Monday, October 24, 2011

A Radical Thought

I read a crazy idea from some nut-job proposing that the US Government give everyone a cool million, instead of doing bailout after bailout. At face value, it seemed absolute, positively ludicrous. Then I did a little number crunching. Based on my cursory research...

-We have a population of roughly 300 million people.
-The 2011 Federal Budget was 3.83 Trillion
-The 2011 Federal Deficit was 1.27 Trillion

This means that giving every man, woman and child in America a million bucks would be...

-Raise the total Federal Budget by about 5%, based on 2011 figures.
-Produce a one-time deficit increase of roughly 20%, based on 2011 figures.

However, the Federal, State and Local government could turn around and tax this money at the standard rate, which would give the Federal, State and Local government a HUGE influx of cash, which could (theoretically) be used for infrastructure and so forth (even though in reality it would probably be spent on $100 hammers for the military).

Even at a 33% tax rate, a family of four would still rake in a cool $2.6 Million (rounded down), affording the average family the opportunity to pay off every single debt, pay for kids' college, sock away enough money for a rainy day, and STILL buy a new car for every person in the house. Crazy? Maybe, but after a bit of reconsideration, it may not be as nutty as it first sounds.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Believe

I am part of the 99%. I believe that America has fundamentally lost its way. I believe that everyone who reads this will disagree with at least one thing I say today. I believe that our nation, once founded on personal freedom, has become enslaved by economic pursuit of the almighty Dollar. I believe that a select few corporate and political elite are the slave owners. I believe that many of us willingly shackled ourselves by going into debt simply so that we could keep up with the Joneses. I believe that we have forgotten that life’s not about what you have, but who you have. I believe that the only way we can continue to survive as a country is for everyone to sacrifice… rich and poor… individual and corporation. I believe that we need to raise taxes and cut spending. I believe in God. I realize that, as a middle-class American, I may be asked to sacrifice more than the rich or the poor. I believe that the middle class is shrinking. I believe that your chance of being heard in Washington is directly correlated to the amount of money in your bank account. I believe that money has corrupted the premise of one man, one vote. I believe that 99% of us got the shaft in corporate bailouts. I believe I’ll have another beer. I believe that every man can choose to believe (or not believe) in any God he chooses. I believe in God, family, country… in that order. I believe that if we, the 99%, continue to scream loud enough, and for long enough, that the 1% will have no choice but to hear us. I believe that my standard of living will end up lower than that of my parents. I believe that my generation should sacrifice so that my children’s generation will not have a standard of living lower than mine. I believe that I have no right to expect my country to carry me if I’m too lazy to work. I believe that my country has made a social contract, promising to help if, through no fault of my own, I am thrown into hardship. I believe in the short-term hand up. I believe the long-term handout is wrong. I believe that changes in circumstances occasionally require changes in the rules. I believe that the only rules set in stone are the Ten Commandments. I believe in personal freedom. I believe in personal responsibility. I believe that the casual reader may consider some of my belief contradictory. I believe that 99% of you have stopped reading my words. I believe I’ll stop writing now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupying Wall Street

Like a lot of people, I've been paying attention to the whole Occupy Wall Street movement. I've kept my mouth shut until now, because I've been formulating how to respond. That silence ends today.

I suspect that I'll have something to say that'll piss everyone off, but I'm going to start off by irritating the right. There's one of my Facebook friends who has spent a lot of time and energy re-posting right wing propaganda bashing on the Occupy Wall Street people. (By the way, I struck the "and energy" part, because any of the sheeple can re-post shit that others have already said.) My favorite one was that fancy little quip about 700 people getting arrested in one day, but saying that nobody has been arrested at a Tea Party rally. Well, whoop-dee-fucking-doo! I suppose that the civil rights protesters were wrong too. And while we're casting stones, let's DO talk about the Tea Party activists who cheered the idea of letting the uninsured die, or those who booed a gay soldier. It looks like somebody missed the point of this movement.

And let's look at Herman Cain's commentary on Occupy Wall Street. (By the way, I am going to paraphrase. If you want to know exactly what he said, then look it up yourself.) "It's not the fault of the rich that they're rich. But it is the fault of the poor and unemployed that they're unemployed." That statement has a LOT of truth in it. But it's not looking at the whole picture. First, that statement assumes that everyone was born with an equal opportunity of success and failure, and that all of your financial success and failure in life is in your hands. The fact is that those born middle and upper class have a large advantage over those born into poverty. But let's put that aside. Cain's comment absolutely dismisses the widely-accepted conclusion that our current economic circumstances is essentially a result of greed. Yes, the middle class was stupid by leveraging their homes, but it was the greedy bankers and Wall Street advisers that created the opportunity in the first place.

And let's look at the Democrats. These idiots want to "claim" and "take ownership" of the movement... something to offset the Tea Party. You're a bunch of fucking morons. You're just as guilty as the rest. The fat-cat union bosses, collecting their six and seven figure salaries, are jumping on the bandwagon, conveniently forgetting that they refused to negotiate when problems first arose, which contributed our abysmal employment situation. The Democratic politicians seem to ignore their votes that advocated stealing money from the poor and middle class, in order to prevent private businesses from failing, because they were "too big to fail."

What a lot of people are missing is that this isn't just a few lazy welfare cases squawking because the government isn't giving them enough crack money. In fact, there is no real, single issue uniting the Occupy Wall Street movement. This isn't a flash protest to a single hot-button issue. This is the result of a slow realization that a small group of financial and political elite have screwed the population at large. We don't begrudge people their rags-to-riches success. What we DO object to, is the corrupt and privileged few raping and pillaging the masses in order to protect their already-obscene level of wealth and power.

The super-rich (stereotypically) seem to resent paying high taxes to help the 10+% of the unemployed population. But these same individuals had no issue with walking, hat in hand, to our government, asking for a bailout for their pet company, because they were "too big to fail," all the while, ignoring the fact that their short-sightedness created the whole "too big to fail" scenario in the first place.

Many people decry my words as class warfare. Tax the rich. Screw the poor... Yada yada yada. No, the Occupy Wall Street movement is an issue of fairness. The rich are willing to let the poor and middle class twist in the wind, but when it comes to THEM losing THEIR creature comforts, the game suddenly changes. Occupy Wall Street is not about welfare, taxation, or what have you... it's about a perception that there's a fundamental unfairness in society. And yeah, life isn't fair, but the majority of us think that it's getting ridiculous.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Faith VS. Science

One of the most frustrating things I experience as a Christian is seeing the far right Christians completely dismissing science, and the far left wing atheists completely ruling out the possibility of God's existence. What people on both extremes of this alleged debate fail to realize is that they're not even waging the same argument.

The science buffs claim that God doesn't exist because there's no evidence that he does exist. I will concede this position, but only to a point. When an atheist says there's no proof of God's existence, what they are REALLY saying is that as of today, there is not sufficient scientific evidence to convince that atheist that God exists. From there, the atheist essentially claims that since there's no proof that He DOES exist, then he must NOT exist.

Unfortunately, there is a fundamental flaw with that argument. Mankind is constantly making new discoveries, therefore the advancement of our knowledge has not reached a conclusion. Remember... 2000 years ago, mankind believed that it was a man's seed that caused a child, not the sperm plus the egg. Only a few hundred years ago, we had no idea that germs caused illness. In other words, we don't know it all. Just because we can't PROVE the existence of something -- anything -- doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

On the opposite side of the coin, we have the religious fundamentalists who refuse to acknowledge that the Earth is older than a few thousand years, and absolutely discounts the possibility that we did descend from apes. These individuals suffer from the opposite outcome to a similar blindness. Science has provided ample, reproducible evidence that the world has been around for more than a few thousand years. But because the Bible, which they believe to be the absolute, irrefutable, infallible, literal word of God says that we've been around for less than 10,000 years, it must be so.

What I'd really like to know is why we can't have it both ways. Specifically, I'd like to point out some of the worst-case scenarios if people would open their minds a bit, and allow themselves to explore this possibility that I've put forth....

Atheists: If I'm wrong, and no God exists, then what, exactly, are you out? So you've allowed yourself to hold on to a misconception. Bummer. The only reason that would be a big deal is if allowing yourself to believe in a God who didn't exist was your only mistake. On the other hand, if I'm right then you've earned an eternity with God. And even if there is no God, the general principles of Christianity, IMHO, is a great moral compass, even for non-believers. Furthermore, scientific studies show that people who believe in God are happier, healthier and generally live longer than those without faith.

Religious Fundamentalists: If I'm wrong, and all of our science is hokum, what exactly are you out? So you've allowed yourself to hold on to a misconception. Bummer. The only reason that would be a big deal is if allowing yourself to believe in science exist was your only mistake. On the other hand, if I'm right, then you have opened up an entire world of learning and growing as a person. And God takes delight in His children learning.

At the end of the day, this is my point. Faith is not science. Science is not faith. They are not mutually exclusive.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Love is Work

I read an internet article sometime last week that had a nugget of wisdom that's been rattling around my little brain for over a week. "Love, without rebuke, is not love." That phrase has come to mind many times since I originally read it, and the more I think about it, the more I respect the statement.

Rebuke. Constructive criticism. Reality check. The specific terminology may vary depending on the circumstance, the relationship, and the roles of those involved, but the idea behind the terminology is the same. I disagree with something you do or say, and I express my displeasure. Overall, there are two ways that people tend to react to criticism. Either they learn from the criticism, and grow as a person, or they become defensive and justify their actions, no matter how misguided the defense may be. In an ideal world, the recipient learns and grows from the critique. Unfortunately, the person receiving the reality check tends to justify their position, nothing is learned, and only hard feelings result.

The thing that rebuked people fail to realize is that reality checks are done out of love. I rebuke my children, not out of a need to control, but because I want what's best for them. My wife nagged me about smoking because she doesn't want to see me die a slow, painful death. I talk to my friend about his alcohol consumption because I see how it's undermining his relationship with his wife and kids. I rebuke because I care.

I try to be a good person and love my fellow man, but the fact of the matter is, I reserve my harshest criticism for those closest to me. "We only hurt the ones we love" is one of my most frequently-quoted euphemisms. Generally, I say it to a close friend after a particularly sarcastic comment. I love teasing my friends, and that's kind of my way of letting them know I love them, even if I did hurt their feelings.

That phrase is far more pertinent than most people realize though. When I rebuke a loved one, their feelings may be hurt, but all too often, those on the receiving end of my harsh reality checks fail to understand that I am saying things from a place of love. I chastise my daughter, knowing full well that she may become defensive and, in anger, tell me that she hates me. I counsel my friend, completely cognizant that he may shut me out. I was not always patient when my wife talked about my smoking. But as the title of today's post says, love is work. And love, without rebuke, is not love.