Saturday, January 23, 2021
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How a Moral Crisis Underlies US Political Crisis

This piece ran this week as a newspaper op/ed in my congressional District (VA-06). I ran it as a kind of sequel to the...

Changes that Old Movies Reveal

The article below is my op/ed for this week in newspapers in my conservative congressional district, VA-06.  This piece appears at first to be entirely...

Moral exo-skeletons and endo-skeletons: a key divide in the American body...

This article appeared  on my own blog and in the journal The Humanist in 2006 ************* In the months after the 2004 election, when the Red...

Let us remember Dr. King appropriately – he would not have...

Fortunately, editorials in 2 major newspapers today can help with that.

In The Boston Globe we can read in King Memorial celebrates a leader, not just a symbol the following:  

So let's be clear: Without King, the black uprising would have been far more furious and more painful for African-Americans; even in the darkest days, he reminded his followers of their faith in God and in the American Dream. For white people, especially the timid moderates at whom the Letter from Birmingham Jail was aimed, a more violent uprising would only have deepened the racial wedge. It took King's rational, but urgent, appeals to make enough whites understand what was at stake.

But there is more, both in this editorial, and in that of The New York Times.

Taxes and Billionaires and the rest of us

The larger question is this: Do we try to balance budget deficits just by cutting antipoverty initiatives, college scholarships and other investments in young people and our future? Or do we also seek tax increases from those best able to afford them?

And when Congressional Republicans claim that the reason for their recalcitrance in budget negotiations is concern for the welfare of ordinary Americans, look more closely. Do we really want to close down the American government and risk another global financial crisis to protect the tax bills of billionaires?

Those are the final two paragraphs of Taxes and Billionaires, Nicholas Kristof's New York Times column this morning.  Kirstof is not an economist, and tax policy is not his usual subject, but he provides a column that puts things in clear and understandable English.  I urge you to read and pass on his column.

Carried Interest is currently taxed at the Capital Gains rate of 15%.  John Paulson is a hedge fund manager who made almost $5 billion last year.  Hedge fund managers receive bonuses of 20% or more of the profits they make, and it is treated as carried interest.  Were it ordinary income Paulson would pay 35% on it.   I am a teacher who makes well under 6 figures.  Each additional dollar I make is taxed at 35.65%:  28% income tax and 7.65% payroll taxes -  unless the payroll tax cut gets extended (which will then be argued by Republicans as Social Security increasing the deficit).  I would argue that in teaching young people I contribute more value to the economy and the nation than does John Paulson.  Hedge funds create no jobs for ordinary people, add no skills to the workforce, but they surely manage to transfer a great deal of wealth to those who are already wealthy.  And, as Kristof points out, Paulson makes as much as 184,000 average Americans.

Thoughts of winter

It has turned cold in Washington, with the nighttime temperatures often below freezing.  I woke up around 3:30 due to my sinuses.  As I sit in my living room so as not to disturb my wife with sneezing and coughing, I listen to the sounds - a Mount Vernon clock on the wall ticking as its pendulum goes back and forth, a cat or two padding almost noiselessly across the floor and down the stairs, and the blower for the furnace as the heat kicks in.

It is that last sound that disturbs me.  

I have heat -  and food - and roof over my head - and transportation - and the ability to pay our bills.

Those whose unemployment compensation has run out?  They may have difficulty paying their bills.  Soon they may not be able to afford to put gas in a car, or pay mortgage or rent.  Food will become scarcer.  And heat -  at some point, will their house remain silent because there is no money to pay for it?  My furnace is gas, but the fan is electric.  If I were in arrears on either bill, might we need to bundle up and pray the pipes don't freeze?  Might we be forced to live in car yet not be able to run the engine to stay warm?

We are near the nation's capital.  What if we were further north?

A Saturday morning pause

in the transition to the school year.  Students will arrive on Monday.  I now have 192 on my roles for 6 classes, that number being held down because one is a special program with only 21.  The numbers in order read 21-30-37-38-38-28.  I have 39 desks, and it is possible all will be filled in some classes.

The biggest story in education is the LA Times on value-added scores of LA school teachers, the paper publishing names & picture of teachers with the scores  I have been asked by several people to write on the subject here, but since I am not myself a psychometrician and there are real technical issues, I have been attempting to leave it to other people.  And there is a wealth of commentary on the subject in the last few days, too much for me to have absorbed.  

Perhaps I will write about that issue, or other issues that concern me.  I am never unconcerned about matters affecting schools, teachers and most of all students.  But this morning my reflection is also on broader issues.  

So I invite you to continue reading as I offer my morning mental meanderings in the brief period before I again become fully immersed in school and students.

Wise VA – it’s not Las Vegas

but it is the reason I am not in Las Vegas.  I am here, in the Appalachian section of Virginia, in the Southwest, less than half an hour from the Kentucky border, for the 11th Annual Remote Area Medical / Mission of Mercy free medical and dental event.  I arrive shortly after noon, after a 6 hour drive from Arlington, and I will be here until late morning Sunday.  

I hope those of you at Netroots Nation, which is already underway, enjoy yourselves and find it worthwhile, as I have found my four previous bloggers' conventions useful and worthwhile.

For me, and I speak only for me, it is more important that I am here.  

And although we have barely begun, perhaps I can offer some sense of why I feel that way.  I invite you to keep reading.

Rich v. Poor – the world is divided

this is also posted at Daily Kos

On the eve of this G-20 gathering, let's look at a few facts. Fact, the world has divided into rich and poor as at no time in our history. The richest 2% own more than half the household wealth in the world. The richest 10% hold 85% of total global assets and the bottom half of humanity owns less than 1% of the wealth in the world. The three richest men in the world have more money than the poorest 48 countries.

The words are from Maude Barlow, head of the Council of Canadians, Canada's largest public advocacy organization, and a founder of the Blue Planet Project. She opposes the G-20.   She spoke to a gathering of activists in Massey Hall who gathered in opposition to the summit.  

You can read the source of the quote here, where they were reproduced on Friday from Amy Goodman's Democracy, Now!.

‘All politics is personal’

Another Speaker, Tip O'Neill once said: 'All politics is local.'  And I say to you tonight that when it comes to health care for all Americans, 'All politics is personal.

So said Speaker Nancy Pelosi Sunday night.  And I agree.  It is, and it should be personal.

But it should not be personal in the way we saw with the kinds of attacks and slurs that were part of the actions of Tea Party members and their supporters among Republicans in Congress.

I take these slurs and attacks personally.  So should you.

While I may be a generous and understanding person on differences of personal belief, my generosity does not extend to when you demean and attack those about whom I care.

So let me tell you why this is personal to me, the health care and the slurs.