Stories We Will Still Have to Write in 2012

 

by WALTER and ROSEMARY BRASCH

 

In January 2009, with a new president about to be inaugurated, we wrote a column about the stories we preferred not having to write, but knew we would. Three years later, we are still writing about those problems; three years from now, we’ll still be writing about them.

We had wanted the U.S. Department of the Interior to stop the government-approved slaughter of wild horses and burros in the southwest, but were disappointed that the cattle industry used its money and influence to shelter politicians from Americans who asked for compassion and understanding of  breeds that roamed freely long before the nation’s “Manifest Destiny.”

We wanted to see the federal government protect wolves, foxes, and coyotes, none of whom attack humans, have no food or commercial value, but are major players in environmental balance. But, we knew that the hunting industry would prevail since they see these canines only as competition.

We wanted to see the Pennsylvania legislature stand up for what is right and courageously end the cruelty of pigeon shoots. But, a pack of cowards left Pennsylvania as the only state where pigeon shoots, with their illegal gambling, are actively held.

For what seems to be decades, we have written against racism and bigotry. But many politicians still believe that gays deserve few, if any, rights; that all Muslims are enemy terrorists; and publicly lie that Voter ID is a way to protect the integrity of the electoral process, while knowing it would disenfranchise thousands of poor and minority citizens.

We will continue to write about the destruction of the environment and of ways people are trying to save it. Environmental concern is greater than a decade ago, but so is the ignorant prattling of those who believe global warming is a hoax, and mistakenly believe that the benefits of natural gas fracking, with well-paying jobs in a depressed economy, far outweigh the environmental, health, and safety problems they cause.

We will continue to write against government corruption, bailouts, tax advantages for the rich and their corporations, governmental waste, and corporate greed. They will continue to exist because millionaire legislators will continue to protect those who contribute to political campaigns. Nevertheless, we will continue to speak out against politicians who have sacrificed the lower- and middle-classes in order to protect the one percent.

We will continue to write about the effects of laying off long-time employees and of outsourcing jobs to “maximize profits.” Until Americans realize that “cheaper” doesn’t necessarily mean “better,” we’ll continue to explain why exploitation knows no geographical boundaries.

The working class successfully launched major counter-attacks against seemingly-entrenched anti-labor politicians in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states. But these battles will be as long and as bitter as the politicians who deny the rights of workers. We will continue to speak out for worker rights, better working conditions, and benefits at least equal to their managers. We don’t expect anything to change in 2012, but we are still hopeful that a minority of business owners who already respect the worker will influence the rest.

There are still those who believe education is best served by programs manacled by teaching-to-the-test mentality, and are more than willing to sacrifice quality for numbers. We will continue to write about problems in the nation’s educational system, especially the failure to encourage intellectual curiosity and respect for the tenets of academic integrity.

Against great opposition, the President and Congress passed sweeping health care reform. But, certain members of Congress, all of whom have better health care than most Americans, have proclaimed they will dismantle the program they derisively call “Obamacare.”

During this new year, we will still be writing about the unemployed, the homeless, those without adequate health coverage—and against the political lunatics who continue to deny Americans the basics of human life, essentials that most civilized countries already give their citizens.

We had written forcefully against the previous president and vice-president when they strapped on their six-shooters and sent the nation into war in a country that posed no threat to us, while failing to adequately attack a country that housed the core of the al-Qaeda movement. We wrote about the Administration’s failure to provide adequate protection for the soldiers they sent into war or adequate and sustained mental and medical care when they returned home. The War in Iraq is now over, but the war in Afghanistan continues. The reminder of these wars will last as long as there are hospitals and cemeteries.

We had written dozens of stories against the Bush–Cheney Administration’s belief in the use of torture and why it thought it was necessary to shred parts of the Constitution. We had hoped that a new president, a professor of Constitutional law, would stop the attack upon our freedoms and rights. But the PATRIOT Act was extended, and new legislation was enacted that reduces the rights and freedoms of all citizens. At all levels of government, Constitutional violations still exist, and a new year won’t change our determination to bring to light these violations wherever and whenever they occur.

The hope we and this nation had for change we could believe in, and which we still hope will not die, has been minced by the reality of petty politics, with the “Party of No” and its raucous Teabagger mutation blocking social change for America’s improvement. We can hope that the man we elected will realize that compromise works only when the opposition isn’t entrenched in a never-ending priority not of improving the country, but of keeping him from a second term. Perhaps now, three years after his inauguration, President Obama will disregard the disloyal opposition and unleash the fire and truth we saw in the year before his election, and will speak out even more forcefully for the principles we believed when we, as a nation, gave him the largest vote total of any president in history.

We really want to be able to write columns about Americans who take care of each other, about leaders who concentrate upon fixing the social problems. But we know that’s only an ethereal ideal.  So, we’ll just have to hope that the waters of social justice wear down, however slowly, the jagged rocks of haughty resistance.

 [Dr. Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues columnist, former newspaper investigative reporter and editor, and journalism professor. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a social issues mystery novel. Rosemary Brasch is a former secretary, Red Cross national disaster family services specialist, labor activist, and university instructor of labor studies.]

 

 

 

Drinks Are on the House (and Senate)

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

“Got any idea how to make a frozen daiquiri?”

Saturday. 6 a.m. A question no one else would have asked at that hour. I knew it had to be Marshbaum, my faux-friend foil.

“Too early to be drinking,” I mumbled, then hung up. The phone rang again.

“It’s not for me,” said Marshbaum, but since I’m going to own a bar, I should learn how to make drinks.”

“Marshbaum,” I said, reluctantly awake, “you can’t even afford to buy soap to wash your fuzzy navel! How are you going to afford a bar?”

“The government’s going to bankroll me,” he said matter-of-factly.

“New kind of welfare?”

“Old kind of subsidies,” said Marshbaum. “First thing those Santa Clauses in the red ink suits are going to do is to help me find an appropriate location.”

“Something available in Afghanistan?” I asked.

“It’s called exploration subsidy. Thanks to those patriotic pure-bred Republicans who just blocked the President’s proposal to eliminate $2 billion in subsidies a year to oil, gas, and coal companies, all I have to do is say I want to build my bar over a proposed but hidden coal vein. Doesn’t even matter if there’s coal or not. All I have to do is say I think there may be coal. Later, I get a low-interest small business loan, build the bar, and deduct the mortgage interest from my income taxes.”

“That deduction is meant to allow the common person the right of home ownership.”

“And what’s more common than taking someone else’s money? Besides, it isn’t the middle-class that gets most of the benefit.” He explained that almost 100 percent of everyone with at least a $100,000 mortgage takes the interest deduction, while fewer than 20 percent of Americans below the poverty line get federal rental subsidies.

“You’ll still have to pay property taxes,” I reminded him. He reminded me that it didn’t matter.

“Most local and state governments will be so happy to have me build a business and hire minimum-wage bar girls, they’ll probably waive my taxes the first year or two and then give me tax rebates for a couple of more years.”

“O.K., for awhile you have a cheap bar. How are you planning to keep the lights on?”

“Electric companies save about $210 million a year when they buy electricity below cost from the federal dams. I just tap in on some low-voltage energy.”

“Even with cheap utilities, you’ll still have problems keeping it going.”

“Only problem I’ll have is deciding which line on the income tax form is for deductions for advertising, dinners, and research at the country club.”

“I suppose you have other scams?”

“Other subsidies, just like everyone else,” said Marshbaum snippily correcting me.

“The government pays farmers about $20 billion a year to grow feed grains to assure there will be an adequate supply. I plan to get some of those bucks by selling malt liquor. Rye. Barley. Wheat. Corn. It’s the Basic Four food groups. I can even water down my drinks since   the government also provides about $400 million a year in water subsidies.”

“The agriculture subsidy program was begun during the Great Depression to benefit poor farmers who—” Before I could finish, Marshbaum interrupted.

“It’s true that the largest 10 percent of the corporate farms get over 75 percent of the subsidies. But, as a poor struggling farmer, I may get $500. That’s still money in the pocket.”

“So, you’re saying that the government wants you to sell more drinks?”

“And less too,” he said. “There’s far too many of those nauseous appletinis. I might be able to get a government subsidy not to grow apples or tinis.” He thought a moment. “Maybe I can feature kahlúas. The government has a minimum price on milk. I may even get NAFTA trade concessions for my Friday Night Margarita promotions. Olé, y’all!”

“Aren’t you just blowing a lot of smoke past me?”

“Smoke,” said Marshbaum, “will fill my bar. It’s the least I can do to help the tobacco cartel, which gets about a billion dollars a year. I’m sure the tobacco growers would want me to have several cigarette machines in my bar.”

“And what happens when the bar fails. Your business record is as bad as cheap vinyl on a 50-year-old 45.”

“I expect to fail,” said Marshbaum. “It’s all part of my business plan.”

“Why would you want to fail?” I naively asked.

“So I can get money to keep from failing even more. Three trillion went to financial institutions. I figure I should get something for being greedy and a failure. That’s the American way!”

“Even if all of what you said is true, President Obama has been trying to reduce subsidies to the rich and to eliminate most of the annual $100 billion in corporate welfare.”

“As long as the Republicans control Congress,” said Marshbaum, “the American way of life will be preserved. Want a drink now?”

[Walter Brasch is author of the social issues mystery, Before the First Snow, and 16 other books. Before the First Snow is available at www.greeleyandstone.com, amazon.com, and other stores.]

Drinks Are on the House (and Senate)

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

“Got any idea how to make a frozen daiquiri?”

Saturday. 6 a.m. A question no one else would have asked at that hour. I knew it had to be Marshbaum, my faux-friend foil.

“Too early to be drinking,” I mumbled, then hung up. The phone rang again.

“It’s not for me,” said Marshbaum, but since I’m going to own a bar, I should learn how to make drinks.”

“Marshbaum,” I said, reluctantly awake, “you can’t even afford to buy soap to wash your fuzzy navel! How are you going to afford a bar?”

“The government’s going to bankroll me,” he said matter-of-factly.

“New kind of welfare?”

“Old kind of subsidies,” said Marshbaum. “First thing those Santa Clauses in the red ink suits are going to do is to help me find an appropriate location.”

“Something available in Afghanistan?” I asked.

“It’s called exploration subsidy. Thanks to those patriotic pure-bred Republicans who just blocked the President’s proposal to eliminate $2 billion in subsidies a year to oil, gas, and coal companies, all I have to do is say I want to build my bar over a proposed but hidden coal vein. Doesn’t even matter if there’s coal or not. All I have to do is say I think there may be coal. Later, I get a low-interest small business loan, build the bar, and deduct the mortgage interest from my income taxes.”

“That deduction is meant to allow the common person the right of home ownership.”

“And what’s more common than taking someone else’s money? Besides, it isn’t the middle-class that gets most of the benefit.” He explained that almost 100 percent of everyone with at least a $100,000 mortgage takes the interest deduction, while fewer than 20 percent of Americans below the poverty line get federal rental subsidies.

“You’ll still have to pay property taxes,” I reminded him. He reminded me that it didn’t matter.

“Most local and state governments will be so happy to have me build a business and hire minimum-wage bar girls, they’ll probably waive my taxes the first year or two and then give me tax rebates for a couple of more years.”

“O.K., for awhile you have a cheap bar. How are you planning to keep the lights on?”

“Electric companies save about $210 million a year when they buy electricity below cost from the federal dams. I just tap in on some low-voltage energy.”

“Even with cheap utilities, you’ll still have problems keeping it going.”

“Only problem I’ll have is deciding which line on the income tax form is for deductions for advertising, dinners, and research at the country club.”

“I suppose you have other scams?”

“Other subsidies, just like everyone else,” said Marshbaum snippily correcting me.

“The government pays farmers about $20 billion a year to grow feed grains to assure there will be an adequate supply. I plan to get some of those bucks by selling malt liquor. Rye. Barley. Wheat. Corn. It’s the Basic Four food groups. I can even water down my drinks since   the government also provides about $400 million a year in water subsidies.”

“The agriculture subsidy program was begun during the Great Depression to benefit poor farmers who—” Before I could finish, Marshbaum interrupted.

“It’s true that the largest 10 percent of the corporate farms get over 75 percent of the subsidies. But, as a poor struggling farmer, I may get $500. That’s still money in the pocket.”

“So, you’re saying that the government wants you to sell more drinks?”

“And less too,” he said. “There’s far too many of those nauseous appletinis. I might be able to get a government subsidy not to grow apples or tinis.” He thought a moment. “Maybe I can feature kahlúas. The government has a minimum price on milk. I may even get NAFTA trade concessions for my Friday Night Margarita promotions. Olé, y’all!”

“Aren’t you just blowing a lot of smoke past me?”

“Smoke,” said Marshbaum, “will fill my bar. It’s the least I can do to help the tobacco cartel, which gets about a billion dollars a year. I’m sure the tobacco growers would want me to have several cigarette machines in my bar.”

“And what happens when the bar fails. Your business record is as bad as cheap vinyl on a 50-year-old 45.”

“I expect to fail,” said Marshbaum. “It’s all part of my business plan.”

“Why would you want to fail?” I naively asked.

“So I can get money to keep from failing even more. Three trillion went to financial institutions. I figure I should get something for being greedy and a failure. That’s the American way!”

“Even if all of what you said is true, President Obama has been trying to reduce subsidies to the rich and to eliminate most of the annual $100 billion in corporate welfare.”

“As long as the Republicans control Congress,” said Marshbaum, “the American way of life will be preserved. Want a drink now?”

[Walter Brasch is author of the social issues mystery, Before the First Snow, and 16 other books. Before the First Snow is available at www.greeleyandstone.com, amazon.com, and other stores.]

Drinks Are on the House (and Senate)

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

“Got any idea how to make a frozen daiquiri?”

Saturday. 6 a.m. A question no one else would have asked at that hour. I knew it had to be Marshbaum, my faux-friend foil.

“Too early to be drinking,” I mumbled, then hung up. The phone rang again.

“It’s not for me,” said Marshbaum, but since I’m going to own a bar, I should learn how to make drinks.”

“Marshbaum,” I said, reluctantly awake, “you can’t even afford to buy soap to wash your fuzzy navel! How are you going to afford a bar?”

“The government’s going to bankroll me,” he said matter-of-factly.

“New kind of welfare?”

“Old kind of subsidies,” said Marshbaum. “First thing those Santa Clauses in the red ink suits are going to do is to help me find an appropriate location.”

“Something available in Afghanistan?” I asked.

“It’s called exploration subsidy. Thanks to those patriotic pure-bred Republicans who just blocked the President’s proposal to eliminate $2 billion in subsidies a year to oil, gas, and coal companies, all I have to do is say I want to build my bar over a proposed but hidden coal vein. Doesn’t even matter if there’s coal or not. All I have to do is say I think there may be coal. Later, I get a low-interest small business loan, build the bar, and deduct the mortgage interest from my income taxes.”

“That deduction is meant to allow the common person the right of home ownership.”

“And what’s more common than taking someone else’s money? Besides, it isn’t the middle-class that gets most of the benefit.” He explained that almost 100 percent of everyone with at least a $100,000 mortgage takes the interest deduction, while fewer than 20 percent of Americans below the poverty line get federal rental subsidies.

“You’ll still have to pay property taxes,” I reminded him. He reminded me that it didn’t matter.

“Most local and state governments will be so happy to have me build a business and hire minimum-wage bar girls, they’ll probably waive my taxes the first year or two and then give me tax rebates for a couple of more years.”

“O.K., for awhile you have a cheap bar. How are you planning to keep the lights on?”

“Electric companies save about $210 million a year when they buy electricity below cost from the federal dams. I just tap in on some low-voltage energy.”

“Even with cheap utilities, you’ll still have problems keeping it going.”

“Only problem I’ll have is deciding which line on the income tax form is for deductions for advertising, dinners, and research at the country club.”

“I suppose you have other scams?”

“Other subsidies, just like everyone else,” said Marshbaum snippily correcting me.

“The government pays farmers about $20 billion a year to grow feed grains to assure there will be an adequate supply. I plan to get some of those bucks by selling malt liquor. Rye. Barley. Wheat. Corn. It’s the Basic Four food groups. I can even water down my drinks since   the government also provides about $400 million a year in water subsidies.”

“The agriculture subsidy program was begun during the Great Depression to benefit poor farmers who—” Before I could finish, Marshbaum interrupted.

“It’s true that the largest 10 percent of the corporate farms get over 75 percent of the subsidies. But, as a poor struggling farmer, I may get $500. That’s still money in the pocket.”

“So, you’re saying that the government wants you to sell more drinks?”

“And less too,” he said. “There’s far too many of those nauseous appletinis. I might be able to get a government subsidy not to grow apples or tinis.” He thought a moment. “Maybe I can feature kahlúas. The government has a minimum price on milk. I may even get NAFTA trade concessions for my Friday Night Margarita promotions. Olé, y’all!”

“Aren’t you just blowing a lot of smoke past me?”

“Smoke,” said Marshbaum, “will fill my bar. It’s the least I can do to help the tobacco cartel, which gets about a billion dollars a year. I’m sure the tobacco growers would want me to have several cigarette machines in my bar.”

“And what happens when the bar fails. Your business record is as bad as cheap vinyl on a 50-year-old 45.”

“I expect to fail,” said Marshbaum. “It’s all part of my business plan.”

“Why would you want to fail?” I naively asked.

“So I can get money to keep from failing even more. Three trillion went to financial institutions. I figure I should get something for being greedy and a failure. That’s the American way!”

“Even if all of what you said is true, President Obama has been trying to reduce subsidies to the rich and to eliminate most of the annual $100 billion in corporate welfare.”

“As long as the Republicans control Congress,” said Marshbaum, “the American way of life will be preserved. Want a drink now?”

[Walter Brasch is author of the social issues mystery, Before the First Snow, and 16 other books. Before the First Snow is available at www.greeleyandstone.com, amazon.com, and other stores.]

OCCUPY WALL STREET: Separating Fact from Media

 

By Walter Brasch

 

Newspaper columnist Ann Coulter, spreading the lies of the extreme right wing, called the Occupy Wall Street protestors, “tattooed, body-pierced, sunken-chested 19-year-olds getting in fights with the police for fun.” She claimed the protestors, now in the thousands in New York, are “directionless losers [who] pose for cameras while uttering random liberal clichés lacking any reason or coherence.” (Several hundred thousand of these “directionless losers” are expected to attend rallies in more than 650 cities, Oct. 15.)

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House majority leader, called the protest nothing more than “growing mobs,” completely oblivious to his myriad statements that he supports “mobs” when they are from the Tea Party. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, tacking as far right as possible to avoid anyone thinking he was once a moderate, called the protest “dangerous.”

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain, in a moment that demonstrated how out of touch he is with the economic reality of the five-year recession, argued, “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks; if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”

Glenn Beck, too irrational even for Fox News, which terminated him less than two years after it tried to make him a TV superstar, told his radio audience, the protestors “will come for you and drag you into the streets and kill you.”

Lauren Ellis of Mother Jones, at one time a cutting edge magazine for social justice, believed that the protestors have a “lack of focus.” Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, wrote, “A protest without an objective is like a party or a picnic of the unemployed and the indolent. Unless you have an objective, what are you doing out there?”

First, let’s see just who these protestors really are. And then, let’s see what they stand for, since the mainstream media, of which Fox News is an entrenched part, don’t seem to be getting the message from the people.

The protestors rightly say they are part of the 99 percent; the other one percent have 42 percent of the nation’s wealth, the top 20 percent have more than 85 percent of the nation’s wealth, the highest accumulation since 1928, the year before the Great Depression. Even the most oblivious recognize the protestors as a large cross-section of America. They are students and teachers; housewives, plumbers, and physicians; combat veterans from every war from World War II to the present. They are young, middle-aged, and elderly. They are high school dropouts and Ph.D.s. They are from all religions and no religion, and a broad spectrum of political views.

 Support has come from senior politicians with very different philosophies. Vice President Joe Biden believes the protests are because “In the minds of the vast majority of the American–the middle class is being screwed.” Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), unlike a vast majority of Republican politicians, stated, “If they were demonstrating peacefully, and making a point, and arguing our case, and drawing attention to the Fed—I would say, ‘good!’”

 Second, like all protests, there are different opinions within the ranks. But, there is a core of beliefs. The protestors are fed up with corporate greed that has a base of corporate welfare and special tax benefits for the rich. They support the trade union movement, Medicare and Social Security, affordable health care for all citizens, and programs to assist the unemployed, disenfranchised, and underclass. A nation that cannot take care of the least among us doesn’t deserve to be called the best of us.

They’re mad that the home mortgage crisis, begun when greed overcame ethics and was then magnified by the failure of regulatory agencies and the Congress to provide adequate oversight, robbed all of America of its financial security. During the first half of this year alone, banks and lending agencies have sent notices to more than 1.2 million homeowners whose loans and mortgages are in default status, according to RealtyTrak. Of course, less regulation is just what conservatives want—after all, their mantra has become, “no government in our lives.”

The protestors are mad that the wealthiest corporations pay little or no taxes. They point to the Bank of America, part of the mortgage crisis problem, which earned a $4.4 billion profit last year, but received a $1.9 billion tax refund on top of a bailout of about $1 trillion. They look at ExxonMobil, which earned more than $19 billion profit in 2009, paid no taxes and received a $156 million federal rebate. Its profit for the first half of 2011 is about $ 21.3 billion.

They rightfully note that it is slimy when General Electric, whose CEO is a close Obama advisor, earned a $26 billion profit during the past five years, but still received a $4.1 billion refund.  

They’re mad that the federal government has given the oil industry more than $4 billion in subsidy, although the industry earned more than $1 trillion in profits the past decade.

They’re mad that Goldman Sachs, after receiving a $10 billion government bailout, and a $2.7 billion profit in the first quarter of 2011, shipped about 1,000 jobs overseas. During the past decade, corporations, which have paid little or no federal taxes, have outsourced at least 2.4 million jobs and are hoarding trillions which could be used to spur job growth and the economy.

They’re mad that corporations that took federal bailout money gave seven-figure bonuses to their executives.

They’re mad that the U.S., of all industrialized countries, has the highest ratio of executive pay to that of the average worker. The U.S. average is about 300 to 475 times that of the average worker. In Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, and England, the average CEO earns between 10 and 20 times what the average worker earns, and no one in those countries believes the CEOs are underpaid.

 They’re mad that 47 percent of all persons who earned at least $250,000 last year, including about 1,500 millionaires, paid no taxes, according to Newsmax. If you’re a Republican member of Congress, that’s perfectly acceptable. They’re the ones who thought President Obama was launching class warfare against the rich by trying to restore the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans. They succeeded in blocking tax reform and a jobs bill, but failed to understand the simple reality—if there is class warfare, it is being waged by the elite greedy and their Congressional lackeys.

 Herman Cain, Fox TV pundit Sean Hannity, and others from the extreme right wing said the protestors are un-American, apparently for protesting corporate greed. The Occupy Wall Street protestors aren’t un-American; those who defend the destruction of the middle class by defending greed, and unethical and illegal behavior, are.

 [Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist, and the author of 17 books. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a social issues mystery set in rural Pennsylvania.]

 

 

 

Diaries

Advertise Blogads