Sunday, December 19, 2010

Illegal Immigration ... let he among you ...

On the occasion of the defeat of the Dream Act in the Senate, with 56 Senators including both Kerry and Scott Brown voting to end debate:
I'd like us all to consider whether, if the shoe had been on the other foot, we would have slipped across a border illegally to find work if that's what it had taken to feed our families.

And then think back on our family stories, and ask ourselves how many of our ancestors, who mostly came here legally, would have come anyway if it had been illegal.

There's no doubt our country's in a mess, and headed in the wrong direction, and there's no doubt the immigrants are a part of the mess, but do we really think that they caused it, or that the terror of midnight raids, highway checkpoints, concentration camps and kangaroo courts it would take to remove maybe ten million men women and children from our midst would really make anything better - or make it any easier for us to all come together to find solutions for taking our neighborhoods, our cities, our state and country back from the brink?

I know that's a hard sell if you're the one who's seen an immigrant take your job and then had your nose rubbed in it, or if you're the one who's been in an accident with an undocumented worker who fled the scene to avoid getting caught. But we need to remember ourselves as human beings, not monkeys in a barrel - or dogs in a fighting pit. We need to find the light in our souls that will let us imagine the shoe being on the other foot

Not because some goody two-shoes told us on Sunday we should, but because that's what we need to do. So we can all stand up for each other, and face our common problems together.

So thank you Scott Brown for a sensible and compassionate vote on the Dream Act.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Whose money is it?

In response to a torrent of attacks on anyone opposing the tax cuts on the top 2% as thieves and haters:

I'm not sure if we're talking here about politics, economics or some strange new pagan religion that worships the gods of money, power and the free market.

We have a state government that was founded in Concord in October 1774 during the Massachusetts Revolution, and a national government that was set up in Philadelphia the following year, because people were very clear that with the British-appointed colonial governments removed we needed to set our own up, right quick.

One of the first priorities was setting up a system to collect taxes to support - among other things - public infrastructure, a court system and defense against the expected British invasion to retake their lost colonies. No one objected to the setting and collecting of taxes. They weren't making a revolution to end taxation - it was always about the question "whose government is it", who does it serve and protect, who decides who pays, how it gets collected and how it gets spent. The struggle over what is a fair way to decide who will contribute how much in taxes was there from the beginning, and is not likely to go away.

Admittedly things are out of control now, but the problem is not that we have a government or that there are taxes. The problem is that we've lost control of that government, of the decisions about who pays for it and how that money gets spent. And that the ones with the most money are able to buy the influence and the media noise to get out of paying what most of us would consider their fair share.

The problem isn't "whose money is it," The problem is still "whose government is it?"

Alert your unemployed friends

Shame on our dear President for tying the unemployment extensions, the middle class tax cuts and R&D tax credits, to a shameful, budget-busting bonanza for the wealthy and the super-rich, and to a back-door attack on Social Security. But it's done - thank you Jim McGovern for leading our Massachusetts delegation and a majority of the Democrats in the House in challenging it.

This article doesn't mention the reauthorization of the unemployment extensions, retroactive to Nov. 30, a life and death issue for tens of thousands in our state.

Already an estimated 1.1 million people have had their unemployment benefits cut off, including maybe 30,000 here, and have been facing a bleak or desperate Christmas. If recent history is any indication, some of them will not have heard about this reauthorization, some may not believe it is retroactive (these reauthorizations haven't always been), and some won't know to go into the "One Stop" and re-apply for their next extension.

Some may be stopped by shame from even telling their friends and family that that they are now destitute, and some may have already started to give up and have stopped paying attention.

If you know anyone who is collecting unemployment, whether or not they have said anything to you about extensions or cutoffs, you might want to pass this information along to them.

Voter Apathy?

In response to an attack in the T&G on Neighbor to Neighbor for supposed election fraud and Clive McFarlane's column defending them:

In the District 4 City Council race last year Barbara Haller won a landslide victory with what I estimated was the votes of 5% of the adult population of the District - not counting undocumented residents, who would have made that percent even smaller. This is one side of what amounts to a failure of democracy.

Apathy? That's not the right word for it. I spoke with many of those non-voters, especially the "Obama voters", the ones who don't usually vote but who came out to vote for Obama in 2008. Many were angry, many were paying some attention to what is going on, and they were clear that they were choosing not to vote. Not because they didn't care because they didn't believe their vote made a difference or that anyone they elected could or would do anything for them. And they believed that anyone they elected would get sucked into the system and lose touch with them.

Not apathy. Boycott. They, and tens of millions like them across our land, boycott the elections every year. But what a useless kind of protest that is! When you boycott the elections, except in very rare circumstances, it just means you aren't counted and you can be ignored!

So what do we do about this? Part of the answer is ongoing grass-roots multi-issue organizing, like what N2N - and now some of our Ward Democratic Committees inspired by them - are doing.

Democracy means it's the people's government, of, by, for and about the people. Not possible? We in Worcester of all places should know better. It was here in Worcester that the people, acting together in an open, democratic way, took our government back from the British-appointed military governor in 1774 and started a revolution that changed the world. So how did we come to this sorry pass?

There is much to be said about this, but when the story is written about how we reclaimed our democracy and saved our country from ruin, the grass-roots organizers of N2N will be among its heroes. Thank you Clive for acknowledging them.

Where are the Dems

That was the complaint in a comment to a T&G article after the Senate had just approved Obama's Tax Bill "compromise". My response:


There are indeed Dems out there fighting this measure, among them Jim McGovern. - What, did you think you would get a full spectrum report here?

The stuff the Republicans and some of the talk show hosts are saying now is such outrageous nonsense that it boggles the mind, and the attacks on Obama's outrageous sellout from the right for not going far enough are predictable - and sickening.

First the issue was never ending the tax cuts for anyone. Even the House Demo plan would extend the whole tax cut for 98% of us - and extend the tax cut on their first $200,000 for the top 2% also! But you would think it was a move to crush the middle class to listen to Limbaugh!

Second, Obama's "compromise" gave the Republicans 200% of what they were asking for - by tossing in the cuts in the estate taxes that will benefit only the top 1/3 of 1%, and the cuts in the FICA tax they wanted, which would undermine Social Security and benefit mainly the higher-wage earners. The lowest-wage 50 million would actually see our taxes go up, compared to what we were getting from the stimulus bill credits we're losing.

Third the tax cuts are extended for 2 years, while the unemployment extensions are extended for 13 months! If the "official" unemployment is still at almost 10% next Christmas - and the real rate is still almost 20% - what will we have to bargain with the Republican House for another renewal of the extensions then, to keep what by then will be 6 million people from being thrown to the dogs?

Now the House Democrats, who swore they wouldn't allow a vote on the Obama-Republican plan, are talking about just taking the estate tax cuts out of their bill, to save the unemployment extensions that could have been won on a straight up or down vote without Obama's intervention!

We've been compromised and traded right into the corner. It's time for those Democrats who are really on our side to stand up to the bullies and fakirs and show some real courage and leadership!