Posts Tagged With: middle-class


DSC07631 (Copy)Jim Hightower writes the Hightower Lowdown, a national newsletter that exposes injustice in America, only he calls it exposing bushwackers, bullshitters, gooberheads, plasticized morons, moon howling…well, the adjectives, some invented by him, are numerous and humorous. He says he is an agitator…”the center post of the washing machine that gets out all the dirt.” And, right now, he doesn’t like the hucksters running a Democracy where 4 people, all of them hedge fund managers, each earned 10 Billion dollars last year, where 108 Kindergarten teachers split 1 million. The hedge fund managers pay taxes at a rate of 15% and the teachers pay at a rate of 35%. Democracy works best from the bottom up and includes everybody. That’s you and me folks. Its revolution time for people tired of being the fire hydrants for all of those top dogs. And, the chorus sang, Hallelujah.

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They did, but it wasn’t quite in that order. First, the Mother Lode Martin Luther King Jr. Chapter, active in our area for 23 years, drew over 500 people to hear Hightower speak. Amazing because this is a very white, rural community.

The program began with Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech on a movie screen. I had forgotten what a powerful and passionate speaker he was. It was an emotional moment to turn back the pages of time and remember, the women who died in a baptist church, Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus, little girls being escorted to all white schools by the National Guard in the fight for equal rights for black Americans;  a fight that is on going to this day, 48 years after his death.  Hightower reminded us that Katie Stanton, and the jailed and punished suffragettes didn’t get the right to vote that they fought for either, but WE got it because of them.

And, that my friends is his point. Money now flows upward and the rich have so much money they can air condition hell while the poor and middle class struggles to make ends meet.

“We don’t want charity, we want economic justice. And Congress, the House and the President is stealing from us with a fountain pen.” He pointed to the current NAFTA agreement where 500 corporations and that included the Koch Brothers, met in secret, and hammered out an agreement and stuffed it down our throats without one member of a Union or anyone from the middle class and small business sitting at the table.

Hightower believes that people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who don’t accept money from the big super pacs can overcome the moneyed elites who have corrupted our politics and rigged our economy to squeeze the life out of the middle class.

Bernie’s average donation is $23. Hightower says, you can’t buy a presidency with $23. His campaign is about We The People. Hightower convinced me that, with Bernie, its time to rock the boat.

No one addresses him as Senator Sanders, he is just Bernie, and one of the poorest Senators in the pack. He hasn’t parlayed his position to great wealth like most national office holders have.

He came from a low-income working class family in Brooklyn. He first worked as a carpenter, then film maker, writer and agitator. An agitator in college during the 60’s, he moved to Vermont and began exposing Burlington money boys who ran the town for their own fun and profit. Then he stunned everyone by winning an election for Mayor in Burlington. Bernie has never abandoned his working class roots. I’ve changed my position to clearly stand with the candidate who says: “I can’t do this, but WE can.”

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The program ended with everyone singing the song:  We Shall Overcome. Hightower was available to talk to people at a reception after the program.

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On January 19th, the Bridger Pipeline,running oil from Canada to Baker Montana where it meets the Butte pipeline, had a leak into the Yellowstone river near Glendive, Montana.  The  system gathers crude from Bakken producers in eastern Montana and North Dakota. The company cannot yet say when the line will reopen or what caused the leak.
Since the new Republican Congress was sworn in, they’ve challenged the President on the Keystone XL Pipeline, when we are no longer dependent on imported oil and we have oil surpluses with the solar farms and electrification of autos. And gas prices are so low, Jim reported to me that he paid just under $2 a gallon in Arizona.

The new Republican congress attacked women’s healthcare, Social Security, Wall Street reform and they are pushing back against net neutrality.  Republicans are circulating bills––some disguised as “bi-partisan.” These bills are proposing fake net neutrality to confuse the issue––the bills were written by members of Congress bought and paid for by Big Cable.

They won’t stop working to decimate Obamacare and Wall Street reform. They won’t stop trying to give new tax breaks to oil companies, or to millionaires and billionaires. (That recent bank written 1.1 million compromise on the Dodd-Frank bill putting us in the same position for another meltdown.)

This isn’t Democracy as I’ve known it. Am I just imagining a non-productive, low wage, poorly educated population, an imprisoned black population, and charter schools that teach a false history?  Am I just imagining that our country is moving backward, getting poorer and more violent and militant? Am I wrong about the growing ranks of the jobless and homeless with no opportunity to retire with a pension or at least, social security? What have they done to the middle class?

It will be a hard long slog to change things, slowly, at the state level, bit by bit. Or convince Republicans that their agenda isn’t right for our country. Can you help?

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As a consequence of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reckless ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, massive corporations, billionaires and other interest groups can launder their political spending through the Chamber and dark money groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, concealing the spenders from any accountability to the voting public.

Proposition 32 was carefully worded so the general public is likely to believe it does away with this unfair persuasion in California. It is, instead, another measure to widen the gap between working Americans and corporate interests.

Corporations can still give money to superpacs.  Real estate trusts, insurance companies and hedge funds are all exempt. But under 32, the Unions cannot use their members dues for contributions nor can corporations. But, therein is the rub. Corporations don’t use their stock holders permission or money because they don’t pay dues. Corporations use their profits.

They want the public to think 32 is in the best interest of the public but it is an all out attempt to destroy the unions voice in the political process and destroy unionism in America.

Bill Moyers, on his recent program, talked about the great benefits all Amercans enjoy because of Labor Unions. They gave us a minimum wage, safety regulations, reasonable hours, job security, medical insurance plans, retirement programs, workmen’s compensation, enforced free speech on the job and the right to organize for their own benefit. Unions taught workers to negotiate for better wages. They fought for public education, social security, job protection, time clocks and time cards, overtime pay and paid vacation time.  Unions encouraged blacks to join unions so they could get a fair shot in the workplace. Those victories came at a huge price to the men and women who fought those early battles.

At one time, a boss could walk out on the floor of a factory, fire you on the spot, without giving you a reason, and put his nephew in your job. He could fire you if he didn’t like your political leanings and he could command your vote by threatening you with losing your job if a certain candidate did not win.  The boss withheld wages if he chose to do so for punishment if he didn’t like the way you wore your hair. You fed your family on your wages and God help you if you looked the wrong way at your all-powerful boss. There was no time to adjust, or compensation, or accountability when you were fired. The boss could make or destroy you depending on whether he liked you or not.

Walter Reuther was once a household name. Mitt Romeny’s father called him the most dangerous man in Detroit. Why?  Because he organized United Automobile Workers at General Motors. He changed the men from wage slaves to middle class workers who participated in the benefits of their work in America . A working man could increase is skills and earn more wages. He could be promoted and rise in his classification.  Unions gave rise to the middle class. During the war, Reuther refused to take action against companies while our country was in crisis. Corporate America may not have liked Unions, but they discovered that workers with money in hand could buy the products they were making.  Unions brought social justice to America.

Don’t let Proposition 32 fool YOU.

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From the bus, the dependence on bicycles in Beijing is visible wherever you go. Street lights of old were yellow lanterns. Now, the yellow lanterns are lit with electricity. On this street, the clustered lanterns are white.  We are taken to the inner city area of Beijing called the Hutongs, a neighborhood of closely built, attached houses with narrow alleyways, and tricky warrens, with no house numbers, typical of old Beijing. Most of the Hutong neighborhood has been bulldozed and people living there forced to move to high-rise, ugly,  cement,  apartment buildings.

We walked to a modern, bicycle powered rickshaw parking lot.

Michal, my travel partner, and I shared a rickshaw. Our driver’s name is “Joe”.  He speaks some English and told us he has two kids. He lives in the country and spends  one month per year with his family. In the city, he bunks in with other drivers and sends a required amount of his licensed earnings home to his family.

Hutong families may have a garage for bikes, and storage. Most are two rooms, with a small courtyard where they can grow herbs and a few radishes or lettuces for something fresh, or maybe flowers in a pot.

Some places are too narrow for a rickshaw and after a few minutes ride, we walk to meet our host family.

The Hutongs are handed down from generation to generation. Families here didn’t have deeds to their houses, but now everything is tracked and recorded. The neighboring family to our host has a fancy ceramic table and stools. This is an upper middle-class area.

This family is very proud of their spacious living/dining room.  Because they are affluent, they have decorations on the wall, family pictures, beautiful coverings for their furnishings and a television set.

The dining area of the main room with long ago acquired furnishings handed down, are now possibly valuable “antiques.”

In their private bedroom, the bed takes up most of the room, but it is fancy and many room decorations are visible with a modern lamp beside the bed. This type of residence is rare in China and very much desired. The neighborhood is safe and friendly. No one locks their bike or doors. None of them have bathrooms, they share community toilets and washing areas.

A very modern kitchen with running water, and the ability to cook inside. The Hutong houses of old had tramped dirt floors covered by bamboo mats, since replaced with tiles.  Cooking was done outside in a communal courtyard, if they were lucky to have that much room. Some just had a charcoal brazier on the roof, or in front of the door. The host family is paid by the tour company to open up their house to a mob of tourists.

As we walk out of the neighborhood, Vicki points out areas where the Hutong houses have been removed, cemented over and expanded to allow automobiles in.

One place had a bonsai obviously hundreds of years old.  In Japan, that bonsai would be surrounded by items of beauty and serenity to enhance the bonsai instead of a rolled up hose and a fire hydrant.  Gave me a chuckle.

Our group moved on to Prince Gong Imperial Gardens, a city park.

It was a beautiful spot in the middle of the city, but so packed with humanity, we hurried away.

We stopped to visit a rug factory. It carried excellent quality merchandise but the workers conditions were upsetting.

This young girl, still wearing her jacket, sits for long hours, in a cold unheated building and a hard seat. The rug she is working on will take a year to complete. She is a skilled worker and is grateful to have a job.


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