ELIZABETH BRUENIG @ WASHPOST: TRUMP & THE GOP WHITE NATIONALISTS ARE DECONSTRUCTING AMERICAN SOCIETY!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-promised-to-unite-americans-his-policies-leave-us-more-alone-than-ever/2018/01/25/d9b60e62-0155-11e8-bb03-722769454f82_story.html

Bruenig writes:

“At his inauguration, President Trump promised to renew the unity of the American people, claiming that “through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.” Then, Trump seemed intent on creating a reborn civic and social consciousness, and on empowering ordinary people against big government and big money.

And yet, Trump’s administration has ushered in a virulently antisocial politics that dissolves the most basic bonds and leaves individuals powerless against both market and state. Trump, like many populists of the right, gained a foothold by promising that a resurgent nationalism could make people feel cohesive, trusting and strong again. But like his right-leaning populist predecessors, he has offered only the imaginary bonds of nationalism — the illusion of fellow-feeling and homogeneity — even as his policies destroy the real and foundational bonds of family and community in the arenas of health care, immigration, labor and more.

. . . . In its amicus brief in support of unions, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops points out that the destruction of unions based on the loose interpretation of money as speech will render workers weaker than ever before. “Ironically then,” the bishops observe, “a misguided effort to protect one individual from government coercion would leave only individuals to stand against government (or economic) coercion.”

If only that world were really so far away. In reality, it is already here. What unites workfare, the annihilation of DACA and the war on unions is a totalizing individualism — the belief that people are essentially isolated individuals. That we are alone before we are together. That we are more and not less ourselves in total isolation. From that view flow policies that disregard or deny that people are, in fact, embedded in families, communities and industries, and that their bonds and obligations are powerful and ought to be respected and protected by the state. No politics issuing from that view can ever cultivate unity.

What Trump offered as an answer to the aching aloneness of Americans was nationalism, the exchange of an imagined community for actual ones, the promise of a mystic bond with people you’ll never meet even while the ones you know and love are deported, abandoned, dying. It was supposed to bring us together, supposed to make us strong. But his policies stand to leave us more alone than we’ve ever been, and in our solitude, weak.

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Read the rest of Elizabeth’s op-ed at the link.

First, it was Mexicans, Muslims, and undocumented workers. Then came Legal Immigrants, Latinos, African-Americans, LGBTQ individuals, demonstrators, the sick, the poor, women seeking to exercise their constitutional right to abortion, unionists, Liberals, and Democrats. Don’t see YOUR GROUP on the “hit list.” Just wait. It keeps expanding, Folks like Trump and his White Nationalist buddies can’t live without an “enemy of the day” to rally their “base.”

When the GOP White Nationalists decide that YOU no longer fit their image of America, who will be left to stand up for YOUR rights. Harm to the most vulnerable members of our community, and failure to stand up for them, harms and ultimately diminishes the humanity of all of us. And, that’s how free societies are “deconstructed and destroyed.” Stand up for everyone’s rights! Just say no to Trump and his White Nationalist Cabal!

PWS

01-26-18

 

ELIZABETH BRUENIG @ WASHPOST GIVES THE MORAL ARGUMENT FOR A USG SHUTDOWN!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/democrats-should-shut-down-the-government-to-protect-innocent-people/2018/01/11/bc992c0c-f6ff-11e7-a9e3-ab18ce41436a_story.html

Breunig writes:

“If Congress cannot agree on a budget plan by Jan. 19, the government will shut down. This isn’t the outcome anyone wants. But Democrats ought to start steeling themselves now: If the Republican majority’s budget plan leaves the “dreamers” in limbo, fails to supply desperately needed aid to Puerto Rico and coastal states battered by natural disaster, or allows the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to wither away, Democrats need to be ready to shut the whole thing down.

It is necessary to recognize the damage a shutdown could cause in the course of recommending, as I am, that the Democrats prepare to let it happen. If the outcome were sure to be harmless, the possible costs would be small. But the moral stakes of this budget negotiation are extraordinarily high. Taking a stand for dreamers, children and disaster-stricken citizens will come with a price.

Trump has said a shutdown could be politically useful for him, and Democrats seem nervous. It’s hard to predict, at this point, which party (if either) a shutdown would benefit: Republicans could wind up with the blame, but they could also gain from underscoring the notion that government is broken. As Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and a Post contributor, warned me on Wednesday: “These government shutdowns feed into a narrative that is not politically neutral.”

There are practical concerns, too. “The biggest impact tends to be on people who work for the government [and] are nonessential employees,” Bernstein said. During past shutdowns, nonessential employees have been paid after the fact, but there is no guaranteeCongress would elect to do the same this time. Bernstein added that a shutdown would be “a ding to the economy” and “massive inconvenience,” putting all kinds of activities — from sorting out Social Security questions to visiting national parks to getting passports renewed — on hold. A shutdown wouldn’t grind daily life to a halt. But it would affect millions, with serious ramifications for many.

But there are potential strategic upsides for Democrats. For one, triggering a shutdown could demonstrate that Democrats take the interests and desires of the American people seriously. “The public wants CHIP, Puerto Rico and Texas to get relief, and wants to protect dreamers,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org. “Keeping all these priorities on hold in a perpetual game of kick-the-can doesn’t actually line up with what most Americans want.”

In an October Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 62 percent of respondents said Puerto Rico has not received the help it needs in the wake of Hurricane Maria; a November Kaiser survey likewise found that 62 percent of Americans consider funding CHIP a top priority — far above tax reform or strengthening immigration controls. In that same poll, only 16 percent of respondents said dreamers shouldn’t be allowed to remain in the country. Likewise, a Post-ABC News poll found that 86 percent of Americans want dreamers to be allowed to stay.

But it isn’t just the premise of democracy or the possibility of 2018 advantage that demands relentless commitment to these three causes. It’s ordinary morality.

The beneficiaries of CHIP, disaster aid and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are innocent insofar as none of them brought onto themselves the statuses that have made them vulnerable. It is important to understand them as innocents at the mercy of a merciless faction; otherwise the harms they face might appear more morally complicated than they are. As the Roman Catholic Archbishop José Gomez recently wrote: “It would be cruel to punish [dreamers] for the wrongs of their parents, deporting them to countries of origin that they have never seen, where they may not even know the language.” It would likewise be cruel to allow children with diabetes to die for lack of insulin or to plunge poor families deep into debt because they happened to have a child with a disability. The same can be said for those who had the misfortune of living in areas struck by storms, the ne plus ultra of situations one didn’t cause and cannot prevent.

A shutdown would cause real problems for real people. It is, in the words of Wikler, “something to be avoided if possible, but not at the expense of fundamental priorities.” What is remarkable about the priorities at hand, however, is that they have no business being articles of compromise. These aren’t ordinary policy squabbles; they constitute a choice between America as a humane nation with democratic principles and America as a negligent sovereign with a dim future. The protection of innocents shouldn’t be up for debate. But it is. And Democrats can’t back down.”

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As a “Retired Fed” and a lifelong “Good Government” advocate who values the career Civil Service and what it does for America, I sure hate Government shutdowns! I’ve been through a number of them, some as an “essential” Senior Executive and some as a “non-essential employee.”

But, I think Breunig makes a strong argument that there are some issues that can’t really be “compromised” because they cross over strongly held moral and ethical values.

 

PWS

01-14-18

ELIZABETH BRUENIG HAS AN INTERESTING IDEA: WHAT IF THE “IDLE RICH” HAD TO WORK FOR A LIVING?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/if-the-poor-must-work-to-earn-every-dollar-shouldnt-the-rich/2018/01/05/c36d9a10-f243-11e7-b390-a36dc3fa2842_story.html

Bruenig writes in the WashPost:

“The lion’s share of poor people are elderly, children or disabled persons; another chunk are caregivers. And while caregiving isn’t compensated as market labor, parents looking after children and people caring for elderly or sick family members are hardly shiftless layabouts. Being both a mother and a writer, I am well aware that the less compensated of my two jobs is the more demanding one.

But what about that small number of people who could work but, for whatever reason, don’t? Shouldn’t they have to? Well, before deciding whether it’s morally right for them to receive income without working, consider a far larger group that takes in far more money without toil: the idle rich. They soak up plenty of unearned money from the economy, in the form of rent, dividends and capital income. Salaries and wages — that is, money paid for work — only make up about 15 percent of the income of Americans making $10 million per year or more; the rest is capital income from simply owning assets.

And yet rarely do politicians inveigh against the laziness of the well-off. In fact, the government shells out huge sums of money to the rich every year through tax breaks and subsidies.

. . . .

In other words, the well-to-do already do what workfare advocates seem so nervous about: rake in money they haven’t earned through market labor and thrive off the government’s largesse. Perhaps that itself is unfair — so why duplicate it on the other end of the economy? Put simply, it seems ludicrous at best and sadistic at most to start one’s fairness policing from the bottom up. If we mean to transform our economy into one in which people earn precisely what they work for and no more, and receive nothing from the government lest their work ethic wither, it would be best to start from the top down, where nobody runs any risk of starvation or homelessness if they lose their benefits.

In fact, none of us live entirely on what we earn. We rely on the infrastructure, knowledge and technology developed by those who have come before us, and those contemporaneous with us. Instead of trying to mince each person’s life’s work into careful calculations of contribution and merit, it seems more sensible to pursue a fairer economy overall: one that directs its excesses not to the already rich, but to those who have the greatest need; one that recognizes in its distributive structure that every person is immeasurably valuable, deserving of life and dignity.”

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Read the rest of Bruenig’s article, which includes statistical support for her position, at the link.

Wow! Valuing human lives, achievements, and contributions as much as capital! What a revolutionary concept for a capitalist society.

PWS

01-07-18