Wealth Inequality in America – Is family breakdown the cause?

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Since my time in college, I’ve heard endless lamenting, mainly from the left, of growing income and wealth inequality in the US.  This simple fact is undeniable.  This morning on Morning Joe I heard how this inequality has grown in the US to the point where 1% of the population has over 30% of the wealth in this country.  What is the culprit?  Joe Scarborough wasn’t in today, but the panel asked if tax cuts were the main cause.  The guest explained in particular that taxes have been cut for Wall Street (AKA “the dividends rate”), and this has allowed greater, short term accumulations of wealth.  However, this article from the Wall Street Journal identifies a deeper cause than the obvious (link below).

I don’t deny that this is part of the problem, but if some people grow more wealthy, do the rest of us necessarily become less wealthy?  Is wealth so finite? If we were all growing wealthier, but inequality were increasing, I wouldn’t be concerned about it.  The middle class, however, has been shrinking over the last several decades.  Studies show time and time again that single parent households are more likely to live in poverty.  Children of single parent households are less likely to excel academically and financially as adults.  During all these discussions of income and wealth inequality, why is this never mentioned?

One thing you must understand about the left is that we are not seen as capable of solving our own problems.  If there is a problem, the government must solve it.  If there is growing wealth inequality, the solution is not for those struggling to find ways to improve their lives and increase their earning power, or make more of what they have.  No!  It’s those darned rich people!  If only the government would do something about it!  If only the government would eat the rich!  For the record, I do support raising the “dividends rate” back to 28% as it was at the end of the Reagan era.  Wall Street should pay their fair share.  But this will not solve the problem.  Reagan made them pay their fair share, yet inequality continued to increase.

I know from personal experience that marriage improves living standards, both spiritually and materially.  My wife and I are both educators, deep in student debt.  When we were single, we were both frugal people, but struggled financially.  It seemed every time I started paying off my credit cards, something would happen and I’d have to max it out again.  If I saved for a rainy day, something would happen and I’d need that money (good thing I had it).  Now that we are married, we pull our resources.  Neither us are earning more money, but we have several thousand dollars saved for emergencies, our credit is more than half way to being paid off, and I’ll be making my last car payment in July.  We’re enjoying ourselves too.  We’re not painting the town red, but we go out sometimes.  We have a few drinks, or go out to dinner, etc.  We took Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover (which I recommend to anyone) and I remember discussing how it is more difficult for single people.  They are alone, they have nobody to pull resources with, and any chance to go out – it’s hard to say “no thanks, you all have fun”.  I remember what that was like.  I remember being alone in London, going to places I wasn’t even that interested in, blowing lots of money, just because I didn’t want to be alone.

If we’d work harder to repair our relationships, repair our communities, our families, our places of worship, labor unions, civic groups; we can really get at the root of the problem.  The “Me-ism” of the baby boomer generation is the true culprit.  People get swept up in infatuation and get married.  Then they get divorced because it wasn’t the Disney fairytale they were hoping for.  Problems can be resolved people!  My old LSE Professor Rodney Barker has spent much of his life studying “Pluralism”.  The emphasis is not on government solutions, nor individualistic solutions.  The emphasis is on voluntary association with these non-governmental groups.

Me-ism is the disease.  The right combination of self-control and selflessness – this is the cure.  When we learn to live for each other again, we can prosper again.

Original article from the Wall Street Journal:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303603904579493612156024266?mod=WSJ_hps_sections_opinion&mg=reno64-wsj

Stefan Molyneux’s critical words on baby boomers, me-ism, and entitlement

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Manchin is right – the Koch brothers are not evil

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Senator Manchin is 1 of…1 Democrats I respect in the Senate.  For the record, I am deeply concerned about the obscene amount of money in politics, and that would include the amount of money coming from the Koch brothers.  With that said, I am sick of the demonization campaign coming from the likes of Harry Reid and other cutthroat career politicians in the Democratic Party trying to demagogue.  The Koch brothers are very wealthy oil tycoons who are far from sainthood, but they do create jobs as Manchin said, and they certainly have the right to support the political causes they believe in.  I do not doubt their intentions.  I think the Koch brothers are right-libertarian minded Americans who are doing what they believe to be right for the country.  I do not believe it fair that they should have such incredible influence by virtue of having lots of money, and I fully support Bernie Sanders’s efforts to amend the US Constitution so that this money can be limited.

However, the Koch brothers do not deserve the slander that is coming from the Dem. Party establishment, who hypocritically does not hold their own contributors (such as George Soros, Verizon Wireless, or Progressive Insurance) to the same standards.  I applaud Sen. Manchin for having the courage to stand up to his party establishment.  And I am one of those people he’s talking about.  I’m sick of extreme Republican politics and extreme Democratic poltics.  “We’ve gotta start being Americans again.”

Now let’s see if Manchin is punished by the left-wing thought police.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Rachel Madcow goes on the attack.  She has a pattern of attacking Democrats who dare to think for themselves, and I think Manchin might soon find himself a target of her hyperbole.  She’ll do some digging and learn that Manchin…took money…from people with money!  Oh the humanity!  He’s just evil!  I don’t watch anything on MSNBC other than Morning Joe, but maybe we’ll see on youtube clips if my prediction is correct.

 

The Politico article with Sen. Manchin’s defense of the Koch brothers:

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/dem-senator-defends-the-koch-bros-105570.html?ml=po_r

Why I respect Rand Paul even more than his father

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Ron Paul was an unbending, uncompromising man of principle in that cesspool of corruption that is the US Congress.  Uncompromising though he was, he had no problem working across party lines when it was morally consistent to do so, such as when he teamed up with several principled Democrats to sue President Obama for the unauthorized use of force in Libya, or his tireless crusade to audit the FED.  However, Ron Paul has achieved more thought and debate than actual policy.  There was only a limited audit of the FED, the court case against Obama was quickly dismissed, the military budget remains bloated, SS and Medicare remain on a fiscally insolvent path, our civil liberties are no safer than they were under Bush – post-9/11, and the endless wars never end.  Ron Paul made several attempts at the White House, and despite his national popularity, he never made it out of the primaries.  I was once a proud conservative-Democrat who went “red for Ron” (AKA “Blue Republican”).  When I mentioned Ron Paul to the young, their naïve little faces lit up.  When I mentioned him to older progressive Democrats, there was a certain respect.  When I mentioned him to the FOX news zombies, there was this dead silence as though I had just committed blasphemy.   Those spiteful old coots who dominate the GOP primaries were never going to allow a principled man of peace like Ron Paul to win the GOP primary, even if it meant losing to Obama – twice!

Despite all of Ron Paul’s principles, he knew he was likely to lose, as did his followers.  My 2012 support of Ron Paul was a desperate act of protest.  I knew he was unlikely to win, but at least I tried.  For many of his supporters, however, they don’t actually want him to win.  It’s so easy to support an ideological puritan who can’t win, and then blame everything on Obama or Romney.  Anytime anything goes wrong, the Paul-ites can say, “Don’t blame me, I voted Ron Paul”.  It’s easy to have principles when you have already lost.

Rand Paul, however, must have even stronger principles than his father.  Some of you are thinking – What?!  Are you nuts?!  He’s pandering the Hannity, Levin, and all the other neocon scum!  He’s not the man his father is!  Oh no?  Consider this.  It’s difficult enough to have principles and rigidly stick with them, knowing they are costing you political opportunities, as Ron Paul knows.  But isn’t it even more difficult to maintain principles, even while seeming to compromise them?  I doubt a day goes by when Rand isn’t tempted to just neocon it up!  He’s surrounded by the most corrupt and powerful establishment Republicans we’ve seen since the Gilded Age.  They want endless wars, oil subsides, certain regulations that favor their campaign contributors, more taxes on the poor and less on the rich, torture, enhanced “security”, and all the while they pretend to love Jesus.  Every day, the establishment whispers in his ear “come on, let’s go blow up Iran.  The basers will love you…and there’s a nice defense contractor considering a generous contribution to Randpac.”  Then he speaks to his constituents and some grey-haired baby boomer approaches him from the local “Tea Party”, and says “I know yer cautious about war, but we gotta do something about Iran.  Dontcha remember 9/11?!”  He could go the route of his father, and righteously declare “Get thee behind me Satan!”, but this would be political suicide for a Republican Senator.  He could also try to reason with him, explaining that Shi’a Iran has nothing to do with Sunni Al Qaeda, but this old man can’t tell a Sikh from a Mexican, much less a Sunni Muslim from a Shi’a Muslim.  So instead, Rand must say something like “We do need to maintain a strong defense to curb potential aggression from Iran.”  What does it profit the world if Rand keeps his soul, but loses his political career?  Rand could also go the other way and sell his soul to gain the whole world – or at least be the “leader of the free world”.  But Rand does neither.  Rand spends every day in the devil’s company, politely turning down his temptations all while remaining respectful on the surface so that he has a chance at the White House.

This takes greater moral fiber than even his liberty-puritan father possesses, and in addition to all of that, he must bear the slanders of some of his true base – young libertarians.  But as I explain to them and will continue to explain, Rand Paul must play ball with the establishment if he ever expects to win.  Those bitter old base voters in the GOP must think that Rand is different from his father.  Rand must pretend disdain for the brown, preach capitalism to the poor, all while praising big business and barely mentioning corporate welfare.  He must smile at Hannity, shakes hands with Levin and endorse his books.  He must proclaim that he is a lifelong Republican and a “real conservative”.  He must dance with the devil, while avoiding the burn.  All he has to do is win that primary, and he won’t need them anymore.  A Rand’s gotta do what a Rand’s gotta do.

 

Disclaimer – please note that, “We do need to maintain a strong defense to curb potential aggression from Iran”, is merely hypothetical and not a quote from Rand Paul.  I am simply explaining what Rand will need to do to win.

Hell on Earth – A self-fulfilling prophecy

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“Where do bad folks go when they die?  They go to a lake of fire and fry.” – Nirvana

Is this true?  From an early age, most of us in the Christian tradition are taught that if we are good little boys and girls, we’ll go to Heaven.  In Heaven, everything is beautiful and peaceful, there are no worries, and we will all be happy.  If we’re bad, however, we burn in hell and scream in agony forever and ever.  As we get a little older, many Christian denominations teach that we ALL deserve to roast in hell forever, because we have all sinned.  It is only by God’s mercy, through Jesus, that we are “saved”.  If we all deserve to burn in hell forever, than we should be grateful if any fate, other than that, is at all possible.  This belief has led to the view that anyone who isn’t a Christian, or more specifically, has not said a certain prayer to be saved (many protestant traditions), or has not received absolution from the priests, ordained by the bishops, who are successors of the apostles of Christ (Catholicism, Anglicanism), than they burn in hell.  It still remains in the Catholic and some Anglican liturgies the clause “we justly deserve thy temporal and eternal punishment”.

What most in the western tradition do not realize, however, is that they have blended scripture with literature.  That literature is Dante’s “Inferno”, a medieval masterpiece.  “Inferno” describes the 9 circles of hell, according to Dante’s great imagination, and the worst hell is reserved for Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ.  Why should Christians base their understanding of Hell on a piece of literature written over 1,000 years after the crucifixion?  Was Dante a prophet?  Was he speaking the word of God?  No.  He was writing fiction – that is all!

Despite this, Christians went on to believe that an eternity of torture awaits those who are not saved, and have even convinced themselves that they, too, deserve this eternity.  Thank Christ that we don’t get what we deserve!  However, it is written that the wages of sin is death.  Death is simply the end.  It is not an eternal, living pit of flames and agony.  Christ has conquered death, we say.  Christ never conquered the pit of flames, where people live forever in agony, because no such place exists.

However, for fear of hell, many have created hell on earth.  As Dante’s literature became accepted as though it were straight from the mouth of Christ, the Catholic Church started changing its policies, especially towards the Jews.  The Jews were largely tolerated by the Catholic Church throughout most of the Middle Ages, and most of the persecution you read about was done by angry peasants, unsanctioned by the Church.  However, during the Spanish Inquisition, all heretics were subject to torture until they confessed.  Why would Christians tie people down to boards, cut them open, or burn them with hot pokers, or any of the other cruel methods we’ve read about?  Well, it isn’t as bad as “hell” right?  The Catholic Church saw this torture as a lesser sin.  It’s better to torture them now, on Earth, if it leads to their salvation, than it is to send them to a much worse eternity.  Makes sense right?  If you believe this, then yes.

Today, the “Westborough Baptist Church” protests outside of funerals for soldiers, claiming that God hates their tears, that they are burning in Hell, etc.  Why would Christians do something so horrible?  Can anyone imagine Jesus doing any of these things?  Of course not!  Jesus offered forgiveness and renewal.  If there really is the place of eternal suffering, why didn’t Jesus devote most of his time to warning people about it?  That’s far more compassionate than giving sight to the blind, or feeding the hungry.  I can’t remember his name, but a gay man was once interviewed on NPR.  He had actually visited the “Westborough Baptist Church”.  He described them as warm and kind.  He said that they are compassionate because they believe that they are saving people from hell.  As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  The good intention of saving people from an afterlife of hell, has created hell right here.