Tag Archives: demonstration

Free excerpt from my nonfiction book, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”

DCIM100MEDIA

http://youtu.be/Z20l9ohORN4

What are these law enforcement folks protecting to begin with? The assets, infrastructure and personal privacy and security of the top 1%, that’s what! The problem with that is the top 1% regard everything in sight as theirs, as if all the people in the lower income brackets – the other 99% – didn’t deserve one stinking thing. In short, its all a game of acquiring the most stuff, the biggest collection of material goods of one kind or another, the fastest or most luxurious car, the most powerful truck and the biggest house. And for what? If one of us should die tomorrow, he or she can take absolutely none of it with them. As Rev. Billy Graham used to preach, “nobody ever saw a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer behind it”. It’s all temporary, left behind when we are dead and gone, as all of us eventually will be, including me. It’s what we leave behind that counts. Maybe we should ask ourselves – if you haven’t done so already – what kind of legacy do we want to leave? Not someone who did great things in the sight of others or who made a great fortune, but someone who took care of the needs of the people on a case by case basis. Not someone who is lauded with praise by men and women, but one who seeks the praise and approval of Almighty God as I and others like me do. I love giving some homeless guy a couple of dollars, paying an elderly widow’s electric bill to keep it from being turned off, donating a used computer to an inner city school kid who needs one, and never mind their skin color either. Performing volunteer work, giving generously to your church (it doesn’t have to be financial aid, there are many ways to help), sponsoring a hungry kid overseas, or adopting one here at home are the things people remember about us after we have passed, and so will God. We are to be leaving behind the things that people remember about us long after we are gone, and they must be positive things that build people up, not negative things that tear us down. We are to be contributors, being sure to give wherever possible and not living just to see how much we can earn, or even take. Takers are losers who leave holes in time.

What if we didn’t need money at all? What if we had an alternative way to buy things without using traditional cash, checks or plastic? What if we didn’t have to work at all, or maybe not nearly as much? Using profit as a mechanism for the control of liquid assets by and for the top 1% when the overwhelming majority of Americans have no access to those assets is obviously an economic barrier that keeps the remaining 99% of us in a bare subsistence mode that is clearly unethical and discriminatory and therefore illegal. Eliminating the need for money instantly wipes out poverty while putting the 99% in a favorable position to have all their basic needs met (never mind all the fancy BS stuff, just the basics of life). The replacement of money, and of the work that is necessary in order to earn it, are already being accomplished by computers and robots.

Technology has eliminated jobs across the board on an alarming scale – from secretarial positions to auto workers. The resulting crisis is compounded by our culture’s deep denial of the basic problem. I’m old enough to remember the ’60s and ’70s when so many pundits described the coming glories of the “cybernetic age.” Then computers would at last liberate us, they promised, from the drudgery of 9-5 jobs. Back then the worry was, what would we do with all that leisure time? Leisure time has proven frustratingly elusive. Instead, most of us are working harder than ever as our employing firms “downsize.” Alternatively, we’re pounding the pavement looking for non-existent jobs to replace those that have been “outsourced” to Asia somewhere. Additionally, so many of the “jobs” available to the more recently laid off labor force are extremely low-paying to a humiliating degree (such as the current and pathetic minimum wage of $7.25 hourly). In the end, they are nothing more than useless make-work projects that are not only completely unnecessary, but positively destructive. Things like weapons manufacturing, the military itself, the advertising industry and telemarketers, insurance companies, fast food, and (above all!) Wall Street jobs connected with financial speculation. None of these occupations are truly productive. And naming them as I have represents only the tip of the iceberg.

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Politically subversive, revolutionary reading at its very best!

occupy the world!

occupy the world!

Occupying America: We Shall Overcome” by Rev. Paul J. Bern. Rated 4.5 stars on Goodreads.com! Written in the style of an investigative reporter, this 290-page book is simply one of the most exhaustive, comprehensive books about the growing “Occupy Wall St.” and “We Are The 99%” movements written so far. It offers the clearest explanation to date about what these movements are trying to accomplish and what they stand for, and it vilifies the extreme economic hardship and what the author calls “enforced austerity” of millions of formerly middle class Americans. This is the definitive book on the state of American political dissent in the early 21st century, and it ends with a prediction of mass civil unrest in the US and other capitalist countries due to the extreme concentration of wealth in favor of the top 1%. Reduced to $8.95 with free shipping, tax deductible too! Get yours at www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations, or from Create Space at http://www.createspace.com/5245426. You Tube http://youtu.be/Z20l9ohORN4 or get the e-book ($3.00) on Goodreads.com, Kindle and Nook.

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I wonder what Jesus would say about the grand jury decision in Ferguson

What Would Jesus Protest?

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

cropped-wallstoccupy031212.jpgIt started in the Spring of 2011 as most age-defining movements do, with significant unrest and some recognition of what is right and wrong. It started with some people willing to take a stand against rampant injustice. Before long, some more people join. Next time we look it is in another city, then another country. Sweeping across the globe, the civil unrest known by a number of names, such as the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Anonymous or “we are the 99%” continues to capture the attention of everyone, despite the attempts of the military-industrial complex and their media conglomeration to slander it, discredit it, and lie about it. It is in that same revolutionary spirit that those who are protesting day and night in Ferguson Mo. and simultaneously around the world are on the evening news every night.

By now everyone realizes that there is a “la cosa nostra” of ultra-powerful people (sometimes called the Illuminati) that control the vast majority of wealth in this world, beginning with the US and Europe. They have spoon-fed us American Idol, pro wrestling and other sports, reality TV, idiotic soap operas, and Dancing With the Stars while sneaking around behind our backs tampering with our voting rights, stealing elections, repealing sensible regulations designed to protect us, and enacting laws totally in favor of the rich – and all this occurred as the 1% shipped all our jobs overseas for pennies on the dollar. I know this to be true because it happened to me. There can be no question that their goal is the redistribution of wealth and consolidation of power to the 1% elite while squeezing the once proud middle class into the new working poor caste. You can already hear the screams of “class warfare!” The problem is we didn’t start the war, they did. The same ones screaming “class warfare” the loudest are the ones who are waging the war.

Apparently, when the Arab Spring, Occupy, ‘the 99%’, Anonymous and Ferguson Movements first started, the power elite underestimated the intensity and dogged determination of the protesters to make their voices heard. They couldn’t possibly fathom America’s outrage. In their arrogance, they simply didn’t comprehend that people had caught on to the illegal Ponzi schemes, crooked midnight deals and winner-take-all financial piracy of the money-worshiping top 1%. That’s because our children have been going to the same ‘dumbed down’ public schools for the last generation or two. But since OWS, “the 99%” and Ferguson have gone viral in the social and political fabric of America, the 1% have begun frantically looking for ways to neutralize this latest movement, but they are already too late. So the next thing they did was to criminalize it, orchestrating mass arrests for the entire world to see. They tried to intimidate the protesters and occupiers by sending in their police squads in full military gear, but that backfired on them too as it only served to garner more sympathy for the people’s cause. Next up was an attempt to mock the group and pretend they were somehow uneducated and clueless about why they were protesting at all. That has backfired as well, as all these grassroots movements has generated considerable interest, not only from the general public, but also from some very smart people and astute observers.

Turns out that OWS, “the 99%” and the folks in Ferguson know exactly why they are protesting. Not only are the police out of control and therefore a direct threat to our very lives, people everywhere are arriving at the same conclusion – correctly, by the way – that it is financial suicide to go into hock for $100,000 to get a Bachelors Degree only to be offered jobs that require a paper hat or a $19.95 shirt and tie when they graduate. They become furious when they see billionaires with golden parachutes getting bailed out while their parents are getting evicted. They are vehemently opposed to an economic and educational system that is only available to those who have enough money to pay. They have already read the 2011 United Nations Resolution stating that Internet access is a basic human right (search that), and that denying Web access to anyone due to their inability to pay is a human rights violation at best, and a criminal act at worst. They already see capitalism for what it is – an economy based on greed, plunder and conquest at home and abroad. They see all the homeless people on the streets while entire neighborhoods are littered with abandoned, boarded up houses that represent the shattered dreams of countless families, some of whom are now living in shelters or with relatives because there is no where else for them to go. They see all the school teachers, fire fighters and police officers who continue to get laid off so the country can have more for the top 1%, and so they can have more money for pointless foreign wars. They do not think that 1% of the population should control 99% of the wealth in this country — and they are absolutely right. Plus, they are scared half to death of the police, and justifiably so.

So what would Jesus protest? Would Jesus protest merciless treatment of the neediest people? “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew chapter 5, verse 7). Of course, the flip side of that coin is that unmerciful, arrogant and belligerent people will be shown no mercy by God. Would he oppose the top 1% who have 99% of our country’s wealth? He already has: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God” (Matthew chapter 19, verses 23-24). Would He stand against bully authority? He sure did and still does. “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘So you must obey [authority] and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them’” (Matthew 23, verses 1-4).

The Occupy, Anonymous and 99% Movements, and the ongoing protests in Ferguson, St. Louis and throughout the planet are all about the least fortunate of us, and it is these very people who want their lives back. They have lost jobs, careers, homes (some of which had been paid on monthly for years or even decades), savings, pensions and even their health. Economic and racial inequality reigns supreme across our land, and the misery that it has spawned threatens to grow into revolution in American streets (cue “Revolution” by the Beatles, “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, etc.).

Throughout the Bible the number one theme after Christ’s salvation is taking care of the least fortunate in society. Jesus said that if we want to be considered religious, then we are to look after the welfare of widows and orphans. “Whatsoever you do for the very least of my brethren, that you do for me”, and this nugget of wisdom holds as much meaning today as when those words were uttered by Jesus 2,000 years ago. The divine truth of human equality that He illustrated with that verse is something that has yet to be fulfilled, and it’s our fault. Human equality was a radical notion in the time of Christ, and many churches continue to leave out of the teaching of this revolutionary aspect of His ministry. So long as racial and ethnic hatred persist, equality cannot flourish. It’s up to ministers like myself to address this issue, and I encourage all who read this to join me in my efforts.

I am painfully aware that some conservative Christian writers, and a whole lot of 1%’ers, are apparently in love with the Old Testament verse that says, “If a man will not work, then neither shall he eat”, presumably in reference to strikers, protesters and “occupiers”, but they are forgetting the original context of that verse: “Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good. Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister.” (2Thessalonians 3: 10-15, NLT)

The context reveals that these verses do not apply to the OWS/99% or Ferguson people. On the contrary, the people protesting want some real justice for Mike Brown, but they also want to work and can’t find jobs, and that is why they are protesting! You may be of the opinion that the protesters are “lazy” or somehow not trying hard enough but I have actually been through what these protesters are experiencing. I know what it’s like to see a 22-year career evaporate, and to not be able to find enough work to sustain oneself. I know what it’s like to wind up homeless through no fault of my own, and I have personally experienced how homelessness, even for relatively short periods of time as was in my case, can and will literally ruin one’s health. Like these multitudes of others, I too can attest to how brutal it is out there. The true unemployment rate is very likely double or triple what the government is telling us. The jobs being offered have absurdly low wages that are simply not enough to live on, come with no health insurance, and are often temporary or part time.

The other truth revealed from the context of these verses, however, is how we should be acting. The apostle Paul does not say that we should treat these people with contempt, lie about them, or sneer at them. He does not say they should only help those who can afford to pay. Instead, we should be doing for others what we would have them do for us. We must treat others the way we want to be treated. We must love our neighbor as ourselves. He says we should treat them not as enemies but to warn them as if they were a brother or sister. “Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. — Isaiah 1: 15-17 (NLT)

What God is saying here is to check your hands before raising them in praise to Him to see whose blood you have on them. Give up your sins. Trust Jesus implicitly. Learn to do good. And then what does the Lord say is doing good? Seeking justice. Helping the oppressed. Defending the cause and fighting for the rights of the needy. If anyone really and truly thinks that there is no injustice in our current judicial system (such as the Ferguson white-wash – oops, I meant to say ‘grand jury’), then I would call them heartless and soulless. If you honestly do not believe that there is oppression for the lowest in our society today then I advise you to stop watching Fox News and come on out in the street to join us. There is a real world out here and it is really hurting.

The people at Ferguson, Mo., New York, Chicago, the deep south and the West Coast want social and economic justice. They want the same thing God speaks about throughout the entire Bible. They want the same thing Jesus taught about. Once Christ told a parable about the Good Samaritan. Most of us know the story. A man is mugged and essentially left for dead on the street. He is passed over by a Temple priest and a tax collector. But a Samaritan stopped and helped him, bandaged him, and paid for him to recover at a nearby inn. But the context of this parable is the point. Jesus told it because He was asked the question — “who is my neighbor?” The Samaritan was chosen as the hero of this story by Jesus because there was much hatred towards them by the Jewish people at that time. Who is my neighbor? I think this is the question we need to ask ourselves every day. We need to ask it when we hear the hate merchants on TV and radio trying to stir up our darker side. We need to ask it when we think that we know the motives of people we never even met. We need to ask it when we start to use God to defend things He obviously would never defend (such as waging war). Jesus finishes the Parable of the Good Samaritan with these words: “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10: 36-37, NLT)

As far as the teacher of law that asked the initial question here was concerned, only fellow Jews were his neighbor. Anyone else was looked upon with disdain. We have that same spirit infecting this country too. The other side is presented only for the purpose of blame and hatred. Those who find themselves on the extreme right look upon the OWS crowd negatively because they are not their neighbors to them. It is the Occupy, 99%, and Ferguson protesters who have become the 21st century Samaritans. They also sneer at the protesters in Ferguson as being just a mob of rioters and looters, when in fact only a small percentage of all those engaged in the street protests engaged in such illicit activities, as if they are all somehow unworthy of mercy. They are somehow to blame not only for their own plight, but supposedly for the plight of the country as a whole. God requires something from us and He spelled it out very plainly in the Old Testament: “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6: 8, NLT)

The world sells various shades of gray to hide the truth, spinning it and disguising it as it goes. The truth is that if somehow anyone thinks Jesus would support a system where over 40 million people are homeless while the ultra rich clothe their dogs, then I suggest that maybe they do not understand what “doing what is right” truly means. If anyone thinks that Jesus would support a system where 16,000 children die every day from hunger while the world’s top 1% gets richer and fatter, then I am not so sure that they understand the concepts of loving and being merciful. Not just being merciful – really loving mercy and walking humbly with your God. I want you to think the next time someone is trying to sell you on the notion that the Ferguson, OWS and “the 99%” people are 2nd class citizens. It makes me wonder what their motivation is for saying such things. If anyone has the snooty opinion that the Ferguson, OWS and 99% folks are lazy troublemakers, then that becomes their problem. If you have the political opinion that they should go home and find a job, fine, but have any of you tried to find a job lately? Ask someone who has been unable to find work for months or even years! Brothers and sisters, those are nowhere near being Christian arguments. They are most definitely not Biblical arguments – and they are devoid of any compassion, any mercy, or any humility. What will we do to help all these people? What would happen if you lost your job tomorrow, or if a family member were to be killed by the police? What have we done lately to help each other? Because in the end, that’s all that really counts.

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Occupy 3rd anniversary commemorative edition now available

Occupy Wall Street 3rd anniversary commemorative edition, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome” paperback 50% off with free shipping. http://www.pcmga.org/fundraising_and_donations

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Anonymous Million Mask March worldwide – Nov 5 2014

September 7, 2014. Everywhere. ONN The secretive underground hacker group Anonymous has come a long way since its beginning in 2003 in an online chat room. What started as a half dozen kids scattered around the world, all with the default online username ‘anonymous’ and unknown even to each other, has become the largest political movement on Earth. On November 5, 2014 the global army will step out of the internet and onto the streets in more than 500 cities around the world.

via Anonymous Million Mask March worldwide – Nov 5 2014.

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Should justice and the rights of workers be a Christian issue?

Progressive Christianity, Worker’s Rights and Social Justice

(excerpt from, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, by Rev. Paul J. Bern)

The lack of employment and economic opportunities, the lack of access to health care and higher education, plus extreme economic inequality due to a very high concentration of American wealth being in the hands of far too few people has turned the majority of the American populace into a powder-keg. Like the Middle East and parts of Europe, America too has become a ticking time bomb of inequality and lack of opportunity. The rights of US workers have been trampled underfoot by the rich multinational corporations and the top 1% elite who are outsourcing all our jobs overseas as they leave us high and dry in minimum wage jobs with no future. The least common denominator of middle class loss of income due to mass layoffs, the loss of housing due to foreclosure and eviction and the excess of economic inequality due to a disproportional concentration of wealth, is that all three of these comprise the human rights of workers throughout the world, beginning here in America since our country is supposed to be the standard-bearer of the world for freedom and opportunity. If the American worker does not get what he or she is legally and rightfully entitled to, there will be strikes, protests, sit-ins, “occupying” and other peaceful forms of civil disobedience until we get what we want, up to and including the complete shutdown of the entire US economy for at least one day. And we will do all of this without firing a single shot, just as the protesters and public demonstrations overseas did before us, and just as the Rev. MLK, Jr. did during the civil rights movement. And then we do it again – and again.

There are also a growing number of employed people who, despite having a job, are still living in poverty. There are at least 15 million US workers who now fall into this rapidly growing category. The median US income of $33,000.00 a year is not going to get you far in today’s economy, and half of the country is making less than that. The reason we struggle with these things is because the Economic Elite have robbed us all through the systematic confiscation of middle class wealth, security and prosperity. This has caused tremendous suffering among workers throughout the world, it is no less than a criminal act, and it is the result of the largest single transfer of wealth in all of human history from the world’s middle class to the rich. And so I came up with what I call in my book “The 8 Fundamental Rights of Mankind”. But for now I will only focus on the first one because there is so much to be said on just the first one.

The first and foremost right is that of all workers and independent contractors. The basic rights of all workers can be broken down into six parts; the right to a livelihood and a living wage, rights of unemployed persons, right to free vocational re-training for life, right to organize, right to a flexible work week and right to health-related, family and maternity leave. The first thing on the list of worker’s rights is also the highest priority, that of a fair and realistic minimum wage, and more fundamentally, the basic human right to a livelihood. Unemployment as we have previously known it must now come to an end forever. This does not mean unemployment will be eliminated, but periods of unemployment can and should be converted to times of retraining to acquire new skills or even completely change careers. What gives any wealthy corporate 1%’er CEO the right to tell any given man or woman, “Sorry, you are not needed around here anymore. Your skills, experience, and your work ethic no longer matter here. Our company’s bottom line and the interests of our shareholders are far more important than that of our workers.” Who do these jerks think they are? They outsourced many of our jobs overseas so that corporate America could enrich themselves at the expense of their former employees, leaving middle and working class Americans with no way to earn a respectable living and be self-sufficient. The jobs that could not be outsourced were downsized out of existence. Then this same bunch of corporate “leaders” turned around and, with the cooperation of American academia, raised costs for higher education so high that many who wished to go back to school and train for a new career were unable to afford the expenses. In the end, numerous persons who urgently wish to improve themselves through education or vocational retraining have been and are continuing to be held back from doing so, and that is a social injustice and a civil rights violation worthy of the loudest protests in numerous public places throughout our country.

There is entirely too much imbalance and inequity in the distribution of wealth in the US today. Over 90% of all available liquid cash and assets are in the hands of less than 10% of the US population. And so every day it’s steak for them and beans for the rest of us. How much longer are we, the middle and working classes, going to allow this to go on? You know, it looks to me like our country is in dire need of some peaceful and orderly wealth redistribution, and I don’t mean collectivized economies such as Socialism or Communism either. One very good way to accomplish this would be to send everybody back to school who wants to go free of charge. Who would pick up the tab for the tuition for all those millions of people? Would it be the government? Absolutely not! The bill should instead be presented to corporate America, since it is corporate America who outsourced or downsized all of our jobs in the first place. Congress did just that at the end of World War 2 when they passed the G.I. Bill. If it could be done in the 1940’s, then it can be done today. Simply make the GI Bill available for everybody! Besides, if we can’t work for these companies anymore then they owe it to us to train us to work somewhere else instead of discarding us like so much trash. Any solution amounting to anything less is a social injustice and a civil rights issue worthy of a national chorus of protests, demonstrations and “occupations”.

This brings me to the point that I wish to make. In today’s world, if the net take-home pay of any given individual does not meet, or just barely meets, that same individuals daily cost of living, then that is tantamount to economic slavery. Let me say that again because this point simply cannot be overemphasized. If your take-home pay won’t even take you home, you are a slave. Oh, you are free to move around and to come and go as you choose and take care of business, that is true. But if after you go to the grocery store, pay the light bill (assuming you are fortunate enough to be able to do that), put gas in your tank (assuming you are lucky enough to still own a car) and set some money aside for next month’s rent or mortgage (if you’re not already on the street or living with relatives) – and then after all that you peek into your wallet and realize that you have $7.00 left to live on for the whole stinkin’ week, that’s when you know you are a slave. What happens to the people whose incomes are at or below minimum wage? They go hungry and are often homeless. Many of these newly homeless, formerly middle class people also have kids who have fallen into poverty along with their parents. And this is happening in the United States of America, supposedly the richest country in the world. This is a moral outrage, a social injustice, and it is economic discrimination of the worst kind. Since it is an issue of discrimination, by extension it also becomes a 21st century civil rights issue generating a demand for fundamental change in the way our economy works and the way our government works.

This too, then, is cause for protests, demonstrations, boycotts, occupations, general strikes and other forms of peaceful civil disobedience. On this point alone, there are enough issues on the collective dinner plate of the American people to foster open revolt throughout the land. Never mind everything else that I have written about. Think about it for a minute. How does it feel to be a slave? Makes you feel kind of angry, doesn’t it? Maybe even violated on a certain level, like we’ve been robbed. The time to rise up and say, “No more!” has arrived. It’s time for all of us to get out from in front of out TV’s and our computers and to get our backsides out in the street and start protesting. And that’s just for this issue alone. Now allow me to go over the rest of these rights.

The second basic issue under worker’s rights is the right to better and more comprehensive unemployment insurance, and to also allow some independent contractors to draw unemployment provided certain conditions are met (subject to future legislation or referendum). Any worker who has lost his or her job through no fault of their own will be entitled to up to 50 weeks of unemployment compensation instead of the current maximum of 26 weeks due to a continued over saturation in the job markets of most developed countries, starting with the US. Besides their job search, at any time during the worker’s period of unemployment he or she will have two other options available to them to assist in the development of their careers. The first will be the ability to sign up for a public works project to obtain immediate employment. (The worker’s second option will be reeducation, and I will touch on that one next so please bear with me). Workers will be required to choose one of the above to qualify for benefits. We have been needing a massive public works project to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure for decades. I would conservatively estimate that anywhere from 1-3 million people could be employed this way as contract laborers, salaried employees or subcontractors, depending on the need. The fact of the matter is that we need jobs, we need lots of them, and we need them right now! Since our government has failed to act in this regard in spite of an obvious critical need, we will have to do this ourselves. Let’s get this on the ballot for the next general election, and let’s also strike and protest for action on this matter until then. We might as well, because things are going to continue to get worse until we do.

The third human right listed is the right to free vocational retraining for life. Anybody can go back to school and get retrained at will, up to and including a 2 year degree (with a 4-year available for some additional cost). Large, wealthy corporations with robust cash flows, as well as millionaires and the super-rich, will supply the necessary funding through what I call in my book “the excess wealth tax” (you can buy the book on this site or on Amazon) to find out the details which include repealing the federal income tax). Since corporate America made the decision to send their factories and all the jobs those factories provided overseas to lower their labor costs, and since this action has caused the obliteration of millions of American careers, it will be corporate America who will shoulder the expense of retraining these people whose careers evaporated through no fault of their own. If they take your job away, or if they export or downsize your career out of existence like I experienced myself, then it is those same corporate henchmen who must pay for your reeducation. Higher education is a basic, fundamental human right. The day has come when higher education is no longer only for those who can “afford” the tuition. As of today, higher education, and the fundamental right to improve and enrich ourselves, is a fundamental human right that must be had by all without qualification.

Before I go on, let me add one more tasty ingredient into this mix. Students enrolled in reeducation or public works project workers who have children, will be given taxpayer-funded day care free of charge so they can get their education or go to work without having to worry about watching their kids. Now I know what at least some of you are thinking right now – “who’s gonna pay for that?” Let me put all this into perspective for you. If your US government took all the money that was spent in a single day on the twin occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan plus the clandestine and illegal wars and “black ops” in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere and set it aside in an enormous savings account, there would be enough money to send every American school age kid from the first grade through high school and upwards to any college, public or private, or any state university or vocational or technical school to earn their degree of choice with the tuition fully paid for, plus the cost of all their books and supplies, their meals, Internet access, new computers, and with access to public transportation covered as well. So, for those who say we can’t afford to send everyone to college with their expenses fully paid, or that the money to accomplish this just isn’t there, either doesn’t know what they are talking about, or they are elitists and bigots who can’t stand to see middle and working class and minority students getting ahead. Access to higher education, and looking after the children of those who are retraining, is an American civil right that should be equally available to all without qualification, not just to those who can afford it. Would you like to see test scores improve in our nation’s schools? Tell all those kids that they are all going to college, and watch their grades improve noticeably. Give them an incentive to do better and our kids will rise to the challenge every time.

The fourth worker’s right I’m writing about is simply the right to organize anytime, anywhere. Any American worker who wants to join a union must be allowed to do so, and any group of workers who decide to organize themselves for the purposes of collective bargaining and solidarity must be allowed to do so without interference or fear of retribution. This should include a provision making it illegal for companies to squash labor unions and from preventing unionization. If our country’s leadership is unwilling or unable to pass this and other basic rights of all workers that I have mentioned, then we as united American citizens must unite to get this issue on the next ballot by way of popular referendum, strikes and demonstrations, and other acts of civil disobedience. It’s already an established fact that American workers will get worse working conditions and pay, not better, if they do not organize. In the meantime, the short-term solution is to take this matter and all others like it into the streets as the Occupy and 99% Movements have done. You know, if you haven’t joined us yet you really should, it’s for your own good and for the future of your country.

The fifth human right is the right to a fair and reasonable workweek. All workers who work more than 40 hours in a week, and all salaried employees who work more than 50 hours per week, will be entitled to compensation at time and a half. Unlike certain companies today, it must become illegal for any given company to skirt around America’s labor laws. All companies with more than 1000 employees will be required to offer either a four day workweek with a ten hour workday, or a five day workweek with an eight hour workday to all its workers. This will save a lot of energy, lessen traffic volume at rush hour, and provide workers with more leisure time.

The right to family and sick leave, which must include maternity leave for women, is the final right I have listed for all workers and independent contractors. Every other country in the developed world from Europe to Canada to Japan has paid family and sick leave for its workers – all except for the US. It’s way past time for Congress and the President to bring our country up to speed with the rest of the world in this regard. Furthermore, medical, family and maternity leave should be allowed for up to 3 months per calendar year, and it must be made illegal to fire someone from his or her job because that employee needed to take family leave. The right of all individuals to have medical, family or maternity leave must be had by all, without interference or fear of retribution, for the strengthening of our families and the nurturing of our children.

The fundamental rights of workers must be honored and acknowledged by rule of law, and by a culture change that puts people before profits. The days of funneling any given company’s profits to its shareholders instead of its employees must come to an end forever as corporations gradually become replaced with employee-owned cooperatives, a proliferation of nonprofits, or sole proprietorship web-based “micro enterprises”. The workers who are the ones who keep things running for the rest of us, it is they who are the new business model for the 21st century. In the best of cases, it will be the workers, and not stockholders, who will be the new company owners and investors as the old ways of greed-based capitalism continue to die of old age. This is the new reality we must all embrace if we are to thrive in the 21st century.

justice_4_poor

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President Obama’s call for a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour falls pitifully short. I would even call it a human rights violation

The Demand For a Realistic Minimum Wage

I am writing this message today to all my readers about a pertinent topic that is right in the middle of current events. I am referring to President Obama’s call for a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour and to the fact that it is grossly inadequate. The first two things of the highest priority concerning worker’s rights is a fair and realistic minimum wage, and more fundamentally, the basic human right to a livelihood. Everyone knows all too well that the era of disposable workers has been upon us for at least the last7 to 8 years, if not longer. But I contend that unemployment as we have known it must now come to an end forever. Companies today will try to be nice about it, saying, “Sorry, but you are not needed around here anymore. Your skills, experience, and your work ethic no longer matter here.” This is tantamount to saying the people don’t matter, and that profit – which for all purposes amounts to the worship of currency – is the only thing that really does. Who do they think they are? Corporate America has outsourced many of our jobs overseas so that they could enrich themselves at the expense of their former employees, leaving middle and working class Americans with no way to earn a respectable living and be self-sufficient. The jobs that could not be outsourced were downsized out of existence. Then this same bunch of corporate “leaders” turned around and, with the cooperation of American academia, raised costs for higher education so high that many of us who wish to go back to school and train for a new career are unable to afford to do so. Numerous persons who urgently wish to improve their standard of living through education or vocational retraining are held back from doing so, and that is a social injustice and a civil rights violation worthy of the loudest protests in every place throughout our country.

There are also a growing number of employed people who, despite having a job, are still living in poverty. There are at least 15 million workers who now fall into this rapidly growing category. The median US income of $32,390 a year [in 2012 dollars] is not going to get you far in today’s economy, and half of the country is making less than that. The reason we struggle with these things is because the top 1% have robbed us all through the systematic confiscation of middle class wealth and prosperity. This tremendous suffering in the United States of America is literally a crime against humanity, and it is the result of the largest single transfer of wealth in all of human history from the middle class to the rich.

The lack of employment and economic opportunities, the lack of access to health care and higher education, plus extreme economic inequality due to a high concentration of American wealth being in the hands of far too few people has turned the USA into a powder-keg. Like the Middle East and parts of Europe, America too has become a ticking time bomb of inequality and lack of opportunity. The rights of US workers have been trampled underfoot by the rich multinational corporations and the top 1% elite who are outsourcing all our jobs overseas as they leave us high and dry. The least common denominator of middle class loss of income due to mass layoffs, the loss of housing due to foreclosure and eviction and the excess of economic inequality due to a disproportional concentration of wealth, is that all three of these comprise the human rights of workers throughout the world, beginning here in America since our country is supposed to be the standard-bearer of the world for freedom and opportunity.

There is entirely too much imbalance and inequity in the distribution of wealth in the US today. Over 90% of all available liquid cash and assets are in the hands of a maximum of 10% of the US population, if that. And so every day it’s steak for them and beans for the rest of us. How much longer are we going to allow this to go on? And so it looks to me like our country is in dire need of some peaceful and orderly wealth redistribution, and I don’t mean collectivized economies such as Socialism or Communism either. One very good way to accomplish this would be to send everybody back to school who wants to go free of charge. Who would pick up the tab for the tuition for all those millions of people? Would it be the government? Absolutely not! The bill should instead be presented to corporate America, since it is corporate America who outsourced or downsized all of our jobs out of existence in the first place. Congress did just that at the end of World War 2 when they passed the G.I. Bill. If it could be done in the 1940’s, then it can be done today. Besides, if we can’t work for these companies anymore then they owe it to us to train us to work somewhere else instead of discarding us like so much trash. Any solution amounting to anything less is a social injustice and a civil rights issue worthy of a national chorus of protests, demonstrations and “occupations”.

This brings me to the point that I wish to make. In today’s world, if the net take-home pay of any given individual does not meet, or just barely meets, that same individuals daily cost of living, then that is tantamount to economic slavery. Let me say that again because this point simply cannot be overemphasized. If your take – home pay won’t even take you home, you are a slave. Oh, you are free to move around and to come and go as you choose and take care of business, that is true. But if after you go to the grocery store, pay the light bill (assuming you are fortunate enough to be able to do that), put gas in your tank (assuming you are lucky enough to still own a car) and set some money aside for next month’s rent or mortgage (if you’re not already on the street or living with relatives) – and then after all that you peek into your wallet and realize that you have $7.00 left to live on for the whole stinkin’ week, that’s when you know you are a slave. What happens to the people whose incomes are at or below minimum wage? They go hungry and are often homeless. Many of these newly homeless, formerly middle class people also have kids who have fallen into poverty along with their parents. And this is happening in the United States of America, supposedly the richest country in the world. This is a moral outrage, a social injustice, and it is economic discrimination of the worst kind. Since it is an issue of discrimination, by extension it also becomes a 21st century civil rights issue generating a demand for fundamental change in the way our economy works and the way our government works.

This too, then, is cause for protests, demonstrations, boycotts, occupations, general strikes and other forms of peaceful civil disobedience. On this point alone, there are enough issues on the collective dinner plate of the American people to foster open revolt throughout the land. Never mind everything else that I have written about. Think about it for a minute. How does it feel to be a slave? Makes you feel kind of angry, doesn’t it? It make us all feel violated because we have all been slaves, often without realizing it. The time to rise up and say, “No more!” has arrived. It’s time for all of us to get out from in front of out TV’s and our computers and to get our backsides out in the street and start protesting and occupying.

But what about those who are long-term unemployed, of which I was one? After all, as of February 2014 there are still three applicants for every available job. What we need is a massive public works project to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure and to rebuild America’s blighted inner cities (and small towns too). I would conservatively estimate that anywhere from 1-3 million people could be employed this way as day laborers, direct employees or subcontractors depending on the need. The fact of the matter is that we need jobs, we need lots of them, and we need them right now! Since our government has failed to act in this regard in spite of an obvious critical need, we will have to do this ourselves. Let’s get this on the ballot for the next general election in every state, and let’s also strike and protest for action on this matter until then. We might as well, because things are going to continue to get worse until we do.

Another human right that goes hand in hand with job creation programs is the right to free vocational retraining for life. Anybody can and should be able to go back to school and get retrained at will, up to and including a 2 year degree free of charge. Large, wealthy corporations with robust cash flows, as well as millionaires and the super-rich, will supply the necessary funding through what I call in my 2011 book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, the ‘excess wealth tax’ (to find out the details, which include repealing the federal income tax, you can buy a copy by clicking on this link). Since corporate America made the decision to send their factories and all the jobs those factories provided overseas to lower their labor costs, and since this action has caused the reaction of the obliteration of millions of American careers, it will be corporate America who will shoulder the responsibility of retraining these people whose careers evaporated through no fault of their own. If they take your job away, or if they export or downsize your career out of existence like I experienced myself, then it is those same corporate henchmen who must pay for your reeducation. Higher education and the right to a livelihood are basic, fundamental, and inalienable human rights. The day has come when higher education is no longer only for those who can “afford” the tuition.

Let me add one more tasty ingredient into this mix. Students enrolled in these reeducation programs, or public works project workers who have children, will be given taxpayer-funded day care free of charge so they can get their education without having to worry about their kids. Now I know what some of you are thinking right now – “who’s gonna pay for that?” The same corporate bigwigs who torpedoed the US economy in 2008. They should be required to foot the bill just like they should be forced to pay for the reeducations of all displaced and formerly middle class people I wrote about further above. There’s no way that Wall Street and corporate America can legitimately complain that they can’t afford it. Let me put this into perspective for you.

If your US government took all the money that was spent in a single day on the twin wars (or more accurately occupations) in Iraq and Afghanistan during 2001 – present, plus the clandestine and illegal wars and “black ops” in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere and set it aside in an enormous savings account, there would be enough money to send every American school age kid from the first grade through high school to any college, public or private, or any state university or vocational school to earn their degree of choice with the tuition fully paid for, plus the cost of all their books and supplies, their meals, Internet access, new computers, and access to public transportation covered as well. So anyone who says we can’t afford to send everyone to college with their expenses fully paid, or that the money to accomplish this just isn’t there, either doesn’t know what they are talking about, or they are elitists and bigots who can’t stand to see middle and working class, and especially minority students, getting ahead. Access to higher education, and looking after the children of those who are retraining, is an American civil right that should be equally available to all without qualification, not just to those who can afford it. Would you like to see test scores improve in our nation’s schools? Tell all those kids that they are all going to college, and watch their grades improve noticeably. Give them an incentive to do better and our kids will rise to the challenge every time. And they can do away with those stupid standardized tests while they’re at it.

Do you want to become a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist or an astronaut (yes, many astronauts and other space workers will be needed within a decade or two)? Never again must any aspiring student be turned away from obtaining a college or vocational degree for purely financial reasons. Every able-bodied homeless person, newly released prisoners, and the long-term unemployed will be able to be placed in the public works program or the reeducation programs that I have just explained, and all without qualification. It should be a crime for somebody to be hungry, homeless or jobless just because he or she wants to work but can’t find employment or pay for training. And that goes double for their children!

American citizens have a patriotic duty to dissent and to speak out when it is apparent their government is creating policies and taking actions that are in conflict with the best interests of the people and the laws of the land. The right of patriotic dissent has been a part of America since those days that brought us our independence. Yes, anyone can and should exercise the right to dissent when the situation requires it, and I certainly have no hesitation about doing so. The solutions being offered by your government, your political and economic system, and your media outlets are for more security by way of less individual freedom and personal liberty. I think it is high time that “we the people” rose up to challenge this erroneous notion that security is preferable to freedom. And I think it’s high damn time to correct the perception of the top 1%, making them understand that people are not expendable, nor are we a commodity to be exploited. We need to take matters into our own hands if we hope to get anything done, and we need to directly confront our terrible economic situation if we hope to get things moving back in our favor. The system is broken, and it’s up to us to either fix it, bypass it, or replace it altogether.

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Lack of Economic Opportunity is Social Injustice

The US Economy is Terminally Ill

excerpt from, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Another area of horrifying ineptitude being orchestrated by the US government, or more accurately “Fannie Mae” and “Freddy Mac” who regulate the home mortgage industry, is that of the current and ongoing foreclosure crisis. By now everybody knows all too well about how people are being thrown out of their homes due to some very shady practices perpetrated by real estate companies, mortgage lenders and brokers, and especially the big banks. As I wrote in my previous book, in over half the foreclosure cases being heard in court the lending institutions can’t prove that they are the mortgage holders because they can’t produce any proof of ownership. The financial industry, and Fannie Mae in particular, took back many of these homes from their owners illegally, and the American public has figured it out and they are very pissed off about it, and rightfully so. But it gets even worse than that. The banks and other lenders, led by an arm of the Federal Government, were so greedy in repossessing all those hundreds of thousands of houses that they forgot to take into account the upkeep costs associated with holding on to these properties. As a result, they got a lot more than they bargained for. Such is the case for mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which as of March 31, 2012 had a mind-boggling 153,000 foreclosed homes on its books. One example — mowing the lawn. Fannie Mae owns this home, so it’s paying a lawn crew to come every few weeks or so to keep up the curb appeal. Fannie Mae officials won’t say how many lawns it’s paying to maintain, so I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations myself.

 

Say only half of the homes have lawns, a conservative estimate, that’s still more than 75,000 lawns.

 

153,000/2

X 6 (a six-month grass-clipping season)

X 2 (mowing twice a month)

X $40 (a reasonable guess at how much it costs to mow a lawn)

 

= $36.7 million

 

Again, this is a very rough estimate, but that’s a whole lot of money to spend on lawn care. Fannie Mae’s tab from U.S. taxpayers is up to $86 billion since September 2008 when it was taken into government ownership. In just the first quarter of this year, Fannie racked up $488 million in foreclosure-related expenses, including holding costs (insurance, taxes and maintenance); valuation adjustments for changes in market value; gains/loss when the property is sold; legal fees; eviction costs; weatherization costs to prevent the pipes from bursting; costs to secure the property; and repair costs.

And in the meantime, what happens to all the dispossessed people who have lost their homes? For the lucky ones who still have their jobs, it’s not so bad. They can just go and rent another home, although in that case I think it would be wise to move as close to your job as you can – you’ll save a lot of time and money that way. But what about all the rest of these unfortunate individuals whose entire world has been destroyed by long-term unemployment and the loss of their homes, their savings, and in many cases even their transportation? For example, the homeless population in New York City has risen to never before seen levels, according to a recent report published by the advocacy group Coalition for the Homeless. A staggering 113,552 people slept in the city emergency shelters last year, including over 40,000 children. The total marked an 8 percent increase from the previous year and a 37 percent increase from 2002. The report also highlighted the growing number of families sleeping in shelters at nearly 29,000 families in the system, an increase of over 80 percent from 2002 levels (another record). Also skyrocketing was the number of families who had previously spent some time in the shelters returning for further aid, now approximately half of all those receiving assistance. However, even these numbers in fact drastically underestimate the true scope of the homeless crisis in New York City. According to the NYC Department of Homeless Services, 64 percent of those applying for emergency shelter last year were denied it.

Meanwhile, the rents in New York City are reaching astronomical levels. According to data available from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the “fair market” rental rate for a two-bedroom apartment in New York is $1,359. Housing advocates typically consider affordable rates to be no more than a third of the family income. Thus, a family in New York City must earn at least over $54,000 to find an affordable home. The median household income for renters in the Bronx is barely $30,000 a year. For Brooklyn, it is nearly $35,000. At the same time as this catastrophe for the working class deepens, the abundance for the top 1 percent – who collectively earn more than the bottom 95 percent combined – almost defies belief. Last month saw another record for the largest sale price of a single condominium: $48 million for a unit in the Plaza Hotel Residences overlooking Central Park. Under these conditions, the transfer of wealth from workers to the fabulously wealthy takes on a criminal character.

 

To summarize the situation that working Americans – and particularly those whose wish to work but are unable to find any – find themselves in, we are living in a world with a fundamentally flawed economic system. Capitalism can best flourish so long as the fuel and energy that it takes to keep it running smoothly can be obtained inexpensively. It also can only thrive when the citizens or participants in the system can earn enough disposable income to buy, swap, trade or barter sufficient resources for a reasonably comfortable existence. When it is at its best, capitalism has been not just a way of survival and not just an economic system but an ideology of profit through the pursuit of personal gain. Unfortunately, there have been several things occur since the dawn of the 21st century that collectively signal the death knell of capitalism, or at least as we have known it.

The first aspect is also the most obvious – consumer spending drives 70% of the US economy. But if American consumers run out of disposable income, which is exactly what is now occurring, the whole US economy grinds to a halt. But Washington already knows this and Congress and the President have found a way to deal with the reality that American consumers are broke. Simply put, if America can’t generate an income from and drive our economy without consumer spending, then we’ll simply have to find a quick and easy substitute. Don’t worry, they already have, and they have accomplished this by converting the USA over to a wartime economy, with profits generated by plunder and military domination overseas since working Americans are tapped out. The end result is plain to see, and that is crushing unemployment that has locked millions of able-bodied and industrious Americans out of the US job market, some of them permanently such as what I experienced when my own IT career ended prematurely a couple of years ago.

The second proof that capitalism is at the end of its life cycle is the end of cheap sources of energy due to the fact that we are past the point of “peak oil”. That is, the developed countries of the world have begun using petroleum resources at a rate that is faster than those resources can be pumped out of the ground. This has ominous implications from the standpoint of North American national security, plus that of Europe (particularly Western Europe and the UK), Israel, western and southern Africa, and the entire Pacific Rim from Japan and South Korea down to Australia. Being one who follows world news very closely, there can be no doubt that opposing sides who also have designs on these petroleum resources would consist of Russia, China, and the Muslim nations in North Africa, the Middle East and Indonesia. If world war three breaks out over this remaining oil, which looks increasingly likely since the developed countries are moving too slowly developing alternative energy sources, much of capitalism’s infrastructure will be destroyed. The only way to stop all of this from happening is to convert to green energy for our power needs while converting our cars and trucks to run on natural gas, which America has in abundance, and which burns much cleaner than gasoline. Most importantly, since natural gas is about one third cheaper than gasoline, American car and truck owners would see their fuel expenses drop noticeably, and it is relatively inexpensive to convert a petrol-powered engine to burn natural gas.

The third and final side to this triangle of capitalism’s demise I can sum up in one word – disillusioned. After generations of buying new cars, new houses, new clothes, new furniture and accessories for your home, and taking on student loan debt to pay for our educations while paying astronomical medical insurance premiums, people are discovering that all this interest and fees they have been paying for all these years has used up all their funds to the point where many of us are having a hard time getting enough to eat. Suddenly the American people are discovering that they have been paying way too much and have been overcharged for years, often for decades, for almost everything they have ever bought in their entire life. We are outraged, we are indignant, and we are absolutely furious!

But there is much deep beneath the surface here, something that surpasses the mere acquisition of stuff and the shallowness of material pursuits, something that is – well – spiritual in nature. Disillusionment, the word I used above to describe the 99%, is running rampant. People feel cut off from having any economic opportunity, and as a result they feel unwanted, abandoned and disenfranchised. But in the process I think that the 99% have collectively become disenchanted with their profit-and-debt driven economic system that they have been stuck living with all their lives, blaming it for their descent into poverty, and consequently the majority of folks have arrived at the same conclusion: People matter more than goods, community cohesiveness matters more than the individual, and cooperative achievement matters more than personal accomplishment. In the process, people are out-growing their need for personal gain and their desire for material goods. Materialism is dying and it is being replaced with its opposite – minimalism, the way of living that says getting by with less is better. And if mankind’s habit of always seeking “more” is broken, a profit-and-debt driven economic system cannot survive. If cooperation can replace competition between people, profits can much more easily be shared by all.

 

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The Decline of the American Empire

 

Fall of the American Empire: Part One

This posting is the first in a series of three articles (or sermons on my virtual church website) on the current status of the United States as a country, and why our situation is so serious. The are based on my book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” (Salt and Light Ministries, 472 pages, $14.95; $1.99 for e-book on Nook and Kindle). In my previous postings I have outlined the problems of the US middle class, and how it is slowly being obliterated by the top 1% of the financial pecking order. The end result of this is that the country is being ruined, literally from the inside out, and our only hope remaining is to protest, such as the Occupy Movement, the Coffee Party, Enough is Enough, just to name a few. Search those, plus ‘occupy wall street’, for more information.

 

The plight of 99%’ers like us is that we are experiencing what is tantamount to the confiscation of our wealth and prosperity, and with it our way of life. Many of our jobs, our savings and pensions, our housing and transportation, and our access to higher education and preventative health care, are evaporating before our eyes, and this social injustice will continue unabated until we as a united people rise up as one in a chorus of peaceful revolution. I am convinced that if we do not, the next battle front being entrenched by the top 1% will be against our very freedom. In fact, this latest round of class warfare being thrust against us has already begun, and it has become known as the ‘prison-industrial complex’. Record numbers of people, many of whom are either wrongfully convicted or are harmless substance abusers in need of professional help, are being locked up systematically, and the process is slowly getting worse.

 

Prisons for Profit

The United States, according to the New York Times, has 5% of the World’s population and 25% of all people incarcerated on the planet! In reality, in the United States, one in every hundred people are in some kind of incarceration. Incarceration is big business in the United States.

Private corrections companies such as Wackenhut and others charge either the States or the federal government from $30 to $60 a bed to warehouse all these people. In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budgeting Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. That is up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 increase once adjusted for inflation. With money from bonds and the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By the end of 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.

The United States ranks first in prison population. Where did we get all of these criminals? Well the answer comes from the reckless and costly War on Drugs, the new prohibition that makes convicts and criminals of those who are classified in more enlightened countries such as Holland and the Netherlands as having a substance abuse problem. In 2000 there were 74,276 drug related prisoners. In 2008 it was 95,079. In 2010 it was 95,205. This amounts to 50.7% of the entire prison population (as of 2011 that number is estimated at 54%). It’s also an increase of 28.2% since 2000. We house those with substance abuse problems with professional criminals. What will we get when these people are released after serving an average 55 months in prison?

This is what capitalism has done. People are now profiting by locking up other human beings. And the longer people are are locked up, the more profitable the industry is. Should we be proud that we imprison more people than any nation on Earth? Have we outsourced so many industries along with their factories that we need a giant prison system to keep people employed? If we continue to allow such a disproportionate number of poor and minority citizens to be locked up, released without rehabilitation, and locked up again, modern slavery will continue to thrive. We are supporting a modern form of slavery if we do not, at the very least, lessen the punishment for drug offenses, do away with the unconstitutional “three strikes” laws and offer education and rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration. If we retrain prisoners, we give them a trade. If we simply incarcerate them and release them, all we get are more prisoners.

Remember, this “prison-industrial complex” is bought and paid for, and brought to you by the same “government” that has brought you: The FBI, The DEA, The BATFE, The only Atomic Bombs ever used in War, Three mile Island, Area 51, The Bay of Pigs invasion, Vietnam, Watergate, Iran Contra, Ruby Ridge, ID. and Waco, TX., Grenada, Nicaragua, Somalia, FEMA disasters and the Patriot Act. and of course the war in Iraq I and II, and now Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya. All of this has been and will be done in the name of National Security. When the American war machine finishes its conquests overseas to “acquire” Middle Eastern oil, the final step will be to bring the troops home so the “new world order” can turn their weapons on us. The final step, you see, will be the conquest of the Untied States. Only then will the domination and control over everything and everybody by the top 1% be secure. Allow me to document how this is being done and what the end result will be for our nation if we don’t turn this around in our favor. American citizens have a patriotic duty to dissent and to speak out when it is apparent their government is creating policies and taking actions that are in conflict with the best interests of the people and the laws of the land. The right of patriotic dissent has been a part of America since those days that brought us our independence. Yes, anyone can and should exercise the right to dissent, when the situation requires it.

 

We find ourselves living in a world where the next terrorist attack could kill everyone in your city or town, where the cost of fuel could skyrocket into the stratosphere with the next conflagration in the Middle East or the next natural disaster, and where you can become the next crime statistic on less than a moments notice. And as all these things are taking place, the solution being offered by your government, your political and economic system, your media outlets and even your churches are for more security by way of less individual freedom and personal liberty. I think it is high time that “we the people” rose up to challenge this erroneous notion that security is preferable to freedom. And I think it’s high damn time to correct the perception of the top 1%, making them understand that people are not expendable, nor are we a commodity to be exploited. We need to take matters into our own hands if we hope to get anything done, and we need to directly confront our terrible economic situation if hope to get things moving back in our favor. The system is broken, and it’s up to us to either fix it, bypass it, or replace it altogether.

The end result of the hijacking of our political and economic system by the top 1% is that the country has been run into the ground. In my opinion, and based on quite a bit of on-line research and a library of saved Internet postings and articles, it is severely damaged but it may be repairable. In the meantime, here is what America is faced with in the short term.

Seven Reasons Why Capitalism Can’t Recover Anytime Soon

  1. Central Banks are Dumbfounded. The usual tricks that U.S. and European central banks use to avoid recessions are long-exhausted. Interest rates cannot get any lower.

  2. Trade War. For a global economy to grow, global cooperation is needed. China’s economy will become the world’s largest by 2016, surpassing the US for the first time.

  3. Military War. Foreign war is a good symptom of economic decay. $57,000 a minute – that’s how much the United States spends on Iraq and Afghanistan

  4. U.S. Economy at a Standstill. The most important consumer market in the world, the U.S. is a nation of nearly bankrupt consumers. Nearly thirty million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, while further job losses are certain.

  5. Bailout Capitalism. First it was the banks and other corporations that needed bailing out, and now whole nations. Western nations bailed out their banks by falling into the massive debt that they are now drowning in.

  6. Bailout Repercussions. All western nations — including the U.S. and England — are grappling with their national debts. Rich bond investors are demanding that these countries drastically reduce their deficits, while also demanding that the deficits be reduced on the backs of working families, instead of rich investors.

  7. The Far Right Emerges. To deal with working people more ruthlessly, the radical right is being unleashed. In normal times these bigots yell furiously but no one listens. But in times of economic crisis they’re given endless airtime on all major media outlets.

 

Seven more facts about the decline of the USA.

 

1.In 2000, USA was ranked number one in average wealth per adult. In 2010, USA is seventh.

 

2. USA has lost approximately 42,400 factories and 32 percent of manufacturing jobs since 2000. In 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of economic output. In 2008, it represented 11.5 percent.

 

3. Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is lower in 2010 than it was in 1975.

 

4. In 1980, the United States imported 37 percent of its oil. Now its 60 percent.

 

5.America’s trade deficit with China increased 300 percent in last ten years,which could eventually cost half a million jobs this year alone. Half a trillion yearly leave America due to trade deficit.

 

6. US 15-year-olds do not rank in the top half of all advanced nations in math or science literacy.

 

7. The United States has the third worst poverty rate among all the advanced nations.

So where are US resources being directed? Towards war, of course.

QUICK FACTS ON WARS AND DEFENSE SPENDING

 

—The National Security Advisor says there are less than 100 Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and we have over 100,000 troops and probably as many mercenaries chasing them.

 

—Maintaining one American soldier in Afghanistan for one year costs one million dollars. This expenditure could be for twenty jobs at home with a salary of $50,000 each.

—There are now over 90,000 battlefield casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Over 500,000 veterans patients from the two wars have flooded into VA hospitals and clinics. That’s one new war casualty walking into a VA medical facility every five minutes of every day—about 9,000 new patients every month with no end in sight. Also, one third of all returning veterans from these illegal wars wind up on psychiatric disability. They will never work again. That’s what war does to people, so why do we continue?

 

—The Iraqis still don’t have a government and Christians are being ethnically cleansed.

 

—The cost of the Iraq war alone is likely to be more than three trillion dollars. (Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel winning economist)

 

—190,000 AK-47s handed out by the US Army to Iraqi security force recruits vanished and wound up in the hands of militants.

Afghanistan soldiers have been shooting our troops!

—The total DOD budget for the current fiscal year is over $700 billion. It is an amount just under what the entire rest of the world spends for defense and most of them are allies.

—The Defense Department spends in a few hours more than al Qaeda spends in an entire year.

 

—According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 36 million Americans, including one out of every four children, are currently on food stamps. In the richest country in the world, this is inexcusable.

—Some people think the Federal Reserve banks are United States Government institutions. They are not Government institutions. They are private credit monopolies which prey upon the people of the United States for the benefit of themselves and their foreign customers; foreign and domestic speculators and swindlers; and rich and predatory money lenders.

In next Sunday’s message, I will continue my documentation on what I see as the imminent destruction of the United States as we have known it. But I don’t believe for one instant that it will be the end of the line for the USA. The country itself, the land and its people, its infrastructure, the commercial structures and all the houses, most of the businesses and everything related to them, will all still be here. It will be up to us, the working people of this country (employed or not) who keep things going, to change the system from the bottom up. More on this topic in the next two weeks.

 

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The 99% Part Two

We Are The 99%: The Focus of Our Rage (part 2)

 

The third fundamental human right that I want to write about is to be free from poverty and hunger, with an equal chance at prosperity, in a clean and peaceful environment. How do we do that? We clean up the environment that we already have, and for that you will need lots of people. That brings me to the topic of a huge public works program that this country urgently needs, and this is part of the solution that I see. Therefore, this is indeed a basic human right. This is something that should already have been done at the Presidential level, but unfortunately it is not as of yet. We need massive protests and demonstrations, petitions to the President, and a major effort through the social media to get this passed into law.

All the long-term unemployed people plus all the others I mentioned above will be put to work. Some will be doing environmental cleanup, others will assist with bridge and highway repairs, and still others will be repairing sewers and sidewalks. The homeless will be put to work revitalizing abandoned homes left over from the “great foreclosure robbery” (as I call it in my book). When they are finished with the first batch, they can go live in them as they begin repairs on others. We do have the capacity to have full employment at a living wage, and to end homelessness while ending the foreclosure crisis. This is one way to accomplish just that. I encourage anyone having additional ideas to publish them as I have, the more input the better. And what about all the households where both parents work, or single-parent households? Who is going to watch all those kids? I think we should have on-site daycare available for everybody free of charge. It would be yet another way to create jobs with a starting wage of $10.00 an hour, income tax free.

The fourth fundamental human right, and another way to articulate what we want, is to address the problem of health insurance and its ridiculous cost, pricing 54 million out of the health insurance market and forcing many of us to rely on the local emergency room for medical treatment. It is a fact that every developed country in the world has national health insurance except for the United States. From Europe to Canada to Japan, getting sick is never a problem unless the illness is terminal.

Not so in the USA, where health care is on a for-profit basis, and we are the only country in the developed world where this is so. We have the highest cost for health care and for prescription drugs of any country in the world by far. In other words, good health care in this country is only for those who can afford it. The rest of us are left stranded on the side of the road to health and wellness without remedy, eventually to die, but well before our time.

So what is the solution to this pressing problem? One thing is for sure, every human being on the face of the earth has the unconditional right to good health care. It’s as basic as access to clean water (another area where mankind has some work to do). I strongly maintain that it should be a crime for any patient to die because they lacked access to treatment due to having no money or health insurance. There is simply no excuse for that to be happening in the richest country in the world, and I for one am ashamed that it is occurring, and I doubt that I am the only one who has this opinion. Also, people with preexisting conditions or catastrophic illnesses should always have unconditional access to health care. In the same way, so should anyone seeking treatment for substance abuse, or who need psychiatric care, or who are in need of any organ transplants, or kidney dialysis, or any other serious illness requiring constant monitoring or ongoing therapy.

The question remains then, and it is this: how do we get caught up with the rest of the developed world when it comes to universal health care? Also, how do we do this within the framework of the existing US health care system(s) in order to conserve on start-up costs and minimize overhead? The plan I propose is simple: Take all currently available medical care and put it under one umbrella, so to speak. Merge private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, government health insurance for civilian employees at the state and federal levels, the military and Congress’ (including the President’s) healthcare plans, plus the entire Veterans Administration hospital system into one single-payer system so that no one is left out. Next, streamline the new universal single-payer health care system by eliminating all the duplicate departments, and by making it an online, Internet-based and paperless system utilizing leading edge Information Technology in order to lower operating costs. And third, once this new online system gets rolled out and becomes available to everyone, we’ll simply eliminate Medicaid by putting everybody in the entire country on Medicare, and all persons will have unconditional access to the same level of care, from the President down to the dishwasher at your favorite restaurant. It’s already being funded with payroll deductions, so no new funding will be necessary, although the Medicare deduction could be raised in the future to cover any increase in costs. And now, before I move on, let me point out another equally big advantage to having a universal healthcare system such as this.

Having the government take over the administration of healthcare for the entire country is a solution that is long overdue. Don’t worry about what might happen to the existing insurance industry, it isn’t going anywhere and I will explain why in the next paragraph. Allowing a hypothetical universal healthcare system to work in this manner would take the burden of providing health insurance for its employees off the backs of businesses, enhancing the profit margins of all US companies both great and small. This will give the American economy – together with US businesses – a far greater shot in the arm than any government tax cut could ever hope to. In the process, making medical care IT-based as I mentioned above will bring American health and wellness into the 21st century with comparatively nominal operating costs.

So what happens to the existing insurance industry? These very companies will be the ones who will administer this new digitized healthcare system. They will do so by way of a competitive bidding process to ensure that costs are kept under control, effectively farming out the day-to-day operations of the healthcare program. The companies with the lowest bids will get the contracts, which will be brought up for renewal periodically – say, every 5 years. Running the new universal healthcare system this way will ensure that only the best insurance companies will be administering the program, and that the marginal or substandard insurance companies be ultimately either forced to improve or go out of business.

The fourth and final main thing I want to write a couple of paragraphs about is that of economic inequality, or what I call in my book “enforced inequality”. Class warfare has been declared by the top 1% against the rest of us, the 99% who are losing our jobs, our homes, our cars, our savings and eventually our health as the enforced liquidation of the US middle and working classes continues. What is needed is a peaceful and orderly redistribution of wealth that is done in a non-violent manner. So how do we accomplish this? I have a couple of ideas, but the first step for America would be to enact an all-new tax system, abolishing the federal income tax and replacing it with a national sales tax. This proposed new tax system will be a 2-tiered system, with the national sales tax – or consumption tax – set at 9% (excluding groceries, fuel, utilities, raw materials, and all government entities). Why 9%, you ask? Well, according to some data that I obtained from the IRS, as well as from the alternative media, the average personal income tax rate in 2011 is roughly 18%, so I am proposing cutting that rate in half. The second tier of this proposed new tax system will be what I call an “excess wealth tax” for the mega-rich, and for any financial transactions that are over a certain limit. For individuals, there is no income tax on the first $30 million, but anything above that gets taxed at a rate of 50%. So, a household or individual who made $50 million last year would pay no tax on the first $30 million and $10 million on the last $20 million. For businesses, the consumption tax rate is much more generous, with the first $700 million tax free, and a tax rate of one-third on anything over and above that. So, a $1 billion dollar company would pay no tax on the first $700 million, and they would pay $100 million on the last $300 million. All itemized deductions would come to an end.

Under this plan, there is ample incentive for the rich and big business to get enthused about this plan. First, the necessity of providing group health care would go away for US businesses, followed by the repeal of the income tax. All the money being spent on income taxes and group insurance could be put back into these businesses, making them more competitive than ever before. And second, the “excess wealth tax” that I just proposed would replace the capital gains tax and the estate tax, and still provide sufficient funding for costly government institutions like the military and the space program, not to mention the cost of public reeducation and the public works projects I mentioned.

Another way to redistribute wealth is by invoking the “fundamental right” I previously mentioned with regard to housing. One of the things that can and should be done with a national public works program that I wrote about previously is to get rid of all the empty, boarded-up houses that have been abandoned to foreclosure. Put all the homeless and jobless to work remodeling this otherwise worthless real estate. There are millions of unemployed construction workers who would love to get a chance to do something like this, so why not let them? And when they are finished rebuilding them, let them live in them and so revitalize America. This is how we can end unemployment and homelessness while turning around the US foreclosure crisis.

We can do the same with healthcare and with higher education. Make them both available to everyone unconditionally as a way to enforce economic equality and social parity. This is how we can redistribute American wealth in a peaceful and nonviolent manner, and in so doing set a good example for our kids and grand-kids. The days of making good healthcare and higher education available for only those who can afford it must come to an end. That is unfair, discriminatory, it is a social injustice and therefore a civil rights violation of the worst magnitude. To tell anyone that they can’t stay well or can’t improve themselves should be a crime.

In closing, everybody needs to have an income and a livelihood. It is cruel and mean-spirited to tell anyone that they are not needed nor wanted, or that they can’t be hired because there is allegedly no money to pay them while corporate America sits on trillions of dollars in excess cash. If unemployment is brought to an end using the methods and ideas that I have written about, poverty, hunger and crime will be brought to an end as well. We already have the means to do this, so it would be irresponsible for us not to act.

Some will say, yes, but employed at what? I’ve been looking for a job for over a year and I haven’t found squat. Brothers and sisters, this is not your fault. Your government, together with some of this country’s most well-known institutions such as the US educational system and the multinational corporations, have let you down. All the jobs that could be outsourced overseas were sent away, never to return. The ones that couldn’t be outsourced were mostly downsized out of existence. It is for these reasons that we are now protesting in the streets and occupying America in New York, Boston, Washington, DC and Atlanta, among others. Because the truth of the matter is that since these jobs aren’t coming back, we as a country should be making new ones, and this should have started years ago. We have a lot of catching up to do in the area of job creation. The good news is that there are new industries currently being born that can replace all those lost jobs that I wrote about. Green industries like solar power, windmill power generators, the construction of a low-voltage national electrical grid and of fusion reactors, not to mention biotechnology, stem cell research, nanotechnology, robotics, seashore desalination plants for an endless supply of clean water, and a greatly expanded and revitalized space industry.

Seriously, people! We first landed on the moon in 1969, took our last trip there in 1972, after which our country’s “leadership” mysteriously gave up and quit. This was alleged at the time to be due to insufficient funding, but if the US hadn’t been involved with the war in Vietnam, America could easily have afforded to continue NASA’s Apollo program. The immoral and strategically questionable wars in Iran and Afghanistan today are preventing our country from returning to space in much the same way as Vietnam did. It’s all a matter of the proper allocation of resources.

We are supposed to be in the space business already! Hello! Instead, we debate among ourselves whether or not women should have abortions, or whether gay marriage is acceptable or not. Speaking as an evangelical Internet preacher of the radical kind, if we are serious about wanting to lead good lives and to be productive contributors towards the common good, then we need to be creating jobs and helping to rebuild people’s lives. I also am appalled that the mainstream church is so against abortion while being in favor of the death penalty and of waging war. I am equally appalled at the mainstream denominations for their condemnation of gay marriage while the divorce rates for evangelicals are about the same as for the secular world. These are glaring contradictions to their faith, to say the least.

OK, so here’s how we fix our public schools and accelerate the start-up of all these new 21st century businesses, all at the same time. First, government and business should get together and find a way to give large grants to these fledgling companies that are already started up in one form or another. They need start-up capital, and they’re not going to find it at the bank branch down the street from them. Government can and must step in. Our only alternative is to become a second-rate country, a has-been of military and economic power.

The other thing that needs to be done is to start training future astronauts now. Update public school curriculum, and put it on-line. Turn the public schools into an Internet-based system that is paperless and that doesn’t need to buy expensive textbooks every year (save the trees!). Then, start teaching the kids skills that they will need for a technology-based world and a digital workplace, with an emphasis on science and math. Start teaching them to be astronauts when they’re 12 years old, because by the time they graduate from college there will be thousands of astronauts needed, not just a select lucky few like today.

Then do the same with the adults. Retrain everybody who can’t find work, or who is in need of a career change, and pick up the tab. Performing this service for America’s workforce will literally lift it all up to the next level and make it much more competitive. I have heard people complain over and over again that “we can’t compete” with some dude in China who does the same job we do for $2.00 a day. What America needs is new careers to replace those that have been eliminated. We not only have the capacity to do this already, but we are way behind and we have some catching up to do. But we are Americans. We can and will succeed if only we will unite together in this effort.

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