On August 1, I turned 65 years—I won’t say old, because I don’t recognize the idea of “old;” “old” compared to what? I’ll say I’m 65 years alive, it means I have much more living ahead of me.
Also, the High Holy Days—Rosh ha-Shona and Yom Kippur—are upon us, and this is the time of reflecting on the past, what we’ve done right and wrong; recognizing where we’ve fallen short, and repenting from them; and new opportunities. If I have offended anyone over the past year, I ask your forgive ness; and whoever offended me, I forgive them.
At last! The Biden administration tried to pass some version of the Build Back Better Act, but it kept having to be whittled down to accommodate the corporate interests what still influence our politics, and it now takes form as the Inflation reduction Act. (https://www.npr.org/2022/08/16/1117709411/biden-signs-sweeping-climate-health-care-tax-bill-into-law) Alas! What kind of deal did Schumer have to make with Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Kirsten Sinema (Arizona) to get it passed?
Sinema, supposedly a “Democrat,” has received close to $1 million from hedge fund managers, private equity executives, and venture capitalists, and so she opposed any tax increases on these firms, as we all hoped for, leaving, once again, the tax burden upon working men and women in America; Thanks to her efforts, these investors, who do nothing to build anything or deliver anything, but who reap all the rewards of other people’s labor, have gotten a $13 billion dollar tax break. This is a welfare program for people who are already super-wealthy but still feel they need more money. (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/sinema-received-nearly-1-million-from-wall-street-while-killing-tax-hike-on-investors) (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/kyrsten-sinema-delivers-gift-private-equity-democrats-big-agenda-bill-rcna42394) (https://www.ft.com/content/64305c91-c7aa-427b-adb9-7a32d74d3490) With “Democrats” like this, who needs Republicans?
This makes the necessity of increasing the majority in the Senate and the House more imperative; but it can’t be with corporate-friendly “centrists” who say, “Health care? Clean the environment? Sure, but we can’t offend any powerful interests.” The progressive forces need to step up and get into the party apparatus.
Another piece of important legislation that passed is the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or PACT Act. This addresses medical care for former service members who were exposed to toxic chemicals during their service; one issue has been when service members were exposed to toxic fumes from the burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq. (https://www.militarytimes.com/news/burn-pits/2022/08/04/now-that-the-pact-act-passed-how-soon-will-veterans-see-their-benefits/) (https://www.npr.org/2022/08/02/1115325176/pact-act-veterans-burn-pits-toxins-passes-senate)
But this came after Senate Republicans voted AGAISNT the bill, with some lame excuse about cost, and voted to support it after public complaint about their behavior. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania alleged that the bill had some “gimmick” that “allows $400 B in spending unrelated to veterans care.”
Tommy Tuberville of North Carolina said the PACT Act was “well intentioned” but it “creates new promises while breaking existing ones”. (HUH?) (https://www.businessinsider.com/41-gop-senators-block-healthcare-bill-for-veterans-exposed-to-toxins-2022-7?inline-endstory-related-recommendations=) (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2022/08/03/pact-act-11-senate-republicans-opposed/10223007002/) It’s an old story; trot out our veterans for patriotic events, but to anything FOR them? “We can’t afford it!” People from the working and low-income classes are expendable for the dominant classes, in the battlefield and in the workplace.
“Democracy” is one thing the Republican Party and the factions in it—“libertarians” who want corporations to have the “liberty” to do whatever they want, to whomever they want to do it to; and “Christian Nationalists” (also known as WHITE Christian Nationalists) who want the government, and therefore the nation, to be run based on THEIR interpretation of Scripture, thereby excluding anyone THEY don’t deem to be “Christian”—and you can forget about religious and racial minorities having any role in such a regime. In Arizona, Republicans have upfront insisted that the United States of America is not at all a “democracy” but a “republic.” (https://www.msnbc.com/opinion/msnbc-opinion/arizona-republicans-are-making-case-against-idea-democracy-itself-n1297965?cid=eml_mda_20220816&user_email=56443b86787902b10c4645fc42bff8ee9ec2614de6cc5f00300871db6871f4c6)
The decades-old dream of certain persons identifying as “conservatives” has been to exclude people who are not of the dominant social-economic classes from any say in running the government and in the nation. To them, consumers and workers have no business inquiring about how corporations manufacture their products, plan their advertising, employ their workers, and operate overseas; they and their political and media handmaidens treat these plutocrats like their a superior race of economic geniuses, who, if left to their own devices, would lead the nation to prosperity for all—somehow. (That was the premise of Ayn Rand’s rag of a “novel” Atlas Shrugged.)
The study by Princeton professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern professor Benjamin I. Page isn’t getting old; they said that “economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.” Gilens and Page summarize thus: “American do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society and seriously threatened.” (https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746)
And now we see the results of oligarchic rule in this country: a nation where racism and anti-Semitism are blatant and in the mainstream political discourse by candidates and pundits (racism and democracy do NOT go together); corporate oligarchs funding candidates, media outlets, political movements and organizations (like the old Tea party “Astroturf” movement and the American Legislative Exchange Council) and “research foundations” to rewrite laws and science to their liking; the semi-conscious racism in hiring and bank loans (“redlining”); billionaires receiving tax breaks , supposedly to improve their factories and hire more workers, but spend the money on $500 million yachts and their own space programs (I’m talking about YOU, Jeff Bezos!); and corporations exporting their plants, and their jobs, to impoverished nations with corrupt and repressive governments, where workers make pocket change a week while American workers are urged to kill each other for whatever crumbs remain.
But, praise God, young people in particular, and the public in general, are standing up to this nonsense, and banding together to restore SOME semblance of our democracy. For me, one place to start is at the Labor Day Parade and festival in Philadelphia on September 5. I’ll be there with my union siblings to stand up for our rights, and have some fun along the way. (Why not?)
Stay safe, stay strong, and stay together! Slava Ukraini! America will be free! Bye!