Tag Archive for money and elections

Down the corporate greed rabbit hole

Capitalism, gun to headWhen did making a profit turn into greed? Greed has been around from the beginning of time, but my guess would be it was unleashed in the1980s when American voters bought the farce that wealth would trickle down to them. There was no proof of this theory, but politicians kept saying it over and over until a majority of people began voting against their self-interests: Electing congressional representatives who approved lower corporate tax rates and numerous business deductions, but were against that job killer, increasing the minimum wage.

The fear tactic

When companies downsize, the actual work does not go away. One employee leaves; her co-worker takes up the slack, receiving extra duties. Or technical assistance is transferred to a phone bank in India. The fear tactic is deathly subtle: Either work harder and longer hours or you’ll be out of a job. Result: less overhead, more profit. Improving procedures and workflow? Not in the picture because that worker picking up the slack will stay at the same pay. What’s to change?

The early-out two-step

Older workers on the cusp of reaching retirement are offered a quick out — with reduced benefits. The work remains but will be done by lower-paid rookies. Conservatives in Congress refuse to compromise on solutions to fully fund Social Security. Their best thinking is to push up the retirement age and reduce benefits. Does anyone who’s been out looking for a job after age 40 really believe you can find one after 50? 60? Or even 70?

The possibilities?

I retired on an early-out offer at 51. In the succeeding 20 years I have worked in several full-time jobs and a half-dozen part-time ones. My job experience: toll booth operator; free-lance writer; warehouseman; multiple-choice question writer; online accounting system tech writer; AmeriCorps writing mentor; law firm runner; para-educator; sole business owner writing and selling books; writing coach; creative writing instructor; concierge; writer-in-residence. There were pluses and minuses. I wanted to write after I retired, so the keyword “writing” is sprinkled among my various jobs. But among the good experiences was a nasty confrontation with exhaust fumes in that toll booth — it was either that or wear a Donald Duck costume and walk around Walt Disney World in 90-degree heat. Worse was physical exhaustion in the warehouse doing a job designed for someone 30 years younger. Yet I discovered the joy of writing at home and selling a few books.

Something different is needed

A paradigm shift in thinking would lower the retirement age, not raise it. Consider this: What if the tax code favored workers who wanted to retire early, even at 45 or 50? Going further: What if big business/large corporations got a tax deduction only if they created jobs? Moving us older workers into retirement earlier makes room for younger folks. Let’s tell it like it is. Is it more cost-effective to pay hundreds of thousands of workers unemployment insurance or to rewrite the tax code making it feasible for older workers to leave earlier? Perhaps more would sample the work world as I have done and create their own job. Or start a small business.

Slurping at the federal trough

Entrepreneurs know where the big money is, in that trough filled with our taxes; politicians need money to keep their jobs. It has become a traditional tradeoff. The push for an independent Congress requires getting money out of elections. Changes to thinking, especially for a tax code favorable to American workers, require publicly funded elections, setting term limits and abolishing political parties. While we’re at it, let’s throw open primary and general elections to all voters no matter their political affiliation. No one really won the 2012 general election. Less than 24 hours after the votes were counted, stalemate returned, or really, simply remained. Does anyone really like gridlock? The work of Congress has become winner take all. Any vote is not for the people but for the particular party’s ideology. Meanwhile political spin managers try to convince us that our friends and neighbors we know to be moderate and independent are actually out to destroy our country. Preposterous.

Bill Ellis is a local author and can be reached at

contact@billelliswrites.com

 

The Coffee Party: Thoughtful antidote to the Tea Party

The Coffee Party movement began in February with a “rant” on Facebook by its founder Annabel Park. Since then it has grown into a phenomenon with over 250,000 followers and it looks as if it is here to stay. It may have started as a reaction to the Tea Party, but it is turning into something more thoughtful and powerful – a movement for good government. It may be more academic and centrist than some of its members had hoped for but nevertheless, it is a timely and welcome development of a more intellectual form of political activism.

Like the League of Women Voters, The Coffee Party is intended to be non-partisan, with goals of reinvigorating the public sphere and reinstating commonly held democratic ideals such as civic duty, civic pride and expecting government to be accountable to the people. Like the League, members vote to achieve consensus on issues to study and support and like the League, members are mainly members of the Democratic Party with a deep concern for voting rights, election finance reform and the restoration of ethics in government.

It is interesting to see that now the shouting of the Tea party adherents has died down, or at least has turned into domestic squabbling, the voices of thoughtful conservatives are now being heard in the Coffee Party. One self-described representative of libertarian and conservative voices recently wrote on the Coffee Party website that he hopes the conversation will continue to include his viewpoint. “Why I think the Tea Party movement will ultimately be ineffective,” he writes, “is because probably all their positions are- to put it lightly-contrary to reality.” He goes on to say that the need is for solutions that work and that requires an understanding of the problems.

The Coffee Party expects its members to be informed and participatory. Groups all over the country are being encouraged to be autonomous and not look for leadership to tell them how to run their meetings and activities. That has not stopped some dissension, as disappointed progressives have left the movement for more activist organizations or issues, and some centrists or independents have left because the agenda may have seemed too partisan. Those who are staying are enjoying the civil conversations taking place over coffee and may not be completely aware that they are maintaining a long tradition of political discourse beginning in the coffee houses of Europe, leading to political change and even revolution.

The Coffee Party recently ran a National Coffee Summit, followed by a Café Call and a National Vote, using information and internet technology to reach across the country and determine members’ main concerns. Overwhelmingly, the core issue was determined to be Money in Politics with 95% of members voting for a specific course of action, based on support for the Fair Elections Now Act, the DISCLOSE Act, the Shareholder Protection Act and a constitutional amendment to reverse corporate personhood.

This does not mean however, that other issues are being overlooked. The Boulder Coffee Party group in Colorado for example has set up a special interest group to include the environment and clean energy. Other groups are addressing immigration reform which will be an ongoing issue till the election and beyond. Local groups are being encouraged to take an interest in state and city politics to complement the national campaign and many state groups are seeing the efficacy of scheduling meetings with their elected representatives and hosting public forums for civil discourse on matters of timely importance.

As people look to leadership for guidance or give their input for leadership to follow, it is becoming apparent that the first National Coffee Party Convention will be an interesting place to be. Scheduled for September 24-25 at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky, one has to wonder if the hotel was named after John Galt in Atlas Shrugged. No doubt that will be a conversation starter at social hour. Hopefully Ayn Rand’s influence will be balanced by quotations from Jefferson such as, “Difference in opinion leads to enquiry, end enquiry to truth; and I am sure….we both value too much the freedom of opinion sanctioned by our Constitution not to cherish its exercise even when in opposition to ourselves.” (written to P.H. Wendover, 1815)

Meetings of The Coffee Party in Colorado are held in Boulder, Longmont, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Arvada, Castle Rock, Craig, and Denver. Details of meetings can be found on their respective Facebook pages.

The Longmont Coffee Party also meets Saturday July 10th at 4pm at the Brewing Market And residents in Boulder County are urged to attend the next meeting on Saturday July 10th at 11am at The Boulder Library, Meadows Branch, located behind Safeway, 4800 Baseline Road, Boulder, CO 80303.