10 April 2011


GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. By now most of us are aware that due to a last-minute compromise (of sorts), the U.S. House and Senate were able to agree to fund operations of the federal government for the near future -- after much partisan posturing on proposals which have little to do with serving the people or balancing the budget, and much to do with the antics of spoiled, overpaid schoolchildren. Or, as Nicholas Kristof suggests in Our Cowardly Congress, "This budget war reflects inanity, incompetence and cowardice that are sadly inexplicable."

I'm not so certain that explanations are lacking. Our elected officials in both parties are making a career of failing us, their employers. Democrats lack the cajones to stand on principle -- they are so fearful of criticism that they end up caving in, even when they have a numerical majority. Republicans lack the vision or the values which once made this country great. They are so intent on making the super-wealthy even wealthier (including themselves) that they would sacrifice human services on the altar of spending cuts. And we, the electorate, persist in sending to Washington the weakest, least enlightened politicians money can buy.

Do you doubt that this country is governed by Wall Street? Consider that when a government shutdown was still looming, analysts viewed the prospect as a "plus for the market". We formulate and execute foreign policy and domestic policy with a view not toward national security, world peace, or bettering our social/environmental world. Rather, policies foreign and domestic are expressly carried out to maximize profit for the privileged top 1 percent, leaving the rest of us out in the cold.

Here are two modest proposals which would go a long way toward solving our financial mess. (1) Reform the tax code to eliminate all deductions, exemptions, and write-offs for both individuals and corporations. It is obscene that the world's largest corporation, G.E., pays no taxes whatsoever. Everyone should contribute their fair share, 10 percent of gross income. We would find ourselves with a federal budget surplus which could be devoted to improving roads, schools, healthcare, mass transit, you name it. (2) End the war in Afghanistan. On Capitol Hill the current deadlock is over a mere $40 billion in spending. Yet we spend $2 billion per week in Afghanistan, making the same military and political mistakes we did in Vietnam. According to the Afghanistan Study Group, "If the Afghan war ended and the funds allocated to it were returned to the states, no state in America would run a deficit next year."

The solutions are there. We only have to slice through the Gordian knot of partisan politics and act in the best interests of all people -- at home and around the world.

VIEW FROM ABOVE. Many thanks to my Chicago friend Bill for this link -- 100 Incredible Views Out of Airplane Windows. Some I've seen, many I want to see. It is worth taking a step back from our troubles and noticing the astonishing beauty which surrounds us. As a sample, you'll want to click on this image of Arizona's Grand Canyon for full effect. Enjoy all 100 !

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