Common Themes, East & West:
Money, Wealth & Treasure
This is Attachment #2 to my
For Attachment #1, see:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Guaranteed Annual Income
15 February 2011
President Obama's 2011 Budget:
"Investing in Our Future"
From CBS News
The White House, Washington
Just a few weeks ago, in my State of the Union Address, I spoke about how America can win the future by out-educating, out-innovating and out-building the rest of the world. I also talked about taking responsibility for our Nation's deficits, because we can’t win the future if we pass on a mountain of debt to our children and grandchildren.
Yesterday, I sent my budget proposal for 2012 to Congress, and I wanted to take a moment to explain some of the tough choices we had to make so we can afford to invest in our future.
Like American families, the Federal Government must live within its means. That means eliminating wasteful spending and cutting programs that aren't working. It also means that programs, like Community Development Block Grants, which I care about deeply, need to be scaled back to confront the crushing debt we face.
You can learn more about the budget proposal and watch Jack Lew, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, explain our approach here:
White House White Board
Getting our fiscal house in order requires shared sacrifice. But even in these tough times, we have a responsibility to make smart investments in our Nation's future.
That's why we must invest in innovation to ensure that the jobs and industries of the future are built right here in America. It's why we need to invest in roads, bridges, high-speed rail and high-speed Internet to help our businesses ship their goods and ideas around the world.
And it's why America must invest in education so that all of our children have an opportunity to fulfill their potential. Even though parents are the key to a child's education, we have a responsibility to ensure that America's students are prepared to compete and thrive in the 21st century global economy.
Yesterday, I visited Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology near Baltimore, Maryland. At Parkville, students gain a strong background in math, science and critical thinking skills that they will need to compete for the jobs of the 21st century. In fact, the most popular subject in their magnet program is engineering.
Investing in schools like Parkville, investing in quality teachers, investing in higher education – these are down payments on our children's and our country's future.
Here are just a few investments in education that I've proposed in the budget I sent to Congress:
* Preparing 100,000 new math, science and engineering teachers.
* Expanding Race to the Top, a reform program that has led more than 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning for less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year.
* Helping more kids afford college by making the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent and strengthening Pell Grants for 9 million students.
Here in Washington, we have to take a cue from millions of American families who have been tightening their belts while continuing to invest in their future. And that's exactly what my budget proposal does – it puts us on a path to live within our means so we can invest in our future.
President Barack Obama
15 February 2011
My Response:I emailed this to the White House but they get ten's of thousands of emails each day, which means mine may never be read, so I've decided to post it here:
Dear President Obama:
The Budget Puzzle
I am growing increasingly dismayed when I hear how we are all supposed to "share the pain" and "tighten our belts," especially since we means the lower and middle classes, not the top few percent and not the owners of predator corporations and banks. They are free to corrupt politicians and courts at will.
I read recently that they can spend $20,000 - $30,000 per NIGHT in fancy hotels [see: Nine Pictures of the Extreme Income Wealth Gap]. Most of us earn less than that for an entire year's work -- how is it that they can afford to blow it on a single night? And you ask us to "share the pain"?
No, look to them, Mr. President. Fight back. Raise their taxes (as you originally promised) and plug their corporate loopholes. They do not earn or "make" money -- they simply "take" it, as if it were their right. But it is not. Let them tighten their own belts and leave the rest of us out of this patronizing "pain-sharing" rhetoric. Being poor, cold, unemployed (or underemployed), and without much hope for a good future is pain enough.
Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
16 February 2011
My Further Notes:
Among other things, President Obama's 2011 budget wants spending cuts on home heating for the elderly (on which many, including me, rely), community services and health services; he wants to increase college loan interest for those still in graduate school, who are already heavily laden with a lifetime of debt. None of this makes any sense. How can he speak so eloquently about wanting this nation to "invest in our future" when millions of us have no future. We live in an impoverished, inexorably shrinking present with little hope of a kinder future. It is a desperate place, like Sartre's No Exit.
In the current financial climate, with Republicans eager to dismantle the safety nets of our lower and middle classes and most Democracts poised (with many crocodile tears) to let them do it, there is going to come a time when many people, young, old, healthy or not, are not going to be able to afford to live. There are always things that many of us cannot afford. But so far, no one is pushing poverty to its logical endpoint: not being able to afford to keep on living.
What the wealthy plan to dismantle will have many unforseen consequences. Suicide is a major one. The top 1-5% and their minions surely know this but then deliberately driving a surplus of "have-nots" into financial desperation is a tried and true way of "culling the herd," so to speak.
Guns, poison, hanging, or slashing one's wrists are wretched ways to die. So my question is this: what painless, gentler methods will be made available to compensate for our missing safety nets? We should at least be given decent, non-violent, legal options. Why should the poor have to die in ugly ways, feeling trapped and alone? Why should we not be allowed to experience our deaths as the sacred time death is meant to be, graceful, peaceful, serene, whether alone or surrounded by friends?
Bottomline: To be logical about all these budget cuts, whether President Obama's or the Republicans', it is time for Congress to consider making humane forms of euthanasia legal and accessible, nationwide, to those who can no longer afford to stay alive.
Of course, those who oppose abortion will surely oppose euthanasia just as fiercely. If so, then perhaps this nation can finally get down to discussing the hidden, shunned, but truly core issue: the redistribution of wealth -- which is to say, a guaranteed annual income pegged, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. argued so brilliantly, to the median, not the poverty level. Only then can we end poverty and the endless desperation it brings. Only then can we finally discover that this nation's true wealth is not in plutocratic parasites, but in her people.
* See my Myth*ing Links page *
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Guaranteed Annual Income
Here are a few excerpts from that page on his writings:
...We must develop a program that will drive the nation to a guaranteed annual income. Now, early in this century this proposal would have been greeted with ridicule and denunciation, as destructive of initiative and responsibility. At that time economic status was considered the measure of the individual's ability and talents. And, in the thinking of that day, the absence of worldly goods indicated a want of industrious habits and moral fiber. We've come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations in the market operations of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will....
...New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available. In 1879 Henry George anticipated this state of affairs when he wrote in Progress and Poverty:...[W]e are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished. The poor transformed into purchasers will do a great deal on their own to alter housing decay....The fact is that the work which improves the condition of mankind, the work which extends knowledge and increases power and enriches literature, and elevates thought, is not done to secure a living. It is not the work of slaves, driven to their task either by the lash of a master or by animal necessities. It is the work of men who perform it for their own sake, and not that they may get more to eat or drink, or wear, or display. In a state of society where want is abolished, work of this sort could be enormously increased.
...Now our country can do this. John Kenneth Galbraith said that a guaranteed annual income could be done for about twenty billion dollars a year. And I say to you today, that if our nation can spend thirty-five billion dollars a year to fight an unjust, evil war in Vietnam, and twenty billion dollars to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God's children on their own two feet right here on earth....
...I'm speaking of a guaranteed annual wage as a minimum income for every American family, so that there is an economic floor, and nobody falls beneath that. And of course, there are definitely going to be people all along, people who are unemployable, as a result of age, as a result of lack of something that failed to develop here or there, and as a result of physical disability. Now these are the people who just couldn't work. Certainly they have a right to have an income. If one has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then he has a right to have an income.
...In addition to the absence of coordination and sufficiency, the programs of the past all have another common failing -- they are indirect. Each seeks to solve poverty by first solving something else....
Two conditions are indispensable if we are to ensure that the guaranteed income operates as a consistently progressive measure. First, it must be pegged to the median income of society, not at the lowest levels of income. To guarantee an income at the floor would simply perpetuate welfare standards and freeze into the society poverty conditions. Second, the guaranteed income must be dynamic; it must automatically increase as the total social income grows. Were it permitted to remain static under growth conditions, the recipients would suffer a relative decline. If periodic reviews disclose that the whole national income has risen, then the guaranteed income would have to be adjusted upward by the same percentage. Without these safeguards a creeping retrogression would occur, nullifying the gains of security and stability....
Our nation's adjustment to a new mode of thinking will be facilitated if we realize that for nearly forty years two groups in our society have already been enjoying a guaranteed income. Indeed, it is a symptom of our confused social values that these two groups turn out to be the richest and the poorest. The wealthy who own securities have always had an assured income; and their polar opposite, the relief client, has been guaranteed an income, however miniscule, through welfare benefits....
The curse of poverty has no justification in our age.... The time has come for us to civilize outselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty....
For more, see:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.on Guaranteed Annual Income
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Common Themes, East & West:
Money, Wealth & Treasure
DEATH & DYING: RITUALS, BELIEFS, & TRADITIONS
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