(This was also posted in the group "Left Wing Atheists")
I have come a long way in three years. I was so naive. I couldn't wait to vote the Republicans out of office, so I registered myself as a Democrat and woke up at 5am to go stand proudly in line to vote for Obama. Like many of us since then, I now realize what a sucker I was. I had high hopes that Obama was going to nationalize the banks when he took office and start loosening the hold the bankers have around our throats. Well, that didn't happen, and instead he went after health care. We all know what he has and has not done since, with the latter more than overwhelming the former. So I got frustrated, as most of us have, that nothing changed with Obama. I got determined to educate myself and find out what the real problems are, and what the real solutions are.
I started watching a lot of MSNBC. At first, I stuck with Hardball with Chris Matthews. While that kept me informed as to what the two political parties were up to, I was far from satisfied. Then one day I tuned in a little early and caught a little of Dylan Ratigan. His personality turned me off a little at first, but the next time I saw his show I was mesmerized. Hooked. Here was a guy who was finally speaking about the real issues, the fundamental structural problems underlying the mess we are in. If you know the show, much of what I am about to say will sound like repetition, but these are what I think the real problems in America are.
There are 6 industries which own the US government, the military-industrial complex (e.g. Lockheed Martin), health care (Big Pharma, health insurance), banking, energy (oil, Halliburton), agribusiness (think Monsanto), and telecommunications (e.g. the phone companies that rip us off). The heads of these industries use their spectacular wealth to buy politicians. In fact, 94% of our elections are now won by the candidate who raises the most money. Obama was no exception. Yes, he raised more money from small donations than anyone had before, but he also raised more money from LARGE donations than ever before. Goldman Sachs was his single biggest campaign contributor in 2008. We all know that if a candidate tries to go against any of these industries, they use their fabulous wealth to take out attack ads so that they don't stand a chance (think swiftboating). As long as our two political parties play by the rules, they can divide up the country in any other, meaningless way they want.
They have a very cozy relationship, these plutocrats. The politicians look the other way while the rich engage in insider trading. They even call up their friends on Wall St. and give them insider information as to policy changes which have financial ramifications (and then engage in a healthy amount of insider trading themselves). Then the rich spend huge amounts of money in lobbying efforts to convince the politicians as to how the laws should be written. They have managed to rig, to their vast benefit, the tax code, trade policies, and banking regulations to siphon money from the American people and into their pockets. They pay lower taxes (or none at all) than average American individuals and businesses. They trade with countries like China which can make products far cheaper than we can make it here, eliminating American jobs while flooding the markets with cheap goods (think Walmart). But the banking "industry" seems to have benefited to even more egregious levels.
Our US government has allowed a $700 trillion, completely invisible and unregulated swaps market to exist without requiring all of these transactions to take place on a visible (and regulatable) exchange. There are no capital requirements, which means they can trade without having anything of value to put up as collateral. And when their bets go bad, the Fed just sends them a check to the tune of $29.6 trillion of our tax-payer money so far since the crisis began. And I thought we had a deficit! Where are we getting all of this money from? Are we just printing it?
Meanwhile 1 in 15 Americans now live in poverty. 18% of us are unemployed (that's the "real" unemployment figures), and that's not even counting the underemployed. Incomes are falling, debt is mounting. People are left homeless while foreclosed homes sit empty. Income and wealth inequality are at their highest levels since the Great Depression. Meanwhile our elections are being put up for auction and neither political party will stand up to these powerful ruling interests. If this isn't a state of unjust affairs, then I don't know what is. These are issues that shouldn't even be restricted to the left, we are all being oppressed. But while we on the left are waking up, those on the right are drifting towards a libertarian philosophy which plays right into the hands of the rich. With no government around, who could possibly stand up to the rich?
We need to retake our government, not break it down into uselessness. And we need large-scale structural solutions to address these mounting problems. We need systematic and system-wide changes to our democracy and our government. We need to weed out waste and abuse of power at all levels. We need to eliminate subsidies for oil companies and stop sending money without strings attached to the bankers. We need to break up the banking cartels so that never again will an institution be "too big to fail". We need real regulations on the banking industry, and that begins with having capital requirements and putting the swaps market on a visible exchange. If we change the way Wall St. does business, they will make money honestly and contribute real value to America rather than being fueled by the need to create more and more debt. We need to restructure debt to help out students and homeowners. And to that end I would suggest literally bailing out the American people. If we are going to print money, why not give it directly to Americans so that they can use it to pay off their debts to the banks?
We need to eliminate superpacs and overturn the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that makes corporations people and money into protected free speech so that the rich can't talk more loudly than everyone else. We need a real energy plan, and we need to improve our energy efficiency so that we can approach a % in the 90's like other modern industrialized nations have rather than the 34% efficiency we are now sitting at. We need real environmental regulations, and we need to completely restructure our educational system so that we can keep up with the rest of the world. And we need to end privatized profit but socialized risk for the wealthy, and incentivize investment in America and it's people.
The political discussion has been framed by our politicians as being about ballooning debt. While certainly this is a huge problem, I am quite certain that if we address the real problems in America, our national debt problem will also be solved. If we stop war-mongering and being the arms-dealers to the world, we won't have huge costly wars to pay off. With an economy that puts people to work, our social programs will have plenty of funding to continue operations, keeping Americans healthy and financially supported throughout old age.
We are really running out of time. The changing environment is going to make all humanity come together, one way or another. We can come together now and make the necessary changes to our lifestyle and our society so that we can all live on this earth in peace, or the catastrophe to come will be marked by the most violence, starvation, and suffering the world has ever known. And the US needs to lead the way. When the catastrophe comes, humanity will largely blame Americans for it, and rightly so. There will be enough blame to go around, but the American people can do something about it now, while we still have time. If we do not raise our heads up out of the herd and take our country back from the oligarchs who hold us as slaves and hostages, the lion's share of the moral responsibility for the future of humanity will be ours to bear.
The population density of the United States is pretty much synchronous with global population densities.
Global Population 1900 = approx 1,600,000,000
United States Population 1900 = 76,094,000
Global Population 1960 = 3,039,433,944
United States Population 1960 = 180,671,158
Global Population Current = 6,986,304,130
United States Population Current = 312,814,731
As you can see the population statistics are pretty much synchronous. I think the population pressures for social change would be pretty much synchronous as well. If your just looking at population pressure.
When I started teaching school there were 3 billion humans on this planet. when I retired there were 6 billion, now there are 7 billion. Exponential growth indeed!
> The fight for homosexuals to have the right to marry. ... The problem is population.
I see your point, but also see other possible explanations.
You can say that it's harder for a minority to sway a large population than a small one. You can even make the case if the minority keeps the same proportional size between the two populations, because committed minorities are loud for their size.
But you can also say that not all social ills are equal, and that it's hard to sway a population of any size around anything less than a life or death cause, or something with money.
IMO, gay marriage is not a severe social problem. I can feel sorry for people who can't get their needs met, without getting excited enough to do anything about it. It's not exactly a life or death issue. Sorry.
The right to protection for gay and lesbian people can very much be a life or death issue. A lot of people seem to think the push for gay marriage is just about marriage, but its not. The issue is equal protection under the law. Did you know that in many areas of the country it is legal to discriminate based on sexuality because there are no protections at all. It may not be life or death to you, but it is for some of us.
Wanderer, thanks, we should remember these.
> 18% of us are unemployed (that's the "real" unemployment figures), and that's not even counting the underemployed.
Where does that number come from? I have been trying to sort out unemployment stats for some time now, unsuccessfully.
The real unemployment number is the number of people without jobs, including those who have stopped looking for work. The 8.5% is gathered by looking just at people who are still looking for employment.
> The real unemployment number is the number of people without jobs
But how do you know what that number is? Got a link?
I see what you mean. A lot of different results pop up for that figure, ranging from a very conservative 11% to 22.6%. I'm not going to pretend that I can figure this out either. Safe to say real unemployment is significantly higher than the unemployment % given by the labor dept.
The official unemployment number can be attacked, but as long as they do it honestly and consistently, it's useful to identify trends. Things are pretty good for labor when the number is 5% and lower. Some employers like unemployment a little higher so they can pay less, but if unemployment goes above some undefined point, people with jobs stop spending money and the whole train stops.
True, I do know that much. I think 0% unemployment would be just fine.
> If we do not ... take our country back from the oligarchs who hold us as slaves and hostages ...
Now you sound as bad as MCT. How are we slaves or hostages? I feel free, and just want to stay that way.