We Already Have Too Many Poor People

Joseph Erbentraut’s lead article in the 3/15/17 issue, titled “Farmers Rethink Support for Trump” confuses me. In it, the writer argues that food prices would rise if Trump’s wall and deportation policies succeed. Well, Trump’s deportation policies and wall notions are despicable on the face of it, but food here is too cheap. No farmer would disagree with that and after a lifetime spent working too hard for too little return on this small farm, I would argue that fact with anyone.

Then he argues that the poor will not be able to afford the food and, anyhow, American citizens willing to work on these farms are not to be found. The argument, as I understand it, is that we need to import poor people to produce food for poor people. Isn’t that circular? And shouldn’t the left be about reducing poverty as a central goal? Why are so many poor? Because they are not being paid equitably. And in the case of those disabled or sick or too old to see to themselves, why is not the government providing the incomes they need to buy decent food? We are the richest country on earth, after all.

I think there is another important question to ask. What is the quality of the left’s vision if it really requires a steady supply of poor people to do the work we will not be paid enough to do ourselves? This makes for a circular solution as well. What happens if somehow we come to our senses, offer Mexican people who have been here longer a path to citizenship? According to our usual theory, their economic circumstances will improve. They will no longer be willing to do the hard work for little in the way of pay. More poor people will be needed. We know it is difficult to bring the border under decent control, a necessary circumstance for the development of a useful domestic social democracy, because no American government ever wants to put business under that kind of demand. So we are back to where we started. We need foreign poor people to produce the food for domestic poor people.

God did not create the need for poor people to do hard nasty work for little or no pay. Ronald Reagan did, with unfortunately, far too much help from us liberals. Anyone my age remembers the slaughter plants in the Midwest in the 1980s dropping their pay from an hourly rate in the teens to one around seven dollars, and the concurrent change in complexion of the workers from white to brown. This happened in the space of very few years. There was nothing inevitable or unavoidable about it. It was deliberately planned and carried out.

Jim Van Der Pol
Kerkhoven, Minn.

Challenge, Protest, Resist

I am 88 years old with a limited life expectancy. The fact that my remaining years must be lived with Trump as president fills me with profound unease. Let me be clear.

Donald Trump is a pathetic, autocratic, arrogant, narcissistic, delusional carnival barker. As a carnival barker he is very effective, but as a president I believe that he will be an unmitigated disaster. Aside from the obvious conflict of interest that his business interests presents, and his somewhat inchoate cabinet selections, he has yet to demonstrate that he has any vision of where he wants to lead the nation during these perilous times. In fact his selection of Mr. Bannon to be his chief adviser should give every one pause for concern because of his nationalistic and far right ideology.

So what does a carnival barker see when he views a crowd? He sees marks that he can convince to believe the opposite of what he is thinking. This gives him license to do what is in his own interest rather than what is in the best interest of the country. If expectations are not met he will blame the press or all the members of the swamp that he promised to drain.

Let’s try to complete this not so pretty picture. A carnival barker usually has an attractive woman as an assistant who is articulate and at least appears to have views compatible with the carnival barker: Kelly Ann Conway fits this description. The carnival barker also generally has associates of a more virulent nature who share his views and can influence his actions and decisions: Stephen Bannon and many of his cabinet appointments fit this description. Thus a perfect storm of impending national disaster has been generated.

Recommend: challenge, protest, resist, elect progressive legislators

Walter H, Gruber
Lathrup Village, Mich.

Power of the Mute Button

The front page article by Sophia A. McClennen in the 4/15/17 TPP is insightful (for me, one of the best commentaries in a couple of years). She is spot-on describing the negative cognitive effects of Trumpism. Trump originally got to me with his mocking the speech of a handicapped Hispanic reporter early in the Republican primary. This showed a pathological lack of empathy, and everything he has done since has confirmed this assessment.

For the past eight months or so, it became obvious to me that I had to back off from Trump’s goofy show. I realized more and more just how harmful Trump and Company’s abnormal behavior can be to endure - and I want none of it! Life is just too short to hang on this guy’s every word.

The following personal antidote seems to work best for me: I simply press the MUTE button each time Trump (or even his spokesman, Sean Spicer) is speaking on TV. And, further, if I’m so inclined at the time, I’ll even offer a few choice epithets back at the silent screen. This works wonders for my psyche. Wonders!

As Trump initiates multiple actions that cut federal programs designed to help the average working Joe, as well as the even less fortunate in our society, and doesn’t even acknowledge the pain such cuts cause, the least I can do is MUTE his verbiage, which is false 70% of the time anyway. His actions speak for themselves, his verbiage is garbage, and I refuse to climb down in his dark place with him.

Pat V. Powers
Utopia, Texas

Wake From Amnesia

The late great Gore Vidal lamented that collectively we live “in the United States of Illusion” and cannot remember “past last Monday” events of significance or importance. There are two historical events worth casting light on with hopes of breaking through our fog of historical indifference. One is the upcoming anniversary of the Albert Einstein-Bertrand Russell July 9, 1955, Manifesto, where they warned mankind, “Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race: or shall mankind renounce war?” They were, of course, referring to the growing prospect of nuclear war. Event number two involves Dwight Eisenhower’s historic and prophetic farewell address where he warned the world about the dangers of the “Military industrial complex” and the threat it presents to both democracy and peace.

Fast forward to where we are now and these three great men must be rolling in their graves. We live in a nation that is now planning a trillion-dollar “nuclear modernization plan” over 30 years. Hard-wired into this modernization plan is the quiet and toxic strategy or mindset that nuclear wars can be won. Coupled with this is the recent announcements of an incredible $55 billion increase in military spending while simultaneously every social program that ever benefitted the common good is getting slashed with reckless zeal — including climate change research and science.

I hear men my age talking of retirement now with increasing regularity. I believe we are at a juncture where talk of retirement and such must be tabled. There are far greater priorities that demand our immediate attention and action if we are going to offer our children and the planet a future. The level of urgency here can’t be quantified. Our one hope is that enough people can awake from the “amnesia” and come to terms with our current realities. That awakening and recognition might spark the grass roots activism and commitment needed to offset and prevent the unthinkable.

Jim Sawyer
Edmonds, Wash.

Our Privacy Has Been Stolen

To make a phone call, your phone company knows the phone number you are calling. Legally considered a “utility,” phone companies are required to protect the privacy of your call information. Similarly, in order to connect to a webpage, your internet provider knows every website address you view, and every keystroke you enter on that website. Oct. 27, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a rule to similarly protect your private information.

No longer. On March 28, the Republican-majority Congress passed a “joint resolution of congressional disapproval” that repeals the FCC’s broadband privacy rules. The measure is at the White House for Trump’s signature.

While promoted as a way for advertisers to better target you with products you might want to purchase, this loss of internet privacy creates serious dangers.  Companies that analyze “Big Data” can create political profiles of voters to micro-target manipulative propaganda messages. Russia used this dis-information technique during the presidential campaign.

With Congressional repeal of FCC rules, internet providers can release much more private information including your health history, financial information, your Social Security number, your browsing history, app usage, and the content of your messages, emails and other communications. Everyone is now vulnerable to intimidation or blackmail by those who will compile a “Database of Ruin” containing facts about each of us that we wouldn’t want anyone else to know.

FCC rules MUST remain in place to protect our privacy. Contact your Congressional representative today. Protest, and support lawsuits to challenge this action before your data is released.

Bruce Joffe
Piedmont, Calif.

Ed Garvey RIP

I was saddened when I read Dave Zirin’s 4/1/17 column about former NFLPA director Ed Garvey’s passing. What a great man! Back in 1992 I received an invite to a fund raiser at Ed’s house for then-Congressman Bernie Sanders in Middleton, Wis. Being a previous contributor to Bernie, I drove 250 miles to Ed’s house. Wow, what a pad! When I came in I was in awe. The atmosphere, the food and lots of suits and ties, everything first class. I felt way out of place. But that didn’t last long. Ed came up to me and talked like I was a big shot. When he gave his little speech to the crowd he sounded like a common man. What a class act! When he ran for governor and Senate he was rejected. The idiots in this state preferred corporatists instead. Unfortunately, 25 years later, they still do, i.e. Scott Walker and Ron Johnson. There’s a reason we’re called cheeseheads.

Ed was a great progressive and human being. Thanks, Dave, for remembering him.

Bob Bastian
Hudson, Wis.

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2017


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