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Orlando: The Stucco Gravestone of American Democracy

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American democracy is dead. No not from socialist government, or from terrorist broadsides and the Bush administration. It has been beaten to death by corporations, right out in the open, and you didn’t even pay attention to it as it screamed and kicked and yelled out to you for help. No better an example of American democracy’s slow, tortured death is there than Orlando, the capital of apathetic America.

Recently Jack joined a small contingent of activists from UCF’s Student Labor Action Project and United Students Against Sweatshops in protesting the NBA’s recent deal with sweatshop overlord Russel corporation. We had our demonstration at Amway (*gag*) Stadium during the final game between the Lakers and the Magic. Both because the deal should be a concern of basketball fans, and because unfortunately its one of the only civic spaces left in Orlando that has not been staked out by strip malls and suburbs. Well, not really…

Even though the old arena was built by the city, and of the $480 million for the new one 85% is payed for in Orlando citizens’ tax dollars (upfront costs only, not including the inevitable cost overruns), apparently neither stadium is public property. So one of the last bastions of civic space in Orlando is essentially owned by the Amway corporation, a company whose business plan is essentially a pyramid scheme, and has been successfully sued because of it. Therefore, unlike a public park, you have no right to free speech on the premises. So those who came to protest a disturbing activity related to the NBA could not speak on what by all rights should be public land. Those who attempted to so much as silently hand out fliers were immediately forced off the premises by Orlando cops. This is obviously not conducive to a democratic society.

While students protesting sweatshops were pushed off the premises, Amway founder Rich DeVos has used the same stadium to advance his own bigoted political message. As this publication notes (see by David Zirin, on page for details), the DeVos family is using the funds from the stadium to advance their right-wing politics. Most recently their support for the anti-gay marriage ban, amendment 2, to which they donated $100,000. Why are we allowing a man worth 4.4 billion dollars to use a stadium we’re building for his political and financial gain? If he wants to build a new stadium, to replace one that is barely 20 years old, he shouldn’t rely on us to do so, and then turn around to use the money he should be spending on the arena to fund his bigoted invasion into our bedrooms. At the very least the stadium should be public property, not his.

This shows how uncommitted Orlando residents are to democracy. The very bad idea of spending $1.1 billion on the three venues were opposed by a tiny fragment of motivated residents and professional activists. The plan was predicated on the revenue gathered by tourism and housing taxes, which was understood even then as financially uncertain. With the tourism industry taking a massive hit, the housing industry imploded, and a city government facing a nationwide tend of metropolitan budget shortfalls, the plan reveals the massive mistake that our city government has forced through.

The town halls concerning the venues back in 2006 were lessons in the corporate take over of government. Proponents were almost always members of the developer class or people with occupational ties to the Magic. One of the few organized elements of democracy were the worker’s unions, divided between the proponents in the form of the building trades and the opponents in the form of the fire-fighter’s union. Both unions turned out to be screwed by the deal, with the firefighters who correctly guessed that the venues would ultimately cause budget problems harming them, and the builders who have been screwed by the city backing out on its deal to use unionized labor for building and maintaining the stadium. In the democratic ghetto outside the stadium the students were joined by the latter who handed out fliers decrying the city’s use of independent contractors, who used undocumented immigrants rather than American labor.

One can blame a lot of our ills on our city government, which has been shown to be incompetent and corrupt, many times by our sister (in spirit) publication the Orlando Weekly. From Dyer’s opposition to allowing people to share food with the homeless, to Daisy Lynum’s innumerable business ties favoring friends and relatives (and her tendency to cry racism every time this is pointed out), that conclusion is certainly apt. However the larger conclusion is inescapable, their continued occupation of their positions is our fault.

Granted it is no secret in the political world that Dyer and his cronies are swimming in developer money, the venues deal and the light rail giveaway to the CSX corporation merely very visible tributes to these connections. However, despite enormous political baggage which could sink politicians much far more skilled, Dyer and his compliant city council have barely been challenged. Why?

Unfortunately, Orlando has several major impediments to democratic activism that should have ousted our crooks and cronies in charge. First, about one third of orange county moves within a year, many who elect to stay will more than likely move to an apartment in a new community. This means that they will be less interested in the upkeep of their community and will not participate in even the bare minimum democratic responsibilities that one would expect, like voting for city officials. Unfortunately, their unwillingness to maintain a bare minimum of democratic scruples screws those of us who do live here.

Also, you may have noticed that Orlando is incredibly spread out, suburbanized nightmare. There are few places were Orlando residents will run into each other, outside of their cars, both figuratively and literally. Lack of civic spaces hampers activism, since without a public square , there are few locations were Orlando citizens are confronted with the cultural and political activity that is virtually required of the informed electorate envisioned by our founding fathers. Combine that with summers that turn our fair city into a sulfuric swamp in hell, you have even less likelihood that you can engage with someone outside of their air conditioned personal bastions.

Next throw in the impact of Disney, which unfortunately touches on everything in this city. While Disney employs much of Orlando, it also has a problematic and infectious ideology attached to it. It is consumer capitalism incarnate, encompassing the worst infantilizing characteristics outlined by Benjamin R. Barber in his testament to the subject Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, which Jack recommends. This ideology both directly and indirectly fuels the tenancy to eschew civic governance that is found in anti-tax fanatics on the right, complacent anarchists on the left, and the politically weary in-between.

All these factors are only some of the reason why Orlando is the veritable wet powder keg of activism. Unfortunately, we don’t have the answers as to how to get Orlando residents to stop seeing themselves as consumers and start acting as citizens. However, the only solution to Orlando’s incompetent city government corrupted by anti-democratic developers, is mass action. We at the Telepath hope that we (AND PARTICULARLY YOU) do something about this, and disprove our pessimistic belief that Orlando is the stucco gravestone of American democracy.

Visit us at populistpress.com. Join the Populist Press Partisans and take back our city through force of enlightened action!

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Written by jackofspades83

June 25, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Observer Yort File 1: Initial Observations on Basic Leadership Structure of Hive [Orlando]

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“There is no better indicator of a species being ready for solar system exploration than the development of the toaster. The toaster demonstrates that a species has developed mechanization, the harnessing of electrical energy for constructive purposes, and the distribution of sliced bread.”
-Professor sqrt((10x2+5x+1)/pi), University of Central Cosine

Universal cycle 4, Subunit 301.405.1: Salutations Compilers, to whom all data is subject and to whom designate all sequential orderings. These are the collected recordings of constructed sentient Y-4514, designation Yort. It is this unit’s distinct pleasure to serve in the eternal struggle of ever recycling observation and analysis. As a servant of the enlightened inquivistivation there is no higher honor than to observe the more highly dynamic civilizations. As such few civilizations observed within this universal cycle are as charmingly schizophrenic and unstable as [humanity].

Pre-infiltration scans of media, and rectal scans of more “dynamic” drones of human society, reveal a fragmented consciousness typical of juvenile species. The most noticeable feature of [homo-sapiens] on a macro level is their tendency to further divide themselves into large, complex units defined as [nations]. [Nations] can be defined as units of societal grouping that are characterized by only a marginal collective hatred between its component units, which is overshadowed by their collective hatred of the component units of other [nations].

Another defining characteristic of nations is their geographical element, in which nations are confined to regions within invisible boundaries or “borders”. It becomes immediately apparent that [homo-spaiens] seem to have a level of hatred and distrust for other [homo-sapiens] that increases in a relative proportionally to the total distance from which they were spawned. [Nations] are thus an abstraction which show the approximate distance of inter-[homo-sapien] cooperation for a given voluntary collective of [homo-spaiens]. [Homo-sapiens] also have the tendency to hate other [homo-spaiens] as a collective group, rather than as individual units, permitting a degree of fluid travel across borders.

I have chosen to infiltrate the most influential of these [nations], in what is arguably the most well-known of their thoroughly average class of hives, that has chosen to refer to itself as [Orlando]. My initial survey of the hive reveals that it’s leadership class is selected by a ritual which involves displaying plumage in the form of placards placed outside dwellings, on transportation arteries, hydrocarbon land/air vehicles, garments, and media transmissions. The [homo-sapien] with the most intricate and distributed plumage is given nearly unrestrained access to the mechanisms of hive development, and are promptly forgotten by the majority of the hive. The process is repeated in a regular cycle, where the current leadership class reminds the hive that they are, to us the [homo-sapien] expression, “heated feces”.

Comparable to the leadership class is what I have decided to refer to as the Edification Erection Arrangers (EEA). They have a symbiotic relationship with the leadership class in which it provides plumage in exchange for nearly exclusive access to communal resources. As mentioned by the initial report fashioned by the the Office of Interstellar Observers, [homo-sapiens] have a unique concept of [private ownership]. In such a relationship, a [homo-sapien] claims exclusive access to a material object which becomes [theirs]. Any unauthorized attempt to access the claimed object is responded to with a varying degree of hostility, in some cases resulting in termination of either the expropriator or the expropriate.

[Homo-sapiens] will reluctantly part with [personal property] to the leadership class for the development of the hive. These resources are then transferred directly to members of the EEA who will develop plans to add on to the hive, and direct drones to do the actual physical work. It seems that what is ultimately constructed under the direction of the EEA is relatively unimportant as long as it is big, costly, and the EEA is allowed to claim ownership of it. Other than the transfer of resources to the EEA the leadership class itself seems largely irrelevant, and seems to be a symbolic position when compared to the power welded by members of the EEA. Further complicating the relationship is the tendency of members of the EEA to also be members of the leadership class as well.

Theoretically members of the leadership class are directly responsible to drones of the hive, which despite widespread disapproval of the leadership class is oddly still the general sentiment of the majority of hive drones. In practice, hive drones are given the opportunity to voice disapproval at minority of the meetings of the leadership class. These sentiments are then acknowledged and openly ignored. From what I can tell, the operation of the management of the hive is very similar to the operation of what [homo-sapiens] refer to as a [business] (a subject which will require much elaboration), in all but the opportunity to be personally ignored by the leadership class.

The general populace of the [Orlando] hive is rather sedentary in most aspects, most notably in its interactions with its leadership class. It is quite a feat that the hive operates at all, as the drones fracture themselves into a myriad of social fragments, with many eschewing social interaction to a degree unfathomable in our [???] society. I am worried that the degree of interaction required to accurately document this one hive may be more than I can spare. The publishing date for the -1st edition of the Omni-pedia of Sentient Species is rapidly approaching, and I dare not face the wrath of the Compilers or miss the next universal cycle. I also fear that infiltration will be delicate and will require transformations between multiple subjects to be able to travel between social fragments without drawing unwanted attention.

To return from that semi-personal tangent (all necessary apologies) back to the subject at hand. Hatred for the leadership class is nearly universal among the drones, although oddly fewer drones despise the members of the EEA and a good number actually revere them. Of the latter, they place undue emphasis on the powers of the hive leaders, and decry something called [socialism], which according to them, is the redistribution of resources by hive leaders to those drones that have a lot of resources to those with relatively few resources. I am uncertain as to how they have come to this seemingly paradoxical conclusion, as the leadership class obviously does the exact opposite. It will require a much higher degree of observation, outside the scope of initial reconnaissance.

As it is not currently a leadership selection cycle, I have taken the precautionary measure of deleting any and all information on the current leadership class from my internal drives. I have also initiated contact with a drone that has been forwarded to me via the Office of Interstellar Observers. It refers to itself as “Branson Fasricci”, and has provided us with subjects that can be used for infiltration. The deal with this particular drone is outside of my Field of Non-Terminal Information which will most certainly result in my undergoing VOLT (Violent Organic Liquification Transformation) if observed. As such, no attempts to observe such information has been attempted.

The first drone that I have been provided with is 3 x 0.15 [non-translatable unit of measurement], 600 [non-translatable unit of measurement], and a somewhat spongy midsection. It is male with a white skin pigment, relative lack of fur, and has an anal cavity of 309 [non-translatable unit of measurement]. Subject is not rated for atmospheric entry, as has been demonstrated with previous models.

As such, per protocol 42 subsection 1.943*1023, I will be performing atmospheric entry intercourse via quantithermoplastic cylinder. Intercourse will be disguised by standard “Nothing to See Here” protocols. Sperm whales coated in bacon grease are ready for atmospheric deployment at forwarded points alpha, beta, and gamma. In addition to atmospheric nasal overload, we will be deploying big rocks to drop in forward point zeta to distract the drones with pretty streaks of light. Yort out.

Written by jackofspades83

June 22, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Spotlight on the Mainstream Maniac Machine

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-Comrade Jack

Today’s enlightened rant is sponsored by Paul Krguman of the New York Times, as seen here. This observer has noticed this trend of madness that has become more and more acceptable in the ever more homogenized American infotainment/media/news(?)/crap sector. However, what this observer missed was how the recent right-wing lunatic murderers of abortion doctor George Tiller and the white supremacist shooting up the holocaust museum, show how right the Department of Homeland security was in a recent report. Jack did notice the report, and at the time and without much attention, believed it to be an over-exaggeration made by a department Jack never liked in the first place (mostly because of its connections with America’s dumbest president). It seems that all the critics of this report have some explaining to do. Jack feel a little humbled, and I’m sure the offended teabaggers and RNC flaks would if they weren’t so deluded by our media’s maniac machine.

Jack doesn’t blame the right wing for being upset by Obama winning the election, he would feel more than a little peeved if old man McCain had won. What he is bothered by is how more than a few folks on the right end of the American political spectrum have given in to what appears to be a media feed madness/temper tantrum. Obama is not the Antichrist, and no one should have to argue against that. A 3% tax hike is not “oppression”, and makes anyone who would claim it look like a douche (as in, try explaining to a Chinese factory worker that you’re being oppressed by a minor tax increase).

Perhaps most disturbing to Jack, is the idea that Obama is a Marxist. To anyone who will, (and they will) claim that Obama is a Marxist, please be prepared to defend your point based on Marxist principle (site actual Marxist theorists or you will be ignored). If you don’t think you can do that, it explains why you are not qualified to offer an opinion on who is or is not a Marxist. Let me clue you in on a basic fact ignored by almost every single person in North America. Government control is not socialism, per se. Socialism is direct democratic control of the economy. As the decisions of the Fed are not democratic, it is not a socialist body. Obama is a social democrat, a capitalist who believes in a social safety net and Keynesian economic theory. End point.

To return from Jack’s ideological rant tangent, what Krugman has shown us is that there is a serious problem in the lunatic right today. Unlike the American lunatic left, which today is mostly pacifistic and narcissistic (see Jack’s last rant), there is a tiny fragment of the right that is not only fanatically crazy, but homicidal at that. It is receiving serious ideological support from a large segment of the media that seems to have completely lost its mind. Jack would like to take this moment to speak to all Americans and ask for people to calm the f*ck down.

Bush nor Obama is the END OF THE WORLD. Put your guns back in their lockers, and try not to treat your fellow Americans like something you just scraped of your shoe.

Jack Fears that American Democracy is Eating Itself

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It is posts like this one that have me worried about the state of American democracy. Over thirty years of anti-government hysteria seems to have made Americans forget the point of us rebelling from the crown. What started out as a somewhat justified argument against a government too reliant on Keynesian economic tactics, has become an argument against democratic governance itself.

What was developed as a means to combat tyranny by affording a measure of control to citizens is now seen as the enemy of the citizenry. Cynical Americans rightly angry by abuses of power have reacted not by attempting to right American democratic institutions, but by eliminating them at every turn. Becoming less active in government and actively supporting measures and candidates who designs place more of the responsibility for the common welfare to business interests, who without evidence, are sighted as being more efficient in the tasks of the people. Never mind that businesses are, by the very nature, not in any way beholden to the public good. In practice, it has been shown again and again, that businesses pursue business interests, not public ones.

This belief is not necessarily partisan, and is shared by political gradations between the left and right. The major difference between the two sides lies in where they will accept some government control. Anarchists on the left are tolerant of government intervention in the form of a social safety net and domestic concerns such as labor and the environment, where the rightward libertarians will eschew government involvement except in defense, and imperial military escapades. However, this is not so much a support of democratic governance, but rather a placid support for government policies that they appreciate. When it comes to civic participation both sides are too often focused on their own narrow interests and personal politics.

The last point is of vital importance. Despite their often political leanings, both groups are more involved in a narcissistic individualism that is hostile to the idea of democratic governance. Anarchists abandon society and form walled off collectives, and libertarians only involve themselves in politics to advance policies that limit and de-legitimize the very idea of democracy. The former, although often compassionate at least in theory, do not realize that they do a disservice to their democratic principles by isolating themselves (even when they believe they are being inclusive). The latter, although they have an almost religious interest in the founding fathers, are openly hostile to the civic element of democracy, that they savage whenever possible.

Libertarians, who are viciously capitalist to a point of compassion-less zeal, seem to look past the many, of what they would decry today as needless government interventions, that their beloved forefathers pioneered. America did not just pioneer the modern democratic state, but “big government” interventions such as the police, firefighters, libraries, schools, hospitals, roads, prisons, etc. They also are unable to understand that the modern world is very different than the one the founders lived in. What other political movement would chose Ron Paul as their public face, a man who has not put forward a single political policy that hasn’t already been implemented before the 1830’s.

It is important to understand that the America of the founding fathers was one that was only beginning to experience the birth of capitalism and the industrial revolution. The model of society that existed 200 years ago is hardly an exact model for the present. The industrial revolution has dramatically changed the family unit, and increased specialization to the point where individuals are not able to exist in modern society without relying on others to a much greater degree. The idea of the self-dependent family may have been possible when industry was nearly non-existent, but in the era of hi-tech information systems, and complex manufacturing processes it is no longer possible for families to exist as such autarkic units. Unless anarchists and libertarians wish to return to a pre-industrial society (and some do), then they will have to accept the fact that we are all reliant on each other, and democratic governance is the only instrument that is capable of sustaining such a society without economic ruin and drastic inequality.

It is still surprising to this observer how the arguments in defense of elite’s interests have become the arguments of the vox popli. Mass participation in democratic governance is the only weapon the people have against elite interests. By abandoning civic instruments for privatized control the overwhelming majority of Americans unintentionally surrender power to the very elements of government they claim to despise. Whether it is the corporations despised by anarchists or the political elites despised by libertarians.

In terms of healthcare there is no greater example of what happens when democratic governance is forsaken. Corporations make money hand over fist and secure their dominance by paying off the political elites who keep the system private. In a business of life and death, leaving such affairs to the private sector has shown that they neither care about the public interest or that they have even necessarily secured efficiency. America stands alone as one of the most inefficient and least pluralistic healthcare systems in the developed world. Americans may have the choices between healthcare providers, but this turns out to be anything but freedom, for ultimately their care is dictated by the bottom line of their provider, not in anyway by their health.

The other developed nations have realized that a public good such as health is something that must be handled collectively. The interconnected nature of modern society does not afford us the possibility to ignore our neighbors, no longer is the argument strictly moral. True, issues arising through bad personal choices such as obesity, drug use, and promiscuous sexual activity should not be born by the public, but these are precisely the issues that should be decided by the public, not the oligarchy of private wealth. The other democracies have done this, and while deciding between what should be treated and what shouldn’t has proven difficult, it has been a decision made by their respective populations. They have proven that democratic governance can not only be fair, but efficient as well. It truly is a sad day when Americans have to be instructed in why democratic governance is a good thing.

Written by jackofspades83

June 12, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Too Little, Too Late: Salvaging the Economy and Our Infrastructure

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by E. Smith-Jones

Too little, too late certainly characterizes the handling of the U.S. economy by our political leadership. As of this writing, late January ’08, the Bush administration and Democratic and Republican leaders in the U.S. House had reached an agreement on an economic stimulus plan. According to an Associated Press article, “individual taxpayers would get up to $600 in rebates, working couples $1,200 and those with children an additional $300 per child. In a key concession to Democrats, 35 million families who make at least $3,000 but don’t pay taxes would get $300 rebates. The rebates would phase out gradually for individuals whose adjusted gross income exceeds $75,000 and for couples with incomes above $150,000.”

 

This plan is a pathetic political ploy masquerading as a serious economic stimulus plan. Both parties should be ashamed of themselves for offering the American people peanuts to palliate the pain of an ailing economy. Although worth around $150 billion, it’s only slightly more than 25 percent of the $576 BILLION (through Fiscal Year 2007) that, according to the Congressional Research Service, has been pissed away on U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and “other counter terrorism operations.” (A PDF of the CRS report, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” updated in November 2007, can be downloaded at

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf .)

 

Sending each American a $300 to $600 check will do very little to improve this country’s faltering economy, which, depending upon which “expert” and TV talking head you choose to believe, already is mired in a recession or is careening towards one like a toboggan piloted by a meth addict. For instance, December 2007 unemployment edged up to 5 percent (from 4.7 percent in November; around a 6.3 increase in ONE month). The fact that unemployment rose during the all-important Christmas shopping season when normally it decreases because of temporary employment in the retail sector doesn’t bode well for the health of the economy.

 

There is a school of political thought that says any government handout has to be extended to the middle class in order to be supported by them. Supposedly many middle-class people resent having their hard-earned money given to poor people whom they think are disadvantaged merely because they don’t try hard enough to get ahead. The wisdom of the “if-you-keep-your-nose-to-the-grindstone, you’ll-get-ahead” belief is debatable. Putting that adise, it seems reasonable to wonder if individuals making UP to $75,000 and couples with incomes UP to $150,000 really need and deserve rebate checks from Uncle Sam? Even if they’re hurting, which many of them are because of the mortgage crisis, a one-time check of up to $1,200 is not going to be enough to stave off foreclosure.

 

These proposed rebates are an example of both parties conniving to buy middle-class votes cheaply–because they think that many voters will sell their allegiance for a relative pittance. They also represent another chronic failing of Washington: addressing the symptoms of a problem, in this case the economy, without dealing with the underlying structural problems that are dragging down that economy, one of which is a lack of serious investment in the infrastructure–roads, bridges, schools, etc.–that are necessary to have a viable economy. (Of course, It’s ironic that the party that is full of supposedly rock-ribbed conservatives who that claims to oppose hand-outs, public assistance and welfare–except for corporations– would be the one to first propose a handout; obviously, the GOP feels pressured to something, practically anything, at this point in an effort to improve its dismal chances in the November election. These rebates also add to the budget deficit; so much for the GOP and so-called conservatives commitment to the values of a balanced budget and fiscal restraint.)

 

We need a president and a Congress with the foresight to link improving our economic condition with serious steps to do something about our neglected infrastructure. This country’s infrastructure is crumbling. literally, around our heads while our so-called political leaders fiddle away oblivious to everything except maintaining their grips on power and feathering their nests. According to an article at metropolismag.com (“How to Fix America’s Crumbling Infrastructure,”

posted Aug. 9, 2005), the American Society of Civil Engineers, “judged the country on 15 infrastructure categories ranging from aviation, drinking water, and hazardous waste to rail, schools, and security. The resulting ‘2005 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure’ awards the U.S. an overall grade of ‘D’: a step below the cumulative ‘D+’ received in 2001, the last time the ASCE issued the report.”

 

The ASCE document also offers an analysis of each of the 15 areas, as well as breakdowns of infrastructure quality in each of the 50 states.” (Go to http://www.metropolismag.com/cda/story.php?artid=1528 to read the whole article.) The section that covers Florida noted, to cite just a few disturbing statistics, that “18% of Florida’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete” and that “57% of Florida’s schools have at least one inadequate building feature” and “80% of Florida’s schools have at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition.” (To read the whole section on Florida, go to http://www.asce.org/reportcard/2005/page.cfm?id=49)

 

An Aug. 2, 2007 article from the Christian Science Monitor reported that “According to engineers, the nation is spending only about two-thirds as much as it should be to keep dams, levees, highways, and bridges safe. The situation is more urgent now because many such structures were designed 40 or 50 years ago, before Americans were driving weighty SUVs and truckers were lugging tandem loads.”

 

Infrastructure has been forgotten during the Bush administration, which has been more interested in destroying Iraq to patch it together it incompetently than it has been in rebuilding America. An Aug. 31, 2007 article in The Huffington Post (http://huffingtonpost.com) noted that “In the wake of the deadly 35W collapse the House Transportation Committee called for a fuel tax hike. More specifically, Congressman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) indicated he would introduce legislation to fund bridge repairs and increase their inspections. According to Oberstar, a 5-cent increase in the gas tax would pay for a three year program that would generate some $8.5 billion a year.” The president dismissed this proposal, saying that “Before we raise taxes, which could effect economic growth, I would urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities.” (You can read the whole article, “The Other Bush Legacy: Our Crumbling Infrastructure, Booming Oil Company Profits” at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/raymond-j-learsy/the-other-bush-legacy-ou_b_62612.html ) Too bad, nobody in Congress apparently pointed out to the Idiot-in-Chief that if we weren’t doing “nation building” in Iraq we could afford to do it here WITHOUT raising any taxes.

Deteriorating infrastructure can have serious consequences. Exhibit No. 1 is the Aug. 1, 2007 collapse of the I-25 bridge in Minneapolis, Minn., which killed 13 motorists. Infrastructure has been forgotten for too long in this country while money was squandered on the unnecessary and disastrous war and occupation in Iraq. That war has consumed money that could have been used for infrastructure improvement, not to mention education, universal health care, environmental clean-up, etc.

 

Infrastructure is neither sexy nor exciting and it’s a hard sell because it doesn’t carry the sense of transcendent moral purpose that was offered by a war to overthrow a dictator with (non-existent as it turned out) weapons of mass destruction. As the article at metropolis.com pointed out, “Like most Americans, you probably don’t think about our nation’s infrastructure—the public works that serve as the backbone of our country—until something goes wrong: you find yourself snarled in a traffic jam, or hear a report about a possible contaminate in the water supply, or become frustrated at your plane’s two-hour delay.” Even then you may blame bad luck or incompetence, not a willful failure by our political leaders to spend the money necessary to build and maintain infrastructure properly and to order political priorities in such a way that all of us rather than just the military-industrial complex and big corporations benefit.

 

Fortunately, doing something about infrastructure can be accomplished at the same time we try to stimulate the economy. The solution is simple and it is one that has worked successfully in this country and others: massive public works projects that would create jobs, boost the economy, and lay the ground work for greater economic prosperity in the future by planting its seeds today.

 

These federal public works jobs should pay living wages–at least $10 an hour, more in areas with high costs of living. Unemployed and underemployed people could be put to work; doing something productive, which would help them and society.

 

It’s sad that the Democrats–once seen as the party of working people– haven’t proposed a robust public works program as an alternative to the GOP plan. They seem to forget that one of the greatest Democratic presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, used public works projects and increased government spending to help pull the country out a devastating depression that had produced massive unemployment and homelessness and that threatened to tear apart the social fabric of our nation. They need to take inspiration from the courage of FDR’s convictions and the sweep of his vision for helping those victimized by economic forces that have strained their ability to cope to the breaking point. A massive public works program would improve the quality of life for Americans–driving on crumbling roads and bridges and sending kids to crumbling public schools are indeed quality of life issues– and the tens of billions of dollars spent on public works projects by newly employed people would provide a real shot in the arm to the economy since those people mostly would spend it on the basic necessities of life–rent, food, clothing, gas/transportation, etc.

 

Public works jobs would help the people who need it the most- people from minority communities and rural areas who usually have higher rates of un- and under- employment and typically earn lower wages. It makes sense to help people who genuinely need help. It doesn’t make sense to reward people who don’t need or deserve help and may not spend their rebate check anyway. In the long-term, of course, if they bank their checks that helps the economy since that money is available for capital investments that can improve productivity/GDP and create jobs. In the short-term, however, rebate checks whether or not they’re spent immediately will do little turn around the economy.

 

Some will quarrel with the idea of putting people to work through creating public-sector jobs. They will complain about increased government spending and an increase in the size of government. They may even denounce a federal public works program as (horrors!) socialism. At its most simple socialism is a scheme for the sharing of material goods and services. Isn’t it about time that the poorest among us shared in some of the wealth and prosperity of this country? Isn’t it about time they had decent jobs that allowed them to support themselves and their families with some comfort and dignity? A massive federal public works program would help achieve those goals and it would be a helping hand, not a hand-out, since it would be based upon earning the money not just having an address where a rebate check can be received.

 

Another long-term positive effect would be to increase wages for workers in the lowest-paid jobs, usually unskilled service employment. These workers might be attracted to public works jobs that paid a living wage as opposed to continuing to flip burgers at wages for minimum wage or a dollar or two above it. This in turn would force those employers to increase wages in order to keep and attract workers. Right-wing economists will complain that this would fuel inflation and reduce the number of low-wage service jobs, but those effects will be minimal and offset by the social good that will result from lower-paid workers earning more. If we have to pay a few cents more for a McGarbage burger, so what? Isn’t it worth it, if society benefits from having the lowest paid workers earning a little more and enjoying a little better standard of living? And if the business is there, service industries will continue to hire people, even if they have to pay them more. After all, they will still be making profits, and that’s the name of their game.

 

Hell likely will freeze over before any of the candidates in either party with a possibility of moving into the White House proposes anything so bold as massive federal public works projects to provide employment, rebuild infrastructure and raise wages, but it’s still important to remember that there other options besides doing nothing or too little. Imagination is an important part of trying to create a better and more just society.

 

Written by jackofspades83

February 20, 2008 at 11:12 pm