so willing to hurt so many while rewarding the few, who by the way did not create many jobs in the 8 previous years they had these tax breaks. What will it take for us to really care for one another including everyone any of us think of as “those people” and to see that concentrating near all the wealth and resources in a few hands could lead us to a place where only the few survive? For that matter what will it take for the GOP to focus on legislation that creates, not eliminates jobs?

Regarding the issue of nuclear power, there is so much yet to be known, but I will point out that two nuclear power plants in California sit ever so close to the San Andreas fault and the sea, and that it was the tsunami, not the earthquake that did the damage at Fukushima. There were concerns that the tsunami would hit our West Coast and fortunately the impact was minimal. I am however reminded of a t-shirt worn by opponents of the now demolished Trojan power plant in Oregon—Every Woman Knows A Trojan Is Only As Good As The Man Behind It. I sincerely hope there are very good men, and women, behind Diablo Canyon and San Onofre Unit 2 nuclear power plants in California. What I do know is that crashing wind generators and solar panels or leaking bio-fuel from algae will make messes but there is zero risk of radioactive release. What will it take for us to get behind the President’s call to take the $45 billion in subsidies to oil companies that are currently raking in BIG profits and target this to development of renewable energy resources and strategies over the next 10 years? The oil companies can have fair shot at developing alternative sources, they just can’t charge as much for the wind and the sun.

For now, and in honor of the example being set for us by the Japanese, let’s conserve on all the forms of energy we use each day, give what we can to the recovery effort in Japan, reach out to our own citizens in need, and commit just one act of random kindness a day for the rest of this year. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Am Woman

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day and it is the Global Centenary Year, or in plain language the 100th anniversary of the celebration of International Women's Day. This piece is in honor of all the women across the country, and the world that will gather, march and observe this day. It is most particularly for those who will do so in the Mideast, especially the women of Iran. Bravery and courage barely describe their characters. (They will be marching from 6-8 PM Iran time which is about 7-9AM CST)

The theme the UN has set for its marking of this day is, "Equal access to education, training, and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women." Yes decent work would be a good thing as we know that the majority of those in poverty, or marginally above poverty, are women and children.  As noted on 60 minutes last night, 23% of those homeless in this country are children, and given that it is primarily women who do the job of rearing children, it means their moms are homeless too. Shameful, but I digress.

Hail to all women, we hold up half the sky, we make the peace, we are most ravaged in wars and despite it all we keep on keeping on building a better world in our own corner of the world. I hope you will find inspiration in this quote from Sojourner Truth, at the First National Women's Rights Convention, October 1850. "Sisters, I'm not clear what you be after. If women want any rights more than they've got, why don't they just take them and not be talking about it." So let us go forth into the next 100 years armed with all we have done, propelled by our passion, steadied by resolve and strengthened by a sisterhood that stretches across not just a century but millennia.

I dedicate this piece to my dear sister Louanne who left this earth walk in 2007, and to my sisters of the heart whose love, caring, and support keeps me keeping on.  Louanne gave me a plaque that reads, Chance Made Us Sisters, Hearts Made Us Friends.  Well dears, hearts makes us friends and sisters, and I hold you all close in mine.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Brief Venting and Serious Thoughts

This was going to be a venting statement piece about the “war on women” the radical reactionary right has been waging on women in state legislatures across the land and in the U.S. House of Representatives. I held off publishing out of concern that it was too over the top and the point would be lost.  Then the heart of my anger, frustration and distress crystallized as I watched hearing replays on C-SPAN.  The hearings were held in the House Committee on Appropriations with Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen and in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Secretary Clinton. ((  To get a view of statesmanship go to the last 15 minutes of Clinton hearing-bravo Lugar Corker and Clinton, and for a view of vacuous political posturing, watch segments of questioning by Rubio and DeMint.))

What hit more clearly than my brain has allowed to this point, is how messed up the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the complexity of decisions on who, what, when and how with respect to U.S. action in relation to the revolutions in the Mideast and North Africa. I have grasped the seriousness of the threat to middle class regular American people of the assaults on workers rights and budget cuts that will affect millions of us in favor of concentrating yet more wealth and power in the few hands that already have far too much. I have grasped the seriousness of the proposed pieces of legislation focused on oppressing women and the incredibly frightening proposals in South Dakota and Iowa to make it legal to use deadly force (i.e. killing) against doctors and healthcare workers to protect a fetus. I for sure get the seriousness of GOP efforts to re-define rape. PLEASE! 

I do need to include just one paragraph here to call for as much focus on penises and testicles as has been put on uteri and vaginas and suggest proposals that are well within the logic followed by the radical right. Let’s pass a testosterone tax to make up for the $300 billion (yes billion according to Mike Huckabee) we pay to support the children that roving inseminators sire but do not support, the $177 billion cost of healthcare to adult rape and domestic assault victims and the $75 billion it costs for state and federal inmates every year. Note that the FY11 estimated cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is $170.7 billion. While tongue-in-cheek proposals to ban males under 50 from the streets after dark, and to make high pitched tenors out of roving inseminators are good rants for my feminist soul—we really do have way bigger matters that we must attend to and it will take every bit of knowledge and energy every good citizen can muster.

The heart of the matter is that the most of the GOP are, like Nero, fiddling while Rome burns, and  the heart of my frustration, in addition to being damn tired of 30+ years of having to defend basic human rights is that women and human rights activists must yet again focus energy, money and effort on beating back these vicious and ill-conceived pieces of legislation that do nothing to solve our real problems, but do re-ignite divisive cultural wars, stoke fear and drive us apart when we so desperately need to come together, inform ourselves and resolve to act.

We must find agreement on measures that; have tangible impact on employment growth, keep people from starving or freezing to death in this land of plenty, decrease the national debt that threatens our strength now and our children’s future, measures that intervene in climate change which is bringing more severe weather-no matter the causes, and measures that get us out of the interminable conflicts in the Mideast.

Believe me when I say that I did not think I would find any Republican this dyed in wool Democrat would thank, but I did find them and I did thank Lugar and Corker via email. A small gesture, but if we can all do this (including Republicans who will thank Democrats) it will be as the final lines of Marge Piercy’s poem The low Road. “It goes on one at a time, it starts when you care to act, it starts when you do it again after they said no, it starts when you say We and you know who you mean, and each day you mean one more.

So come on people now, get engaged, get informed and for the love of your family, friends and country call your elected representatives and tell them to focus on the problems that need solving, not on things that scapegoat, that rile us up, that trade on our fear, and that drive the wedge that is already too deep in the fabric of our Republic only deeper.

Friday, February 25, 2011


As the fight to preserve the rights of workers plays out in Wisconsin, it is important to keep a couple of FACTS in mind.  The first is that before Wisconsin's budget went bust, the GOP controlled senate and house passed, and Governor Walker signed, $117 million in corporate tax breaks into law. The deficit in Wisconsin is $137 million, and amount only $20 million more than the tax breaks. A piece of "old" news but a very important piece to keep at the forefront when Mr. Walker talks about the dire straights that make his draconian proposals and actions warranted.

The second fact comes from a look at the results of the 2010 general election that put these folks into office. Governor Walker is fond of saying that he is not going to let a "few thousand" (there were at least 70,000 at last Saturday's rally) to drown out the voice of 6,000,000 ( actually 5,654,774 according to the census bureau) in Wisconsin who spoke in the last election.  Before getting to the actual numbers, note how he under represents the number of those opposing his actions, and over states the population in Wisconsin.

The overstatement of the population is particularly relevant because the total votes garnered by Mr. Walker in 2010, according to the official elections website of Wisconsin (, was 1,128,941. While this was 52.25% of the 2,160,832 votes cast in the contest for governor, it represents only 32.32% of the 3,493,306 total registered voters in Wisconsin.  To carry the analysis further the votes he got represents exactly 19.964% of the total population of Wisconsin. This meager representation of the "electorate" must be the reason he inflated the population by 345,226 people or a number equal to 30.57% of the total vote he received.

Now elections do matter, he did win, but claiming a resounding mandate based on getting the vote of less than a third of registered voters and a bit less than 20% of the entire population is the kind of hubris and slight of hand that these new Republicans are fond of using to sell their patent medicine policies. To be fair the turnout of 61%+ was a record for mid-term elections in Wisconsin, but I can't help but wonder what the outcome would have been had just another 10% showed up at the polls last November.

How many of those were disillusioned President Obama supporters who really did expect miracles?  How many were young people who defied the conventional wisdom that said they were strong enough to help candidate Obama get the nomination but would not turn out to vote in '08, and then stayed true to conventional wisdom and sat out the mid-term elections? Well as the saying goes, the chickens are coming home to roost, and as any farmer knows, chicken manure is a great fertilizer for any crop, even one that grows like crazy but does not produce any fruit.